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Posts Tagged ‘instructional

I experienced something recently that reminded me how fallible basic instructional design (ID) is.

There is an agency that requires its potential hires to take one module and quiz as part of its selection process. Some organisations opt to do this and this might be helpful if they are selecting for quiz-smart hires.

But the issue is not about the predictive reliability of this move. I discovered that one page out of the reading material was missing, and as a result, two out of the ten quiz questions were unanswerable without some Googling.

Perhaps the test was about dealing with the unexpected. But that should not be an excuse for poor instructional design, specifically, constructive alignment. One basic element of ID is this: You cannot test what you do not teach.

What ID — and much of conventional teaching — struggles to handle is how we cannot deliver all the information a learner needs nor can we test every eventuality.

We cannot even guarantee something adequate because the standards shift and the goalposts move constantly and often unpredictably.

So we have to teach learners how to think. I do not know of anyone in ID who can claim that the classical approach (of testing only what you teach) can adequately do this.

I was a graduate student when I first found out about the disproportionate amount of time it took to prepare e-learning resources.

The ratio of development time (input) to learning time (output) varies. A fairly recent and oft quoted study by Chapman cited 127 developmental hours for every hour of e-learning (127:1). This ratio was for Level 2 e-learning developed relatively quickly from templates.

According to Chapman, the research data originated from 3,947 instructional designers (or people with similar roles) representing 249 companies.

The ratio might sound impressive because the numbers are a result of the efforts of corporate teams responsible for organisational e-learning. Such ratios are also rules-of-thumb sought by freelancers to provide estimates for potential clients.

I do not recall the number being so high when I was graduate student. However, back then the technologies did not include the more social, augmented, and virtual ones we have now.

That said, I do not know of any responsive learning organisation that can afford to invest 127 preparatory hours for an hour of standards-based training or e-learning. A freelance instructional designer (ID) would have to work thinner, lighter, and faster to compete for and retain clients.

ID work is a small part of my consulting work as I have to factor in many other considerations, e.g., institutional policies, social contexts, group dynamics.

I have kept track of my preparatory time in my latest consulting effort. Without revealing details covered by a non-disclosure agreement, I can say that the effort focuses on a small group of educators who need guidance in a form of communication.

The situation is dynamic as I have to respond to volatile schedules. I often have little time for preparatory work. For example, I gave myself a week to prepare a just-in-time segment for participants. I took 30 hours over six days to prepare for a 3-hour blended session. This is a 10:1 ratio.

So is my effort (10:1) less than worthy of a corporate one (127:1)? Based only on numbers, it is. Based on quality — my knowledge of context; the blending of content, pedagogy, and media; the attention to detail — I would argue not.

There is something fundamentally wrong with most instructional design (ID) programmes and processes.

Novice instructional designers are often taught to design FOR someone. They do not necessarily learn to design WITH someone. I call the latter ID+.

This is a fundamental shift in the multifaceted processes of ID. Just like teaching is not the same as learning, the focus of designing with someone is about putting the learner first.

Now how many Masters programmes and ID companies will buy into this idea? How many will take such ownership? How many will say they already do this, but not have the evidence that they really do? Why will they still focus on what is efficient and ignore what is effective?

7 by andymag, on Flickr
7” (CC BY 2.0) by  andymag 

This Learning Solutions article tried to separate folly from fact about online instructional videos. In doing so, it might have offered a Viddler-sponsored bias and a few myths of its own.

I offer a simple blow-by-blow following each of the article’s main chunks.
Myth #1: Everything worth learning can (and should) be reduced to bite-sized, two-minute videos.

Reflection 1: Some things should not or cannot be on videos; optimal video duration.

Some things that cannot be on videos might include sensitive issues (what these are depends on context), sensitive people (e.g., those that need protection), and intrinsic knowledge of staff. Such issues are a matter of policy, mindset, timing, and much more. A push for videos is not going to budge these issues.

While the article made a good point that short videos are not effective in themselves, it ignores research from providers like edX that have suggested the optimal length of videos for motivated learners.
Myth #2: Video should be free; YouTube is all I need.

Reflection 2: YouTube could be all you need especially if are smart about it.

You would expect Viddler to declare “YouTube was designed as a social medium and a publishing and advertising platform, with a focus on generating ad revenue for Google. That’s not a bad thing, but using it for training is problematic.”

People conveniently forget that the ads and monetisation came later. The fact now is ads and your usage data are the price to pay for “free”. Once you get over that and realise that the learner who has grown up with YouTube takes no issue with that, you focus on more important things.

Might privacy be one such issue? From the article: “With effort, you can make your videos private, but the default state is public. Anyone can see and download your training videos—even your competitors.”

The article conveniently left out one important word: With LITTLE effort, you can make your videos private. It is a setting you see when you upload or record a video on YouTube.

As for “anyone can see and download your training videos”, see my reply to #5.
Myth #3: Video is expensive; our company is too small to use video for training.

Reflection 3: Video is expensive. And it is not.

Video for any organisation, big or small, is relatively easy and low cost today especially if you already have cameras, lights, microphones, computers, and a dedicated team. Simply go back in time by five-year bounds and compare the costs of manpower, equipment, and professional development.

The real cost is time and effort. If an organisation decides to jump on the online video or MOOC wagon, there will be a sudden need for many videos. This then leads to a sudden need for equipment, professional development, and/or new hires.

This problem is repeated time and again because very few organisations share their practices. If they do, other organisations do not take the advice until the issue becomes real.

Side note: What organisations typically do to deal with the huge demand for new instructional videos is to use templates, e.g., talking head formats. These are simple, self-recorded, and require minimal post-processing. These are also the most boring and ineffective because they layer old pedagogy over new technology.
Myth #4: Video files are too big for company intranets.

Reflection 4: Yes, that is why there is YouTube.

Enough said.
Myth #5: Online video is not secure.

Reflection 5: Anything online is not secure. If you think about it, anything offline is not that secure either.

If you are stupid enough to share a trade secret on YouTube or any open sharing platform, then you deserve what is coming to you.

Learn how to secure your videos if that is important to you. That said, if security is your primary concern, why are you thinking about videos? Go back to your cave instead.
Myth #6: People don’t pay attention to training videos.

Reflection 6: People do not pay attention to what is not meaningful or interesting.

The article hits the mark on a painfully true issue. The tips they offer focus on interactivity and they are all good.

I can only recommend two more: Make videos meaningful and provide them just-in-time.
Myth #7: Online video is not as effective as face-to-face training.

Reflection 7: My immediate response was: This old argument?

My delayed response was: This old argument?

The medium of teaching and learning is not the issue. The context is.

A key question to answer is: What circumstances or affordances favour one medium or the other or both? The point is to provide a meaningful and powerful learning experience, not reinforce an outdated mindset or blindly follow policy.

Closing thoughts
You can rely on technology to instruct the same way or to educate differently. The best integrations online video challenge the status quo. Instead on focusing on the instructor and delivery, there should be a focus on the learner and interaction. Doing the former might be more efficient; doing the latter is more effective.

Video source

At first glance, this video does not seem like an educational one. Or rather, it might not seem to use any principles of design for educational videos.

But on closer inspection and reflection, I see that:

  • The longer, raw video is not as exciting nor does it send the intended message
  • A short, tightly-edited video is better at telling a story
  • It is important to credit ideas, if not in the video then in the text that accompanies it
  • A video is nothing without planning for social interaction around it

Video source

This is probably the third time I am featuring Dumb Ways To Die.

Video source

This time round I include a video of the creative soul who shares a bit about the process. He mentioned that the video had three things that made it go viral:

  1. Likeable
  2. Different
  3. Socially current (the layperson would appreciate it)

I think that the same thing could be said about designing learning activities, be it face-to-face, online, or blended. Likeable, different, and socially current.

I used to provide a mini lecture on writing specific instructional/learning objectives in the previous iteration of the ICT course. I am opting to include some of the PowerPoint slides in SlideShare.

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