So the conference season will have officially kicked off for '09 as of next week. First up is ASTD Techknowledge in Las Vegas, then Training '09 in Atlanta in February. After a quick breath, we'll be all over the eLearning Guild's Annual Gathering in Orlando and Defense GameTech User's Conference '09 the same week, also in Orlando. The end of March I'll be heading out to GDC in San Fran, then skipping down to DC in April for 3D TLC, the enterprise spinoff of the Association of Virtual Worlds conferences. In May, we're still considering SPBT in Chicago, immediately followed by Corporate Learning Exchange also in Chicago.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
On the road again and again and again
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today was inspirational. Barack Hussein Obama, our 44th President, assumed his new role as leader of our country for the next 4 years. I am not envious of the tasks he faces. In fact, looking at the mess he's stepping into, most people would back slowly out of the room.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Getting your house in order
I'm getting close to the one year mark for Tandem Learning, and I've been thinking a lot about what I've learned in this first roller coaster of a year. One of the biggest lessons is one I'm just now learning and taking care of.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Instructional design is dead
Let me start by saying that for many, many years, my title was some variation of "Instructional Designer." And so, its with some amount of hesitance that I say that the field of instructional design is, well, crap.
- Instructional design relies too much on process: there's nothing wrong with having guidelines for design. Let's be honest. There's one model, ADDIE, that pretty much sums it all up, and any other ID model that anyone comes up with is basically ADDIE rebranded. Looking for some examples? Here are just a few: Dick & Carey, ASSURE, MRK, Knirk & Gustafson. Not only does ID have a process for the overall stages of ID, but each step in the ADDIE model has specific process around it. Basically, ID as it is currently taught is just following the process, step by step. It's not rocket science. What IS rocket science (or at least a lot harder) is to figure out how to apply process with the endless number of variables that affect any learning need. This is where ID falls short. Instructional designers in too many instances are so tied to the models and the process that the variables and subtleties of good design are sacrificed.
- Instructional design doesn't follow process enough: Ok, so to immediately contradict myself, with all the process that instructional designers have developed to guide our practice, the irony is WE DON'T FOLLOW IT. Let's be honest, the first things that go in the ADDIE model are the A and the E, arguably the most important steps in the whole process. In most corporate settings, people other than IDs determine what the learning needs are of the organization and what should be done about it. They bring these projects to the instructional designers to design and develop, and like sheep, instructional designers comply. Where is the analytical step in that? Maybe the real learning need has been identified, and maybe the appropriate solution has been decided upon--but MAYBE NOT. We do ourselves a disservice any time we become corporate order-takers and passively accept the conclusions of others. And evaluation? Evaluation of learning effectiveness is not just an assessment at the end of an e-learning module, and any ID worth his or her salt knows that.
- Lack of ROI measurements as a rigorous part of our practice: I was lucky enough to work with a company recently that provided me with sales results after a huge training event that we could ALMOST draw a direct correlation between the training and the results. How often do we get any data on the effectiveness of our learning solutions? How often do we include that data collection as part of our process is the real question. Yes, measuring ROI is hard. It requires work, and analysis, and reflection on all of the factors that can contribute to learning outcomes. Let's be honest. If we're doing our jobs up front, we are identifying learning objectives that are measurable. Even better, we're identifying measurable performance objectives too. Did I mention that we should be doing this UP FRONT? Its a whole lot easier to measure improvement in something if you have a baseline measure, and set the expectation that the learning you are designing is intended to improve that baseline measure. Instructional designers will be taken a lot more seriously if we show our value. Which leads to...
- Lack of research to show learning effectiveness: Not only should we be examining the effectiveness of our projects, but we should be encouraging academia to be doing research to show which strategies are most effective for different types of learning needs. Its nice to toot our own horns, but its even nicer if unbiased third parties are showing how effective we are. We should be encouraging this type of research whenever possible. We should be opening up our process for rigorous review. If we are learning professionals, let's lead by being open to learn what's effective about what we're doing and what's not.
- Instructional design ignores context: This was the first observation I made when I started working as an ID, and I'm sorry to say my opinion hasn't changed. I had been teaching at a charter school in Philly before my first ID job, and I brought with me many of the skills and perspectives that teachers employ to develop engaging curriculum. I joke sometimes that I've designed learning for the toughest audience I can think of: inner city eighth graders. You won't find a more challenging and skeptical audience. You have to design to motivate and keep in mind both the learning environment in the classroom and the influencing factors outside of the classroom. This is no different than designing learning for adults. Call it education or instructional design...its all learning. So where do ID's fall short? To a certain extent, its following the "process" too closely. People are complex, learning is complex, motivation is complex--and no process is going to address all of these complexities. Good IDs know this and aren't afraid to go "off the reservation" when they need to. Most IDs don't.
- Perception is reality: This is really just my fancy way of saying that I truly believe people learn constructively, based of their previous experiences and previously held beliefs. All things that aren't really taken into consideration in much of the ID process. How people experience any learning event depends on what they bring to it. Too few IDs acknowledge that and try to build a common experience and frame of reference for the learning experience.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Last night me and most of the other Tandemites attended a (the second) Refresh Philly meeting. High level, about 100 design and development professionals in Philadelphia showed up to learn from each other and figure out how to use our collective talents to make Philly a better place.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I have a bad habit of saying things that I would like to do, only to be thwarted by time and responsibilities. Nowhere is this more of a problem than at home, where my eternal optimism and hopefulness are often a victim to the demands of work. I can't tell you how many times I say things like, "let's watch a movie tonight" or "I'm going to cook dinner" only to have my best intentions overcome by a work-related "something."
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Girls and games
Why are all the serious games I've seen so male-oriented? War games, first-person shooters, disaster recovery, heck, even the sexual harassment serious games I've seen have some pretty clear overtones of male fantasy played out in the scenarios.
For better or for worse, the serious games industry suffers the same issues as the gaming industry in general. The games are typically built by young guys, and therefore the play experience is most appropriate for young guys. What about the 51% of the population that's not male? This continues to be one of the biggest barriers to adoption that face serious games' integration into learning curriculum.
So what's different about the ladies?
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Bright shiny new year
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are not my favorite holidays; in fact, they don't rank in the top 5. But the beginning of each new year, I tend to undergo a transformation of sorts, realigning myself and my goals for the new year.
To do in '09
I don't make resolutions, but I do make lists. Resolve is finicky, but when I've got something to do on my list, there's much better chance that thing is getting done.
- Get contracts in place and finalized for any outstanding agreements, and don't start any new ventures without a contract in place from the beginning (I'm sure the sharkweasel will love this one...)
- Review company financials and make adjustments on a weekly basis
- Publish my book
- Speak/present at three or more events
- Keep up with this blog and put some energy and thought into my new company blog
- Meet 3 of my Twitter friends that I've never met in person
- Explore 3 new social media tools and determine their usefulness for learning
- Get 3 new clients
- Realize quarter over quarter growth
- Resume the Rockstar meetings
- Establish individual performance goals for each of the Rockstars
- Hit our sales goals
- Write another book
- Hold a conference