Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Has the Avtaar taken over?

Every Tuesdays and Fridays, we have learning sessions presented by each one of us. This week, it was my turn. I will be presenting on Multi-User Virtual Environments (will blog later on this). As for all presentations, I was reading up on this topic. During my coffee break, I picked up MetroPlus (Hindu) and read the first article, Trapped in the Net. This post talks about Internet addiction disorder (IAD), "...pathological use of computers, to engage in social interactivity."

"It is becoming common to know of someone, or have heard of someone, who has become obsessed with online activity to the point that their alternative online lives have masqueraded - and in some cases completely dominated - their identities. " "Broken marriages, lost jobs and plunging college grades are just some of the things that people who spend upto 18 hours per day in virtual reality face."

Interesting, isn't it? These quotes had me thinking of Second life. This is a multi-user virtual environment in which you can create an avtaar for yourself. This environment has its own economy (can you believe it?); the currency is Linden. You can buy and sell stuff in this environment. It must be so easy to dissolve yourself completely into this virtual environment that depicts real life through the eyes of the user. The avtaar is probably everything you want to be and are not. It is the ideal person that you want to be.

Now, coming to the point about IAD. So, would you start believing that the avtaar is actually the real you? It is upto to the user to realize their responsibilities and not let their avtaar become real.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Promoting Excellence in Learning Awards

Who hasn't heard about Brandon Hall Awards? Every year I check out the list of winners which typically includes Allen Interaction Inc., A.S.K Learning, Enspire Learning and so on. I consider these companies to be the best in the industry. Well, that's why they are on the list right? This year, Kern (we have always been dreaming of entering) sent in an entry in the Best Use of Blended Learning category. We knew our work was good because we used our very own learner-centered methodology for this project.

Getting to the point, we have won a bronze award for this entry! This year, our name will appear on the list of who's who and someone else will look at it in awe. Kern Communications getting its due recognition through this award... We are now officially (I believe we always were) in the same league as the best in the industry!

I am extremely proud to have been part of this project, which was Geeta's brainchild btw, and to belong to this organization that continues to strive for the best.

Please read the official press release here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Grab Your Learner's Attention

Why are gain attention strategies important? Within the first few minutes of the training program, the learner decides whether this course is worth his/her time or not. An effective gain attention strategy has the power to increase the motivational level of your learner.

Using this, you can:
  • Arouse their curiosity.
  • Make them think about a particular concept.
  • Make them laugh or break the ice.
  • Help them grasp what is going to be covered in the course.
  • Build expectations.
Basically, it will make your learner want to see what comes ahead. Imagine! The learner is actually interested in learning. He/she is going to give you and your training program a chance. What qualifies as a gain attention strategy?

1. A pre-test that tells them where they stand at the beginning of the course
For example: Before we begin this module, let us attempt a brief questionnaire to identify your personality trait.

2. A challenge thrown their way
For example: You are a customer care executive at a call center. You have several customer calling you for information. You need to provide them with the information they require and close the close quickly to take the next call. How many calls can you close by end of day?

3. A problem-solution approach
For example: You have been appointed as the manager at SimCom. You manage a team of six smart and talented people. Your teams performance has been very poor over the past few months. You need to motivate your team and ensure that each person gives his/her best to this project. Your boss is keeping a close eye on you. Good luck!

4. A statistical report
For example: Attrition rates are within the range of 30-60% in the BPO industry. The typical reasons for attrition are salary, work timings, better jobs, and so on.

5. Did you know?
Did you know that The Big Five is a group of animals of Africa: cape buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. This term was coined by hunters because of the challenge of hunting these wild ferocious animals when cornered.

6. A comic strip

7. A story/drama
You are a detective. Weird things have been happening at Reth City. Reports show that the number of males have been accelerating rapidly and no one seems to know the reason behind this. You have been offered this case. You need to go to the city to understand what is happening. You can talk to the city dwellers. If they seem secretive, you can look around the city for clues. Your assistant, Shweta, will hand out reports, newspaper clippings to help you crack the case. Hurry!

You can think of several innovative ways to design grab attention screens. If you have come across any, share them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creativity as I see it

What is creativity? Thinking up something new/original? Not necessarily... The ideas we come up with are typically related to the knowledge we already have. No idea comes from nothing. Every idea is inspired by an old one or something your have read/seen/experienced. You either innovate an old idea or put few ideas together to come up with a more 'new' idea. Creativity is about thinking different, stretching the boundaries, trying things you haven’t done previously, or improvising on an exiting idea.

Creativity is inspired by passion. When you love what you do, you come up better ideas to do it better. You need your own space and time to be creative. You also need to be free of tension, stress and pressure. Organizations must give its employees the space to think freely and the freedom to execute new ideas. This will encourage employees to be creative at work. Is creativity a skill? I think so. You can consciously work on being creative.
  1. Brainstorming helps hone your creative ability.
  2. Stay in touch with what’s happening around you. This could be news, movies, good books, music, and so on.
  3. Identify your personal space. You need room to think. Make this space for yourself.
  4. Get inspired by creative things around you. This could be people, things, words, ideas.
  5. Read, read and read some more. Read on varied topics. This will help open your mind.
  6. Discuss, debate, argue. Engage discussions with colleagues, friends, and family.
  7. Ask questions like ‘Why not?’ rather than accepting things as they are.
  8. Think you can and not you can’t. Sit with a notepad and list down various possibilities. You will never know if you can or can’t till you try it.
  9. If you think you are stuck and no creative juices are following, take a break. Do something that will help you relax and loosen up.
  10. Have confidence in yourself. Only if you are sure of yourself, will you try to do something different.
  11. Lateral thinking helps. Think beyond the obvious.
  12. Know your facts/stuff.
Not all ideas are doable. But noting them down will help you filter and build on the idea that will work for you. What hinders creativity?
  • Ignorance
  • Lack of confidence
  • Noise and crowd
  • Working mechanically with no thought
  • Rigidity
  • Laziness
  • Narrow mindedness
You can see creativity everywhere. You can see this in the way Tupperware boxes are designed, specific advertisements that capture our interest, the choice of clothes we wear, interiors of your house, and so on.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

When should I use tabbed presentations?

I will begin by distinguishing between what we call 'must know information' and 'good to know information'. Must know information is directly linked to the learning outcomes. This information must be presented upfront and the learner should not have to search for it. Good to information is information that the learner can view if he/she wishes to read a little extra about the topic. This information can be displayed as click to know text, hyperlinks, tabbed presentations and so on. This information must not be presented upfront as it is not crucial to the learning objectives. Another logic behind this is quite simple. Learners tend to miss clicking the other tabs, links, buttons. Therefore, any information that will influence the learning outcome must be presented upfront.