Thursday, March 18, 2010

Instructional Design and Experiential Learning

I was reading an interesting blog post on Instructional Design versus Experiential Design: do you have what it takes? by Koreen Olbrish. I have picked out a particularly interesting bit.

Experiential learning is a process of learning by doing. According to David Kolb, an individual learns from personal experiences and from the environment.

1. Having said this, I think it may be incorrect to deduce that elearning/workshops may not be able to provide experiential learning. In well designed programs, the learner can learn by doing and needless to say, he will learn from his own experiences and from the environment.

2. Instructional design is based on the learner's true needs. Therefore, it will be a systematic layout of content if the learner truly needs this. Instructional design is about designing the program such that learning happens. Therefore, the type of instructional strategy suggested above is just one among millions.

3. Even VLEs require to have a sound instructional base. Why? Your environment may be extremely real and may wow the learner. But, if you have learning presented in a manner where they are required to read off a book, attend a lecture in a VLE, or have information which is just difficult to find, this will make it less easy to learn. The learner may be better off with an eLearning program.

4. Even games have boundaries, rules, logic that can be learnt very quickly. If these are defined well in an eLearning program, I think we can design experiential learning. If the learner gets to do things to learn, I think you have a good program. Again, it has to have a strong instructional base.

5. I guess it is great if instructional designers break content into simpler chunks to ensure that they have a greater understanding of the content itself. But how the content should be presented, should be based on the learner's current knowledge and the skills that he wishes to acquire.

6. I am a huge fan of VLEs provided the usability issues are removed. But, I think it may not be right to say that great eLearning programs and workshops cannot provide for experiential learning.

7. I completely agree with Koreen that it requires a different kind of skill set to actually design experiential learning. It requires a lot of research into the learner's reality, the content itself, iteration in the design process, lots of brainstorming, and competent instructional designers, visual designers, and SMEs.

8. Therefore, my point in a nutshell, it is never Instructional design versus Experiential design. If your learners are learning, there is always instructional design in work there. You may not have designed it your self. I remember @Abhinava mentioning the same during his session at the IDCI session. We learn a lot of things unconsciously but this is always backed up by good instructional design.

What do you think?
1. Can we ensure experiential learning in eLearning/workshops?
2. Is experiential design truly possible only in a VLEs?
3. Is instructional design always about simplifying content?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Unconventional ILTs

In my last post, The Role of a Trainer, I touched on what it takes to be a good trainer and what are the list of don'ts that the trainer can keep in mind. There are several more aspects of ILT that I find intriguing.

1. How your ID strategies may be absolutely brilliant but your trainer can ruin the training very easily or how a brilliant trainer can make up for poor ID
2. How ID for ILT is so very different than ID for an eLearning module
3. How an instructional designer has to take into consideration several things: other learners, the venue, the seating arrangement, the facilities, the space, the trainer, the mood, the attitude, and so on

What I find even more intriguing is designing activities for ILTs. Activities in ILT are the crux of the training (atleast I think so). The activities encourage social learning and active participation. It also ensure 'hands on learning'. What do you need to keep in mind when designing an activity for an ILT:
1. What type of activity are you designing? Is it a case study/scenario/game/individual exercise?
2. How do you want to divide your participants? In groups of 2, 3, 4, 5?
3. Are any props required? Can you use relevant props that will aid learning and make the experience extremely memorable for the learner?
4. How much time would this activity take? 20 mins inclusive of discussion? 30 mins?
5. How will they share what they have done? Should a representative present the thoughts/findings? Should the class see the whole 'event' unfold in front of them?
6. How is feedback shared? Ask the other learners to share their thoughts in what just transpired?
7. How do you summarize the learning to make it easy to remember? Here's an experience that has to stored as learning. How can this be done?
8. How do you ensure healthy competition? Offer an award/reward by listing the criteria for emerging winner? Offering praise at the end?

When we think ILT, unfortunately, everyone imagines training within four walls. While this is not wrong, I wish out bound trainings also sprang into our minds. Or when we think of training within the classroom, we do not imagine the trainer near the whiteboard and the learners seated in an orderly fashion. I wish we would think of people all over the room, enthusiasm in their faces, order within chaos, almost like a play where everyone gets to play a part and learn from it. Hmmm, FUN!

I wish in the near future, I get to design such a training program where learners are on their feet and learning by doing. Soon.... Meanwhile, if you have designed such a training, please do share. Would love to hear and turn green with jealousy! :)

Also, check this video out: What Makes a Great Teacher?

The Role of a Trainer

I have always worked on eLearning rather than ILTs. I did start my ID career working on an ILT. But last year, I have had the opportunity to work on two completely different types of ILT.

Type 1: During this session, we had to teach call center executives the basics of Internet. We conducted telephonic contextual inquiry and mystery shopping (over the phone) to understand our learners. The learners were a fun loving lot: young, eager to work well, motivated. Designing ILT for these guys was absolutely fun. We introduced several videos and interesting activities and group discussions, which had the desired impact. We also had young, enthusiastic trainers run the training program.

Type 2: This was much, much more challenging. This training program was huge! Kern Learning Solutions conducted an assessment center to understand the current competencies and carried out detailed contextual inquiry. Based on the findings, training areas were formulated. I learnt a lot during the storyboarding phase of this project:
1. Working with SMEs
2. Designing activities that interested the learners
3. Ensuring printing too place (believe me this can be a nightmare)
5. Clear communication with the trainers

I attended the pilot to check how the learners responded to the training. The experience needless to say was absolutely thrilling. I learnt a lot. I specifically wanted to share what I thought of the role of the trainer. During a #KernLearn session on Twitter, I posed the following question:

rnarchana What makes a trainer 'good' during classroom training?
partvinu The trainers should be able to involve the participants in the discussion through listening, and creative interventions.
chneels Should be able to convey the right message and content to the learners without putting them to sleep:)
chneels trainers should teach content with more examples and situations..
partvinu trainers can use humor but only to enliven the atmosphere, not to divert the attention of the learners
sandeepdev Learning by doing & learning by mistakes... the holy way of teaching
geetabose Good teachers do not provide asnwers, they say Find out yourself! RT @sandeepdev: Learning by doing & learning by mistakes...
rnarchana Good trainers always have their finger on the pulse of the audience. They adjust based on the participant's needs.
rnarchana They inspire, encourage, and praise. RT @geetabose: Good teachers do not provide answers, they say Find out yourself!
rnarchana A good trainer is extremely 'likeable', 'approachable', 'full of energy', 'good listener', 'highly observant', 'confident'.
rnarchana A good trainer makes the 'learning' come alive. He engages the learners mind without solely depending on presentation tools
rnarchana A good trainer will never be heard saying 'Man! The participants are terrible. They won't open their mouths.'
rnarchana gd trainer ensures that every participant gets a chance 2 voice their opinion/participate. He uses their names (not hey U! )
rnarchana Good trainers are well-prepared. They find all the answers. And if they don't know an answer, they are not afraid to accept it.
mutechords @rnarchana A good trainer is one who can visualize the realistic outcome of the training program
mutechords I enjoy trainings where there were no PPTs but more interactions+anaysis of situations. good trainers are like that i guess.
even before it has started
shana1729 @rnarchana A good trainer shud b interactive n engaging
shana1729 @rnarchana A good trainer will have a clear learning/teaching objective, wil conduct mock sessions before he goes live..
shana1729 @rnarchana A good trainer should be able to tackle the participants who goes on and on debating something useless.
shana1729 @rnarchana A good trainer will never read out the text on the slide!
shana1729 @rnarchana A gud trainer ll nvr underestimate learners. But understands and digs out the deep knowledge n crazy ideas from participants..
shana1729 @rnarchana A good trainer Sets expectation participants before starting off then maps Expectation and Achievements at d end
shana1729 My views on a good ILT, nd my bad experiences as well: #KernLearn
sumeet_moghe @rnarchana that's the one part i slightly disagree with. good trainers are facilitators -- they guide participants to the answers.

This discussion captures the characteristic of a good trainer. What are the 'don'ts'?
(Photo credit: Veer)
1. Do not invade the learner's personal space. If the trainer goes too close, he will end up intimidating the learner.
2. Do not 'stuff' information down the learner's throat. The trainer must remember that the learner has 'prior knowledge and experience'. It would be terrible to assume that the learner knows nothing. The trainer show draw out the answers from the learners and ensure that everyone learns from each other.
3. Don't be rigid. The trainer is a facilitator of learning. It is ok to add more points to the training material. The attitude 'It is not in the text book' will not work here.
4. Don't hurry topics because you have to meet a deadline. Don't skip activities or rush through the topics because you are worried you won't finish on time.
5. If there are obstacles, underplay them. For example, there is a power cut as you are taking a session, what would you do? Make a hue and cry over the facilities or the lack of it? Or ensure that you continue with the discussion without allowing anything to interrupt your flow?
6. Don't drag your feet. If the trainer is not energetic, how will the learner energy levels stay up? Regardless of how well they know their stuff, if there is no energy, they are detrimental to learning.
7. Don't digress. Too many thoughts/ideas is not what they need. Stay on the right track. Prepare well in advance to crystallize your thoughts.
8. Never blame it on the learner. If they don't respond to you, it is because you have made ZERO impact on them.

If you have any more points to add to this list, feel free to comment.

Kern Turns Green!

Kern Turns Green! Check our new website, brand new us!

More on why 'Green' later. Watch this space! In the meantime, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts on our website.