Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Working with the Client, not for Them

I thought this video was very funny. I get the joke, seriously, I do! But what really gets to me is that most us may be working this way. I wish the designer had given an opinion, made a case for himself, suggested why certain things work and certain things don't. WAKE UP, man! As a designer, your job is not to create SOMETHING for the client. You job is to understand what your client wants, what is the goal of the project and then give your expert suggestions. They have hired you because you are an expert at what you do.

In training, keep the learning goal and the learner as the focus. Back up your suggestions with logic for why it would work and why it wouldn't. Don't just give in because finally the client is bound to be disappointed with your work. Your work is to find out what will truly work and ensure that the client gets that. If they are still insistent, let them know you are not happy about it but will do as is suggested. They will treat you as an expert. They will ask you for your opinion. Why?

  1. They trust you are looking out for the good of the company. They realize that you are trying to do your job right. They will support you as your goal is in line with their goal.
  2. They realize that you know what you are talking about. You have the expertise in this field and that you rationalize things before you suggest them. You don't say no, I can't do it. You say this may not be good for the design because....
  3. You are part of their team and not just any vendor. They respect you and value your presence.
So, do you have a spine? Do you blindly do as you have been told? Do you think for yourself before your execute? Do you behave like an expert? It is tough, but the least we can do is try and try really hard.

Also read That Dirty Word -Creative and Getting Stuck and Unstuck.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gain Attention - What's the Fuss?

The first few minutes of any interaction is crucial because the people involved are all judging what they are experiencing. This is true for face to face interaction, the first few pages of a book or movie, a phone conversation, and so on. First impressions... Have you ever picked up a novel and found it difficult to complete it? Have you sat in class and starting doodling or passing notes because you couldn't care less what the lecturer had to say? Have you formed an opinion to not like a movie just by looking at its trailer?

First impressions... In learning also, first impressions are crucial. The first few seconds decide the fate of your course. The learner may just drop out or click Next continuously to 'get it done with'. If first impression is not positive, your great ID strategies within may just fall on deaf ears.

Gain attention:
1. Sets expectation: What is in it for me? and What is this all about?
2. Get them thinking: Really?/ No way!/ So true!!
3. Makes an impact: Strike an emotional chord. Touches the learner's heart. I don't mean 'mush' :)
4. Makes them give you a chance: They want to hear/see more. You have their undivided attention.

Types of gain attentions:
  • Myth breaking: Break an existing Myth. There is nothing like challenging an individuals belief's systems. It triggers an emotion in them. If you prove what you say right, you may have found respect for your course.
  • Fact Sharing: Share facts that will inspire/surprise them. Saying Roses are red isn't going to make them notice. Share information that will really interest them.
  • Challenge/pretests: This is good for learners who believe they know it all and there is nothing more to learn and for demotivated learners. Do not test the learner. The objective is for him to understand where he stands, to judge himself. Don't try to trick him. (When should we use pretests?)
  • Story/Scenarios: Make the learner empathize with a scenario or people in the scenario. Make them want to help the people out. Give them control over the destiny of another individual's lives. Creaet scenarios that will make them feel, 'Hey, this happens with me all the time!' or 'That's a tough one. How will she get out of it?' Make learners love/hate the characters.

I think gain attentions should have 'depth'. Visuals is a way to communicate the message. But the visuals never become more important than the message itself. If you really on WOWing the learner based on just the 'look and feel', you may just manage to capture his attention for a few seconds.

If you WOW the learner through an effective message, you will grab the learner's attention for way longer. Like Micheal Allen says what use is a fancy graphics and a spinning logo if it does not aid learning.

I think we don't fuss about it enough. Gain attention makes your users sit up and notice. It makes them want to see what lies ahead. It makes an impression and they are willing to give you a chance. Grab it while you can!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DezineConnect: Connecting Designers

Are you a designer? Are you inspired by one? Do you want to know how their mind works? Do you want a sneak peek into the kind of work they do? DezineConnect interviewed Neil Dantas, designer who designs graphical T-shirts with a strong social message. Read more here and be inspired!

As an Instructional Designer, I think it is great that these sites bring us closer to the design community. There is so much we can learn from them. A little about DezineConnect:

DezineConnect celebrates design from India. It connects creative people to the world. DezineConnect aims to showcase designers, design buyers, and design support people.

If you know a great designer, who must be featured here, get in touch with the DezineConnect team. You can follow DezineConnect on Facebook and Twitter. Stay connected to see some interesting stuff!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

5 Unlearnable Elements in Your eLearning

What are the 5 unlearnable elements that all IDs should steer clear off?

1. Definitions

Definitions (especially poorly written ones) are
not important. Look at a few examples.

Negotiable instrument is a written document by which a right is created in favour of some person and this is transferable by delivery.


Credit is the provision of resources by one party to another party where that second party does not reimburse the first party immediately.

Sounds confusing!

Direct manipulation is a human-computer interaction style which involved continuous representation of objects of interest and rapid, reversible, incremental actions and feedback.

Now in English please...

How many of us are comfortable introducing a concept using a definition? Have we ever stopped to wonder how effective these definitions are? Here's what we typically do: Start any module with a definition because it makes the content look authentic. Then, we go on to simplify the definition further. If we stop to think about it, we may just realize how unlearnable these definitions are.

Definitions are meant to simplify a concept. Help understand an idea/process better. Why is it important to share a definition when you can jump directly to the explanation? I remember in school how I had all the important definitions by heart. But looking back now, the visual depiction of evaporation or osmosis was far more useful in understanding the concept. Think about it. Is it important for a manager to know the definition of conflict or identify a conflict situation and react appropriately? Don't bother with definitions. They only intimidate or confuse the learner further and serve no learning purpose.

2. History

Why does man have the urge to start from the beginning? Why is it so important to know what happened in the past? When I learnt about computers, it started with history of computers. When I learnt about the Internet, it started with history. When I learn about Search Engines, it starts with history. Really, how important is this information to me? What can I do with the knowledge of history? When can you use history?
  • Teach a scientist the history of a particular theory because it may important for him to know: 'This has already been tried and the results were 'this'.
  • When you want to drive home the important of a current process vs a previous process. Common Craft Videos do this beautifully.
Don't use it unless it is absolutely critical to learning. If your SME insists, move it to references.

3. Information dump

Some eLearning applications look like a dump of information. What we need to understand is that SMEs (at least 99% of them) will give you information. Let me share an instance with you. I was handed responsibility of storyboarding for a technical skill-based course. I had a never ending content dump. Most of the content in this was theoretical and could be classified under information. When I asked the SME for examples to substantiate the theory, the SME told me: 'We have done all the research that need to be done. So you don't need any more information. All you need to do is make it learnable.' Sure. I didn't give up and thankfully I had another very cooperative SME. I would surf the Internet for suitable examples and get it validated. The content dump and the course look completely different.

Next time you dump information in your storyboard, dont bother. Just mail the word document to the learners. Your eLearning is as learnable as the content dump. No one is going to give you information in the learnable format. It is our job to make it learnable. Make information learnable. Remove all the necessary content and get the real stuff out.

4. Visuals

Simply putting an attractive visual on the screen will not help the learner learn. I have seen SBs where the visuals are based on the least important information on the screen. Focus on designing learnable, useful visuals. They must support and reinforce what is being described.

5. Exercises

Exercises for the sake of it is a pure waste of time. The usefulness of the exercise is in danger if it is:
1. Very obvious
  • the question is poorly designed and gives the answers away
  • the question is really not important/too simplistic
  • The question does not require much thought (while designing or solving)
2. Forced (because I have to add an exercise after 10 screens)

Exercises also have to be learnable. They have to have a purpose. They must make the learner think.

Next time, we start storyboarding let us not start with the definition, move to the history, dump information on screens, provide useless visuals, and add pointless exercises at regular intervals. What are the other common used unlearnable elements that you have witnessed?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Challenge: Facing it or running away?

I was chatting with my colleague Yatin, when he jokingly told me 'Well, you don't seem to like the challenge then.' I always thought myself as a person who enjoyed challenges. I hate mechanical, dry, boring, work. I have to have to use my head, else my heart is not in it. And, I cannot work if my heart is not in it. So, then why did I not like that particular challenge?

I like a challenge, when:
1. I can see the light at the end of tunnel. I know that there is a way out. Like in games, when you know that you just have to keep planning your attack and finally you will get past to the next level.

2. I am confident that I have what it takes. Let us face it. We are good at certain things and not so good at others. It is ok to accept that there are things that I do bad. What can I do about this? Think about how I can improve. Read more about it. Talk to people who are good at it. If it is not worth investing time in, I check whether someone else can help me do this while I focus on doing what I am really good at.

3. I have all the resources that I need. I have everything I need to tackle this challenge. Or I know where I can find these resources. If I don't have the resources, the challenge is impossible to meet. Brings me to the next point...

4. The challenge is truly attainable. Don't you just hate challenges that you can do nothing about it. Like a dead end in a game or an impossible opponet who refuses to die. As a gamer, I prefer to give up my life and redo things better. But the challenge has to be attainable, else I give it.

5. The possibility of an 'epic win'. I have to know that I am close to an epic win. That I can crack this case. That I am soooo close that it will be stupid to give up. That I am on the verge of something great.
6. I have the time and luxury to sort things out. Conquering a challenge requires clarity of thought. Therefore, I need time to figure things out. I need to sort things out in my head before I attempt to try my hand at this challenge.

Have you ever given up a game because it was just too frustrating to continue? Have you felt so disappointed with loosing that you never try again? So, I think there are challenges and there are challenges. Some of them excite you and some of them scare you off. Some of them make you want to give it your best, while others make you want to quit. I think these are really useful when we design online training also. We use challenges to engage the learner, but this will fall flat if we don't:
1. Make the challenges attainable.
2. Show them light at the end of the tunnel.
3. Reward them for right choices.
4. Create situations where epic wins are possible.
5. Provide necessary information to make the right decision.
6. Give sufficient time to figure things out.