Friday, March 4, 2011

What is the 'Learning' World Coming to?

1. Need for Control: If I got a penny every time a stakeholder told me 'Our guys will just click Next-Next-Next and complete the course,' I would be the richest person alive. The demand to lock the Next button is becoming a common feature that really (and I mean REALLY) excites the stakeholders. Do we have such little faith in the employees and even lesser faith in the quality of learning?

My take: If the learner feels the urge to click next and finish the course, we have failed to create a good product. But we will never know till we test this and find out. Adding restrictions and forcing action surely seems like the wrong move. What ever happened to learner control and understanding of adult learning?

2. Unconventional Requests: You hear the most bizarre requests from time to time. The advantage of these are that they make you question why we have been doing certain things. And, if you have no explanation, you can accept the request. Else, you can make a good case to explain why you can't.
Special ones:
We want something far simpler. It really does not require so much work This actually means just come train and go and charge us close to nothing.
Do you really expect us to do all the work? Just to explain 'all the work' included giving us information about the internal process and validating content.
Can we use this really cool approach of blah and blah? I say Oh but it sounds like a force fit after a few screens. They say, yeah whatever but we like it. Okay then...
We know we want a course but we are still trying to figure what the focus should be. Each of us wants a different thing. What to do? You need help!

My take: Keep your feet grounded. Stakeholders will be more impressed with expert opinions grounded in logic than you being a 'yes sir' person. They have had too many bad experiences to trust you completely. Build it slowly. Always keep the learning objective and the learner in mind. There are some requests that are inconsequential to learning, go ahead and accept these. Never accept those that are detrimental to learning, regardless of who it is coming from. If the stakeholder insists, seek a compromise that does no/least damage.

3. Me, Myself and I: Till very recently, I thought instructional designers (including me) are full of themselves. Folks at work keep us grounded by giving due credit and respect to all roles involved in learning. But if you have had a chance to meet a classic SME or trainer, you will realize that they refuse to acknowledge instructional design (and you). A SME once told me you just put these slides together and while presenting I will make the program exciting. I had to tell that's not how it works. You give me all the dope and I make it instructionally sound. The more trainers I meet, the more convinced I am that the training they deliver is not instructionally sound. A trainer once said it is finally what we do and how we add spice to the program that makes it what it is. Well, thanks for taking away all the effort and credit that the others put in. A good trainer with poorly designed session can only make sure that people have fun, but may not be able to make the learning stick.

I have quietly heard out trainers going on and on about this technique and that game. All the time, I thought to myself 'good, they know their stuff.' But, I am pretty sure they are clueless about ID and that is because that's my job. I respect you for what you bring to the table, you can respect me for what I bring. Fair deal!

My take: Everyone plays an equally crucial role in making the product what it is. The reviewers, the IDs, GDs, VDs, SMEs, stakeholders, learners, trainers (if ILT), organizers and printers (if ILT). I have had trainers tell me that we at Kern design really cool ILT sessions. Coming from a trainer, it is a big thing. I guess I just need to wait for the trainers to work with us to realize the true value (and meaning) of instructional design. Give others credit where it's due and you will get credit for your work too.  


Judith Christian-Carter said...

Spot on with everything you say. Now, what do we do about it as that's easier said than done?

Archana Narayan said...

Very true. I can tell you what we do at Kern (thought this depends on budget, time, stakeholder's temperament, our negotiation or convincing skills, our knowledge of ID)

1. Need for control: We conduct two very important process of LCM (learner centered methodology): learner analysis (though telephonic interviews and contextual inquiry) and learner testing. Learner analysis gives us enough information about the learners to design for them. Learner testing helps us test this. This ensures that we design for the learner and not for the other involved.

2. Unconventional requests: We consider and portray ourselves to be expert consultants and not vendors. We make it clear that this partnership will work only if they are as involved and committed in the process. We don't just listen and deliver. We analyze, strategize, recommend, collaborate and deliver.

3. Me, myself and I: If you are a good ID, the value will be visible to all who work with you. They will respect you even without you having to demand it. Just ensure that you keep only the 'learning experience' in mind and they will see the difference you make.

These are all easier said and done. There are several people out there who are determined to have their way and those in our own industry who continue to do things wrong. Let us just continue doing things right and am sure we can make a difference!

Anonymous said...

To me, the need for control represents a systemic failure in the assessment process.