Tuesday, December 29, 2009

4 One-Stop Trainer Challenges

(1) Lack of collaboration

Some people prefer to work alone, some to work in groups, I prefer a little of both. When I work, there are times when I wish there were a few others that do what I do, that I could collaborate with. It’s really easy to get tunnel vision and see things only from one prospective. In this line of work, you have to think outside the box… Outside your own mind and into a multitude of learners minds and you have to do it before they even have the chance to encounter the material… Let’s call it a combination of telepathy and foresight… Telesight. When you lack a capable collaborative group, the next best thing is to query opinions from people who know absolutely nothing about what you are trying to train. Why is this? I’ve found that sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous. When people know a little bit about the subject, but lack an understanding of the big picture, their opinions are often too narrow in scope, or skewed by what they think they know. As an example, I work in the Inventory Software field and have traveled enough to know that no two stores seem to work the same way. But what I see from new employees (and experienced myself back in the day) is that after returning from their first on-site visit, they are convinced that every store uses the software the same way, and that way is the best possible way it can be used… They are limited by the scope of their knowledge. Maybe not everyone is like this, but most people are, and this concept can be applied to numerous other applications.

Regardless, I always appreciate other people’s insight, even if it’s completely opposite of what I intended… Especially if it’s completely opposite of what I intended. There’s nothing more frustrating than asking for opinions and the answer you get is that everything looked great. Then a week later all kinds of bugs start showing up, or if you are in a brainstorming session, you realize that you’ve just invented twenty new ways not to make a light bulb. That’s why if you have to use non-experts, make sure they have the ability to think critically, and tell you exactly what’s on their minds.

(2) Not enough Time

There’s never enough time. So many projects to create and no time to do it. When you are alone, you have to create concepts, storyboard, design, develop, evaluate, edit, and implement your training, whether it be face-to-face training, a webinar, or an e-Learning course. When you are alone, you have to have solid time management skills and project management skills or else nothing will get done. This is a really broad topic, and in the future, I hope to discuss how I am trying to circumnavigate this issue.

(3) Lack of pull because of a lack of people on board

Ok, it’s easier to get what you want when you have multiple people on board with you, especially if they all know what they are doing. As I’ve said before, there are other trainers in my organization, just none that do what I do. I had this discussion with one of my coworkers and it really made me realize the power of a mob. The more people you can get on board with an idea, the more likely it will happen. That being said, when you are working alone, it’s hard to get people on board because (1) they may not have the ability to make an educated decision given project parameters, and (2) even if they could make an educated decision, their opinion likely doesn’t matter because they work in other areas. When you work alone, there are two people that you have to get on board… your boss, and your boss’s boss. In certain situations there may also be a department manager here and there that could be influential.

(4) Lack of complete set of Skills

Not to sell myself short, but I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t know everything. I’ve been working with Web 2.0 tools for about a year now and I’ve had to learn every piece of software, as well as methods for course design and development, on my own. If you are new to the field, for e-Learning, I recommend Michael Allen’s Guide to eLearning as a place to start. For face-to-face training, one of my favorite books is “Telling Ain’t Training” by Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps.

To gain the Knowledge and Skills necessary to perform this job, I’ve had to rely on a library of books, several social networking sites (like Linkedin), and free online forums, tutorials, and YouTube… This is called “Informal Learning”, and it happens to account for over 50% of the learning that occurs in any organization. I fell like I’ve become pretty adept to this, and that’s good because I’m trying to bring this to my own organization.

Next Week: A look at the Graphic Design Tools and Process I use.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Design Process - ADDIE and Accelerated Learning

Before getting into all the things that plague me as a one-stop trainer, I’d like to lay a foundation by discussing my course design process.

Like so many others out there, I use ADDIE as a basis for course design. For those not familiar with ADDIE, it stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. However, after reading Michael Allen’s book series on eLearning Development, I’m more interested in using his Iterative Design process, and I hope to discuss that as well in the future.

Here’s my ADDIE Process


During this step you are supposed to meet with your team, and anyone else involved, and discuss general goals, circumstances, environment, and risk management. For me, it’s usually a meeting with a Subject Matter Expert (SME).

Here’s what I ask:

o What would you like learners to be able to do, or know when they are finished with this course?

o What kind of prior knowledge will the learners have, or should I assume they know nothing?

o When will this course need to begin?

o Is there a time limit on how long the course should be?

At this point we part ways, and I begin brainstorming on what could be done for this course. I also relay my time constraints to my boss, and have a solid discussion on what’s most important about this project.


During this phase I am trying to nail down the Learning Objectives (LO). I like to use Robert Mager’s book “Goal Analysis” for this because I feel like it really gets us down to the core of what’s being asked of the learner. Whatever we come up with out of this session is usually just a guideline for course design, and is not set in concrete. In fact, some of the LO’s will change by the time I finish the project.

During this phase, I will also decide what mediums of knowledge transfer I will use from my Trainers Toolbox, and develop a timeline for completion.


Ok, now it’s time to actually put the project together. This usually takes a while for me because I don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off of.

This is where I input another Instructional Design Method into my process. I’ve never been formally taught ADDIE, so I’m only working from what I’ve been able to gather myself. But, from what I can tell, ADDIE deals with developing training from a Project Management prospective… it doesn’t deal with the actual process of learning though… It doesn’t answer the question “What’s the best way to present this information so it is retained and transferred to the job?” For that I use an Instructional Design Method called Accelerated Learning.

Accelerated Learning has four steps:

1) Preparation
2) Presentation
3) Practice
4) Performance

This represents the order in which events occur for the Learner, and has nothing to do with how, or when I actually do the development of the course.

During the Preparation Phase, you are trying to get the learners interested in the information. Also, you are developing an Optimal Learning Environment, find out what the learners already know, and create a base of knowledge.

During the Presentation Phase, Learners come into contact with new material, which is related to information they already know. As Michael Allen would say, you have to make learning meaningful, and this is part of that process.

During the Practice Phase, learners are integrating and incorporating their new knowledge and skills…. This is the hands on part, it’s where they encounter the “activity.”

During the Performance Phase, learners apply their knowledge to their job. This extends beyond the classroom and into their actual daily lives for as long as necessary to ensure they change, make habits, or whatever you want to call it.

When it comes to actually putting things together, here’s what I do…

o Lay out knowledge in a logical order
o Gather documents, usually training manuals that lay out steps to processes
o Brainstorm ideas for activities to demonstrate proficiency
o Develop activities (Prototypes for eLearning)
o Get activity feedback from SME’s and other employees if available
o Work backwards to determine where and when to place knowledge and topic challenges for learners (during Presentation phase)
o Once everything is in order, I will begin to storyboard the project (eLearning)
o During Storyboarding I try to determine what needs to be said
o Determine what Graphics best aid learning (This is a huge topic for later)
o Next, I put the project all in one place and present the storyboard to the SME and my Boss. I use feedback from this meeting to make adjustments to my design
o Once everything is decided on, then I will actually create the details of the course
o I then have several review phases between myself, my boss, the SME, and any other employees that are available to look over it.
o Once that is finished I design the Preparation phase and Performance Phase


The course is rolled out, or presented


I am not currently able to evaluate my courses (outside of end of course questioners) for a number of reasons which I am not allowed to go into. If I were able to do an evaluation, I would use Kirkpatricks 4 levels, and I would also throw in level 5 ROI.

I’m hoping that sometime soon I will be able to perform long-term evaluations.

What are your thoughts?

Next Mondays topic: An Overview of the challenges I face as a one-stop-shop trainer.

Monday, November 30, 2009

3 Primary Learning Theories

Last week I introduced my “Trainers Toolbox”. For my second blog, I would like to discuss Learning Theory. In my time, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in the training field, many of which enter the field with no prior experience. I’ve learned that being a trainer is not a job, it’s a career. Much like one would hope that a pilot would have some previous knowledge and experience in flying an airplane, so to must a trainer gain experience in training and educating.

Learning Theories are basically attempts to describe how people learn. Three Primary Learning Theories are:

• Behaviorism
• Cognitivism
• Constructivism

In the future, I will go more in-depth on each of these.

Behaviorism was championed by B.F. Skinner back in the mid 1900’s. The theory revolves around a concept known as “Operant Conditioning,” and involves stimulation, a response by the learner, and then feedback from the instructor. This learning theory is used to develop rapid reflex skills in the learner. An implication for instructional design is that learning can be controlled by manipulating the learner’s environment; however, much of the learning comes from the feedback received after the response. Perhaps this should be called a “Training Theory”, rather than a “Learning Theory” because the learner is being taught to act in a certain way, rather than being taught the knowledge of something.

Cognitivism is based on work by Dewey, Vygotsky, and Bruner. This Learning Theory is used when dealing with Problem Solving, Organizing, Exploring, and Synthesizing Content. This type of instruction is more group based, where they teacher presents a problem and the group must solve it. The teacher then serves as more of a resource/guide to the students. An important concept in Cognitivist instruction is known as the “Zone of Proximal Development”, or ZPD, which is the difference between what a person can do without help vs. what a person can do with help. The idea is that the instructor will provide learners in a group with an activity that is inside their ZPD. Working collectively with a group, they slowly increase their knowledge, skills, and abilities to work as an individual. There are many reasons why this is effective, and I hope to go into this in a later blog.

The development of Constructivism is generally attributed to Jean Piaget and M. Knowles, although I find that many of the same people worked to formulate Cognitivism and Constructivism. The idea behind Constructivism is that learners “Construct” their knowledge through experiences. Instructors set up a collaborative environment, and then create a base for learning, or common ground between the learners. Once a common ground is discovered, learners and instructors then work together to build on this base of knowledge. One important theory to Constructivism is Knowles Andragogy, which essentially relies on the idea that once adults understand why they need to know something, they will have a vested interest in learning and gaining experience.

When I design a course, I ask myself which approach would best suit the situation, often times, I will use concepts from multiple theories in the same course. Currently, I am not able to use constructivist approaches when developing on-line courses because of a lack of collaborative technology. However, as we gain tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc, I believe I will be able to take on a much more constructivist feel to many of my courses.

Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments concerning these Learning Theories.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's in my Trainers Toolbox

I've seen many of these blogs around the web, and I believe they are important for a number of reasons. I'm sure this list will change as I get into Graduate School, and build our Social Media program at work, but to make a long story short, here's my Trainers Toolbox:

Microsoft Word - Documentation

Powerpoint - Training Presentations and Rapid eLearning

Microsoft Excel - Graphs and Charts

Lectora - eLearning Development

Camtasia - Screencasts

SnagIt - Screen captures

Gimp - Graphic Design and Photo Editing

Microsoft Clip Art - Rapid eLearning Graphics

Blender - 3D Graphic Design and Animation

Fotolia.com - Professional Photos

Audacity - Audio Editing

Canon HV30 - Training Videos

Rode VideoMic - Audio Recording

WebEx - Webinars

LinkedIn - Social Networking

Twitter - Microblogging

Delicious - Social Bookmarking

Sony Movie Studio - Non-Linear Editor (Video Editing)

Ok, that's what's in my Trainers Toolbox, what's in yours?

The Intended Purpose of this Blog

After working in the field of Learning Technology for over a year now, it has become apparent that as a one-person team, I face different challenges than the standard Learning Technologies department. Although I work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for content, I find that I have to be the expert at everything else to succeed.

On a standard team, you might find Instructional Designers, eLearning Developers, Programmers, Graphic Designers, Narrative and Technical Writers, and perhaps Project Managers, among others. As a One-Stop Shop, I must fill all of these roles. In this blog, I will explore my thoughts and experiences as I proceed and develop in this role.