Axe-sharpening (or how to cut without hurting the SME’s feelings)

Design processes, What I do

I’ll be up front about this. I don’t always get my way when it comes to cutting content. More than one client/SME has taken my beautifully crafted draft and packed it with vital phrases like ‘reaching out to synergise…blah…blah…”, or added some extra message from a senior manager because it’s there.

I'm revising my rule about stock photos when I find something bizarre or just plain freaky. Just what is going on here?

I’m revising my rule about stock photos when I find something bizarre or just plain freaky. Just what is going on here?

However, I try to head off such issues before they get to be a problem. Where I can, I try to involve the SME and the product manager in the drafting process. I try to sit down with them and work out the top two or three takeaways or learning outcomes. So, by the end of a module, a learner has to know what they need to do to create a leave request, or add analysis to a chart.

Once we’ve established the learning outcomes, we work out the key tasks involved in getting to that outcome. So, for example, where do you go to create a leave request, is the request form online, what information do you need, etc. Once the process tasks are in place, we can look at the extra information.

Next comes the issue of style. A standard presentation-style walkthrough sometimes works to get the message across, but it’s often not quite engaging enough. A scenario may work better; or perhaps a quick summary of the steps and then a scenario that requires the learner to make decisions. If possible, I’ll record a webex or Captivate with the SME so that I can get as much information about the process as it happens.

Using that information, we have enough to create a draft. The SME gets to review the draft, but we’ve usually decided on the approach in our meetings and the SME is onboard.  They’re usually keen to get the  project underway and see some visuals.

Because we’ve taken a collaborative approach, the initial alpha stage usually goes smoothly and the changes are minor. Getting the SME on board at an early stage  saves time, tears and tantrums later.

Audio in e-learning (eLearning? ELearning? E-Learning?….meh)

Interactvity tips and ideas, What I do

This isn’t Christopher Pappas, this is Phones from the classic Marionation series of my childhood, Stingray. Phones was Troy Tempest’s sidekick and endlessly patient friend who probably had to listen to an awful lot of lovesick moaning and shuffling from Troy and that wimp Marina…

Christopher Pappas has some useful tips on using audio in e-learning.

I’ve had some interesting issues with audio while working on the new QA APMP eLearning module. It’s a pretty intense course – trying to fit in five days of classroom-based learning into an online format while keeping the learner on board and interested.

If we had gone down the route of mirroring the text with the audio, we would have ended up with an endless drone. It would have compromised our attempts at interaction too. However, I’m not so sure that we used audio to its best capability. I would have liked to include interviews or audio from trainers and other subject matter experts, offering tips and and case studies that, while not necessarily vital to pass the exam, may inspire learners to think about how they could apply the concepts to their work.

Still, it’s something for the next iteration, I suppose.

100 Great Game Based Learning Resources

Good ways to learn stuff, Interactvity tips and ideas

Still not certain about the use of gamification, even in my newish job. Certainly our clients like the theory, but when we come down to the actual practice, we seem to find ourselves back on more conventional ground.

What people do seem to like are branching scenarios and role play to help learners get to grips with knotty compliance or legal situations.

Still, nice list.

Learning to play piano on the Internet

Good ways to learn stuff

The Swan Method is a new series of online piano lessons devised by Richard Swan, a London based musician and teacher.

Richard has an idiosyncratic teaching method which he has distilled into a set of online piano lessons. Basically it’s my favourite method, learning by doing. You learn a tune, and while you’re learning that tune, Richard talks you through how that tune was put together, and helps you understand the theory behind the music.

I took  a look at the first training video during the test phase. They are very basic,  but clear introductions to the keyboard, showing the names and positions of the notes.

Richard employs a split screen method, with a headshot in the  top half of the screen, and an overhead shot of the full piano keyboard in the bottom half of the screen, so you can see what he’s talking about. You can rewind and replay demos, and the site is built in WordPress, which makes it mobile-friendly.  Conceivably, you could balance your smartphone or mobile device on the keyboard, and play along, replay, play along again, repeat until done.

I’ll confess to being one of Richard’s piano students, so I’m familiar with his teaching method. He doesn’t expect students to learn to read music before trying quite complex pieces, and much of his technique relies on making you remember how a tune goes, or a chord sequence, rather than writing it down for you. It’s great for giving you the confidence and the musical building blocks to try things that you wouldn’t normally think were pieces for beginners, and you end up playing quite complex tunes in a matter of weeks.  I can now play some semblance of jazz after a total of twelve lessons over a year or so. However, I had one-to-one lessons, sitting at that very piano in Richard’s parlour. I do wonder how well his very personalised and tailored methods will transfer to an eLearning setting. Also, how can you measure success? He might get several hundred subscriptions in the first month or even year, but how can he measure his students’ progress, and how will he help them move on to more “difficult” pieces without the personal interaction afforded by traditional piano teaching?

All rather interesting. The music world is full of self-taught musicians, so I’ve no doubt that this will succeed, but I’d be interested to see to what level.