Definition of MicroLearning

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I’ve looked for a good definition of microlearning, but because I couldn’t find one, I’ve created my own.

Microlearning involves the use of:

“Relatively short engagements in learning-related activities—typically ranging from a few seconds up to 20 minutes (or up to an hour in some cases)—that may provide any combination of content presentation, review, practice, reflection, behavioral prompting, performance support, goal reminding, persuasive messaging, task assignments, social interaction, diagnosis, coaching, management interaction, or other learning-related methodologies.”

Microlearning has five utilization cases:

  1. Course Replacement
    Provides training content and learning support, often as a replacement for classroom training or long-form elearning.
  2. Course Augmentation
    Provides after-course or within-course streams of short learning interactions to reinforce, strengthen, or deepen learning.
  3. Retrieval Support
    Provides retrieval practice, spaced repetitions, and reminding to ensure knowledge and skills can be remembered when needed.
  4. Just-In-Time (Moment-of-Need) Learning
    Provides information when learners need it to perform a task they are working on.
  5. Behavioral Prompts
    Provides action nudges, task assignments, or performance support to directly prompt and support behavior.

If it’s not obvious, there are clearly overlaps in these five use cases, and furthermore, a single microlearning thread may utilize more than one of the methodologies suggested. For example, when using microlearning as a replacement for a standard elearning course, you might also consider retrieval support and behavioral prompts in your full learning design.

Stop the Madness — Animated Screen Writing in eLearning

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Is anyone else getting completely annoyed watching someone’s hand draw and write on videos and elearning?

OMG! It’s beginning to drive me nuts! What the hell is wrong with us?

Here’s the thing. When this was new, it was engaging. Now it’s cliche! Now most people are habituated to it. What we’re doing now is taking one of our tools and completely overusing it.

Let’s be smarter.

Personalized Learning with Video… by Consensus.

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Research shows that one-on-one tutoring is generally highly effective — with a good tutor, of course. Similarly, John Anderson — the cognitive psychologist — along with others — developed Intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) that tailor content to learners based on cognitive models of what they know and don't know.

These learning approaches are beneficial because they personalize learning based on a diagnosis of learner knowledge. This is not a new concept. Indeed, the Socratic Method also took learners on a journey based on their responses. B. F. Skinner's operant conditioning provided reinforcement based on learner actions. Skinner's Programmed Learning and Fred Keller's Personalized System of Instruction are practical applications based on operant conditioning principles.

We've known for millennium that personalized learning is good — and we've even dabbled in scalable implementations like programmed learning — but for the most part we are still awaiting the promise of such personalization.

Now may be the time. New technologies are beginning to show promise. For example, subscription-learning threads based on personalized spacing schedules personalize learning nuggets based on learner responses. Still, one area where personalization hasn't been much in evidence is video. That may be changing.

Consensus Demo

Consensus allows its users to create videos tailored to each learner. Their focus is on sales and marketing — and particularly on creating demos — but the technology could be used for other needs as well. Consensus tailors content to users based on their interests, background, etc. When folks choose a topic as “Very Important,” users get the full video segment and get it first. When folks choose a topic as “Somewhat Important,” users get a summary video. When they choose “Not Important,” users don’t get any segments associated with those topics.

Consensus can also segment users based on their role in an organization, based on the size of their company, or based on other demographics as well.

They’ve got a great video that you can tailor to your needs. Worth watching! Click to check out Consensus.

 

Practice Firms — Giving People Real-World Experience

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Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article on the mostly European concept of practice firms. As the name implies, practice firms give people practice in doing work.

This seems to align well with the research on learning that suggests that learning in a realistic context, getting lots of retrieval practice and feedback, and many repetitions spaced over time can be the most effective way to learn. Of course, the context and practice and feedback have to be well-designed and aligned with the future work of the learner.

Interestingly, there is an organization that is solely devoted to the concept. EUROPEN-PEN International is the worldwide practice enterprise network. The network consists of over 7,500 Practice Enterprises in more than 40 countries. It has a FaceBook page and a website.

I did a quick search to see if there was an scientific research on the use of practice firms, but I didn’t uncover anything definitive…If you know of scientific research, or other rigorous evidence, let me know…

 

 

Video is the New Text…Hmmm!

For years I've been telling clients they ought to use more video in their learning programs, especially their elearning offerings. My arguments have been as follows:

  1. People react to well-crafted videos and audio with increased attention.
  2. The storytelling often inherent in video is powerfully seductive.
  3. Video is now fairly cheap; you don't necessarily need high production values, expensive equipment, or professional help.
  4. Nothing persuades our learners better than seeing real people who are like them — giving testimony, telling their stories, giving their lessons learned.
  5. Video can utilize scenario-based decision making, which we know from the learning research is a powerful tool to support comprehension and remembering.
  6. More and more of our learners are everyday video watchers; their expectations for media consumption are more visual, less textual.

Video is the New Text

Today's headlines hint that video on the internet is the number one draw. Certainly, some of these are silly cat videos, but now serious sources are turning to videos. Take for example the TED videos, the New York Times, The Economist. Even National Public Radio (whose life blood flows through a non-visual medium) has a YouTube channel!

Video is here to stay. As of this day in 2015, more and more elearning is utilizing good video; but still more can be done. Still too many instructional designers don't have video skills or even knowledge. Still too many opportunities are lost for getting employees on video telling their stories and lessons learned. Still too few scenario-based decisions are wrapped in a video context.

But Isn't Video Hard to Do?

It's NOT easier than writing text, especially since most of us have more text-writing experience than video-creation experience. But it's not that hard and it doesn't have to be expensive.

My confession is that even while I was imploring my clients to use video, I rarely used it. So, six years ago I began to learn about video. I put in some time to learn it. I bought myself video equipment. I produced a few videos. Here's a sampling:

I still don't do very many videos. As a consultant I can't really afford to take the time, but I create them occasionally because of the value they provide. 

If you think you can't do video, check out the second video I ever produced (the last one on the list). As an on-screen presence, I was terrible, but overall the video is pretty good.

My List of Equipment:

So you can learn from my consumer research, here is the list of video equipment I use in my videos.

  • Consumer HD video camcorder. NOT a professional video camera. About 7 years old, so not the latest technology.
  • Inexpensive wireless microphone. (something like this)
  • Inexpensive tripod (something like this)
  • Inexpensive lighting (something like this, and this)
  • Inexpensive video-editing software (like this)
  • Inexpensive audio-editing software (like that included in most video-editing software).

I also endeavor to use some aesthetic sensibilities; developed over the years regarding audio, music, visuals, cinematography, etc. based on who knows what (going to art museums, listening to music, playing music as a kid, observing the craft while watching videos, movies, TV, etc.). I really don't know what I know or what I lack, but I do know that some aesthetic sensibility is important. I also know that real video pros have more of this than I do…so there are definite advantages to getting help from the pros.

One of my mentors in video production is Jason Fararooei of Yellow Cape Communications. I first met him at an ISPI conference where he talked about how he and his team created a video for a client learning engagement. I liked his thoughtful approach to the aesthetics and potency of video. I'm pretty sure the following video is from the talk I saw him give:

Jason's in the business of creating videos, so my videos certainly don't come up to his standards, but he does seem mindful that shooting on a budget can still produce good results. Here he talks about recording a conference session, but the idea can be used for recording short snippets from training as well.

Video IS the New Text…Sometimes

I don't really think that video will replace text, but it will replace some text. And remember this. In evaluating video vs. text, you can't just look at the costs. It's the cost/benefit that matters. In some sense you may have to do a comparison like the following (note the numbers are pulled from thin air as examples):

  • TEXT PASSAGE that only 20 out of 100 people read.
  • VIDEO SHORT that 70 out of 100 people view.

Your numbers will vary…but the point should be clear. Where video gets more eyeballs and more mathemagenic processing (learning-generating processing), it may be worth the extra investment.

Many times, you and your team will be able to create the video. Sometimes you'll have to get help from a professional.

Large organizations, or vendors who produce lots of instruction, should consider developing video capability in-house.

For all of us who call ourselves instructional designers, we ought to dive in and learn some video skills. If I can do it, you can too!

Dr. T, What Are You Thinking?

And, just to avoid 100 snippy comments, let me anticipate your next question…Hey, Dr. T, why did you use TEXT here, NOT VIDEO?

Roll the credits…SMILE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Pilot Participants — Leadership Development

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Note: Pilot is Over… Post kept for historical reasons only…

 

Organizations Wanted to Pilot Leadership-Development Subscription Learning!!

I am looking for organizations who are interested in piloting subscription learning as a tool to aid in developing their managers and energizing their senior management’s strategic initiatives.

To read more about the benefits and possibilities for subscription learning and leadership development, read my article posted on the ATD (Association for Talent Development) website.

Potential Benefits

  • Reinforce concepts learned to ensure remembering and application.
  • Drive management behaviors through ongoing communications.
  • Utilize the scientifically-verified spacing effect to boost learning.
  • Enable dialogue between your senior leaders and your developing managers.
  • Inculcate organizational values through scenario-based reflection.
  • Prompt organizational initiatives through your management cadre.
  • Engage in organizational learning, promoting cycles of reinforcement.
  • Utilize and pilot test new technologies, boosting motivation.
  • Utilize the power of subscription learning before your competitors do.

Potential Difficulties

  • Pilot efforts may face technical difficulties and unforeseen obstacles.

Why Will Thalheimer and Work-Learning Research, Inc.?

  • Experienced leadership-development trainer
  • Previously ran leadership-development product line (Leading for Business Results)
  • Leader in the use of scenario-based questions
  • Experienced in using subscription learning
  • Devoted to evidence-based practices
  • Extensive experience in practical use of learning research

Why Now?

  • Subscription-learning tools are available.
  • Mobile-learning is gaining traction.
  • Substantial discounts for pilot organizations.

Next Steps!!

  • Sorry, the pilot is over…

 

Endorsements for Serious eLearning Manifesto

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Yesterday March 13, 2014 (25 years and 1 day after the internet was born) the Serious eLearning Manifesto was released. As one of the "authors" of the Manifesto, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of passion around the issue of elearning's unrequited promise. Below I will share some of the endorsement statements so that you can see first-hand the dedication of folks in the elearning field.

Manifesto Overview Graphic

The Manifesto

The Manifesto is an attempt to provide people and organizations in the elearning industry a lever to radically raise the effectiveness of elearning.

  • Helping elearning buyers (CLO's, training managers, CEO's, Deans, School Superintendents) demand better elearning, by pointing to the Manifesto's 22 principles as ideals to be achieved or worked towards.
  • Helping elearning designers and developers by providing design and deployment guidance.
  • Helping elearning vendors guide clients to better elearning designs.
  • Helping elearning shops find the leverage to get resourcing and support for truly effective elearning.
  • Helping graduate schools provide guidance on curriculum decisions.
  • Helping trade organizations develop credentials, provide workshops, and make programming decisions.

           

To read the manifesto or to become a signatory and endorse it:

eLearningManifesto.org

        

To see the Manifesto release video:

Manifesto Release Video

 

First-Day Endorsements by Signatories

150x150xSerious-eLearning-Signatory

You can read these and more–and see who wrote them–by clicking here.

"I wholeheartedly agree with, and endorse this manifesto.  This is what is needed to turn the eLearning industry around and on it’s head, so that eLearning can be meaningful and appropriate to meet the needs of users and their educational requirements."

"This Manifesto finally puts what the eLearning professional strives for into a concise format that can be used as a daily commitment to quality."

"It is important that each of us, in our own organizations as well as our own personal commitment, strive to improve our industry and set higher standards. The Manifesto is a step towards this goal."

"What really speaks to me are the principles that have been outlined. There are many ideals here that I have tried to live up to, then there are those I want to live up to, and a few that I haven’t yet thought of to explore. In a time when budgets often are the first thing that matter in organizations, it’s more and more important to prove and show your worth and value to an organization.  Implementing these principles into each of the solutions that we create for our organizations will and can only solidify our true value."

"The work we do in helping people learn is ‘sacred’ work. If we just create content heavy, learning poor courses we fail in our responsibility."

"The manifesto is based on solid, empirical evidence that supports what we should be doing when we build our e-learning."

"It’s not about training – it’s about performance. I agree with the manifesto."

"People know what lawyers and accountants do and how to buy from them as providers of professional services. e-learning is a younger and far more misunderstood industry. The manifesto codifies what good practice looks like and I hope that we can build from this to giving learners great experiences that shift organisational performance."

"I commit to developing eLearning that falls in line with the Serious eLearning Manifesto. I also commit to encouraging others on my immediate team and in my organization to commit to these principles."

"I endorse the principles of the eLearning Manifesto and believe the importance of using these principles to ensure eLearning meets the amazing potential available for real learning to solve real problems."

"Bravo!  Finally an ‘agile manifesto’ for the eLearning community.  These principles will help all of us focus on performance rather than design ephemera…and stay relevant."

"These principles and guidelines are helpful to not only remind eLearning designers and developers of the important aspects of creating effective eLearning. It also helps us by providing support when we need to explain our new designs to clients."

"The eLearning Manifesto represents a step forward for the field of eLearning.  It accurately reflects the vision we, as eLearning developers,   need to adopt in order to move away from ineffective practice and towards the realization of eLearning’s full potential."

"Exquisitely concise and pragmatic! Implementing even a fraction of the ideas in the Manifesto will make a dramatic difference in the kind of eLearning coming into the world."

"I heartily endorse this manifesto. It supports the research that is available and the 22 guiding principles will definitely lead us as practitioners to develop higher quality learning events."

"I’ve been frustrated with bad eLearning for years.  If clients, stakeholders and subject matter experts agree to follow our lead and accept these principles we can finally improve performance.  Furthermore, my hope is that the authoring tools we use adopt these principles in the development of their software."

"I’m a TV producer new to the eLearning industry and every single point you’ve made is exactly what we’ve been saying to our clients.  It’s fantastic to see these values backed up by industry heavyweights who have done the background research to prove their points. The eLearning industry SO needs to be disrupted because so many content suppliers seem to have an attitude that says, "Hey, I know the courses we’re building are based on tech levels from the 70s but that’s what the buyers want.  And we’re making pretty good dough, so ix-nay."  Really? Thank you so much for calling out the complacency in the eLearning industry. Long live the Manifesto."

"The eLearning Manifesto provides a solid foundation on which all eLearning content should be created. If you’re wondering why your eLearning is not producing positive results – odds are you are not following the guiding principles in the Manifesto."

"I am a television and online video producer and new to the elearning world. My first task was to investigate current standards and what I found transported me twenty years into the past to the dawn of Power Point. The manifesto is clearly needed for learners, the end users, the audience, those that are here to be engaged by the content we design and create for them to improve their lives. Thank you for your dedication to a positive  elearning experience and creating a manifesto that puts elearning on a new path to a bright and exciting future."

"I vow to hold the Serious eLearning Manifesto as the new standard for all eLearning modules produced by our eLearning team. We are committed to interactive, real life scenarios and simulations for improved performance on the job.  Now, the Manifesto will help us make our design and development more powerful in our workplace!"

"It is tremendous that four great practitioners took time to formulate these principles and best practices! In addition, the list of Trustees is a "Who’s Who" of eLearning. This initiative will be a great boon to set standards of quality in our field!"

"The Serious eLearning Manifesto says in writing what we’ve all been whispering to our industry peers for years: eLearning is broken! We’ve had the awareness, knowledge, and skills to fix it for some time, but this coordinated effort and the Manifesto’s principles will boost our desire to act through shared accountability and best practice."

"I have longed to see some recognition of the sorry  state of current eLearning. Certainly there are shining examples of what it can be, but so many examples exist that illustrate how utterly woeful the norm has become. We can do better in meeting the promise that online technology presents us with. The Principles associated with the eLearning Manifesto reflect what we need to start implementing if eLearning is to reach it’s potential. Performance, not content; context, not generic; and consequences, not canned feedback are some of the principles we need to start incorporating as best we can within the constraints imposed in work and education. I wholeheartedly endorse this effort for the sake of this profession."

 

MOOC’s are Ineffective–Except for One Thing!

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MOOC's don't have to suck. The 4% to 10% completion rates may be the most obvious problem, but too many MOOC's simply don't use good learning design. They don't give learners enough realistic practice, they don't set work in realistic contexts, they don't space repetitions over time.

But after reading this article from Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, you will see that there is one thing that MOOC's do really well. The get learning content to learners.

Really, go ahead. Read the article…

 

Why is "Exposure" one of the Decisive Dozen learning factors?

Many people have wondered why I included "Exposure" as one of the most important learning factors. Why would exposing learners to learning content rank as so important? Friedman's article makes it clear in one example, but there are billions of learners just waiting for the advantage of learning.

I got the idea of the importance of exposing learners to valid content by noticing in many a scientific experiment that learners in the control group often improved tremendously–even though they were almost always outclassed by those who were in the treatment groups.

By formalizing Exposure as one of the top 12 learning factors, we send the message that while learning design matters, giving learners valid content probably matters more.

And yes, that last sentence is as epically important as it sounds…

It also should give us learning experts a big dose of humility…

 

MOOC's will get better…

Most MOOC's aren't very well designed, but over time, they'll get better.

 

 

Measuring Social Media as a Learning Tool

A while back, I wrote an article for the eLearning Guild which was essentially about measuring social media as a learning tool. We called social media "Learning 2.0" but the issue is the same. Here is the article.

I'm reprising that here, because I just read Ettiene Wenger's (2011) article where he talks about measuring social media, and I am once again disappointed that opportunity costs and costs of bad-information are not recognized.