Monday, December 15, 2014

Why I Attended Training a Second Time (And Glad I Did)

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When several of my co-workers attended training, the first thing I asked was “what did you learn?” The next thing I asked was, “do you have any questions” and “is there any clarifications that I can help with?”  I was prepared to answer their questions having gone through the training myself and having performed the task for the last three years.  You can imagine my surprise when I was asked a question regarding a process I had not done, let alone even knew existed!  Stumped, and a little miffed by the fact that maybe I had been doing it all wrong these past several years, I decided to sit in on the training myself just to see what went wrong.

I was a little nervous about attending the class at first. After all, most everyone would be newer staff learning the content for the first time.  Would I be judged for not knowing? Would the trainers expect me to have all the answers?  As a trainer myself, I knew the answer to these questions were “no” but I still felt self-conscious.  Taking the class a second time I realized that it wasn’t that my previous knowledge was bad but that the information had evolved - the way all information does over time. Processes change and, when trying to distribute mass information to a large organization, there is bound to be gaps somewhere. If I had not asked staff what they learned I would have never discovered key pieces of information that I was missing.


DON’T BE AFRAID
It’s better to admit that you don’t know rather than fake your way through it and possibly confuse someone else in the process.  Even as a manager or supervisor it is important to already have the knowledge that you are sending staff to learn. So, before training occurs, ask yourself if this is a topic for which even you could use a refresher. Remember that information evolves. Even if the tasks that you have been doing for the last five years have not changed, they may be taught differently, and even knowing the teaching method can help you support your staff.  There may be a breakdown in communication if you are unaware of the change in information, causing a possible rift in the workplace.

For me, when I heard about this particular training I thought I was already familiar with the process. As a result,  I declined to take the training as a refresher. But I quickly changed my mind about taking the class when I received questions I didn’t know the answer to.  And boy was I glad I did!


BE PROACTIVE
If it’s been a while since you’ve received a training, as a supervisor you should feel empowered to ask questions about the training being given.  After all, you are the one that must make sure staff are putting their training to good use. If time does not permit you take a full training session over again - where most of the core information will be the same - ask the trainers if there has been any new information or what pertinent information you should know to help your staff later on. The manager’s role when it comes to staff training is critical. Not only are you role models of the new process and/or information, but you must also be an instrument in their learning as well.
As much as trainers like to provide an easy going environment where staff may feel comfortable to ask questions, there are many times where questions do not surface until after training is over. This is where managers must be on their A-game.  Asking questions and taking a general interest in what your staff have learned will given them a chance to reflect on the training they have just come from, stimulating recall and organizing the information. This is an additional opportunity for staff to ask questions they may have been too embarrassed to ask or that may not have occurred to them.

Refreshers are good, but sometimes we don’t even know we need them. I encourage everyone, supervisors and staff alike, to evaluate refresher training and, when in doubt, just take it - you’ll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Letting Go Of Training

Just like many girls across the world, my daughter is enamored with Elsa and the rest of the gang from Frozen. Her rendition of Let It Go is loud, to say the least. I bring this song up because, like Elsa, being a trainer sometimes feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. After all, it’s your responsibility that staff know how to do their jobs. I’ve written before on how trainers tend to be Jack of All Trades and how they must become authorities in areas they have previously known little about but a side effect of training is taking ownership of the product you’ve created and, sometimes, the subject.  But for the benefit of staff, there may be times when you just have to “let it go.”

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Give the Newbie a Chance
Everyone I work with knows that training is “my thing” - it’s what I love to do. But, in spite of my love for training, I can not ignore the bigger picture of what training is all about. Training builds people up and teaches them something new or how to do something better.  Although I love training, it would be contrary of me to not give others the opportunity to teach as well. In the past when staff have approached me about doing a specific training I have responded with “that sounds great, but why don’t you do it instead?”  After all, it was their idea and who am I to take ownership of that? Now, instead of being the trainer, I will be the trainer who trains the trainer. There is something very rewarding in helping others fulfill their goals.

Give the Expert a Chance
One of my favorite things about training is getting the opportunity to learn.  Every time I teach a class on a certain subject, I first have to teach myself.  Essentially, I make myself become an authority on the subject even if I previously had little or no knowledge of it. As fun as it is to learn, there are scenarios where time constraints or limited knowledge come into play.  If a subject is too multifaceted to learn or time limitations will not allow you to learn it well enough to train, it may be best to enlist the help of a Subject Matter Expert. The hardest part of enlisting the help of someone is realizing when you are in over your head. The key to it all, however, is knowing that you still have a role. Subject Matter Experts are that way because they have devoted a lot of time to learning the material.  But you are the Subject Matter Expert when it comes to training!  
Because there is a lot of thought and care that goes into training, when you decide to let it go and allow someone else to take the reigns, here are a few tips to help:
  • Work Together - whether it’s a newbie or an SME, work with each other to put together the training material.
  • Communicate Regularly - In the process of creating the training it is imperative that both of you are on the same page. Communication will also ensure that you are using the same terminology across the board.
  • Vet the Content - SMEs have a tendency to be too technical and Newbies just haven’t had enough practice, so your expertise in identifying learner needs will help focus the training to reach its maximum potential.

Like Elsa, there is no reason to keep everything to yourself, but letting go of it completely is not the answer either.  Find balance in working with a teammate - someone who can share their knowledge and, in return, you can share yours.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Get Technical With Your Writing

One would think because I received my undergrad degree in English that I would be a good writer. But I’m not.  At least, I’m not a good technical writer. I tend to give too much information instead of getting right to the point.  So, when it comes to writing for training, I have to work doubly hard to be minimalist.
Technical writing can be used in several phases of training construction.  In the early developmental phases when you create outlines or instruction handouts, the idea to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is ideal.  For those of us that are verbose, there is a time and place within training development to use that skill but, for now, let’s talk about why technical writing is so important.

Objectives
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I’ve never met anyone who actually likes writing objectives. Of everything that gets written in the process of training, objectives are most likely the most technical you will get. It is easy to be vague and use non-descriptive language when writing, but identifying what the learner will be doing in a training is not the time to be vague. The best objectives will use descriptive verbs and avoid these seven: understand, know, learn, enjoy, appreciate, help, and master. Use technical writing in the objective to succinctly point out (1) what the learner will be doing, (2) when the learner will be doing it, and (3) how the learner will be doing it.

Outlines
If you are conducting training, then you are most likely making an outline of topics you want to cover. Outlines can be sparse or they can be detailed.  For the purpose of training, an outline should fall somewhere in the middle.  It should detail steps the learners will need to know in order to perform a specific function - aka the training topic. Having a good foundation in technical writing will allow you to comb through the outline and delete any extraneous information. If technical writing is not your strong suit, then perhaps using a flowchart to distinguish actions that need to be taken to achieve the desired results will be easier.  

Instructions
I don’t know about you, but when I see a recipe that has paragraphs worth of instructions, I don’t even bother with it. Similarly, any instructional handouts you give to learners should be very technical in nature.  Using bullet points or numerical cues for learners to follow will be less cumbersome if they need to refer back to the document later.  Putting the entire contents of the training session in the handout will result in paragraph text that could be a recipe for disaster. If the training was well planned out, the technical document will serve it’s purpose as a way to stimulate recall.

Instructor’s Manual
As a naturally long winded individual, myself, all this terse writing just has me itching to write - at length - an overly detailed manual of sorts.  Every training should detail what is being done and said by the instructor.  The purpose of this is to (1) know what you are planning to do and say during the training and (2) have a record of what was done for future training.  While the Instructor’s Manual will give you a little leeway, the more direct and to-the-point you can be, the better. The Instructor’s Manual should include all the objectives, any instructions and handouts you will be giving out, and a blow-by-blow account of each step you will take during the training.

If technical writing isn’t your strong suit, write from the heart and then from the head. In short, write as you normally would and then take a knife to it and cut out all the excess - your learners will thank you!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The End Result

Assessment at the end of training is key in order to gauge how much learners have absorbed.  Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation give a rough guide on how to assess learners with each level asking a pertinent question: did they like it, did they learn anything, are they using it, and did it make a difference? Although we know that these assessments are necessary, the way to go about it can leave much room for debate.  The term assessment is often equated with testing, but testing is only one means to an end.  In fact, assessment can be formal or informal, quantitative or qualitative.  Depending upon the type of training you are implementing, you may want to vary the type of assessments you use.  In some circumstances, where the payoff is big and staff are invested, a formal approach to testing may be necessary. However, in training for refreshers or other parts of the job where learners should already have foundational knowledge, assessment will be more informal. Not sure what I mean? Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios.
Alberto G. via Flickr

Scenario 1: Major Change
When your job introduces something new such as a policy or a piece of technology, assessment can be beneficial to both the learner and the trainer for obvious reasons: the learner will be able to practice what was learned and the trainer will be able to evaluate how much the learner retained.  No one likes to take a test and testing immediately after a training session proves very little as far as long term retention goes.  We’ve all heard the term “teaching to the test” and it has a negative connotation for a reason - it doesn’t work.  The immediate outcome may be high test scores but the on-the-job application days and months after a training session will be low.  To avoid testing in general, a practical on-the-job assignment may do the trick to instill proper application.
When the library added the possibility for customers to download eBooks, it was imperative that staff were trained properly.  Everyone knew that this was going to be a big deal in library land and staff were more than ready for the challenge.  In a scenario like this, staff tend to be invested in learning the new product because they know it will directly affect them.  As excited as staff were, attending a training is not the end of the learning journey.  It’s very rare for someone to attend training and be able to immediately apply the new skill without practicing first.  Therefore, asking staff to complete an assignment, such as downloading an eBook outside of the class will, help solidify the knowledge.  In this case, the assignment is the test - it’s a practical and formal evaluation of the learner’s ability to take knowledge gathered during training and apply it on the job.

Scenario 2: A Refresher
Refresher’s are not high priorities for staff. After all, they are already supposed to know the information, right? When processes are changed and information is tweaked but the underlying foundation is still relevant, staff are less likely to be motivated by training and even more likely to despise an assessment.  And who can blame them? Giving a test on what they should already know is like being in 10th grade math and having a pop quiz.
After eBooks had been in the library’s collection for some time, gradual changes were made to how eBooks were downloaded.  In spite of the change, however, the basic theories remained the same.  In a case like this, refresher training could simply be a demonstration of the changes that have been implemented along with an informal assessment. A formal assessment such as the one described in Scenario 1 where staff are asked to repeat the process of downloading an ebook and reporting to their supervisor can come across as condescending.  Instead, an informal assessment through observation or conversation should be made.  After training is completed, you may suggest that learners try out the new changes so they are familiar with them and utilize the supervisory staff to observe any snags along the way.
Conclusion

Both assessments, informal and formal, serve their purpose and can be used based on the type of training presented.  The assessment you choose should reflect not only the material but the type of learners you have as well.  Some times, it may be appropriate to do a formal evaluation for a refresher if the learners indicate that more practice is needed. Assessments, just like training content, should be developed with the learner in mind and with a calculated reason behind it.  A well thought out assessment, a culmination of everything learned, may end up being the a-ha moment for a learner.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Kinesthetic Learner

A friend of mine recently commented on her boring training experience via social media with the status update of “In training all day. I think employees would retain more info if they get to play wit[h] Legos while listening.
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My advice to her was to follow through with the hashtag and bust out those needles!  I don’t know the details of what type of training she was attending, but I can make some assumptions.  Most all training sessions meet the needs of visual and auditory learners where power point presentations give visual cues and lectures cater to those auditory learners. But what about the needs of kinesthetic (or tactile) learners?  These are the learners who retain information by actively doing.
When beginning a new job, chances are there will be a series of introductory classes which explain the job and provide tools to help you do the job successfully.  Classes which utilize learning through doing (i.e. simulations or computer training) will be beneficial for the kinesthetic learner.  Classes which concentrate on theory (i.e. ethics classes) may be difficult for a kinesthetic learner to sit through because the information itself is not necessarily a task that needs to be learned but, instead, a series of best practices.  In my experience, training that focuses on best practices is usually outlined by a lecture with an accompanying presentation. Hypothetical examples may be given and, heaven forbid, there may be role playing.  In a basic new hire training like this, only the role playing would meet the needs of the kinesthetic learner. Role playing tends to get many moans and groans from participants so I don’t advocate for that training method unless absolutely necessary. Thinking along those lines, what else can be done to meet the needs of our kinesthetic learners?
Whether you are a trainer yourself or have attended training sessions in the past, you may have noticed a bouncing knee or tapping finger.  Maybe you’ve seen the occasional knitter or the doodler who seems to not be paying attention. Don’t be fooled by appearances, these are just key characteristics of kinesthetic learners who feel the need to be doing something while learning.  It may be easy to be put off by their constant movement at first, but I encourage you to embrace the movement and make an addition to the classroom setting.  It may help if you begin a classroom session by giving your kinesthetic learners permission to use their knitting needles or giving out pencils and papers for your doodlers.  Even chewing gum can help a kinesthetic learner concentrate. If you are a trainer, consider making movement apart of your sessions - just the simple act of changing a seat can make a huge impact on your kinesthetic learners.

With the onslaught of technology, a large percentage of kinesthetic learners belong to the younger generations.  From Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to discover learning methods, children today are learning with a “hands on” approach.  That being said, it shouldn’t surprise you that as younger professionals enter the workplace, they will expect learning to be in much of the same format.  As trainers, we must be willing to embrace this shift in learning technique, not only to be inclusive of all learner types, but to secure the success of our young professionals throughout their careers.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Accessible Services

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If you work in libraries, chances are you have a favorite customer(s) - someone that you have developed a library bond with.  Most likely you helped him discover a new series or found critical information for her when she needed it the most.  My favorite customer is actually an unstoppable couple comprised of a wife who has a voracious reading appetite and a husband who sees to it that his wife gets what she wants.  Did I mention that his wife is blind?  Like most visually impaired persons, this customer (I will call her Mrs. White) became blind as a result of an age related disease and was not familiar with options available to her.  Now, if you are a fan of audiobooks then you may be familiar with the price tag that comes along with them.  They are not cheap!  It was for this reason that Ms. White and her husband came to the library.  I was more than happy to show them our audiobook collection both on CD and as digital downloads but, for such a voracious reader as Ms. White, I knew that our collection would be limited.  And so, I introduced Mr. and Mrs. White to a library that could help them - GLASS (Georgia Library for Accessible Statewide Services.)  GLASS is Georgia’s extension of the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, with subregional libraries to meet the needs of customers such as Mrs. White.  If you are living in another state, you can visit the NLS website to find a regional or subregional library near you.

Libraries in general tend to have a marketing problem in that most people don’t know about the resources available to them.  This problem does not only affect the public library but is also a concern for academic and special libraries.  The NLS, and GLASS by extension, also encounter the same struggles of getting the word out about what they have to offer.  Not surprisingly, the most effective way to get the word out about these specialized services is through public libraries and interactions like the one I had with Mrs. White.  Because the couple was not even fully aware of everything their public library had to offer, it was a shock for them to learn about what was also available through GLASS.

I often wonder what would have happened if I was not aware of GLASS.  It’s quite possible that Mrs. White would have been satisfied with the public library and would have eventually discovered all the resources available to her.  In fact, I’m quite sure that is the story for most customers needing specialized services - they just are not aware of what is out there.  I must admit that, until I helped Mrs. White, not even I knew everything available. Sure, I had an idea - enough of an idea to lead her in the right direction - but we have been discovering it all together.  

As librarians it can be difficult to know everything and, yet, it seems our customers expect us to have all the answers at the drop of a hat.  Maybe we don’t know all the answers, but we should know how to find them.  And the first step to finding those answers is knowing the resources available to us. Therefore, I encourage you to become familiar with your regional library for accessible services.  Discover what’s available by visiting a library or by having a representative visit your location to share what resources are available - you never know when you could possibly change someone’s life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ADDIE: Evaluation

At last, the training is done and you can relax, right?  Wrong!  The last step of the ADDIE process is arguably one of the most important because, as a way to determine its effectiveness, the evaluation of instruction will aid the trainer in determining what succeeded and what failed.  It may seem as though the evaluation would be the conclusion of any training program but, instead, it is often just a midway point to perfecting training.  Evaluation can and should be conducted throughout the process of ADDIE through formative assessment and, at the conclusion of an instruction period, summative assessment.  The most well known summative assessment is Kirkpatrick's Four Level's.  I've written about Kirkpatrick before in relation to training strategies, but I want to delve a little deeper into the importance of each level and the different strategies you can use to get feedback from staff and help solidify the training they received.

Level 1: Reaction
It should come as no shock that immediate feedback from your learners is a great way to judge how well you did and determine what you can improve upon.  Gaining reaction can be done through formative assessment, via the instructor's observations during training, or through summative assessment, via a survey at the end of the training.  Both of these methods should be used to gauge how well the training went.  As far as evaluation goes, this is the bare minimum that one can do.  It is relatively easy to carry out a summative assessment immediately following training but the learner responses will only affect the trainer and will not play a role in information retention for the learner.

I have found it wise to use simple surveys that ask no more than several questions.  The more questions you ask, the less likely a participant is to respond with free text.  What you value, scores or written feedback, should determine the type of survey you give.

Level 2: Learning
The actual learning a participant does may not even happen until he/she is back in the workplace and is putting into practice the methods taught in the training.  In the second level of evaluation, trainers have the ability to help solidify what the learner has absorbed by following up with the employee a week or two after the training has occurred. You may want to give the learners an assessment test or an assignment that will bring their focus back to the information they have learned and how they have successfully applied it.  At the very least, ask the learner to fill out a self-assessment about how they feel they have applied the information.

Level 3: Behavior
Several months after the training, there should be a significant change in behavior.  At this level it becomes more difficult to gauge how the training has helped.  Qualitative feedback from employees' direct supervisors will be of great help in this level of evaluation.  Supervisors can give feedback based on the overall performance behaviors that have changed in their employees.  If little to no change has occurred, then the trainer will know that, ultimately, the training was unsuccessful.  Having direct communication and an open dialogue with supervisors is a great way to receive feedback on what is working and what is not.

Level 4: Results
The final level is often never achieved as it deals with return on investment.  If you recall from the Analysis phase of ADDIE, Mager's 5th step of analysis says:

If the estimated cost of the discrepancy is small, stop!  In other words, it is only a problem because you say it is but is not having any impact on the rest of the world.  So, STOP!

If you have completed training then the assumption is that the original cost analysis warranted it.  Now, in the fourth level of evaluation, a trainer should determine if the cost of training actually paid off.  This is determined through company statistics or other measurables.  In order to determine if the training "paid off," key stakeholders will be looking at the bottom line.  

In libraries, the measurables will be somewhat different from a corporation as the bottom line is not necessarily monetary growth.  But other statistics can be gleaned after training has taken place: increase in circulation, increase in attendance, decrease in complaints, decrease in staff time to accomplish a task, etc.  All of these items can be looked upon to determine the worth of a training.  Of course, finding the results is not without its own cost. It takes staff time and resources to inquire about statistics of this nature which is why Level 4 of Kirkpatrick's Levels of Evaluation rarely happens.

Whether or not you manage to accomplish all four levels, the bigger question is "are you completing the ADDIE phase of evaluation at all?"  Within Kirkpatrick's levels, the more levels you achieve the more likely your training will pay off in the end.  But if the evaluation phase is not your strongest, feel comfortable in taking baby steps.  Start with basic feedback immediately following a training.  Once you feel comfortable with this method, step up your evaluation game and proceed to level 2 and 3 by communicating with learners and supervisors weeks and months after the training.  Trust me, you won't regret it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

ADDIE: Implementation

If you've been following along with all the steps so far in the ADDIE process, then you should have a pretty good idea of who your learners are, the steps you need to take to achieve the desired outcome, and the style of learning you will use to implement the actual training.  If you follow these steps then you have already won half the battle.  It may take you days, weeks, or even months to make it to implementation - the part of ADDIE which usually takes the least amount of time.  But implementation is my favorite part because it is at this point where our ideas will come to fruition.

MAKING IMPLEMENTATION EASY
The best thing you can do to make instruction easy on yourself is to write everything down.  For this, creating an instructional plan or course handbook will be beneficial to you now and in the future.  For an idea of what your course handbook should look like, you can see the one I created for my catalog tutorial.  Having an instructor's manual will ensure that all of your course material is easily found in one place (links to videos, handouts, etc.)  Chances are, you may want to use the same instruction at a later date or there may come a time when you need to pass the course information over to another instructor to deliver the training.  Whatever the circumstances may be, it is always a good idea to write down your plan and save it.

MAKING IMPLEMENTATION MEMORABLE
Photo by Trey Ratcliff, via Flikr

The better the plan the more likely your training will have an impact.  If you took a glance at my sample course handbook, hopefully you were not surprised by the detailed nature of it.  All of those details meant that, when it came time to implement the training, I was prepared!  The details of the plan forced me to be familiar with the ins and outs of each enabling objective and, as a result, the training was more fluid to cater to the individual needs and questions of each learner.  Therefore, a more detailed plan does not necessarily mean rigidity.  Instead, it allows the instructor to be more knowledgeable in the subject area permitting him/her to deviate from the plan without losing any of the content.

Depending upon the type of training you are implementing and which instructional theory you decide on, your instructional plan may be smaller or larger than mine.  After completing the plan and implementing the training, don't think you are out of the woods yet.  There is one more step in the ADDIE process and it is a doozie.  It's now evaluation time!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

ADDIE: Development

Once you have a clear roadmap of what tasks need to be accomplished in order to achieve the goal, you can move on to the development phase of ADDIE.  Chances are you have already given some thought to how you want to present your instruction, but now is the time to really focus on the presentation and the tools you will want to use.  In order to get started, you may want to consider which approach to learning is most conducive to your topic.  Within instructional design, there are typically three psychological approaches to teaching and learning: Behaviorist, Cognitivist, and Constructivist. These theories sound extremely academic and complex, but at the root of it all these instructional theories are relative simplistic and applicable to all training.

BEHAVIORISM
You've probably heard of the Pavlov and his work with dogs and bells.  Not to simplify his extraordinary
Image courtesy of www.all-about-psychology.com
work, but his work on psychological conditioning is supposed to be just that - simple.  Behaviorists theorize that there is no way to understand the mind and how one learns.  As a result, conditioning is a prevalent factor in training methods.  You may find it a bit depressing to be likened to the brain of a dog, but the truth is that conditioning is something that happens naturally through associations.  For example, the smell of a particular scent reminds you of a person or the sound of an object makes you recall a specific event.  By associations, we are able to remember things that may seem unimportant to another.

Based on this idea, instructional designers who incorporate behaviorists theories typically use mnemonic devices to stimulate call and response of the brain.  The act of performing a behavior in training is also important.  Typically, training in technology is routed in behaviorist theory.  Often assuming that the learner has no prior knowledge of the subject, a trainer gives instruction while action is taking place.  Theoretically, the simultaneous events of action and instruction should ignite an association with the learner, leading to recall after the instruction has taken place.

Any computer-based instruction where a trainer leads the learner through a course of actions is a direct example of the behaviorist theory in action.

COGNITIVISM
Training has gone through some pretty radical changes in terms of theories used and ethics applied, and the jump from behaviorist to cognitivist theories was a major one.  Cognitivism prescribes to the notion that a learner's environment has everything to do with how he/she is able to learn and retain that knowledge at a later date.  Training developed under the cognitivist approach usually gives a lot of thought to the learner(s) and the best tools to be utilized for teaching.  For example, the use of audiovisual tools, print, images, and even the timing of instruction are given careful consideration before the implementation.  The theory behind the cognitivist approach is rooted in the engagement of the learner and gives credence to the three main learning styles - tactile, auditory, and visual.  It is theorized the more engaged a learner is, the more likely they will be to retain the information.

You will know you are in a cognitivist classroom if the trainer uses many tools to peak your interest.  The use of a video to accommodate visual learners, the use of role play for tactile learners, and the use of music or lecture for auditory learners.

Typically, training that is meant to teach a new policy or thought process may base the instruction in cognitivist theory. 

CONSTRUCTIVISM
In the last decade, there has been a shift in education that reflects the use of technology.  Social media and quick access to information has revolutionized how people view learning.  Constructivist theory is based on the fact that each learner comes to the classroom with his/her own viewpoints and experiences which, in turn, shades the way he/she processes the information.  Instead of a subject matter expert, an instructor will take on the role of facilitator.  The learners, as a result, are encouraged to create their own learning environment through discussion and hands-on activities.

Constructivism may also use a variety of tools to engage different types of learners, but the tools will be used differently.  For example, if a video is shown, the instructor is using it to incite discussion among the learners.  Open ended questions are more prominent and group activities where learners can share experiences are used to promote self-instruction.

Much like the cognitivist classroom, constructivism works well with introducing new policies and thought processes to the learners.

A GOOD BLEND
As a trainer, you may find that you use one theory more than another.  But more often than not, you may find it helpful to blend the theories together to obtain new outcomes.  Although behaviorism may lend itself to technology instruction, there is no reason why the other two theories cannot be applied.  Knowing your learners and the content will help you decide which classroom is best suited to achieve the objectives.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

ADDIE: Design

The second step of the ADDIE model is Design, which often gets schlumped together with the next stage, Development.  Design sounds like a lot of fun, and it can be, but there is a lot of attention to detail in this stage that, if overlooked, can make for disastrous results.

In the Analysis stage, we determined if training really needed to be done and, if so, who needed to be trained.  In the Design stage, however, we are going to focus on the individual steps of that training - everything that it takes to get from Point A to Point B. It can be easy to gloss over little steps that may seem inconsequential, but every action that a learner must take to get to the end result is necessary and should be included in the Design stage.  Within this stage there are two main points which need to be addressed - the process and the objectives.

THE PROCESS
As I mentioned, each step of a task should be written down in order for the instructor to understand every given step between Point A and Point B.  This is the process - the path that the learner must take in order to complete a task successfully.  There are two main ways to write down the process - by outline or flowchart. In the past I have used Outlines to help me pinpoint the exact process a learner will take to successfully achieve the goal, but this past semester I was introduced to flowcharts in all their infinite glory.  The beauty of a flowchart is its ability to detail actions in a much more visual way.  So, when I put together a 15 minute tutorial for grades 3-5 on how to use the school library catalog, it was important to write down all the steps a student would take to search for a book.  So often we complete tasks without thinking of all the steps it takes to complete the goal.  For example, there is more to using a catalog than typing in a word and hitting the “search” button.  First you must decide on a search term, then you must decide what type of search term this is (author, title, subject, keyword, etc,) and then, after hitting submit, you must evaluate the results to determine which item is the most closely associated with the subject you are looking for.  It is a task that librarians do everyday and, as simple as it may seem, when you break it down there are a few complex areas which need to be addressed.  A flowchart will help you break down each step and identify where pain points may occur and, as you can see from the image above, there can be many pain points for the smallest of tasks.

THE OBJECTIVES
Once you know what the process is, you should be able to write clear objectives more easily. Objectives can be tricky and the number of objectives you need will change depending upon the type of instruction you are designing. There are two types of objectives - the terminal objective and the enabling objective. The terminal objective will describe what the end result will be. This is the whole reason you are giving instruction in the first place! The enabling objectives, however, are the individual steps the learner will need to accomplish in order for the goal to be satisfied. For my catalog instruction, the terminal objective was pretty simplistic:

The Learner will be able to perform a basic search using the Destiny Integrated Library System and successfully locate an appropriate title based on reading and interest level.

But the enabling objectives are the meat of instruction.  The following enabling objectives explain exactly how the learner will achieve the terminal objective.  They are: 

i.  Using a subject matter chosen by the instructor, the learner will select search terms, in order to limit search results based the appropriate reading level.

ii. Given the Destiny ILS, the learner will input the search term  into corresponding field in order to limit search results.

iii. Using the Destiny ILS and the subject matter chosen by the instructor, the learner will evaluate results to further limit materials appropriate to their reading level.


iv. Based on the search results, the learner will select an item that meets the criteria for both the subject matter and the reading level.

Once you've got your flowchart and your objectives, you have a pretty solid road map for your instruction. With your road map in hand, you can now move on to the best part of the ADDIE model - Development.

Monday, March 31, 2014

ADDIE: Analysis

Just call me a lifetime learner because I'm back in school again.  This time to receive my Ed.S. in Instructional Technology.  If you are a trainer or train in some capacity, then you have had your own experience with instructional technology, even if you did not know it at the time.  Instructional Technology is defined as "the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources" (Association for Educational Communications and Technology.)  The purpose of this blog is to share my findings with you in the fields of training, management, and customer service.  Now that I am enrolled in school, I feel it is my duty to share as much of that information with you as possible - for free.  So, let's start at the beginning.

ADDIE is often used as a guideline for developing instruction from the beginning stages of Analysis to the end results of Evaluation.  But ADDIE is just a place marker for the many theories of instructional design and cognitive theories (how people learn.)  Within the realm of the "Analysis Phase," there are many different theories on the proper course of action to take when analyzing a problem and developing a solution.  At times, the proper course of action may be that a policy should be changed and training is not needed at all.  This information should be discovered by conducting a needs analysis using one of the many analysis theories.  My preference is Mager's Performance Analysis.

THE SCENARIO
I mentioned in my last post that our system just recently went through an ILS migration.  But those are not the only changes that occurred - our website changed as well.  Although our new website used a responsive design, staff and customers seemed to have difficulty with the change.  Information should be easier to find now that the catalog has been updated and the website redesigned.  So, why were so many problems occurring? And where were the pain points?

I thought it would be a good idea to begin an needs assessment analysis to determine if training was necessary for the new website.

THE ANALYSIS
Mager's Performance Analysis requires you to ask 12 questions about a training before making a decision to go into the Development phase of ADDIE.  They are:
  1. Describe the people whose performance is being questioned.
  2. Describe as specifically a possible what it is they are doing that causes someone to say there is a problem.
  3. Describe specifically what it is they should be doing.
  4. Determine the cost of the discrepancy by estimating what it is costing in such things as aggravation, turnover, time lost, money lost, equipment damage, customer loss, good will damage, etc.
  5. If the estimated cost of the discrepancy is small, stop!  In other words, it is only a problem because you say it is but is not having any impact on the rest of the world.  So, STOP!
  6. If the cost is great enough to warrant continuing, determine if the target people know how to do what is expected of them.  Ask "Could they do it if their lived depended upon it?"
  7. If they could do it, then they already know how.  Now you must determine why they are not doing what is expected of them.  This is done by determining the consequences and obstacles of performing:
    1. What happens to the performers if they do it right?
    2. What happens to them if they do it wrong?
    3. What are the obstacles to performing as desired?
  8. If they could not do it, answer these questions:
    1. Can the task be simplified to the point where they could do it?
    2. Did they ever know how to do it?
    3. Is the skill used often?
    4. Do they have the potential to learn to do it?
  9. Based on the answers to the previous questions, you can begin to form potential solutions which address the problem.
  10. Once you have drafted several solutions to the problem, determine what the cost will be to implement each one.
  11. Compare the cost of the solution to the cost of the problem.
  12. Select a solution that is less expensive than the problem itself and is practical to apply ( as cited in Brown & Green, 2011)
After completing this analysis, a few things became clear. Although staff could perform the tasks if their lives depended upon it, the amount of time it was taking to complete tasks on the website and catalog were eating up too much time - and time is money.  Furthermore, putting into words the difficulties staff and customers are having helps to pinpoint the exact problem.  For example, the issue was not necessarily with the website and catalog itself, but with the unfamiliar changes.  This revelation made me call into question the staff's digital literacy abilities.  As a result of this analysis, I now had the confidence to proceed with the training.

Depending on the topic of the training and the details collected, your analysis may take hours, days, or even weeks.  You may also be interested in following the steps of other Instructional Design thinkers other than Mager.  Those thinkers are: 

Morrison, Ross, and Kemp
Allison Rossett
Smith and Ragan

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
Trainers tend to rush through the analysis part of ADDIE, wanting to get to the more fun steps of Designing, Developing, and Implementing.  But after completing Mager's Performance Analysis, there is still more work to be done before beginning the development stage.  Mager's Analysis only helps us answer the question "is training really necessary."  Once you've determine that training is necessary, you can move on to conducting learner and task analysis.

Gathering information about the learners and writing on paper the exact steps of completing a task will aid you in the next step, Designing.

References:
Brown, A. & Green, T. (2011). The essentials of instructional design: Connecting fundamental principles with process and practice. Pearson: Boston, MA.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Total Immersion

My library system is currently going through an ILS (Integrated Library System) migration.  If you aren't familiar with library operations or what an ILS is, Wikipedia sums it up quite nicely. Although the ILS will not change what staff do, it will change how they do it.  Going through a system change like this can be stressful; it takes a lot of effort on behalf of the learner and trainer to make a smooth transition.  But what if I told you that too much effort is a bad thing?

IN THE CLASSROOM
Most likely you took a foreign language in high school, maybe even college.  Chances are, if you did not major in that language, you've probably forgotten most of the vocabulary and grammar beyond basic greetings.  But why? Because the classroom is fake and not filled with real world learning opportunities that stick.  You've forgotten the language you learned because there was nothing impressionable about it to make that knowledge stick.  If you tried to pick the language up again, trust me, it would not be like riding a bike. Similarly, on the job, we may understand the importance of learning the information but until it is applied with frequency and purpose, the knowledge may be difficult for our brains to retain.

Personality, age, and other factors determine how we like to learn.  Terms such as kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learning are thrown around a lot but they mean very little when it comes to real world application.  I liken learning a new language to learning a new system because they have more similarities than differences.  In the language learning classroom students often get bogged down in translation - they think in English (or whatever their native language may be) and then do a word-for-word translation into the new language.  But languages are inherently different from one another as they follow their own set of rules.  The only similarity in language is the purpose - to communicate ideas.  Similarly, a new system is designed for the same purpose as the old - holding and retrieving item and customer records - but the rules and logic are completely different.  Therefore, one should never learn something new (like a language) by translating word-for-word from the original. That is just a recipe for disaster.

TOTAL IMMERSION
If we are not translating, then what do we do?  We learn, instead, by immersion.  I won't lie, immersion is scary for some individuals.  It means forgetting what you already know and forming new connections and ideas.  In a language class, this is demonstrated by only speaking the language and using demonstrations to communicate words and phrases.  Instead of telling students that, in Spanish, the word for "spoon" is "cuchara," one would hold up a spoon and say "cuchara."  Therefore, when the student sees a spoon they immediately think cuchara - no translation needed.  Learning a new system through immersion requires you to forget about all the things you used to know and do and make room for learning new concepts.  New systems are meant to be upgrades and if you translate items based on what you used to do in the old system, you limit yourself and what you may be able to do in the new.  Instead, learn the new system as if you have never experienced any other and learn the ins and outs without comparison.

THE REAL WORLD

As I mentioned before, the classroom is a false learning environment.  The real learning happens when you are placed in the real world and forced to make language happen.  It's impossible to be a fluent speaker the moment you step out of the classroom, because no classroom can prepare you for every single exchange you may have with a person.  Similarly, it is impossible to remember everything about a new system.  Sometimes we just have to cross the bridge when we get to it. The value of doing that, as opposed to having learned it in the classroom, is the high probability the information will stick.

When you get out into the real world and you find that you have forgotten how to do/say something, DON'T PANIC, just ask for help.  Learning in this real environment has a higher likelihood that you'll remember how to do it the next time around. And remember, most people are extremely understanding when you are learning and very grateful for the help you give.