By Carol Ansorge, Senior Project Manager/Instructional Designer, Computer Generated Solutions, Inc. (CGS)
To help formulate an effective instructional strategy that addresses the changing needs of business and learners, use the following guiding principles:
These principles can form a framework to help increase workplace performance while driving business results.
Foster a Culture of Learning
Learning is a process, not an event, so a move from “delivering training” to fostering continuous learning is critical for a pervasive culture of learning. Typically, people commit to learning when they are given opportunities to learn by doing, to engage in collaborative construction of knowledge, to participate in initiatives visibly meaningful to management, and to experience mentoring relationships. Start with these design ideas as you begin to evangelize the need for continuous learning:
Focus and Translate Expertise
Instructional designers create a bridge between the experts’ and the learners’ knowledge. Experts may be thinking about what the learner needs to know; they may be ready to do a “brain dump” of everything. Be ready to focus the experts by developing together clear learning/performance objectives. This becomes your shared reference for sifting through extraneous content.
Experts also may not be aware of how they know what they know. Work closely with experts to translate their knowledge into content “chunks” that learners can fit into their own knowledge base.
Consider these design techniques to help translate expertise across your organization:
Encourage Learners to Model Mastery.Developing in learners the ability to use problem solving processes similar to those of experts is challenging, but provides powerful evidence that learners are gaining the skills they need. Case studies of issues faced and solved provide that opportunity.
Build Immediate Feedback Loops.Extend peer and facilitator feedback available in training to on-the-job connections with contact information and networks formally established. Facilitators can instigate immediate feedback via e-mail, texts, or social networks such as Twitter.
Place Learning Technology in its Proper Context.Not too many years ago, a VCR was considered the latest learning technology; the same with overhead projectors, film projectors, audio tape, even chalkboards. There is no substitute for quality instructional design, and over-reliance on the latest technology to help solve instructional problems will only make bad instructional design more apparent. If you start with learner needs and desired outcomes, the use of technology is more likely to end up in the proper context and the learning outcomes you seek will more likely occur.
Measure, Reevaluate, and Measure Again
Measurement provides data about what the learner needsto learn and haslearned. Each kind of measurement provides important information that should influence the design of the instructional material. While multiple choice, true/false and fill in the blank are typical assessment tools, they are not the only ways to measure learning. Simulations, portfolios, and writing can be used to assess deeper understanding. The best measurement tools can create further learning opportunities.
Simulations dramatically raise engagement and motivation levels. With learners assuming authentic roles within the experience, learners can demonstrate successful task completion.
Portfolioscollect and display artifacts created by the learner. This provides a real look at work the learner has completed.
Writingin the form of short essays, blogging, or even Tweeting can focus and reinforce learning, while demonstrating mastery of the subject matter.
Real-Time Observation.When possible, observe performance in real-time. Feedback at the time of performance is one of the most powerful instruments in changing behavior. You’ll need management support, but this is a powerful measurement tool.
Using the “measure, reevaluate, and measure again” sequence allows training to be responsive to learner needs. By measuring first, with a variety of tools, reevaluating and reapplying instructional methods and material, and then measuring again, it becomes a learning track rather than a series of disparate training sessions.
Learners get excited when exposed to learning experiences that go beyond teaching by telling. However, learning is a complex process that requires, for each learner, a repertoire of multiple types of instruction. The instructional designer’s role is to discover what motivates people to increase their knowledge and skills and improve their performance.
Carol Ansorge is a senior project manager and instructional designer for Computer Generated Solutions, Inc. (CGS), a global leader in IT software, solutions, and services. She has been a learning and development professional for close to 20 years and has extensive experience in instructional design, management, and training facilitation. Ansorge chairs the Rapid Instructional Design SIG for her local STC chapter. For more information, visit http://www.cgsinc.com or e-mail CGS’ Learning & Training Division at email@example.com.