First Time Hosting an All-day Instructor-led Course

Yesterday was the first time I was host for an all-day training. Although my past experience may have helped me prepare for all this stuff, there were some things which surprised me. I’ve been the instructor for five-day software training events, some where it was business analysis followed by training. I was the instructor for a 14-week A+ certification course. I’ve taught 8-week Microsoft Office adult ed classes. I’ve hosted countless numbers of WebEx training sessions, and I have somewhere around 30 eLearning courses under my belt.

Being the host of an all-day event required pulling from my personal experiences, but it also made me realize that there was far more expertise involved. Here’s a diary of the day.

The course was scheduled to start at 8:30am. I was at work until almost 7pm the day before setting up the room and adding last minute printouts to the student handbooks (individual presentations are also posted online).

  • 07:30am: Planned time of arrival to work
  • 07:42am: Actual time of arrival to work (thanks, Springfield traffic)
  • 07:46am: BSOD (blue screen of death) when I tried to print the script for the class
  • 07:52am: Finally got the room. A SME was already there before me. In my head, I was chagrined.
  • 08:02am: Confirmed with IT that everything was up and running.
  • 08:15am: Realized the laser pointer was not functioning. Went on a pilgrimage to find AAA batteries.
  • 08:20am: The two brand new sets of batteries did not fix the laser pointer. I announced to the class to eat food… I will be back. I went on a second, high-speed pilgrimage to find a new clicker.
  • 08:29am: My second pilgrimage failed, so I ran back to get to the front of the room, thinking, it’s okay, we’ll make due without the clicker.
  • 08:30am: I turned on the slide show for my presentation, and the keyboard and mouse stopped responding. I buried my head behind the laptop (though everyone could see the projector) and my brain went into IT Troubleshooting mode.
  • 08:30am: I determined that some setting in reused slides was the problem. I turned on Rehearse Timings during my presentation… it was the only way I could get the keyboard and mouse to work.
  • 08:32am: My worst fear – I started two minutes late! I rolled through my module almost apologetically, forgetting the best practice to not point out flaws. The timer window in top-left corner of the presentation was a constant visual that something went wrong.
  • 08:40am: My first SME took the stage – right on time! Did anyone else notice that I ran through the room introductions like a drill sergeant? STATE YOUR NAME. STATE YOUR TITLE AND DEPARTMENT. STATE THE YEAR YOU STARTED. NEXT. NEXT… MOVING ON. Ouch.
  • 09:20am: I set the timer on my iPhone but forgot to shut it off when the module was done, so after directing that all mobile devices be set to silent, mine started beeping. Chagrin, again.
  • 09:21am: I realized I needed a bin to place the evaluations, so attendees started placing them in different spots. I corralled the evaluations and apologized for not providing a bin.
  • 09:30am: As soon as the next presentation began, I ran off and stole the first plastic “thing that would be the evaluation bin” from next to a random printer.
  • 09:32am: I realized that the bin that I stole had about three years of dust on it. Made a pit stop to clean it.
  • 10:35am: Thinking the SME was lagging behind, I held up a sign that said, “SPEED UP”, and then my SME finished 5 minutes early. Chagrin, again. I decided to limit my use of this agreed-upon cue for every other SME.
  • 02:10pm: Forgetting to reset my timer app, I based all of my cue cards off of an 1:10 class when it should have been an hour. Thinking he finished early, this SME was the first to finish late… and it was because of ME!!!! (Chagrin x 100)
  • 04:08pm: I took the stage 12 minutes early to present a small piece on our company’s website redesign. This was the first instructor-led course I presented since August, 2009. As I began to show the main navigation of the site, I looked out to see some of my attendees looked like they were going to fall asleep, die, or kill me. I cut 2/3 of the demo portion of my presentation out, completely sure I was going to get a score of 1 out of 5 and a resounding, “What the heck was that crap???” from the group.
  • 04:30pm: The class was done! And, on a beautiful summer day, I let everyone out 1/2 hour early.

So, this sounds like it should have been a disaster? It certainly did to me. However, for as devastating as all these things were, I had a few people tell me it was one of the best training programs they’ve attended. My evaluation was over a 4.5 out of 5.

In retrospect, I think I may have been the only one to notice most of this.

  1. I need to be more confident. My husband will probably read this and say, “I TOLD YOU SO… AGAIN!” A knowledgeable and well-respected colleague noted that I have the skills needed, but I need to have confidence that I’m competent. I continue to work on and struggle with this..
  2. Instead of sweating the small stuff and beating myself up, I should instead appreciate my problem-solving capabilities. Nothing that went wrong was the end of the world. It felt like it to me. Simple mistakes made me feel stupid, incompetent, and inexperienced. I’m actually kind of good at what I do (and that was the hardest thing to write on this page).
  3. SMEs do not all think or present the same, and the more I can accommodate their needs, the better they will present. Some have 20 years of instructing experience while others have just begun. What became very important during planning was to understand how each SME presents and to support each style.
  4. Tone down personal enthusiasm and limit my goals realistically. As my first instructor-led experience in my current capacity, I wanted to employ every technique that would make the day better. More examples! More scenarios! A full-fledged student workbook instead of PowerPoint slides! I handled a lot of my meetings as if they were brainstorming sessions. I think I created some extra stress for my SMEs. I treated some preparations as if I needed SMEs to chime in and approve every detail, while patting me on the back and telling me it’s all wonderful (back to point #1: I need to build confidence).
  5. Some decisions should be left to the me, the instructional designer, and that’s OK. This goes hand-in-hand with point #4 (and #1, again). It’s important for me to focus my SMEs on what they can do to improve the content that requires their expertise. It’s also important to realize that they have a bit part in an entire day, and that should be okay with me. Post-training feedback was that they didn’t care about a lot of the little things that make an entire day great, but they liked them. For example, I added a photo slideshow in between each session to run during break. I brought it up several times in planning sessions but got nearly nil feedback from SMEs – I almost nixed it because of the lack of interest. However, the slides sparked interest in the room, and I found SMEs and students congregating in front of a picture of a generator, sharing interesting stories about the industry! I loved it. I wanted to take pictures of the scene. What can I do for my SMEs without their blessing, and will the addition make things easier and better?
  6. Project management experience trumps instructor experience in some cases.  This is pretty self-explanatory; however, I would like to point out that to prepare for this, I found myself expanding my internet searches. Initially, I was looking at all best practices for the classroom and for business presentations. Ultimately, I found a lot of time management, leadership training, and business partnerships training to be very valuable to me.
  7. Last but not least – Sheesh! I need to see more of the positive stuff! I intended to only write my happy take-aways from this course, but the timeline is what came out.

Reviewing my timeline, I can summarize my next steps with a promise: On October 1st, I deliver this same day-long course again. I am going to post the same kind of timeline, but I am going to highlight all the good things. And it’s going to be excellent. Sound convincing? 😉

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The Index is Understood – An Easy Way to Shorten Hyperlinks (and make them look nicer, too!)

Whenever I see a link like this: http://www.iso-ne.com/mkts_billing/mkt_descriptions/index.html, I’m reminded of my K-12 English class when learning about subject pronouns (or somesubject thereabouts), “The I is understood!”. This basic grammar principle is similar for websites, except in this case I mean “index.htm”, “index.php” or “index.html”. I think it also works for home.htm and home.html, but test first!

Often, my presenters prefer to have the entire path of a link visible in our printed materials, but we have lots of subfolders in our CMS! It’s important to make it look nice, and that means removing any excess URL.

So, these three links will work, and they will take you to exactly the same place:

no index.html

index.html is unneccessary in this example.

Which would you rather see when you are reading? Which would you prefer to try and type?

So, when you are adding a hyperlink in, say, PowerPoint, you can remove the index.html from the end. Of course, if you do not like showing the full path of a URL, you can always change the Text to display to anything you so desire!

Caveats:

The way you post a link in some materials will have an impact on search engine optimization and SEO results. I do not have this concern, but if you do, I recommend you read this article: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4255317.htm.

If the word before “.htm” or “.html” is not index, this probably will not work (home is the only exception I’m aware of)! Likewise, if my file extension is not a common web-file extension (.htm, .html, .php), I cannot remove the file extension. For example, I cannot change these URLs:

(these are non-functional URLs; none will work)

Micro-learning, Nano-learning, Mini-modules, QR Codes, and How Mobile Learning is Influencing Training

A year or two ago in 2011, I threw the term “mini-mods” at my boss. “What are mini-mods?”, he asked. I went on to proudly tell him that I thought up the term. I envisioned our oppressive (but awesome :D) training videos could be broken down into smaller, easy-to-digest, easy-to-reuse modules, or mini-modules. We could break down our materials, and that would enable us to use them on different platforms (mobile was all the buzz, and still is), different formats, etc.

Since them, I’ve had to come to terms that this was not my brilliant, original idea.  I found an article from 2006 which refers to nano-learning (exotic!): http://www.cedma-europe.org/newsletter%20articles/Clomedia/Nano-Learning%20-%20Miniaturization%20of%20Design%20(Jan%2006).pdf.  This article by Elliott Masie  provides five areas which would benefit from nano-technology, and it provides great examples for each.

Today I came across another short article by Mark Berthelemy about micro-learning from 8/2012: http://www.xyleme.com/blog/buzzword-micro-learning.  The most important quote from this article is, “Basically, micro-learning describes a method of learning, whereby concepts and ideas are presented (or retrieved) in very small chunks, over very short time-scales, often at the point of need, or at the point of maximum receptiveness.”

Of course, Mark mentions that micro-learning has been around since 2004. So much for my ingenuity!

Both of these articles have affirmed what I’ve been thinking all this time:

  • It is easier to learn in smaller chunks.
  • It is easier to plan smaller modules.
  • Mini-mods are easier to build.
  • It is easier for a SME to commit to development when it’s short and direct.
  • It is easier to place these items, to reuse them on a variety web platforms (think YouTube supplemental videos)

I love it. And… it gets better.  Recently, after I read a couple articles about how the tourism industry was using QR Codes in tourist spots, and I began to picture my training progams, even shared laptops working in the same fashion.  It’s the perfect, quick, small, PRINTABLE way to provide a link to your super-cool, to-the-point multimedia from anywhere. Plus, I think they are expanding what QR codes link to (I am still learning – please don’t quote me!). Here’s an article about how Philippine City provides QR Codes to tourists: http://qrcodetracking.com/tourism-philippine-city-uses-qr-codes/

Now, imagine putting both together. Make a small, 3 minute video clip about an energy concept (that’s my job!). Publish it online. Attach a QR code to it. Use it in classroom materials. Use QR codes for the bathroom stall micro-learning. Print them on labels and attach them to things to gain that “at the time you need it” learning edge. Put them in your user guides (scan the QR code to get detailed steps). I can think of a million uses for this! Make a QR Code here: http://www.visualead.com/qurify2/

It may have been a tougher sell in earlier years, but technology is catching up and providing ways to push us in directions few of us have even imagined. Put it all together, and you can come up with something extraordinary – even if it isn’t all that new!

Have you used micro-modules or QR codes to innovate your learning?  Please tell me how!  I love to impress my boss with reused ideas 🙂

Instructional Objectives, Test Questions, and Lesson Plans

I was very fortunate to be a part of a three day instructional design course on developing instructional objectives, test questions, and lesson plans.  The course delved into the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT), and it really drove home the need to create bombshell instructional objectives, followed by test questions (two for each objective for us!) – before any content is ever developed.  It was great to hear this best practice reaffirmed.

One thing that had me worried was that my web based training modules were not for credit, and the ID course was geared towards credit-based instructor led training (ILT).  My courses are required but not for-credit.  Although I do need to update the ILT version of my web based training modules in addition to revising my videos, the scope of the course I took was definitely different than my current role.

It turns out it was super helpful to me!  Objectives are the base of a course. They should be completed in the design phase, along with test questions.  Using specific verbs and having a complete objectives (with a condition, a performance, and a standard) help participants understand what they are getting into, but it also outline what the instructor is getting into!

No matter what, instructional objectives and test questions have to have a direct relationship and be consistent with one another.  For example, if you have an instructional objective that says when you are done you should have memorized a list, the test question must make them write the list – matching or multiple choice won’t do.  If you have an instructional objective that says when you are done you should recognize a list, then you can use multiple choice, matching, etc for test questions.

The most important thing impressed on us with the lesson plan was organization.  I really think a lesson plan could or should also be the common denominator between an ILT, a web conference, and a web based training module.  The lesson plan provides scope.  Although it sounds a little difficult, it was recommended that courses without lesson plans be retrofitted with one.  That could take a little work, but I see why!

After taking the class, I found out that one of my web modules was going to be offered for credit!  What a great surprise!

new e-Learning blog!

I’ve been an Instructional Design Consultant for the same company for over a year now. I’m becoming pretty passionate about the development of high quality web-based training modules and exploring different ways to make them unique and comprehensive.  I’m passionate enough to start a blog, at least 🙂

There are a few major things that I am interested in learning.  I am starting this blog not so much with the intention to share information, but I believe that a blog is a great place to store data with metadata.  I will be able to find my stuff!  It would definitely be ego-embellishing if others happened upon my blog and found it [insert positive adjective here].

Anyways, my first project on this blog site will be to explore and compile data about tools that make a web-based training module more like a classroom.  What does that even mean?  For me, that means I am looking to make an e-learning environment that the anti-computer user could appreciate – the kind of person that says learning belongs in a classroom and just will not budge.

My brother would not budge with Facebook (FB) for the longest time.  Every time we’d debate, I’d site the responsible ways it was used, and my brother would provide all the time-consuming, negative aspects of the website.  One day, I told him that he could play Scrabble with me, from 600 miles away.  That was a year or so ago, and he’s been slowly growing into using all of FB now.  The next step will be using a smart phone, the enticement being a fantasy football app (along with sports apps, You Tube, etc).  It’s a matter of time.  The biggest hurdle was getting the grudging acceptance in the first place.  The draw was the ability to play a really cool game for free, and there was no other [easy] way to do it.

Goals for the future include figuring out how to break down that initial barrier to get even the most old-school learner to enjoy their e-learning and to even learn something from it.  Wish me luck!