Thursday, March 27, 2008

Collaborating With SMEs

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We all know the importance of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in a training project. We have, at some point, worked with SMEs. Here are my views on how to make the relationship successful and ensure that SMEs become a perfect partner in training development. Use the CIA Approach to collaborate with SMEs.
What is CIA? Read more on my blog.


Another very interesting article on the same topic is called Strategies to Gain Cooperation and Win Respect.
This article explores various strategies and tips to achieve success in SME/ID relationship. The points highlighted by the writer are relevant and very doable!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do We Need Instructional Designers for Technology Content Projects?

10 comments


Starting April, I am starting the eCube Ponder series. Each month, we will ponder over a topic. You can simply respond by leaving your comments on the topic. If you post a response in your blog, leave a link to you blog in the comments.

In the last few years of building content for technology subject areas and for technology companies, I have wondered whether instructional design holds any value while building technology content. Subject Matter Expert (SME) is King holds absolutely true for technology content. Instructional Designer is a marginal player in learning projects for technology companies or creating courses on technology subjects. What do you think can the Instructional Designer contribute in tech content projects? Where do you see the Instructional Designer adding value in these projects? Can Instructional Designer role be eliminated for tech content projects? How should the Instructional Designer adapt herself/himself when creating tech content?

What do you think?


PS: If you have a question we should ponder over, send me an email.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Using Comics in Elearning

2 comments

I came across the Bitstrips site that makes creating comics a piece of cake, well almost. Check it out by playing around a bit. The hardest part of course is to have your storyline or script.


The site is in Beta. If you figure out how to embed the complete comic strip without this scrolling feature, do post a response.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Designing eLearning 2.0 interventions

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To be or not to be?

Do we have a choice? I mean, most of us are already avid users of Web 2.0 and the generation next has embarked upon this frontier in their teens! So, what are the learning designers waiting for? It is fatal if we don’t know eLearning 2.0, it is ominous if we are not thinking seriously about designing interventions using Web 2.0 and could be a lost opportunity if we, the leaders in Training and Education, do not come up with a ‘First Implemented Model’ to demonstrate what it can achieve.

Rest is a pseudo talk (Gupshup) in cafeteria and good meat for blog sites. All we need to do is to pick up a preferably a net savvy, eLearning friendly client and think through the design solution to create an experience that ingrains appropriate components of Web 2.0. Begin small, albeit, a ride along component to our premium solution, ‘Courses’. But, don’t stop here; follow it up with a substantial measure of how people learnt using these informal ways. Create a case study and convince some other clients how it is here to stay. We are lacking an example to showcase that Web 2.0 is here and how.

About Web 2.0 enabled learning

Transmission based learning is intensive on the power of written or spoken text, whereas communication based learning focuses on interaction, inquisitiveness, discovery and exploration. From this aspect, Web 2.0, is multi-dimensional and caters to wider learning styles. As a designer of Web 2.0 enabled learning, I’ll be careful about these issues.

Impact of Participation vis-à-vis Results and Benefits
I’ll be watchful to track if learning goes beyond the glamour and frill of mere participation. I’ll keep an eye on what one draws out of this experience. Does it help more than just an exchange of scraps, views, feelings and posts? Some thinking will go into defining a moderator role and the timely support and admin to keep the activities focused. Like a gardener, you need an experienced hand to nurse its growth, save it from pests, prune it, and provide appropriate nutrients for its healthy growth. Content and views need to be initiated, filtered, closed and deleted as required. If it is reduced merely to a venting channel, the serious users will wean away.

To derive some benefits from these interventions, I’ll pose some questions to myself. The answers will help design the expected outcomes.

  • How can a blog keep me well informed in my domain knowledge and trends in industry?
  • How can I ask for help now and here to fix a problem?
  • How does it give control to me to decide when, how and what I should learn?
  • Who will judge my actions?
  • How can some effective U-tube video show me how to do things better?
  • How can I take on some ‘Second Life’ avatars of my real life managers and customers to deal with high pressure situations?
  • Where can I quickly check the latest update on a topic, before my presentation?
  • How can I get the latest feed before I present my paper?
  • How do I greet my global customers today?

Human Face
Even with a very advanced the technology, it requires a face to authenticate a view, opinion, decision or a question. In a serious learning framework, the Designer will have to create that role. Technology coupled with an authentic interaction will compliment the learning experience, which otherwise may become a lonely planet.

Sustainable and Replicable

Web 2.0 is not a magic wand that will change the way people learn, but it surely has a potential to expedite and socialize the teaching learning process in a net savvy population. To make web 2.0 components sustainable and replicable, the designer has a great challenge to make it relevant, updated, customized and usable.

The Challenges are quite different. Think about these.

  • Design the form of Informal learning
  • Provide recognition, certification, accreditation and ROI of informal learning
  • Ownership of content in Web 2.0
  • Track the participation
  • Orchestrate various components of learning
  • Capture the expertise

Web 2.0 and Instructional Design are not mutually exclusive by any means. Both are here to stay. The challenge is with the designers and producers of eLearning by actually soiling hands to get the feel and real prowess of Web 2.0 and then convince the consumers of eLerning for paying for the benefits.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What makes a course interactive?

2 comments

Hmm……that’s a question which has been flashing in my mind again and again…….this started during my recent project – IAAB and that too during a client call….the client wanted us to include lots of interactivities to engage the learners.
I was about to get convinced (given my vast experience in ILT and books projects – and little experience in WBTs projects) when one team member suggested that it’s not the “technology” or “multimedia” interactivities – like mouse clicks, drag n drop, open and close - that makes a course interactive…..rather it’s the way in which the learners “interact” with the “content” that makes a course interactive. Here the “way” refers to how the learners process the “content” and make decisions. In short, it’s the “connect” between the “content” and the “learners” or how close the content is to the learners that makes a course interactive.
Nice thought, really….. I think this could go a long way in ensuring that we design courses keeping in view the end users and not client. Some of us would already be doing so – it’s just that some projects provide little scope for implementing this.
This makes me think - what does it take to make this shift – are we ready for this? Am I pointing to what Sonali has shared in her blog titled – Who is your customer – the client or the end user?

Here’s looking forward to hearing from you on your experiences……

Monday, March 17, 2008

Who is your Customer? – The Client or the End User?

3 comments

Am sure as experienced instructional designers, this is one thought that may have crossed your mind more than once!

This is one of the most important thoughts that comes to my mind (since only over the last few years) while I am developing courses. Let me delve a little deeper into what I really comprehend of this thought.

In my initial years as an instructional designer, I understood that “client” is our customer. And since the customer is “always right”, we created courses based on what they said – not necessarily keeping the end user in mind.

Let me explain this to you through an example. I’ll take you back by a few years when I was working on text books for one of our very old and prestigious clients. I was part of the first team that was formed for this project, and also the first time we started with text books at NIIT. As part of the client requirements, we understood that we need to create technical books for some students. Inspite of the lack of indepth knowledge about the varied content areas (books on hacking, gaming, high-end networking, and so on) we struggled hard, very hard to write the books - this trend continued for about two years; as the number of books we delivered to the client increased, so did the error count in most of the books!!

When I look back, I clearly remember that we always worked for the “client” and didn’t have a clue about who our “end users” were!

Well, things started to change when one of the team members traveled to the client's office: attended the various classes conducted at the client's campus, met the students, understood their background and culture, and their needs and limitations; and finally shared all of his experiences, especially w.r.t the “end user” with the entire project team on his return. He shared with us how our courses taken up by the students affected their life... - the students actually banked upon these courses for their livelihood!

I personally felt..what a pity! We had never imagined how what we were doing - only as a “project”, churning out books months after months in a tight-deadline mode, is impacting someone’s life.

For the first time then, it really made me think who is our actual customer – the client who we interact with day in and day out understanding their requirements; or the end user who actually take the brunt of whatever we create and provide to them?

This brings me to another thought: how many of us actually spend time in doing a good “audience analysis”? How many times can you confidently say the following?

  • I understand my end user
  • I know their age and educational experience
  • I understand what their current knowledge or skills are and theie confidence in the content area
  • I understand their motivational levels and learning ability
  • (Last but also one of the most neglected ones) - I know their attitude towards instruction

I believe doing a thorough audience analysis is one of the first steps in designing good “instruction” for the learner! Some of the other aspects it all also helps determine is the tone or language you use for the course, the content depth and complexity you need to bring in, or the examples or scenarios that you use across the course.

There is more to this.......for this time, however, if you have any experiences around doing a detailed audience analysis that impacted your course, do share!

Till then, don’t forget to analyze your end user! It'll be worth it!

eCube - The Progress So Far

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Thank you for the great response so far to eCube. In about a month, we've had 27 posts by 10 authors besides me, and 24 comments. This is a great beginning and I hope we will continue this response.

I have enhanced this team blog over the weekend. Some of the enhancements are:
  • Added Recent Comments on the sidebar to display, well, recent comments of course. No more searching to see what post got commented on.
  • You can now subscribe to the RSS feed for comments.
  • Labels now appear as a tag cloud. Size of the label indicates number of posts tagged to it. Mouse over displays the number of posts tagged to the label.
  • Added Most Popular Posts widget based on the Star ratings of posts. This counts a post with two or more ratings.
  • Chat window added on the sidebar. Chat with other readers or simply use as guest book to leave a comment.
  • Reduced some of the heavier widgets. The site should load a little faster now, hopefully. Performance improvement will be an ongoing attempt.
Look forward to suggestions for improving this team blog further. Simply comment on this post or leave a comment in the chat window.

Friday, March 14, 2008

If I May..."The Tastemaker"

1 comments

How many times have you heard… “hey this looks fine, but the tastemaker is missing”!!!

I just heard it recently after someone reviewed my design.(… and thanks to the someone-PSM!)
So what is the tastemaker…ofcourse the key ingredient that makes your stuff wow! And why do I write “stuff” because I now apply the “tastemaker theory” to almost everything I do- design, script, review, construct….and cook!
It went like this..when we started with the “IAAB-Individual As a Batch” training program, I was asked to design a very very explicit Corp LLD-low level Design...I winced thinking my facts and principles are better…then I spend time musing…the feeling did not pass…I was apprehensive to start the design. Finally I did and Wow! I learned about the “Raho na Raho” principle-and the Tastemaker Theory!!!
Let me know spread the gyan…
Raho-na-raho- create a design such that if you vanish to another planet, the aliens here can safely take it to execution. They will not need to contact you ever!
Tastemaker Theory-Yummy! Create a design with that extra dash of Zing! Something that makes your audience say yum-give us some more! That little dash of flavor that makes all the difference!

The Guru who propounded both the theories is here in NIIT, and here is a public THANK YOU to Ron…for all that I learned!!

elearning by Self learning

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I would like to share my experience of self learning through The Rapid elearning blog. The Blog shares practical tips and tricks to help you in understanding and creating elearning. It is hosted by Tom Kuhlmann who has over 15 years of hands-on experience in the training industry and currently runs the community at Articulate. The blog has quite a few good articles on best practices in elearning. I must add that the blog has great elearning environment. It is highly engaging with various demos with audios. While surfing this blog I got an experience as on how an elearning learner feels while taking an online course. The topics I enjoyed most are:
· How to Create E-Learning Courses That Don’t Waste Your Learner’s Time
The article gives an insight about the two categories of learners:
o The learners are taking the elearning course because they have to, and not necessarily because they want to. For them, it’s a matter of getting in and out quickly and then back to work. It’s just that many elearning courses are compulsory and the person taking it isn’t motivated by learning the content.
o The learners are taking the course because they want to. While their motivation is different, they also want the course to be focused and a good use of their time.
Considering the fact, that the both categories of learners need to gather essential information, take the required quiz, and get on with their lives; Tom has given guidelines on how to avoid wasting learner’s time.

· The Single Most Important Word in Your E-learning Design Arsenal:
The article discusses how to reach at a solution as a learner. While designing scenarios, it is essential to avoid jumping to the obvious solution. In order to avoid obvious solution, it is crucial to ask Right questions. The articles give a fair idea on how to ask right questions.
· What We Can Learn About Instructional Design from Post-it™ Notes
The article talks about why do people use Post-it™ notes, cheat sheets, and other job-aids to help them do their jobs? And, how does this relate to elearning?

· Here’s How to Avoid Needs Analysis Paralysis:
This article talks about best practices in need analysis and gives the essence of the need analysis -Keep this goal in mind: create courses where the content is real to the learners.
You can also subscribe this blog and can get an update on each new posting.
So happy learning.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who is the boss- QC or Client?

5 comments

There are two types of courses created in elearning practices:

  • Zero Defect courses from QC test but are entirely rejected from the client.
  • Courses rejected at QC test plan, but are accepted by the client with minor concerns.

Which is a better situation than other? I am sure none of them is an ideal situation, but both are real and practical.

This generally happens with legacy clients and projects; the role of an instructional designer seems very restricted. Templates, standards related to graphics, language and QC are already established. For all good reasons neither the project team, nor the client is ready for change. In such cases, an ID can only innovate various techniques of introducing content, and assessments to achieve the defined objectives. For a content developer who is working on such projects for long , standards related to formatting, graphic and QC are not a big challenge. In most of the cases, these experienced content developers produce Zero Defect courses for QC testing.
I have seen such courses being entirely rejected from the client. Each rejected course from client is a bad experience left with the client and of course de-motivating for entire team working on it. I have also experienced that courses which get rejected at QC test plan, are accepted by the client with minor concerns.

This leads to two inter related questions –

How relevant and successful is the QC test plan?
In which situation, do you think the ID should be held responsible for the rejection?


While debating on these issues, I have come across two very strong opinions:

First opinion says ID in first situation should not be held responsible as his course has passed QC test with Zero defect. He had followed all the defined standards religiously.

The second opinion supports the ID in the second situation. ID should not be held for the QC defect. The ID has done complete justice with his role, in understanding content and designing assessments and activities as per the client’s expectations.It says that to follow defined standards is secondary if we compare it with the understanding and creating a course up to the client’s expectations. QC test plan is led out to define standards as basic general rules to maintain consistency across the entire project. Whereas, understanding the content for each new and different course and designing it to the client’s expectation is a bigger challenge and responsibility, which in this case has been handled successfully.

I am leaving this debate open to all, would like to know your interpretations and opinions, before I conclude.

Design - do we understand it?

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After reading Sonali’s thought provoking article, I decided to explore more on ‘the design’. I came across this beautiful definition by Paola Antonelli, Museum of Modern Art,

“Good design is a Renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need and beauty to produce something.”

However, the struggle at most times is that a beautiful design may not be functional enough and hence beat the purpose of its creation, whereas a functional design may not appeal and retain the audience and hence may fail to attract enough eyeballs.

Let me explain this better with the following example on automobiles. Most American- make cars like Jaguar, a few Ford and Chrysler (previous) models were based not on solid functionality but on the market surveys that told the car designers what consumers find beautiful!

One classical example being Cadillac that (inspired by the airplane design) eventually failed due to its extraordinary length that made manoeuvring the car at corners tough (yes! even on American roads), the infamous fins made it very heavy and hence a gas-guzzler. (You may like to read a book titled ‘How Cadillac got its fins?’ to find more about this design)

Whereas, the Japanese cars, which are purely based on function and utility rule the American roads due to their efficient and fluid designs. Not only are these fuel-efficient, have efficient engines, but inmost cases are aptly dimensioned for eased driving.

Coming back to instruction design this means that if instructions are logical, structured, flow well, are based on learner friendly technology and appeal to the learner, in most likeliness these instructions will fall under well-designed category and hence the design should be successful.

So it seams one of the biggest struggle is managing the functional and aesthetics balance in a course. Any tried and tested methods out there?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thinking Design..Part II

1 comments

In spite of repeated reminders from Manish I have been postponing this for quite some time (owing to the tight deadlines for the project for which we did this design)! However, I am finally here ready to share my very interesting and engaging experience about coming up with “multiple” design options for one of the large IT companies!

At the very beginning of the project, our team got instructions from Manish that he plans to send this course for Brandon Hall and therefore, we better come up with some innovative/out-of-box/something we haven’t done before – kind of design for this course! At the same time, he instructed that he wants to see two “unique” designs that have nothing in common! That very moment, our struggle for a “good” design started. Four of us (2 LD ppl, 1 CD person, and 1 CT person) in the team started with brain storming amongst ourselves; however soon realized that this exercise should be taken to a larger team to get more perspectives and fresh ideas! We held meetings with several people in content and CD practice. We got many creative ideas from different people. Though for the first initial days it was very difficult, we did not limit our thinking to what we had been doing for so long – but focused our thoughts on what “newness” along with “value add” can we bring about in the course.

On submitting the two design options to Manish, he suggested that we scratch those two ideas and come up with another new one! Phew!! K We thought this wasn’t possible considering that we had already exhausted the list of “new” ideas we had in our mind and got from other people!! However, with much vigor, we started to “think” one more time. Unlike our initial belief that we won’t be able to come up with anything new now, we did manage to hit some new ideas! We presented the last design option to Manish which we all finally agreed upon to take forward with some modifications.

While this entire exercise was one of a kind (took us about 5-6 working days) and one that I haven’t done before in my 8 years long stint at NIIT, it sure posed some critical questions in my mind: Do we understand design? Do we understand what all constitutes design? Do we really design our courses? While I am may not be able to answer all these questions right away, some important things that did etch to mind while doing this exercise are:
  1. “Get together” across teams: Instead of working in isolation as LD, CD, or CT teams, it is important that people from each team get together and create design. One of the important things to understand is that a “design” doesn’t only constitutes the overall instructional theme or the instructional strategies you plan to include in the course; but also includes the interface, look and feel of the course and functionality related issues. So, it is best to thrash out those ideas at the initial design phase to avoid any “mishaps” later.
  2. Brainstorm: Again, one of the biggest mistakes we make as IDs is to work in isolation while creating the course design. The best way to come up with new ideas is to get into a time-packed mode and brainstorm both within and outside the team. The “outside” view is important as it helps in getting non-biased and fresh perspectives in the design.
  3. Find the key takeaway: While you think about design, try to explore what is the key thing/message you are trying to drive home for the learners. What is it that the learners will carry with them after going through the course? This will help you in coming up with an instructional theme for your course.
  4. Forget what you know, think anew: One of the biggest limitation is that we work with constraints in our minds: we are either too comfortable with the way we have been working or we are afraid to try anything new. Whatever be the reason, for once if you are creating a design for the course; forget all that you know and think what is the best possible way to teach the learners about this content.
  5. Do not forget the learner: Amidst all this, do not forget the learner! Evaluate what are the design elements that you will include in the course that will help the learners in any which way – this include the types of interactive you plan to include, the way you want to segregate the “should” know vs. “could” know information, option to print documents, the way you want to test the learners, etc.

Please feel free to add in to this - based on the design experiences you had!

Best Practices for Working from Home

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So, guys on Manish’s advice I am listing a few WFM practices that worked well for me. (I worked for a stretch of 3 days from home and other times for lesser duration)

· Start your day earlier because you email access/ other IT infra at home is never as good as office, so it is good to be on top of things before your team logs in.
· Keep people informed of your work/availability status. It’s a good idea to share your calendar with your immediate team.
· Always mark calls, team meetings etc. on the calendar.
· Inform your team if you plan to step out for a while.
· Take complete responsibility of the work/delivery deadlines irrespective of the infra you have in place, or else you risk your credibility
· Budget for an alternate business or personal number - If you use your personal number as your business number during WFM - ensure that your friends and foes are aware that you will be on office calls for the day. Provide them an alternate number if possible.
· Pick up the phone and speak to the team, if required. Ensure that you do not become a prey of the myth that physical absence from the office means that you are holidaying.
· Don’t be shy of taking the lead in calls and meetings.
· Plan for power cuts – Very critical for employees who decide for long-term WFM in Delhi. Always be prepared for power cuts and ensure there is an efficient cybercaf√© facility around the corner.

At the end of the day sincerity towards your work counts the most. People would know if you are whiling away time whether at office or home. :)

Work From home - Boon or Bane?

0 comments

Here's an interesting article that explores the benefits and challenges of work from home status.
To access the article go to: http://infotech.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2845284.cms

Google Effectively

1 comments

Before leaving Delhi, my friend presented me this book called The Google story. The book is about how Google came into existence and the fiery motivation of its consistent performance. Well, this is not the only high point of the book, I rather admired one of the three appendixes of the book that is Appendix I: Google Search Tips. It broadened my knowledge about Google, that Google is not only a search engine but, also has other day to day utility tools. It calculates, it converts – currency, speed, time, temperature, distance…I was amazed with the tools, tips, and tricks available at Google.

Since I was learning the utility of goggle, I googled for Google Search Tips and found Ultimate Google Guide. The blog was posted in Dec 2005; it is still very relevant and useful. I learnt various tips and tricks about googling effectively from this link. The link has list of tips on- Basic Operators, Advanced google operators, SEO-oriented Operators, Calculator Guide, and Conversions -with examples on conversion in degrees / in radians, in hex / in binary / in octal / in decimal, distance conversions, speed, time, temperature, currency etc.

There is more to share about Google. It is an eye opener that Google also provides tremendous help in acquiring and understanding content. Certainly, it is an important area for an Instruction Designer. No matter how good or bad is an SME or a Coursewriter, it is crucial for an ID to understand the content very well. None the less, it is equally crucial to learn and understand the content within the project timelines. Though nothing shall replace serious studying of prescribed text books, yet for a quick help following tips can be used:

· You can browse the world’s bookshelves online. Search for a topic at http://books.google.com/ and you will see information from actual books that Google has scanned and indexed in its database. You can browse or read the entire text of works that are not copy righted; for others you can see snippets and learn where to buy a full copy.

· Use link I’m Feeling lucky. Enter the search term and click this button on the Google homepage to bypass a long list of results. You can reach the top matching Web page for your term.

· You can use Cached version. Google tends to list popular and fresh pages at the top of its results, but dig beyond the first page or two of search results and you will often find older and forgotten pages but these are the ones what you need for your project. While searching for the Cached version of web pages, Google collects as it crawls and downloads the content you are seeking even if the current version of the pages has changed- say, a news site that removed the original story.

· The tip: the Cached version also highlights your search terms in colour wherever they appear on the page, an especially helpful feature when combing through long documents.

· For academic research purposes you may use http://scholar.google.co.in/. Serious searches can tap into thousands of scientific and academic journals with Google Scholars. Enter a query into search box at http://scholar.google.co.in/ to get abstracts and papers from published sources.

· Have more results onto each page: The Preferences link to the right of the search box is your ticket to tweaking various settings for Google searches, including the number of results displayed per page. Increase the number of matches you see per page from the number of matches you see per page from standard set of 10 to 20, 30 or more, to put more answers at your finger tips faster.

· You can translate at a single click. The language tool link, also found to the right of the search box on the homepage, calls up Google’s automated translation service as well as other language options. From this page, you can translate text among numerous languages (English to Spanish, French to German, Chinese to English…) or translate a Web page simply by entering its address.

· For further update, keep peeping inside Google. Click the “more>” link above the search box to find additional Google features and products as well as further tips how to search effectively. Check out the very handy one page Google search guide at http://www.google.com/help/cheatsheet.html·
The tip: see what the future Google innovation holds- including TV search, Personalized search, a real time taxicab locator and more - at Google labs. Just type Google labs into the Google search box.

Happy Goooooooooogling…

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thinking Design

1 comments

I find this image on our corporate wiki design page a very powerful representation of what goes in creating a course. Somehow in all the rush for meeting unquestioned timelines and perhaps in most cases just being plain lazy, we don’t really spend the time on designing our products. I was recently part of a project to create induction training for one of the large IT companies. It was an interesting experience to see the team struggling in the initial stages to come up with ideas. But once they got going, they had many new ideas. The first few design presentations by the team were tough on them but they soon got going.

I am hoping that one of them will soon contribute to this blog and share their experience (hint, hint guys ;-)…).

Login vs. Log in

5 comments

No one seems to have caught the small error in Your Corporate Learning Environment section on the right sidebar.

Login = Noun
Log in = Verb

I really wanted to use the verb to indicate that you need your network login ID to log in to the corporate wiki. Apologies for the error.

Using Grammar Statistics in MS Word

0 comments

We could use Microsoft Word's Grammar Statistics feature. Below is a demo of how to set up MS Word and start using the grammar statistics.
(click post title to open this post and view the animation below)



Monday, March 3, 2008

A guide to guidelines?

0 comments

A friend who works with an NGO was recently pestering me to help her put together a set of guidelines for a very specific target group. The topic is controversial and for our purposes not important. Anyway, she had some notion that I do something like a curriculum design 'or something of that nature' for a living and so can help her. Well, having taken time off from work and gotten used to the luxuries of lotus-eating, with consternation, I proceeded to draft a mail in reply to her pleadings. Writing Guidelines- sounded pretty nichy and relevant so I thought it would be interesting to share some of my thoughts and also get some from our community. Also, i get to offload some work and go back to my lotus-eating ways ;-) And Veronica better appreciate all my hard work :-D.
>>If the objective of your assignment is to provide a> training kit for the target audience, you need to take into account their comfort with the language you will use for the guidelines. So do a bit of research and choose a language that would suit them.
>> Within a language, take care again to stick to a level that would communicate clearly- for example avoid> jargon (if the audience is not privy to this particular jargon).
>> Other things you can do is to organise the guidelines in a specific way that would be more intuitive. For example, look at categorising them into relevant topics/sections- also label these categories to provide the users with a mental model and also for easy reference. Provide this list of categories upfront so users can choose to move to guidelines of interest.
>> You can also organise using other principles- just choose something that will make sense to the users and be intuitive. Other organising principles include chronological sequencing, simple to complex, general> to specific.
>> Guidelines can use the format of "Dos" and "Don'ts"
>> Highlight consequences of not following guidelines.
>> Depending on the audience, see if you need to provide examples and cases to explain/illustrate the guidelines. Include images, diagrams, graphs and pictures for promoting better understanding and retaining interest.
>> Will it make sense to include things like quizzes and exercises?
>> At the outset, don't forget to articulate the relevance of the guidelines to the users- why and how it will help them.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

5 Sure Shot Ways to 'Muck Up' Your Learning Scenario

2 comments

"Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won't have time to make them all yourself," said Alfred Sheinwold an eminent bridge player.

Here are some mistakes that I have made when creating learning scenarios for scenario-based learning. Try them to 'Muck Up' yours!

  1. Think creative writing and include problems and challenges that are rare and few.
  2. Think wide-based usage and create characters that are non-representative of the target learner group.
  3. Think novel writing and use long descriptions of people, places and events.
  4. Think technical writing and make them non-conversational.
  5. Think mystery writing and leave a lot to learner’s imagination.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Creating Gantt Charts in Excel

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Okay, first of all we should use MS Project to create schedules and Gantt charts. But I found this really cool way to create Gantt charts in MS Excel that I couldn't resist sharing. This works well for simple project plans. Or you could use this for creating a high level project plan to share with customers. Using MS Project might just be easier anyway instead of maintaining two separate versions.


But heck, the technique is really cool :-). And the site is also a good example of rapid elearning development.

Scenario Based Learning- Let’s Muck Up!

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Adding to Puja’s list of how to muck up scenarios, while writing for scenario-based learning, here are few common ways to do so:
1. Ignore learner’s socio-cultural values.
2. Ignore learner’s contextual setting i.e. climatic, geographical, and economical conditions.
3. Ignore simple sentences. Unload all the information into maximum of two dialogues.
4. Ignore the learning objective and highlight rest of the scenario.

Top 5 ways to Muck Up a project kick-off call

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Scenario: A kick-off call is scheduled with an important customer. The customer is working with your organization for the first time and you want to make an impression. During the kick-off, you are required to introduce the team, discuss project timelines and processes, confirm scope of work and demonstrate a sample prototype/design over a web conferencing tool.
  • Book a conference room for the meeting and sit far away from the speaker phone such that you are barely audible.
  • Intentionally overwrite you final kick-off PPT 5 minute before the call and rely on your memory for the meeting.
  • Don’t pre-inform the customer that you will be using a web conferencing tool
  • Start installing the tool after dialling into the call and keep everyone waiting while you chat with your team in hushed tone.
  • Don’t give the customer a chance to ask questions and clarify his understanding

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