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21 Tips for Putting Learning Goals and Learners Before Technology

Submitted by on July 9, 2014 – 8:43 amNo Comment

eLearning Guild


The eLearning Guild recently released the free e-book, 84 Tips on New Instructional Design for New Instructional Technology so we are going to share some of these tips we learned over the next couple weeks. The first of this series is Twenty-one Tips for Putting Learning Goals and Learners Before Technology.

For this eBook, the eLearning Guild asked 21 learning professionals who have successfully melded new instruc­tional design with new instructional technologies to give their best tips; they have highlighted the tips from their featured contributors, and you can learn more about them at the bottom of this post. Click here to access the entire free e-book.

21 Tips for Putting Learning Goals and Learners Before Technology

Be the designer, not the follower of fashion. It may be the cool “in” thing to deliver something wow, bang, whiz, made with the latest gizmo, but did it fit into your plan, or did you just squeeze this cool idea into your plan because it was the in thing? Stay on track; deliver the content that will make a difference, not just create a feel-good. -Neil Lasher


Blue-sky your design first as though technology was not a limiting factor, then “war room” with the best and brightest people to see how you can manage or work around any issues. For example, “We want to create a leader board and badging system across 21 modules in eight learning-management systems because we want to increase motivation and completion rates. Now let-s see how xAPI can help us achieve that desired outcome and think about how we might use Jive in a creative way.” –Tracy Bissette & Ian Huckabee


Keep it real! Don’t let the buzzwords make you think you are doing everything wrong. At teaching and learning conferences, and on blogs, discussion boards, and Twitter feeds, buzzwords fly. “Flip the classroom,” “critical thinking,” “prob­lem-based learning,” and “student success” get tossed around with regularity. What’s missing is a cognitive framework (another buzzword) to make them real. Jumping into flipping a classroom or creating a problem-based learning scenario only works when the objectives and the framework support that strategy. Don’t do it because it is cool, do it because it works for what you are trying to accom­plish. –Dawn Clineman


What content is needed? What technology should we try? What cool, innovative way can I present this information? Well … before you can really answer these questions, you need to look to your objectives. And many times, this feels back­wards. However, it is the only way to be sure you are giving your learners what they need. Before going all-in with a technology, back up and consider what you want learners to be able to do. What will help you get them there? Then choose your tools. –Dawn Clineman


Technology is changing too rapidly to come up with a new strategy for each new tool, so to keep learners engaged, find a technology to support your teaching ap­proach. Just because the technology is new doesn’t mean your approach needs to be. Trust your strategies; if they work, apply them, and make the tool work for you. –Dawn Clineman


Using technology to engage your audience isn’t entertainment; it is responding to the learner’s expectation and readiness to learn. If you’re choosing a technol­ogy to enhance your training because you think it will make you seem “with it” or cool, don’t. But if you’re choosing a technology because you know the learners will respond to the technology and be more engaged, go for it. –Carolyn Stoll


With social-learning technologies, go where learners already are. If they congre­gate in Jive, use Jive for a component of the learning solution. If they use Yam­mer, use Yammer – and so forth. It’s much more difficult to try to build community from scratch. –Tracy Bissette & Ian Huckabee


A learner-centered classroom doesn’t mean that every whim of the learner is entertained or gratified. Instead, it focuses on interaction: student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-instructor. When choosing a technology, make sure the tool facilitates these three types of interaction. –Dawn Clineman


The outcomes are established and the goals are written, but how will students get there? What if they choose a path you didn’t predict? This can at times be a scary place for instructors and trainers because there is no pre-determined rubric to ensure success. However, the learners are engaged in determining their own paths to success, which creates ownership of the content and learning. Use technology to encourage learners to pull information in rather waiting for the trainer or facilitator to push information out. –Carolyn Stoll


I’ve always said the best way to assess whether someone understands a concept is to ask them to teach it. Asking learners to teach each other and receive feed­back puts the onus and responsibility in the hands of the learners. This increases motivation and engagement, and helps instructors to better assess the learning. The increased availability of synchronous-learning opportunities brings this together in a meaningful way. –Carolyn Stoll


No more boring lectures. Involve learners more actively in the content through such simple activities as including quiz questions during a lecture. A mid-lecture quiz can keep a learner engaged and reduces the passivity of the lecture experi­ence. Allow learners to explore information rather than just have it presented to them. Timelines, eBooks, or point-and-click illustrated graphics are all ways that learners can involve themselves in exploring content. –Carolyn Stoll


Who are you as an instructor? You must begin thinking differently, not only about the role of the instructor but also about the role of the student. Student-centered learning puts the onus for the learning on the student in ways that more traditional learning does not. It demands a give and take between the learner and the instructor. Instructors must give up some of their control over the teaching process, and students must accept more of the responsibility for their own learning. In the days of one-room schoolhouses, instructors and stu­dents had no choice but to adopt these roles. Today, technology lets us choose to. –Carolyn Stoll


So many buzzwords make us believe that teaching and learning is completely changing and we need to keep up. However, the one-room schoolhouses remind us that terms like “individualized learning” and “active learner” describe tech­niques that were readily used in an environment of multi-ability students need­ing a multi-strategy approach for anyone to be successful. –Dawn Clineman


In this world of technology and information overload, instructors’ and train­ers’ roles are shifting. It used to be that instructors held all the information and learners attended workshops and training to acquire that information. Now the information is everywhere and it has become our job to help learners sift through and find the valuable information. In other words, as a colleague, Dr. Jim Clark, so eloquently stated: “We have shifted from being the Gate Keepers to the Key Masters!” Find and use technology that embraces your role as Key Master and helps your learners learn. –Dawn Clineman


Only use music if it adds to the learning experience. –Sebastian Soto Flores, RAC Insurance


Use video wherever possible, as long as it relates to the content or topic. –Sebastian Soto Flores, RAC Insurance


Form follows function: Select the technology that works best for your content. –Kristen Hayden Safdie, ATPCO


If it’s shiny, make sure it has substance, too. New technology can encourage deeper and broader interaction, but sound instructional-design principles still apply. Always ask yourself: does it (for example, using Google Glass to view content) make the learner want to continue? Does it help make the content more relevant to the learner? Does it improve the way learners perform the task and/ or behave in a situation? If the answer is “no,” then consider whether you need the technology at all, or use instructional-design elements (for example, weaving in a narrative, allowing for reflection, providing meaningful feedback) to support the technology. –Adrienne Gross, Beyond the Red Pen


Identify requirements. This includes understanding who your learners are and their barriers to performance, identifying the gap between what is and what should be, and developing a plan for increasing performance. –Michael Schreiner, VectorLearning


A well-designed course using the best technology is ineffective if no one can participate. Determine your user’s limitations and needs before building your eLearning to ensure that your work doesn’t go to waste. –Kristen Hayden Safdie, ATPCO


Not every performance-improvement intervention requires deep instructional-design expertise. Sometimes just speaking with a lot of people involved with the performance will uncover mounds of data that will help you identify the true source of perceived (yes, many times they are just “perceived“) performance issues. This is where instructional designers and technologists best serve their clients. The best instructional designers and technologists are consultants first, and then just so happen to be great designers of instruction, if that is where the data leads them. –Michael Schreiner, VectorLearning

About the Featured Tipsters

Neil LasherNeil Lasher , Senior Instructional Designer, FireEye

Neil Lasher, the senior instructional designer for FireEye, is a Fellow of the UK Learn­ing and Performance Institute. Over the last 25 years, Neil has assisted hundreds of companies of all sizes with their learning design and strategy. In 2012 Neil worked for the organizing committee of the London 2012 Olympics, helping to roll out one million hours of learning to 200,000 contractors and volunteers. A recognized expert and thought leader in instructional design and workplace analytics for using technology in learning, Neil is now part of a team of experts delivering learning at FireEye, which is ranked fourth on the Deloitte 2012 Technology Fast 500.


Tracy BisetteTracy Bissette , Co-founder and President, Weejee Learning

In her current role, Tracy Bissette, MEd, has created enterprise-wide learning solu­tions for Fortune 500 companies including DaVita, Cisco, and Abbott Labs. Prior to co-founding Weejee Learning, she was Vice President of MindWorks Multimedia, where she created and guided the growth of an eLearning division. Tracy was se­lected by Triangle Business Journal as one of Research Triangle Park’s 2012 Top 40 under 40 Business Leaders, and has been recognized in Training Magazine’s Top 125. She speaks regularly at industry conferences on topics of best practices, emerging trends, and effective instructional-design techniques, and shares her ideas in indus­try magazines and journals.


Ian HuckabeeIan Huckabee , Co-founder and CEO, Weejee Learning

Ian Huckabee has more than 20 years of operations-management experience in communication-technology industries. Ian is a digital strategist and technologist specializing in social media and training, and has formed partnerships with leading technology companies in the learning and social-media spaces. Prior to co-founding Weejee Learning, he was Vice President of Audio Operations and Marketing for Sony Music Entertainment in New York. Ian served on the board of directors of the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome division, representing the wired-home channel. He currently shares his thoughts about communication trends through Weejee Learning, various online publications, and speaking engagements.


Dawn ClinemanDawn Clineman , Associate Director of Distance Learning, University of Cincinnati

Dawn Clineman, associate director of the Center of Educational Technology & Instructional Support (CETIS) for the College of Allied Health Sciences at the Uni­versity of Cincinnati (UC), has worked at UC since 2008 as an instructional designer and associate director of distance learning. She works with faculty to develop and build their online programs and classes. She has designed, developed, and facilitated faculty workshops to enhance understanding of the pedagogical approach required for successful online teaching. Dawn holds a BS degree in social science from Florida Atlantic University and an MS degree in conflict resolution from Nova Southeastern University.


Carolyn StollCarolyn Stoll , Instructional Designer, University of Cincinnati

Carolyn Stoll, an instructional designer at the University of Cincinnati (UC), holds a BS degree in education from Miami University of Ohio and an MA degree in English. Before becoming an instructional designer, she taught first-year composition and technical writing at UC for 16 years. Her research interests focus on instructional technology and instructional design, topics on which she has spoken at regional and national conferences. She is currently an instructional designer in the College of Al­lied Health Sciences, where she works with faculty building online-learning content and courses.

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