Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.”
                           -  George Bernard Shaw

I am often asked by non-learning people, "What is the best way to go about developing materials for a course, exercise, or learning activity?"

I say it's easy.  Start with Rule #3Go Slow, this information is critical to your audience.

"Go Slow..."  Pace your talk.  No matter what you think about how long your activity will be, it will take at least two times as long as you think it will.  You need time to let material sink in, to let learners absorb and process the new skills.  And remember, you will get questions!  They always add time and can turn into lengthy but valuable tangents.  Leave time to create a connection with your audience.

"... your audience."  Focus.  When you are assembling materials don't try to cram everything into one exercise or session.  Figure out what you really want to get across.  Ask yourself, what skills or information do you really want your learners to leave with.

"... #3:"  Remember the rule of three.  The human brain is limited as to what it can take in and store at one time.  Every time someone gets "full" they shove things to the back to make room for new facts.  Think of the last conference or class you were at and how many things you really remember from it.  Try to narrow your exercise down to three of the most important skills.  This is especially true if you have to share the day with other presentations. 

Remember Buck's Rule #3 and you really are off to a solid start.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Is this thing on?

"I get so tired listening to one million dollars here, one million dollars there, it's so petty."
Imelda Marcos

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re just not communicating?  You’re not making that crucial connection with your audience?
Learning is a different game than most.  If you don’t make that connection with your learner it doesn’t matter how good your information is.  You aren’t going to be effective, they aren’t going to learn, and the whole thing is a failure.

Now abstract that one more step – asynchronous learning.  Traditional computer based learning offers little in the way of feedback, and in some regards it is even more important.  Without an instructor standing over your shoulder answering questions, how can we possibly know if we are successful?  

We have had computer based training videos for years and I have absolutely no idea whether they are useful in any way. Sure people buy them but I don’t know if they use them.  I don’t know if they are helpful or they confuse the issue.  I don’t know if people feel they got value.  For all I know I could be in the business of producing expensive coasters.

This is one of the main reasons why, earlier this year at OSIsoft, LLC, we published our entire catalog to YouTube.  Hundreds and hundreds of videos are now available for free, and I will argue that we get more out of this than my customers.

How can that be? 

It is simple – I now have a real-time gauge of how successful my videos are.  I can see who is watching what videos, what videos are successful, and most importantly you, as a user, can leave us feedback.  We have already had customers ask questions we have been able to answer quickly.  One customer requested an explanation of a certain topic that we suspected was highly desired and within a week we had videos posted.  The interaction is endless.

You can ask questions and we can provide answers – answers that ultimately help you learn.  Isn’t that why we’re here?