community

Free Resources for Online and Blended Learning

This is a bit of a double post with some free resources for all!

First up, I found out this week that an article I submitted for publication – Flipped Learning in the Workplace – was finally published in the Journal of Workplace Learning. You can download the very pretty final version of the article from their site or, if you don’t have access to the journal, you can download a not nearly as pretty copy here.

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Second, the ELH Challenge for this week was to share some images that could be used for eLearning.  I have been thinking about doing this with some of the zillions of pictures I have laying around in my Flickr account.

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So, while hanging out at home during my snow day today I started the process. You can view and download over 100 pictures taken by me during my most recent vacation to Belize, a friend’s wedding in Florida, and Christmas holiday in Louisiana.

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Enjoy and please leave me some feedback if you find the resources useful. Oh, and be sure to check all the other wonderful shared images from this week’s challenge as well!

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Low-Tech Learning

A little known fact about me is that my initial major in college was architecture.  I didn’t last very long in the program but to this day I love a good excuse to pull out my sketchbook.

David Anderson gave me a great reason this week with his weekly challenge: create an emergency response “course” using pen and paper.

The disaster

The only disasters I really know anything about are flooding and hurricanes.  I’m from southern Louisiana, went to college in Miami, and now live in in the Mid-Atlantic, not far from the coast.

So I decided to go that route, using the Red Cross hurricane app for some inspiration. (I encourage you to download the free Red Cross apps – they are pretty great and full of all kinds of useful information that I couldn’t fit onto my course.)

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The course context

I wanted my “course” audience to be folks at an evacuation shelter.

The “course” is meant to be presented soon after the hurricane/flooding is past so there is no imminent danger but evacuation orders may still be in effect for much of the area.

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What I included and why

I thought about what I would want to know if I were hunkered down at an evacuation shelter.  I decided I would want to know:

  • Where and when can I get food and water?
  • When can I go home?

In addition, I figured shelter staff would have other information they would want to convey to keep things running.  And the government and non-profits such as the Red Cross would probably want to give me some key information for staying safe once I was home.

So, those were the things I included!

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The production

I used sharpie (once I realized my ink pen was bleeding) and watercolor pencils.  If you have never used watercolor pencils, they are a lot of fun and basically the only way I ever “paint”. They are also a great way to add some color when all of your markers have run dry… (time for a run to the art supply store!)

I tried to add as many visuals as possible to catch attention and help those who may not be very literate (or perhaps those that can’t read my handwriting?). Also, my cat was jealous she wasn’t getting to paint, so there are a few smudges and half paw prints from her.

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If I were to do these over, I would stay away from block letters and break up the “Stay Safe” page into 2 pages as it feels a bit crowded.

What would you want to know if you were at an evacuation shelter?  What would you include in your emergency disaster course?

My eLearning Story

 

Image Credit: David Anderson
Image Credit: David Anderson

I am jumping back in to the Articulate eLearning Challenges this week!  David has asked us to do a short interview with ourselves, answering the following 10 questions:

1. Tell us a little about yourself and the types of e-learning projects you most enjoy.
2. How did you become an e-learning or instructional designer?
3. What are the essentials of good e-learning design?
4. Tell me about your most successful e-learning project.
5. What are the most important criteria in evaluating e-learning?
6. What are some common mistakes new course designers make & how can they avoid them?
7. How is designing mobile learning different than designing for the desktop?
8. How do you evaluate whether your course was effective?
9. How do you keep up your skills and stay current in the industry?
10. What is the future of e-learning?

A little about my process:

Script: I didn’t fully script out my answers, but I did consider each question and make some notes for myself before starting.  I find that when recording audio for eLearning I prefer this method unless there is a specific script I need to follow.  When I do have a script, I always read it out loud a few times to note any phrases that feel unnatural and try to edit those if possible.

Hardware: I almost always use a Logitech headset for recording. It’s comfortable, easy (it’s always plugged in to my computer), and produces a pretty good quality sound.

Software: I recorded each answer as a separate track in Audacity and used the noise removal function to minimize any background buzz the headphones didn’t cancel out. I only allowed myself one take for each answer as I didn’t want to sound scripted and wanted this to be an honest reflection of where I am at this moment. (I did have to start one track over after some crazy dog barking started a few seconds in… the perils of working from home while being married to a professional pet sitter!)

Sharing: Once everything was recorded, background noise was removed, and I had exported the files, I uploaded them to SoundCloud so they could be embedded here.

That’s it – the whole process took less than 30 minutes.

You can listen to my eLearning story using the player below.

I hope you take a little time to share your story as well!

Swim-Bike-Learn

Yesterday I signed up for my third triathlon.  I did my first tri a few years ago and became hooked.  I don’t have the time (or money) to do more than one a year but I look forward to these events with great enthusiasm.

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My friends and I after last year’s Iron Girl Rocky Gap Sprint Triathlon

To celebrate round number three, I’d like to write one of those cheesy “what my hobby taught me about life” kind of posts. So, here are 6 things that triathlons have taught me about instructional design and, well, life.

1. All big things are just made up of small things

I do sprint triathlons.  They usually take about 2 hours for me to complete. But the thrill of triathlons though is that you can really take each part individually and each piece alone isn’t really that bad.  And, when you’re training for that big day you get to start small and gradually big. In fact, just jumping into something so large can lead to serious injury so starting small is imperative.

So it is with instructional design. Sometimes our projects can take a really. long. time. But in the end, each piece is manageable if you have some small goals along the way.  The key is to make sure that everyone on your team (SMEs, graphic artists if you’re lucky enough to have one, etc.) is aware of those small goals and can celebrate when you reach them.  Not only will this help everyone feel like the work is progressing, but it builds camaraderie and can keep people on task.

2. Practice makes better

I don’t believe in perfect, but I do think the more we practice anything, the better we get. And it’s not just practicing the same routine over and over.  Eventually your body (or mind) will get used to that one thing and your fitness will plateau. Practice means stretching yourself and trying new things.  In triathlon training that means running sprints or hills, swimming quick drills and long distances, and biking new routes.

In instructional design it means continuously challenging yourself to innovate and then learning how to build out those fresh new ideas.

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Open water swim on Lake Habeeb

3. Practice with others makes much better

The best triathletes have coaches, as in any sport.  I am not nearly that good.  But I still need people to improve.  A running partner who is a little faster than me.  Someone to race up a hill on my bike. On some days I just need someone to give me the extra motivation to get in my workout.

I have talked at length about why community is important in instructional design and I mean it.  You can’t get better at anything without others to push you, motivate you, and give you feedback. Better doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sometimes practicing with others means reading books or blogs.  Sometimes it means getting inspiration from other people’s projects.  Sometimes it means collaborating or getting feedback on a project from someone else.  It’s not nearly as important how you incorporate others into your practice, as it is that you just do it.

4. Flexibility is key

Two types of flexibility are important in training for triathlons – literal muscle flexibility and some life scheduling flexibility.  It can be difficult to fit in the amount of training that is needed to practice three sports, and do some flexibility and strength training work every week.

Muscle flexibility is also important in instructional design – brain muscles that is. We need to make sure we aren’t getting too caught up in the rigid, power parts of instructional design (our models and theories). In the end, it doesn’t matter how much theory we know or how well we can apply a theory if those aren’t accompanied by some creativity, analytical thinking, and an influx of new ideas.

We also need to be schedule flexible. SMEs don’t always comply with our deadlines, technology issues can ruin a day, and sometimes life just happens. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stick to our deadlines, but rather that we should always build in a cushion when setting goal dates. I always love to under-promise and over-deliver, even on delivery dates.

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The transition area

5. Get the hardest things done first

In triathlons the swim always comes first.  Why? Because you are more likely to drown if you are exhausted from biking and running.  On the same note, the run comes last because, well, you can always walk.

I try to keep that in mind at work as well. I can be a terrible procrastinator, with the excuse that I work well under pressure. But recently I have tried hard to not put off the part you I’m dreading until that after-lunch-I-want-to-nap time. Use the time of day when you have most energy to get the hard things done.  For me this is usually until about 11 am.  In the mornings my mind is more flexible and everything seems a little easier.

6. The only goal that matters is the one I set for myself

Pressure to be the best is all around us and, for myself at least, often the worst of it is pressure we put on ourselves.

The thing is, I will never be a world-class triathlete, and that is ok. What matters is that I am constantly pushing myself to get better physically, mentally, and emotionally so I can handle the challenges thrown at me every day.  This includes making sure I have time with my family and by myself to unwind every day. It means letting go when I have too much on my plate and working harder when life is a little more flexible. It’s about knowing when a project is good enough and not driving myself crazy trying to get to perfect (which is always impossible). I have learned to find confidence in being my best, not the best. It’s so cheesy, and I would have rolled my eyes at this not long ago, but true.

My friend, Kate, looking strong at the finish.

I hope that you have something in your life that challenges you to be your best self.  What lessons have you learned?  Why do you love your hobby?  How does it pour over into your professional life?

And if you are looking for something to help challenge you physically and mentally, I would suggest starting with couch-to-5k program or a sprint triathlon if you already have s few 5k’s under your belt. Trust me, they are much more manageable than you think!

Community Matters

An old friend came to stay with me this past week, someone I love dearly but hadn’t seen in about 5 years. He (Dave) lives on the west coast, I live on the east coast and therefore we don’t get to see each other often.

We had a wonderful time catching up and had lots of stories about where our lives had gone since we last hung out. Both of us had made some job changes, bought houses, and gotten married.  But one topic kept recurring in almost every one of our conversations – community.

Dave and his wife met at a cohousing community. They moved a couple years ago but are struggling as they have not found their place in their new community. I left 2 previous higher education programs because of a lack of a supportive community (in one case, students were even downright cutthroat). I love my neighborhood because of the strong sense of community. You get the picture.

I also found myself talking about all the professional communities I rely on daily to learn new things, get inspiration, and find support. I guess this would be my personal learning network. Today I just want to pay homage to some of those communities.

 

My colleagues

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Why I love this community: So, I have yet to decide if this is the best way to pick a new job, but I always rely so much more on the connection I feel with a potential manager during the interview than anything else.  I think this probably means I don’t make as much money as I could, but who cares?  All the money in the world wouldn’t be enough for me to work with a team I couldn’t stand.

Anyway, my current team at Engility is awesome.  My group/division works on projects in international development and is full of passionate people that want to change the world. My team members are my life support on a regular basis and I think I do a good job helping them out as well.

I also have so many friends from previous jobs that are always willing to give me feedback, or just go to happy hour after a tough day. A former boss of mine is the one that convinced me to move to my current location (she also lives in the neighborhood). My current manager encouraged me to start blogging and is my biggest advocate. Some of my current and former colleagues are folks I count among my favorite people in the world.

You guys (and you know who you are) are better than money – thanks.

What this community offers that others don’t: personalized support and feedback

 

UMBC

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Why I love this community: For those that don’t know, I am currently working on a M.A. in instructional systems development at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It’s mostly online, which I was unsure about at first because I felt a large part of grad school was making connections in your field.  But I really had nothing to fear because UMBC is really great at encouraging those connections.

I am only about half way through the program but have already met a slew of wonderful professionals who challenge my thinking and expand my ideas of what is possible on a regular basis. There are so many stories of alumni in this program moving forward in their careers because of connections they made at UMBC.  If you are considering a master’s or certificate program in ISD or instructional technology, I would highly recommend this university.

What this community offers that others don’t: a real push outside of my comfort zone in conjunction with a safe place to fail

 

ASTD (ATD) and ISPI

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Why I love this community: To be honest, it took a long time for me to be convinced of the worth of professional communities. Then I realized that it was because I wasn’t really engaging with the community… duh.

The local chapters are a great place to meet folks in the field who work in your area.  The national chapters offer blogs, publications, conferences and other forms of support.

So this year I vowed to get more involved and it has really paid off!  I have attended some local meetings where I have made new connections in my area and learned some great information. I attended the ASTD/ATD conference in May and again, made some great connections and learned lots of great information.  I even offered to serve on a panel at the conference and met some amazing folks through that opportunity.  In fact, the ASTD staff member coordinating the panel asked us to write guest blog posts and mine should be up on the ASTD site some time in the coming week.

What this community offers that others don’t: a wealth of professional resources and tools for staying current in the field

 

eLearning Heroes

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Why I love this community: I’m not going to push Articulate Storyline or other products on anyone, but even if Articulate wasn’t a great tool (which it is!) I would still use it. I’m sure you can guess why – the community.  They have this amazing site full of forums, blogs, and resources.

One of the best parts of this community is that each week David Anderson posts a weekly challenge where anyone can create and submit a piece of work to help build skills, share information, and build their portfolio. Through these challenges I have “met” some really talented eLearning designers/developers, learned lots of new tricks, and really improved my outputs in Storyline.  These challenges have challenged me to try some new things in the software that I might not otherwise have an opportunity to try and made some of my processes more efficient.

Involvement in this community has also really increased my visibility. David and the other Articulate staff are amazing about sharing the work of community members through their site and on Twitter. For the freelancers in the field, they offer a lot of support when it comes to looking for new clients and they even post a weekly round up of job openings every Friday.

What this community offers that others don’t: specific support for and feedback on eLearning and Articulate Storyline and a regular opportunity to build my portfolio and increase my visibility

 

Note that all of these communities are awesome for the reason that all good communities are awesome – they offer laughter, insight, feedback, and support. Instructional designers and eLearning developers often produce proprietary products, but amazingly are some of the most open, sharing, supportive folks in any profession. I love what I do because it is creative and scientific, but mostly because I always feel like I am a part of something larger.

What communities have been important to you?  Am I missing any that I should be sure to check out?  Please share!