Friday Link Round-Up

Happy Friday! I’ve read so much this week that peaked my interest, I wanted to pass along a sampling of some of my favorites:

1. Is Google Making Us Stupid? This article in the Atlantic Monthly speculates that the skimming that we now count as reading is affecting our ability to be deep thinkers. Are we becoming “pancake people”, spread wide, thin, and fluffy in the middle? I’m not sure, but I do know what I’ll be making for Saturday breakfast!

2. I’m always a sucker for a well-designed graphic learning bite. This example from Jonathan Jarvis is great. (And even makes it a little less depressing!) Remember, eLearning doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective!


3. The Department of Justice recently conducted a sneaky experiment to see how many of their employees would be sucked in to a phishing scam and actually give their personal information. Read about it on Cathy Moore’s blog. Now, I can just imagine the uproar that caused within the organization – it doesn’t exactly build trust in the leadership! BUT…a similar type of experience could easily be created within the safer environment of an eLearning course to create some powerful learning.

My final thought for the day –  I have had several clients recently be suprised by our flexibility and willingness to discuss their questions and requests. While occassionally we need to stick to our guns, most often we can accomodate their needs. It worries me that being open and flexible is now a suprising in the consulting world! “Always render more or better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” (Og Mandino)

Writing Courses: When it's ok to break the rules

Happy Friday! “Doctors make the worst patients” also applies to trainers; we make the worst students! I am taking an ILT course from a local NFP over the course of four evenings, and I’ve learned:

1. I’m an impatient student. It’s been a while since I took a class, and I had forgotten what it was like to sit on the other side of the room. I need to be a more frequent “learner” …and learn how to focus on a lecture for more than 5 minutes at a stretch!

2. Not for Profit organizations need our help! Think about where you could apply your adult learning expertise to help out a NFP in 2009. Often they don’t have the funds or time to create quality educational opportunities for their volunteers or the people they serve.

One of the things I’ve learned about in this class is the Laubach language learning method. While I’m not endorsing the materials, they do teach an interesting concept: Contractions are introduced to language learners immediately because they will encounter contractions immediately.

This is not how we often handle contractions in our learning design, which got me thinking. (See, I was getting to a point – just took me a while to get there!)

Using Contractions in E-Learning Courses

Typically, I am asked by clients to not use contractions in courses that have ESL (English as a Second Language) learners. This can make for awkward language such as when we write “Let us get started!” instead of “Let’s get started!”

Cathy Moore wrote a recent post, “Why you do not want to sound like a robot“. In it, she makes the point that conversational writing (which includes the use of contractions) is easier and best. She also argues that if we’re asking ESL learners to take technical courses like “How to Create a Clinical Plan”, then they probably can read/hear contractions with understanding. I can’t argue with her point!

So, how did the “no contractions” rule become a rule? Is it valid? What other writing “rules” do instructional designers take to heart that should be broken?

Does Age Matter in E-Learning Design?

Happy Friday and Happy New Year!

In the January issue of ASTD’s T&D magazine, there’s an article titled “Tech Masters” which describes how Millinnial employees (ages 14-27) prefer to use technology at work.

The article makes some valid points about tailoring a workplace to this newest generation. However,  in my experience, age isn’t the only factor to consider. I offer two recent examples:

  • For the courses in my multi-course project (which is past the halfway mark – yahoo!), the SMEs decided that we didn’t need to have navigation screens.  They felt like it was self-explanatory and that the learners knew how to navigate in an e-learning course. (Learners still have the option of using a help tab.) They liked the idea of eliminating a screen in the course. Without making any guesses about their ages, I can safely say that these SMEs are part of a later generation.
  • At Christmas, my brother, a construction contractor, wanted to show me a picture of the gift he got his son. I had to explain to him how to get to Google to look for a picture of a Chilean Rose Tarantula (shudder). After informing him that I was never stepping foot in his house while that thing was there, I teased him about how slowly he navigated!

Since my brother is younger than the SMEs I work with, popular wisdom would say that he should be more tech-savvy and need less instruction when designing e-learning. But as always, it’s about knowing your learner! The SMEs use online resources every day and have to take many e-learning courses as part of their jobs. My brother rarely has to use a computer other than to manage finances.  Check out the Making Change blog by Cathy Moore and her recent post on getting to know learners and blog readers for some additional food for thought.

How do you get to know your audience better? How do you avoid making assumptions about learners based on their age?