Thriving as a One person elearning department #devlearn

Presented by Lisa Goldstein – LMS
80% of learning teams are 5 people or less (Source: elearning guild)

Think differently (creatively) to solve your problems, don’t be paralyzed by groupthink
Ask questions to get to the root of the problem (is training the answer, or is changing the process the answer)
Big three issues: Resources, Time, Money

Resources: use the community, college students/interns
eLearning Heroes – Craigslist for elearning
LinkedIn groups – Search for elearning/e-learning
DMELD – Denver Metro Elearning Developers group
Local professional networks

Time: Stephen Covey’s Big Rocks theory (Video)
Big Rocks = important. Pebbles = less important
Concentrate on the big things first (including important personal things)
Puzzle Pieces – Take them away, give them as a gift.
Distribute your responsibilities throughout the organization. Ex: Managers can handle registration, reporting.
Track common questions, create procedural videos (“how do I do this” questions)
If you have to talk with managers/admins, try to talk to as many of them as possible at once.
Host Webinars
Get IT involved, LMS company
.sig – Include resources (“If you have questions about…contact…”)
Away message – Include resources
Let SME’s develop content, keep involved as content assistant
Re-gift meetings as giving answers in advance (OneNote project status, add tasks without meeting, involve SME’s/Writers)
How can you provide answers to questions in advance?

Money: Be frugal with your budget
It’s okay to negotiate pricing with vendors (something is better than nothing)
Free/Cheap: Audacity, Sony Vegas Movie Studio ($99 – Premiere alternative), Snap by Lectora ($99 – Articulate alternative),

Google docs, Office Clip Art, ScreenR/Jing/Screencast-o-Matic
Resources: DIY, Individuals (vs. companies..people who want to do side work), free templates, Craigslist for equipment,

Conferences – Get in free as a presenter, Software: Deals, bundles, negotiate
Getting more money – Sell your value, Government Education grants, financial support from departments, free webinars
Webinars: Adobe, Allen Interactions, CLL

1) Think Creatively
2) Use Community Resources
3) Give away your job: gift of managing learners
4) Gift of content development
5) Gift of organization and development
6) Be frugal

Audio – Community theater or local colleges with theater department. Who in your company has a good voice?
Snowball mics (with shock stand and pop filter), – audio/video tracks, interactions. Apple Loops (garage band)
Cheap soundbooth – Amazon search – “Portable Sound Booth” ($26)
Cheaper alternative to pop filter – Pantyhose

Instructional Design vs. Creativity – Can There Be Only One? #devlearn

Presented by Willi Savanye


  • Everyone wants to learn, so make learning relevant and fun
  • Any ID model is a toolkit. It’s okay to use it the way you want, such as doing steps in different order or skipping steps
  • Use active learning: Get learners to care, or to do something with the information they learn
  • When making mockups, make them imperfect so that people are more likely to give critical feedback

Three key ideas:

  • Attracting Value – Use visuals, make it short and easy, use a hook to focus attention. Relevant titles and good questions can attract value
  • Holding Value – Tie the information you’re conveying to learner motivations. Text and graphics hook the learner. They should be understandable and interactive.
  • Communicating Value – Send a message to the learner that they care about. Correct misperceptions, expand and challenge currently held views.

Curiosity – Build on curiosity as a hook. Ask questions, challenge perceptions. Arouse curiosity, allow learners to manipulate the ideas they work with, give them concrete examples.


  • Maps and advanced organizers – Focus the learners by using headings and cues to direct their attention
  • Visual organizers
  • Repetition, contiguity – Helps with emphasizing a point. Keep related points close to one another
  • Scenario learning – Sometimes when using a scenario, it’s better if the scenario is about someone else, rather than the learner. Ex: “You are the manager of a…” vs. “Joe Bob is the manager of a…” Writing scenarios about another person is especially helpful when using the scenario to illustrate common mistakes that people make.
  • When assessing learning, go from finish to start. See what your learners are currently doing. See how you affected their decision to act that way. Was that part of the design or tha toutcome important? Adjust as needed.

The Changing Role of the Instructional Designer #devlearn

Presented by Mary Mclean-Hely


  • National Education Technology Plan – Process document from the Obama Administration
  • We are living in a connected learning environment rich with learning modules, resources, offline practice activities, and social media
  • Project development: More marketing-focused, focused on learner engagement, innovation
  • Learning Design combinations: mashups of different learning epistemologies
  • Managing Knowledge: digital curator, fostering communities
  • Assessment: Learner assessment is less focused on displaying knowledge, and more focused on the learner’s ability apply the knowledge.

New trends for instructional design job tasks:

  • Analysis: More learner focused filtered with a consumer point of view. It’s important for ID’s to make businesses case for the learning they create.
  • Learning Theory: Instructional design is grounded in Constructivism, social learning, interaction oriented, understanding by design, universal design for learning.
  • Content Development: Content is more nonlinear, includes social interactions, allows for collaboration over geography and time, uses less text, emphasizes organizational knowledge
  • Media Technology: Learning management systems, social media, personal learning networks

Today’s Instructional Designer should have the following core competencies:

  • Able to conduct audience research
  • Grounds design in learning theory
  • Able to develop a learning plan
  • Has Clear writing skills
  • Able to arrange topics into conceptual chunks
  • Able to write for audio/scriptwriting for the ear
  • Able to development activities
  • Able to Storyboard
  • Should be tech savvy
  • Understands the interplay of word, audio, image
  • Able to collaborate, be a project manager, and communicate clearly

ID’s these days specialize in the following tracks:

  • Application Specialist – Using and creating technologies and apps
  • Community Manager – A consultant who keeps conversations going in social media, seeds forums and other discussion areas with questions.
  • Film Expertise – using video for learning.
  • Product designer – product development, innovation cycles, customers and their needs, business focus.

The Technicalities of Assessing for Effective Gain #devlearn

Presented by Neil Lasher

We often ask questions without thinking about the value of the answers we might elicit. Or we ask questions where we don’t know what the answer will be, or we don’ know what the next question will be after the first question.

There are two reasons for doing assessment:

  • Assessment of learning, either evaluative or summative. This is done after the fact to gauge performance. In assessment as evaluation, a student who is confident will try to hide what they don’t know, will always look only for the right answer, will focus only on the grade, and will compare themselves to others.
  • Assessment for learning, more diagnostic or formative. This occurs continuously throughout learning, and is used for improvement. In assessment as improvement, learners are more likely to be more open about what they don’t understand, be open to ideas and answers, and will want to know how much they’ve improved since the last time they checked in.

What kinds of questions should we be asking? The kind that:

  • Create clarity
  • Construct better working relations
  • Help people think critically and analytically
  • Inspire seeing things in innovative ways
  • Encourage breakthrough thinking, challenge assumptions
  • Create ownership of solutions

Other notes:

  • Questions should only start with the words How, What, Where, Why, and When
  • To really gather information, define what you want to know in the reply
  • Students are test-wise. They can guess that the right answer is usually the answer option that’s the longest.

Capturing and Deploying Learning Experiences that Impact Performance #devlearn

Presented by Ken Spero

While downsizing can save money, administrators often forget this means those who remain are left to do more. Further, downsizing also means losing out on a wealth of experience that may be difficult to recreate. In this session, Ken Spero provided tips on how simulation can be used to capture experience and share it with others in an organization. Scenarios with complex branching introduce decision making and allow learners to experience consequences.

Why use simulations?

  • Using emotional engagement with the environment in a sim helps the content settle more.
  • Sims help develop gut reactions, and are a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Sims encourage mindfulness
  • Sims let you accelerate time and experience consequences that normally take a long time to develop.
  • Sims help learners navigate through options, determine potential consequences, make a decision, then take action.


  • The key to early engagement is starting with a good story. However, it’s better to frame the simulation in a context that’s slightly different from the learner’s current context. (Though no reason was given for this)
  • Don’t provide a back button. If the learner makes a mistake, let them carry through to the end to experience the consquences of their mistake, then let them start from the beginning again.
  • When providing options, don’t necessarily include all the right ones. If a learner disagrees with the provided option, that gets them thinking about what they’d do instead. In fact, before providing the right answer, insert a screen with the following thinking question, “What would you do instead?”
  • To make a sim more realistic, interject surprises and interruptions.
  • Subject Matter Experts don’t necessarily know what they know, and may find it hard to quantify their experience. It’s better to start with a “best guess” and allow the SME to make corrections.
  • If the scenario is very complex, consider just using two answer paths – the correct path and “the other options”. For “the other options”, someone could jump in and say, “I wouldn’t do that.” This gives the illusion of freedom but allows the learner to stay closer on track.

Things to include in a sim:

  • Consequences
  • A scorecard can demonstrate trade offs. For example, include scales such as, “Save money vs. employee happiness”. Rate the decisions made on those scales.

When shouldn’t you use a sim?

  • Not for instructions of new content.
  • Not for procedural learning (where there’s only one right answer)

One Learning Challenge – Three Designers Put Their Skills to the Test #devlearn

The Challenge: Develop an online training module to help fire-related professionals (fire inspectors, building managers, firemen, etc.), identify fire door builds and analyze each build for compliance with current fire codes.  The audience is familiar with the regulations related to fire door safety, however, support was needed to increase the exposure these professional had to the different types of hardware that can make up a fire door.

And a note: Unfortunately I forgot to type down names on this one.

First designer
The first question she explored was to identify the primary sensory inputs used in the task so that learning could be built towards those inputs. Design features included a scenario, chunked information, and testing as a self check. A pre-test with extensive feedback for the wrong answers was provided. It was also important to include an “I’m Stuck” button to provide performance support (helping orient the user about what to do next, for example).

Along the lines of performance support, the design prototype is meant to reinforce the tools fire personnel use to conduct their inspections. A resources icon was available throughout the learning module. Ideally, the resources would also be available as a package that could be downloaded to a mobile device.

Visual design decisions included using a fair amount of white space in case learners were not used to e-Learning.  The designer worked to achieve simplicity in her design.

Second designer
Before the second designer put mouse to mousepad, she began with a number of questions for the subject matter expert. The goal of these questions was to identify any potential challenges to address through the design. She also recommended the use of an analysis checklist to frame the assessment of the problem to be addressed. One is available from E-Learning Uncovered (

The challenges identified for this particular project included wide range audience varying in gender and age. The question also came up regarding what defined success.  Some fields have a wider margin of error than others.  It’s okay to be 99% correct as a professional writer, since there’s an editor to fall back on.  But what is the margin of error for someone who has to ensure a fire door will work as intended?

Motivation was a important to address in the design of the module. This designer believes in starting with something big to encourage a 100% accuracy job.  She used a three pronged approach:
1. Advertisement – She started with an advertisement for the course, using actors who were exemplars of people taking the course. The powerpoint featured images and quotes, in a “Ken Burns” style documentary to emphasize the importance of taking the course. The ad was a simple powerpoint slide show with fade in/out and zoom in/out effects.
2. Actors from this advertisement were used as the cast of characters in the training to promote continuity.
3. The course also incorporated the resources the learners where to use professionally.

Other suggestions included using Google to learn more about your audience, and to frame design using Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping technique. This technique gets to the root of the task the learning will need to do on the job, and the information they’ll need to learn to support that behavior.

Third presenter
This designer used a two pronged solution – A performance aid to be used both during and after the course. This performance aid would have been formatted for Mobile devices, but a smart phone and a paper version would be available.

Any bullet points listed in the current resources would be converted to checklists that force the user to look at and confirm or reject each item.  The designer also advocated using pictures of common issues as a means of passing on wisdom.

The development process used Michael Allen’s framework of identifying Context, Challenge, Course Activity, and Feedback
Context: Understanding the learner’s role and other situational details
Challenge: Interwoven with Context, this is what the learner needs to do based on context
Coures Activity: Begin with a challenge to arouse engagement. Use emotional response as a motivator (“guilt is good”).  The activity needs to be a meaningful interaction simluating real world thoughts and processes.
Feedback: Show the learner how their decisions panned out.

The project itself had three levels.  First, identify the fire doors in the building.  Next, inspect the fire door using the interface built by the designer to replicate the form the learner needs to fill out.  Finally, Provide performance feedback.

A last bit of advice from this designer is to have the users interact with the learning module the same way they’d interact in life.

Useful tools, tips, and techniques:
OmniGrapple (for Mac only) is a diagram and flow chart creator
Finding inspiration – The designers suggest looking at good elearning design to learn how to do it yourself.
Screenshots – You never know what you’ll need, so screenshot everything and then pick what you really want later on.
Allen Interactions – Good source for looking at exemplar online courses
Consider looking at serious games and educational simulations for more examples of interactive interfaces.
Healthcare companies and insurance companies also have a fair amount of freely available online courses from which to gather inspiration.
Even youtube has some examples of good ID.
Resource for hiring actors or avatars

Commonalities among the three designs: Use of simulations/practice activities.  Having performance support tools at the ready during the training.  Using realistic tools wherever possible.

Some discussion was dedicated to the subject of how to pitch an ID idea to a company.  Ideas included using your previous work as exemplars, as well as exemplars of potential work to see if you and the company are a good fit. Note the potential work doesn’t have to be your own creation. It can be from another source, as long as the source is given credit and that you as an ID can live up to the promise of replicating the tool.

It was also suggested to build a rough prototype so that the client can get a feel for it. Again, this prototype doesn’t have to be from your own collection of designed works. Remember to clearly state it as someone else’s prototype, and be sure you can recreate the prototype from start to finish.

On a final note, Illustrations are better than images, which are better than video.  Images work better than video since the information may change rapidly.

Performance Boosters: Using Technology to Enhance How We Work and Learn #devlearn

Presented by Allison Rossett

Unfortunately I missed the first half of this session. From the part I was able to attend, Dr. Rossett identified how learning needs to evolve in order to address how learners interact with available knowledge.

A key question asked was, “Why should someone memorize information if they know where to find it?”  There are a number of performance boosters, or supports, available to learners now.  There are boosters that help someone in the dark, such as using WebMD to start figuring out what a combination of symptoms means. There are expert systems to help knowledge workers make a decision.  And there’s learning on demand, such as Khan Apps.

In looking back on my notes, I have to confess to not really remembering what most of the stuff I read means.  I did write down one key word, though – “Applify”.  The idea that educators will need to provide the development and support a learner needs right when they need it (I think).

A Non Graphic Designer’s Guide to Good Looking Learning #devlearn

Presented by Mark Harter

Three key tips –

  1. Ditch Photoshop. Harter recommends Fireworks, but I’m personally a fan of The GIMP, myself.
  2. Steal (legally) from others
  3. Know your basics – Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proximity
  • Alignment: Put related things in line with each other
  • Contrast: Make the constrast strong – Make it pop
  • Repetition: Tie things together thematically
  • Proximity: Put related things near each other

Time was spent demonstrating how to use the pen tool and bezier curves to select an object and remove the background from it. This is somewhat difficult to describe in a written format.

Sources for free stuff:

Microsoft Images ( – Using these, you don’t have to worry about copyright and credit. Note that each image has a style number. You can use this style number to find clip art that is similarly themed. Also note that clipart can be broken apart and recolored to give it more variety.

Fonts – Google Web Fonts provides free, open source fonts for the web ( There’s a line of code to add, and then it can be incorporated via CSS.

#devlearn DevLearn 11 Keynotes and the Future of Cheating

At DevLearn 11, keynotes were presented by Dr. Michio Kaku, Tom Koulopolous, and Steve Rosenbaum. Who knew that these keynotes on future trends would also be related to cheating, academic honesty, and the next phase of learning?

According to Dr. Michio Kaku, in the near future, processors will cost a penny. When processors cost a penny, we’ll wear glasses or contact lenses that display whatever information we want, when we want. We’ll have artificial intelligence and expert systems making decisions for us. Everything will be wired with sensors constantly collecting data about us. The cloud will be everywhere.

Tom Koulopolous gave some (admittedly hard for me to understand) insight on what we should do with these possibilities and where we should drive innovation. It’s not about creating the next great invention, but creating the next great experience. We often invent things before we realize what we’re going to do with them, such as Apple products. In many ways, we don’t shape innovation, rather innovation shapes us. The challenge is in finding ways to use technology intelligently.

Steve Rosenbaum’s keynote provides practical direction for the technology evolution Dr. Kaku predicts and the experience innovation that Tom Koulopolous inspires us to drive. What do we do when technology and the speed of innovation is so rapid that it produces more data every two days than the amount of data generated from the beginning of time until 2003?

Rosenbaum suggests data curation will be the key to making sense of all this information. As a data curator, it will be our responsibility to filter through the sea of knowledge out there and repackage it into something our social circle can easily digest. We’ll each be curators for each other, sharing the knowledge that matters to us.

Soaking in these three keynotes, I see how the role of educators may need to change in response. In a world where knowledge is everywhere and instantly accessible, the model of educator as gatekeeper of knowledge becomes less relevant. Instead, it becomes increasingly important to be wayfinders and sense-makers of knowledge, and to pass on those wayfinding and sense-making skills to the next generation.

While attending DevLearn I also participated in Sloan-C’s workshop on Academic Integrity. Serious money is invested in tools to combat plagiarism and cheating. And still, cheating is heavily prevalent. In one study cited by Lori McNabb, one of the workshop facilitators, 70% of undergraduate student were found to cheat at least once in an academic year.

In a cloud-integrated society where we are literally swimming in information, are the old standards of memorization and taking tests without any supports still viable? If we do reach Dr. Kaku’s vision of knowing everything we need to know instantly, if expert systems and AI will be in place to make better decisions than we can, what happens to the definition of “cheating”?

What I think it means is that instead of focusing our time and money forcing students to perform while disconnected from knowledge to meet a grading standard, we should be guiding them to build deeper and more meaningful connections with the numerous sources of knowledge out there. We should take advantage of the affordances of all information, all the time, everywhere. The Academic Integrity workshop promoted learning activities where students synthesize multiple sources of knowledge, reflect on the connections they discover, and envision how that knowledge mashup applies to their own personal experience. This was offered as an alternative to assignments where one can simply copy and paste from Wikipedia.

In using these activities to guide students to develop their own methods of sense-making, attribution is key. The workshop went into great detail on creating an ethical community that values academic honesty as a key method to combating plagiarism. Koloupolous described younger generations who feel copyright laws and intellectual property stifles innovation. I have to wonder if any of these young folks have their own work created stolen and repackaged under someone else’s name without receiving credit for it. Mashups are a beautiful thing, but let’s promote acknowledging our information sources as much as we promote curation and remixing of information.

There is one major flaw. The nursing licensure exam, the NCLEX, is still a closed book exam. And while it’s fairly simple to suggest to a faculty member to make their online test open book, a national licensing organization is a much bigger fish. Tom Koulopolous did mention that it takes 50 years for innovations to develop, simply because it takes that long for the generation in which the innovation started to die off. I hope I don’t have to wait that long.