Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Public Promise of Certification

Every credential (certification, degree, license, accreditation) makes public promises.  There may be specific promises to each credential, all credentials make three basic promises:                                     

  • the credential holder will be better off with the credential than without
  • the industry will be better off with a credential providing standards for practitioners
  • the general public (those receiving services from the credential holder) will be able to see and experience a difference in services received by credential holders.  

Yes, those are positive differences.  There's no point in doing this if the difference is negative.

That is, a public promise of any credential (certification, in particular) is that the world is a better place because that credential exists.

Now, comes the challenge of measuring, and proving that the promises have been met.

The individual is better off 

How might we know that an individual credential holder has benefited from the certification?

  • Gets work in the field 
  • Gets promotions or get promotions sooner
  • Receives higher pay than an uncredentialed person 
  • Is perceived as valued and valuable 

Work

Many instructional designers look at themselves and say, "I have work; therefore, I don't need a certification".  They might be consultants working through staffing and consulting houses or they might have full employment or they may be working irregularly as independents.  They have work. So, they don't see a need for credentials, because they are working today. 

However, as individuals mature and their skills increase, they find themselves competing against the newcomers.  Now, newcomers keep the field fresh.  They also help keep the pay scale down. Without a credential, it can be more and more difficult to ask for the higher salaries and promotions that different your experience from that of a newcomer.

In addition, hot new tools, theories, and methodologies comes along.  As IDs we enjoy the energy that these innovations bring to our field.  However, regardless of experience, innovations also dumped back to beginning competing against the least experienced members of the field.  This becomes a career form of that board game, Chutes and Ladders (Milton Bradley; Hasbro) or Snakes and Ladders (UK).  Without an external third-party endorsement of ones skills, the instructional design field is much like Chutes and Ladders. ID's work hard to demonstrate their skills, build credibility, learn new tools/theories/methods and generally stay on top of their field.  That is, each ID works to climb their individual career ladder through demonstration of work and skill.  Then, along comes a 'chute' -- a new elearning tool, a new learning theory, a new development methodology, the need to be a project manager as well as an ID, etc., etc.

In addition, having work today, does not mean that one will be employed in the future.  That next chute could simply be a downsizing or recession.

Credentials do not guarantee that you as an individual will have work; however, they do work toward demonstrating that their credential holders have jobs and better jobs than those who are not credentialed.  In a world with credentialed players, the non-credentialed player is the one who is more competing for work less successfully.

Promotion


Promotion is a harder concept in the instructional design world.  A few very large full-employment situations do have levels of instructional design (ID-1, 2,3 or Learning Analyst, ID, Learning Architect, etc.).  These organizations typically have more than fifty instructional designers, making it worth their time to different skill levels.  Otherwise, employers seldom make different skill levels or provide promotions.

Independent consultants do not see promotions at all in their career.  In fact, any beginning learning consultant can bill themselves as a Learning Architect or Learning Strategist, if they want to be known as such.  They is no requirement that they demonstrate advanced experience levels in order to use an advanced level title.

Consultants who subcontract through staffing or consulting houses seldom see an opportunity to move up to a higher rung in these organization’s temporary hire career ladder.  At best an ID may become a Sr. ID on their payment scale.  More about pay in a moment.

In the world of promotions, the movement upward is tied to pay and respect -- the next two public promises for IDs.  Job titles are one reflection of promotion.  Check out the job boards.  Instructional designers have very few job titles that differentiate skill level.  You’ll seldom see listing for and ID-3, Learning Architect or Learning Strategist.  Our field is weak in promote-ability.  

Higher Pay

Everyone wants better pay.  Advanced degrees and credentials are often used as hallmarks of advancing skill that warrant better pay.   Strangely enough, individuals coming out of college with a doctoral degree often find themselves making entry level salaries.   A degree does not constitute higher pay.

Internal consultant IDs usually see an annual salary increase along with bonuses.  Meanwhile, external consultants subcontracting through staffing/consulting houses fight for $5 an hour increases and more balanced projects (ones that don’t require 60 hours a week for 6 weeks, then leave them without work for 6 months).  The independent consultant building a practice usually works that 60-hour week in order to manage the administration and marketing of their business (themselves) and is able to bill at a rate acceptable to their clientele.  That is, their first year or two of projects bill a very low rates.  Slowly, over time, they are able to increase their rates and create a form of increasing pay scale.

In this mixed pay environment, credentials will eventually lead the credential holder to an position of where they can prove their worth and ask for higher salaries.  Certified individuals often do see the benefit of being certified, because industry values the certification process.  Certifications, especially evidence-based certifications, are deemed to demonstrate business acumen, while college degrees tend to be de-valued as being more academic than business orient.  Certification can make a difference in your paycheck.

Valued and Valuable


Everyone wants to be valued by their employer whether that is a full-employer supervisor or manager or a consulting client.  Proving ones value to an employer is usually all about doing the work first.   This means that anyone changing jobs or entering the field finds it difficult to demonstrate enough value to generate interest in hiring them.  We have all been in that position and asked that question: “how do I get my first job, when I have no experience to show for it?”

Now, think about being 50 years old with 25 years of experience and losing your job.  Suddenly, with massive experience, you are back in the soup with newbies trying desperately to land a job (or client).

Your experience has been devalued by the process of losing your job.   You are worthless… and expensive.  Who wants to hire a 50-year old ID?  In 2007 -2011, this was a common phenomenon due to recession.  By the cyclic laws finance, it will happen again every 10-15 years.  

What do evidence-based certifications provide that experience and degrees do not?

They provide a third-party review that validates that work meets standards.   The field must value the standards, of course.  This is a challenge for the instructional design and development world, because they have been a poor cousin to human resources whipped about by the winds of changing technologies, theories, and methodologies.  Just visit some of the social media discussion boards, everyone and their brother is promote a new theory, a new technology, or a modified methodology guaranteed to make your development more effective.  Into this chaotic stewpot, The Institute for Performance Improvement (www.tifpi.org) has provided a series evidence-based certifications specifically for instructional designers and developers.  These certifications are based on work that the ID has already done and measures that work as “insufficient”, “acceptable” or “outstanding” against nine standards.

Certified individuals can use their certification as a platform to demonstrate value.  Individuals with evidence-based certifications reviewed by field experts can ‘talk up’ the fact that their work has been reviewed and validated by experts.  This provides immediate proven value and increases ones valuableness to clients and employers.

The industry will be better off

The second set of public promises are to the industry (and employers) receiving credential holders. Credentials purport to improve the industry by setting standards  and ensuring that credential holders meet those standards.  Where the credential is evidence-based (i.e., based on work samples rather than on testing), the industry has proof that an individual has produce work to standards at least once.

While this is not proof that the individual will always do work to standards, it does increase the chances that they want to work at that level and will strive to produce work that is at least that good and, perhaps, better.

Every field has charlatans, individuals who talk a good line of schmooze but delivery poorly.  These may be individuals who are great sales people – great at selling themselves, at any rate – or just individuals who have learned how to play the smoke and mirrors game to give appearance that they are producing work, while getting others to cover for them.  

Well-structured certifications take this into account and provide techniques that will allow them to not certify individuals whose work does not warrant it.  How?  The following is not a comprehensive list, but it will show some key techniques used to weed out the charlatans.

  • Blind reviews – a review where the reviewer does not know the person whose work is being reviewed and does not know who else may also be reviewing that individual’s work (a double-blind review).  Blind reviews mean that reviewer must judge the work, not the individual, their rank, or popularity.  
  • Rubrics – a written description of what performances or outputs of a performance demonstrate working to standard.  Combined with any kind of expert review, rubrics provide a clear structure for evaluation of work.
  • Standards –set a minimal expectation for the field.  Standards are set through a job/task analysis or a practice analysis.  These standards, then, become the measure of success in acquiring a credential, whether that success is a passing score on a knowledge test or passing rating on an evidence-based rubric in a double-blind review.    
  • Proof of eligibility (e.g., experience, degrees, specific courses or schooling, passing scores and pre-test, etc.).  Where the goals is to demonstrate advanced skills, the eligibility requirements can be quite intense.  Where the goal is to set a minimal bar, the eligibility requirements will be less intense.  
  • Evidence – in a testing-based certification, the evidence is knowledge validated through testing.  However, evidence-based certifications require proof of real work done for real clients.  Evidence here usually combines a reflection (an essay about the way that the candidate met that standard on the project submitted) plus artifacts or exhibits that demonstrate the standards. 
  • Attestations – this letter from a client or supervisor usually attests to the fact that the individual candidate did do the work that he or she is submitting.  Attestations provide a level of assurance that the work is original and valid.  Attestations are important when working to ‘spec’ is not desired or when candidates are not given equally valid possible cases or projects against which they are measured (think of the college entrance essays).  Attestations provide a measure of reality.   
  • Code of Ethics – every field has inherent ethical standards for everything from client’s information security to finances to legalities.  A signed agreement to the fields code of ethics is a starting point that says the individual pledge to behaving ethically.  However, that does not guarantee ethical behavior.  Therefore, organizations backing certifications must be empowered to respond to non-ethical behavior by removing individuals who demonstrate that they did not live up to their pledge. 
  • Continuing education – certifications are time-delimited.  Some are annual, while others may be on 3-, 5-, or even 7-year renewal cycles.  Continuing education is one of the keys to renewal.  It is proof that the individual, once certified, does not sit on their laurels, but continues to grow within the field. When they ceased to grow and contribute, their certification ends.  

For a full-spectrum list of credential development techniques, consider taking courses in credential development.  Dr. Judith Hale provides a free webinar, Overview of Credentialing, that will start you down the credentialing path.  The point here is that the certification credential process is designed to bring the qualified individuals acclaim for their skills while weeding out those who do not qualify.

The general public


In every profession, there is a general public who receive the work of field and is served by individuals in the field, but who really do not know enough about the field to make informed judgments.  They know what they like and they may or may not be able to describe what they need.

Those personal perspectives are their (our) points of reference or personal needs lenses are the general public’s basis for judgment of the work in the field and practitioners.

Consider your own response to medical advice, for example.  Unless you were trained in medicine, your response is about personal perspectives and not about the science of the field.  Your personal needs lenses inform you whether you are receiving the medical care that you need and want… or not.
Likewise, as instructional designers and developers work with clients (internal or external), their work is evaluated and valued by a ‘public’ who are viewing it through their own personal needs lenses and not through the lens of work quality or working to standards.  ID’s often roll their eyes at the requests that they get from clients, but this is all about the fact that the client is unaware that their personal need lenses are interfering with their ability to get what they need.

What IDs (and any certified professional) wants is for their professional expertise to be acknowledged and valued by the general public.

In return, the general public appreciates certifications and other credentials as way to validate the practitioner in front of them has valid experience and will (probably) give them the best advice available.

Certifications help the general public feel that they are getting the best of the field; they increase confidence by the public in the practitioner.  They also ease the relationship between the certificant and the client-of-the-day by increasing that client’s confidence in them.

Are you certifiable? 


We have considered the role of the public promise of credentials (certifications, in particular) to individuals seeking certification, to the industry and employers of those certified and not certified in the field, and to the general public.  

What insights or ah-ha’s did you have while reading this?

Where these the promises you would have expected from a certification?  If not, what would you have expected?

One statement that comes up often when a new certification, like the ID certification, rolls out is: ‘Is this in demand by employers?’  Of course, for a new certification, it is not, yet, in demand.  However, this is an opportunity to be on the leading edge or on the trailing middle.   Individuals who step up to early certification build the base that causes employers and the general public to begin to, first, ‘prefer’ those who are certified and, eventually, ‘require’ the certification.  Individuals who wait, find themselves in the unenviable position of having to play catch-up when the field moves to requiring a certification.

So, are you a certifiable ID?  Check out the eligibility requires, the rubrics, the standards, and the process for application to this evidence-based credential in one of 15 different learning solutions.

Remember, you can acquire multiple ID certifications to build up your portfolio.  Each certification comes with a mark and badge.  I am now an ID (SEL) – the mark for Instructional Designer/ Developer of Synchronous Elearning.   

Join the ranks of certified IDs.  Learn how to use your current work projects to demonstrate that work to standards and deserve to be valued as an competent instructional designer or developer.




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

IDs Use Standards: Ensure Relevance

Standards are the measures that IDs use when determining whether they will sign-off on a learning solution they have created, or not – whether their name goes on the final product.

The competent instructional designer/developer (ID) ensures relevance:

What makes something “relevant” and something else “irrelevant”?

Merriam Webster defines relevant as “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.”

A Google search comes up with “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand."


Consider the song, Turn! Turn! Turn! based on a bible verse Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, (Peter Seeger (songwriter), hit recording by the Byrds ).

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. 

Relevance; it’s a no-brainer.  Of course, instructional designers and developers want to ensure relevance.  However, it can turn out to be a bit more challenging than one might expect. 

Relevance is about the connection between now and some other time, event, place, or person.  Consider the Steampunk movement, which turns Victorian and Edwardian cast-offs into 21st century functional art or connects these eras via science fiction. 

Relevance is in the eye of the beholder.  So, how do instructional designers and developers ensure relevance? 

Relevant Content

Content is one factor.  Certainly, it is important that the topics in the learning solution focus on key learning requirements (hence, the need for learning goals or objectives as guide to what is important here).  However, much content is ephemeral and situational.  What Company A teaches about leadership may be very different from the key topics in Company B’s leadership courses.  Yet, both can be effective and relevant.  What was highly relevant in 1950 is much less valued in 2014.  Relevance in content can be sticky.  

However, there are ways to create relevance. Perhaps one of the great draws to the field of instructional design is the challenge (and fun) of creating relevant activities that connect the audience with the content.  Creativity is required to find solutions that connect learner’s previous experience and background to the learning process and outcomes – creating clear relevance for learners. Here IDs create structures, order, and activities that reflect real work and build on previous skills.  A lab may have the tools of the trade and opportunities to identify and resolve problems followed by debriefs and feedback on success of the resolution.  Online learning may be missing the tools access and still focus on problem resolution and feedback and provide feedback on the success of the problem resolution.  However, many great on-line learning programs find ways to mock up the action of tools, so that, during online learning and still several steps away from the reality of the workplace or lab, learners can try out the tools.   Each course is a new creative challenge for the ID trying to bring the learning into ever-sharper relevance.  This is the joy of instructional design and development, even if an ID has worked with the content many times.  

Case Study: Relevant Modules

Our intrepid ID received an assignment to work as part of a large team that would develop 60 instructor-led learning modules for three interrelated software programs in healthcare laboratories.  The needs assessment had been done, the audiences were defined, the scope of each module was set, and there were screen-captures or mock-ups of screens needed.  However, as this ID worked on her assigned modules, it became clear that the modules each had different audiences and that sequencing of modules was not clear by audience.  In talking the problem over with other IDs, she realized that the problem was larger than her assignment; everyone had concerns.  The team discussed the problem and decided to do a revisit of content with the subject experts in order to define sequences and audience sizes.  Of course, our ID got the assignment.  

As she worked with subject experts, they began scratching off modules that would have been intended for super-small audiences (less than 5 individuals who could never come together for one class) and defined workflow processes so that learning could be organized by workflow.  The very small audiences would get 1:1 coaching anyway, and really did not need a classroom event.  The solution save everyone time and money and increased relevance for the IDs doing the course development and for the learners whose course would now progress in workflow order.    


Certified IDs

Consider the definition and performances listed for The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI’s) standard Ensures Relevance

Definition:   creates content and activities that address the learner’s background and work experiences.

Performances that demonstrate this standard:

  • Explain the needs of the learning audience and how the proposed solution addresses those needs.
  • Describes for the learner what the learning process and outcomes will be.
    • Objectives
    • Schedules
    • Course outline
    • Module structures, such as overview, questions, content, review
  • Creates activities that connect learner’s previous experience and background to the learning process and outcomes.
  • Ensures that feedback opportunities address the learner’s performance.

Individuals applying for learning solution certifications with marks and badges will be asked to describe ways in which he or she accomplished at least 2:4 performances (required) two of which must be:

Describes ways in which he or she accomplished at least the following two required performances:
  • Describes for the learner what the learning process and outcomes will be.
    • Objectives
    • Schedules
    • Course outline
    • Module structures, such as overview, questions, content, review
  • Creates activities that connect learner’s previous experience and background to the learning process and outcomes.

Can you see yourself doing these performances?  Can you see yourself doing at least the two required performances with every learning solution?  Can you see other IDs doing these performances, perhaps differently, but still doing them? If so, you need to consider applying for a learning solutions development credential.  Get the ID Certification Handbook at www.tifpi.org > Certifications> ID Badges, where there is more information about ID certifications. 

Want a list of all nine ID standards

Would you like to know about the study -- a practice analysis -- that TIfPI Practice Leaders did to generate and validate nine standards, including Elicits Performance Practice?   Would you like a copy of the infographic with standards and learning solution certification types? 





Wednesday, November 26, 2014

IDs Use Standards: Ensures Context Sensitivity

Standards are the measures that IDs use when determining whether they will sign-off on a learning solution they have created, or not – whether their name goes on the final product.


The competent instructional designer/developer (ID) ensures context sensitivity.

Little things can be jarring; they jangle the nerves and create distractions.  Little things out of context can become blow up disproportionately to become flaming issues.  

P-20 education and workplace (adult education) often come to loggerheads over terms simply because their contexts and expectations based on context differ.  One of the highly touted differences between childhood education (pedagogy) and adult education (andragogy) is the undeniable fact that adults bring years of experience.  


      (Side note: having worked with special needs children and children of abuse and poverty, I content that children bring significant experience to their learning, especially their P-20 learning as well... experience is the essential difference according to experts.)  

Creating learning without considering the learner’s previous experience is futile at best.  This may be the reason that so many courses spend the first twenty-to-thirty percent of the course defining and building common experience bases.  During this time early in the course, the instructor and learners get acquainted, learn about each other’s jobs and roles and experiences, discover the course goals compared to the learner’s goals, and map out the course’s structure.  Along the way, they discover whether there are potential barriers such as language, technology, physical environment, or just a mis-match between learner and course intent. 

Why spend that much precious time setting context?  Because, context is important.  In fact, learning will not occur until the learner sees a need for it (also see; The Teachable Moment).   When learners have context, they learn. When context is missing, they struggle.

For a moment, consider the impact of requiring a course with 25%-30% of it’s content focused on US laws, regulations or code.  Contextually, this is important for learners within the United States.  However, does it work in Puerto Rico, China, Australia, Canada, India, Greece, Switzerland, or Sweden?  Language differences aside, the issue of laws, regulations and codes needs to addressed in order for the rest of learning to be effective outside the US. This an essential context issue. 

Now, consider the impact of words.  The US government has enacted the Plain Language Act [http://www.plainlanguage.gov/] requiring government agencies to write in ways that avoid confusion.   They are improving, but the task is monumental.   Very few courses start out by defining the reading level.  Even fewer courses intentionally choice a ‘voice’ for their course.  Yet, both reading level and voice can impact learners’ ability to learn. 


Case Study #1: Fun and Games

Once upon a time many decades ago, (before web-based everything) our intrepid instructional designer had the opportunity to work on a CD-based learning game.  The project team included a skilled technical writer.   This writer started his participation in the project by asking what we (the project team) wanted our learner/player to hear in their head when they played.  It took the team awhile to work it through.  Eventually, it was clear.  We wanted to game to come across as “fun”, even though it was teaching highly technical terms.   The writer re-worked every sentence in the games material to echo that “fun” idea.  What magic did he employ?  I’m still not sure.  Technical writers are valuable members of instructional design teams, because they bring an impartial eye to context and the language of that context.


Case Study #1: Developmental Delayed Hispanic Young Adults

In another time and place, an instructional designer was asked to build a computer skills lab for developmentally delayed young adults (17-21) whose primary language was Spanish, but did speak some English and needed to build technology-specific language in both Spanish and English.  They needed to be able to access computers to write emails and text messages, visit websites such as sports and hobbies, and they need to be able to computer play games.  They needed to be able to talk with their peers and co-workers about using computers.  The course designed a very repeatable lab which each learner could do multiple times to strengthen his or her skills (keyboard, mouse, and language skills).  The lab provided them with many different job aids on binder-ring.  Each index card for the ring had a term in both English and Spanish, a short explanation (under 10 words) in both English and Spanish, and a picture of the computer part or term.  For this learning, the context was concrete and factual.  The learners loved it and loved having job aids that they could share.  The shareable nature of the cards provided context for them across learning, work, and home.


Definition of a Standard – Ensure Context Sensitivity

Consider the definition and performances listed for The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI’s) standard Ensures Context Sensitivity.


Definition:
considers the conditions and circumstances that are relevant to the learning content, event, process, and outcomes.

Performances that demonstrate this standard:
  • Creates solutions that acknowledge:
  • §  Culture
    §  Prior experience
    §  Relationships to work
    §  Variability in content
  • Verifies that materials reflect the capabilities of audience (e.g., readability, language localization, plain language, global English, physical capabilities, technology limitations, etc.).
  • Maps to other learning opportunities
  • Aligns content with learning objectives and desired outcomes
Individuals applying for learning solution certifications with marks and badges will be asked to describe ways in which he or she accomplished at least 3:4 performances (required) one of which must be:
  • Creates solutions that acknowledge:
  • §  Culture
    §  Prior experience
    §  Relationships to work
    §  Variability in content

Can you see yourself doing these performances?  Can you see yourself doing at least the three of the four required performances with every learning solution?  

Can you see other IDs doing these performances, perhaps differently, but still doing them?  If so, you need to consider applying for a learning solutions development credential.  Get the ID CertificationHandbook and visit www.tifpi.org for more information.

Want a list of all nine IDstandards?   

Would you like to know about the study -- a practice analysis -- that TIfPI Practice Leaders did to generate and validate nine standards, including Elicits Performance Practice?   Would you like a copy of the infographic with standards and learning solution certification types?   


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

IDs Use Standards: Enhances Retention and Transfer

The competent instructional designer/developer (ID) enhances retention and transfer (of learning).  Standards are the measures that IDs use when determining whether they will sign-off on a learning solution they have created, or not – whether their name goes on the final product.

When we look at many different learning theories, they are all enhancing retention.  The point of learning is to change the way that the learner sees the world, thinks, and then acts.  As the field matures, practitioners must learn more about memory retrieval and the way that brains and emotions work -- but that discussion is for another day.  Today, learning is all about giving the learner a reason to change (motivation), giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to act in new ways, giving them practice with feedback. For example, Generative Learning Theory promotes the roles of recall, integration, organization, elaboration -- all ways to promote retention.  

Retention 

Feedback is key here as it provides information to the learner about their progress.  Therefore, effective retention techniques include the tools that assess learner’s current state at several points during the learning (pre, peri, post). 

Studies of learning retention (as well as our experience) tell us that retention of new knowledge and skills degrades over time, if not used.  Therefore, instructional designers have a portfolio of techniques to enhance retention such as:
  • Memory aids (e.g., visuals, infographics, handouts, job aids, acronyms, etc.) 
  • The structure and organization of the learning

o  Sequencing orders the learning events in a logical pattern – A-Z, 1-10, easiest to hardest, process steps, etc.
o  Scaling builds learning components one on top of another increasing complexity and difficulty with each round.
o  Scaffolding removes supports and guidance over time givinglearners more support and direction early in the learning and moving toward greater autonomy and self-discovery as the learner becomes more skillful.
  • Checklists and templates to guide decisions and work products 


All of these techniques are focused on building retention.  Many of them included elements of feedback that allow learners to track progress.

Feedback is an important aspect of retention; it provides the milestones that allow learners to experience improvement and change. The most important feedback may be the one that creates the teachable moment – that moment when a potential learner internalizes the need to learn.  


Transfer

Now, comes the challenge – transfer.  No matter how good the learning is in the learning environment, the ‘rubber meets the road’ when the learner must transfer their learning to their real world – often their work world. 

Many of the memory and retention techniques also work as transfer techniques.  However, every instructional designer/developer soon discovers that no matter what is taught in class, the real world trumps the world created in any learning environment.  If the workplace does not support the use of new skills, the skills are soon mothballed and then forgotten.  Therefore, learning designs that consider and even replicate aspects of the work environment assist the transfer of new skills from the learning environment to the workplace.  


Case Study #1: When 100% = Zero

In a not so distant universe, an instructional design consultant was required to take in-house multiple courses in order to consult in at a company in a highly regulated industry.   The requirement was that every learner (the ID, included) would receive 100% on all courses.  However, there was no pre-test to determine whether a learner had some of the skills and knowledges, no intermediate feedback, no memory aids other than some pretty graphics, and lots of reading.  The final test allowed our learner-cum-consultant to retake the test as many times as needed in order to achieve the required 100% score.  After the second attempt, the testing process was all about tracking down the right answer through trial and error (and documentation of answers given that did or did not work).  Yes, mistakes and failure are important feedback and learning motivators.  However, under this set of conditions, what value did the 100% score have?  How much retention or transfer existed. (Hint: none)  These were beautifully designed learning events with very low retention or transfer... but they did satisfy a regulator requirement.  


Case Study #2: Acts like 1 Yr in 6 Mos

In another universe and several decades ago, an instructional designer was asked to build an on-boarding program for non-traditional software programmers.  The company hired groups of individuals who had never taken computer courses but showed aptitude for logic and interpretation of codes (esp. music, art design, accounting).  The designers job was to provide scaled and scaffolded learning in code development, business communications, customer service and use of in-house tools to manage code and client communications.  Then, she would top it all off with a 10-day goal-based scenario, which is a kind of war game with the setting and details specific to the goals of the workplace.  In this case, the goals were around solving problems with code.  Multiple groups went through this process, then off to work in their new work units.  Several months later, participants and their managers were asked back for a debrief.  The learners said that they did not have enough skills and needed more.  Their managers said that, at 6 months, their new employees were working the way that more traditional hires would have worked at the end of their first year… but, of course, we need more skills sooner. 


Case Study #3: Overheard conversation

While attending a workshop, our instructional designer overheard another participant talking with the workshop presenter.  The participant said:  “My colleagues said that I just had to take this course.  We go back to your course materials, book, and templates all the time.  But, they said, that it was really worth my time to come to the class as well.  And… well, they want me to come back and tell them what’s new in the field, too.” 

Comparison

These three cases bring very different paradigms to the design of the learning and generate very different results.  Retention and transfer aspects of these course designs were handled differently and valued differently.  Their outcomes showed the difference in the design efforts to enhance retention and transfer. 


Definition of a Standard – Enhances Retention and Transfer

Consider the definition and performances listed for The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI’s) standard Enhances Retention and Transfer.

Definition:  Ensures that the learning environment creates and measures recall, recognition, and replication of desired outcomes.

Performances that demonstrate this standard for certification:
  • Chooses elements of the “real” work environment, tools, and technology to include in the practice learning environment.
  • Measures readiness for learning.
  • Triggers relevant previous experience.
  • Provides interim self-assessment or skill measurement opportunities.
  • Incorporates tools for on-the-job performance.
  • Provides opportunities for learner to integrate changed skills based on feedback.
  • Provides feedback techniques that give learners information relevant to enhancing performance, retention, and transfer.

Individuals applying for learning solution certifications with marks and badges will be asked to describe ways in which he or she accomplished at least three of the seven performances.

Can you see yourself doing these performances?  Can you see yourself doing at least three of these performances with every learning solution?  Can you see other IDs doing these performances, perhaps differently, but still doing them?  If so, you need to consider applying for a learning solutions development credential.  Get the IDCertification Handbook at www.tifpi.org.

Want a list of all nine IDstandards?  

Would you like to know about the study -- a practice analysis -- that TIfPI Practice Leaders did to generate and validate nine standards, including Enhances Retention and Transfer?   Would you like a copy of the infographic with standards and learning solution certification types? 


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Try the free Overview to Credentialing or Foundations of Credentialing.



Monday, November 10, 2014

IDs Use Standards: Elicits Performance Practice


 

ID Standards are the measures that IDs use when determining whether they will sign-off on a learning solution they have created, or not – whether their name goes on the final product. They are the hallmark of the master instructional designer craftsman.

The competent instructional designer/developer (ID) elicits performance practice:


There is an old saying, "practice makes perfect." 

At the heart of learning is change, particularly performance change.  If there is no change in performance, learning is questionable.  Therefore, practice within the learning event is an important element that allows the learner, instructor (when used), and ID to recognize whether change is occurring.
 

Eliciting performance practice is so important that it appears in the nine very different learning theories and theorists reviewed for the ID Practice Analysis.

Table of Instructional Design Theorist & Elicits Performance Practice

Learning theories hone in one or more specific elements of practice or the practice environment.   For some, practice is all about the thinking steps, while others elicit discovery.  For still others it’s about integration and application.  For others it’s about demonstrating mastery.  Each theory and theorist promotes different aspects of eliciting performance practice as an essential function of their theories or philosophic approaches.   However, competent instructional designers pick and choose; they use the focus that is most appropriate for the learner and the situation in which the learner must learn.  Therefore, the ID certifications do not focus on the theory, but on whether the ID demonstrates selecting techniques that promote performance practice. Reviewers do not judge the appropriateness of those techniques, merely determine whether the candidate has shown that they did provide performance practice. 


The Serious Elearning Manifesto lists the following hallmarks of effective elearning:
·         Performance focused
·         Meaningful to learners
·         Engagement driven
·         Authentic context
·         Realistic decisions
·         Individualized challenges
·         Spaced practices
·         Real-world consequences.

Taken together, they describe a practice environment that provides not just random activities but focused practices that reflect the world of learner – that elicits performance practice in the e-world as preparation for real world work.

Performance practice is just as important in instructor-led training (ILT), coaching and mentoring, goal- or problem-based scenarios, serious learning games, or any of the other learning solution types.  


Case Study:  Impacting real world decision

Once upon a time (all to recently), an instructional designer was asked to design an elearning solution that “taught” staff about the organizational structure – the divisions, groups, subgroups and their leaders.  Of course, this course’s learning objectives focused on identifying who to contact in various parts of the organization.  Since so many high-level executives had to buy into this course, it was important that the course be “outstanding” and that it showcase each division and group to their advantage.

Our intrepid ID had concerns about whether this was quality learning, even as the course was being designed and built.  There were no decisions to make, no real-world consequences, and the only challenge available was remembering the name of the group or division that did a given type of work.  However, everyone does need to recognize the key groups and divisions within their organization, so that information was authentic.   In addition, this ID had created something similar many decades ago (when elearning was in its infancy) that taught state employees about the structures of the legislative, judicial, executive branches in which they worked.  These concepts were highly valued by the employees taking that first elearning course, so maybe this new solution would be just as valuable… or maybe not.  

Definition of a Standard – Elicits Performance Practice

Consider the definition and performances listed for The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI’s) standard Elicits Performance Practice.


Definition: ensures that the learning environment and practice opportunities reflect the actual environment in which the performance will occur.

Performances that demonstrate this standard for an ID certification: 

  • Creates practice opportunities that mimic work tasks and work processes.
  • Chooses elements of the “real” work environment, tools, and technology to include in the practice learning environment. 
  • Scripts steps and interactions. 
  • Creates the full spectrum of support materials to ensure that learning occurs. Note that any one solution may not require the use of all 6 performances listed.  
  • Describes for the learner what the practice opportunities will be.
  • Creates practice opportunities that connect learner’s real work to the learning process and outcomes.
Can you see yourself doing these performances?  Can you see yourself doing at least the two required performances with every learning solution?  Can you see other IDs doing these performances, perhaps differently, but still doing them?  If so, you need to consider applying for a learning solutions development credential.  Get the ID Certification Handbook  at www.tifpi.org.


Individual IDs applying for learning solution certifications with marks and badges will be asked to describe ways in which he or she accomplished at least the following two required performances (and preferably more):
  • Creates practice opportunities that mimic work tasks and work processes.

    • Chooses elements of the “real” work environment, tools, and technology to include in the practice learning environment. 


    Want a list of all 9 ID standards?  

    Would you like to know about the study -- a practice analysis -- that TIfPI Practice Leaders did to generate and validate nine standards, including Elicits Performance Practice?   Would you like a copy of the infographic withstandards and learning solution certification types?


    Monday, November 3, 2014

    ID Use Standards: Collaborates and Partners


    Standards are the measures that IDs use when determining whether they will sign-off on a learning solution they have created, or not – whether their name goes on the final product.

    The competent instructional designer/developer (ID) collaborates and partners:

    Whom do you include on your learning solution development team?  Subject/content experts?  Project sponsors?  A other IDs working on specific parts and pieces of the whole?  Perhaps more importantly, have you ever developed a learning solution that did NOT require some degree of collaboration and partnership?

    At its most basic, collaboration is working together for a creative end product, while partnering is sharing risk.  In the business world, risk tends to be related to finances (on budget), which also translate to ‘on time’, within staffing and resourcing, and producing the desired end product (or better). 

    Who on your teams share the risk of an instructional design and development project.   Consider what each of these players brings to your projects that helps manage the risks of that project:
    • Sponsoring manager or executive
    • Subject/content experts
    • Project lead, manager, or executive
    • Learning technologist
    • Graphic artist
    • Audio/videographer
    • Technical writer
    • Other instructional designers

    Typically, what are the risks in a learning project?  For example, consider the impact of not being able to work with subject expert who can give you the time and materials you need.  Or, consider the times when the sponsor made decisions without understanding the impact, then required rework when the results were not acceptable.   Think about a time when the project had a specialist such as graphic artist, videographer, or technical writer was not included in the project, only to require much more time for a lower quality product.  Now, think of time when you worked with another ID who wasn’t quite holding up their end of the project.  What was the impact?  And, a time when the IDs were in tune with each other and going the extra mile together?  What was the impact of that?  Or, consider the management of the project.  Have you ever played both the instructional designer and the project manager roles, simultaneously?  Have you worked on large projects with a strong project manager?  Were the risks handled differently?  Risk is an essential element of learning solution development projects and the right team makes all the difference.

    Look at the list of partners one more time.  Notice the number of partners that there for “creative” purposes – visuals, sound, animation, quality writing.  Collaboration, by the definition, is working together for a creative purpose.  We sometimes forget that instructional design and development are creative endeavors.   Check out Business Insider article, The Difference Between Creativity and Innovation, by Andrew (Drew) C. Marshall, and innovation consultant, of Principal of Primed Associates, an innovation consultancy.

    “Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas. […] Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems. It’s also concerned with the work required to make an idea viable.”

    Instructional design is a premier example of creativity and innovation… or can be, when it is well done.   There is creativity in the design. Then more creativity is by all those partners added during development.  Then, if done right, the learning solution unleashes new potentials in the mind of the learner as well.  (A vote for learning as a creative act.)  Add in the innovations.  For learning to be effective, the learning solution itself is a change that is introduced in a relatively stable system, whether we consider that system the individual learner or the business.  Innovation is also the work required to make an idea viable.  Anyone who has worked on a learning solution that is addressing a unique challenge (e.g., tight timelines, limited resources, new and untested technologies, new methodologies, new theoretical basis) knows that much creativity is required for the problem identification and ideation of a solution, and that more creativity and innovation are required to make it real.   Yes, instructional design is a creative and innovative field and most learning solutions require creativity and innovation. 

    The greater the degree of creativity and innovation involved, the more important the collaborations and partnerships become.  In systems (businesses) that are risk-adverse, the work of partnering may take over the work of collaborating.  That is, a key challenge of a high-risk project in a risk-adverse organization is that the partnership work takes over in an attempt to minimize the risks and preempts the creative-innovative work, which effectively stalls the project. 

    The quality of an end-product learning solution is directly related to quality of collaborations and partnerships involved. 

    Case Study:  

    Once upon a time long, long ago (well, 15 years ago, anyway), a team of instructional designers was called in to create a learning solution for 5,000 industry-specific software installation project managers around the world.  Their company was installing a project management software to help bring down the cost of software installations.  The team was called in 60 days before ‘go live’ on the project management software (and the end of the calendar year) and 45 days before the first training course needed to occur.  The challenges of this project included a short timeline, new technology, a process definition that had not defined key actors current or future roles, and the fact that one could not bring in 5,000 people into headquarters in the last 15 days of the calendar year, when most employees had already scheduled their vacations.  In addition, the essential processes, steps, functions, actions (i.e., the course content) required of software users was not, yet, defined and would continue to change during the 6 months following ‘go live’ as new software modules were added.  

    The learning solution design and development team brought the essential number of learners down to 500 who were key, and 150 high-profile project executives (PEs) that were essential and began brainstorming solutions that would work best for this group.  In the end, the solution created an electronic performance support (EPS or EPSS) that allowed subject experts to change process documentation and provided supporting information such as screen shots, video clips of key steps, diagrams, and a process workflow that matched the audience’s essential workflow from initiating a project to closing it.  Since these projects were multimillion-dollar projects, the project financial officers were key to project success; they tracked staffing hours, deliverables, invoiced clients and tracked payments.  They were the stability of a project that would run for several years.  Therefore, they were trained as coaches to the PEs and set up with a 2-hour webinar that would get their PEs started.  The solution set both creative and innovative in that nothing like that had been done in this company and the technologies involved were emerging.  

    This was a high-risk project with many opportunities for failure.  Luckily, the organization involved was risk-tolerant and willing to provide partners who actively helped the team work through the issues.  The design and development team were experienced at creative-innovate designs and solutions under tight timelines. Together they made it happen.

    This project was unique in so many ways.  However, many instructional design and development projects are just that – unique.  Collaborative creativity and innovation paired with strong partners working toward an essential goal are key hallmarks of almost all learning solutions. 

    Definition of a Standard – Collaborates and Partners 

    Consider the definition and performances listed for The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI’s) standard, Collaborates and Partners.

    Definition:  Works jointly with sponsors and other members of the solution development team to develop the solution.Performances that demonstrate this standard for a Solution Domain Badge: 
    • Addresses sponsor’s issues and needs by listening to requests for modifications, offering solutions to modification requests, and reporting progress.
    • Participates in the project team through: 
      1. Identification of project issues
      2. Meeting attendance
      3. Regular reporting
      4. Generating ideas to resolve issues, improve sustainability, and enhance learning solution.
    • Negotiates changes to solution involving other team members during development and solution testing.
    • Plans solution product tests that validate with the sponsor and intended audience that the right solution elements have been developed.
    • Executes product tests including reporting results of tests.
    • Works with content experts to identify content, relevant work processes and procedures, and appropriate feedback and assessment technique.

    Note that any one solution may not require the use of all 6 performances listed.  Individuals applying for learning solution certifications with marks and badges will be asked to describe how he or she demonstrated at least 3:5 performances, one of which must be: identifies key partners and collaborators by role.

    Can you see yourself doing these performances?  Can you see yourself doing at least 3 of these performances with every learning solution?  Can you see other IDs doing these performances, perhaps differently, but still doing them?  If so, you need to consider applying for a learning solutions development credential.  Get the IDCertification Handbook or just visit www.tifpi.org.


    Would you like to know about the study -- a practice analysis -- that TIfPI Practice Leaders did to generate and validate nine standards, including Collaborates and Partners?   Would you like a copy of the infographic with standards and learning solution certification types?  Download these doucuments.