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 > 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? 

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