Lessons Learned 03/24/2011
After testing how well the presentation I had created for the Course Design on a Budget+ blog worked, I realized that there invariably will be some sort of cost to developing courses for digital consumption. That cost will range from very low to higher amounts. But, as I said in my previous blog, there is a plethora of tools and course design information available on the Internet.

Depending on what you want to do and how you want to present your material, it is still possible to create a well-designed course. Other tools I've seen available include those that you would upload your work to on the Internet and then link to it, such as:
I found a free trial of another type of course authoring software and decided to take it for a test drive by converting the Free Course Design Tools presentation into a Flash file. The software is called iSpring. It can convert PowerPoint presentations into Flash files. It is an easy-to-use course authoring tool, like Artiuclate, but without as many features. Before I could convert the file to Flash, I had to edit my audio files and import them into the PowerPoint. I then had to sync each slide's animation to the audio that I had embedded into each slide. Also, since this is a 30-day free trial software, the company has placed a watermark on presentation. Other than those few changes, it took me about 2 hours to make the revisions to the mini-course and convert it to a Flash file.

The last thing I have to do is test it. So, after posting this blog...I will leave a comment below after I've tested the course.

I'm still hoping some of my contacts will get some time to take a look at the course and provide some constructive feedback. That's the last test of this project and the last step in the ADDIE model.

I had this thought to blog about how to design a course on a budget. The tools to accomplish this task would be mostly free and so the only limit would be in what an ID (instructional designer) knows and understands about adult learning theories and instructional design, along with the idea of limited technical skill. The “+” in the blog will be the tie-in of learning theory and instructional design to course design. The linked document (Course Design on a Budget +) discusses instructional design based on learning theories. The linked presentation (Free Course Design Tools) offers four different tutorials on free and readily available tools that can be used in digital course development. 

I had originally begun writing this post “Course Design on a Budget +” to be placed into the blog, but when I finished writing it, the total number of pages was a little more than four pages. That’s why I’ve linked the “+” portion of the blog as a separate document. If it’s been a while since you’ve read through any learning theories, then it might be a good refresher to take a look at the article (that’s what I’m calling it instead of blog). The tie-in between the learning theories discussed in the article to course development is weaved throughout. I do not go in depth too much, but discuss how I develop a course based on learning theories. I’ve included information on the following:
The presentation, “Free Course Design Tools“ portion of this blog is four tutorials of various readily available and free digital tools. The tutorials guide the learner through download and set-up and then use of the tool. The tutorials do not go in-depth, but rather give the learner a running start. My thought is that the learner will be someone who has some technical knowledge and is ready to learn new things and how they might apply the new knowledge to what they do, which is why the tutorials provide enough information to complete a basic task, ie. record audio, save as an mp3 and then insert it into a PowerPoint presentation. It is up to the learner to then explore that tool and decide how they might incorporate it into their own course development.

After you’ve read through the article and followed the tutorials in the mini-course, then please take a moment to answer the questions posed in the mini-course and in the article. Below are instructions on where you may post your answers:

Instructions:  Answering questions from within the article and the mini-course:
  1. Write out the questions as they appear in the mini-course.
  2. Answer those questions in a Word document.
  3. Copy and paste those answers to the comments section of the blog.
  4.   Go to the About tab of the Creative Palette website and send your answers through the comments form.

Lastly, I’ve linked the article, the mini-course, and the script to the mini-course below in various formats for ease of use:
  • Course Design on a Budget + [.pdf; .doc]
  • Free Course Design Tools [.ppt]
  • Free Course Design Tools, script [.pdf; .doc]
Resources: There are many resources available on this subject. Below is a list of maybe not even the tip of the iceberg…maybe just a snowflake.

Microsoft Tutorials
CNET software downloads
Rapid eLearning PowerPoint template kit
Articulate interactive elearning course development software
iSpring interactive elearning course development software
Adobe Captivate interactive elearning course development software
Instructional Design
Center for Instructional Development and Research

While I continue to work on my next blog post on designing a course on a budget+, I've been reminded of why it is that I do what I do...albeit not so closely with students anymore.

I read an article written by a former colleague in the Huffington Post. That article brought back all the memories, heartaches and triumphs of being on the front line as a teacher. It also brought back a memory from my adolescence and a time when my only confidant and greatest champion was a teacher...my Journalism teacher to be exact. As we worked to prepare our newspaper for print, I would spend hours in the evening at the print shop with her going over the proofs, as well as talking deeply about my fears and challenges growing up. She taught me so much about what it means to be a good teacher. It isn't necessarily about passing huge numbers of students...it's more deeply about being able to move your students in a positive direction. You can't do that with massive numbers of kids in your classroom, because your time is too divided.

As a teacher, I was able to relive those moments with my Journalism teacher, but then with me as confidant, as mentor and as guide. It felt good to be on that side of the learning opportunity, just as much as it did when I was a teen, but oh so much more rewarding.

I could not imagine a classroom with twice as many kids.

Bud's article also brought me back to a very personal moment in my time as a teacher, when  a student's mother called me at home one evening to tell me that her son was almost successful in his suicide attempt a few days earlier, but that he was feeling better and would be back to school in a few days...and to not worry. I curled up in a ball that night and cried my eyes out as I fell asleep.

I also remember a time when I thought there was nothing I could do to teach another one of my students, because he was always testing my limits. But, I allowed him to test those limits...with caveats. I saw potential in him...I only wanted to guide him in the right direction.  He went on to finish his Bachelor's degree in 2 and a half years and then while working as a grad assistant and Network Sys Admin, he wrote a letter to the superintendent of my school district pleading to save my program because he would not be where he was if it had not been for my program.

Teaching on a human level is all I know...and to know that it meant something to even one of my students made all the nay-sayers disappear in a puff of smoke.

Listen to this blog post, or read below...

Applying the ideas, concepts and theories to everything in life is what I do. I like to know how something works out in application. To me, that's the truest test of the worthiness of anything. But, your mileage may vary.

Why is that? Why would your mileage vary? Well, because you, are not me. We are all different. We are all human, having grown up with different value sets, different experiences and different ways of applying what we've learned throughout our lives. No one way of putting something learned to the test is wrong...unless of course, you end up hurting others. Then, you're doing it wrong!

Understanding that idea and accepting it as a way of dealing with everyday occurances can be more powerful than you may think. Basically, it's being empathetic. And being able to step out of your own shoes and into the shoes of another is quite powerful indeed. Understanding others from their point of view gives you the advantage of being able to empower others with information and knowledge in more ways than even they might have imagined.

How would this look in application?

A scenario:

I had this friend who works as an instructional designer. She loves her job...a lot. She enjoyed her work at Company A, just as much as collaborating with her colleagues. That changed when her department combined with another department and her workload more than doubled. She didn't begrudge the work, but she considered the possibility that her co-worker relationships would suffer. And they did. She thought that if she tried to find time to spend more time with her colleagues, she wouldn't feel so left out...but, it didn't seem to change the relationship much. She realized that when she did reach out, she was met with trepidation. And she wasn't sure how to deal with that. She feared that if she just came out and said something about the perceived trepidation that she would potentially end up hurting the friend, because the friend might mis-understand. She was just as unsure how to handle the situation as her colleague.

This isn't quite the full story. Now, throw in other colleagues who are just as battle-worn with as much work. And yet one more monkey wrench got thrown in where she ended up taking on a special project. So, on top of everything else, she's taking work home to try and meet deadlines. She doesn't get to talk too much with colleagues at work, because she's working so hard to complete everything on time. Unfortunately, instead of understanding from everyone else, she ends up being faced with resentment. And that resentment goes pretty deeply...to the point of being ignored and left out of special events. Yes, she's hurt and yet, still does not say anything. She sort of sees what the others might be feeling, but at this point, it's all speculation on everyone's part...hers and her colleagues.

I will say this now...shame on everyone for letting it get that far! Negative assumptions only hurt the work environment.

What my friend finally did...only after her colleague resigned, was call her and asked all those tough questions. Like, was there truly some sort of resentment going on? What were the negative assumptions? Why didn't anyone say anything? And no, she couldn't ask anyone else, because they all had resigned within about 2 months of each other (there were other things going on in the department to cause the mass exodus). It hurt to ask, but it also hurt to hear the answers, because if they had been asked up front at the beginning, then the negative assumptions would not have gone that far. My friend tried to put herself in her former colleague's shoes and she tried to empathize, because at that point, all was said and done and the choice was to either move forward, or forget the whole thing happened. She chose to move forward and hold onto the whole incident as a huge learning experience. She does not let things get to the point of becoming negative assumptions anymore, because as soon as her perceptions head downhill, she asks the right questions to curtail the downward spiral. 

Humanistic Management

What does that look like? More specifically, how does that feel? E-gads! I said, "feel".

I'll say this right now...get over yourselves. If you think that people do not bring their emotions (and insecurities) to work, then you are sorely mistaken. Some may bring too many, while others not enough. But, everyone brings their life's experiences and the emotions they tie to those experiences to work with them every single day. It's who they are, it's human. As a manager, it is your job to understand this whole idea and to use that understanding to manage each individual in a manner so as not to curtail the work at hand. That is easier said than done, because if you say the wrong thing to someone, you potentially set the wheels in motion on a downward slope.

Think of the previous scenario. Put one of the women in that scenario into a management role. As a manager, did they deal with the situation very well? If they followed the Humanist Management style, what should they do to curtail the negative assumption situation?

My answers to those questions would be along the lines of...talk, ask questions, never assume and always go to the perceived point of contention. Never, ever ask someone else what their take is on the whole situation. You need to deal with the management of your direct reports. If you start using "spies" to find answers, you will continue to hurt not just the perceived point of contention, but you will eventually hurt all of your direct reports. In essence, you will curtail production. So, get a hold of yourself and talk with your employees, Get to know them and get to understand them and their needs. Put yourself in their shoes. Be empathetic. Once you understand them, then you can manage them.

One other very important thing that my friend did when she finally swallowed her pride and asked the important questions, was that she never ridiculed, insulted, or talked down to her former colleague. This is even more important if you want to manage people. Never, ever insult, belittle, bully, lie, or otherwise attempt to hurt your employees. This behavior only creates a negative work environment, creates poor work flow, damages morale, perpatuates animosity and stifles creativity.

A familiar story about our failing education runs parallel to poor management styles. See Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

More links:

The way I look at it...the term "instructional design" is that this one avenue is the only one I have worked with that actually incorporates all of the aspects of each of those terms. I've done all of the above in my life (take a peek at my resume). Granted, some of my experience has happened through Work Study jobs and part-time work while studying as an undergrad. Then, the education experience came via the "back door", because I did not have formal teacher training. I started out as a tutor and then worked into vocational education because of work experience and technical training. Still though, I have been able to apply prior knowledge to each and every position I have held and I have massaged and molded that application of knowledge into viable forms of useful information for my "students". I use the term "student" loosely, because I have worked with various types of learners in the past. I might even use the term "information consumer" because the broad meaning of this term fits the kind of audience I want to impact the most.

The teacher as journalist...
So, how is a teacher like a broadcast journalist you ask? Think about their ultimate goal...to inform. The teacher actually has a little deeper goal...to help students apply what they've learned. Either way, these two professionals have the ability to make a much larger impact upon the information consumer with the medium they choose to convey the information. By adding certain other variables to that information, such as a well-placed graphic, or a few seconds of video portraying that information, these professionals draw in a larger portion of their audience. The final trick is when the audience takes that new information and applies it to their own life experiences.

Oh there are so many ways to explain instructional design...

A Network Story
Here's a story to explain one aspect: I was a Cisco Network Academy student in 1999. Actually, I was one of the work force of teachers chosen to attend the boot camps to learn about the program and then teach what I had learned to high school students. To preface this story...I was coming from virtually no network experience whatsoever. I had no idea how a network actually worked. So, imagine sitting in a classroom with several other instructors who all came from various experiences -- all of them having had prior network experiences. Then add to that the fact that the instructor of these bootcamps was a horrible sketch artist, never employed the use of video, or photos in his presentations and yet always spoke about various network devices and how they all connected together through a wiring closet. My mind was swimming in wires.

It wasn't until we took a tour of an actual network that I finally, finally realized that a wiring closet was an actual room that housed several metal racks, all with rectangular shaped devices (much like our home cable boxes) that were all wired to one another like a daisy chain. It wasn't until that tour that I finally understood everything my instructor was telling me and that wasn't until the last week of an all-day, 5 days-a-week, 4-week course. Yes, if you have not figured it out, I am a visual learner. I don't understand things until I see them in use. Better yet, for me, is to actually get my hands on something and learn how to use it...over and over again.

Good teachers
The good teacher would have done more in class to alleviate potential student confusion. A survey of students at the beginning of the course would have revealed my complete lack of network experience as compared to my classmates. More visuals would have helped. And actually having these devices spread out on a lab table somewhere at the start of the course would have done wonders. If the instructor had shown us how to connect a few of the devices from the start and then asked us to repeat those connections under supervision, then with the application of the learning, later concepts like IP addressing and routing protocols would have made more sense.

Good journalists
A good journalist also employs visuals into the information that they convey. Audio versions of the text help to drive home the ideas and facts that are being shared. Audio with the right kind of inflection and emotion also conveys the information appropriately. Producing video of certain actions taking place will drive home the points being made. And reducing this information into easily digestible chunks (approximately 5 minutes) maintains audience attention.

Instructional design as art
The "art" of instructional design is knowing how to employ the right amount of the available authoring tools (text, audio, video/visuals) not just to convey information to the audience, but to help the audience apply it to their daily lives.

I will apologize now for my lack of graphics to portray the information. One thing I am not is a graphic artist. I can do stick people, but that's as far as I get. In the future, I will employ the use of audio in my blog posts, because it adds to the information being conveyed. I may also include photos that I might take, or stock photos available on Microsoft's website, as well as Microsoft's clip art. And whenever useful, a short video every now and then will help me to properly convey the information.

I've been racking my brain for the most appropriate words to begin this blog...still haven't come up with anything. Not that there isn't a bunch of information rolling around up there dying to burst forth and show off its brilliance and worthiness, but I don't want to bombard and overload and eventually confuse, either.

I decided to write a blog, because there is so much information ready to burst forth and be shared. Instructional design is my avenue for sharing information. There are many nuances and tips and tricks that all instructional designers use in their craft. What I do may not be exactly the same as any other designer, but if the information I wish to share and the knowledge that I impart on my audience is understood, accepted and implemented, then I've done my job. How I arrive at that point may not be exactly the same as anyone else, but for me and my learners, the instructional ingredients used were just the right combination.

So, the purpose of this blog is to share how I design courses. Along the way, I may also share various other tidbits and words of wisdom that I might employ in getting the job done.



    I have been employing instructional design tricks of the trade since 1984, but haven't had the pleasure of the title until 2008. This blog is my way of sharing what I do to make the greatest impact with the information consumer.

    What else?
    I'm a...
    Geek in disguise
    Sport bike rider
    Amateur photographer
    Mountain air lover


    March 2011
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