“What’s past is prologue.” -William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Learning and development is a constantly evolving field, and every month Microassist’s Senior Learning Architect, Kevin Gumienny, highlights a few articles that provide insight into the field. If you missed (or would like to revisit) stories from his Learning Dispatch newsletters in 2019, here’s a chance to review.
The stories are grouped in several categories:
- Instructional Design
- Learning Experience
- Program Design
- Visual Design
Do you test whether users who have vision-related disabilities can take your training? You should. This might help: Vedran Arnautovic shares four things his team learned from usability testing sessions with blind users.
Clara Joy Gibson has guidance for creating a welcoming culture for autistic students on university campuses(“If there is an advocacy group for autistic people on campus, find out whether any autistic people are in that group.”) It’s great for campuses—how might it be adapted for the workplace?
If you plan to make your training accessible (and you really should), and you don’t use a screen reader, testing with screen reading software can seem particularly daunting. Jessica Jordan’s introduction to screen reader testing for sighted developers can be pretty helpful.
Jaclyn LeDuc at 3Play Media points to a study that indicates students find both captions and interactive transcripts helpful when learning.
WebAIM has released its 2019 Screen Reader Survey. When you test your elearning and digital documents for screen reader accessibility, which combination do you use?
John Markoff at the New York Times has an excellent overview of current technology for transcribing audio. Transcription is great for meeting with SMEs (the Zoom integration of Otter.ai is something to see); it’s also a great way to provide information to learners who might have difficulty hearing.
I’ve enjoyed working with Jennifer Chadwick at SiteImprove on accessible elearning. The Ottawa Business Journal interviews her and the team with which she works on the importance of online accessibility.
Kerry McLaughlin, in the Cutaway, explores what ignoring the disability community has cost Hollywood. Does elearning have similar issues? Are McLaughlin’s solutions applicable in a similar way?
Ever wanted to know everything you needed to know about alternative text for images? Take a look at the Poet Training Tool.
Isak Skogstad interviews the opinionated and entertaining Paul A. Krischner on whether we should let learners discover what they need or provide direct instruction instead (spoiler: in Krischner’s opinion, it’s most definitely the latter).
Do you need to deliver training in multiple languages? Laura Godfrey’s post on designing for translation offers guidance that may be useful.
At Vox, Todd VanDerWerff points out the importance of storyboarding in the creation of so many great animated films.
At MIT Sloan Management Review, Nancy Duarte reminds us to choose charts everyone understands.
Have you been asked to make sure that your training conforms to a readability formula like Flesch-Kincard or the SMOG index? Caroline Jarrett and Janice “Ginny” Redish at UX Matters argue that you shouldn’t, and also give advice on what you should do instead.
Fabricio Teixeira gives us, via Fast Company, a comprehensive list of user experience clichés. Many of which apply to learning and development. Many of which I’ve used.
Lexie Martin tells us about the peak-end rule, which might be used to help make learning that sticks.
At CMOS Shop Talk, Carol Saller talks about how to prepare an audiobook for a narrator who isn’t you. I found myself thinking that almost everything she discusses applies to writing narration for voice-over talent used in elearning.
Perri Klass at the New York Times points out that, when it comes to health, motivational interviewing seems much more effective than finger-wagging. Is there insight to be gained regarding training techniques?
Do you design data as part of the training you develop? You might want to take a look at Google’s six rules for great data design.
Do you design sound? Also from Google, their new Material Sound guidelines discuss the effective use of sound and silence.
Malin Petterson discusses a format termed scrollytelling. More elearning tools are drawing on a scrolling format for delivery (see Articulate’s Rise or the Adapt framework). Might lessons from scrollytelling apply?
David Bryant Copeland makes an argument in favor of Brutalist web design. Should we consider Brutalist elearning?
At Behavioral Scientist, Kate Clayton argues that to design behavior, you need to be an elegant simplifier.
According to Gideon Blumstein at the Harvard Business Review, there are times when virtual reality training is just better—training for surgeons are a case in point.
Wired has a nice collection of articles on the theme of “How We Learn.” The most applicable? Probably Angela Watercutter’s article on the use of augmented reality in training. The most fun? Probably Gregory Barber’s article on using science fiction to teach about ethics and technology.
Thinking about using chatbots for training? Elizabeth Segran at Fast Company explores the factors that went into Roo, Planned Parenthood’s (successful) sex-ed chatbot for teens.
Connie Chan at Andreessen Horowitz explores how group chats are being used for commerce and education in China and America.
Is it finally the time when augmented reality will enter the world of training? According to the New York Times, Microsoft and Kenworth are exploring the possibilities. (If you’re looking for inspiration for using virtual reality instead, check out Joshua Barone’s article on virtual reality and opera.)
Personalized learning is all the rage in K-12 education. But what is it, how does it work, and is it effective? At the New Yorker, E. Tammy Kim has some answers (but mostly more questions).
Paul A. Kirschner and Mirjam Neelan have been arguing for the importance of direct instruction (as opposed to learning from experience) for some time now. They’ve now expanded support of the thesis with an intense discussion of the importance of prior knowledge in gaining new knowledge.
Can virtual reality be used to promote empathy? At Fast Company, Alex Pastenack explores the insight that training delivered through virtual reality might give to both police officers and the community.
Stanford News introduces QuizBot, a chatbot that teaches.
What’s more important for effective training, good content or ease of use? Or, perhaps a better question might be, where does the best balance lie? Fred Wilson at his blog AVC shares thoughts on Netflix and Disney that might give some insight.
Do people learn better from their peers? If so, why? Connie Malamed uses the question as a jumping off point to discuss the importance of understanding how we organize and store knowledge in long-term memory.
Aili McConnon writes in the New York Times about the growing importance of augmented and virtual reality in real estate. Can we use it training?
Will Bedingfield at Wired gives us a fun history of the elearning technology that no one uses anymore. (that is, Macromedia Flash.)
As I was reading Craig Mod’s marvelous meditation on fast software, I couldn’t help but think about the programming aspects of elearning. Are we making it as speedy as possible?
Ah, data. I love it. Hands-down one of the best ways to figure out what really works when it comes to training. Data is unbiased. It is outside of opinion. It is fact. Or is it? Gerry McGovern has some thoughts… and some cautions.
At the Work-Learning Research blog, Annette Wisniewski shows us the real-life effects of using a better smile sheet.
In University Affairs, Navneet Alang explores the promise and perils of learning analytics.
Given my love of both choose-your-own-adventure games and scenario-based learning, I couldn’t pass up Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The New York Times’s collection of critical reviews gives significant insight into the experience.
I found this obituary of Lotte Reiniger, an innovator of animation in film, inspiring. Part of the New York Time’s Overlooked No More series.
The Getty Research Institute’s online exhibit, “Bauhaus: Building the New Artist,” explores the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the art and design school. The three interactive experiences are a nice bonus.
On its blog, Softchalk offers inspiration through its lesson challenge. The samples showcase a more straightforward approach to elearning than is often seen.
I’m a firm believer that there’s no better way to learn about how to design effective learning games than to try them out… but I find I have my limits. “Troll Factory,” a game that puts you inside the head of a social media troll, may be a case in point.
Design thinking has exploded in popularity in all kinds of fields, including training. Looking at the success of WeChat, Julian Birkinshaw and his co-authors suggest that an alternative to design thinking might be grand design.
Take a look at the State of UX in 2019. Spend some time there. Follow the links. Perhaps consider whether what they’re talking about can apply to course design.
Do you struggle with drawing the line between perfect elearning and good enough elearning? Jonas Downey at the Signal v. Noise blog offers insights on managing the boundary , based on his work with the project management app Basecamp.
Giving advice, training someone to do something better. Anna Goldfarb at the New York Times has suggestions about the former; can they be applied to the latter?
Brent Simmons advises to never give an ETA (estimated time of arrival) for software products. It’s a fascinating thought—although I probably fall more into the group noted in his follow-up.
Do you (like many learning professionals) work remotely? Lisa Prevost at the New York Times explores the impact that remote working is having on the real estate market.
Are you managing a training team? Claire Lew at Signal v. Noise shares seven ways of giving feedback that encourage change.
For learning professionals working from home, Ronda Kaysen at the New York Times has advice about creating a home office.
Cathy Moore argues that the real job of an instructional designer is to save the clients from themselves.
Do you have a portfolio of your elearning projects? Would one be helpful? Jason Huff has a great discussion on how to create a website portfolio at Fast Company.
Ever been asked to estimate how long it will take you to develop training? Jessica Greene-Zapier at Fast Company provides a handy list of effective methods to estimate time .
Can job training change lives? Nelson D. Schwartz at the New York Times writes about Project Quest, an effort to do just that. It seems that achieving success goes beyond just training people in new skills. You need to provide real support as well.
Some jobs are just boring. Do you fix the worker through training or redesign the job? At Harvard Business Review, Sharon K. Parker, Daniela Andrei, and Anja Van den Broeck argue that you should do the latter, but too often people do the former.
Steve Glaveski, for Harvard Business Review, summarizes several recent trends in a package that he calls “lean learning.” The specifics may be familiar, but the way he puts them together is nicely done.
At the Harvard Business Review, Edward Chang and a host of co-authors add their voices to the discussion about whether diversity training actually works (their verdict: in the way it’s supposed to, no; but it does have some unexpected benefits).
The effectiveness of bias training remains controversial. At Fast Company, Joan C. Williams provides us with a nuanced and actionable discussion of what she’s found that works.
Online education holds the promise of university courses available throughout the world. At the New York Times, Karin Fischer takes a look at how that promise is fairing in Africa.
At Harvard Business Review, Allison Williams, Acacia Parks, and Ashley Whillans argue that online training can be an effective way of helping people to develop resilience.
Last year’s Starbucks diversity training initiative received a lot of attention. Yet ongoing work calls into question the idea of “implicit bias.” At Quartz, Olivia Goldhill asks whether “implicit bias” is real, and whether training about implicit bias is effective.
Starbucks closed its doors for anti-bias training and Sephora closed its doors for an inclusion workshop. Amber Cabral notes three things that these kinds of events need to do to be successful. Does this help the training you’re designing?
What can you learn from an app? Eric Ravenscraft at the New York Times argues that apps are better for teaching some things than others.
I found this article on the rise of tasting expertise fascinating (being a sommelier for honey is now a thing). How do you define expertise? How to you certify expertise? How do you certify that anyone is an expert in anything?
A great case study on Blue Bottle Coffee’s training process by Jessica Washburn at ATD (it’s members-only content).
Ever wonder how Michelin trains their restaurant reviewers? You have to dig in the article a bit, but John Colapinto at the New Yorker provides some insight.
The visual design of modern jazz. It’s just plain inspirational. Make sure to watch the video.
At Fast Company, Monica Lueder gives a nice, short overview of how to create an effective presentation. Useful for all kinds of visual design including, well, elearning.
Connie Malamed has a nice, short guide on how to improve your visual design skills.
Have you designed—or are you thinking about designing—an email-based course? Check out Really Good Emails for inspiration.
Doug Aamoth gives us a nice list of tools that he uses to make the creation of videos easy and affordable.
Ever use a button when designing elearning? I thought you might have. One (or more) of these five lessons from Rachel Plotnick’s seven years of research into buttons might be helpful.
When the font Comic Sans was released, did you find that “all Helvetica broke loose” (as described by Paige Shelton in her mystery “Comic Sans Murder”)? You might enjoy Emma Goldberg’s recent overview of the controversies surrounding Comic Sans.
Speaking of which, have you considered using the new font, Hellvetica?
Patrick Kennedy explores how GROO changed his concept of what a comic book could be.
How utterly brilliant. Stephan Benzkofer, writing for UChicago News, discusses a new course that explores the intersection of medicine and comic books. That might be a style to consider when developing elearning.
How are you at identifying issues with visual design? Give “Can’t Unsee” a try and see how you do.
Bonus – December Stories
Patricia Marx, writing for the New Yorker, takes us on an in-depth tour of the worlds created in virtual reality. What kind of learning experiences might her experience (and conclusions) inspire?
At Smashing Magazine, Barry Rueger shares how online environments can be designed to work well for older users. Can the advice be applied to learning environments?
Newsday presented an obsessively researched project on the unequal treatment of people by real estate professionals on Long Island. As part of that project, Maura McDermott explored the role that training should, and often fails to, play in educating real estate professionals about discrimination.
In Harvard Business Review, Oguz A. Acar, Murat Tarakci, and Daan van Knippenberg make the case that constraints are good for innovation. You may have heard that constraints are good for designing elearning, too.
The technology of art and visual design changes, and in the New York Times, George Gene Gustines shows us how that change affects the world of comic books.
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