While watching Avatar I suddenly had a brainwave for a blogpost. The movie had triggered a few thoughts in my head about Learning and Development. Let me share them with you.
Creativity is often about 'Synthesis'
With all the 'oohs' and 'aahs' about Avatar set aside, if you look hard, you'll realise that the movie is essentially very similar to two other previous Hollywood hits -- The Last Samurai and The Matrix. Essentially, if you combine the storylines of those two movies and give them a space twist, then you end up with Avatar. No, I'm not trying to say that James Cameron plagiarised those two stories (though it would be quite smart if he did), all I'm saying is that the movie indeed seems like a synthesis of those two great movie ideas.
Often creativity isn't necessarily a brand new idea. It can even be a brand new idea from the combination of other great ideas.
Synthesis can transform your classroomSo, taking that thought about synthesis ahead, there's a case for us to think about how synthesis can transform your classroom. At DevLearn, Erika and Julia from Google demonstrated a few simple ideas of how they are combining technology with good old classroom facilitation to make the learning experience more engaging. Here are some ideas I really liked:
- Are you teaching people how to write well? Ask them to write a blog post and ensure that every student posts comments about what they liked and what they didn't. As a teacher, post your comments as well.
- Are you teaching people how to code? Use Google Code Labs to provide them code snippets that they can collectively iterate from. Use the revision histories/ comments to provide feedback and to correct coding patterns.
- Are you trying to share instructional resources? Create a Google Wave and embed it into your class homepage. People can discuss the problem amongst themselves, but at the same time make a private submission to the instructor if this was an assignment, test, etc.
- Are you preparing for a sesion where you don't know what to expect? Use Google Moderator to crowdsource questions and discussion points for the event. That way you can ensure that you deliver only what people want to learn
You don't need to do everything within eLearningThe concept of synthesis needs to stretch into the domain of online, and technology assisted learning as well. No, I'm not saying that this isn't a creative field -- it's perhaps one of the most creative aspects of modern L&D. That said, I still see the huge tendency with instructional designers to try and do everything from within elearning. Its important to remember that the end goal is not to create a really flashy elearning course. Its not even to try and craft an exquisite learning experience. The end goal is to enhance workplace performance. I remember reading an article by Jay Cross where he said:
"As we attempt to do things in an instructionally sound manner we can get TOO focused on doing things in an instructionally sound manner…and lose sight of what the business needs. Often what the business needs is 'good enough' and 'enough so that someone can continue to do his/her job.'"
Social Media and other emerging technologies allow you do what's 'good enough' and do it just-in-time. There's very rarely a need to do everything within flash-based elearning. Here are a few ideas you can use, to complement your elearning to create a rich, effective, learning experience (to eventually enhance workplace performance).
- Leverage your Learning Management System: If you're using an LMS, in particular Moodle then why not create bite-sized elearning modules and let your LMS provide an exploratory interface to your content? That way, you save the effort in creating complex branching across sub-modules. Also, LMS's such as Moodle provide an excellent set of social and interactive tools to make your course engaging. Patrick Malley has written an excellent article about how you can use Moodle in a game changing fashion.
- Combine different tools to achieve the right impact: Just because you need one interactive activity in your course, doesn't mean you need to break the bank by employing a dozen Flash programmers. Pull custom Flash based elements into your rapid-elearning course if you need to. Take a look at the demo below (Articulate skin by Kineo), where I've pulled a Flash activity inside Powerpoint. If you're suffering from a common cold, then you need a tablet not a dozen vaccinations! You can even bring the web into your course, as Tom says here and here.
- Can you really solve the problem with eLearning alone? Often the solution to a performance problem could be an elearning course plus some follow up coaching. Consider what it'll take to really enhance workplace performance. If necessary provide the manager with some training within industry style support so they can actively coach their people.
I'm sure there are dozens of other ideas to creatively enhance your courses using the concept of synthesis. And of course, you don't want to break the bank! What ideas have you tried in order to make craft effective learning experiences? Post your ideas and suggestions in the comments section. I'd love to hear more.