Top 5 Reasons You Should Hire a Fresher in Instructional Design

I was a complete novice when I entered the world of Instructional Design. I wasn’t a technical writer before (as is common notion that technical writers graduate to become Instructional Designers) nor was I working in another company. I was a fresher. Yes, a fresher.

Working with complex technologies and understanding the nuances of Instructional Design is an art. As with other art forms, it can be honed by constant practice on the job. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the processes and strategies that abound the world of Instructional Design but beyond the initial jitters, it is a highly satisfying job.

Hiring  freshers in Instructional Design is a good thing, contrary to the corporate thinking. Here are some reasons:

  1.  Open mindset: Freshers plunge headlong into this field with an open mindset, willing to learn and understand the nuances of instructional design. For me, it was about offering a fresh perspective into what works in training and what doesn’t, as I had already been exposed to different forms of training in college.
  2.  Ability to spot problems in the process: A fresher is a good judge of processes or training methodologies that work. As a fresher, I always think beyond rules and regulations that constrain an experienced person.
  3. High risk taking capacity: Freshers are not bound by barriers. They are not drilled into long-standing systems, long-held assumptions and regulations. They have a high sense of enthusiasm and are always willing to try new things. This enables them to identify highly creative solutions to difficult problems undeterred by  potential roadblocks in the implementation process.
  4. Highly creative: Since freshers aren’t constrained by rules, regulations and processes of Instructional Design (yet!), they are usually good at projects that require creativity and enthusiasm.
  5. High energy levels: Freshers are more energetic and proactively jump into learning new skills, processes and methodologies. They improve group dynamics that lead to a better, happier, and more energetic workplace.

As an ex-fresher (I have been one year in the system now), I would say that beyond the initial jitters and the time taken to understand the system . . . there is a world that you would love to be in – A world of creativity and innovation.

Hope you liked this post. Stay tuned for more.

Do share your thoughts on this post in the Comments section. I would love to hear from you.

About the Writer

Vishnu Vardhan is an Instructional Designer by profession and a poet, cricketer, and explorer by passion. He loves meeting new people, learning new technologies, and creating amazing courses. He is specially inclined towards Gamification in eLearning.

The Best Way to Open a New Sales Talk

This is one of the best instructional videos that I have come across. Some highlights of this video:

  • Focuses on a single learning point
  • Has a storyline
  • Has humour
  • Is instructionally sound
  • Focuses on real life situations
  • Demonstrates practical application of skills


The best way to open a sales talkExplania

My First Impressions of Articulate Storyline

I downloaded the trial version of Articulate Storyline and have been playing with it. The best thing about Storyline is that Try Me Simulations are automated. You just need to open any web application and perform the tasks as you record your screen and then insert the slides as Try mode steps. Your job is done. All your mouse clicks/text entries are captured and when you preview, the same actions are available for the learner/user to try out.

Isn’t that cool? But there are still some things, I am trying to figure. I see that not all actions get converted to Try mode. For example I captured a screen where I moved sliders to set image quality. Storyline captured these actions but these appeared as a demonstration after publishing. Also the caption appears only when you click on a button or you place your cursor on a text field. I want to move the caption before the hotspot appears, but haven’t been able to do. Still figuring out.

So that’s all I have to share for today. More later.

What Kind of Instructional Design Do You Do?

Ask 3 different people, the question : What is Instructional Design? Now compare and contrast the responses. I am sure you will be amazed at the different perspectives you get. As far as I know, Instructional Design exists in different forms and Instructional Design might mean different things to different people.

How you perceive/describe Instructional Design depends on your:

  • Location/Context
  • Nature of work you do

Here are 3 scenarios to illustrate this:

PS: Some scenarios here may apply only to Indian workplaces.

Scenario 1

Instructional Designers working in a company catering to e-learning/training requirements of various organizations work on various subjects (soft skills, K12, technology), and develop e-learning courses/training programs for varied audience. In such a situation, they do extensive needs analysis, audience analysis, come up with new ways to engage learners for every project because every project is unique. The requirements, strategies to design the training, budget and so many other factors differ with every project.

Scenario 2

An Instructional Designer has to create a new learning environment (game based learning program on mobile devices) for underprivileged kids residing in some remote village in India. Now this is a highly challenging task.  This would require lot of research skills, creativity, time and budget more than anything else. This kind of work is more analytical and creative.

Scenario 3

Instructional Designers working in a software product company mostly catering to internal training requirements may not be paying too much attention to learning needs analysis, audience analysis, design strategies for every project because the audience and their needs are fixed.

The objective in this case is to  release all the required technical training material in a short time for learners to consume quickly.  It is more important to provide the right information, in an understandable  language in a short time than anything else just to help learners do their job. This kind of work demands creativity within limitations.

To serve the purpose, Instructional Designers  work on low budget rapid e-learning courses, mostly text based with little interactivities. Simulations and demonstrations are used when necessary. Standard e-learning templates and course developments guidelines are available. These templates are designed keeping learning needs and learners in mind . Improvements to the course development process or templates  happen after every release based on learner feedback. Following any other approach other than this will mean waste of time and money for the organization.

You could call this content development. Yet  the content itself might be of great instructional value.

Scenario 4

A trainer delivering a training on some topic may or may not be the one who actually designed the program. He/she might actually do a brilliant job without even knowing Instructional Design principles or theories.

Now here is a question for you:

Where are you located? What is Instructional Design to you?   Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section. I would like to hear from you.

Blog Post or Snippets?

Its been ages since I blogged and am I really feeling bad about it? I still can’t figure out.  I was just wondering why I stopped blogging:

  • New job
  • New stuff to do
  • Bored of blogging
  • Unwillingness to write full length posts
  • Am running out of ideas
  • Nothing new to share
  • Blogging is not helping me in any way or
  • Simply lazy

Reasons could be many. But then I don’t want to stop sharing stuff here. Probably I should start writing snippets – a few lines or a paragraph about something that I want to share. What do you think?

Articulate Tips

I recently changed my job and have been busy getting adjusted to the new environment, learning new technologies and picking up some Articulate skills. This is the first time I am actually using the tool and I experienced a shorter learning curve.

While the tool is very easy to use, there are issues that crop up every now and then and the issues are varied. In this post, I would like to talk about a recent issue that I faced while using Articulate 09 and show a way to resolve the issue. I sent a mail to the Articulate team and they quickly sent me a fix.

Let’s talk about the issues and the fixes now. I faced two major issues while publishing my e-learning course:

Issue with the label of slide number in progress bar

Solution

  1. Select Player Templates->Text Labels. Set the Language to “English“.
  2. Select Close button and save changes and republish your content.

Email icon didn’t show up after publishing the course

Articulate applications are not currently supported using a large DPI setting. If you are using 120 DPI some symptoms are:

  • Elements of the application appear misplaced or distorted.
  • The published output is distorted or does not display correctly.

Solution

You can resolve this issue by following the steps outlined in the Knowledge Base article below.

Presenter ’09:
http://www.articulate.com/support/presenter09/kb/?p=188

Hope you found this post useful. Stay tuned for more posts.

7 Tips to Work Well with Graphic Designers

Do you have experience working with Graphic Designers?

How would you interact with Graphic Designers and get things done?

How would you sort out difference with Graphic Designers?

These are common questions asked to Instructional Designers. These questions may not make sense to you, if you do not work with Graphic Designers in your organization. In some organizations, Instructional Designers also wear the hat of  Graphic Designers, especially if they are working with rapid e-learning tools. In some other organizations, where Instructional Designers work with templates, they have no direct interaction with Graphic Designers.

However in custom e-learning companies, where flash based e-learning courses are developed, Instructional Designers work as a team, where Graphic Designers play an important role. In such a set up, creative differences between Instructional Designers and Graphic Designers are just too many.

Instructional Designers conduct needs analysis and come up with course structure, design ideas and instructional strategies.  Based on these ideas, they create the storyboard with explicit design instructions to the Graphic Designer. But then finally, when the e-learning program is developed, though the course structure/content remains the same, the presentation is completely different from what was initially planned.

How do Instructional Designers deal with such issues? Here are some tips:

PS: I read this article – Working with Graphic Designers: Are you a graphic designer, or a non-designer? How do we work together? and the tips in this article are very valid. In this post, I use these tips and make it relevant to Instructional Designers.

1. Involve Graphic Designers right from the Analysis phase

  • If you are working with Graphic Designers to develop your e-learning program, value their contribution.
  • Make sure they are present during initial client interactions.
  • If there are too many Graphic Designers, involve the lead Graphic Designer.
  • Remember Graphic Designers need to know all the requirements for the e-learning program – why an e-learning program needs to be developed? what’s the subject? who is the target audience and what will appeal to them? and more.
  • Make sure Graphic Designers are convinced that they are there not just to add color and decorate.

2. Don’t try to design alone

  • Take some time to explain the course structure to the Graphic Designers.
  • Remember Graphic Designers also need creative freedom just like Instructional Designers.
  • Always brainstorm with Graphic Designers and then finalize design strategies for the e-learning program.
  • While brainstorming, never propose solutions upfront – Graphic Designers will lose interest and do what they think is right. Let’s say, you want to create an interactive quiz. Instead of saying, “We have come up with a storyline. You need to create the visuals and use the drag and drop function here”, try explaining the requirement and ask the Graphic Designers, “What are your ideas/suggestions?” There are high chances, Graphic Designers might suggest something more creative and appealing.
  • Indulge in a healthy discussion – always reason out why you think a specific design strategy is critical to the e-learning program.
  • Once your team has come to a consensus, create the Analysis and Design document and make sure  Graphic Designers also sign off the document.
  • If the client requests a design change after the Analysis and Design document is created, make sure you inform  Graphic Designers and come  up with an alternative design idea, keeping them in loop.

3. Keep designers in loop while storyboarding

  • Make sure you show Graphic Designers how the storyboard is shaping up.
  • If there are multiple modules with a couple of lessons in each module, with the completion of each module/lesson, share the storyboard with Graphic Designers and allot some time to answer their questions or clarify their doubts. This will help you fix the instructions to the Graphic Designers in the storyboard and save errors during the development phase.

4. Sort differences before designers begin development

  • Make sure Graphic Designers have no design issues with the storyboard.
  • If there is an issue, sort it out before they start  the development activity.
  • Make sure Instructional Design Reviews and Language Reviews  are done before the development activity. Frequently fixing/changing the content/ design after development can get highly frustrating for Graphic Designers.

5. Follow up with  designers during development

  • While  Graphic Designers develop the e-learning program, make sure you drop in regularly and check how the program is shaping up.
  • Request Graphic Designers to map the storyboard with the flash files.
  • Request Graphic Designers to share the files after every module/lesson is developed.

6. Make sure designers also test the e-learning program

In most companies, it is the Instructional Designer’s responsibility to test the e-learning program before it is shipped to the client. Since Graphic Designers also play an very critical role in e-learning development, they must be involved in testing.

  • Give Graphic Designers a framework for testing the e-learning program.
  • Use the framework to test the e-learning program yourself.
  • Make sure everyone documents the bugs and Graphic Designers fix them on time.

7.  Acknowledge and appreciate designers’ work

  • Articulate Graphic Designers’ contribution in the work done.
  • Never take all the credit, if the e-learning program is appreciated by the client.

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You have any tips to work with Graphic Designers? Please post in the Comments section.

Dieting and Learning – 4 Tips to do it the right way!

Agree or not, ours is a very weight conscious society. Meet people after ages, the first thing they tell you how fat or how slim you look. Most often it is either a compliment on your weight loss or a criticism on weight gain. Aishwarya Rai’s weight gain became a national issue, recently. Sounds funny but it’s true.

Why am I talking about all these here, you may wonder? Well, I do find a striking similarity between dieting and learning.  You got to do both these right to get good results.

So in this post, I use dieting as an analogy to convey how to do your learning activity the right way.

Here we go:

1. Start with a small target, something that is doable

It is highly ambitious and unhealthy to lose 20 pounds in a month.Rather you must target about 10 pounds or less in a month, which is doable. Likewise while learning, you need to set short targets. For example, if you are trying to learn a new programming language, a reasonable target is to write basic programs within 1 or 2 months and then you move to the next level.

2. Choose a program that  fits you

There are tons and tons of diet plans all over the internet. You need to keep your target in mind, and then choose a program that fits your requirement. Let’s say I need to lose 2 pounds in a month. I would choose a plan that will help me achieve this target.

For example, I will eat frequently but small meals throughout  the day. I will choose a diet plan that has a lot of  sprouts and fruits, some vegetables and less carbohydrates included. I cannot forgo milk and sugar completely so I will include them in my diet in such a way that they do  not add to my calories and keep me away from my target. Probably I will do some light exercise 4 days a week.

Likewise, when you are starting to learn something, you will find lots of learning tools/ schedules/plans/material. Plan your learning in such a way that you learn effectively. For example, you are trying to learn Photoshop and are freaked out by the instructions in the help manuals. Then stop. Do you enjoy watching videos? If yes, look up videos on YouTube and try out the tasks in Photoshop. This will probably speed up your learning.

3. Enjoy the process

Be it dieting or learning, you need to enjoy it. Believe me, if you do not enjoy, you will never get the results you want.  Let’s say, you are on a detox diet for 7 days and all through you feel deprived of pizzas and burgers. There are a lot of chances that you give up your detox diet much before the 5th day or you end up frustrated/distressed at the end of the 7th day. Either ways, it is not working well. You must never force yourself to eat something that you do not like and never starve.

Likewise, when you are learning something new, make sure you are enjoying it. For example, if you are taking up an e-learning program in your organization just because it is a part of an induction program, then let me tell you it is as good as not taking the program. Instead if you think, you need to be aware of the company business, process/policies and more, so that you can contribute better and it will add value to your career, it will make a lot of difference.

4. Don’t get desperate about results

You diet for two days and expect the weighing scale to show a pound lesser. No way! This is not going to happen. You need to give this some time. Likewise, while learning, don’t overwork your brain. This will end in a lot of tension and frustration. Most students in India fail to learn, because all that they see is the grades/marks they need to score in the examination. You just need to focus on your target which is reasonable to achieve and keep working towards it. Learning will happen automatically.

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What do you think of this post? Please leave your 2 cents in the Comments section.

4 Essential Steps to Teach a New Concept/Technique

Target Audience: Beginner/Intermediate (Instructional Designers/Content Writers/Technical Writers)

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Before I get to the crux of this post, here is a short note on what prompted me to write this post:

I like taking good photos, though am not particularly interested in photography. I find it really hard to work with SLR settings. So I settled for a camera which has a lot of automatic settings and some basic SLR settings, that are easy to work with. I was not sure what to do with the options AV/TV. So I googled to learn about these options and stumbled upon lot of articles. I did get something out all of those articles I read. But then, I was still confused.

It is then I found this article : How to use aperture priority, AV (for Canon) or A (for Nikon) mode on your digital SLR camera.  While I clearly learned how to use the AV option in my camera, I realized that this article very nicely  illustrates the 4 essential steps you need to follow to teach a new concept/technique to a user/learner.

And this prompted me to list the 4 essential steps here. So here we begin:

 

 Always define/explain the new concept/technique with an example

Explain the benefits of using the concept/technique

 List the steps to use the the concept/technique using a real life example.

 

 

 Finally allow the learner/user to try out  the concept/technique

The assessment below not only gives a recap of the steps but also allows the learner/user to practically try out the steps to use the AV mode.

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So what do you think about this post? Please take some time to post a comment.

What Kind of Project Are You Working on?

Its been quite some time since I connected with you all. So I am just curious to know what you/other Instructional Designers are working on these days?

Please go ahead and take this poll. Feel free to choose more than one response. If you are working on custom e-learning, please do not choose the rest of the options. I am sure the results are going to be interesting :-)

What kind of project are you working on?

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