How to Make Your Presentations Pop

Classroom settings create training challenges and opportunities.  Reminding ourselves about the experiential dynamics of the classroom can increase content retention while positively impacting participant perception about and satisfaction with your organizational culture of learning. After reading this blog, soon your trainings will be able to POP . . .

A primary experiential classroom dynamic is that of distractions, interruptions in the planned flow and rhythm of a presentation that detract from learning.  Interruptions always will be present to one degree or another—a participant coughs several times while another adjusts her/his chair; such interruptions are momentary by nature. Still interruptions can monopolize attention—a noise is heard; a coffee fell…did it splash…who’s reacting…should I help? Interruptions, however, can lead some to disengage or even become cynical—a computer is not working; restarting doesn’t help…a murmur envelopes the room…some check e-mail…“this always happens”…“it’s a stupid training”… et cetera.

With thoughtful preparation, a skillful trainer can prevent many of these interruptions from becoming distractions or to avoid them from even happening. The dynamics of distractions can be termed POP: Personal, Operational, and Professional.  This week’s blog will deal with personal distractions.

Personal Distractions

In theory, personal dynamics of distraction can be discounted: we are adults who can focus; we are professionals getting paid to work. While being adult and professional, participants are also human.  That is, while everybody has universal needs, everybody is unique with lives outside of work. Likewise, while nobody per se is exempt from training, nobody is taking the training is perfect. With this realization, trainers can appreciate several personal elements.

A. Trainer Identity. The tone set at the beginning of a session frequently conditions how participants will receive the information delivered. The trainer needs to be professional, positive, and welcoming. Also, trainers are “experts,” who need to be sensitive to the natural vulnerability of students in the learning environment. All of this is key, because initial opinions about the trainer directly impact whether and how the participants engage during the session.

  1. Clothing: If the trainer is from outside the organization, then one could simply wear traditional business attire, or even call the organizer to obtain a sense of the style of the audience. Alternatively, if the trainer is from the organization, he or she should wear clothing consistent with the organizational culture. For example, if ALL staff members wear casual clothing, then wearing a suit and tie could to alienate participants. Clothing may seem to be superficial—and, in many ways it is—but something as simple as clothing should not create a distraction that prevents participants from focusing or taking the trainer seriously.
  2. Approachable: While ostensibly an “expert,” the trainer truly needs to be approachable.  Smiling, as is often quipped, uses fewer muscles than a grimace.  If he or she is not positive, then participants are apt to feel a sense anxiety or to be negatively disposed, which ultimately distracts from the learning process. Also, when interacting, be sure to affirm questions and be non-judgmental; an audience can turn away from a trainer if the session is imbued with her or his sense superiority as opposed to excitement and personal warmth.
  3. Preparation: Organizations use trainers for their talent in presentation and ability to convey chosen information. The trainer needs to be prepared and, regardless of familiarity, still organize and prepare. Something may have changed meriting a revision in your presentation. If participants point out the error, then one’s authority can be diminished. Yet even this can be a positive learning experience: instead of being defensive, one should thank the speaker for the information while affirming that others should feel comfortable in sharing. Training is not simply a transmission of dry facts but a reciprocal learning environment. This helps participants to engage mentally and increases trust for in-class exercises.

B. Courtesies. Remember to go over the basics surrounding the classroom site at the onset. Unless this is an in-house training, most will not be familiar with the location of various things: exits, elevators, restrooms, building cafeteria, food establishments in the area, et cetera; much less a courtesy, many jurisdictions require trainers at remote sites to provide disaster/safety information.  A good trainer will outline the training, define its goals, and share the anticipated break and completion times. All of this provides participants with focus regarding training value as well as a means to envision how the session fits into the rest of their day while eliminating associated distractions.

C. Physiological Matters. Especially for sessions lasting several hours if not the entire day, trainers must be cognizant of a certain type of interruptions.

  1. Sleep: In the context of morning or longer sessions, participants may present as sleepy and/or distracted.  This distraction frequently is created physiologically (and, ideally, not from the trainer).  In the morning, participants may not have gotten enough sleep and/or are exhausted; if possible, having refreshments always is a winning strategy—especially coffee. Alternatively, after returning from lunch, many experience the “postprandial dip,” that is, the diversion of energy from cognitive attention toward digestion. Hosts and trainers frequently provide an array of bite-sized, wrapped candies, which serve to “jolt” takers into a grateful attention. Other trainers ask the class to stand up, take a group stretch, and shake out their hands; another trainer, buttressed by studies, lowers room temperature a few degrees arguing it makes people less drowsy and more attentive.
  2. Hunger/Thirst: Having small snacks and a variety of drinks can be useful to create focus. Especially for morning sessions, participants may not have had time to eat that morning; having snacks and juices demonstrates consideration on the part of the host, while assuring the trainer that the audience will not be restless due to hunger.  Similarly, having bottled water available eliminates the need for participants to exit the room for the water fountain. Some budgets (and conditions) may afford for the provision of lunch—especially important when the session is located at a site not close to any food establishment.

D. Emotional Matters.  The dynamic of emotional matters is at once the easiest to identify while being the most difficult to resolve. When participants are anxious, depressed, or annoyed, then their attention span and ability to engage and learn is dramatically reduced. Emotions can be read through body language and expressions, but it is challenging to divine its origin. What are the results of their last performance evaluation?  Will the bank refinance their mortgage?   Can they afford to send a daughter to her college of choice? Unless the source is somehow clearly related to session and/or the trainer, not much can or should be done to address such matters.  

The trainer should effectively teach the subject matter, not serve as a therapist.  Still, trainers should be intuitively sensitive to and understanding about participant needs while creating a welcoming, non-threatening atmosphere that also is interesting. Engaging sessions mentally transport participants, granting them license to explore ideas unrelated to personal challenges and problems. You not only serve as an expert but as an entertainer providing a respite—all toward the end of helping members of the audience to learn.

E. Competing Technology.  Yes, welcome to the twenty-first century! Participants vary in technological competence: some multi-task several projects on different technologies while others get locked out of their organizational portal. Yet virtually everyone has an organizational or personal cell phone, tablet, and/or laptop; indeed, many use them while arriving at the session: checking texts, emailing, or making a quick on-line purchase (here, time is less money!).  Consumer technology is omnipresent, distracting the user and irritating others. If not careful, competing technology can steal the focus. Different strategies can be used to minimize distractions generated from competing technology.

  1. Participant Courtesy: At the onset, cheerfully, respectfully, though clearly remind everyone how competing technology creates serious distractions.  Ask participants to turn their technology off or to the vibrate setting. Also, provide a protocol for those who expect to receive urgent communication during the session; encourage them to sit at the rear of the classroom, ideally close to the door to momentarily leaving the room to afford them privacy and avoid distracting others. When interrupted by an errant cell phone ring—and it will happen—avoid irritation and simply ignore the interruption unless the receiver actually is orally responding to the caller. In such scenarios, trainers should politely request the cell phone user to finish the call in the hallway. (Most are embarrassed and will hastily comply.)
  2. Session Agreement: Again, discuss how competing technology creates serious distractions. Now, and this is a bit bold, ask everyone to hold up their cell phone, and after they do, then warmly and softly implore them to turn off their cell phone at that moment or—at the very least—to switch the setting to vibrate. Relay a humorous anecdote to ease any tension. This can create a humorous aside and a bonding moment of levity should a cell phone ring.

To get added to our mailing list to get regular updates on JAG learning best practices and white papers, please sign-up!

 

Craig Lee Keller, Ph.D., Learning Strategist

Tips for Using Animation in eLearning Courses

Life Science Demo Animation

Adding animation to your eLearning courses is an excellent way to emotionally connect with learners, break down difficult concepts, and enhance the learning experience. In this post I’ll review the benefits of using animation and offer tips for creating effective animations.

 

 

Why Use Animations?

Movement and Mood– Animations give your course personality and movement. Our eyes are naturally drawn to motion, and animation offers more visual interest than a static screen. You can also use animation to set the course’s mood. Do you want learners to feel relaxed or alert? Is this course going to be light-hearted or serious? The animation you use in your introductions can impact your learners’ mindset as they approach the material.

 

Information Accessibility– Animation is also a great tool for breaking down difficult concepts or multistep processes. For example, some courses use whiteboard animation, which is a popular and engaging method of depicting complex information as hand drawings on a whiteboard in sync with audio. Showing difficult concepts as bite-sized animated chunks makes them more accessible to learners and easier to retain. You can also animate static graphics like charts and graphs, making them more engaging. Further, animation gives learners the ability to learn at their own pace. They can replay the animations as many times as they need or even slow the animation down, making the information incredibly accessible.

 

Social Context– Lastly, animation can create social context for solo learners. Most learners are accustomed to instructor-led classroom or seminar settings, which include social interactions with peers and instructors. Including a social aspect in your eLearning course can boost learner motivation and interest. You can create animated characters that act as expert instructors, peer instructors, or co-learners, simulating a classroom experience.

Dos and Don’ts

While animation can be a great tool, when used incorrectly it can demotivate or even annoy learners. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so learners get the greatest benefit from your animations.

  • DO offer a mute or skip button: Give learners the opportunity to mute animations or skip introductions, especially if every section begins with the same animation sequence. Respect your learners and give them control over their eLearning experience.
  • DO use a well-written script and high quality audio recordings: Poor quality dialogue or audio that is too loud, busy, or poorly recorded will not engage learners.
  • DON’T use animation that’s inappropriate for the audience: Remember your learners are adults. Animation, while it can be funny, cute, or entertaining, should always suit the audience, subject matter, and mood of the course. Avoid anything juvenile or inappropriate.
  • DON’T use “filler” animation: Animation should always connect with and/or augment the material. Don’t use animation to fill space or add it just for entertainment’s sake. When in doubt ask yourself, “Is this relevant to the content?”

In a later blog, I’ll discuss how to ensure that learners with disabilities have an equivalent experience (section 508 compliance) when animated elements are presented in a course.

Check out our Life Sciences animated Demo by clicking this link.

How have you used animation in your learning development?

 

 

Social Media and eLearning

Computer keyboard with special keys for social media

These days it seems like everyone is on social media. But social media has uses beyond posting selfies and videos.

It’s an exciting tool that can enhance eLearning by providing opportunities for learners all over the globe to collaborate.

Here are some popular social media sites and ideas for how to use them in your eLearning.

Facebook

  • Facebook– As of 2015, Facebook has over 49 billion monthly users, a number that’s grown steadily since its inception. On Facebook you can create public and private groups, message group members, organize events, and conduct private one-on-one and group conversations. It’s a great tool for enhancing eLearning since learners can collaborate with one another and the instructor outside of the eLearning content. Since so many people already have Facebook profiles, Facebook is very accessible and user-friendly.

Youtube Logo On Digital Tablet

  • Youtube– The Internet’s largest collection of videos also has terrific eLearning capabilities. Anyone can upload videos to Youtube, comment on videos, respond with other videos, and subscribe to a video channel. You can easily embed videos from Youtube into your eLearning course or use Youtube to post videos for your learners. They can then comment, ask questions, or share other relevant videos.

Waveform.

  • Audacity– Audacity is a free program that allows you to record live audio, convert tapes and records to digital, and edit your recordings. With Audacity, you can generate your own podcasts or digitize rare recordings to augment the eLearning experience. Audacity is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, so anyone can use it.

Google

  • Google– With Google Docs multiple users can view and edit documents that are automatically saved to Google and can be accessed from anywhere. Google also has Google Slides, Forms, and Sheets for making slideshows, forms, and spreadsheets in the same manner. For a fee, Google Sites users can collaborate to create web sites in a user-friendly interface, allowing teams to work without an IT Specialist or web developer. With these tools learners anywhere could work together on eLearning assignments.

Business Conference On Skype

  • Skype– With Skype your learners can make group video or voice calls, have group chats, share files, photos, and videos, and screen share, making Skype an incredibly versatile collaborative tool for completing assignments or communicating with an instructor.

 

Do you have any favorite tips for using social media in eLearning?

5 Tips for Using Scenarios in eLearning

a handsome asian male call centre executive of indian origin

Sean is a Customer Support Specialist at Rapid Internet. He answers the phone to a customer who has been sitting on hold for over forty-five minutes. The customer is very unhappy. What should Sean say?

 

Scenarios like this are a great way for learners to practice and apply a course’s content in real-life situations. You could use this question as a starting point for a branching scenario, where each option opens up another series of choices, allowing learners to see the consequences of Sean’s actions.

 

Scenarios give learners the chance for trial and error in a low risk environment, allowing them to learn from their mistakes. They also offer an opportunity for you to assess the learner’s understanding without resorting to standard quizzes.

 

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you design scenarios for your eLearning courses.

 

Businessman Choosing

A Good Scenario Is…

 

 

  • A Story: At its heart a scenario is a story, which means it needs characters, setting, conflict, and plot. Spend some time outlining these elements before your start designing, to ensure you have a story that makes sense, appeals to learners, and has all of the necessary elements.

 

  • Sure of Itself: Your scenario needs a clear goal. That is, it must relate to the overall course objectives. Make sure your scenario clearly reflects the intended learning outcomes and models the problem-solving process your learners will have to use in real life. It should also build off of the skills your learners already have and reflect their level of expertise.

 

  • Realistic: Your learners won’t “buy in” to the scenario if it’s unrealistic or not relatable. Take some time to research your intended audience. Craft characters and situations that reflect your learners’ lives and work culture. Use industry-specific images and avatars to tailor the course to the audience.

 

  • Engaging: Your scenario should appeal to your learners’ emotions. Make them laugh or feel sympathetic. Use videos with actors or avatars to show, rather than tell, your story. Your scenario should be detailed, complex, and interesting. You need to keep your learners’ attention and make them care about your characters.

 

  • Straightforward: However, don’t get carried away with unnecessary details. Your learners don’t need to know the characters’ backstories, for instance. Stick to the information that learners need to make informed decisions. Lastly, make sure the information and events are presented in a logical order.

 

Do you have any tips for writing scenarios? Share in the comments below!

 

 

Where Are We Going? Determining Course Objectives

Determining Course Objectives

When you sit down to design a course you need a clear set of goals or objectives. Think of these objectives as your course’s roadmap. You wouldn’t set off on a road trip without map or GPS to guide the way. When your learners sit down at a course they expect a clear map of where they’re going, what they’re going to learn, and how they’ll know they’ve learned it.

An objective has three parts:

  • Performance
  • Conditions
  • Criterion

 

Performance is the behavior you expect the learner to perform. The behavior should be measurable and specific. Here are some bad examples.

  • Become familiar with US government regulations for the manufacture of medicines
  • Develop an awareness of uncommon drug side effects

The problem with these objectives is they’re neither measurable nor specific. How will you measure your learners’ familiarity with US government regulations, or their awareness of common drug side effects? You can’t. Plus, these are broad topics covering a tremendous scope of information. It’s far better to narrow your focus to a specific topic and objective. Here are some better examples.

  • Explain the FDA’s 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 210
  • Identify nine uncommon side effects of Sertraline

These are better because they pinpoint specific behaviors. Notice the action verbs “explain” and “identify.” They’re much stronger and more specific than “become familiar” or “develop.” Explaining a specific code or identifying specific side effects is an observable, measurable behavior.

Conditions are the circumstances in which the learner will perform the behavior. There is a big difference between, “The learner will identify nine uncommon side effects of Sertraline from memory,” and “The learner will identify nine uncommon side effects of Sertraline using the AHFS DI from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.”

Will your learners be using study aides or working from memory? Will they be performing the behavior alone or in front of an audience? The more specific your conditions, the better your learners will understand what’s expected of them.

Criterion is a description of what constitutes an acceptable performance. This is the evaluation portion where you explain how learners will know they’ve mastered the skill. Criterion involves either speed or accuracy.  

Speed indicates a time limit. For example:

  • Explain the FDA’s 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 210 in less than 10 minutes

Accuracy describes the range of acceptable performance. For example:

  • Correctly identify 8 out of 9 uncommon side effects of Sertraline

 

When you combine performance, conditions, and criterion, you get a clear course objective that:

  • Guides activities, instruction materials, and assessments
  • Tells your learners what’s expected of them and what they’ll learn
  • Keeps the course focused on specific skills and goals

Here are our examples with all three parts:

  • Learners will explain before a panel the FDA’s 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 210 in less than 10 minutes
  • Learners will correctly identify from memory 8 out of 9 uncommon side effects of Sertraline

 

Before we part ways, here are some final tips for writing good course objectives.

  • Focus on the intended outcomes. What do you want your learners to be able to DO?
  • Stick to specific and measurable goals. Use concrete verbs like “solve” or “identify.” Avoid “fuzzy” verbs like “appreciate” or “understand.”
  • Say what the learner will do, not the course or instructor. Rather than, “This course will teach learners how to…” write, “After completing this course learners will be able to…”

Keep these tips in mind and your learners will soon be ready for the open road.

Businessman Using Digital Tablet

What You Need to Know About Using Avatars in eLearning

Sandy Avatar

 

 

 

 

This is an avatar that I have created, named Sandy. She is here to tell you some important information about using avatars in eLearning. Avatars are great for making a dense, content-heavy course more interactive and engaging for learners.

 

 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Use Avatars as Guides: An avatar usually speaks directly to learner, and can act as a helpful guide or instructor throughout the course. You can use an avatar to introduce a topic, offer tips throughout the course, ask quiz questions, and provide feedback.

 

  • Use Avatar Actors: Don’t think you’re stuck with one avatar. You can create multiple avatars for a course and use them to illustrate various scenarios. Also consider using avatars to reinforce key ideas with speech bubbles that reflect the audio. By visually reinforcing the content, you increase the likelihood the learner will retain the information.

 

  • Consider Your Audience: In order to appeal and engage your learners, your avatar should reflect your target audience. For example, an avatar for a corporate training course should look and sound different from an avatar for a 1st grade reading course. In both cases, you want your avatar to be appealing and credible.

 

Keep the avatar’s dialogue conversational to engage the learner. However, because your avatar is a virtual instructor, make sure you avoid slang or inappropriate humor that would undermine your avatar’s credibility.

 

  • Don’t Distract: There’s a line between engaging and distracting. Avoid having your avatar move around the screen excessively, or pop up at inopportune moments. An avatar shouldn’t be distracting or annoying to the learner. Above all, don’t make your avatar the star at the expense of content. The main focus of the course should be the material; the avatar is merely a tool to convey the information.

How do you use avatars in your eLearning?

Online Training or Face-to-Face Training: Which is Better?

Bing. You just got a message in your inbox. Your client needs you to design a course. It’s up to you how to present the material. Should the course be presented online or face-to-face (F2F)?

Google around and you’ll see there’s hot debate about whether online or F2F learning is more effective. While there are certainly pros and cons for each, it’s best to look at the audience, material, and intended outcome to determine whether online or F2F learning will best benefit your learners.

Digital Online Training Mentoring Learning Education Browsing Co

Favorable Factors for Online Learning

Large Audience– Online training is the most cost-effective way to reach a large, geographically dispersed audience, such as the employees of a multi-office corporation. Presenting the course F2F means paying for preparation, multiple instructors, travel expenses, accommodations, etc. For an extremely large audience, the cost per head expenses favor online learning.

Consistent Message– If you want to spread a consistent message through all levels of an organization, online learning is the way to go. Instructors vary, and even a course taught by the same instructor can vary depending on the audience. If you’re trying to establish consistent baseline awareness of policies, procedures, or values throughout an organization, online learning trumps F2F. In addition, it’s easier to monitor individual understanding with online learning. You can see who has completed required trainings and spot any knowledge gaps, ensuring consistent understanding at all levels.

Changing Material– Say the course you’re designing involves a rapidly changing field. If the information in the course frequently needs updating, you’re better off using online learning. It’s time-consuming and expensive to constantly retrain instructors and supply them with updated materials. With online learning you can easily change the material from one central point.

Face-to-face training

Favorable Factors for Face-to-Face Learning

Specialized Audience/Instructor – Courses directed at an expert audience such as specialists or senior managers are best taught F2F. An audience with a high degree of prior knowledge may want to focus on a particular subject. An F2F format easily allows the instructor to tailor the course to the audience’s interests. Additionally, courses taught by specialists should be presented F2F. If the CFO of a major corporation is leading the course, the participants will want to see and meet him/her in person.

Specialized or Confidential Material– Courses with hands-on components need to be taught F2F. True, a chemistry student could watch a video of chemical reaction, but that’s a poor substitute for actual lab experience.

If your training is highly dependent on monitoring social cues and body language, such as a counseling or conflict management course, you should present it F2F. Make sure you give learners the opportunity to apply their new knowledge in classroom activities. Kinesthetic learners will especially appreciate these sorts of exercises, but all learners will benefit from an opportunity to apply what they’re learning through role-playing, discussions, and F2F interactions.

In addition, if the course involves instructor-student confidentiality, it’s best to present it F2F. For example, in a conflict management course, learners may want to ask the instructor’s advice for how to handle a difficult employee or co-worker. In an instructor-led online course, learners can post questions or email the instructor directly, but most people would avoid putting confidential questions into writing. In a F2F situation, the learner can approach the instructor privately.

Networking– While synchronous learning offers learners opportunities to work together on online, you can’t beat F2F courses for networking. Courses that involve bringing people together from different companies or departments to collaborate should be taught F2F to give learners valuable opportunities to pool resources, network, and generally schmooze.

 

To wrap up, online courses are the most cost-effective way of disseminating a consistent message to a broad audience with a limited budget, while F2F courses are best suited to networking, and specialized audiences, instructors, and material. Take a hard look at the audience, material, and intended outcome to decide which method will best serve your learners.