A Sharing Community

So many professionals work in competitive industries. I worked in one without really knowing how toxic it had become.


I am in a different workplace from the one I just described. It is like a breadth of fresh air. There are no promotional opportunities where I am working – however, there is huge investment in upskilling, wellbeing and ensuring we work as a team. Our own self-development is being invested in. It is up to each employee to do further study if they wish. We are encouraged to learn. However, there is no need to take proprietor ownership of ideas and resources. Indeed, there is nothing to gain from doing so. I will repeat, there are no promotional opportunities.

Competition is good – sometimes. However, if there is too much competition built into an industry or workplace, it becomes counterproductive. Workplaces can become toxic and cut-throat very quickly.

Sharing design ideas and supporting each other is a far better workplace culture. It is cooperative. It is also a nicer place to work. Fact!

I am amazed at the resources and templates people working in the field of instructional design are willing to share. I have ripped templates apart on Articulate to see how they were built! Sometimes I had to go back to the designer to find out more. Everyone I spoke to is so proud of their work and happy to share. How wonderful is that!? Yes, it is a breadth of fresh air.

Speaking of fresh air, it is time for ice-cream.
Us Irish are not used to 29 degrees! Lol

E

Its a wrap

My own photo. Blue skies. There is light.

Introduction

This final blog will be a bit eclectic. Firstly, I will report on my experiences of the MA programme because this is expected of me. However, I will also outline my serious learning outcomes dilemma which I mentioned in a previous blog. Finally, I will upload that picture you have all been waiting to see – the bold Penny.

Firstly, let me reflect on the MA programme. I chose to do the MA part-time. I was not sure how part-time study would pan out. Two years of study seemed daunting when I first registered. Even though I had read up on the course, I was not fully sure what the course was about – certainly not the technical writing aspect. I gravitated to the learner profile and read that many teachers had previously completed the course. This was the big selling point for me. Another big lure was the fact that it was as good as fully online with little on-site presence. I figured I would be able to work part-time and study part-time, and hopefully work out the few on-site days with my employer (if they were scheduled during the week). For these reasons I decided on this course.

Support from work colleagues

As it happened, it has been a really good decision to study part-time and work part-time. My work colleagues are like a second family to me. They encouraged me to keep going when I hit the down days. A few months into the course I suffered a major bereavement. I am a very independent person but I needed their support to get back on track after I took time out. I had fully intended to return, but I still needed their support. I benefitted from seeing these good people everyday (pre-Covid!) while resuming study. It proved to be a good balance.

In addition, when I returned to online study a year later, there was a completely different class group to get to know. This took time for me to “fit in” again so I was glad to have important and encouraging humans in my life.

New skills I developed during the programme

The course is well worth doing. I cannot praise it enough. I developed new skills and I have improved on existing skills. Skills and knowledge I gained include:

  • New awareness of IT potential

Even though I have been using Microsoft products for the past 15 years, I never realized the potential of PowerPoint as a creative design tool. Ironically, I used to wonder why there were so many shapes! I now see the potential of PowerPoint to aid storyboarding, storytelling, animation and to have impressive templates far beyond bullet points. In addition, I now have experience of using Audacity, Articulate, PowerPoint, Doodly, Wix, and WordPress. Their potential as tools for my own future work have been realized. I am actively now using Audacity and Articulate for work. I will use Wix next year to build my own website.

  • Writing skills

I can compare my writing to my driving. I picked up bad habits. This course highlighted this. I am now more aware of my content. My writing has improved. My notes, instructions and emails are more concise. I do not use as much jargon as I did! I had never heard of plain language until I researched this for my literature review. This and Universal Design I am particularly interested in.

Regarding this blog and writing, I kept a diary for years but I got out of the habit of writing. The release of feelings and thoughts while diary writing is so good for mental health. This blog has reignited my interest in writing! I will keep up with a blog.

Finally regarding writing skills, I like to think I finally got to grips with Harvard referencing! I do hope so.

  • New theories and their application

I was knowledgeable of leading theorists such as Gagné and Bloom. As a teacher, I applied their theories regularly (daily!) in my work. I was also somewhat familiar with different learning styles and face-to-face classroom strategies. However, I was not aware of new models relating to blended and online learning. Gilly Salmon comes to mind because her Five Stage Model was a model I was part of as a learner, and also one I applied this year as a learning practitioner. I love this model. I have continued to read up on her and I will continue to follow her workshops and presentations. In fact, my employer arranged external trainers to train all staff on her Five Stage model recently. I felt like saying “stand back folks, leave this one to me” – I jest of course.

  • Design skills

I have always loved design. I learned so much about the importance of Sans Serif fonts and clutter free design. I am now a big fan of Edward Tufte. I had previously heard of The Gestalt Principles but had not applied these to my own work. I am more aware of design choices when creating my own assignments and documents. I was not aware of the principles of Universal Design. I now take more care and make more effort with my own course resources. Applying Millars’ Law and The Magical Number Seven and chunking information have improved my own work in the online classroom.

Knowles’ Theory of Andragogy has been very relevant now that I have transferred completely to adult education from second level. Adults learn very differently to young students.

  • Time Management

I learnt how to be more organized and how to make more of my time. Time management is essential when studying online. In particular, during the lockdowns, days and weeks became a blur. Keeping track of weeks and assignment deadlines is necessary. Keeping lists and planning life and work around assignments was crucial. I had to learn to pace myself in a way which was workable. In fact, I had to plan to be well ahead of deadlines to ensure I met them.

Elements of the programme what gave scope to work creatively

I think creativity is the core of the programme. The assignments gave scope to work creatively. They are learner centered. Decisions were ours to make regarding what topics we wanted to develop or research. We were given scope to create our own podcasts/instructional guide/e-learning resource/website based on our own knowledge and interests. The assignments are very well designed. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but they are enjoyable to do.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the e-tivities. These allowed a lot of freedom for discussions and creative suggestions. I particularly enjoyed the Gestalt e-tivity. Design is my thing!

The most valuable things I learned

Firstly, I have learned the value of clear and concise writing. I am more conscious of what I write. My instructions to my own learners have improved. In addition, I use less jargon in my emails. I use imperative mode for instructions. I am benefitting from better outcomes and reactions to my own assignments and general better productivity in my own work.

Secondly, becoming a learner for the past two years has been very valuable. I have taken away a lot from being at the other side of the table and having the perspective of a learner. Studying online is not easy. Even the most motivated of people may face external stresses which can completely derail progress. For this reason, I feel learner supports are key. I would have had little understanding of this pre-embarking on this programme. I was probably a bit intolerant of people who did not complete their courses. I am now a lot more empathetic as a result of my experiences.

In addition, I learned the value of e-tivities. They can take the heaviness from assignments, yet are crucial steps to build ability for assignments. They are essential for retention and engagement. They help also to establish a class community.

I have learned how to use IT more effectively in my job. Only for assignments such as this, I would never have tried using WordPress or Wix. I simply never thought of using tools like these.

I have taken some of the ideas from e-tivities and assignments from this course and I will redesign resources for my own learners. This year, I provided my own learners with templates of documents such as reports with automatic table of contents similar to what we were given. I also provided samples of assignments because I experienced the value of seeing samples of work.

What differences would I like to see in future

I cant suggest any changes. The e-tivities are excellent. The peer feedback assignment in Year 2 turned out to be a very positive experience. I really enjoyed this assignment. Before this, I did not know any one in the class. The Twitter assignment is also very good because I feel it has connected the group better.

Impact of Covid-19 on study

Covid has had both a positive and a negative impact on my study. From a positive viewpoint, the course has given me something other than the virus to think about. The assignments have allowed me to escape mentally from everything going on.

However, due to Covid, my day job workload increased. Last year, I had state exam classes and QQI learners to contend with. All the stress of uncertainly and the chaos of predicted grades affected my study. I felt completely overwhelmed. The time I had put aside for assignments was eaten up by the craziness of the emergency. Circumstances changed every week and work that I was doing became void because of changes in government decisions. I worked late into the evenings trying to devise alternative assessments and marking schemes for QQI. It was chaotic and my energy levels plummeted. My cognitive load certainly reached maximum capacity. I do not think I have recovered yet from the stresses and exhaustion of last year.

In saying this, Year 2 has been better. I could even say – it is “calm.” I am glad I am doing the course as Covid lockdowns continue. The course has focused my mind on the future and post-Covid. I am not on the lookout for new employment. I am very happy with my transfer into further education. However, I do hope to use my skills in another way. I hope to help volunteer groups and community groups design websites. Covid has made me very aware of supporting my local community.

My motivation

Initially, I was motivated to do the MA as a personal challenge. I was unstimulated in my job and tired of it to be honest. I was in a complete rut. However, I am now in a new and growing further education college. The college is benefitting from much investment and there will be many new opportunities. This course will open many doors. I am now extremely keen and motivated to get to the finish line. I just hope I do.

Learning Outcomes Dilemma

Almost finally, my dilemma with learning outcomes. I say this from a learners perspective. I question whether learners read LOs? From my own observations and experience, few do. They are often skipped and ignored as learners are keen just to get into the main content. However, LOs may be read at a later stage. I have been delving into this topic and doing some further reading on this. Do LOs presented at the very beginning of a course hinder rather than help? Should LOs be kept very broad and basic for learners initially with more detailed outcomes placed after learners begin a course? Are there alternative ways of presenting LOs? I am considering this with regard to my final year project. I would not have considered this topic except this programme has stimulated my interest in all things related to online learning. In addition, I look more closely at websites and all things in print. Design, content, chunking, colours and fonts strike me even when I am out shopping! The course really has opened my eyes.

Finally,

no words needed.

End of blog

Revisiting my crimes

Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

I read it a few time, but it just did not sink in. The note was on the assignment brief, but I did not “get it“. Now, after my challenging week of Wix and eportfolio work, I fully and completely understand that note. The penny dropped mid week when I actually attempted to upload my Articulate Storyline e-learning project. I comprendo!

Lets hit the back button

A week ago today I started to work in earnest on my eportfolio, using Wix. Looking back over the week, I have made good progress and I have learned a lot. I now know the difference between developer mode and editor mode. In addition, I know how to upload files and how to add buttons and all sorts of decorative features to my site. I am struggling a bit with background colour changes and themes but I do not intend to think too deeply about colour until I have my content managed. I am happy to use Wix now that I am over the initial and steep learning.

I chose my four artifacts this week. I revisited the scenes of my crimes. I say this in jest because I am proud of my pieces even though they contain errors and could be improved. However, I also surprised myself. I am confident I can build a polytunnel from my instruction guide. I intend to test my theory this summer!

I enjoyed looking back on my work. I have decided to include my first project and my last and two in between. However, I have made a conscious decision not to correct my “mistakes” contained within. I will allow my crimes to go into my eportfolio. Firstly, I am proud of these pieces. Secondly, the learning curve was vertical upwards. They reflect where I was at. However, now that I have had the luxury of time away from these projects, plus having had detailed feedback from lecturers, I can include in the content of my eportfolio a reflection on improvements I would make in hindsight. While working on these pieces and while working to deadlines, I was too close to the crime to see improvements I now see. I needed this space to review them all again. My learning has actually built up and accumulated.

The note explained

Getting back to Wix and what I learned this week, I discovered Amazon S3. I was determined to have my Articulate Storyline e-learning resource included in my portfolio. After all, it is the biggest project I have completed to date. Even though it was clearly stated on the assignment which I just referred to in my opening sentence, I “discovered” I could not upload Storyline directly onto Wix. This was clearly stated in the note. However, it meant absolutely nothing to me at the time because I did not understand it. But I do now. I learned it through trial and error. I was the cat that accidentally discovered the lever.

The cat

What has a cat got to do with it? Everything as it happens. Edward Thorndike (1898) was a leading psychologist and researcher who first studied trial and error as a learning style. The framework for trial and error is based on the psychology of behaviorism. To better understand trial and error learning, Thorndike studied a cat and its behavior when it was placed inside a closed box. To lure the cat out of the box, fish was left nearby. The cat had to learn how to get out of the box by pressing a lever which would release the cat door. The cat tried various means to escape but all efforts failed. Finally, the cat accidentally stumbled on the lever and discovered by doing so that it was free to go. Once the cat learned to press the lever it retained what it had learned because it was rewarded accordingly. According to Thorndike (1898), learning will take place when there is a connection between stimulus and response. (Praveen 2017)

This best describes the process of learning that I have used most during the last two years. Trial and error and accidental discoveries is probably the best way to learn how to use software. It is so empowering to make discoveries and to overcome obstacles, that the reward using this style is above all grades.

Learning styles

However, there are many different learning styles. A learning style is best described as a preferred way to learn. Learning styles can be fluid. For example, on a Monday, a person might need to a mix of stimulus to trigger their learning mode into action. On a Friday, learning could be triggered much easier if the reward is an early escape for the weekend. In saying all of this, I am aware of the VARK Model from my teaching days. VARK provides strategies for the four main learning styles:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Reading/Writing
  • Kinesthetic

It is important to consider what type of stimulus helps a person to learn best. A simple but concise diagram of this model is presented here.

image: https://tutoringwithatwist.ca

The simplicity of this model serves as a reminder to all IDs to consider different learning styles when designing a learning resource. However, more complex models indicate that there are at least 8 learning styles, but as a reminder, this is a very powerful image.

To conclude on todays blog, I will provide some strategies under the four VARK learning types which may be useful when developing a learning resource.

Visual learners learn best by

  • pictures, illustrations and photographs
  • icons
  • graphs
  • charts and diagrams
  • flashcards
  • use of colour to highlight important words

Auditory learners learn best with

  • music
  • jingles and rhymes
  • repetition
  • narration and recorded notes
  • storytelling
  • reading out loud

Reading/Writing learners learn best by

  • handwriting notes
  • words rather than symbols
  • fill in the blank type questions
  • use of bullet points and lists
  • use of headings and clear paragraphs

Kinesthetic learners learn best by

  • allowing experimentation
  • physical and multi-sensory stimulus
  • demonstrations
  • touch and feel type assignments
  • building or making project type (Tutoringwithatwist, n.d)

When I completed my e-learning resource, I did consider stimulus and learner styles. I am glad I revisited learning styles today. Work on the final project will have to begin in earnest next month so this will be handy to reread. On this note, I must trial Rise to learn how to upload it to Amazon S3 in order to get the https web link. This now makes perfect sense.

References

References

Learning style strategies, available:

https://www.tutoringwithatwist.ca/vark-learning-styles

[date accessed: 14/03/2021]

Praveen, S. (2017), ‘Trial and Error Learning’, Psychestudy, available

https://www.psychestudy.com/behavioral/learning-memory/trial-error-learning

[date accessed: 14/03/2021]

VARK Learning Style [image] available:

https://tutoringwithatwist.ca/ns/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ben2-vark-elearning-styles-business_orig.jpg

[date accessed: 14/03/2021]

Fun with flags and supports

This week in my mailbox, I received an original drawing from an “artist in residence” from Cork. A very special almost seven year old knows that I am working hard developing my “First Paws” final project. I promised her that I would upload her drawing to my blog so she can tell her múinteoir (teacher) her nuacht (news) that it has gone víreasach (viral).

This started me thinking about learner supports and how important they are. This drawing was such a lovely well needed morale boost.

As it happened, last week I felt I was a learner. I forget sometimes that I am a learner. I felt pressurised and stressed, and if I am honest, a bit down in the dumps. My day job is revving up to full throttle with final projects from my own adult learners due at Easter. I spent the week clocking up hours check in on my groups while knee deep in the development of alternative assessments for their final exams. I was wrecked and I still had my UL workload. To cap it, both my oven and heating system crashed while Ireland was being influenced by an Icelandic weather front. It really was one of those weeks. The weight of the world was on me.

However, I was very appreciative of the efforts people made to make me feel better. In addition to receiving this drawing, I also received a one-to-one call from my project supervisor. She really inspired me to keep going. I was not in danger of quitting the course, absolutely not. Simply, it was just one of those weeks. We all get them.

I am going to repeat this last sentence on purpose. We all get them. I am a relatively mature person in age and usually on top of my game, but I needed a helping hand. It would seem this evening that even The Queen of England needs support. The point I am making is that needing supports will hit us all at some stage regardless of age or where we are at in life. On the surface, it might be difficult to determine who needs a boost. Therefore, providing learner supports to all learners is essential. For the most part, supports do not need to be complicated. Simple cost effective strategies can be extremely effective. Indeed, a phone call, kind words and support from family and friends can go a long way.

At work I am involved in the Amber Flag Initiative (2021). This initiative promotes wellbeing for staff and learners.

The Pieta House Amber Flag initiative recognises the individual efforts of schools, companies and groups to create healthy and inclusive environments that support mental well-being.” (Pieta House, n.d.)

One of the initiatives we have planned for next week until the end of the academic year is to upload one daily motivational post for all learners and staff. I am interested in online motivational posts as a research topic. While carrying out research for my literature review, I discovered a study had been carried out in the 1990s on the effectiveness of daily quotes as a learner support. This research revealed that learners liked the quotes and they missed them when the daily quotes were stropped. These quotes did not impact on learner retention rates or their success or failure at online learning. However, these quotes had a role to play in making a learner feel uplifted every morning, even if their impact were short lived. In that study, family and friends were deemed to be the most important support for online learners, followed very closely by college tutors and employers. As a result of this study, the relevant college published material and information for different people with suggestions on how they could help their learner friend. If only I could find a link to reference the original study!

I think this could be a really great research topic going forward. I would be interested in finding out how learners are being supported, the type of supports being implemented and their successes or otherwise.

When designing online courses, learners should be provided with a suite of supports to help them succeed. At a basic level, physical supports such as access to IT equipment and software is a necessity. Further supports include assistive technology and training in the use of IT. However, the latest trend is to provide online learning support mentors.

Mentors have traditionally been provided to high risk primary and secondary students, but it seems the concept is expanding to adult learners. The impact of Covid-19 has highlighted the need for adults to be supported in their studies. The following is a summary list of skills required to be a general mentor.

Learning support mentors (LSM) must have:

  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to analyse problems and devise solutions
  • the ability to empathise
  • a non-judgemental approach
  • the capacity to motivate
  • a commitment to equality and diversity. (Prospects, n.d.)

There is a wealth of literature on retention of online learners. Providing a online mentoring support is a very interesting idea. No doubt it is the duty and role of course directors to be mentors as it is, but to appoint LSMs in their own right in full-time roles is an interesting idea. I know many colleges have year heads or course tutors, but this is a very impressive idea.

To conclude today’s blog, I will end with an inspiring quote, even if the impact is short lived.

“Instruction does much but encouragement does more.” (Lesson Planet, n.d.)

References

Amber Flag Initiative (2021), available:

https://www.pieta.ie

[date accessed 07/03/2021]

Lesson Planet quote available:

https://www.pinterest.com

[date accessed 07/03/2021]

Prospects (n.d), available:

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/learning-mentor

[date accessed 07/03/2021]

Coffee plain and simple?

I like plain coffee in a plain cup. Fuss free.

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

I have enjoyed many conversations with people over the last few weeks on the topic of remote learning. When I am out on my fresh air breaks, I meet many remote learners who are out on theirs. At this stage, we are all like family!

It goes without saying that everyone is different. Loving or hating online learning is a subjective case by case scenario. However, people have surprised me with their comments. For example, I met a freshman student and his friend on my last walk about. Both are very ambitious young men. I asked how they are getting on with their course and whether they have adjusted to remote learning. I expected to hear great things because they have succeeded with their courses. I felt sad to hear them both state that no matter how good their experience is this year, the stress caused by the Covid-19 emergency response has completely turned them off remote learning.

Their attitudes to online learning are certainly not exceptional. I hear it daily in my day job. I question constantly if the emergency response will result in online learning to be a “never again” experience for many people.

The emergency response forced us to leap into the abyss and wade with class groups through muddy waters. We grappled to get our groups to the finish line. Even though the response enabled many people to reach the finish line, there is a lot of damage done to the online industry. Without doubt, there is a complete lack of understanding that an emergency response is not the same as online learning. The impact of the trauma from the emergency response will impact on instructional designers for many years to come. They will have to go the extra 100 miles to deal with this unfortunate linked association. The design community must rise to the challenge or those traumatized people may never actually experience online learning.

The big question is, where and how do we start? Designers and everyone in the field must factor in the impact of Covid-19 in everything they do. We must take an active role to correct the lack of differentiation of emergency response and online learning. Unplanned and chaotic design and delivery of training is not how IDs and content developers do things!

Without doubt, the terminology around new learning is very confusing. Even though I am an adult education trainer, I find myself constantly referring to glossaries to correctly label what I do. For example, in this academic year, I am online learning. In my work, I am delivering both synchronous and asynchronous classes in a 80/20 blend in a virtual learning environment. It is now all remote.

I spent most of this year wondering what blend I was planning for. As the year has progressed, I have had enough of blending. So I am going to make a radical suggestion. How about we do not go the same way as coffee. I am going to tell people that I am “online learning” and I teach “online”. Im going to enjoy my coffee for what it is. It is coffee. Plain and simple.

After that, if anyone is interested enough, I can go into the specifics of the different ingredients, the type of blend and whether its all brewed in advance or live. Who is with me on this?

In case you are not, I am providing you with a glossary of terms.

Fair enough you might not agree with me on the terminology matter. That is perfectly ok. But I am sure you will agree with me on this next point. At the very least, due to the negative impact of the emergency response on many learners, as IDs we must go the extra miles. It is essential to design instruction with this regressed starting point in mind. We need to build in empathy in our courses acutely at the beginning. We must set up our learners to succeed. Seville (2019), in her article, states that we can do this in different ways, including:

  1. Planning assignments which build a sense of community and empathy.
  2. Providing students with opportunities to collaborate and to share feelings with each other.
  3. Modelling empathy and recognizing the challenges students face.
  4. Heaping the rewards and building confidence early on.

We must ensure our learners have amazing experiences with online learning. Indeed, there is only one expression we need all learners to be able to say and that is

I did it!” Indeed, the industry depends on it.

References

Seville, V. J. (2019) Teaching Empathy in Online Class, ELearning Design and Development, available [online]

https://elearningindustry.com/empathy-development-teaching-online-class#:~:text=%20Empathy%20Development%3A%2010%20Ways%20To%20Enhance%20It,transforms%20content%20into%20knowledge.%20As%20we…%20More%20

[date accessed: 1/03/2021]

The Ultimate Glossary of ELearning Terms, available

https://learningpool.com/the-ultimate-glossary-of-elearning-terms/

[date accessed: 01/03/2021]

Time and Motion

Today feels like spring at last. I decided to take the morning off from sitting in front of the PC and being in my work room. Instead, I gave the grass the first cut of 2021 all the while thinking about the workload I am facing over the next few weeks.

As I sit here writing this blog, I can feel the benefits of having been out in the air. Even though it is said time and time again that exercise and fresh air aid focus and concentration, it really has to be experienced. I know I need to start back daily walking and to have one hour to myself. I can not make Covid-19 the excuse for not getting out for a walk anymore. So from today, it is my plan to take that daily hour and to be quite selfish about it. Ironically, it is that very advice “get selfish” which I give to my own learners when they are knee deep completing their assignments for me!

For today’s blog, I am including a summary of a good article I read during the week. I found this to be very helpful in solving a few dilemmas for me. According to Bui (2020), creating a positive e-learning experience can be aided by all of the following:

  1. A powerful welcoming message
  2. Inclusion of short animations kept under 5 minutes in duration
  3. Inclusion of immersive instructions such as “close your eyes” or “think about the topic”
  4. Inclusion of reading material on the side to enable learners to do further research into a topic
  5. Inclusion of transcript to enable those with hearing impairments to access the information. (eLearning Design and Development, 2020)

I liked this article for a few reasons. Firstly, I was unsure whether to include a welcome message in my project. Bui (2020) suggests this can be done using animation. I have now decided to include an animated welcome message. Bui (2020) suggests that it might be possible to include the learning outcomes (LOs) in that welcome animation. Here solves my biggest dilemma. I was wondering how I would include the LOs. Most of the main theorists are all for LOs but if I am completely honest, I am not sure if including LOs is always a good idea. Can LOs put a person off from doing a course? Not because of the LO’s goals, but because reading them is such a heavy start. Is this my own bias or are they “a bit of a kill joy” I wonder? Maybe I should start another poll!

Another reason I enjoyed this article was because I extracted tips regarding how to immerse an audience. The subject matter of my project is an emotional and persuasive piece. Immersing an audience in “Penny’s Story” is vital. I like the idea of including immersive instructions as outlined above.

Thirdly, I did not know whether I should just tell the story from start to finish by animating an entire piece and then include lots of resources and information at the end. Now, however, I have made the decision to include short animations, similar to structure of The Vampire Diaries:

  1. Penny’s Story – Part 1
  2. Penny’s Story – Part 2
  3. Penny’s Story – Part 3

In this way, each stage of Penny’s life and needs will be addressed, from puppy to senior dog.

With these story parts in mind, this week, using Rise 360, I set up the blocks and placeholders for each lesson. I also recorded two short animations using Doodly. I am really happy with these two short pieces. They are just over 2 minutes long. I feel the message is good. I laugh each time in the animation where a chubby dog is supposed to represent a sad and mistreated one but it was the only image I could get of a senior dog without paying an additional hefty subscription. Subscription rates generally are a real eye opener in relation to freelance work.

As the end of my mid-term break is fast approaching, I am feeling good about the development project and the progress made this week. I am aware not everyone in the class has the luxury of having an entire week off. However, going forward, I know the next big project wave will have to be the week of St. Patrick’s. I absolutely love working on the project to the extent that I lose all sense of time. I need to remind myself over and over to devote time to the day job, which right now is not as exciting as learning how to use software. However, that reality still exists.

By the way, for anyone interested, in my final blog at the end of March, I intend to write about learning outcomes. I feel by doing so, I might make my peace with them. However, right now I am not convinced. Meantime, I will leave you with an image of a happy dog sitting in grass. In case any of you are wonder, this is not the real Penny. I will save the best image until the last blog.

Photo by Stefan Stefancik on Pexels.com

References:

Bui H. G. (2020), “How to Create A Positive eLearning Environment with Animation”, available

https://elearningindustry.com/create-positive-elearning-environment-with-animation

[date accessed 19/02/2021]

Media Genome

This is my third attempt at writing my blog today. For some reason I keep getting an error message if I type it on my laptop. Instead, just for today, I will use my iPhone.


I am including a link to another TED talk. I really enjoy TED talks to the extent that I get very fired up and motivated to do things. Anyhow, I found this talk by Professor Heidi Boisvert to be particularly interesting. While I was researching storytelling techniques for my development project, I happened to come across it. It is relevant to storytelling, the impact stories have on our subconscious and the control of our subconscious. I will leave the talk here for you to tune into. In the following paragraph, I have provided a summary of her research.


I am sure if this professor saw my shortened version of her life research squashed into 3 sentences, she would cringe. I am certainly not doing it justice. However, to summarize her research, Professor Boisvert is combining biometrics with artificial intelligence (A.I.) in order to tailor content for individuals. In plain terms, what this means for me and you is that A.I. combined with our individual biometrics will enable content creators to tailor what each of us reads and absorbs based on how we feel, think and react. In other words, Professor Boisvert is mapping a media genome. If she is successful at this, our media DNA can be established.

The implications of this are both exciting and scary.

On an exciting level, being able to change a persons attitude and behaviour by altering the live content they are reading could lead to enormous social change. Think what could be achieved for homelessness and child welfare! In fact, this could end wars. The pen and sword debate will simply cease.

In contrast, our minds could be negatively influenced if our media DNA was to get into the wrong hands. The ability of advertisers and marketers to target us with tailored content based on our individual subconscious reactions is an enormous power. The power of the media on the masses is already known, yet the power over an individual seems to be where the future is going. Will our minds be similar to machines, programmable by those who wish to completely control it? It does not seem to be far from becoming a reality.

If it comes to fruition, Professor Boisverts’ research will have a major impact on the fields of instructional design and technical communication. Indeed, it is an exciting time to be involved in content creation. However, this development raises the need to have that important debate on global ethical standards and whether they can and should be developed. Maybe now is a good time to consider global ethics. One thing Covid-19 has proved is that we are all completely interdependent.

To revert back to the beginning, what led me to this TED talk was my development project. My brain is getting very muddled and I am over worrying about everything. I can even tell you the source of my problems. It is having to story tell. Storytelling is not a strategy I am used to and I am apprehensive of it. When I deliver content for my own classes, it is impersonal (to maintain professional distance). Storytelling is completely outside of my comfort zone but I have to give it a go. After all, I undertook this MA to come out of my comfort zone.

To prepare, I have frantically skimmed through lots of storytelling tips. What I have learned so far includes:

  1. Develop one main character
  2. Be honest and ensure I tell my story
  3. Have a dilemma or crisis to lure the audience in. I think I will do well on this point!
  4. Give the audience choices so that they are steering the outcomes.
  5. Do not explain the moral of the story. If the audience need explanations and clarifications, I have killed it.
  6. Have the end result in sight. Know what message I want to get across.
  7. Be clear on the call to action.
  8. Before designing the look of the resource, write the script.

My plan for the next four weeks is to write the script. I will need to have my learning outcomes in my hand as I go. Will see how I do.

References

TED Talks (2019), available at

https://www.ted.com

Storyline or Rise?

I am in a bit of a dilemma. I have decided to use Articulate 360 authoring tools for my development project. However, I am unsure whether to develop my resource using Storyline or Rise.

The age old method of writing out all the pros and cons of each choice has served me well, so I will do this. I hope this post is useful for others who are facing the same dilemma.

Advantages of Storyline:

  1. It allows for creativity. It really is awesome from that perspective.
  2. It allows for a project to be completely built from scratch. I love Storyline for this alone.
  3. It allows for slide orders to be viewed. I like this feature. It is easy to move slides around and to visually see the order and flow of information.

Disadvantages of Storyline:

  1. The player controls seem to me to be old fashioned. They just do not strike me as being visually appealing. Quaint comes to mind. However, the controls do what they are supposed to do so its all good.
  2. Storyline is responsive but the mobile screen view is incredibly small. The slide does not fit the phone screen due to the player controls.
  3. Storyline uses a lot of memory. I had to strip my laptop back to its bare shell by uninstalling everything on it. Files, photos and notes I had been building up for years all had to go into the bin. In its defense, I had a lot of rubbish saved on my laptop. However, I would have liked to have kept the odd file. Storyline did get me through the assignment, and I enjoyed using it but I was left with a big E for empty regarding my personal files.

Advantages of Rise:

  1. Rise has really good templates, which can be edited and modified. Indeed there might be too many templates, so it is difficult to choose one.
  2. Rise is incredibly user friendly. I think my mother could develop a course using Rise and that is saying something! There are advantages to a easy system. For once, I need not worry about my IT skill base and as a result, I can reduce my cognitive load.
  3. The diamond encrusted advantage really is the fact that with Rise, everything saves to cloud storage. This for me is giving Rise an edge over Storyline. I do not think I could go through the worry of deleting files again. With Covid-19, my laptop is as good as full to capacity due to all the extra work bits I have had to save on it. I have external memory but I am always worried that it was malfunction. For those born in “floppy disk” generation, my association with external memory is not good. I regularly set off security alarms while out shopping.
  4. Storyline can be uploaded and included in Rise. Yesterday, I spent a few hours getting to know Rise. I was able to upload the slides from Storyline without any issue. I do not think Storyline looks great embedded in Rise, but the option is there to embed Storyline in Rise.
  5. Rise is very modern looking. It is more suitable for mobile phone screens than Storyline. From my knowledge of Rise and reading what e-learningheroes on Articulate ( https://community.articulate.com/) had to say, Rise was developed in 2017 and get upgraded on a regular basis. New characters and features get added to it all the time. Therefore, it is improving.

Disadvantages of Rise:

  1. It does not allow for much creativity. For example, the background is a fixed white. Buttons and other small features can be modified to whatever colour scheme suits, but Rise is limited.
  2. I am not as familiar with Rise. I am unsure whether it can have all the excellent features of Storyline, such as glossary. From what I see, PDF documents can be uploaded.
  3. I do not like the planning look of Rise as a developer. I prefer the flexibility of Storyline where slides can be viewed and moved around. Rise is completely different with its preset “Lessons”. I find it difficult to view the end product when it is not as well structured as Storyline from the developers perspective. I am lost somewhat in planning the flow of information because visually it is not as clear as the slide views in Storyline.
  4. Rise saves automatically every few minutes. I discovered this yesterday. I could not revert back to what I had completed earlier. This could be problematic. It could also be an advantage. However, I think for me, as a beginner, I would like to have older versions available.

Ultimately, I have to consider who this resource is for. A good developer will put their audience first. Regardless of myself and my personal liking for Storyline, the advantage of a more appealing mobile phone user experience weighs high. I think for this reason, I will use Rise.

I am happy with this decision.

This is a great free gift

https://edtechbooks.org/id?fbclid=IwAR0CVzhRi-TVMomES9lIjyZn9x6whghHaN6OEFkwPaj-Q-YYtYAP-8nV9EA

Just a quick post for today.
This popped up on my Facebook this afternoon. I am a member of an e-learning online community “Instructional Designers in Education”. Incidentally the writers know I am sharing their book here.

I have to admit that I am completely flabbergasted by the level of support from online e-learning communities. I am a member of a few different ones, both on Facebook and LinkedIn. I really cannot get over how positive these communities are and how willing they are to share creative ideas and resources. There is so much talent out there. What I particularly like is the fact that these communities are global. The range of shared opinions, approaches and techniques are very diverse.

These communities definitely help learning to grow exponentially.

I happened post up on one of these communities that I was getting ready to try my hand at storytelling. I got good advice. I will check out some links they shared and I will keep you posted.

I can relate to this, can you?

I have replayed this twice in the last 24 hours. I could listen to this all day. I feel so inspired!

Yesterday, I submitted my proposal for my final development project. The results of my needs analysis, from the two interviews I carried out, point to storytelling techniques for my course to be effective. In fairness, I did pick up on this but I got lost along the way. If I am honest with myself, I spent too much time playing with software and not enough time thinking about the best technique. To put it simply, I did not put enough emphasis on storytelling in my proposal. Thankfully, it is just the proposal and not the end product.

People can relate to stories. I was completely new to dog owning when I first acquired Penny. She arrived on the longest night of the year six years ago, from a rescue shelter, full of anxiety and love.

Just to enlighten you, my final development project, as part of my MA, is to develop an e-course suitable for future dog owners to help them to prepare for dog ownership. I have been thinking about nothing else since Christmas to the extent that Queen Penny is being neglected! I really need to lighten up. This proposal reflects my heavy stressed mood. I need to lighten my head space to produce a lighter end product. In fact, I need to play ball!

I will never forget those first few weeks. It was the wettest year on record. In my head, I had pictured it all so differently. I thought Penny and I would be walking in meadows under bright sun and heat haze. Instead, we were outdoors in orange weather alerts, one alert after the next. However, on a positive note, it was during these weeks that I met many other dog owners.

While on our walkabouts they shared their stories. I experienced deep learning when I listened to their experienced voices. Their stories were honest, authentic, emotive and empathetic. Their stories were entertaining and fun. I was happy to be outdoors in stormy weather because I was gripped by nightly tales. I connected to those stories like my laptop connects to wifi. Smooth and seamless. I was not consciously aware I was being trained. I had so much work stress in my head as we hit out our front door, but my head did not explode with the extra 100 terabytes of nightly information I received. Nor did I ever feel bored. Not once did I ask to leave the classroom. Not once! Would you believe I still remember these stories six years later?!

The moral of this story is, I need to develop the art of storytelling for this project. I need to learn how to plan, write and digitise a story. I need to research the best ways to tell the tale yet achieve what this resource aims to do. It is not going to be easy. I will need reminders to play ball and not to allow the heaviness in again.

In my defence, I have made a start. I am reading this article at present.

https://elearningindustry.com/storytelling-for-elearning-tips-strategies-examples

It contains very basic information but there are links which I will duly check out. As I find good storytelling techniques, I will post them up for you all to see.