This research project measured learners’ perceptions of microlearning through the lens of Gagné’s nine events of instruction. Undergraduate students were introduced to a microlearning module consisting of a five-minute video and five-question quiz. The students were asked in a focus group interview a series of ten open-ended questions designed to elicit their responses to the video. …
How Lifelong is Learning?
I've heard so much about lifelong learning, all the way back to the days when I was an instructional librarian. The point of information literacy has always been to instill a knowledge of how to learn and discern, skills needed for a lifetime of interacting with information. E-learning is an important method for the democratization of information. No longer must the learner travel to a certain place to learn. If she has an internet-connected device, she is ready to learn. (And suddenly I'm picturing a woman participating in a course via her refrigerator. Why not?)
I wonder, though, if we forgot just how long our lives are these days. Imagining learning as an ongoing process, not just for 12 or 16 years, but for the rest of our lives requires some thought about how that learning is to be accomplished.
These musings were prompted by this article: M. A. Pappas, E. Demertzi, Y. Papagerasimou, L. Koukianakis, N. Voukelatos, & A. Drigas (2019). Cognitive-based e-learning design for older adults. Social Sciences, 8, 6, doi:10.3390/socsci8010006. Full text: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/8/1/6
The premise of the article is that older adults are able to become more integrated into society when they are taught to engage with information and communication technologies (ICTs). Just as other ages of learners have specific needs, so, too, to older adults. (In this case, 55 years and older, which includes me!) The authors cite a study stating that “distance learning programs for older adults can help foster personal growth, civic engagement, and social action and inclusion” (p. 4, citing Githens, 2007). Through an extensive literature review, the authors make the case for the importance of e-learning for older adults.
In the study itself, the authors analyzed a learning profile of older adults and constructed a questionnaire that was sent to 103 participants, the majority of whom were between 55 and 64 years old. These participants were more confident with simple mobile phones and personal computers, and only a minority of them did not use the Internet at all. The results of the study indicated that in e-learning, “participants considered the most important features to be the step-by-step presentation of the educational content and the existence of exercises and assessment at the end of each e-learning module” (p. 9).
Aspects of e-learning directed toward older learners, according to the authors of the study, are:
- Need for a simple graphical interface without the distractions of colors and excessive graphics
- Short and comprehensive modules without a lot of text
- Step-by-step presentations
- Flexible curriculum with modules they can choose, take and re-take at their own pace
- Communication and social capabilities for when they need assistance
- Very clear learning goals, practical assignments and logical assessments
Many of these items are good design choices no matter what the age of the learner, but an awareness of the cognitive issues faced in the aging process will help instructional designers tailor modules so that we may truly have lifelong learning–no matter how long we live.
Another Look at a Training Pilot
Our current assignment in my IDTE 553 course is to create a pilot based on our final project. Or, rather, create a pilot to show how the final project will appear. This type of pilot is like an applied style sheet.
Another type of pilot is discussed in an article, “Prove and Improve Your Training Program with a Pilot Project,” by D. I. Lewis. The purpose of this type of pilot is usability testing. To my mind it fits in with the continuous evaluation portion of the ADDIE model, as well as the development stage. The author quotes Peep Laja, founder of ConversionXL, as saying: “You may have designed what you believe is the best possible experience in the world, but watching real people interact with your site is often a humbling experience. Because you are not your user.” Usability testing helps you get outside the project you've been intimately familiar with for the duration, and exposes it–and you and your thought processes–to the light of day.
These are the six steps the author recommends to test how well your pilot works in a testing environment. Read the article to find details about each step in the process.
- Identify your goals for the pilot.
- Decide what to measure.
- Recruit testers.
- Collect metrics.
- Use the pilot data to improve your training program and communication.
- Turn testers into evangelists.
I'm struck again and again by how much instructional design has in common with web design.
Not Just a Talking Head
While searching the Samford Library database for possible blog topics, I came across an article entitled, “The Role of Instructional Design in Persuasion: A Comics Approach for Improving Cybersecurity,” written by Zhang-Kennedy, Chiasson and Biddle (2016). The title looked promising. Instructional design? Naturally. Comics? Love them. Cyber-anything? Sure!
The authors discuss the use of instructional design principles and persuasion to improve safe behaviors related to security threats. Specifically they found that humans are the weak link in the chain when it comes to computer security technologies. The authors created an online interactive comic series called Secure Comics, and found that it was instrumental in improving the learner's understanding and positive motivation in security management behavior.
How cool is that? But what really caught my eye was the section discussing personalization. Their definition of that word is the concept of “attributing social characteristics to the user interface,” and they went on to discuss the use of “a pedagogical character who offers instructional advice” (Zhang-Kennedy, Chiasson and Biddle, 2016, p. 220).
I know we've been using these “agents,” as the pedagogical characters are called, in animation since the beginning of the program. But I did not know the extent to which they are validated through research. People also learn more when the information is delivered in a conversational style, according to Clark and Mayer (2011).
Yes, yes, the point of the article is really the parallels between instructional design and persuasive principles, and is rich with ID discussions. They even name-check the ADDIE model! Since I love creating videos using Vyond, though, I'm delighted to see that characters don't have to be just decoration–they actually make a difference in learning.
Mayer, Dow, and Mayer (2003) performed a series of experiments in multimedia learning to determine the effectiveness of an on-screen agent, Dr. Phyz (see above), who showed up to help learners understanding of an electric motor. They commented, “When designing a multimedia presentation that is intended to explain how something works (i.e.,a model), instructional designers should annotate the animation with spoken rather than printed text, allow the learner to control the pace and order of presentation, and encourage the learner to answer conceptual questions during learning” (p. 811).
Yet more evidence for engaging the senses in a multimedia presentation.
And lest you think those articles are outdated or that the subject is passe, Richard E. Mayer and others (citation below) have just published an article, March 25, 2019, entitled, “Getting the Point: Which Kinds of Gestures by Pedagogical Agents Improve Multimedia Learning?” The TL:DR version: ” In this study, students learned better and paid more attention to relevant material on the screen when the onscreen agent used specific pointing gestures during instruction rather than general pointing gestures, nonpointing gestures, or no gestures. Specifically pointing to relevant parts of the onscreen graphic while talking guides the learner’s attention and leads to better learning” (p. 1).
I plan to delve further into this area. Fascinating! And this information will definitely inform my final project, in which I had not planned to have an onscreen agent.
Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons.
Li, W., Wang, F., Mayer, R. E., & Liu, H. (2019, March 25). Getting the point: Which kinds of gestures by pedagogical agents improve multimedia learning?. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000352
Zhang-Kennedy, L., Chiasson, S., & Biddle, R. (2016). The role of instructional design in persuasion: A comics approach for improving cybersecurity. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 32(3), 215–257. https://doi-org.ezproxy.samford.edu/10.1080/10447318.2016.1136177
Atkinson, R. K. (2002). Optimizing learning from examples using animated pedagogical agents. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 416–427.
Mayer, R. E., Dow, G. T., & Mayer, S. (2003). Multimedia learning in an interactive self-explaining environment: What works in the design of agent-based microworlds? Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 806–812.
Moreno, R., Reislein, M., & Ozogul, G. (2010). Using virtual peers to guide visual attention during learning. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 22, 52–60.
Zhang-Kennedy, L., & Chiasson, S. (2014). Using comics to teach users about mobile online privacy (Tech. Rep. TR-14-02). School of Computer Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.
Zhang-Kennedy, L., Chiasson, S., & Biddle, R. (2013). Password advice shouldn't be boring: Visualizing password guessing attacks. APWG eCrime Summit, 1–10.
Zhang-Kennedy, L., Chiasson, S., & Biddle, R. (2014). Stop clicking on “update later”: Persuading users they need up-to-date antivirus protection. In Persuasive technology, LNCS (pp. 302–322). New York NY: Springer.
Zhang-Kennedy, L., Dorey, S., Mekhail, C., & Chiasson, S. (2014). Secure comics. Retrieved from http://www.versipass.com/edusec
Playing a Role: Storyboarding
I finished and turned in my storyboard for IDTE 553, and it was a laborious activity. Don't get me wrong, it was so fun! But creating a storyboard is an intense process. On reflection, it requires a certain amount of roleplaying as well.
If you know me at all, you know I'm a big fan of roleplaying games, like Dungeons & Dragons. I don't get to play much anymore, but I enjoy playing the part of a hero saving the world from orcs or Cthulhu or mystical cultists. In that role, I imagine what it's like to be someone who must summon up the courage and stamina and possibly magical abilities to defy the odds and team up to make the world–whatever that world–a better place.
The roleplaying involved in storyboarding is taking on several roles, inhabiting them for the good of the learner. One of the roles is that of the developer. What information makes sense to convey to the person who will create the images in a theoretical instructional design team? What will help her understand it? How can I put the vision in my head into her head so she can reproduce it–while still allowing for her own creativity?
Another role is the learner himself. I can't assume he will know what I mean from my perspective, so I need to get inside his head, take on that role, and create an experience that will add to his knowledge.
I don't know to what extent I was successful in the storyboard I just finished in taking on these and other roles. I'm just starting out in my ID journey. But I think if I can look at all the aspects from the point of view of each participant, I'll go some distance toward saving the world–just a little bit.
What Your e-Learning Design Says About You
Adobe's e-Learning site provides a wealth of information to help users of Captivate. I found a brief article by StevePixel (probably not his real name) that recaps some important points about design for e-learning.
He starts with a wonderfully illustrative telling of Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. The Israelites knew immediately, he says, that Moses was about to convey something of weight by the appearance of the tablets, because of the stone rather than parchment, the careful carving of the letters. The author makes the point that your learners are judging you from the first moment they open your e-learning. Their opinion of your skill and the worth of the course begins immediately. “After all if you don’t care as the designer, why should they?” he asks rhetorically.
After all if you don’t care as the designer, why should they?
Other questions he poses for the designer:
- Does it load quickly and without issues?
- Is it professionally scripted and narrated or did someone just wing it with a laptop mic?
- Is there a cohesive custom color design or did they use a stock PowerPoint template?
- Is it tightly scripted and logically organized or a rambling mess?
- Are the graphics (photos, infographics) relevant to the lesson, or just thrown in randomly?
- Is there mixed media (video, animations etc.,) or just stock photos?
- Does it respect their intellect in tone and delivery or treat them like children?
These principles are not new, but bear considering. The ideal situation is for the learner not to even notice the surroundings of the e-learning and focus exclusively on the content. But always keep in mind that the learner is storing up those observations subconsciously and will know that your course is worthy of her time when she sees what care you take to design your e-learning.
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