Monday, September 21, 2009

Rapid E-learning: Some Learning

I experienced my first rapid e-learning! And I feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Before I pen down my experience, I am eternally thankful to Tom Kuhlman for his inputs on his blog. At anytime during my work, one would find me literally glued to Tom’s blog posts, experimenting with all that he has taught on rapid e-learning with PowerPoint. Thanks to Tom for turning around my impressions about PPT. Long Live PowerPoint! Long live Tom!

My assignment was to create a short e-learning course on a Microsoft tool, FxCop. This is a tool that “polices” rule violations in code. With the help of this tool, programmers will be able to make flawless pieces of code and also ensure its maintainability and consistency.

I would like to share how I went about creating it and the lessons I learnt during the process and thereafter.

Customer requirement: To create an e-learning course on FxCop. The course had to be rolled out within a time frame of 3 weeks and not more.

Audience: Developers whose nature of work involved coding.

  •  Short time frame: 3 weeks
  • Non availability of any rapid e-learning tools
  • SME availability: Quite limited almost NIL
In short, no tools, no budget, no time, no guidance (I am the sole instructional designer in the organization.)

My Approach

As soon as the content PPT was passed on to me, I arranged for a quick discussion with the SME. To save his time and mine, I recorded the discussion we had on the content, his expectations, and all other details about the project. To record this, I used Audacity. It proved beneficial. Each time I had a doubt, all I had to do was play back our conversation. I would highly recommend this approach for all such SME discussions.

Following this, I quickly checked the content for gaps and flow. In discussion with the SME, these were addressed. One suggestion I have for any budding instructional designer is to never rely on SME completely for support on content. It is advisable to remember that to a SME, the course is only one part of his “KRAs”. Expecting him/her to support you on a full-time basis is going to disappoint you. As a best practice, it is always better to collate all your queries to your SME and discuss them in one shot. Remember to record these sessions too. Saves time, big time! This way, you don’t have to worry about taking notes too.

In addition to these SME discussions, I also constantly researched on the topic on the Web. This helped me understand the tool better. Some of the forums on the tool had discussion threads on some challenges that developers face and how the tool helps. I converted these snippets of information to “Did you knows”. These were nuggets of information – I would say “nice-to-know-information” – about the tool.

This was a value addition to the course. I hear that learners were delighted with such information apart from the main content. Following discussion threads in a forum will also help you draft assessment questions. You can make a case study of the problem being discussed and pose that as a question to your learner. Of course, as always, consult the SME before you publish these questions.

With able guidance from Tom Kuhlman’s blogs, I also created some pop ups and quiz pages. It was sheer delight learning them and applying them.

Due to the limited time and lack of any guidance in terms of reviews (on instructional designing), I published the course in a shape that appealed well to my SME and other stakeholders. I managed to meet the time frame of three weeks.

However, I was keen to get comments from e-learning experts. I got some great relevant comments. I shall share them in my next post.

How was your first rapid e-learning experience? Do share them.


Tom Kuhlmann said...

A couple of things come to mind:

I like recording the SME as a reference. It would be cool to have that audio file transcripted to text for easier reference. I'm sure there are some free tools.

The "did you knows" is a good approach because it helps to keep the topic relevant. Sometimes the learner loses the big picture and isn't quite sure how to use the info.

I always prefer an active case study/scenario to work through the content. It keeps the course real.

Indu Gopinath said...

Many thanks for your valid inputs, Tom. Glad to have them come from the Guru himself!

I completely agree with the scenario-based approach. It will help my learners relate to the concept better too. Shall keep that on mind for my next course. I am researching on the audio-text tool. I am sure it is going to help a lot. Thanks for suggesting that.

Please keep your inputs flowing in :-)