Posted tagged ‘engagement’

The triple-threat scenario

31 March 2014

There’s no shortage of theories as to why a scenario works so well as an educational device. But for me, it boils down to context.

An authentic and relevant context facilitates two important processes.

1. Sense making

The authenticity and relevance of the scenario contextualises the content so that it becomes more meaningful for the learner. It approximates a real life situation with which she is familiar so that she can make better sense of it.

2. Transfer

When the learner finds herself in a similar situation in real life, she will associate the current context with the scenario and thus apply her experience from it more readily.

When we combine these two affordances with the engagement power of video, we create a triple threat which dramatically increases our probability of success.

An offer they can’t refuse

10 March 2014

One of the best conference sessions I have ever attended was presented by Chris Bessell-Browne from Qantas College.

E-Learning at an airline is challenging because a relatively high proportion of the workforce does not have ready access to a computer. This poses a problem when, for example, you need to roll out compliance training to each and every individual.

One way in which Qantas solves this problem is by showing a series of video scenarios to large groups of their employees. The scenarios involve real employees as well as paid actors, and they recreate scenes that have actually happened at the organisation – eg a young woman receiving unwanted attention from a colleague at the Christmas party, a baggage handler being bullied by a peer in his team, a manager reprimanding one of his team members for her dishevelled appearance, etc. Each video is then followed by a slide featuring several discussion questions, asking if so-and-so was in the wrong, that kind of thing.

According to Chris, the discussions get quite animated as people argue their case for or against. Because there is often no clear “correct” or “incorrect” answer, the interaction represents a melting pot of views and perspectives – carefully facilitated by the L&D pro. It makes the learning experience engaging, relevant and authentic. In other words, nothing like typical compliance training.

As Chris proceeded with her presentation at the conference, everyone in the audience was on the edge of their seat as they eagerly anticipated the next instalment.

When was the last time anyone reacted like that to your training?

Businessman with information and resources streaming out of his smartphone

Video breathes life into content.

For example, while reading about how to provide effective feedback and perhaps downloading a 6-step job aid may be enough to improve your feedback giving skills, suppose you could also watch a video of a manager providing feedback to her direct report. Now you have a role model to follow, and a real-world example to make sense of.

So why doesn’t everyone do this? We have the tools at our disposal – from the camera on our smartphones to a plethora of free editing software downloadable from the internet.

I suspect one of the barriers is fear. We look at the slick productions such as those commissioned by Qantas, and we’re afraid our own efforts will appear amateurish in comparison. And you know what: they will!

When professional production houses shoot a video, they do so beautifully. The picture is rich and sharp. The audio is crisp and clear. The lighting is perfect. That is, after all, what you are paying them for. And it ain’t cheap.

When we record a video on our smartphone, the picture might be somewhat dull, the audio tinny, the lighting dodgy. But I put to you that if the quality of your production is good enough to see and hear, then it’s good enough to learn from.

And if the content is relevant, you’ll find your target audience surprisingly forgiving. You needn’t be Francis Ford Coppola because what really matters is the learning outcome.

So my advice is simply to give it a go. Test a few home-made clips on a pilot group to see how they fare. Incorporate constructive feedback, build on your success and scale it up. Your videography skills will improve over time, and you might even consider buying better equipment and software.

Sure, a beautifully crafted production will always be preferable, but it’s not always attainable or even necessary. You have the power right now to provide your audience with a learning experience that’s engaging, relevant and authentic.

So make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Funny business

27 November 2013

Do you find yourself going to too many meetings? Or to meetings that don’t really achieve anything? I know I do.

Like many large organisations around the world, my employer is not immune to that most insidious of diseases: the ineffective meeting.

However, unlike other organisations that prefer to sweep the problem under the carpet, I’m proud to say that ours has chosen to tackle it head on. The term “proud” might seem somewhat of an over statement, but allow me to put it into context…

You see, in Australian terms at least, the company I work for is old. And with age comes a reputation for being risk averse, compliant, not really innovative, but big and safe. Perhaps we are some or all of those things, but in any case I think it sells us short.

I’ve been employed by the company for a while now, and I can personally vouch for the progressive changes that have occurred over that time. I think no better example of our evolution is a little video clip that we produced to combat the aforementioned spectre of the ineffective meeting.

In the clip, a woman in a supermarket asks the store attendant for directions to the bread aisle. The attendant dutifully escorts the customer to the bread and asks her what type she wants. What follows is an excruciating sequence as she defers to her colleagues for their opinions, everyone suggests conflicting ideas and alternative solutions, someone turns up late, no one is willing to make a decision, and eventually everyone departs, leaving the attendant holding a perfectly acceptable loaf of bread that no one wants.

Customer: Greg’s the key decision maker here.
Attendant: Greg…?
Customer: Greg’s not here.

It’s cheeky; it’s self-deprecating; and above all, it’s funny.

And it set the organisation alight. Our enterprise social network was deluged with positive comments, ranging from wishes of congratulations to urges to post it onto YouTube. Never before have I witnessed such a reaction to piece of training content.

Will it change the meeting culture of the organisation? Only time will tell. But given raising awareness of the problem is an objective, it’s off to a flying start.

Loaf of bread

All this got me thinking about the under-exploited role of comedy in education. Perfect timing – because just as I was contemplating this theme, my friend CJ Delling flew back into town.

CJ is a German-born comedian, cartoonist and “maker of stuff for the easily amused”. She has performed at the likes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Inevitably, the first observation anyone makes upon meeting CJ is the oxymoron of the German comedian. But that, of course, is a myth. I have met a surprising number of Germans over my lifetime and I have found the vast majority of them to be well humoured. CJ goes one step further by being hilarious.

But this post isn’t about the sociability of our continental cousins; it’s about e-learning – so I cornered CJ on the pretence of catching up for coffee and asked her the following questions:

     • Should comedy be used in education? (0:17)
     • What style of comedy is most effective for education? (0:56)
     • When should comedy not be used? (1:38)
     • What is your favourite example of comedy used in education? (1:55)

Typically creative, CJ illustrated her answers to my questions via the following animation…

I agree with CJ’s view that comedy should indeed be used in education. As she explains, it can improve the learner’s attention, interest and memory retention, while simultaneously reducing their stress and interpersonal barriers they may be experiencing.

I also subscribe to CJ’s advocacy of observational comedy in education. While we view the scene from a safe distance, we still see ourselves in it and hence its relevance to our own worlds. It works because it’s true.

With this in mind, I can see why CJ’s favourite Air New Zealand safety videos work so well. Moreover, I recognise how some of my own favourites might be re-deployed to develop mindsets and capabilities in the workplace. For example…

     • Leadership

     • Followship

     • Teleconferencing

     • Writing skills

     • Influencing without authority

While the comedic device may be…

     • Facetious

     • Dry

     • Black

Yet as CJ also notes: it’s important not to over step the mark. For me, Dilbert springs to mind. While the comedy might be champagne and the message cringeworthingly accurate, the cutting style of Scott Adams might dig a little too deep.

According to the anonymous online employee survey, you don't trust management. What's up with that? Oh. Right.

Does it matter? Yes! You can’t forget your objective, which is essentially to change behaviour. So you can ill afford to alienate your target audience.

That’s why I consider our supermarket clip such a powerful force. It’s obviously a comedy and a fictional scenario, which lets our guard down and provides a psychological degree of separation. Yet it remains unequivocally familiar, and so drives its message home.

Because we ridicule it, we feel the imperative to change. Lest we ridicule ourselves.

When is an e-book not a book?

16 November 2011

I read The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore today and I was gobsmacked. The e-book is filled with glorious pictures, marvellous animations and engaging interactivity.

Screenshot

Of course, this isn’t the only title that takes advantage of its medium. For example, Rob Brydon has added audio and video components to his autobiography Small Man in a Book, while the textbooks on the Inkling app include animations, quizzes and social study tools.

Inkling on iPadThe marketing copy for The Fantastic Flying Books calls it “an interactive narrative experience” that “blurs the line between picture books and animated film”.

Inkling “turns paper-based textbooks into engaging, interactive learning experiences while staying compatible with the print book for classroom use”.

All this got me thinking: where do we draw the line?

When is an e-book not a book…?

The definition of a book

To me, a “book” is a collection of written words that together form a story. The text activates the mind and fires the imagination. The process is often assisted by illustrations.

Of course, the definition of a book can no longer be limited to sheets of paper bound together. The relentless march of technology has ushered the concept into an electronic format. Arguably, the introduction of multimedia elements is a continuation of that evolution.

At what point, however, does the nature of a book transform so much that it becomes something else?

Semantics, semantics

If we replace text with an image, we call it a picture.

If we replace it with illustrated motion, we call it an animation.

If we replace it with a recording, we call it audio or video.

If we combine all of the above, do we not call it an online course…?

When you think about it, a media rich e-book is what a pedagogically-sound online course ought to be:

Rose• engaging
• interactive
• learner centered
• logically structured
• founded on storytelling

Sure, it’s linear, but so are many online courses! In fact, authoring tools like Lectora leverage the metaphor of a book – with terms like “pages” and “chapters” – to arrange the content. (Besides, I don’t think linearity is necessarily a bad thing, so long as the learner is empowered to navigate as they please.)

But it may just be semantics after all. In this digital age, when convergence is inevitable, perhaps labels become inconsequential.

As Shakespeare’s Juliet observed, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

2010: My blogging year recapped

28 December 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to recap my blog posts during the year.

I hope you take the opportunity to read any that you may have missed.

Oh, and please leave a comment or two or three…!

Tag cloud for the E-Learning Provocateur blog in 2010.

Learning theory & instructional design

Taxonomy of Learning Theories•  Taxonomy of Learning Theories
•  Theory-informed instructional design tips
•  The two faces of blended learning
•  Style counsel
Style counsel•  Art vs (Information) Science

Informal learning

How to revamp your learning model•  My award-winning IQ
•  Online courses must die!
•  The ILE and the FLE in harmony
•  How to revamp your learning model
•  Open Learning Network vs ILE

Social media

How not to do social media•  Social media: It’s not about the technology!
•  Social media: Prevention is better than cure
•  The 4 lessons Kid Fury teaches us
•  I stand corrected
•  How not to do social media
Why Gowalla should merge with Foursquare•  Why Gowalla should merge with Foursquare
•  Sharing is caring

Knowledge management

Art vs (Information) Science•  Art vs (Information) Science
•  Erin doesn’t get it

Government 2.0

I stand corrected•  London, New York, Parramatta
•  I stand corrected

Blogging

Thickness of skin required•  Thickness of skin required
•  Greetings from the E-Learning Provocateur
•  Sharing is caring

E-Books

The age of the e-book•  The age of the e-book
•  The end of publishing as we know it

Engagement

The elephant in the room•  The elephant in the room
•  Shades of green
•  The Melbourne Cup: it’s not about the horses!

Events

My 1-liners from TEDxCanberra 2010•  My 1-liners from LearnX 2010
•  My 1-liners from TEDxCanberra 2010

Cartoons

Campus firestarter•  The ingredients of intelligence
•  Campus firestarter
•  A short history of spam
•  Thickness of skin required
•  Trending: Sydney
•  Selective tolerance

Confucius 2.0Miscellaneous

•  Confucius 2.0
•  Green e-learning
•  Honest football
•  The two types of augmented reality
Allergic to ATNA•  Swimming against the tide
•  Square pegs and round holes
•  Facts are a bitch
•  Smartfailing the vintage future
•  Allergic to ATNA
 

Selective tolerance

22 December 2010

As we near another Christmas, I thought this cartoon was timely.

I am tolerant of all creeds and cultures except yours.

How not to do social media

1 December 2010

As my friends can attest, I’m a big Socceroos fan.

Socceroos fan

I grew up playing football (aka soccer) and although a few different codes compete for my attention in my home town, the World Game is the one I truly care about.

It was to my great joy, therefore, that the national administrators of the sport comprehensively revamped the local league several years ago. I think it’s fair to say the previous administration was widely perceived as incompetent, so it was no surprise when it was scrapped. The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) was born, and in 2005 the A-League kicked off.

Side note: I wasn’t the only one scratching my head when West Sydney wasn’t a founding club. Maybe it was a sign of things to come.

Around this time I was getting into Facebook. I had become a “fan” of a couple of other sports clubs (eg Wests Tigers) when I noticed there was no Facebook page dedicated to the Australian national football team. So, being the passionate fan that I am, I started one.

In no time I had attracted over 10,000 fans. I dutifully sent out updates for upcoming matches, and I even provided the details of local TV coverage for fans who couldn’t attend in person.

This went along swimmingly until I got a message from Facebook HQ telling me that I had no rights over the page and my administration access was suspended. The message said I could submit an appeal outlining why I should be granted access, which I did on the basis of the page being a “fan” page. I even suggested that the title of the page be changed to “Fans of the Socceroos”. Naturally I staked no claim whatsoever to any IP such as the Socceroos logo.

Lo and behold, Facebook never replied.

What can I deduce from this? Obviously some clever dick in the FFA had the bright idea of jumping on the Facebook bandwagon – and the easiest way to do this was to hijack the fan page that I had lovingly curated.

The irony is I would gladly have handed them the reins if only they had the professionalism to ask.

But they didn’t. Suffice to say it left a bad taste in my mouth.

A different approach

The sorry affair was a faded memory as I watched Grace Gordon from Soap Creative present at last month’s SMCSYD.

Bubble O' BillGrace was busting social media myths when she mentioned a brand that piqued my interest: Bubble O’ Bill.

For those of you who are not aware, Bubble O’ Bill is an ice cream that was first launched in the US in the 1980s, but achieved peculiar success in Australia soon after.

In 2009, customer Nick Getley liked the brand so much he created a Bubble O’ Bill page on Facebook that – at the time of writing – has 844,276 fans!

Switched on Media tells us how it came about:

The history of the Bubble O' Bill fan page

It is the penultimate sentence that resonates with me:

Overwhelmed by the warm support for this Aussie icon, Streets Ice Cream contacted Nick and offered to work with him to make the page official.

Take a bow, Streets. You approached social media in the spirit that was intended, and now you are reaping the rewards.

The difference between right and wrong

So what does this have to do with e-learning?

Well, as time goes by, e-learning is increasingly converging with social learning through social media. The two marketing cases outlined above teach us that when we implement a social media strategy, there is a right way and a wrong way.

The right way is to be inclusive, collaborative and supportive. If you empower your champions to follow their passion, they will lead the charge on your behalf.

The wrong way is to be draconian, faceless and isolationist. If you burn your champions, you will lose your allies.

The proof of the pudding

So to conclude, let’s compare fan bases.

The fan bases of the Socceroos and Bubble O' Bill pages on Facebook (01/12/10)

The Socceroos, the pride of a nation, has 144,378 fans on Facebook.

Bubble O’ Bill, the ice cream cowboy with a bubblegum nose, has 844,276 fans on Facebook.

Whose social media strategy will you adopt?


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