Manifesting in practice extremis

Yesterday, I posted about what we might like to see from folks, by role, in terms of the Manifesto.  The other question to be answered is how to do this in the typical current situation where there’s little support for doing things differently.  Let me take a worst-case scenario and try to take a very practical approach. This isn’t an answer for the pulpit, but is for the folks who put all this in the ‘too hard’ basket.

So, worst case: you’re going to still get a shower of PPTs and PDFs and be expected to make a course out of it, maybe (if you’re lucky) with a bit of SME access.  And no one cares if it makes a difference, it’s just “do this”.  And, first, you have my deepest sympathies. We’re hoping the manifesto changes this, but sometimes we have to start with where you live, eh?  Recognize that the following is not PoliticallyCorrect™; I’m going outside the principled response to give you an initial kickstart.

The short version is that you’ve got to put meaningful practice in there.  You need an experience that sets up a story, requires a choice using the knowledge, and lets the learner see the consequences.  That’s the thing that has the most impact, and you’ll want several.  This will have far more impact than a knowledge test.  To do that isn’t too complex.

The very first thing you need to do when you’ve parsed that content is to figure out what, at core, the person who’s going to have this experience should be able to do differently.  What performance aren’t they doing now?  This is problematic, because sometimes the problem isn’t a performance problem, but here I’m assuming you don’t have that leeway. So you’ll have to do some inference.  Yes, it’s a bit more thinking, but you already have to pull out knowledge, so it’s not that different (and gets easier with practice).

Say you’ve gotten product data.  How would they use that?  To sell?  To address objections? To trouble shoot?  Maybe it’s process information you’re working on. What would they do with that? Recognize problems? Take the next step?  If you’re given information on workplace behavior problems? Let them determine whether grey areas exist, or coach people.

You’ll need to make a believable context and precipitative situation, and then ask them to respond. Make it challenging, so that the situation isn’t clear, and the alternative are plausible ways the learner could go wrong.  The SME can help here.  Make the scenario they’re facing and the decisions they must make as representative of the types of problems that they’ll be facing as you can.  And try to have the story play out, e.g. the consequences of their choice be  presented before they get the right answer or feedback about why it’s wrong. There are good reasons for this, but the short version is it’s to help them learn to read the situation when it’s real.

Let’s be clear, this is really just better multiple choice question design!  I say that so you see you’re not going beyond what you already do, you’re just taking a slightly different tack to it.  The point is to work within the parameters of content and questions (for now!), and yet get better outcomes.

Ideally, you’ll find all the plausible application scenarios, and be able to write multiple questions.  If there’s any knowledge they have to know cold, you might have to also test that knowledge, but consider designing a job aid.  (Even if it’s not tested and revised, which it should be, it’s a start on the path.)

There’s more, but that’s a start (more in my next post). Focus on meaningful practice first.  Dress it up. Exaggerate it. But if you put good practice in their path, that’s probably the most valuable change to start with.  There’re lots of steps from there, basically turning it into a learning experience: making everything less dense, more minimal, more focused on performance, adding in more meaningfulness.  And redoing concept, example, introduction, etc.  But the first thing, valuable practice, engages many of the eight values that form the core of the Manifesto: performance focused, meaningful to learners, engagement-driven, authentic contexts, realistic decisions, and real world consequences.

I’ve argued elsewhere that doing better elearning doesn’t take longer, and I believe it.  Start here, and start talking about what you’re doing with your colleagues, bosses, what have you.  Sign on to the Manifesto, and let them know why. And let me know how it goes.



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