Friday, December 28, 2007

"One Day"

Every kid wants to be a rock star one day, in whatever industry she chooses to call her own.

One day I'll be a filmmaker! One day I'll be a famous artist! One day I'll be a CEO! One day I'll be a Creative Director! One day I'll be a Venture Capitalist! And so forth.

Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for "One Day" is over. You're either doing it, or you're not. And if you're not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis'.

The other day, someone fifteen years younger than me asked me what I wanted to be "One Day".

I answered, "Doing exactly what I'm doing now, just with more money. And if the money doesn't come, well, that's a shame, but it's not the end of the world, either."

No more dreaming of "One Day". I am here and now. This is it. I can highly recommend it. But I had to kill a lot of dreams, a lot of beautiful dreams, in order to get there.

- Hugh MacLeod


I've been thinking about this a lot since Hugh's post showed up in my feed reader, especially as we get closer to the new year.

I may not be a rock star in my chosen area of expression - more like an indie artist. And it's taken a lot of dream-killing to get here.

Maybe it's that inner knowing - if this is all there is, it's OK - that we are ultimately seeking.

I'm off to Myrtle Beach to reflect, hang with friends and play mini-golf.

May you have a successful and happy 2008!

Odds and Ends

Yes, I AM the center of the universe. Thanks to David Armano for reminding me of this.

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Yes, Janet - I agree. The conversation about tracking competencies and the conversation about collaboration and connection are 2 aspects of the same problem. You explained this beautifully (and I like the pretty pictures).

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Wouldn't it be cool if there were a button on bad tutorials labeled just that?The...'Oh....My....God.......(somebody kill me)' button. - Janet, from her comments to my Tutorial Karma post.


You know, I'm thinking of implementing this idea in future tutorials. Except I'm going to call it Next.

Somebody Kill Me might take too much space.

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That same post also triggered this idea from Dr. Bob Cherry:

My prejudice on this is to favour the short movie approach (using Camtasia).. I find that three short (less than five minute) high impact "videos" are a lot more effective than workthroughs. You can see an example (HTML editor) on my Facebook page.

Also you then offer a student choice. If you have a small armory of videos - each addressing one key point of understanding - then the students can watch with a need to know attitude.

Even more attractive is response to feedback. If a student asks a good questions - I may screencast it up... they love that.. :)


I'll admit I'm a little biased against movies - if only because I have the attention span of a gnat and I need something to keep my fingers occupied, otherwise I start surfing the net after 45 seconds. It may also have something to do with my audience at the time and the subject matter.

I did a brief, not-very-scientific study during a pilot of one of my eLearning projects. I showed the doctors (most of whom have attention spans of gnats on 15 cups of coffee) a 3 minute movie, then a 3 minute interactive tutorial. Facial expressions and level of engagement (they actually said something related to the topic of the tutorial) were much higher with the interactive piece.

That said - I think the idea is a great one. Particularly the video feedback response. Kids like video.....And we all need to be reminded to keep it short. I know I never want to sit through a 3 hour eLearning session again.....

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Congrats to Christy on 1 year of blogging! Happy Anniversary!!!

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A big thank you to the 10 people who voted for me in the EduBlog awards! I'm still amazed I have that many readers!!!!! Mom and Dad don't even read this thing!!!!!

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Oh yeah - and 2 new years resolutions for the blog are:

- To comment more on the comments I don't receive many - but the ones I do get are fantastic. Especially now that I know that others have a fighting chance of seeing my comments to their comments (thank goodness Blogger finally put in a "subscribe to comment thread" feature).

- To finally get around to tagging all of my previous posts.

Hopefully, I won't have to make these same 2 resolutions next year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How to Get Me to Do Your (Professional) Bidding

Thank you for all of your help with the project. I'll take a closer look at the module today or on 12/26, and particularly look at #s 3 and 19. If need be, we can always aim to get other images in place for those slides, if it's not too much trouble for you.

Have a great long weekend, and happy holidays to you and your family.
It's great to have you on board...!



Actual e-mail received last week from the Director of Student Affairs.

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If this man does not know how to write the nicest e-mail....

Why am I so smitten?

1) He gave me dates to expect when he is going to complete his review. (BTW - he did exactly what he said he was going to do on the dates that he gave me - early morning, even.)

2) He obviously paid attention to my questions / concerns. The usual response I've received in the past has been either stony silence or, if I'm lucky, vague direction. This time, I am confident I will get a real solution driven by the person who should be driving the project rather than me guessing and praying that I'm right.

3) He is taking responsibility for the things he (or one of his people) should be responsible for. For example, he's the one finding the pictures he wants in the tutorial to represent his organization. I could do it, but he's taken this upon himself - something I wish I would see more often.

Though it's not in this letter, he's also been working with me to figure out ways to most easily transmit those images and information in a way that makes it easy for me to incorporate into the project and that is easy for him to post. (I heart Google Pages). Win/win. And we are both noticing that the project is moving much faster as a result.

4) He asks me if it's too much trouble! (Wow! Someone who actually respects the amount of work online tutorials take! I'm trying to remember the last time I saw that....)

5) He actually THANKED ME!!!!!

And I know he means it! He took the time to type 2 custom sentences thanking me and making me feel welcome!!!!

It's not "Thank you though I don't mean it and want you to do lots of stuff for me that I needed yesterday and oh by the way I have lots of complaints about the stuff you haven't done for me because you couldn't read my mind and complaints about the stuff you did do because you couldn't read my mind....."

or "I'm thanking you because it is an automatic part of my signature line so that you think I care about your feelings."

Even if I hadn't met the man in person before (and I have), count me impressed.

Can you imagine if EVERYONE worked this way!?! Think about what we could accomplish (and how much lower our blood pressure would be)!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Doors and Details



Some of my favorite fantasy men.....
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One of the fantastic things about holidays (and a boyfriend who loves to sleep until 1pm) is the ability to watch MY shows.

This weekend's choice - a This Old House marathon.

I've been watching this show since I was a kid. This Old House triggered my love for seeing how stuff happened "behind the scenes."

Watching Tom Silva (the contractor) install a door, I was struck by the level of detail these gentlemen put into even a prosaic project. Go to the site and watch one of the videos to see what I mean. The man had tools I didn't even know existed! And I've spent quality time at Home Depot over the years. (A clamp to help you drill doorknob holes - who knew?)

I live in a rental and have no business improving anything (as badly as the apartment may need it). And I generally don't tackle large (and many small) projects without the supervision of those more skilled, more patient and less klutzy than I. This many years later, I still find home improvement shows endlessly fascinating.

Thinking about it, I realized that these gentlemen (don't see too many ladies on This Old House, I'm afraid) are able to pay attention to this level of detail (a DOOR for pete's sake!) and still manage to get projects done in a reasonable time. Multiply all of the little details, still keeping an eye on the big picture, and you can see how the overall quality of the project goes up.

I see this in eLearning tutorials. A little bit of attention to details goes a long way. Removing the clicks and breathing from the audio track. Checking navigation for consistency. Making sure the captions are the same color and font specified in the style guide. Building a style guide in the first place. The little things that add up.

I find that when I don't take the time to do these little things, it eats me up every time I take a look at the project. And, invariably, someone more retentive than I am notices....

OK - so I'm a bit of a perfectionist.

Of course, I do these things with an eye towards the important goal - helping to teach someone to do something.

Much like building a house - it's pointless to pay close attention to doorknob placement when the wall is falling down. But when you have a sound structure, the little details really do make all the difference.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are YOU Allowed to Write Like This?

Thanks to the nice folks at Signal vs. Noise for finding this tutorial.....

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Peerless Faucets put together two fantastic online tutorials. One to uninstall your old faucet. The second to help you install the new one.

How often are you allowed to create things like this......





Love the pictures!!!!!

These tutorials make me want to go out and replace my bathroom faucet....even though I'm a renter and I don't have to / shouldn't.

Come to think of it, I wish I had instructions like this when I installed a water filter in the fraternity house for my "little sister project." Retelling this episode is a source of great amusement almost 20 years later.....

My tutorials are much drier. They are "approved by committee." Can't offend anyone. Gotta be "professional." What you create can and will be used against you.......

But then I think - what's really stopping me from creating something fun? Developing a tutorial that makes the person want to go out and DO that thing you are teaching them?

Fear? Some misguided sense of professionalism (which I have obviously chucked writing this blog)?

I'm currently working on a tutorial for new student employees in our Student Academic Support department. It's filled with formal "don't do this, don't do that" type stuff. The legal department has approved the text and script and the project has been in the works for over a year.

I stare at the Captivate slides, listen to the audio (capably done by some of the university's graduate students) and think that if I was a student, I'd NEVER want to work in that department. I'd be paralyzed with all of the things I shouldn't do.

The sad thing about all of this is that the folks involved in scripting the tutorial seem to be fun-loving, interesting folks. The graduate students who did the audio were friendly and engaging. I've had a great time working with these people. There has to be a way to reflect that personality in the tutorial.

I'm hoping to release a draft for review today. Maybe I can convince them that adding more of their fun-loving, engaging personality into the presentation would do more to encourage the behaviors and values they wish to instill in their new employees.

Any recommendations?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tutorial Karma

All of the bad interactive tutorial things I have ever built have come back to haunt me.

As part of my new job learning, I am working through the tutorials for the university's enterprise system.

Oh....My....God.......Is this what I'm doing to my audience?!?!?!

While going through the introductory tutorial (which took me about 2 hours), I noticed that I was trying to "game the system." to get through it. I also found myself becoming more aggravated as I worked through the tutorial. I don't think this is the emotional response the instructional designer or eLearning developer had in mind.

I was dismayed by my reaction. What caused it? The eLearning Developer took time to create these tutorials and worked very hard to make the tutorials themselves very user friendly so the student could focus on the material. He or she also had some strong Authorware chops, judging from some of the interactivity.

In comparison, I looked at one of the tutorials JM built before he left. It was a straight movie, but I found it infinitely more useful and engaging.

Why?

Here's what I think:

1) Audience - trying to please multiple audiences means that you please no one (best case) or confuse them (worst case). JM's tutorial had a distinct audience - the university's end user. The vendor tutorial tried to provide end-user training + information for the developers so they could make configuration decisions. They should have been treated separately, especially since 98% of the end users will not have control over how the system is configured.

2) Context - context gives the audience something to relate to. As a result, they are more likely to pay attention. The vendor is at a disadvantage here since they have to focus on the most general workflow. JM could build things that are very specific to the organization. That's to be expected.

In one of the tutorials, the vendor provided a general workflow for application processing (student applies to school, information entered into system using x form, etc). Fine. But then they quizzed me on it. Uh - what if my university has different practices.

I would rather the vendor focus on how their application behaves rather than telling me how to do business unless there is a very specific technical reason why I have to do something a certain way. Oh - and tell my WHY it's best this way. It's something I've done for my students. Why can't the vendor do it for us? It will save a lot of heartache on all sides. (I think this has to do with the "sales function" a lot of vendor-supplied training has to perform.....)

Wendy begins her climb to the top of her soapbox....

3) I hate multiple choice questions for assessing application training - There, I said it. I say this in person and I'm saying it here: A, B, C, or D - which tab do you click does NOT tell me whether the person knows how to use the program (or even where that tab is located). It does not tell me whether the person will be accurate or efficient using the program once they leave my tutorial. So WHY ARE WE STILL BUILDING THIS TYPE OF ASSESSMENT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Yes, I KNOW they are easier to build. But with some of the tools we have at our disposal (Captivate does have easy click boxes. And Captivate 2 and 3 have easy ways to administer this interactivity) - can't we score THAT instead? You can include click boxes in the Quiz results..... We can even use the text entry in the Quiz results!!!!!!

The crazy woman on the soapbox begins jumping up and down....

4) If you are going to provide a demonstration of a workflow, then have me "practice" - at least make the example in the practice different. This is what triggered me to "game the system." As soon as I realized the demonstration was the EXACT SAME THING as the practice, I looked for ways to avoid the demonstration.

AT LEAST MAKE ME THINK JUST A LITTLE BIT!!!! PUHLEEEZE!!!!!!

Yes, I know this won't be popular with our audience - but if we're gonna start encouraging "learning" in our charges - the least we can do is make them use their brain a little.

5) If you are going to have me interact with the program - at least give me a scenario rather than have me press buttons at random. I went through 5 practice exercises where I was pressing buttons at random. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why. There was no workflow or particular reason. The buttons I pushed didn't accomplish anything. I finished that tutorial more confused about how the application worked than when I started.

I don't think that's what the instructional designer had in mind.

Wendy steps off her soapbox.

I am going to continue torturing myself with the vendor tutorials as I prepare for some of my projects. I hope I don't wind up boring/aggravating my students the same way....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Results from Pinging the Network

The feedback I've received from my little "pinging the network" experiment has been quite informative. More for what is missing than for what I received.

After a couple of weeks, here's what I've learned:

1) Don't ask a question that's too nebulous. Thank you Christy, Tony, Dr. Cherry for encouraging me to clarify my request. And for other potential avenues to try...

2) Don't ask too many questions at once. I think my attempt at clarity got a bit out of control. The silence was deafening. It was worth a shot.....

3) The purpose of social networks is the people, not the information. The information comes with the correct people.

Still haven't figured out the most efficient way to configure my Captivate projects for porting into Skillsoft. Thus far, the only response I've received from the vendor has been "take a look at our content library." A standard vendor response (the polite version of RTFM). I've looked at the content library and the information will be very helpful for marketing the e-learning initiative to the end-user, or if I was programming for SCORM compliance cold. Not so much for configuring Captivate projects.

I've also been informed that there is a Custom Content team. I would be very excited to work with the Custom Content team if they would give me some names and contact information. The vendor has not been particularly forthcoming. And I promise not to bother them too much. Really.

So if any of you happen to know someone who works on Skillsoft's Custom Content team (or better, someone who works with both SkillPort LMS and Captivate) - please contact me via the blog or wwickha1@gmail.com.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blogging and the New Job

I find that new jobs offer an opportunity to start fresh and learn new things - both professionally and personally. As I've gotten older, I'm realizing how important sussing out the culture of a place really is. I'm really lucky that my co-workers have proven to be willing and candid guides in this new environment.

Of course, this time, I've also made more of a point to ask questions BEFORE acting. Something I was not conscious enough to do in my previous jobs.

On the first full day - I asked my co-workers about my blogging.

You're not going to say anything bad about us, are you?

Only anonymously - and I will talk to you first. I don't want you being surprised by anything I say in the blog. It was a courtesy I made in my last job and I had no intention of changing that policy.

We can live with that.

I know my co-workers read this blog (Hi Guys!), so that makes these discussions important.

The main reason why I got the job was because of this blog. They are fully aware of my usual subject matter and I wanted to make sure that I could continue talking about projects. I think that sharing both the good and bad of a project is incredibly valuable. I do this for myself (mostly as a form of therapy), but it seems to help my 5 readers as well (Thanks Janet for pointing this out!).

I still speak for myself and only myself in this blog. Besides, I would much rather talk about my personal foibles than expose others. Strikes me as the right thing to do (even if it is a tad bit foolhardy), especially when speaking in public.

I am still in the process of getting comfortable in the new job. So far so good.

Wow! I'm Gamer 3.0!!!!

So this old dog can still be taught new tricks....

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I'm always amazed by what Karl Kapp seems to get out of his students.

A recent batch built this cool Gamer Rater.

He's looking for feedback. I'm trying to figure out how they did it and praying they didn't use a lot of complicated programming or Flash techniques....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Enthusiasm Trumping Talent

Much to our collective surprise, the bowling team has managed to maintain either first or second place for all but 2 weeks of the season.

Even more surprising, our obnoxious behavior is slowly winning over some of the more serious teams in the league.

We cheer when one of us strikes.

We cheer when one of us spares.

We cheer when one of us gets a nasty split. And yell "Field Goal!" as the ball goes through that split. (Nothing more satisfying than watching 4 of your closest friends act like a cheerleading squad. Now if I could only convince the boys to wear wigs, pompoms, and skirts....)

We cheer when one of us picks up a tricky shot - or sends the ball into the gutter (We call 2 gutterballs in a row a "Dodo." I've had a few of those).

And we do the same thing for the other team - at least the strikes and spares and good shots. The mocking we save for each other.

Last night, we played one of the most serious teams in the league. They have the best bowler in the entire alley (a 200 pin average). Everyone else on the team hold 150+ pin averages.

By the second game, even the 200 bowler was smiling and high-fiving us. Other teams looked over at the jacked-up freaks (us) in alley 36 wondering what the heck was going on to loosen up the "serious team". I don't think the league has ever seen the 200 bowler SMILE before.

One of the ladies on the serious team was not bowling well that night.
"You know, I'm bowling almost 70 points below my average..." (I was having a good evening and actually beat her 2 of the 3 games). "And I'm having the best time bowling in years!!!!"

That was the best complement we've received all season....

4 of the 5 of us on the team still believe that our emphasis on bonding with each other Monday nights is more important than our scores. (Fearless leader is not entirely convinced yet - but the rest of us will slowly break him down...)

And I suspect that our enthusiasm is going to get us through this season with flying colors. Who knows, with our crummy handicaps and obnoxious attitude, we may pull out first place at the end after all.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Captivate and Skillsoft

This is my attempt at clarifying what I'm looking for. I'm hoping that I'm not confusing things further.

I really appreciate all of the help and feedback I have received thus far from the eLearning community. I'm also going to be sending the link to this post through Facebook and to the eLearning Guild group (thanks for the idea Christy!).

I'm going to summarize everything as I get information and try things out. If all goes well, I hope to publish a step-by-step in the reasonably near future.

If all doesn't go well - I'm sure I'll tell you about it.

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Publishing a tutorial to an LMS has 2 parts:
- Creating and publishing the tutorial
- Importing the tutorial to the LMS

I need help with the settings for the Captivate tutorial.

I am going to work with Skillsoft for how I should set up the course within the LMS.

The best way I figured I could explain what I need is through a series of pictures...(at least until I can figure out how to get .swf files into Blogger...)

If you have a Captivate file (.cp) you are willing to share with me, please send me an e-mail at wwickha1@gmail.com.

Oh - and any other advice you all might have in working with an LMS vendor is greatly appreciated as well.

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Individual interactions (click boxes, text entry, etc.)
Any recommendations for formats for the Objective ID and the Interactive ID?



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Quiz Reporting - Does Skillsoft prefer the score reported as a raw score or as a percent? Does it matter?

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SCORM Manifest - Any recommendations for the format for the Course Identifier and the SCO Identifier?

I know that in Skillsoft the Mastery score in the Captivate file needs to be the same as the Minimum score in the Skillsoft course.



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LMS Customization settings - When I talk to Skillsoft, is there anything I need to ask regarding these settings?



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Project Quiz Settings - Do the Objective and Interaction ID in the project settings need to be the same as in the individual interaction? (I've never been entirely sure how this works...)



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PENS - Is there anything I need to consider when I talk to Skillsoft about these settings? Information I must make sure I have to make these tutorials successfully run in Skillsoft?



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Again - thank you so much for all of your help!!!!!!!

Playing Games: Dance Dance Revolution

Thank you to my Facebook network and the blogger community for your feedback on my search for ways to best import a Captivate SCORM project into SkillSoft LMS. I am currently working on a post to, hopefully, clarify what I am looking for.
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I'm not as good as this kid.....


My clothes are still a little tight after that 3 week vacation. And I REFUSE to buy more clothes because I don’t want things to settle in. So, as part of my strategy to readjust my distribution of fat and muscle, I got Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) Ultramix 2 for the Xbox.

I have no rhythm (see Guitar Hero). The only time you find me in clubs is when my not-so-well-meaning male friends decide they need a female in the hunting party to make them seem “desirable and harmless.” Those evenings usually end up in wounded male egos or “romantic misadventures” for them and high entertainment for me.

As a result of my prior experiences, my hatred of aerobics (I go to an aerobics class at least once a year to see if my mind has changed. Not yet.) and my inability to dance, I'm shocked I find this game so engaging.

Here's my thoughts after 1 week of play:

- The music makes interesting background noise. I wouldn't listen to 95% of it voluntarily, but then - I wouldn't inflict my taste in music on anyone. At times, I feel like I'm in an aerobics class led by hopped-upHello Kitty fans.

- There is a practice mode that is quite useful. It allows you to practice the same song and steps ad nauseum to develop the motor memory to impress friends (not that I'd let any of them see me play this thing) and casual observers.

- It's actually EASIER to play DDR with the music at speed than it is when it is slower. This klutz was surprised by this finding. When the music is slow, it is all about making sure you hit the pad at the exact moment. When the music and steps are faster, it's easier to develop a rhythm and hit the steps at the right time.

- That said, once you lose your balance or get off rhythm, it's harder to get back on.

- The game only sees whether you miss steps. It does not check to see if you've hit the wrong thing. As a result, on really fast songs, I find myself "jump-roping." Great exercise, but I'm not entirely sure that's the point of the game.

- Good luck with this game if you are color-blind. The psychedelic backgrounds and the flashing arrows are occasionally hard to see when the arrows and the backgrounds match.

- Much of the game is about finding and executing patterns. I find myself scanning for the next move maybe one or 2 steps before I have to execute. If a pattern develops, I scan further down to see when it will change. After a few exposures, I discover that I'm trying to predict the next move or pattern and will my legs to execute. Because of my iffy kinesthetic intelligence, execution does not always match intent.

So what did I learn from all of this?

Well, I think DDR will help me with my balance and coordination, as well as my cardio fitness. I don't think it's going to help me bust moves on the dance floor or encourage me to go clubbing anytime soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Testing the Power of Blogging

I need help!

Situation: Part of my new job includes implementing Thomson NetG/SkillSoft to replace GWU's homegrown GLearn system.

As a result, I need to convert all of the existing Captivate tutorials to be SCORM compliant and publishable to NetG.

Do you know anyone that uses Captivate and imports it to NetG who would be willing to share one of their working Captivate files?

You can leave a comment here or contact me at wwickha1@gmail.com

I have also sent the same message to my Facebook network.

Thank you so much for your help. Please let me know if you need more information.

Wendy

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Reason for My Absence

During any major change - there is a period of chaos where you start putting together patterns and habits to incorporate that change.

I've started my new job and am in the process of learning all sorts of new stuff.

I do have some posts ready (kinda) - it just may take me awhile.

I'll tell you all about it when I've got life in some semblance of order.....

Thank you for your patience. See you on the flip side....

What I Learned about Learning

The Learner needs to be responsible for their own learning.

All we can do is help....