Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RIP Chainsaw


I lost the brains of the operation last night.
Fitness coach.
Relaxation mentor.
A constant through many tumultuous years.
We had 16 awesome years together.

Rest in peace old friend. I'll miss you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Open Letter from the Trenches

Dear new C-level person:

I have been asked to represent the members of trench 52A - the group that helps you do stuff.

We are happy that you got the position and, from the information we have received so far as it has trickled down through the 5-layer management chain, think you are headed in the right direction.

We would like to help you make your vision come to life.

We have been tasked to implement a new tool that some believe will help the department function better.

So that our solution more closely correlates with your vision, we have a few questions:

1) If you could design an ideal department (forgetting about all legacy resources such as existing tools, systems, personnel) - what would it look like?

2) How would you define success?
2a) What quantitative goals do you have for this department's performance?
2b) Any qualitative goals?

3) What considerations do you wish for us to keep in mind as we help you implement your vision?

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Employee 432849SDR
Trench 52A

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What I Learned in 2009

I'm not going to entirely couch this in terms of "What I Learned About Learning" (this month's Big Question) because I think it is all of a piece this year.

Lesson 1: Learning how to play well with others

I find that playing well with others often means ceding control. This requires huge amounts of trust.

This year, the administrative team for our partially implemented LMS grew from 1.5 (the Veteran did a lot of work with the Instructor-Led tracking piece) to 4.

I trust the other team members implicitly.

Why? History. Having worked with them before and realizing (fairly quickly) that these are smart people with the best interest of the University at heart. They seem to feel the same way about me.

We also have the same goal - an easy place for our staff and faculty to find professional development resources.

As a result, we are finding ourselves asking each other more questions, using each other for feedback on various eLearning tools and topics (not just the LMS), and letting others know before the fact if we are doing something that impacts them.

It ain't policy - just common courtesy. Seems rare in the corporate environment.

Lesson 2: The difference between a functional and non-functional team is trust.

On the Vignette project, the team trusts each other. I've had more support from the Technical Lead and other Subject Matter Experts than I have on any other project in my professional career.

The resulting time spent in preparation + regular communication made the implementation and training less stressful than I anticipated. I also think the quality of the resulting training was better. At least, people walked away happy.

The follow-up calls I've received over the past few months have been more a result of them not using the system since the initial implementation and forgetting some of the details of how things work. I consider that success.

Despite having been working on another high-profile project the past few months, the team has kept me informed of changes in the system. The technical team has made changes to make the product more consistent and user-friendly. This can do nothing but make it easier to train.

My springtime project, develop an ongoing training and support program for Vignette.

I do this willingly because the team is so great to work with and I know I will get the support and information I need.

The project I just finished does not have this level of trust among the team members. As a result, meetings are more of the finger-pointing variety than of the decision-making variety. Thankfully, I have invisibility as a superpower. Another way my years as a stagehand have helped in my professional life ;)

The other result is that I find myself not wanting to perform any extra work. The politics and effort, plus the lack of support, just doesn't make it seem worthwhile. Even if it is something that DESPERATELY needs to be done.

Lesson 3: If you have to work with folks you don't trust, make sure you have a Plan B (and supporting documentation).

Thankfully, I learned this lesson much earlier in my professional career so I wasn't caught by surprise. Just received an unfortunate reminder this year that even in the best environments, you will occasionally get burned.

A nice thing about having experience is that when you run into the unpleasant situation again, you are less likely to get freaked out. You have a better idea of what to do next. And if it doesn't work, that's one other thing you don't need to try again.

Lesson 4: Having a smart, focused network is invaluable for professional development

Between Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and the blog, I'm seeing the benefits of having a smart, focused network. I learn so much from my morning Google Reader and Twitter reading. I've gotten some fantastic feedback on the LMS and on other challenges I am facing.

Understand that the key word here is focus.

On Twitter, I follow eLearning and folks whose feed is more signal than noise.

My Facebook friends are also professionals in related fields. Pretty strange considering that the proportion of personal friends / professional friends has tipped to 60/40. Many of my childhood friends have put together some really interesting careers. I get great feedback from them that provides a different perspective from the folks I relate to more professionally.

This is like getting a PhD but with a better choice of professors, less time in the classroom, fewer office politics and without having to write a dissertation in academic-eze. All of the advantages (except maybe the title and diploma), none of the hassle.

You can see why I am having a tough time motivating myself to go back to school ;)

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I'm planning to continue the theme of teamwork for 2010. Why? Well, it's a skill I still need lots of practice in. Other reason: my success with social media I think really hinges on the ability to play well with others. Sharing. Trusting. Communicating honestly.

Thank you everyone for reading this blog and the twitter feed. Thank you for your feedback and ideas. You have made me a much better learning professional this year as a result.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Turning an amorphous blob into a chaotic ball

You're overcomplicating it Wendy.
- SysAdmin Guru

So I've managed to get a baseline technical process figured out for the awkward project.
- Person enters a staffing request
- Staffing request goes to manager
- Manager assigns a resource

Pretty straightforward.

Where I got stuck - what resources, as a manager, do I have to determine which resource to assign?

Well...there is (supposedly) information from the time sheets people (supposedly) have been entering.

There is also (supposedly) information from the projects that have (supposedly) been added to the system by (seemingly random) managers.

Assuming that we have the information from the time sheets (past trends, actuals) and information from the projects (future needs, projections), there should be a way I can take the Time and Project information so that I can make informed decisions on resource allocations....right?

And this is where Wendy learns that the modules of this awkward project are more independent than they first appeared.

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Now that is just the technical issue. A conversation with the SysAdmin Guru and his friend the Tech Goddess reminded me of some of the deep systemic, process and cultural issues that exist.

Combined, the SysAdmin Guru and the Tech Goddess have almost 50 years of experience in technology. They have been with the organization for 25 some-odd years. I wanted to talk to them because I feared that I was going down a rabbit hole and needed some insight.

Here's what I learned:
- We possess a haphazard project management process

- Though the Main Muck is trying to establish some accountability for time, timelines within the project are still flexible - usually hurting people who need to perform tasks later in the project.

- There is no accurate assessment for how long something actually takes. The Tech Goddess suggested that there are multiple tools out there for benchmarking tasks in our field. "No one seems to use them."

- There is no accountability for budget as long as you get things done "on time."

- There is a lot of bleed between operations and projects. Someone who is on a project who gets pulled for operational tasks can impact the project.

- There may be an issue of skill-set among the staff if you attempt to make 1 team operations and 1 team projects.

- For those who are more project-based vs. operations-based - there is no clean handoff (or NO handoff in most cases). What happens is that folks who tend to be dragged into projects wind up with an ever-increasing set of operational responsibilities, which then impacts time spent on projects.

- Because there has been a change at the top of the organization - we have a lot of folks running scared. As the SysAdmin Guru put it "No one is willing to tell the truth."

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All of this goes back to the main question - which has to be addressed to the Main Muck

What are we trying to accomplish and what does "success" look like?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Random Mind Dump

Some good debate on the Wave as to whether having an LMS as a portal is a good idea.

Here is my situation:
- Lots of information scattered among multiple domains
- VERY hard to find what you need
- Multiple training groups sprouting like weeds across the organization

My conclusion: ANYTHING is better than nothing and we can clean it up later. If I've got one place, no matter how imperfect, I can point people to - we've won.

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I ran into Sally early one morning and had the same discussion.

What would the ideal training environment look like?

One that takes care of everyone's needs
- Organizational need for reporting
- Rapid ability to post / update materials
- Easy access
- Synchronous / Asynchronous as needed
- Anything else a student / trainer / learning organization desires.

We debated whether the technology was truly there yet.

I think the technology is there. I'm not entirely certain we are clear on what we REALLY want.

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Thanksgiving is a very important holiday for my family. More so than Xmas, Easter or New Year.

I spent many holidays away from home.

Many holidays working.

The most memorable holiday season was spent in Kentucky. I was "the local" working the laser show at the Kentucky Horse Park Xmas spectacular. Stone Mountain Lasers had been contracted to do the laser show that year. Good opportunity to see my friends from Georgia and make some badly needed money.

On Thanksgiving day, Cutry, Armin and I ordered some pizza. Armin smuggled in a bottle of Frexinet and plastic cups. Listening to the endless 90 minute loop of christmas carols, we regaled each other with stories of family Thanksgivings and favorite meals. This process repeated itself over Christmas and New Years. 3 people away from family and friends bonding over cold pizza and christmas carols.

I am grateful that I am finally at a point in my life where I can spend the holidays with my family and not at work.

Grateful that I don't have to hold down 2 or 3 jobs anymore in an attempt to make my way in the world. It's only been 5 years since I have had the luxury of only 1 job. As hard as I work, I do not take the luxury of this time for granted.

Also grateful for the holidays I spent away from home. For it makes times like this that much more important.

One Way to Move from Training to Performance

We keep hearing about how corporate educators need to transition themselves into performance consultants. Rather than agonizing over "how", maybe we should just keep our eyes peeled for opportunities.

Right now, I am working on a project where we are supposed to implement another module of a project management application that we are using.

One problem - there is no process, there is no policy, there is little configuration and there is no clear way to perform the tasks required.

Oh yeah, and no one wants to do the decision-making.

(We are going to ignore the conversation about whether we have the right tool to solve the actual problem. Or what the real requirements are. This is another instance where we are trying to fit the problem to the tool. This retrofitting scenario is more common than the "get the right tool for the job" one.)

First approach - freak out and ask the subject matter expert exactly what they are supposed to train. Continue asking same question until
a) the project dies
b) process, policy, configuration and concrete steps are established and the trainer can "do his/her thing" or
c) the SMEs and other project team members get disgusted and whine to upper management about your bad attitude.

Second approach - since the folks were kind enough to invite the trainers early in the process (which doesn't always happen), take advantage of the opportunity and start facilitating actual process improvement.

Heck, they expect the trainers to ask stupid questions and get it all wrong anyway. Let's embrace the process!

Ask stupid questions

So what is this new tool supposed to do for us?

How do we know if this process is working? (Please refrain from snickering when the SME looks you square in the eye and says "When the number of people consistently using the tool increases).

Get it all wrong

Rapid prototyping is where it is at.

When I have no idea what I am doing - I go to the cryptic vendor documentation.
I then place myself in the end-user's shoes.

If all I had was this documentation and was told to do X, how would I approach it.

I then write it down, along with any questions that came up in the process and pass it to the team. Often, the questions are related to the process, not the actual technical button-pushing steps.
- Who is responsible for this piece?
- Is there a reason we need to do Y?
- Is there a way to make this process less unwieldy? Easier to explain?

The team then tells me where I am wrong.

Conversation is good.

If the conversation goes well, you wind up involved in a very rich process and performance improvement discussion. "Training" may or may not result. And that is OK.

If the conversation goes poorly, you have the documentation that it's not "Training's fault".

Thankfully, in my current job, the conversations go well.

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It is these small opportunities on awkward projects that will prove to the rest of the organization that we are capable of increasing value and allow us to make the transition from Training to Performance.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Wave Collaboration Experiment

So I managed to get Google Wave invites for the other 2 members of our LMS Administration team.

I figured that Wave would help us improve our collaboration process - which currently consists of Elluminate or Virtual Classroom when we have the license space + teleconference (because not everyone has a working mic on their computers) + a word doc + multiple emails.

Wave HAD to be an improvement. Right?

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Project: Create an Intro to SkillPort program

Participants: Sid (not her real name), Sally (not her real name either), the Veteran (our senior trainer and an absolute PRO at teaching folks nervous about computers, not his real name) and me.

Setup: I created a Wave with a rough outline of decisions that needed to be made. I then sent the Wave to my colleagues. This is easier said than done since you have to go into Google Contacts, add them to the contact list, log out of Wave, log back in and hope they show up. Bah.

I added some chat areas with further information
- teleconference info (because our audio was going to be via phone)
- initial thoughts on organizing this beast
- a gadget (ClackPoint) that may have allowed us to try VoIP capabilities in Wave, had Sally owned a working microphone. (we really need to do something about that.....)
- a link to the Complete Wave Guide

I then followed up with the team via email. Since this is a new technology for all of us - I wanted to make sure everyone received the Wave and the teleconferencing information.

Sid and Sally were very excited to try this new toy. The Veteran humored us.
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The Veteran noticed right away that I had structured the outline with the assumption of a formal course. He called me out:

You know, I really think we should keep this as a more informal lab and workshop.

Good thing I wasn't in the same room with him. He would have seen tears of joy at hearing those words from him!

---------------------------------------------

A significant amount of time was spent just playing with the tool. Mostly Sid, Sally and I. The Veteran hung back and just watched the madness most of the time with the occasional comment.

Trains of thought were often interrupted with Hey, do you know how I can.....in this thing?

---------------------------------------------

We all decided that if they can get Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets to display more seamlessly in this thing that they may really have something. Forcing us to share and download an Excel spreadsheet / Word doc / other file seems to really defeat the purpose of the type of collaboration we want to do.

To share Google Docs right now:
- In the document you wish to share, click Share
- click Get the Link to Share.
- Check Also allow to edit if you want them to be able to edit the doc.
- Paste THAT link into Google Wave rather than try to invite people

The folks with access to that wave will be the ones who can edit the document.

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We found it useful to use the wave as a dumping ground for information beyond the collaborative Google Spreadsheet. We threw in documents and presentations from previous work.

We also found that people fell into roles:
- Primary Note-taker
- Chairperson (the one who keeps the meeting on track)
- Wave gardener (the person who organizes the wave and reorganizes the information

Those of us more comfortable with chat and typing found ourselves did more typing and editing. Those more comfortable with speaking and audio did more talking. We will need to anticipate varying levels of participation within the Wave - much like chat rooms, message boards and other technologies of that ilk.

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Our overall impression is that we see this having promise. But it is not quite ready for prime time as a corporate collaboration tool.
- Too tough to add contacts
- Tough to find gadgets and add the gadgets permanently to your account for easier access
- More seamless integration of Google Docs needed so that we could output manager-friendly documents

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Always taking tips etc for better ways to use this thing. Please leave ideas, thoughts in the comments.

Friday, November 06, 2009

First Google Wave Commentary


Sound advice from the nice folks at Funny Eye for the Corporate Guy

The picture has nothing to do with the thoughts below - but with the way my past few weeks have been going, it's a good reminder.
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My current thoughts on Google Wave

- A Wave needs to be focused focused focused. I am finding the broader waves become very disorganized and hard to follow very quickly.

- Start small, then go larger. The small group can create the initial format. New members then have something to play off of.

Like chat rooms, large groups can get unwieldy very quickly.

- Using the playback to view the most recent is awkward - especially for the larger wave.

This may be a technical issue. The larger waves load very slowly.
John told me about using the spacebar to move between unread objects. Works like a charm.

- As with any new tool, having a project in mind helps a lot. My soft-skills counterpart Sid managed to get a Google Wave invite herself. We are going to attempt some real-time collaboration with this thing. Our initial project - developing a draft outline for an Introduction to SkillPort class.

(Oh yeah - and as I type this, the manager and director are wandering around Educause looking for Google Wave invites. I'm trying to get 2 more for the other 2 members of our LMS Admin team. You will have my eternal gratitude if you have some available :') )

Aaron Silvers has even better ideas! Go read his post on Virtual Collaborations if you haven't already.

- VoIP would be a great feature. Hard to edit and type chat at the same time.

- Why I am still excited about Google Wave, despite the hiccups? Because it will ultimately solve an actual problem I have now. Still can't say that about Twitter ;')

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Remember those LMS Questions? I developed a public wave to continue the conversation (and its getting good)

For those of you with Google Wave access - please come play.

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In the Wave - John Schulz brought up an excellent point. I'm copying his comments in full:

OK, can I play devil's advocate here? Personally, I think the really big question - the one people really need to think long and hard about - is the first one you listed: What problem do you think an LMS is going to resolve?

I think the idea of an LMS is changing. The need for an LMS is no longer very clear. Two "trends" seem to be telling me that a large investment in a typical LMS at this point in time would likely be a bad investment.

1) The 'features' one likely wants from an LMS are being absorbed by other HRP systems - talent management, performance management, HRIS. Look long and hard at the other systems in your organization before you buy an LMS.

2) An LMS should NOT be a destination for your learners. An LMS should be a background system; used to capture data. Not a front line product that we direct learners to. The functions of an LMS (cataloging, course enrollment, learning plans, assessments, competency management) should be accessible by learners as services through the tools that they use every day.

Most organizations make the mistake of positioning an LMS as THE learning portal. I think we need to get away from this idea, and integrate access to learning products within the learner's work environment. The LMS should (could) be the master data source for all things related to the learning experience (assessment data, completion data, etc.).


Yes John and Clark Q. - I am completely falling into that trap of using the LMS as a destination. My excuse is that this is the fastest way to communicate to all stakeholders the need for someplace to point staffers to for help. The stakeholders get the reporting they want. The staff has one place to go. I don't have to build it from scratch.

Is it ideal? No. But it's significantly better than our current situation.

And it was purchased long before any requirements were established. Gotta get value out of it somehow, right?

Working around the LMS



I was at a local learning/technology conference yesterday and one of my peers (who I'll keep anonymous) did a great presentation on some short, just-in-time videos/screencasts that her department had done. I thought one of the most interesting points she made was that at this time, they aren't bothering to put them in their LMS, because they're just interested in people getting the training (which they want to make as easy as possible)... they aren't interested in tracking it.

We have done some similar projects and we have taken the same approach... the LMS just takes too much time for people to get into and find what they need.
- Judy Unrein


This really is the crux of the issue with LMSs. Sometimes, it just seems like a PITA to get to the material.

My take - there is no rule that says I can't have the same object in two places if I don't need the reporting. For the immediate "they need access now and I don't need the reports" issue - I just give them the direct link. I also give them the SkillPort location since we are training our end users to look there first for materials in the long-term.

I am making extensive use of a feature in SkillPort that allows me to link to what they call "External Learning Objects." I can't see who clicked the "Play" button (still complaining to my SkillSoft reps about that every chance I get since all indicators in the program appear like you SHOULD be able to see who looked at the tutorial) - but the end-user can find it much later - when they actually need it.

The other advantage of the external learning objects is that it doesn't force me to go through the amazingly cumbersome and ugly 5 step conversion. It's gotten to the point where the first question out of my mouth when someone wants to put a tutorial in SkillPort is...

Do you need reporting?

If not - we use the above process. If so - I tack on a week and send the request to my bosses so they can begin the extortion process collect funding for the slots the tutorial will require. 9 times out of 10, suddenly - they don't need reporting.

And reporting, in my mind, is the key advantage and reason for implementing an LMS in the first place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Question 5 - Tell me about your LMS!

How did you organize your groups? By department? By job description? Other criteria?

I'm looking for ideas for our folder structure. If we get the structure right, we can get the reports right...or so I hope.

The current plan is for us to organize folks by department and by whether or not they are managers. There is also talk about organizing by job description. We plan to use our Enterprise system (Banner) to help automate this process.

We are taking any and all ideas.

If I get permission, I will share what we came up with on these pages a few months (I hope) from now.

BTW - thank you so much for your participation! Your feedback has been very helpful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Question 4 - Tell me about your LMS!

What reports in your LMS do you find most valuable?

Just curious. Again, please leave comments.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Keeping Momentum

Sally (not her real name) is one of our stakeholders. She comes from another training group that happens to have the ear of the Executive VP. Since my last discussion with my Control freak, she has let herself be co-opted into our developing administrative group for this LMS.

Much to the dismay of the control freak, I've given her administrative access too.

So now, there are 3 of us.

Hooray!

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Our stakeholders meetings have bogged down. This has made us a bit concerned. Sally contacted me the other day:

I really don't want to lose momentum. How can we get this out to the public with what we have?

Well, we have been doing some guerilla change management. B (one of the other trainers) figured out a way to send direct links while still authenticating through our LDAP. We have been sending follow-up emails with those links to the LMS.

But there's got to be more that we can do! If we can prove business value with what we have, it will be much easier to get resources.

True.

Just look at the certification courses in here! That's many thousands of dollars right there!

(We crunch some numbers)

If we can just get more people to use it - it will be a no-brainer! Then we will get the resources we need!

And if nothing else, we will continue the change management process in the university among the rank and file. Getting folks more used to looking online for resources. We already have over 2000 users. Not bad for a system that hasn't even been formally implemented yet.

If all goes well, this thing could be like the old Faberge shampoo ad.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Question 3 - Tell me about your LMS!

Do you find the LMS enhanced learning?

(Question from @mkfrie)

I'm looking for honest feedback. Any comments welcome!

LMS/CMS as Personal Learning environment?

Less focus on information dissemination,knowledge management and more focus on facilitating personal learning environment development for students.
- Sue Hixon (aka @EvilSue - thanks for IDing yourself!!!!!)


Ah yes, an issue that has dogged the instructional technology community for years.

Doug Holton, in a recent post, pointed to a 2002 Educause article on this exact topic.

I know for the LMS I am working with (which is REALLY an online course library with some reporting functions), setting this up to provide ALL of the potential tools one would need to truly develop a personal learning environment would be impossible.

First, we would want to list every tool that should be in that environment.

Then - find ways to make it easy to share stuff created using other tools outside the environment (something my LMS does not have).

It is probably too much to ask 1 tool to do everything.

I've worked with those tools (Electronic Medical Records, enterprise business systems, etc) and I find that they often do nothing particularly well.

In my case, this may be an instance of leveraging what is already there and what the tool provides (a large library of content) and finding ways to link it to other tools with more useful features (sharing capacity, better reporting, etc).

After, of course, we get the requirements from the stakeholders ;')

Monday, October 19, 2009

Question 2 - Tell me about your LMS!

If you had to do the LMS implementation all over again, what would you change?

Please leave a comment! I will give you much glory on these pages if you do!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Question 1 - Tell me about your LMS!

What problem was the LMS supposed to resolve? Did the LMS resolve the problem?

Please leave a comment. I will be bothering you on Twitter in the meantime.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

5 Questions on your LMS

As part of our Phase 2 project, the management asked us to come up with 5 questions to ask other universities regarding their Learning Management Systems and how they use this system for staff training and development.

Thanks to the nice folks on Twitter (you guys rock!) - 5 questions:

• What problem was the LMS supposed to resolve? Did the LMS resolve the problem?
• If you had to do the LMS implementation all over again, what would you change?
• How did you organize your groups? By department? By job description? Other criteria?
• What reports do you find most valuable?
• Do you find the LMS enhanced learning?

Let me know if you think I should replace one of these questions with something else.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be asking the community (that means YOU) each of these questions in turn.

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BTW - if you are in the market for an LMS and looking at vendors, Tracy Hamilton has a fairly comprehensive list of questions to ask when visiting other sites.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Before the Trend Becomes a Problem


Disney has a huge research arm. They get information from every direction.

Most interesting is when they act on it.

How do we convince people to act when it is not a problem....yet?

Now vs. Someday

Wendy - you really should get the requirements first.
- advice from everyone


As you all noticed, I tend to get ahead of myself. I think it is because I confuse requirements that need to happen NOW vs. "I'd like to be able to do this someday."

I have misinterpreted a "now" requirement as a "someday" requirement and been burned.

I have seen the "someday" requirement quickly becomes a "now" requirement when a higher-up gets involved.

I have experienced getting to the "someday" requirement and realizing that I have to make do with already exists.

This explains why I knee-jerk try to manipulate what I already have at my disposal rather than continue to collect requirements, or grovel to the vendor (I'm not the money person so that never works particularly well), or get the money people to grovel to the vendor ("Try to make do with what you have").

I'm scared to death that I will never be able to deliver.

Definitely not in the "Now" timeframe and probably not in the "Someday" timeframe.

I really should stop taking so much ownership over things I can't control.

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I frequently find myself in the situation where the tools and resources were selected and purchased well before any real requirements were put in place. And well before I came along.

Below is an example of what happens during those projects:

The management gives me some tools (5 paper clips, 3 pieces of cinnamon gum and a roll of duct tape) and asks me to get requirements for their use.

Once I have the requirements (make a robotic arm) and have done the gap analysis (erm, I'm not even close to having the right resources), I am given the final set of resources.

We are replacing your 5 paper clips with 5 safety pins, the gum will be fruit-flavored and, oh by the way, we need to take the duct tape. Good luck! (door slams and the resource-providers are only heard from when they complain that you can't get the job done with what they gave you).


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This is the situation I find myself in right now. (OK, maybe not nearly that extreme).

We are trying to put a round peg in an octagonal hole.

In this case, we have a useful content library that we are trying to make into an LMS. There are LMSy features available in the content library, but it is missing lots of things that would allow it to perform the requirements I am collecting.

At this stage, I don't know what resource changes will be available once we have the full requirements list.

Will we be able to completely re-evaluate what we are doing and actually purchase the tools we need to fit those requirements?

Or will we have to make-do with what we have.

Past experience tells me to be ready to make do with what we have.

Which is why I try to get an inventory of what we have to work with at the same time as I collect requirements. I am doing this a little too early in any self-respecting project.

Because those "Someday" requirements quickly become "Now" requirements.

And I gonna haveta figure out how to make do with 5 safety pins and fruit-flavored gum.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Breaking Things Down

I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain.
- Henry Rollins

There are many days where I think about what I want to accomplish and become overwhelmed by the scope of it all.

In my Thoughts on Goals, I talked a little about how I break down goals into Immediate, Short-term, Medium-term and Long-term.

Jon M. in Barbells and Bacon, talks a little further about opportunity cost. Set a time goal for yourself and focusing for that period.

There is another layer of goal-setting. How do you take the big, long-term goal for yourself and break it down into manageable, focused steps?

I find myself going through this exercise each time I attempt something really big.



Right now, my Evil Plan is the attempt to create a one-stop shop for learning information.

Why am I even pursuing this?

- It's part personal: when I first started at my job I didn't know where to go to get help or the appropriate training. I'm still trying to figure it out. My managers have excellent networks, but no one has a real sense of what resources are out there.

- Others have the same problem. Every time I step in the classroom, whether it is new employees or 25 year veterans, the question is always "Where do I go for help and information?" "Where do I go for further / other training?" Half the time, I have to do research before I can answer them because I still, 18 months later, have no idea what is available.

- Other trainers have the same problem. Each time I talk to one of my colleagues in one of the multiple "training" groups (and these things are like weeds), we all have the same frustration. We have no consistent place to point them to. Half the time, we don't know where to go. Usually, we are reduced to pounding our network after the fact. And many of us hate not having immediate answers for our students.

This is big, hairy and scary.

I've been trying to break this down into manageable parts - mostly focused on the daily and short-term tasks. From cruel experience, I have found that projecting too far out is a sucker's game.

The daily - "I am going to get x done today on this tutorial / document / work."
The short-term - "I am going to finish x project / talk to y people"

Eventually, when you look at your work a year later, you can see what has been accomplished towards the larger goal and what is still left to do.

Big-scale change like this is a gradual process - no matter how much some executive thinks they can speed it up by unrealistic timelines. If it is a change that is going up against some long-standing values - the more gradual, the more buy-in, the better.

In this case, I am fighting the unspoken desire for maintaining "control" within their "silos."

The individual vs. collaborative is a very tricky nut to crack. As individuals (I know this all too well) and as groups. All I can do right now is chip away at it. Through prototyping. Through talking with others. Through practicing my own collaborative skills.

Daily, small goals and actions.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The NOW Network

You all are awesome! I am still taking advice. Please leave a comment on this post or the previous one if you have any experience in this matter.

Any and all advice welcome and encouraged.

-------------------------------
Ur friends and compatriots are going to help you get through this. The OMG moment? That's when you level up. :)
- RT@mrch0mp3rs aka Aaron Silvers


Aaron had quickly identified the freakout in my Twitter feed and encouraged me to move the conversation to the Black Swan Society.

The original post is below.

Hi folks. Need help.

One of our really important stakeholders is making it a deal-breaker that we somehow get a system that allows us to pull data from both the LMS and the ERP so that we can actually run some real business metrics to measure the effectiveness of our training. (Shocking, I know).

Our LMS does not do this natively. Neither does our ERP.

2 questions:
- If you have a robust database of this type, what are you using / what did you do?

- How did you overcome the objections of the IT department (of which I am a member)?

Thanks for any and all advice.

Wendy


Aaron did a good job of talking me down from the ledge by reminding me to break the problem into parts.

- Find an example of a report they may want run. Get a feel for need-to-have vs. nice-to-have.
- Prototype
- Record the level of effort

At this stage - I was still looking for one tool to rule them all. A solution with my existing tools that wouldn't require fancy middleware.

I'm assuming your ERP system is either SAP or PeopleSoft, right?

Your LMS? Probably doesn't matter. If it's not SAP or some integrated Oracle solution, customization is unavoidable if you want to actually get this stuff to talk to each other - Aaron


Umm...not using SAP or an integrated Oracle solution.

-------------------------------------

At bowling, I asked the same question to my bowling team. The Captain is an IBM Global Services project manager who has done a significant amount of integration work. Miller is an all-around computer guru who has worked in the eLearning industry (WHERE he worked escapes me right now).

Miller: So what are you trying to do?

Me: I'm trying to pull information out of Banner (Sungard product with an Oracle back end) and SkillPort to create reports where I can actually measure whether our training works.

Miller: And your ERP won't let you do that?

Me: Have no idea. And since we are in the middle of an upgrade for that product, I have a feeling even broaching it will fall on deaf ears.

Miller: There are a number of products out there that allow you to create reports from various databases. You can go for simple and homegrown or really complicated middleware systems.

The Patent Officer: Or you could just program it in PERL!

(the team tells the Patent Officer to shut up and bowl)

The Captain: I know we use Cognos for most of our database reporting. Not sure why, but we do. I think it's because IBM owns it or something. It works OK.

----------------------------------------------

Meanwhile:

- On Facebook, Bryan, the WoW Guru, is asking me what resources I have at my disposal.

- On Black Swan - John Schulz sent this advice:

I think the problem with such a direction becomes identifying the 'owner' of a particular piece of data - i.e. which system is the master, which are the slaves. This is definitely an issue IT fights around.

To alleviate some of these types of concerns, we were moving toward the data warehouse idea. In the warehouse, each system owns their particular pieces of data - they all just get centralized for mass reporting and analysis.

So in a simple example, the relevant data from Banner would be ported to a database server at specific times (nightly, weekly, real time) depending on the needs for particular data elements. The same is true for the data from the LMS. These data ports are usually a fairly simple arrangement from an IT perspective so no new expense required with the exception of having a DB server capable of meeting your query needs.

On top of that you implement some type of reporting solution - Business Objects, Cognos, Crystal Reports, home grown, whatever. Give people access to the data warehouse and watch them create their own reports. Most of these tools allow you to design a report and have the query executed at specific times. Copies of datasets or reports and usually be emailed or shared across the organization.

As Aaron mentioned the trick is really in understanding the type of analysis you intend to perform. This has huge implications on how you collect data, how long you store data, and how rapidly that data must be refreshed in the warehouse.
- John Schulz, Black Swan Society


- On yesterday's blog post, Michael Hanley sent these words of encouragement:

The reality is that this is the outcome of learning professionals letting LMS vendors away with their clunky, siloed solutions for the past decade or so. If they can't even implement specifications like SCORM correctly - and if I hear one more LMS sales droid assuring me that that their product is "SCORM Compliant" I'll probably do them a grievous injury - never mind having data connectors for HRMSs and ERP solutions.

I'd suggest going back to your LMS vendors to help you out (get them to do a gap analysis re: their system >> your needs).

Finally, if I may suggest, it sounds like your guru is trying to make their problem your problem, as as they're the one with the PHD, they should be suggesting approaches to solving your common challenges, and not dropping them in your lap.


The situation may not be fair. And I am probably trying to take way too much responsibility.

Still - we talk about this. A lot.

Time to put the talk into action.

My next step - talking to our DataMarts guru....

Monday, October 05, 2009

Getting Requirements and My Mind Blown

I had a chance to talk to one of our high-level training gurus yesterday.

She is new to the organization (less than 1 year) and is one of the primary stakeholders in our phase 2 LMS project.

She also has a PhD in Distance Learning.

Yup - I was more than a little nervous.

During our conversation, she laid out a series of requirements / issues. I hadn't heard them put quite this way, but her concerns are universal to our university.

I'm still trying to process this, so bear with me....

-----------------------------

When she is designing training for any distance learning session (synchronous AND asynchronous), she asks herself some of the following questions:
+ Is my training having the appropriate emotional impact?
+ Is my training having the appropriate behavioral impact?
+ How does the training impact the bottom line? In this case - the money coming into the university.
+ How do I design this so that a community is built rather than just a one time training event?
+ How do I make the material as accessible as possible while still tracking progress and completions?

Ideally, the LMS would then allow the following:
- Integration with the ERP so that she wouldn't have to try to crib reports out of both the LMS and the ERP and hand-manipulate the resulting data.
- Easy input of all instructional materials - including smile sheets, surveys, online tutorials, web materials.
- Easy input for the students of all assignments - any format.

The questions and the requirements are utterly sensible and common throughout our university.
----------------------------

My thinly-veiled freak-out occurred when I realized that:

a) The "LMS" (which is a content manager right now rather than any useful LMS) may not be able to do half ANY of the requirements without some serious jury-rigging.

b) There may not be an easy way to integrate the business results in the ERP (which I am assuming exist....a possible mistake on my part) with the educational results in the LMS.

We need this individual's support.

We may be f***ed.

Relationships and Communities

Relationships and Communities

Building a community is one of the most important things you do in a distance learning class.

This pearl of wisdom has been repeated throughout my studies as an instructional technologist.

I'm certain any one of these scholarly documents will provide research-driven evidence and appropriate models for identifying, using and building communities in a distance learning environment.

The following comments are not backed by any research. Just observation.

Give me a couple of seconds while I put on my flak jacket....

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In my social media participation, I am seeing the following models:

- Fully online communities built around common interests / experiences. I see this in Twitter (#lrnchat), subject-specific message boards, World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs, etc. Later in-person contact may or may not result from the relationships built within these communities. Actually meeting a member of your network isn’t the point. I have personally found that the more well-established the community, the harder it usually is to break into and the more subtle the cultural norms.

- Online communities based on personal history. Facebook, for me, is a great example of this. I am talking to people I haven’t seen in 20+ years. We may be geographically distributed and I may never be in the same physical space with some of these folks ever again, but we can keep in touch and maintain community through these tools. Ultimately, you wind up creating a personal community revolving around “you”.

- Online communities supporting personal interests / shared activities with a central in-person element. Many of the classes at my university have a chat and/or blog component to supplement the lecture and facilitate further discussion. A very good, non-academic example is how Potomac CrossFit encourages all of their members to comment on the message board and create their own workout blogs. We may not get a chance to talk to each other during the workouts, but we can chat through the comments. (Warning, some of the comments may not be safe for work). The online reinforces the physical community norms. I also find this type of community more comfortably inclusive, particularly for those of us who feel a bit awkward in group settings.

- Fully in-person communities. Often this is a result of proximity. The folks I work with (even though a few of them lurk on this blog) is a primary example. The closest thing to an online element is minimal participation in Facebook or the regular IMs and emails sent.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

What has made the advent of robust social media tools so valuable is the broader range of relationships I can develop.

Most of my childhood friends have moved on to develop interesting careers. I can get professional feedback from them as well as say “hi”.

There is the “network of spies” that has developed through this blog and Twitter.

There is the support system and consistent reinforcement team I now have through PCF as I attempt long-term behavior change (exercise and eating better).

The most comfortable communities and relationships, for me, are the ones that eventually hold the promise of an in-person element.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The importance of support

Disney does training. Lots of it. Even more importantly, they reinforce. In daily meetings, with instantaneous feedback in the field, through modeling, with supportive processes.

It is the support and reinforcement that does more to make change stick than the actual training.

This got me thinking – our models focus so much on the training event and regular re-evaluation of that training event. We need to think beyond that. Our “instructional” design needs to also include the support structures behind and beyond the training event. How are we going to support them when they walk out of the classroom. What resources do we have?

As part of this design, we also need to suss out more carefully how serious the management is about the change. Are they just training to check the “training” box? Demonstrate to the underlings that “they offer training” (nevermind in what)? Or do they really need something substantive to happen?

This will not be a comfortable conversation. Especially since, in my experience, organizations would rather blame failures on “training” than on the systemic issues surrounding the change (no ongoing support, the change not actually solving a problem, communication issues surrounding the change, no one taking responsibility for the success or failure of the change….etc).

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Details


You all may have sussed out by now that I am a HUGE process junkie. How do things work? What are the steps to get there?

During one of the exercises, I noticed that Disney not only focuses on the overarching processes related to the bigger vision, they also focus on the smaller, almost individual processes that impact their front line staff.

The only way I am able to explain it:

The Eiffel Tower = the vision
The bits of scaffolding = the processes supporting the vision.

----------------------------------------------------

I'm not entirely certain how to graph that out or explain it effectively, but it seems to me that Disney is in the process of developing a culture that encourages innovation among their front-line employees. They regularly ask their front-liners:

What are you doing to make your job easier? What are you doing that is solving a problem?


Sometimes, it's not an overt question, but a process of observation.

The resulting details help fine-tune the larger vision - with the ultimate goal of an amazing guest experience.

---------------------------------------

All of this is driven by a desire for constant improvement. "Is there a better way to...."

The instructors informed me that this desire is driven by the regular (and extensive) feedback they receive from their guests. They invite feedback from everywhere. Focus groups, informal interviews, surveys, front-line employees. Disney then processes that feedback using an extensive "research" organization that looks at trends.

Beyond using the research organization, there seems to be a lot of gut-level "hey, lets try X!!!!" To their credit - they take these experiments seriously. They also know when to cut bait if the experiment doesn't work.

------------------------------------------

How does one turn an organization into one that constantly seeks improvement? Invites feedback (no matter how negative)?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Sulking Control Freak

I spent this morning preparing for a training session. One where I am giving away administrative authority.

The control freak perched on my desk - sulking.

You NEVER listen to me anymore.

I listen to you - I just choose not to take your advice right now.

WHY are you doing this?

I need the help. I need the feedback. I need other eyes.

You know that you are creating more work for yourself. Other people always screw stuff up.

I dunno - I think this time I'm working with some good, competent people. Besides - it's good for me to work with others.

Uh huh.

The control freak gives me the "...and I'm supposed to believe THAT" expression as she drools on my desk.

I've worked with both of these people on other projects. One comes with more technical chops in her pinky than I have in my entire body. The other has a solid project management background and sound process mind. They haven't disappointed me.

Yet.

Listen, I KNOW this is different from our usual modus operandi. But I think this is really going to help BOTH of us in the long term.

Really - how is this going to help ME?

Well, you have been working really hard the past 35+ years. Besides, you've been an awesome motivator for me to learn new skills. I'd love to let you focus more on the learning side of the program.

Hmph....

The control freak folds her arms and makes a pointed effort to ignore me.
I know I hurt her feelings, but I also know this change needs to happen.

We have to learn to work with others. To trust that others will work with me. We have to learn how to build solid, productive relationships.

It's a change that has been a very long time coming.

And, this time, I'm optimistic that my trust is not misplaced. Whether the control freak believes this or not.....

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Environmental Fear

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I've been thinking and just want to get this out of my head.....

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I'm guessing that for many readers of this blog, the classroom is a comfortable place.

We know the rules.

The rhythm and flow are predictable.

We are confident that we can at least be in the middle of the pack - if not the top of the heap - in any given classroom situation.

We've seen all sides of the environment.

And, chances are, we've had more positive experiences in the classroom than negative ones.

As a result, going into education as a profession wasn't that much of a leap.

-------------------------------------

How comfortable is that environment for our students?

How many walk into your classrooms with nightmares of past experiences? Being told that they were stupid? Lazy?

How far back do these memories go? How deep-seated are they?

Are they going in with an expectation of failure? Being made a fool of? Exposed as a "phony"?

-----------------------------------------------

I'm beginning to understand how powerful past experience can be when walking into a given environment.

Each time I walk into the gym, memories of all of my athletic failures come flooding in.

Being picked last for kickball / dodgeball / softball / soccer.

Disappointing teammates with my inability to catch the ball / make the point / get the out / close the frame.

Coming in last in running / swimming / rowing / bowling.

Being the slowest / weakest / least coordinated person in the group.

The resulting demons haunt me before each workout. Nevermind the welcoming environment, supportive coaches and friendly gym-mates. Nevermind that after 98% of the workouts I look back proud that I've accomplished something (and had "fun" in a masochistic sense). Just setting foot in the gym some days is a victory.

Watching the members of the coaching staff go out of their way to make people feel welcome, I wonder if there really IS anything we can do as instructors to alleviate the anxiety.

Celebrate the small victories?
Encourage a focus on the small personal triumphs?
Discourage comparison with other people's performance?
Just be welcoming?

I suspect it all goes back to what motivates you.
What drives you to overcome past performance.
What makes you work towards a goal.

------------------------------------

What do you think?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Thoughts on Focus

Jon M. is one of the trainers at Potomac CrossFit.

In his blog (thankfully, not just workouts and list of things he ate today), he hit on an issue that dogs many instructors who teach complex topics with many interlocking skills.

Me: So, what are your goals…. what are you bad at?

Person: Well I really need to get better at running. And I am soooo bad at pullups and dips. I just feel so weak with barbell stuff, and I don’t even know how to snatch. Plus, I have to learn how to do the butterfly kip.

Me: And you graduated from Foundations when….three weeks ago?

I also see this, when an athlete is talking about their warmup: “I’m going to practice double unders for 10 minutes, do PNF 4 times a day, then hit some squat therapy. I’ll do the WOD, then I’m going to work on abs, double unders, and my pullups.”

Its the same problem, shown in two different ways. Anyone else see the issue here?

----------------------------------
Did I mention that I was one of those 15 people he had that conversation with?
-----------------------------------
When performing instructional design, we try to guide the student through the appropriate skills in the right order to reach a particular set of (hopefully actionable and measurable) objectives.

In a corporate environment, these objectives are usually determined through various needs assessment processes. And, most of the time, the learner is not involved in goal-setting and objective creation. They are just expected to "learn it."

Personal endeavors require the students to determine their own focus. Define their own (hopefully actionable and measurable) objectives.

As a student, I'm finding this to be a much trickier task.

Do I focus on skills I have been exposed to and have a fighting chance of getting good at quickly?

Do I focus on brand new skills I've never seen before, much less done?

Should I go for bang-for-buck, even if it is something I suck at?

There is the pressure of watching those who have already mastered large chunks of the curriculum. Seeing the "goal" in action every day.

How did they get there? And how do I do that?

There is the personal expectation that you really should be "better" at this thing you are trying to do.

Nevermind that you haven't worked out in 10 years and the closest thing to a sport you've participated in has been fantasy football.

And this is where Jon's challenge lies.

How do you get your students to
1) Set goals for themselves
2) Focus on those goals when the environment has you doing so many other activities
3) Focus on those goals when the "end result" is, by necessity, self-defined.
4) Not be so overwhelmed by the lengthy list of things one "needs to get good at."
5) Get them to see that mastery is a "process." (...and this may be the toughest challenge of them all...)

That's a lot of responsibility he has to give to his students. And trust that they take it.
---------------------------------------------------

As a student in this, I find that the toughest part is deciding priorities.

Especially because I am not particularly good at ANY of the skills of this thing I am trying to master.

Trying to figure out how to get from here (old, slow, weak and generally out of shape) to there (old, not as slow, stronger and functionally healthy). Trying not to get discouraged when some woman 15 years younger and 20 pounds lighter than me lifts her bodyweight over her head and smokes me in the 800 meter run in the same 1 hour session without breaking a sweat. Trying to remember that it is all a process and a change that takes time. And lots of it.

I've decided that I need to focus on things that have the highest "bang-for-buck" in the long run. Which, in my case, is anything that prevents injury.

So, for my points of focus in this thing I'm trying to master:

- good running form (and not wheezing my way through workouts)
- pullups
- squat exercises and getting good range of motion

It may be more important to just let myself suck at some things for awhile. Anything having to do with a jump rope. Box jumps. Rowing. Being particularly "fast" at any workout. These will have to wait.

We'll see whether I have the right focus in the next 3 months....

---------------------------------------------

I wonder if, as corporate trainers, as corporations, we are letting our students off too easy.

Are we giving them enough responsibility to determine their own goals? Their own priorities?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Getting Out of the Way

Last week, I had the privilege of "training" some of our senior IT techs on our synchronous online meeting tool.

Heh.

Here's what happened.

I walked in with a rough outline and some documentation.
Because I knew these guys - I gave them a rough model of how to do stuff.
(The "Tools" menu is your friend).

Oh yeah - and they had upgraded the system just the week before, so I had no IDEA what new features were in place. Plus, most of our licenses have been taken over by the academic side, so I don't use this instructional tool very often.

My role was not "sage on the stage" so much as "clueless person to play with."

(Sr. IT Tech 1) Hey - can we do video teleconferencing on this thing?
(Me)Hmm...no idea...there wasn't a video feature in the last version
(Sr. IT Tech 2) Guys! I found a video button!!!
(rest of team clicks on it, along with the trainer) Oooooh!
(Sr. IT Tech 3) Hey Wendy - you need to get some webcams so we can play more!!!!
(Sr. IT Tech 4) Hey look! We can take control of someone's computer without giving moderator access
(Me) Cool! Where's that?
(Sr. IT Tech 4) Tools > Sharing > Control Desktop
(All) Ooooooooh!

Rinse and repeat for an hour.

So what was my value add?

I provided a safe place to play.
Some encouragement.
Hints from having used it before.

And a good foil.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Angering My Control Freak


This is what MY control freak looks like.
From rottentoons.com
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When we last left the LMS - Sid (my soft skills counterpart) was bemoaning how we can't seem to get our colleagues to see the value of having one place for training across the university.

We let the sleeping dog lie for awhile. Neither of us had the energy or the time to sell the idea.

Rumblings occurred earlier this month that important stakeholders are now interested in making our little LMS (which is currently serving as a content warehouse) into a full-fledged useful learning management system.

One place for training of all types (rather than making people call 5 departments to find the information they need).

One place for reports on courses and on what employee is taking which course.

It seemed like an insumountable cultural challenge. We are all used to our little fiefdoms.

------------------------------------------
Right before vacation, Sid quietly asked if she can help gather information for interfacing our pet LMS with the university's enterprise application. I gave her what we had and sent her on her way. Didn't have the bandwidth to figure out why she asked (too involved in the Web project).

During my vacation - there was a meeting of all of the stakeholders.

An amazing thing happened during that lull. All of the resistance seemed to disappear....

And some of the people who resisted are now chomping at the bit to get started. To help. To make this thing an honest to goodness tool that we ALL can use.

So the Manager, the Director and I now find ourselves with the opposite problem - too MUCH help.

--------------------------------------------

I talked to the Director this afternoon after one of our stakeholders jumped the gun. The stakeholder meant well. She wanted information and she had excellent contacts to get it. Thankfully, she also thought to give me a buzz.

My first gut reaction, after hearing that she scheduled teleconferences with the vendor and her contacts at an organization also using the LMS was

Oh No!!! Why didn't you talk to US first!!!!
(The little control freak on my shoulder, bouncing up and down screaming...)

Thankfully, the stakeholder told me this over the phone, so she couldn't see my face. I also had enough presence of mind this time to NOT say what I first thought and listened carefully.

This could be a good thing. I told the control freak on my shoulder. We need the help. These are important stakeholders and they really OUGHT to have a piece of the process. The tool really needs to be for everyone and I really want to hear the questions the stakeholder has for the vendor and the user organization. We're finally getting traction. Best not to slow it down.

Baaaaahhhhhhh!!!! said the control freak. What about consistency of message! They are doing it because you are too slow! Didn't do enough! They want control of your baby!!!!!! Don't do it!!!!!

If this is going to work, we need to get the stakeholders actively involved and helping us DO stuff. Not just TELLING us what to do.

The Director was having a similar conversation with her control freak too.

After we both compared control freaks (I think hers is blue) and came up with a strategy to temporarily mollify the control freaks while encouraging help from the over-enthusiastic stakeholder, I stuffed my control freak in a desk drawer and locked it.

I can still hear her muffled complaints.

Little does the control freak know that tomorrow, I am giving away even more control...to my soft skills counterpart, Sid......

(to be continued.....)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts on Goals

I started doing CrossFit in June. For those who know me...I would never be mistaken for an athlete. And unlike many of my colleagues at Potomac CrossFit, I came at this pretty danged cold. Thankfully, they are a real supportive bunch. This crew also serves as an awesome case-study in combining online and real-world community. (A possible subject for a later post).

To get an idea of the types of things we do - I started a workout tracking blog.
Because, dangit, I need a good dose of navel-gazing with my exercise.

I'm finding that success in CrossFit, for me, requires 4 levels of goals.

The immediate
OK...I'm gonna do just 1 more rep/50 more meters/get to 10...
Usually thought while I am hoping not to puke on the floor or go into cardiac arrest.

The short-term - daily
For each of my workouts, my goal is to do 1 thing better or do 1 thing that I have never done before. That 1 thing changes based on what I am facing when I go to "the box".

For example - yesterday's "goal" was to get through 10 rounds of "Death by 10 meters."
"Death by 10 meters" is performed at a 10 meter distance.
- The first minute, you run the 10 meters. You rest for the remainder of the minute.
- The second minute you run 20 meters (once there, once back). Rest for the remainder of the minute.
- The third minute you run 30 meters. Rest for the ever-shrinking remainder of the minute.

You see where this is going...

I managed to get through 10. 11 flat out wasn't gonna happen. I still have LOTS of work to do on my cardio.

The medium-term - month

Each month, I create some performance goals. They do change, occasionally, based on the workouts I attend for the month.

Creating these monthly performance goals gives me some skills to focus on during the sessions. I'm trying to get past the "I suck at everything" point to only sucking at most things :') I'm a long way from being a CrossFit master.

The long-term - year

I've kept this a bit more general for now because I am still getting benchmarks on a number of activities. Right now - it's a vague "Finish a CrossFit Workout as written." Any one will do....

I'm going to make these more specific over the next month since I should have many of the benchmarks completed and have an idea of where I am starting from.

I'm also going to ditch the "appearance" goals. Because those fall into place when I hit the performance goals :')

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World of Warcraft fell into the same pattern.
Immediate - Gotta kill this set of monsters.
Short term - Gotta finish x tasks this session.
Medium term - Go up a couple of levels this week
Long term - make it to Level 70.

I've stopped playing WoW for the time being. I got what I needed out of the experience and learned that I much prefer my gaming solo. (Fantasy Football being a notable exception to this rule).

My figure thanks me....
--------------------------------------------

I think the goal model works for motivation when designing training. Of course, this means we have to treat "training" as an ongoing exercise, not a one-time event.

We need to encourage people to develop immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.

And we need to create the support systems to help people accomplish these goals.

Because training really is about "behavior change". Right?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tackling a New Captivate Project



When I'm not performing interpretive dance, this is what I do.

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I could have sworn I have written this down before somewhere in this blog.

If I have, it's been awhile and I'm sure I've fine-tuned the process since then.

So....by the request of the Manager....How Wendy tackle's a new Captivate project!
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I create software simulations about 95% of the time. This is how I tackle a software simulation project.

This process assumes:
- Yes, we need a Captivate tutorial on this and not something simpler like a PDF. I'm not gonna get into the Assessment process here. That's a whole 'nother post.

- I have at least a passing familiarity with the application being presented.

- I have already collected all of the support information I need (documents, people, multimedia, etc) and have it someplace where I can quickly access it.

- I have all of the access I need to perform any set-up before filming. Or have made friends with the administrators.

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1) Create the outline(s) / Instructional Design
- General (what processes do I need to demonstrate) ----> Specific (the actual steps of each process)

2) Figure out how to divide up the task.
- I usually divide up the tutorials by the process I am demonstrating.
- During the actual development, keep a lookout for ways you can divide the process further. Better to have 2 short tutorials than 1 really long one.

3) List all of the tutorials you need to build for the project as a result of step 2
- I use this list to keep track of what needs to happen. As I develop, I add and cross off items from the list.

4) Set up the project organization structure.
- New folder in the appropriate location on your desktop.
- If you need to share files and communicate with others, new folders in your document management tool. Notify the team you are working with the location of this folder and make sure they have access.

Note: Editing Captivate while accessing the file from a network drive invites bad juju. Always fully download the project from your document management system or shared drive and use File>Save As... to ensure that you are working with the Captivate file directly from your PC.

5) Set up the Captivate project for the tutorial.
- I have a standard template with the graphics / common slides / style guide and film size I use for all of my tutorials. Keeps me from having to re-create the wheel each time I build one of these things. For those who don't have a standard template, but have access to a Captivate guru - borrow theirs. If you don't have either a Captivate guru or a template, create one! Kevin Siegel gives great advice on how to create a template in Captivate 4.

Note: If you are creating your own Captivate template and you need to put the resulting tutorial in an LMS, talk to the LMS administrator for guidelines on what needs to be in the template and any size restrictions on the resulting tutorial. They can also give you information on final publishing requirements.

- Create a naming convention if your project has multiple tutorials. For instance, if I am building a series of GroupWise Mail tutorials, I will generally name them GroupWise_Mail_Descriptor. The underscores prevent funny characters being added to the URL or Project Name when you try to publish or post.

6) Set up the application you are filming
- In an ideal world, you are working in a test/training system and NOT in production. If you have to work in Production - it is IMPERATIVE that you work very tightly with the system administrators and keep them notified of everything you are doing including:
+ Which records you plan to touch
+ What edits you plan to make
+ Any mistakes at the TIME YOU MAKE THEM. Accidents happen and it is easier to fix at the time you make it than when the mucky muck finds it. Trust me, the administrators will be much happier with you if you do.

- If you can - create dummy records so that you do not inadvertently expose sensitive information. Document the important information on those dummy records so you can go back to it.

- If you have no choice but to film real information - be prepared to spend quality time masking your work. Notify the client EARLY that this will need to happen.

Note: I use a combination of highlight boxes and the Transparent text caption. It's ugly. It takes time. You are better off getting help from the administrators and creating dummy records.

7) Do a dress-rehearsal of the process you plan to film.
- Make sure your steps are accurate
- Make any necessary changes to your outline
- Determine how you need to "chunk" your filming. You don't need to record everything all at once.
- Look for any screens that may take a long time to load or, for newer applications, any error messages that may happen.

8) Film it!
- Set up your recording defaults before pressing the record icon. Adobe provides excellent advice on the recording process.
- Press [PrintScreen] on your keyboard regularly to make sure that you have all of the screens you need. Better to have too many screens than too few. It is also much harder to re-create a screen after the fact than to take a screenshot during.
- Don't forget, you can always record more screens.

9) Edit it!
- Again - Adobe has excellent advice on how to edit your Captivate tutorial
- Make sure your visual and audio cuing + terminology is consistent.
- In Captivate 4, I also write my narration in the Notes area during this process. Makes it much easier for me to add closed captioning, create printouts for SME review that include visuals + script and view the script as I record.
- I do sound recording after most of my edits are complete (except timing). I'm not good enough to talk and film at the same time.

10) Perform a technical check!
- Publish your Captivate tutorial (don't worry about the SCORM stuff etc).
- View your Output.
- Note where you need to make any changes.
+ Do all of your buttons work?
+ Do your text captions / images / buttons appear at the appropriate times?
+ Does any branching work as expected?
- Edit more. Republish.
- Continue this process until it works!

11) Get the first working draft in your client's hands as fast as possible.
- We upload to a departmental web area and give the client the link.
- I have found that even with script approval - often the client doesn't realize that there are errors until they HEAR it.
- Harass the client for feedback.

12) Repeat steps 9 - 11 until the client is happy.

13) Final publish and post
- If you need to put it in an LMS - make good friends with the LMS administrator. Ideally - you already ARE good friends with the LMS administrator. (You did make friends with the LMS Administrator during Step 5, right?) Work closely with the LMS administrator to make sure the tutorial scores as expected.
- Publish, post and test with the LMS administrator until everything works.
- Notify the client and have THEM test the scoring.
- Publish post and test until the client is happy.

14) Have a beer/glass of wine/gin martini/non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. Check "Complete" on the tutorial and start the next tutorial. If it is for the same project - you can start at Step 5.

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I created a "How To" for Captivate 4.

Thank you to George Washington University for the server space and permission to share.

Wendy's "How to" for Captivate

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back from Vacation


In case I seemed a bit quiet this week.

Erm...I was out being productive.

(BTW - that's the 21" bass I caught. I also caught an 18". Both were mighty tasty.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Victory for Prior Knowledge

I'm hanging out with the folks at the Student help desk these days.

I keep looking for the post where I sing their praises.
If I haven't yet - it is a grave oversight. These kids are pretty awesome!

Every day, with much grace, they deal with panicky students, angry parents, language barriers (large population of international students where I work), and the usual rounds of misunderstanding. These kids work hard, for not much money.

Right now, I am listening over the cube wall. The team leader is discussing World of Warcraft healing and tanking tactics with some of the students and staff. And I actually KNOW what he is talking about!

I'm not going to let on that I know their code.....

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Yesterday, one of the students received a phone call from an older Education PhD candidate working on her dissertation.

As is common with folks hitting the end of their disseration - she was just a bit panicky.

The student gets off the phone and turns to her boss (who I am fondly going to call the "Student Wrangler").

Oh my god! This person is on Word 97! She can't create roman page numbers. I don't even know if Word 97 can even DO roman numeral page numbers.

I sit right next to the Student Wrangler and hear all of this.

The Student Wrangler is a newly minted grad himself. I think he was 12 when I worked on my Master's Thesis back in '93-'94. He looked just as confused.

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I vividly remember that last phase of writing my Master's Thesis. At the time, I was working on a "custom built" PC with Windows 3.1 and a very early version of Microsoft Word.

The library, as part of their "Formatting Your Thesis" package, gave us a template. Essentially a piece of paper with boxes that your text, headers, footers and page numbers had to fit into. (Dr. Byrne may have better memories of this process than I do.)

I spent many hours in front of that blasted machine getting the $%&^# page numbers to fit in the *&%#@* page number box and to get the document to paginate correctly.
Part of the document had to be in roman numerals (the introduction) and the rest had to be in arabic (the rest).

I KNEW Word 97 could do what the PhD candidate wanted. But from the student's description of the problem, it sounded like something else was going on as well.

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The student went to get more specs on the machine.

Oh...My...GOD! She's on Windows 98! And using an old AOL browser!!!! This is like fixing an abacus!!!!!

The abacus is an easier machine to fix.

That said, the PhD was working on a machine that I was intimately familiar with from 1997-2003. The Windows 98 / Office 97 configuration. This machine type appeared in practically all of my early jobs when I first left Grad School in 1996.

Though it was far from perfect - it worked for this student's purposes. She saw no need to go through the trauma of upgrading. Heck, this was why I kept seeing this beast in the wild as long as I did. IT departments knew its quirks and could work around it.

As the machines began to die - they started being replaced by the Windows XP/Office 2003 critter. For those with sturdier beasts, Microsoft eventually forced everybody's hand and quit supporting Windows 98/Office 97.

Hence the problem this PhD student was having finding help.

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While the student, the Student Wrangler and I were chatting - the PhD candidate also sent an e-mail to the Student Help Desk, which clarified the issue she was having.

Thankfully - the User Interface between Word 97 and Word 2003 is practically the same.

The essential problem was that she did not know how to change the page numbers from roman numerals to arabic numerals in one document.

The solution - multiple sections!

The PhD candidate mentioned in her email that she was having a tough time finding a solution via Google. I performed my own Google search and saw exactly what she meant. Thankfully - I also found the following handy tip guide from SmartComputing.

I sent the guide to the Student Wrangler to pass on to the PhD Candidate.

Then we all hoped for the best.

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The next morning, the Student Wrangler received a thank you from the PhD candidate.

Crisis averted.

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4 hours later, one of the other students receives a phone call. This time, from one of the library staff.

Turns out - the library staff and the Electronic Thesis and Disseration tool vendor have been BOMBARDED with calls for the exact same issue.

How do I put roman page numbers and arabic page numbers in the same document using Word 97?


No one knew the answer! Not the librarians. Not the vendor. And they can't find it anywhere since the library got rid of their Office 97 references. (I'm personally surprised this is just NOW coming up as an issue - but I didn't let on to the librarian.)

I passed the tip guide to the librarian with the reminder that Word 97 and Word 2003 are very similar beasts - especially when it comes to dissertation formatting.

Happy librarian. Happy vendor. Happy PhD candidates who don't want to upgrade.

A small victory for prior knowledge.

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This post is for the Student Wrangler and the Director - who both told me:
You really need to write about this in your blog!