Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Politeness - A Best Practice

The clients blowing things out of proportion and getting intolerant about the minutest slipups
The production team just does not get it!
A peer asks the question already addressed in an email sent days ago
A team member commits the same error explained a number of times before
The production team forgets to implement the change so important for the client

These are some of the frustrations I face in my role as a Learning Strategist, just as many other professionals in this role. In time, my best practice has been to be polite. If that's tough to be rightaway, I just take a break - coffee, tea, friends..anything that allows me to be kind to the 'perpetrator' :) and gives me space to be able to present my dissatisfaction in a dignified manner.

I have to accept that there have been times when I have been direct in my criticism. Having done that, I have almost always regretted my action - it takes away team spirit and the scars sometimes remain much after the project is long over.

Handling client is different. Jeff Jackanicz, an amazing project lead who I once worked with, taught me an important lesson for handling client-related frustrations - "Don't give in to the temptation of justifying your stand. Clients don't have that kind of time to read your explanation and empathize with it. Try to move the project ahead. Don't give another opportunity to the client to complain." I have held on to this advice - it works!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Writing a Self Review

I completed another one of my performance appraisals last Thursday. My best practices for writing self review:

  1. Keep the records straight: I keep aside postive mails, records etc. received over the year in a separate folder. This practice not only helps me remember my accomplishments for the year but also provides enough material to substantiate my claims.


  2. Leave aside unnecessary humility or modesty: My self review states the facts for the year. Places where I have led, taken initiative, influenced a decision are stated as is. A self review document is a business document. Shying from stating acheivements as is can backfire.


  3. Substantiate each claim: If client consulting is my strength. I provide examples justifying this claim. If multitasking is another of my strength, I state the number of courses I worked on, activities I undertook in addition to the project work.


  4. Clearly state next year's goals: I keep the goals for the upcoming year achievable, measurable and aligned to my interest and company's direction. For example, if the company would be venturing into other markets in the coming year, consulting for those markets would be a goal for me since it aligns wonderfully with my interest and company's business direction.


  5. Finally, take the appraisal for what it's worth: In my over six years of professional life. I have come to believe that an appraisal is as good as the manager. Hence, I factor in the integrity and maturity of my manager before entering the appraisal meeting. Some of my enormously talented managers have helped me tap my potential and mature professionally - they congratulated me on my achievments, helped me identify my growth areas and recommended possible solutions and they listened. Some other managers have left me wondering if they ever read my self-review!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Designing Elearning Curriculum

Strategy:
  • Work out the curriculum and course level instructional strategy.
  • Identify consistent elements for the entire curriculum - what are the look-and-feel elements and functionality what will remain same for the entire curriculum.
  • Identify the disparate elements - what look-and-feel elements and functionality will change for a specific course within the curriculum so that the learner interest is maintained.
  • Work out a higher level assessment strategy for the entire curriculum. Decide if pre- and post- assessment will be provided at curriculum level, course level or both.

Scripting:

  • Maintain a comprehensive style guide. Keep the document alive.
  • Maintain a glossary document that houses the glossary terms and descriptions for all the courses, as they develop. You will be able to easily reference this document for newer courses.
  • Make sure the design changes as a result of content variation is aligned to the curriculum look and project scope.
  • Keep an eye on the word count to make sure the interactions are not strained at the production stage.
  • Be aware of all the interactions available to you - these are the tools with which you will make effective courses.

Graphics:

  • Maintain consistency.
  • Identify icons, images, elements, resources that can be leveraged across courses.
  • Make sure that the look-and-feel is consistent per lesson across courses. For example, if lesson 3.1 refers to a process workflow, make sure that the arrows and the junction elements are consistent for all the courses within the curriculum.

Audio:

  • Plan your audio strategy - one voice for all courses or different voices for different courses?
  • Identify the audio elements that will remain consistent for a particular lesson for all the courses within the curriculum.
  • Keep the audio generic.
  • Record various permutations and combinations for instructional text audio so that later if the voice talent is unavailable, your project remains unaffected.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

CBT and WBT: A Comparison

CBT
  • Installable/downloadable to learners' hard-disks
  • Allows course access without Internet/Intranet
  • Learners can track their progress
  • No bandwidth concerns
  • Convenient for traveling learners
  • Does not allow community-building and score comparison

WBT

  • Course accessed using a virtual address or location using the Intranet/Internet
  • Learners can track progress and compare result with other learners
  • Bandwidth and net access speed are the primary design factors
  • Convenient for traveling learners with Internet/VPN access
  • Provides tremendous scope for community-building, for example, tutors, chats and web-seminars