Avatar and Game Design with Clark Aldrich

After taking 2 somewhat quiet weeks (of reading, with little synchronous or even formal online participation) in the #change11 MOOC, I am glad to be able to spend a little time this week with the current area of discussion as facilitated by Clark Aldrich. While Clark will speak about Advanced Learning Strategies and Designing Sims, based around his book Designing Sims the Clark Aldrich Way, and given that I have never found games or sims or avatars useful for my personal learning, I think this week may be a nice (or challenging) stretch for me to see potential in areas where I may have missed it previously.

While Clark is evidently a very serious, talented, and sought after professional in this space, I noticed that his work seems to follow (in a most basic manner), the traditional ADDIE model of instructional design. This makes me feel comfortable, as it is somewhat familiar.

I then stopped in my tracks when I read his book, where at its beginning  (pg. 11) , he said:

Competence plus Conviction = Comfort
One core reason to do a sim is to drive competence and commitment. In fact, sims do this better than any other media.

Competence is the ability of a learner to apply the right skills. It can even include use the right words.

But developing conviction in an audience is even more important for most applications. Conviction is the enduring understanding and drive in the learner to do the right thing.

Nothing particularly revealing here, except that this seems oriented toward a positivistic approach where there are right (or correct) skills to apply in this or that situation. After all, how else can a system determine I (or somebody) is competent, unless there are clear guidelines against which one may be measured? This may work well in factories or the military, where a certain compliance to working toward a goal seemingly requires a consistent approach for all people to the same matter; how else can consistency be attained (and thus measured)? While I often build learning interventions in my professional work that meets certain similar approaches, I also find this quite contrary to my own learning preferences.

I struggle when generic learning or processes are applied to me; somehow I often feel I do not readily fit into these sorts of patterns that many learners seem to fit into. No, I am not special or anything like that; perhaps the issue is just that my education and experiences make it increasingly difficult to pigeon-hole me in a way that the objective approaches of sims or games that have clear objectives seek to measure in standardized ways. Perhaps this can be done for repetitive tasks that can be taught to be done in a seemingly mindless way (making widgets, for example), though I struggle consistently doing repetitive tasks! All my efforts right now are toward my doctoral thesis, which is all about creating new knowledge (in some established semblance of a recognizable process, of course!).

With all this said, I look forward to hearing what Clark says about all this in his synchronous session today.


Constructivistic Instructional Design

A colleague of mine, Catherine, had a wonderful blog post this week entitled ADDIE Deconstructed, which is somewhat related with my own recent posting on this topic, and is nicely juxtaposed with the work my students are doing with my online PPOCCID course.

Constructivist Instructional DesignThis area around ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate), which is an instructional design model I use all the time, constantly reminds me of issues of power and positionality that arise when we determine how others have to learn this or that. In many ways, this reminds me of a blog post that really stopped me to think about these issues, Why you want to focus on actions, not learning objectives. For those of us in the learning field, it is easy to either get so wrapped up in learning objectives that we neglect the learners as people, or to get so vague with our objectives that we can never really measure (or determine) if anything is learned at all.

All of this consideration of whose objectives we have to consider, and how that balance works within organizational dynamics, leads me to the text that Catherine pointed out and I just ordered, Constructivist Instructional Design (C-ID). This looks like just the right text to help consider some of these issues around ADDIE, which increasingly seems to be a simple model with grate implications.

More to follow . . .


A as in ADDIE

analyze-fingerprint.jpgI asked my students in my a PPOCCID class to do some searching for online references / discussions about the ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate) instructional design model. I find this model very useful in many applications (especially in project management of learning initiatives), though have recently been more intrigued with the A as in Addie.

What does it mean to Analyze the needs of the audience? Well, I have to make sure this is a need the training or learning or education or development can address. Who needs to learn what? Why do they need to learn this? What are the obstacles? Who are the proponents of this (often these are not the learners)? What do they want (and why)? Are the goals the learners have (if they even have any, and if they can be articulated) and the goals of the proponents of the learning the same (or at least close enough that they are not opposed)?

What roles does this power play, especially within organizational dynamics? Can what works for one be transferable to others? Have you ever found it is easier to analyze the needs of others rather than ourselves? Always more questions than answers; while this can be frustrating at times, I find this endless interest quite enlivening and engaging!

I suppose I am considering these issues right now as I am beginning a Module 3 in my doctoral program at Lancaster University. Nice how various parts of my professional, academic, and personal elements of my life tend to fit together from time to time!


eLearning with Adobe Captivate 4

While I often use my blog to discuss research projects related to my doctoral studies or related conference / publication work, one aspects of my professional involvement may come as a surprise to some. I work as a project manager and instructional designer, though I also increasingly engage in eLearning.

captivate 4eLearning and I have a mixed relationship, as often I find it either too involved or not involved enough. As I am currently finishing a short piece on critical thinking–Critical Thinking and the Information You Need. With the purpose of the module being an introduction to critical thinking for doctoral students, I am building this with Adobe Captivate 4 and will publish this as an executable file, so to avoid the possible technical issues that arise with various versions of Flash player. 

It is a lot easier to engage in eLearning when it is a topic I am interested in, that is for certain!


Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning?

I just read this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning, which discussed the initial results of a survey about distance learning.

Interesting findings:

  • more work with less compensation and respect for faculty
  • worse learning outcomes for learners

Honestly, the results do not surprise me. There is a lot more work with online and distance education, and there is not compensation for all these additional efforts. It is a great challenge to engage and maintain the attention of people without the benefit of body language to assess attention, mood, and questions. Fostering a sense of community and shared learning(?!); do not even get me started on these hurdles . . . 

Perhaps this demonstrates how those of us who work in distance education are still considered pioneers (martyrs?) for a changing learning modality? Perhaps institutions embraced distance learning too quickly without considering the additional financial and personnel support needed (beyond the pricy systems themselves)? Perhaps these are the normal growing pains involved in every major shift in teaching and learning?

Let’s face it, changing any aspect of the status quo (and higher education changes very very very very slowly) is a challenge, especially when there becomes more of a flattening of authority in education (the teacher no longer is in front, much of human knowledge is a few keystrokes away, etc.). Whatever the case, I am glad I teach and learn online, as the many benefits of it changes the very dynamics of adult learning itself.


PPOCCID Class Begins Tonight

I am teaching PPOCCID (Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design) again beginning this evening. I made the syllabus available for anybody who wants to see / use it (comments and feedback are very welcome!).

ppoccid screenshot

One of the ongoing assignments for my students will be to blog:

Course Blogs

Reflective Practice is a critical aspect of teaching and learning, and a fundamental element of teaching online involves acquiring a comfort with technology to communicate and collaborate.

Online learning is a more networked experience than traditional face-to-face (F2F) learning. Thus, students are required to use a blog for this course. Students may use their own blog (if they have one) or create a new one (Blogger, WordPress.com, or elsewhere). Blog posts should be done at least once a week discussing some learning or a reaction to anything in the course.

Making at least two comments every week on other course attendee blogs is required.

Let me set an example for our first posting!


Online Course Creation–Issues Debrief

My Online Course Design class met for the first time last night, and I think it went somewhat well (though it would probably be best to ask my students their thoughts about this!). I used (and am continuing to experiement with) an online adapted version of Stephen Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire, so will code the results for next week and try to understand more about their perceptions. More about this additional project later.

Overall, I was happy with how the technology (and my teaching, of course!) worked. While the NYU online course system is brand new (the Epsilen Environment), there are a few items that arose that I need to address to try to understand them a little better. I already emailed our technical people about them, and hopefully they will be able to help me determine how to use them better or otherwise open them as help desk tickets or enhancement requests:

  1. Attendance. I took attendance on paper and could not figure out how to enter this into the system afterward. I wonder if this had to be done in real time?
  2. File / Application Sharing. I was able to upload my PowerPoint slides, though when I shared a Word file (and in fact the entire Word application, I believe) I could not tell I was being shared nor could I determine if my students were still able to hear me. I am not sure if I missed the indicators that these were still happening, but I had to go back to the online course screen several times (3, to be precise) to ask my students if they could still see and hear. On top of all this, it seems this did not get recorded in the course archive, so I do not have any direct way of knowing what the experience was like.
  3. Webcam. I tried to use my webcam, though it cast a greenish / yellowing / ghoulish complexion. True, I do try to stay out of the sun, but I do not look like that! Disatisfied with how my laptop’s webcam looks and how crisp and clear everybody else was, I just ordered a new one (Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF) this morning and will receive it on Friday. As one of my students commented about how a webcam helps to maintain attention during a class, I think I need to pay more attention to having a good one that works well.
  4. Share a Web Link. I had trouble sharing a web link. I believe it opened in another window, though as it did not pop-up and come to the front (such as happens with WebEx), I could not be certain that it happened.
  5. Student Names. Probably one of the strangest open issues (that has already been reported to the vendor) involves seeing the student names in the class. They are not visible as names–only as usernames! Correct–I cannot determine who is present by seeing their names, so have to see the usernames and then look at my printed paper to link them up with their real names. I see this as being a strangely anachronistic issue, one that is problematic for me as class facilitator and problematic for the students as we are now part of a class learning community.

As blogging (either private or public) is a course requirement, I am trying to model something about what I am hoping for my students to do. We will eventually have a discussion about ethics, privacy, public persona, Googleability, etc., though I generally do my best to share my thoughts and experiences via my blog without being overly critical or personally confrontational. Hopefully this will maintain (or even increase!) my credibility as a teaching and learning professional.