Happy New Year! It was a busy, productive 2016 at Obsidian Learning, and before we dive into new learning adventures in 2017, I’m taking stock of what I learned in 2016, who I learned it from, and how I hope to apply it in my work over the coming year. The learning personalities listed below have blogged, presented, and/or written about things that I have personally found useful, thought-provoking, and that I hope to be more conscious of when designing learning in 2017.

Julie Dirksen (@useablelearning). I read Julie Dirksen’s book “Design for how People Learn”, quite some time ago, so I was excited to have the opportunity to hear her speak last November at DevLearn 2016. Dirksen uses an effective, science-based approach to design and learning. In her conference presentation she uses the rider (reasonable, rational) and elephant (visceral, emotional) metaphor to explain why change can be difficult, and what we, as instructional designers, can do to help the rider and elephant work together to smooth the path toward sustained behavioral change. She provides some of the reasoning behind why people do the wrong things (habit, no consequences, perception that their way is more efficient), and the types of strategies that can be used to encourage them to do the right things (creating the right environment for change, making it easier for people to make good choices, modelling positive behaviors, create opportunities for practice, etc.).

Favorite takeaways:

Change is a process, not an event.
Design for the elephant.

Katie Stroud (@KatieStroudPro). I am a voracious reader, and love integrating stories into learning whenever possible. Katie Stroud is an independent consultant and self-described “learning solutions engineer” (she had me at the description) who encourages designers to think differently about how to use eLearning content, and to do so by “engaging people at work to be part of the story”. She rightly points out that people don’t care about training unless they’re engaged at work, and insists upon the necessity of showing people how their work impacts the world. In her view, the best way to do that is though developing workplace stories. For a more in-depth look at how stories can make an impact for learners, look for Stroud’s upcoming book, “Instructional Story Design.”

Katie Stroud’s pearls of wisdom:

Don’t create content, orchestrate an experience.
Relationships are your greatest asset to success in anything.

Clark Quinn (@Quinnovator). Few people have had a such a long-term presence in the learning industry; Quinn has been a persistent and thoughtful voice on cognitive science, new technology applications, learner engagement, adapting the type of learning to fit the need, and our duty as learning professionals to be persuasive with our clients about the necessity of addressing these types of questions (there is a serious business case for thinking about what really works as opposed to just chucking out content-based learning). The “Serious eLearning Manifesto” he developed with fellow industry leaders Michael Allen, Julie Dirkson and Will Thalheimer, remains as relevant today as when it was released in 2014, and is an aspirational in terms of what types of learning I hope to create. Just this year, in collaboration with Learnnovators, Quinn was involved with the creation of a demo “best principles” course based on the topic “Workplace of the Future”. It’s worth a look.

Clark Quinn’s pearls of wisdom:

Stop defining curriculum by content, and start defining curriculum by activities.
Do, not know; journey, not event; practice, not recite.

Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth). I have been following Jane Bozarth’s blog for quite some time. Her stated professional aim is to “stamp out bad training”, so I knew from the start she was my kind of learning designer! Imagine my fangirl tizzy when I got to hear her speak for the first time this past November at DevLearn 2016. I was so relieved that my high expectations did not lead to inevitable, crushing disappointment. Her session on “Communities of Practice: A Cornerstone of Social Learning” was funny, informative, and thought-provoking. Though it focused on successful communities of practice (which, in her view, cannot be mandated, but must be supported, by management), much of what she discussed was applicable to instructional design in general. Bozarth is a generous speaker that establishes an easy rapport with her audience with her tell-it-like-it-is common-sense approach to learning. She writes a great monthly column for Learning Solutions Magazine, aptly titled “Nuts and Bolts”, which provides a trove of concrete advice for those of us who, like her, want to “stamp out bad training.” #lifegoals

Jane Bozarth’s pearls of wisdom:

The expression “spray and pray” training (for the uninitiated, basically a content dump and hope really hard that some of it sticks).
Knowledge resides in practice.
What’s your 20%?” (i.e., Training should be designed around the things</em> that learners absolutely have to know how to do by the end of the training.)</blockquote> In learning design, we often discuss the importance of modelling behavior; In 2017, I’m going to try to practice what I preach, by modelling my behavior—and the type of learning I contribute to creating—on the people that make me want to stop, reflect, and really think about what works, what doesn’t, and why.
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