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Archive for the ‘Training Tips’ Category

Writing for the Ear

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Recently, I downloaded a copy of No More Spilled Ink: Writing for Instructional Design by Connie Malamed. I recommend the free resource as a great guide if you’re writing content for any kind of online learning.

One section of the guide addresses writing audio scripts, and I thought I’d share a few of Malamed’s tips here, and use them to evaluate an audio script that I recently wrote for a short tutorial.

  • Tip 1: Write like you speak. This means using short sentences, everyday words, and contractions.
  • Tip 2: Keep it brief. Consider how much your audience can process at once and avoid overloading them.
  • Tip 3: Repeat key points. Use emphasis or new wording to help the learner understand.
  • Tip 4: Notate silence. A pause give learners processing time and keeps you from rushing.

So how does my script measure up?

I think my script sounds pretty close to my natural language. I’ve used contractions, such as “let’s” and “don’t”, my sentences are relatively short and straightforward. I have incorporated a few words of jargon, so I’ll review to make sure that they make sense to my intended audience. The script is brief (about 2 minutes) because I narrowed the topic ahead of time. I was tempted to explain a much larger concept, but decided to keep it tightly focused. However, I did not use any of my time to repeat key points. As I revise, I’ll consider adding a sentence that summarizes the take-home message. Finally, notating silence. I’ve never done this before, but I think it’s a great tip because I often find myself speaking more quickly than I would with a face-to-face audience. I seem to forget to pause and breathe, so I think putting the breaks in the script will help me find a more relaxed rhythm.

Check out the full version of the guide for more great tips!

Engaging the Unengaged: Part 2

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

 

Four stones stacked

Last week I gave a few tips for engaging your learners, based on this e-book from Shift eLearning.  The final tip was to use good course design. But what does that mean?

According to Shift eLearning, “Well-designed courses help your learners to understand what they are seeing. When every element on screen has a deliberate function, and is in the right place, everything seems more clear.” While this is focused on the online learning environment, I think it’s true for traditional classes as well. Here are six key principles for good design.

1. Don’t unnecessarily complicate things. Keep the course simple with usable navigation and readable fonts. Focus on communicating with the user and making it easy to accomplish what they want to do.

2. Allow for inquiry and exploration. Isn’t it more engaging when you discover information on your own? Giving choices or trying scenarios can bring curiosity to the content.

3. Keep the content to a minimum. Focus on what they truly need to know and avoid extra information that can clutter the experience and get in the way of the main goals.

4. Pay attention to the visual elements. Check that your typography, color, texture, icons, symbols, pictures and animations or videos add to the experience and do not detract from it.

5. Less is more. This is a variation of keeping it simple. Make sure that it can load quickly and takes as few steps as possible to get to the content they should learn.

6. Mix it up. A variety of activities or formats can challenge the learners to think in new ways. Will a case study, game, or animation best help the students to learn?

Find several other tips for engaging your learners in the downloadable e-book!

Engaging the Unengaged: Part 1

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Metal ladder against red barn wall
I recently picked up a free e-book from Shift eLearning, called Engage the Unengaged: How to Create More Engaging eLearning Courses. You can download your own copy, too, if you’d like. I’ll share a few of their ideas in blog posts this week and next week. The focus of the e-book is on eLearning, but there are lessons here for the face-to-face classroom as well.

What is engagement? Shift eLearning uses “the level of participation and intrinsic motivation student displays in a learning environment” as their definition. It includes both behaviors (such as attention or effort) and attitudes (motivation or interest). An engaged learner is active and collaborative, seeks out help, and exerts his or her best effort in response to a challenge. Disengaged learners may do only the minimum work, delay completion of tasks, avoid challenges and may not participate. I’m sure you’ve met both in your classes.

There are a few things you can do to increase engagement, and even convert the disengaged to engaged. Here are a few strategies to try:

1. Acknowledge the prior knowledge of your students, and show them how the class will build on it.

2. Tell them what’s in it for them right away – don’t assume that they’ll know why the class is important. Why does this information matter and how is it relevant to their work or life?

3. Build in some immediate rewards. I don’t mean candy (though that works for some audiences). Can you reward them with affirmation or encouragement? Can you demonstrate to them how they are already doing something better or faster or more easily as a result of the class? Again, don’t just assume they’ll notice – point it out.

4. Take time for reflection. We’re often tempted to use every possible minute for dispensing information, but allowing time for reflective processing can help students to better retain the content. Ask students to stop, think, and apply what they have just learned or take a minute to consider how what they heard relates to their work.

5. Use good design and quality images. While this probably can’t sustain engagement, it may help to initiate it. In next week’s post, we’ll look at a few principles of attractive design.

 

Tips for Class Discussions

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Thinking of incorporating discussion into your next class? Here are a few tips to consider as you develop your lesson plan.

two men and two women seated in a discussion

  • Target the discussion. You should have a well-defined topic or outcome for the discussion. Do you want them to come to a consensus about something? Produce a list of advantages and disadvantages? Whatever the purpose, having a clear focus will help keep the learners on track during the conversation.
  • Put a time limit on the discussion. A timeframe communicates to learners how long they have to discuss their ideas and may help avoid having one or two folks monopolize the discourse. Be sure to set the time expectation at the beginning, and if warranted, you can post a timer or have someone in the group be the timekeeper.
  • Consider the environment. What is the seating arrangement? Does it allow for easy exchange of ideas in small or large groups? Will everyone be able to hear? Do groups need space to discuss privately?
  • Consider the group size. Are you having a whole class discussion? Or will the learners be broken into smaller groups? Sharing ideas in a small group first can be less intimidating and help the salient points to be shared in a larger discussion. Groups of 3 or 4 tend to allow for all voices to be heard.
  • Develop learning materials. Depending on the discussion, your groups may or may not need any supporting materials. You might use a picture or slide to generate discussion, have a recording sheet, or supply data for the group to discuss. Make sure the materials are easily accessible for all in the group.

Assessment on the Fly

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

With just an hour of classroom time (or less!) how can you fit in assessment? How can you tell if your students have gained the skill you’ve taught or understand a critical concept?

Rubric showing ratings of 5 to 1 with eyeglasses in upper left corner

TeachThought had a recent blog post detailing several assessment strategies, and I thought I’d share a few here.

1. Ticket out the door: Have students write the answer to a question, an a-ha moment or lingering question on a scrap of paper or sticky note and collect them on the way out the door to a break or to leave. This is a quick way to see what stood out to the class and one we’ve used here at the NTC.

2. Ask students to reflect: Before class ends, have students jot down what they learned or how they will apply it in the future.

3. Misconception check: Describe a common misconception about the concept you’re teaching, or show an example of something done incorrectly. Ask students to identify and correct the problem.

4. Peer instruction: Ask a question and have students pair-up and explain the correct answer and why to their partner. Walk around and listen to their responses to assess whether the concept needs to be revisited.

To see the rest of the list of simple assessments you can try, see the blog on TeachThought.

5 Reasons We Forget Presentations

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Carmen Simon is an executive coach at Rexi Media, a company that teaches presentation skills to professionals. I heard her speak several years ago at the Presentation Summit; an annual conference devoted to better PowerPoint presentations.

In a presentation posted on SlideShare.net, Simon identified 5 reasons why we forget the content of a presentation. See the reasons below and you can also view all of the accompanying PowerPoint slides.

Reason #1: We don’t pay attention to content in the first place.
Reason #2: Some information is too similar to other information.
Reason #3: Content is not processed deeply enough.
Reason #4: Too many presentations are factual and non-participatory.
Reason #5: The list of items presented is too long.

Fight or Flight?

Monday, June 16th, 2014

What type of presenter are you? Does your heart start to beat fast? Does your mouth get dry? If so, you are not alone. These are common effects from the fight or flight response that developed in humans to protect us from danger. Being familiar with the signs of fear can help you prepare for it. Let us know how you feel about presenting. After you take the survey, you can review the SlideShare presentation below for a few tips on how to keep fear from taking over. If you decide to try the suggestion on slide 45, take a picture and send it to the NTC.
 

View the presentation below for some tips on taming stage fright. from Jerson James

Teaching the Google Generation

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

A few months ago, TeachThought had a blog post entitled 10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust to the Google Generation. While their posts are often geared toward K-12 educators, it can be helpful to think about the students soon coming to your schools or hospitals — or those who are already there.

TeachThought suggests that you make the work Google-proof, that is, it should be something in which a few searches and clicks can’t locate a single answer. Instead, think of questions that require the synthesis of multiple sources, ideas, or media. Secondly, they recommend using questions that have no real answers. These first two recommendations go hand-in-hand. Using a complex case or scenario can spark engagement and interest, give a context to the lesson, and provide an opportunity to teach about databases and search skills. You can use a real reference question or work with a clinician to develop a few realistic scenarios appropriate for the audience.

Their fourth point is to focus on learning strategies rather than specific content that may be fluid. We all know with changing interface designs, new databases, and advances in technology students and faculty will have to adjust to changes over the course of their time as clinicians or researchers. By resisting the urge to “cover” everything and focusing on how to wade through the information deluge, they’ll take with them skills for their entire careers.

 

A True Story

Monday, May 5th, 2014

I recently had to complete some online training. I put it off as long as I could and now it had to be done. There were 4 modules and a test after each. Things were moving along pretty well; I was making progress. Then, I started module 3. OMG! Noooo! It was all text. Not a picture in sight. Not a “try this” button to click on. I groaned. Yes, out loud. I advanced to the next slide. I groaned again. I felt like a kid in grade school who didn’t want to do their homework. Mom, do I have to?

So, what gives? Why was I able to make my way through the first two modules without too much whining, only to feel like I had hit a brick wall when I got to #3? I’ll tell you why…no interactivity. The first 2 modules asked me questions and gave me the opportunity to test myself as I went along. I was also presented with some matching and I had to move some items around the screen to answer questions. All of which held my interest and kept me engaged. Module 3 on the other hand was long, text heavy, hard to pay attention to and easy to become distracted from.

While it may not always possible to create interactive training modules, I have been to the other side and back and am here to say: please try. Here are some tools that can help:

 

Break It Down: 5 Benefits of Chunked Learning

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Bite-sized learning, coffee-break webinar, lunch and learn, chunked learning. Whatever you call it, many people want their training options short (chunks) and on demand. Here are 5 thoughts on how smaller can be better.

  1. Fights boredom. No frills, to the point.
  2. Promotes a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Our energy comes and goes throughout the day. Our interests come and go throughout the day. Providing to-the-point training opportunities allows an individual to fit training into their inner productivity clock.
  4. Bite-size chunks of information are easier to process and transfer to long term memory.
  5. Makes the learner feel that their time constraints are understood and respected.