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Archive for the ‘Training Tips’ Category

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.