Occupational Health And Safety Training: Turning Uhhhs Into Ohhhs

4 Tips To Make Health And Safety Training More Engaging 

Running training on Health and Safety? Here are some things to think about...

A regular feature of corporate training programs is an awareness training to employees on Health and Safety act. In Ontario, this is Occupational Health and Safety Act.

It is, unfortunately, a drab topic. People sit through the mandatory training as if it were a punishment. It is quite a challenge to bring in enthusiasm and excitement, or even some form of involvement in a training that rants about acts, laws, and possible jail terms for those not following these acts and laws.

On a side note, one of my theories is that the moment a training is made mandatory, we lose audience’s interest. There is a sense of resentment in the learners that is hard to overcome.

Nonetheless, not all is lost for Health and Safety trainers. Here are some lessons I’ve learnt along the way that will make Health and Safety training more interesting and engaging and I’d like to share with you today:

1. Make it relevant.

Consider your audience and make the topic relevant to them. If you are speaking to warehouse workers, talk about forklift safety. To office workers, cite examples about repetitive stress injury. If you are addressing shop floor employees in a chemical plant; well, there is no dearth of examples there. If a particular scenario does not happen in my world, then it has no relevance for me. People are moved by situations and events they can relate to. And when people relate, that is when they learn the best.

2. Make use of invested partners.

In an ideal world, everyone is equally invested in their own safety, and that of the safety of their surroundings. In the real world, some of us are more safety-aware than others, and these people are your partners. Employees who are first aid certified or are fire captains are one example of staff members that are invested and understand the gravity of the topic. Employees that sit on your organization’s Health and Safety committees are your best friends indeed: They can be leveraged as subject matter experts. The great thing about using such resources is their credibility among other workers. Since they are “one of them”, and not an external trainer, their inputs and observations are way more authentic than yours. And this is a valuable tool in training.

3. Use a good mix of media.

Video clips of common workplace accidents can be horrific, but can be used aptly to impress the importance of the topic. I like the commercials by WSIB; find them on YouTube:

Another good option is to have your leaners complete an online Health and Safety training course prior to attending a live in-class session. This ensures a basic level of knowledge among the class, and saves you from taking them through boring, legal stuff. You can rather use the time to discuss real-life scenarios and case studies that will resonate more with the audience, Here is an online training course freely made available by Ontario Ministry of Labor.

4. Use numbers strategically.

Numbers have a “real” quality to them; it is impossible to argue with cold, hard facts. However, be careful when employing numbers to make your case. It is important that the numbers speak to the audience, and make the issue seem real, not unreal. For example, instead of saying we have 60 fatalities each year, say roughly 1 person dies at work each week. This hits home way closer. Another example may be to make use of previous convictions under the law. How many supervisors were fined and/or jailed is not as provoking a statistic as saying that 1 supervisor in such-and-such company was fined $65,000 and 1 year in jail. Numbers like these can raise even the most reluctant learners from their seat and make them sit up and take notice.

Other training best practices, such as making a session interactive, using activities etc., usually work well with Health and Safety training too. However, there is a completely different angle to the Health and Safety issues: Somber and cautioning; because of the nature of the topic.

Not every training can be, or needs to be, fun. However, the end goal of all training stays the same: To make sure learners take back with them something more than what they came in with.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Social Learning: 3 Pro Tips To Make Your eLearning Course Social

How To Implement Social Learning Into Your eLearning Course

Social learning theory indicates that learning is a cognitive process taking place in a social context. We see in young kids that the social time they have with their peers plays a big part in the learning process. We know, from our own experience as trainers, that this is true for adult learners too.

Learners need to hear their peers struggle or succeed. They also need a platform to vent out frustrations and showcase achievements. When we, as instructional designers, strive to take the learning online, how can we mirror and address the need for social interaction in our courses?

As an instructor in the Digital Marketing field, I have often pondered on this issue. And, here are some things that come to mind:

  1. Learner to learner communication. 
    Most LMSs have inbuilt news forums to facilitate instructor to learner communication. Taking it further and enabling learner to learner communication is a great idea. The course lead may need to prod a little bit to get the conversation going, but ideally, should not play an active role once the ball gets rolling. Pro Tip: As part of your course, have the students post mini assignments or opinions on the forum. This drives the forum adoption up and breaks the ice for you.
  2. External closed social platform.
    You could even integrate an external closed social platform –say Yammer, or a closed group on a platform such as Facebook. Posts shared in the group stay within the group and allows learners to connect with each other beyond the learning environment. Pro Tip: Since this is an external network to your regular LMS, it is an additional administrative work on the instructors’ end. Consider using volunteer support from your learner community, but make sure you get access too.
  3. Twitter.
    Do you use twitter as part of your learning strategy? If you have an open, non-regulated course, and you don’t mind the world knowing about the great work your students are doing, then why not use the viral power of tweets? Encourage the learner community to use twitter, and consider asking them to follow the industry leaders on the topic at hand. Pro Tip: Twitter allows you to create your twitter lists or subscribe to lists created by others- a list is a curated group of Twitter users. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets only from the users on that list. How about creating a twitter list of users you think will be valuable to your students? They can subscribe to this list, and listen in.

As we strive to create more and more meaningful courses for our online learners, I think we also have a responsibility to create a learning environment that facilitates social learning. And if that means thinking social, so be it!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Mad At Moodle? 5 Tips for Moodle Novices

5 Tips for Moodle Novices

Whatever the situation be, a lot of people new to instructional design start off on Moodle, and find themselves grappling with the cryptic, curt personality that Moodle greets you with. Having helped a few of my friends with the Moodle Madness, I thought may be a few general design guidelines were in order for complete starters. If you find yourself creating courses in Moodle, here are the key five pointers to keep in mind.

  1. Start with the structure
    Moodle has a hierarchical structure. Activities or Resources belong to Topics, which belong to a course that is housed in a category. So think about how you want to organize your information so the hierarchy makes sense. For example, a lesson on Hair Care for dogs might go in a Topic about Grooming, which will be part of a wider course, “Dog Owners 101”. All similar courses will be housed in one category- which in this case may be Pet Care. Of course if you don’t need this hierarchy, you don’t have to use it. But a well-organized eLearning makes sense to learners, and makes it easier for us to manage it!
  2. Choose your Resources/Activities wisely
    Moodle comes out-of-box with an impressive array of options to use. You could choose to house your content in a lesson, book, folder or a page. Assess the learners through choice, assignments, feedback, quiz, reach out to them via News Forum, chat, Label. Need more functionality- explore Glossary or a survey. For a starter, the options can be confusing. Here are my suggestions:

    1. If your content is multimedia or interactive, or sits well in a single screen length, consider using page. This creates a simple webpage, and is easiest to create and manage.
    2. If you need to deliver multiple pages worth of content, consider lesson. Lesson is a multi-page activity, where you can define custom paths, embed question pages, and generally provide learner some choice as per their learning route.
    3. Book activity makes sense if you have considerable amount of data that should be organized as an e-book. One great advantage of Book is that learners can print off the whole book in one go, unlike the lesson.
    4. Quizzes in Moodle are easy to create, especially if you are familiar with GIFT format. Simple multiple choice or free text assessments are good to go through the quiz.
    5. However, if you need the students to upload something, consider assignments for greater flexibility.
  3. Look closely at the settings
    A lot of power that Moodle has is hidden in that small gear button besides everything you create. Different settings can result in significantly different user experiences. For example, quiz settings can provide adaptive questions, immediate feedback, certainty based marking and so on... How lessons appear, what does the user see, can they mark an activity complete, when does an activity become available- these are all options hidden in the settings. If you are new to Moodle, take the time and effort to play with it, so you learn the functions of each little option on the settings page.
  4. Make it jazzy, make it branded. The homepage
    There is no excuse to implement Moodle with it default FrontPage. Unfortunately there is not too much of freedom here for a non-programmer, but you still have some leeway in terms of how your LMS will look without paying a single penny to a programmer. You could choose from one of the many themes that come pre-packaged with the LMS, and change the default look and feel. The FrontPage has a “general Summary of Site” section that you can jazz up with images and all.. The web has a number of lovely Moodle implementations to take inspiration from. We, as instructional designers, and as adult learners, know how much appeal does good design has in learning. Let’s not let Moodle’s unfriendliness ruin it for our learners.
  5. Language Pack - you have the power
    This is a gem that stays hidden for a long time for a lot of Moodle Managers, The language tab in site administration lets you download the language pack for your installation of Moodle. This is a one-time activity. And then, you can customize the language Moodle uses to interact with your users. The errors, the site messages like change passwords, etc. can all be customized to say exactly what you want to say. Even choose an alternate login page if you are up to it using the customizations!!

There are plenty of tricks and capabilities Moodle offers that you can use to enrich your and your learners experience. Use these tips as a starting point to your journey. Bon voyage!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Approaching eLearning Assessment Design Like eLearning Content Design

A Real Case Study: Approaching eLearning Assessment Design Like eLearning Content Design

A lot of thought and focus has been given to content design in eLearning. I’d like to argue that eLearning assessment design, is an equally important, if not more, part of eLearning design. A lot of learners, me included, learn from our mistakes. A well designed eLearning assessment can be used not only as a great self-pacing tool and a motivator for the learning growth, it can be a learning tool in itself.

Marking in red?

In some parts of the world, teachers of young kids are instructed not to mark answers with red ink. Why? Because the psychological fear of being wrong (and marked in red) inhibits a child’s learning. Do our eLearning assessments end up marking our adult learners in red?

A typical eLearning module would consist of one of two scenarios based on its design – either it would give out the content and then assess the learners on how well they learnt. Or, it would start with a prior knowledge eLearning assessment, and accordingly provide links and opportunities for the learner to learn. But rarely do we seen approach where eLearning assessment is content in itself. Where eLearning designers use the eLearning assessments to define a learning path, and the assessment becomes the learning path itself.

What we did..

Designing such an authentic learner focused eLearning assessment is much tougher than created multiple choice or true/false questions- but it is more fulfilling as well. I have a personal experience to share about this. One eLearning module I created was a 6 week long course introducing the complex, and ever-changing world of digital marketing to learners. A number of digital marketing strategies were introduced, and taught. Throughout the course, numerous quizzes did the job of checking the knowledge aspect of the course. So, the learner, as well as the trainer, had a good idea of their knowledge of digital marketing tactics like SEO/PPC etc. However, this only checked their knowledge, not their understanding of the implementation of the concepts. Very little, if anything, was achieved in this process.

So an interesting concept was created to tackle this. At the end of the course, we introduced a learning project – a dummy website was created for the learners to get their hands dirty on. This website had some great elements, and some blaring holes, that a careful learner would be able to identify at the end of the course. They would check the website for lapses in design, issues with SEO, and ideas on how to improve the conversions. This soon became the most valuable part of their learning process. It is the practical, hands-on learning which not just appealed to them, but also taught them the most.

Doing it better..

The ‘learning project’ is, in a way, a summative eLearning assessment. But how can we do a better job of giving real life projects to learners, and create a learning opportunity within an eLearning assessment?

Let’s take a look at the video games that do such a great job of teaching kids and adults alike. The players (learners, if you will) would voluntarily spend hours honing their skills trying to do better. Take a closer look- are these games not just assessments with leaning opportunities hidden? There hardly is a “learn how to play better” section- but the games are in fact a quiz essentially, and the game itself provides clues on how the skills can be bettered.

The first idea that comes to mind is to include open competition. Who can fix the website best? Who can find the most number of errors? Who gets the gold trophy when it comes to increasing conversions? Whose PPC ad was most clicked upon?

Another thing we could do is to integrate the project with the rest of the course. Keep referencing it at number of points, so it is not an end-of-the course submission, but a through-out-the-course assignment. It becomes a long strategy game as opposed to a short, skill-testing game.

What else can you think of…

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Flow-control in eLearning. From here to where?

A critical piece in efficiency of an eLearning lesson or an eLearning course is the flow control. Do you let your learners choose their own path to learning- potentially missing out on key information in the process? Or do you dictate the steps- sacrificing flexibility for the visibility of the learning path?

As we design learning solutions for adults, it is critical to think of adult learning psychology during design. All pedagogical theorems indicate that the more freedom a learner thinks she has, the more motivated and self-paced she becomes. Dictating the flow of lessons – or of learning elements, is a sure shot way to kill that motivation.

I once saw a training comprises 14 key modules – that could strictly be taken in that particular order. It is difficult to envision a rational reason to create such closed pathways for adult learners. People who are responsible for their own learning and growth need to feel so. As learning designers, we must assume, that the learner WANTS to do well, and our job is to enable him to achieve that desired result. The general theory of human motivation developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, for example, focuses on self-determined behaviors of the learner stemming from internal motivation.

On the contrary, video games are a good example of strict flow control- you cannot access a higher level unless you master a lower one. However, within that particular level, a player has all flexibility to explore various areas as per the game’s design. So while the player has enough independence to choose his own learning path, he is also motivated to unlock the new areas by performing better.

7 Questions eLearning Professionals Need To Answer Before Choosing The Structure Of Their eLearning Course

A lot of thought needs to go to how you want to structure your eLearning course. Before you decide on one approach over another, consider these points:

  1. Does the information makes sense only sequentially
    Sometimes some information needs to be approached linearly. This is especially true in academic settings, or in longer corporate eLearning courses, where each next lesson build on the previous. If that is true, this is a no-brainer – you need to implement criteria and conditions to dictate the lesson flow so your learner is not lost.
  2. Do different modules cover different aspects and are unrelated
    Is there a reason why I must learn about earthquakes first, and magnets later? What is the relation between HR policies versus best telephone etiquettes module? If your lessons are independent of each other, then give the reins of control to your learner, and let them decide the order. Make sure you implement some sort of check-mark or bookmark system for them to keep track of lessons taken.
  3. Will any learning get lost if approached non-linearly
    Sometimes though the lessons do not seem to be directly related, yet depend on each other in subtler ways. So if you need a prior knowledge of object oriented design before a discussion of Java Classes, you ensure to define the pre-requisites as such.
  4. Would later assessments assume prior knowledge provided in earlier topics
    I have seen this issue first hand in a company where the fluid lesson structure worked well until the assessments that assumed linear knowledge. If your lesson structure is fluid, ensure that the questions/quizzes are creatively crafted to address that.
  5. Do the modules vary in relative importance
    Some need to be revised and retained better than others? If some of your lessons are more important than others, then you might want to give users the flexibility of coming back to those lessons over and over again.
  6. Can you suggest a flow instead of forcing it?
    Especially with longer eLearning courses, for example in language instruction, the way modules are arranged in itself is sufficient for learners to get the hint. This way, you address both sorts of audience – one who craves the structure, and the other who needs the freedom.
  7. Would your learners differ in their prior knowledge
    Nothing kills the eagerness to learn than to go through a module on something one is already a master on. If I know my additions, move me to multiplication If I know conversational Spanish, take me to next level of the language. Time and enthusiasm is critical, more so with adult learners. They need to feel that you respect their time and abilities. A “prior knowledge” quiz with customized suggestions on what lessons to take might be a good start.
  8. Is there a way to blend independence with some flow control to get the best of both worlds?
    Quizzes, as I suggested in previous point, can be used creatively to suggest individualized routes of learning to each learner. Another way is to borrow from video games, and allow full flexibility within one level, and strict level ups based on skill demonstration.

Which approach works for your learners? This is a question that needs some pondering over when designing a learning environment.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.