6 eLearning Trends For Instructional Designers In 2017

The eLearning industry has grown over the traditional approach and employed modernized learning methodologies to facilitate educational materials to learners and professionals worldwide. While Instructional Designers are using the latest trends to deliver high-end learning experiences to users.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Creative Project Examples To Inspire You

In this article we look beyond the traditional eLearning module. Here are 5 creative project examples to keep in your toolkit for when they match your needs. Along with each example are resources on how you can create similar projects.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

2017 Instructional Design Trends Compass: Your Accu-Learningcast

Happy New Year, Instructional Designers and Learning and Development professionals! In this article, we’ll look at Instructional Design trends for 2017 – what clients and learners might be expecting. And there’s more! We’ve included links for further reading so that you can embrace and employ these 2017 Instructional Design trends for your learners.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

6 Things To Consider Before You Jump On The eLearning Bandwagon

We keep hearing about shiny new tools every day… Tools that promise quick fixes and cure-all solutions. In such a scenario, how do we decide on whether to jump on the eLearning bandwagon or not? In other words, how do we decide which tools to follow, and which ones to avoid? Read on to find out.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

8 Sensational eLearning Trends That Are Revolutionizing The Learning Game

The eLearning trend has caught on fast and has become a “cradle to the grave” pursuit which begins with educational games for toddlers to brain simulating ones for the aged. Know what lies ahead in the eLearning hub and keep yourself updated with these 8 sensational eLearning trends for 2016.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Education Week 2016: Trends

In the Education Week 2016, hold in Madrid, we witnessed the most prominent issues that have been addressed by professionals in each area and that encompass the vision of these experts on what will be the main industry trends for 2016.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Instructional Design Trends That Shaped Our Adult Learning Universe: Reflections From Obsidian Learning

The Adult Learning Universe And 5 Instructional Design Trends That Shaped It 

Here are 5 trends that influenced our adult learning universe in 2015:

  1. Learning on a budget became the new norm.
    #weakeconomy
    #budgetcuts#oilpriceisdown – A lot of our projects target the Oil and Gas industry. Unfortunately, 2015 started with oil prices taking a plunge. It went from bad to worse, with more than 250,000 oil jobs lost and more than 40 oil companies in North America filing for bankruptcy. As in any downturn period of economic instability, or any client watching their bottom line, training budgets have suffered. For us at Obsidian Learning, 2015 was an opportunity to figure out new ways to be flexible, find collaborative approaches to training, leverage new technologies, and generally focus on learning strategies that bring the highest ROI. Obsidian has never shied away from challenges, so we embraced this one as well. We improved with the market, we adjusted our processes, and we offered new, high quality learning solutions for lower budgets. You can see some of our ideas here. I feel 2016 will be even richer in very focused and customized training for all industries.
  2. Learning has been more mobile than ever (and we may have just the right tool for you).
    #ObsidianBlack
     – Mobile learning has cemented its place within all contemporary learning strategies. Your employees, whether you like it or not, already use their mobile devices to find answers pertaining to their jobs or daily tasks. Our clients understood this reality and are increasingly making sure that their employees have access to mobile content providing the exact information they need. For the last couple of years, we have tried all the leading and niche authoring tools that claimed to “publish for HTML5” and “work on your mobile device”. Some did better than others. We talked to industry experts, clients, and developers. We created courses and performance support pieces, and we found no tool that completely fit the needs of our clients. In light of our experiences, we decided that developing our own rapid authoring tool was the way to go. In the summer of 2015 Obsidian Black came to life. I am proud of this tool for many reasons: Its simplicity, its effectiveness, and its understated elegance being just a few. I am extremely proud of the Obsidian team who created it. All of us had input, but the brains behind it have been Steven Westmoreland and Asif Mohammed. And brains they have. Also dedication, loyalty, flexibility, and creativity. I encourage you to take a look at some samples and sign up for a free trial at Obsidian Black.
  3. Video won as the preferred adult learning method (we got a few clips to prove it).
    #Learningvideos – 
    Online videos are no longer only about “How to tie a tie” or “How to make butterbeer”. They have graduated into the realm of all adult learning disciplines, ranging from deep technical content to on the job performance support. We live in the world of YouTube (and instant gratification), and short, engaging videos (like this one) are now among the most effective and popular learning methods. At Obsidian Learning, we have been ahead of this trend for quite some time and have already created hundreds of fun, engaging clips that helped our clients shape their vision. We have the design and creation of learning videos down to a science. I am also very proud to say that our position as an industry leader in the production of learning videos was acknowledged this year by the animation industry. This video was created by Senior Design Strategist Tim Spencer, our own animation wizard, and it won the Platinum Pixie Award for Animation.
  4. If it doesn’t move (isn’t a video), it still has to be visually rich.
    The era of boring bullet points is slowly but surely gone even in the most technically demanding industries (oil and gas, medicine, engineering) and subjects (litigation, compliance, reference). Around 75% of the knowledge held by adults is learned through seeing (Laird, 1985), and the impact of a few carefully designed infographics on a given subject can achieve better results than hours spent studying dull user manuals or days spent in dreary webinars. The #Infographic, especially when well done, is an extremely powerful learning vehicle. You can find some helpful tips on infographics here or talk to us about our vetted, affordable, and highly effective approaches.
  5. The bottom line: 2015 was all about people.
    Why? Because adult learning is all about people. We know this, and still we forget it sometimes. The most successful training programs were the ones that had the biggest learner focus. Just in case we need a reminder, adults learn anything best when:

    • They can apply the teaching to real situations in their day to day jobs.
    • They feel in control and have choices in the learning process.
    • The teaching builds on their previous experience.
    • They are given the space to come to their own conclusions based on evidence offered.
    • They are exposed to a mixture of teaching approaches, including considerable interactivity: role-play, scenarios, discussion groups, questionnaires or project work.
    • They have a specific, practical, assessable goal, rather than a broad range of targets.

Thank You, 2015

#bestandbrightest – Helping our clients achieve their business goals through consistently creative, engaging, and affordable learning solutions that are aligned with current trends and grounded in the intimate understanding of the contemporary adult learner, can only happen with the right people.

In 2015, for three years in a row, Obsidian Learning was one of the Best and Brightest Companies to work for in Houston and, even more significantly, in the top one hundred in the nation. This award is truly a recognition of the great people at Obsidian. Without their loyalty, creativity, knowledge, and all around good nature, life would be a whole lot duller and uninteresting. I am grateful to be in such awesome company.

#mostpopularblogs – If you haven’t followed us through last year, I hope you do it in 2016. Here are the top three most popular Obsidian blog posts in 2015:

Here are my top 3 favorite learning blogs, although it was very hard to narrow it down to three:

Happy learning in 2016! 

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

2016 Instructional Design Trends Compass Experiences, Ecosystems, and Evaluation. Oh My!

In the 2015 Compass, I shared instructional design trends along with calls to action for L&D professionals. I included calls to action because so often our industry predicts trends, yet provides little information about what to do about them.

This year, I’ve decided to do things a bit differently. I picked three big topics that I think warrant more consideration and focus in 2016 (and beyond): experiences, ecosystems, and evaluation. Let’s call them the three Es of 2016.

Experiences: Create Them!

User experience (UX) has always been a necessity for web design and software design, and it has growing significance in learning solutions design. The reason? Our learners, who are avid web and software users, now have expectations related to experience. They have been influenced by the ways in which devices, software, and websites are designed, and they expect similar experiences. They want intuitive, personalized, engaging interfaces with clean visual designs. They also expect to find what they need quickly, when they need it, and use it... quickly. Years ago, I attended a keynote address by Sir Ken Robinson, a leading speaker and writer on creativity and innovation in education and business, and he coined a phrase that resonated with me and has influenced my designs. The evolution of information-gathering, he said, has created a culture that says, “I don’t have all minute!”

What Can We Do in 2016?

  • Get familiar with UX or, if you already have some background, brush up on or further your UX knowledge.
  • Design learning experiences that are tailored to the variety of devices learners use today. Designing for mobile phones is NOT akin to designing for a tablet, laptop, or desktop. People interact with each device differently and for different purposes, durations, etc.
  • To learn more about UX, I recommend this course from The Association for Talent Development (ATD): Essentials of User Experience (UX) Design for Learning.

Ecosystems: Build Them!

Technology has enabled more robust learning solutions and learning systems. Merriam-Webster’s simple definition of ecosystem is “everything that exists in a particular environment.” So a learning ecosystem is the entire learning and training environment, which might include e-learning, instructor-led training (ILT), virtual instructor-led training (VILT), mobile learning, social learning, performance support, online and offline resources, and more.

Dare I say that learning ecosystems are blended learning strategies on steroids? That is not to oversimplify this concept, but to put it into perspective for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of ecosystems.

What Can We Do in 2016?

  • Instead of building a single solution as “the” solution, roll out a suite of solutions and create a learning ecosystem. If an e-learning course is your primary solution, think about what could complement it. What are your learners inclined to use? What do they need? Performance support? Job aids? Social learning? Ask them!
  • To learn more about ecosystems, check out eLearning Guild’s Learning & Performance Ecosystem 2016 conference.

Evaluation: More than Just Beginning with the End in Mind

Evaluation can refer to a number of different tasks or strategies in our industry. Typically, when we talk about evaluation we are referring to how we evaluate learners’ comprehension via assessments and how we evaluate the solutions themselves via iterations and prototypes, usually against the scope, as defined in the statement of work (SOW). But do you align your learning solutions to strategies that are tied to business performance and outcomes? Do you ever evaluate them to this degree? Do you discuss key performance indicators (KPI) related to your solutions?

Brandon Hall Group’s The State of Learning & Development 2015 study states that “only 30% of companies say their learning strategies are highly aligned to business goals.” The study also notes that “the predominant driver of developing a strategy is to prioritize business needs and align them with HR and learning strategies.”

Just as we align assessments to learning objectives, so too should we align learning solutions with business outcomes. This type of alignment and strategic planning is gaining attention, and it deserves more of our focus. Those of us who have been in this industry a while know that L&D often operates in a vacuum (often not by choice), is not considered a strategic business partner, and is sometimes considered disposable. The continual evolution of our industry will hopefully shift this thinking soon.

In a recent ATD article, the authors note that “As a talent development leader, the days of being measured on the number of training hours produced are quickly waning. In the very near future, you will be measured on organizationally aligned results.” Business leaders may soon be asking L&D what value they add, and how their solutions align to business outcomes. Are you prepared for that?

What Can We Do in 2016?

  • I encourage you to read the executive summary of the Brandon Hall Group report mentioned above, and share it with your leaders. It’s an easy read with four findings and seven calls to action.
  • In addition to return on investment (ROI), consider return on expectations. If you thoroughly document expectations from stakeholders, clients, sponsors, and even your target audience, you will have a clearer definition of success to align with and evaluate against. ATD’s Evaluating Learning Impact Certificate touches on this and covers measurement and evaluation of the business impact of solutions.
  • Consider implementing (and maintaining) performance support when appropriate. According to Conrad Gottfredson, performance support is designed to improve business outcomes. Include it as part of your learning ecosystem, as noted above!
  • To learn more about evaluation, I recommend this course from ATD: Measuring Learning Results. (It’s online and it’s self-paced!)

After several years of instructional design trends focused on training deliverables—mobile learning, gamification, social learning—it seems our industry is starting to take a step back (and, at the same time, a strategic leap forward). These trends point to a focus on the bigger picture of the overall learning experience, how we align with and support business objectives, and how we ensure our interventions are effective.

If this sounds daunting, remember, bigger challenges mean more opportunities for creativity and innovation! I’m excited to work strategically with my L&D partners to tailor our instructional design approach—from learning ecosystems to each individual microlearning—to help learners progress in their careers and help businesses grow and thrive.
Wishing you an exciting, innovative year of instructional design!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

WANTED: Six-Figure Instructional Designers

Six-Figure Instructional Designers

You may not have seen any help wanted ads with that headline. But companies are on the hunt for Instructional Designers (IDs) with an entrepreneurial bent and a creative flair.

And who are willing to work for a salary in the $130,000+ range.

Sound like a fantasy or a scam? It’s not.

And not only are IDs getting the higher salaries, they’re increasingly getting director-level titles.

“Creative, high-tech eLearning instructional designers are the new content marketers,” according to Jessica, a recruiter for the health-care industry who didn’t want to give her last name because she feared being overwhelmed with emails from job-seeking IDs. In an email interview, she told me employers are after the unique skill-set of instructional designers.

“My clients no longer want solely writers or marketers to create consumer education and marketing campaigns. They want someone who knows how to change behavior through education—not just someone who focuses on information delivery without behavior change. They want someone who knows that gamification isn’t about meaningless points and badges for completing an activity, but that true gamification is about embarking on problem-solving quests through resource acquisition and management in a simulated environment. Company managers finally started saying, ‘Hey. Those are the things instructional designers do.’ That’s why there’s such an uptick in these higher-level positions for instructional designers.”

“Then why not just hire instructional designers with those skills, pay them well, and call them instructional designers?” I asked. “Why offer director-level titles?”

“Most IDs with those skills are freelancers, own a boutique eLearning agency, or work for an eLearning agency,” Jessica explained. “Most freelancers and boutique owners wouldn’t consider working full-time for someone else without a high-level title. After all, they’ve earned it after owning their own businesses. And IDs working at agencies with those skills are on a development track to get those titles in those agencies. So, companies had to offer those VP and director titles to entice the IDs with the talent and skills they need—even if it is only for a one-person department.”

A New Hiring and Recruiting Trend

Instructional Designers are increasingly sought after for Director-level positions for single-person content creation departments.

Instructional Designers are increasingly sought after for Director-level positions of single-person content creation departments.

I can personally attest to this hiring trend. In the past four months, I have received three unsolicited “cold call” offers for interviews from recruiters working for large companies.  Several of my freelance instructional designer friends have also been contacted by recruiters for similar positions. All of these offers were over the six figure salary mark (the range was from $130,000 to $180,000), and all titles were director level except for one, which was a VP level.  (Fortunately, for now, I’m deliriously happy at my current gig so I’m not looking to move. On the other hand, one of my freelance buddies is in the final stages of interviews for one of those six-fig gigs, and another has already accepted a Director of Instructional Design position!)

Those unsolicited calls to me and my ID colleagues made me think I smelled a new hiring trend in the eLearning industry, and that prompted me to do some investigating. After a few cursory web searches, I discovered that many companies now seek out high-level IDs for high-level positions.

Revenge of the (eLearning) Nerds

From learning nerds to department heads: Instructional Designers are sought after by training and marketing executives alike.

From learning nerds to department heads: Instructional Designers are sought after by training and marketing executives alike.

Once considered the red-haired stepchildren of corporations, instructional designers are finally going from no-respect Rodney Dangerfields to super cool content heroes. Organizations now value these high-performing individual contributors by giving them titles like “Director of New Information Products”  (this title is found mostly in the healthcare and biotech sectors), “Director of Educational Products” (found mostly in K-12 and higher ed organizations), or “Director (of VP) of New Information Products” (found most often in health care and financial services). Other six-figure titles that required an ID background include: “Director of Learning Innovation,” “Director of Instructional Design,”(found in the banking and software industries) “Director of eLearning,” “Internal ID Consultant,” “Director of Adult Education Products,” “Creative Director,” “Director (or VP) of Digital Education Publishing,” and “Director of New Product Marketing” (found mostly in the medical devices field).

For the most part, these are positions that do NOT have direct reports; they are one-person departments—which is exactly the type of position most IDs crave. Most highly experienced instructional designers I’ve spoken with over the years say they don’t want to manage people, but they feel trapped by a system where the only advancement opportunity for high-level individual contributors is through people management. It seems as if the more progressive companies have finally realized that and are giving IDs what they want, while at the same time meeting corporate growth and revenue goals.

It’s interesting that some titles (such as “Creative Director” and “Director of New Product Marketing”) were once the sole domain of graphic design, advertising and media professionals. But as more organizations discover the effectiveness of online courses in building brand loyalty and revenues, they seek people who have experience in interactive online course design and development.

Millennials Driving the Trend to Hire High-Level Instructional Designers

Millennials want eLearning that is innovative, uses multi-media, and has strong storylines and enteratainment value.

Millennials want eLearning that is innovative, uses multi-media, and has strong storylines and enteratainment value.

Companies aren’t just hiring instructional designers with gamification experience for content and consumer marketing. They’re also hiring them to create the highly interactive, highly entertaining employee training programs that Millennials demand. My friend, Clive, who is interviewing for a Director of Digital Innovation position in the oil and gas industry said his potential employer needed to up his game because younger new hires just couldn’t relate to the traditional eLearning programs with a few branching activities and some drag-and-drop interactions. They want interactive gamified movies with real story lines that directly relate to their jobs.

“My potential boss said they were losing good employees because of bad training,” Clive told me during one of our “Pizza and Skype” chat sessions that we have once per month on Sunday evenings.

What it Takes to Get These Gigs

Although a college degree is required for high-level ID jobs, you don't need an instructional-design specfic degree. Experience and portfolios count more than the specialized sheepskin.

Although a college degree is required for high-level ID jobs, you don't need an instructional design-specific degree. Experience and portfolios count more than the specialized sheepskin, except in academia.

Surprisingly, only the director-level positions in education (K-12 and higher ed) required an ID degree and/or an advanced degree; all other positions required an average of eight years as an ID consultant or agency owner, or someone who has managed multiple clients and projects while being responsible for revenue goals. In other words, companies are looking for people with entrepreneurial skills who are accustomed to working with no supervision, who can quickly and accurately identify customer needs, and who have marketing experience. Nearly one-third of the director-level ID positions required some experience to marketing courses and adult market; about one-fourth required hands-on gamification design and development experience. And, of course, the ability to work with subject matter experts (SMEs) was listed as a requirement in most position announcements.

Clearly, the portfolio and the experience were more important than a degree– except in the educational field. For that market, you’ll need a Masters in Instructional Design or a related field. But other industries– corporations– wanted demonstrated results and proof of experience over the sheepskin.

One caveat: nearly all of the director and VP level positions required both design and development skills; not one or the other.

Creativity, Tech Skills, Marketing and Vendor Management Experience Valued

Top skills employers want when hiring instructional designers for director-level jobs.

Top skills employers want when hiring instructional designers for director-level jobs.

Top skills mentioned in the job descriptions for these ID Director-level positions were innovation and creativity.

Tech skills such as HTML5, CSS, JavaScript and JQuery don’t hurt, either. You don’t necessarily need to know how to use those programming languages, but you have to know the capabilities and limitations of each. Why? Because here’s another trend: ahead-of-the-curve companies are getting away from the development restrictions of rapid development tools (and some of the browser compatibility headaches that go along with those tools) and are turning to native development. And a few are turning to hybrid solutions: develop part of the course in something like Storyline2, and then use gamified elements created with JQuery (or something else) and include that in the final product.

Managing vendors and freelancers was another skill highlighted for high-level ID positions. Because these directors are one-person departments for the most part, they usually need to outsource some of the work. This is another reason why companies looking for candidates for these who have entrepreneurial experience; freelancers and agency owners have extensive networks already developed of people with 3D animation, programming, video and voice-over skills. That means the company doesn’t have to spend time hunting for those resources.

Other skills mentioned were the ability to work independently, budget managment, course marketing and course profit tracking- again, mostly skills gained as an entrepreneur of freelancer.

Telecommuting Encouraged

Although some director-level ID positions seemed to be for on-site jobs, about 65% were 100% remote positions—which allows you to work from home. As Jessica told me: “They (companies) realize it’s difficult to find eLearning professionals with all of those skills (gamification, video, script-writing, vendor management, programming and ID), and they also realize that people with those skills are going to likely be people who are accustomed to working from their homes as freelancers or small agency owners. To get those people to budge, companies are increasingly discovering not offering a remote work environment is not an option if they want the best candidates.”

Question to Freelancers: Would you Do it?

Would you give up your freelance ID gig for a full-time six-figure job?  Take the quiz.

Would you give up your freelance ID gig for a full-time six-figure job? Take the quiz.

All of this fancy-title-high-income talk is great. But it got me wondering about something else: Would freelancers (or boutique agency owners) go full-time if they could have a six-figure income, do the highly creative work they love (instead of mind-numbing, low-budget productions), not have to manage employees, and could work from home? Does the idea of paid vacations, paid holidays, partially paid insurance, matching 401K contributions and a regular paycheck pique your interest? Or, is the deep satisfaction that comes from owning your own business too great? Is the call of freedom (freedom to work when you want) and the ability to work with many different types of clients—rather than just one—too powerful to give it all up?

For all of you freelance (or boutique eLearning agency owners) out there, we want to know what you think. If you have 60-seconds, please click here to complete an anonymous survey. We’ll post the results on my blog when survey results are tabulated.

Or, if you want to be notified directly, just drop an email to: vicki@digitalwits.com with “Send Survey Results” in the subject line.

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This post was first published on eLearning Industry.