Learning or achievement?

Irrespective of the assessment criteria or type of assessment used at the end of a course, we champion the achievement and base ‘learning’ on the final grade. For right or wrong, this is the state of schools, colleges, universities and MOOCs .. a pass grade equals success, not necessarily a quality learning experience.

When a course or programme goes through review, either for changes or it’s new, the conversation will always turn to the assessment. Is the assessment indicative of the course and the course aims? is the assessment type appropriate to the delivery method? Is it a straight forward 100% exam or mix of coursework and exam? If coursework is included in the final grade can the documentation be deliberately vague to allow flexibility in how and what the coursework is (project, group, video, report, tests, etc.)?

All well and good. Well, not really good but you know what I mean. But which is more important … the learning and knowledge acquisition or the assessment grade? Most of us would say the former, the learning and being able to retain an apply the knowledge. But education requires a certificate that shows more than just attendance. It requires to show the standard to which the holder has worked and can work. Without a score or grade (80% or 2:1) there is no meaning to the achievement for an employer to gauge the ability of the certificate holder.

Is there an answer? Could the achievement be recreated and reassessed to accommodate more meaningful information pertaining to the individual and how they ‘work’ and ‘learn’, and what kind of person they are? This is usually a reference on an application, but wouldn’t it be good if this had more emphasis on an application than a grade? Making something that can’t be gamed would be the hard part, anyone can find someone to write a glowing report and review, just like you can find online examples of buying the academic paper or script. 

What comes first when planning your course? The learning, or the achievement?
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You could argue we’ve already got an achievement for learning that goes beyond the assessment with Open Badges. If so, why haven’t we seen them used more widely? What is holding us, or rather the employers, so tight to the grade result and not the achievement? A few years ago there was lots of talk about the scope and strength of Open Badges. Surely that hasn’t gone away. I hope it hasn’t gone away. 

Image source: The Old Adalie Plain (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

7 Examples on Scenario Based Learning (SBL) for Formal and Informal Learning

Scenario Based Learning (SBL) is used extensively as a learner strategy in online learning. Not only does it provide high learner engagement as scenarios depict real life situations making them relatable, it also provides a safe environment to practice and understand consequences of their action.

In this blog, I show you how to you can use Scenario Based Learning through 5 examples for both Formal and Informal learning.

What is Scenario Based Learning (SBL)?

Scenario Based Learning (SBL) in eLearning uses real-life situations to validate the learning comprehension and more significantly its eventual application.

It offers a highly interactive and immersive approach that can be used effectively by organisations to:

  • Check-point learner’s knowledge
  • Check if learners will be able to apply the learning on the job

From a learner’s perspective, it provides:

  • Problem solving environment that is relatable (as it depicts real life situations)
  • Safe mode to practice
  • Understand the impact/consequences of their decisions and choices

Why is Scenario Based Learning (SBL) a popular choice for Instructional designers?

You can use several design approaches to craft Scenario Based Learning. These could range from simple images and animations to videos and interactive videos and build up real-life situations. It can be used to check the comprehension as well as application across most of the corporate training needs.

You can craft scenarios at two levels:

  1. Mini or basic Scenario Based Learning: This is used to validate learner’s recall and basic comprehension (good for basic problem solving)
  2. Complex or Branching Scenario Based Learning: This is used to validate learner’s proficiency to apply the learning.

It is a flexible instructional approach and you can use it:

  1. Within a traditional eLearning course at suitable junctures (such as “Pause and Reflect” or in a Check Your Understanding assessment).
  1. Alternatively, you can drive the entire course through a narrative/a master scenario/story with a cast of characters and have a combination of scenarios within the learning path.
  1. You can weave Gamification and Microlearning elements also with Scenario Based Learning.

What are the key benefits of Scenario Based Learning (SBL)?

You can use Scenario Based Learning to create both formal and informal training solutions. The key benefits you will see are:

  • Sticky learning experiences
  • Facilitate problem solving in learners
  • Provide guided exploration to learners
  • Safe practice zone and gain proficiency and mastery
  • Allow learners to make mistakes and through feedback re-inforce the right approach
  • Re-inforce primary messaging

How can you use Scenario Based Learning (SBL)?

At EI Design, we have successfully used this approach for corporate training needs including:

  1. Compliance
  2. Soft skills
  3. Professional skills
  4. Application simulations

Examples for Formal Learning

Example 1: Compliance

This course uses a standard scenario-based approach with relevant imagery as a backdrop overlaid with text and characters. In addition, it has intuitive layouts to make learning simple, effective, and scalable for rapid development.

Compliance - scenario based approach example 1

Compliance - scenario based approach example 2

Example 2: Soft Skills

An interactive exercise demonstrating a conflict scenario at workplace where the learners could relate him/herself in the situation and make decisions. This mobile-friendly engaging interaction was designed to ensure sticky learning. Learners get a chance to walk through and interact with a series of scenarios in this multi-device course to identify and mitigate conflict situations at work place.

Soft Skills - scenario based approach example 1

Soft Skills - scenario based approach example 2

Example 3: Professional Skills

This module introduces learners to the different types of audio strategy available for use. More importantly, the goal is to help learners identify the most relevant and suitable audio strategy in a course. A storyline that uses branched scenarios is able to involve learners and provide realistic context for them so that they can utilize their learning effectively in a real-world setting.

Professional Skills - scenario based approach example 1

Professional Skills - scenario based approach example 2


Examples for Informal Learning

Example 1: Compliance

This nugget features a video that uses high impact, contextual imagery and recaps the basic aspects of an HSE compliance course. It reinforces the need for constant risk assessment of hazards at workplace. Specifically, it uses a scenario to help learners identify a potential hazard and prompts the right action through the feedback.

Informal learning - scenario based approach example 1

Informal learning - scenario based approach example 2

Example 2: Soft Skills

This microlearning nugget features a branching scenario with a visual indication of how learners fare with the choices they make. The learners are presented with a real life scenario (a project need). Basis the learning of the primary learning course, they need to apply their knowledge and determine the right audio strategy for this project.

Informal learning - Soft Skills - scenario based approach example 1

Informal learning - Soft Skills - scenario based approach example 2


I hope this blog showcases the learning experiences you can create with Scenario Based Learning. You can weave in trending techniques like Gamification, Interactive videos into your scenarios to further enhance its impact. If you have any queries, do contact me at apandey@eidesign.net.

Need More?

Want more insights on how you can you integrate Scenario Based Learning (SBL) in your corporate training?

Schedule a call with our Solutions Architecting Team.

Source: https://www.eidesign.net/7-examples-scenario-based-learning-sbl-formal-informal-learning/

Book recommendations?

If you recommended one book to someone to read, be it work-related or not, what would it be and why?

Here’s are four recommendations from me:

  • Creativity Inc. (Ed Catmull). Whilst mainly about the history of Disney Pixar this book is a fantastic insight into how a business or operation benefits from creative minds and creative approaches. I may not like Pixar or it’s film, but reading the book will give you a different perspective on how different approaches, and how you work with them, can benefit an individual and organisation.
  • Ready Player One (Ernie Cline). You may or may not like sci-fi books, but this one is a great look at the future. With everyone using OASIS, an all-access Facebook/Second Life mashup. The book is about who gets control of this behemoth of a system (and it’s money), but this book is great on so many levels, not least how Ernie Cline sees education in this future (very reminiscent of Issac Asimov here).
  • The subtle art of not giving a f**k (Mark Manson). Once you get past the title and profuse swearing there is a solid premise to this book .. learn how to manage your own life and responsibilities, as well as those who try and dump their troubles on you (personally or professionally). Well worth a read if you have ever felt you take on to much and can’t find yourself among the noise of others.
  • Learning with ‘E’s (Steve Wheeler). I have a huge amount of time for Steve and his work. This book is an insight into Steve, his work, his blog, and his thinking that if you have any interest in learning, eLearning and anything digital / teaching / learning then this is for you! Seriously, it is!

My other book reviews are available here.

If you recommended one book to someone to read, be it work-related or not, what would it be and why?
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Image source: Andreas (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


My last post was all about the ways in which familiarity can bring a sense of consistency to not only delivering online learning content, but also designing and developing it. This time I want to look at the way in which distraction can prevent the well designed and impeccably delivered learning materials. 

Whether you work in an office or, like me at the moment, at home, we all look to manage our working environment. Working in an office, small or large, will often mean managing how people interact with you when you’re trying to concentrate, preventing the creep of office chatter or ‘work’ noise. 

Personally, if I want to focus I use music and, when in an environment with others, headphones. Depending on the quality of your headphones you may find you provide more distraction for  co-workers as your headphones leak sound. A while ago I bought a set of AKG Y50BT headphones … not noise-cancelling, I can’t afford a decent set of those, but these on-ear ‘phones are really good at reducing noise ingress. The only downside of these is that my ears get hot.

Working from home means I don’t have to wear the ‘phones unless I have to. I can have music playing in my study or, if I work in the kitchen or conservatory, from the laptop or Amazon Echo (yes, I got one). Obviously working from home is great, but that’s once the kids have gone to school. Come mid-late afternoon, they’re back. I don’t want to impact my home life so back I go to the ‘study’ (smallest bedroom, until I get the garden office built!), close the door and try and let the house carry on as normal.

You can’t really do that in a shared office either, can you? Some people I’ve spoken with while writing this have a dedicated ‘quiet’ room where one or more can go to work in ‘silence’, or rather without interruption. Now that’s a good idea!

Making sure those around us know when we’re available to chat or when we want to focus and not be disturbed. I’ve worked with people who’ve had different techniques for this; one had a sign they’d hang on the back of their chair when they’re not to be disturbed. One manager used to wear a hat when he wanted to focus and be left alone. Another used to put his headphones on.

How do you work or learn in a distracted environment?
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All this is great for me and how I set my working environment up, but what about for those of us who are also learners? What about for learners who are not as experienced or comfortable in sitting down at a computer or computing device to ‘learn’? What does distraction mean to them?

Firstly we, the learning design/development community, have to recognise that no matter how hard we try we will never be the most important thing in the learner’s life – family, friends, work, fitness, health, etc. will always exert a pull on their time and commitment. We have to respect that and enable the learning to fit around their existing lives. Even those learners who are fully committed to the course(s) and spend as long as possible, or even longer than we recommend,  need to be able to learn when it suits them. Learners will often be doing it after a full day of work, family, etc. No everyone is at their mental best at this time either, so we need to make the learning as ‘easy’ to access as possible (see my post ‘familiarity‘ for more on this).

I’ve often seen, in online courses, a timer at the beginning of a section – “Time to complete: 0.5hrs”. There are often timescales ‘imposed’ on the course itself, most MOOCs will say something like “5 hrs per week“. This has often raised questions about whether we ought to be this prescriptive about how long the ‘learning’ should take, after all people read or learn at different rates.

When you create your online course, do you help the learner by explaining how they can set up their time and environment to prevent distraction? Would the (novice) learner benefit from our experience if we told them “find somewhere quiet, turn the TV off, close down social media tabs, don’t look at your phone notifications, switch the phone to silent, etc.”. But what about those people who focus more when there is noise (not distraction, but noise .. music, family, TV, cafe, etc.). I know it works for me. Sometimes.

Distraction doesn’t mean isolation or quiet. Something distracting to me might be essential for you to focus and relax. The thing here, for me, is that we have had the luxury to find out these things for ourselves. For our learners, what can we do to help them find their ideal ‘learning environment’? If your course has an on-boarding process or initiation stage then use it to highlight what is expected of them, how much time (and how often) they ought to spend on the course and it’s readings.

Provide as much information for the learners, without overloading them, to make the decisions for themselves. And try it out.

Image source: cosmo_71 (CC BY ND-2.0)

When everything changes

Well, it’s over four months since my last blog post, and the longest gap in my 9 year blogging ‘career’. 

Why is that? Well, apart from being busy starting and defining a new role in a new industry, I’ve not really had that much to say. I’ve tweeted, I’ve connected with people on LinkedIn, I’ve travelled (and posted photos of it, like this and this and this). I’ve rested. I’ve worked hard and lost lots of sleep over it too. 

Oh, and we got kittens too! Mostly the bite or chew everything (including the wires), but sometimes they settle down and keep me company in my home office.

But what’s only struck me really in the last few days is the lack of interest in this blog. From me. I am still active on Twitter, I’m still learning about my ‘craft’ and still learning about my new role in an exciting start-up. I’m reading and writing a lot on ageing and the wellbeing of older people, it’s just not on this blog or even in the public arena. Yet. 

Let me also be honest here, it’s not just the working environment that’s changed (shared open-plan office to my spare room acting as a home office) or the industry I’m working in (UK university to global start-up, or business school to medical/healthcare specialists), the change is in and because of me. I am constantly seeing change in my attitude and approach to issues, problems, solutions, conflict, design, learning, remoteness, connectedness (is that a word?) and my general social demeanour.

Yes, tweeting is fun and hopefully will continue to be (but then again, maybe not) but I’ve always prided myself on this blog and the way it helped me network, collaborate, communicate, reflect, etc. with everyone ‘out there’. I am still reading around the various disciplines of online/distance learning, MOOCs, etc. and putting the ideas and designs to good use. I still join online courses, not so many MOOCs these days, both for personal enjoyment and professional curiosity. I am growing as an individual and a professional, and the journey ahead is all new to me, again, and exciting too.

The rest is the future. Using the skills from my CMALT journey and as an assessor I continue to evaluate and reflect on what I do, why I do it, how it can be better (or at least different), and how I can be better (and sometimes different too). I don’t want to stand still, I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one role or a ‘one trick pony’. I am too dynamic for that – I’m not being big headed or facetious for saying this, nor am I being cocky or rude. I mean dynamic in so much as forever looking forward and around me, observing and capturing, learning from others to improve myself and my work. 

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow. (William Pollard)

Image source: Simon and his camera (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4 Killer Examples Of Learning Portals For Corporate Training

Learning Portals For Corporate Training: What Are Their Key Characteristics?

Learning portals are knowledge repositories featuring learning paths, and they are designed to meet specific initiatives. They can be independent of an LMS or can be designed to co-exist with one.

Key Characteristics Of Learning Portals For Corporate Training

  • Unlike traditional learning where the training is “pushed”, the learning portals for corporate training are designed to be learner-centric, giving them the control on how they want to “pull” the information and learn.
  • As an extension to the learner-centric focus, learning portals also feature collaborative or social learning.
  • In contrast to discrete bursts of intense training (a characteristic of formal training), the learning portals provide the “learning as a continuum”. This is through the learning paths that feature assets for both formal and informal learning.
  • They can offer personalized learning to the learners (based on their interest or their proficiency gauged by pre-assessment).
  • They can be used as an effective mechanism to create a “learning ecosystem” where learners can contribute and continue to enrich the repository.
  • They are designed to be available in multi-device format, thereby offering the flexibility for learners to choose the device they wish to access it on (ranging from desktops/laptops to tablets/smartphones).
  • Given their intrinsic modularity (to offer multiple assets within a given learning path), they can meet the needs of diverse learner profiles. Additionally, they can offer assets to meet the needs of different learning styles.
  • They can be designed to motivate learners and encourage competition through a range of gamified approaches like rewards and recognition that can be viewed on leaderboards.
  • The assets in the repository can be used to offer formal training (fully online or support ILT sessions) as well as Performance Support (informal learning).
  • The assets design typically includes currently trending approaches like microlearning, gamification and typically feature wide-ranging assets that learners can:
    • View (videos and interactive videos)
    • Read (eBooks, Flipbooks, PDFs, and Interactive PDFs)
    • Learn (both formal training and informal learning assets in mLearning format)

Why Do L&D Teams Adopt Learning Portals For Corporate Training To Gain Employee Engagement?

Organizational Perspective

The learning portals for corporate training can supplement the existing training delivery (particularly for key formal training initiatives) or create islands to facilitate social learning, create communities of practice.

Rather than limiting the interaction of L&D teams only for discrete formal training sessions, learning portals for corporate training offer a connect with the learners through the learning journey. This can now include both formal pieces of training as well as Performance Support Tools (just-in-time learning aids the specific learning exactly at the moment of their needs).

As a result, there is demonstrable higher learner engagement. This approach facilitates both knowledge acquisition as well as its application on the job.

Learners’ Perspective

I have already highlighted that learning portals are designed to be learner-centric and since they provide the control to the learners, you will see higher engagement and interaction.

To summarize, the learning portals for corporate training meet the business needs as well as the learner’s needs and expectations. This is why it makes business sense to adopt them as a significant part of your learning strategy.

In the process, you will see following gains:

  • Improvement in learner engagement.
  • Sticky learning (through steady reinforcement).
  • Increased application of the acquired learning.
  • Increase in learner interaction.
  • Higher completion cycles.

How Can Learning Portals Fit In As Part Of An Organization’s Training Delivery?

Learning portals for corporate training map directly to the 70:20:10 learning model and find a great fit for both formal training and Performance Support Tools.

To give you a sense of what a typical learning portal offers, here’s a quick summary of the features designed by us at EI Design:

  1. Personalization
  2. Curation
  3. Learning path/learning journey
  4. Completely responsive design
  5. Gamification
  6. Awards and leaderboards
  7. Social learning
  8. Microlearning nuggets in various formats
  9. Flexible design: Can be independent of an LMS or co-exist with an LMS
  10. Extensive admin controls


We, at EI Design, have crafted learning portals for following diverse corporate training needs:

  1. Induction and onboarding
  2. HR benefits
  3. Employee engagement
  4. Social learning
  5. Content curation
  6. Personalization (for professional skills training)
  7. Best practices (corporate quality mandate)
  8. Sales and marketing resource center

Out of these, I pick our top 4 to showcase you the possibilities.

1. Induction And Onboarding

This example showcases the most significant usage of learning portals. Induction and onboarding is a great case in point on addressing a niche but a crucial training.

It features:

  1. Personalization
  2. Microlearning
  3. Gamification (including scores and leaderboards)
  4. Social learning

EI Design - Induction and Onboarding Portal Example

2. HR Benefits

This example highlights the usage of a learning portal to create awareness of the HR benefits.

It features:

  1. Narrative approach: Features story and scenarios.
  2. Learning path maps to various levels.
  3. Gamification (including scores and leaderboards).

EI Design HR Benefits Portal Example

3. Content Curation

This example highlights the usage of a learning portal based approach to create communities of practice and promote continuous learning.

It features:

  1. Curated content
  2. Recommended learning paths
  3. Learning paths that can be created by learners
  4. Social learning

EI Design Content Curation Portal Example

4. Employee Engagement

This example highlights the usage of a learning portal for an employee engagement. While it uses a “fitness” based theme, its core objective is team building.

It features:

  1. Learning path
  2. Gamification
  3. Social learning

EI Design Employee Engagement Portal example

Take a look at this video that showcases these 4 examples in an engaging format.


I hope the examples in this article showcase how you can use learning portals for corporate training to address various training needs to increase your employee engagement and foster collaborative learning. In case you need any specific assistance, do contact me at apandey@eidesign.net.

Source:  https://www.eidesign.net/4-killer-examples-learning-portals-corporate-training/

The ‘killer’ interview question?

In your last interview, were you asked a question you thought was either too tough, too personal, too ambiguous, etc.? Did you think you ‘nailed it’ or did you come away confused about the purpose of the question, your response, or whether the interviewer was messing with you?

From the article:

“…candidates often struggled with the question: “Tell me about your most significant technical accomplishment, the project that you’re most proud of.” Max Brown, ex-Tesla recruiter.

This doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I can think of a few examples here, but is it the kind of thing the interviewer is looking for. Brown says that “most people’s first instinct is to pick the project or achievement that sounds the most substantial on paper – but that’s not always the one that illustrates their actual technical ability” and that “it’s usually better to shine the spotlight on a smaller project where you can truly speak to all of the technical aspects. In many cases, the biggest, most impressive-sounding initiative you participated in was largely the result of a team effort.” Hmm, really. Well, here’s what I would say, and these were my first thoughts when reading the article last night …

How would you answer an interview question about your 'most significant technical accomplishment'?
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My most ‘significant technical accomplishment’ would probably be one of my first positive experiences using computers. Back in the early- to mid-80’s my Dad bought me a ZX81, and then a ZX Spectrum. Before we bought a cassette player to record and load games I had to type each and every game I wanted to play. Copied from magazines or books, this could take a couple of hours, required squinting intensely at code which, as I’m sure you’re aware, would be rendered useless if you got just one comma or semi-colon in the wrong place. I learned the hard way to pay attention, keep the finer detail in mind when trying to rush to finish before bedtime, etc. I also learned to fix the broken published code. I learned what form the code should take, how to reference other bits of code. I learned how to trust myself and my ‘intuition’ when the code was wrong, so I could fix it before continuing.

From this I learned to write my own games, albeit very basic, but it was still all mine, from concept to (working) completion. I remember a worm race … six or eight worms race from one side of the screen to the other with random generator controlling how fast each went. Whichever got to the other side of the screen won, and I got the whole family to watch and choose a worm! Quality family time, eh? It’s from here that much of everything I do now stems … my interest in computers and computing, developments in AI and VR, gaming (although less and less now, but I’m getting back to it through my kids), the Internet, self motivation and confidence, advances in wearable computing, etc.

If in doubt, here’s another perspective for your next interivew .. “never stop learning”.

What would you choose as your ‘significant [technical] accomplishment’?

Image source: Barney Livingston (CC BY-SA 2.0)


What Do You Do With Your Evaluation data?

Donald Kirkpatrick created the four-level model for training evaluation, which most organisations claim to cherish. For those unfamiliar, the four levels are as follows.

  1. Reaction – this answers the question what did the learners think about the training. We measure reaction through surveys conducted towards the end of training (sometimes called smile sheets)
  2. Learning – this answers the question what did the learners learn during or immediately following the instruction. We measure learning most often through a quiz or a skills demonstration
  3. Behaviour – this answers the question did the learners implement their new knowledge or skills back on the job
  4. Results – this answers the question what impact did the training have on the organisation. We measure results most often with financial reports. However, results can also be things like customer satisfaction.

In my last full-time job (before I became a freelance designer/developer), the facilitator or designer/developer would review his or her level 1 evaluations and retain this data for their semi-annual review. Occasionally the team manager would look at them, but more often than not, the team administrator would stuff them in a file cabinet, never to be seen again.

As a designer, I would look at the odd results from our level 2 evaluation reports. Unfortunately, our LMS wasn’t sophisticated enough to tell me which questions were proving to be difficult for my students. Had I known those types of results, I would have looked more closely at first the course content that would affect those problem questions and secondly I would review the question itself. I would ask myself was it written in such a way that could make it difficult for students to answer correctly?

I’m afraid to say that in my previous organisation we didn’t perform any level 3 or level 4 evaluations at all. There just was no demand for this information and very little time to conduct the research needed to get these results. Instead, our executive was more concerned about completion reports.

When I started working alongside Adobe, they granted me a complimentary license for Adobe Captivate Prime for a period. I was impressed with the simple yet effective level 3 evaluation tools built into the LMS. Each time an employee completes online training from Adobe Captivate Prime, the employee’s manager will receive a notification at a later time asking them to evaluate the on the job performance. Level 1 and 2 evaluations are great but what matters are behaviour and results. If you can combine the level 3 results provided from this LMS along with your company’s financial reports, you could say without too much uncertainty if your company’s learning strategy is effective.

Shortly after I trialled Adobe Captivate Prime I created the following video. It’s a couple years old now, but I think it’s still an accurate assessment of Adobe’s LMS product and how effective your learning can be.

The University of tomorrow is …?

I’ve just read this article and wanted to share a couple of thoughts I had while I was reading it: “It’s the end of the university as we know it”

The title is clearly clickbait, testing your resolve to read beyond the tweeted headline, knowing full well ‘the end of the university’ will get people interested (or enraged that this kind of talk is still going on … MOOCs anyone?). That the URL is not the same as the title implies they might change the title at a later stage … “/the-future-of-the-university-is-in-the-air-and-in-the-cloud/”?

Here are some soundbites from the article:

“Shocking as it might seem, there is one catch-all answer that could be the remedy to many of these concerns: Cut the campus loose. Axe the physical constraints. The library? Classrooms? Professors? Take it all away. The future of the university is up in the air.”

Another, when looking at the history of how and why universities are set up like they are:

“It is untenable for universities to continue existing as sanctums for a small group of elite students, taught by top scholars.Technology isn’t only refashioning the ways in which we live and work, but also changing what we need to learn for these new schemes of existence: It’s returning us to a need for specialized learning, for individualized education that is custom-tailored to one’s needs. A world in which most of our learning is more self-directed and practical is, in many ways, a return to an apprenticeship model that existed before industrialization.”

Predictions on the future of learning, at universities at any rate:

Online “cloud” teaching is cheaper; universities can offer such online-based (or majority-online) degrees at the lowest rate—making for a cheap(ish) degree, available to everyone with access to the internet, and taking place completely digitally. Meanwhile, other students will pay a premium to interact with professors and have more of a traditional campus experience. At the highest end, the richest or most elite students may get the full Oxford tutorial experience, brushing elbows with the best of scholars; they’ll just have to pay through the nose for it”

Read the article, let me know what you think – agree or disagree with the tenet of the article, that this is the end of the university?

Image source: Dave Herholz (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When PowerPoint goes bad

What are your pet peeves about using PowerPoint? Is it the tool itself or how people use it?

I use PowerPoint, and think it is a good way to engage students and staff, and can be used as a way to spur enjoyment, engagement and interest in your subject. But that’s more about how the tool is used rather than the tool itself. So, here are some observations I’ve made over the years about PowerPoint, and how people use it ‘badly’:

  • Font – Inconsistent use of fonts across the slide deck, or even on the same slide. Using fonts that really don’t work on screen (like Times New Roman), or using Comic Sans. Please. Don’t.
  • Images – So you found Google images or another such image search. You’ve copied the image to your slide and it looks good. It doesn’t. That small image might look OK on your screen, but test it in a classroom or lecture theatre, you’ve stretched it so much it’s pixelated so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
  • Words – Writing your whole lesson in PowerPoint and spending half the lesson with your back to the class so you can read from the projector screen. Same goes if you stand behind the lectern PC and read of that screen instead.
  • Bullet points – PowerPoint makes it too easy to use them, but that doesn’t mean you should (yes, I can see the irony as I’m using them here too).
  • Colour / Templates – Just because you can lots of colour or standard PowerPoint templates doesn’t mean you should. Keep it simple so your key message shines through – the more colour / mess on the slide will only detract or hide your content.
  • Charts / Tables – Do you really need that chart or table that shows 50 different points of information.
  • Animation – I’ve never found animated stars or arrows to help the presentation. If the slide is structured properly you shouldn’t need them.
  • Clipart – Please. Don’t.
  • Volume – You may feel that your one hour presentation needs 100 slides. I’m pretty sure your audience/class doesn’t. 

If in doubt about any aspect of your use of PowerPoint, the best time to find out how you’re doing is now, while you’ve time to go and check it all out and not half way through the most important presentation of your career. Would you rather a slightly awkward conversation in private now or suddenly realise the conference venue has emptied for lunch 45 minutes early, just after you start your 16th of 135 slides?

Go find your friendly learning technologist (yes, we are friendly!), ask us to look over it and tell you what we think. We will be honest but we’ll be critical and, most importantly, constructive. We will offer support and suggestions, we will give your pointers on how to cut the information on the slides (and how to deliver it too, if you want) and we will be there to help you feel comfortable creating slide decks in future and deliver them. Every learning technologist I’ve ever met will do this, without question and without judgement; we’re just happy we can offer our expertise and make your job easier (and more successful).

There are plenty of online tutorials and help websites if you want to find out yourself about using PowerPoint ‘well’. Try sites like this and this and this.

If in doubt this video – Life after death by PowerPoint – will help you see the error of your ways.

Image source: EU PVSEC (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)