Friday, January 18, 2019

Technical eLearning Made Easy - Tip #204

Technical training appeals to me a great deal because of the way training is designed around technical and factual information and the ability to get returns from whatever investment has been made.

The challenge presented by these trainings, has always been the inundation of so much facts, measurements and other factors.  As a result, there is a lack of focus on the right and much needed learning content. This causes tremendous overload in our learning design.

Learning by Doing : Problem-Solving Approach
In today’s learning environment, the reality is that there are varied types of learners including those with technical or even medical orientation. The best way to help them appreciate the learning is by taking them through the discovery process.

Science, Mathematics, Technology and Engineering are major areas where technical and scientific data abound. So, how do we sift through the massive information to generate meaningful and useful content for the learners?

How do you fuel their interest and raise interactivity levels to keep them engaged and focused?

Let them discover the problem and work to resolve it!

Discovery learning takes place in problem-solving situations where the learner draws on his own experience and prior knowledge. It is a method of instruction through which students interact with their environment by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments.(Wikipedia)
Faye Borthick and Donald R. Jones emphasized the advantage of collaboration in discovery learning and the sense of community that results from it. They opined that, "In discovery learning, participants learn to recognize a problem, characterize what a solution would look like, search for relevant information, develop a solution strategy, and execute the chosen strategy. In collaborative discovery learning, participants, immersed in a community of practice, solve problems together."

Implementation Models - Discovery Learning Approach

Here are two implementation models to help you guide your learners through the Discovery Learning Approach.
Ask learners to study the process and find the deviations.
  • This may mean looking into technical documentation and even into the equipment
  • Ask them to look for deviations and identify the exceptions or those not within the norm
The important info is not in the norms or standards. Rather it is in those deviations the learners discover. These are what they focus to resolve.

Creating the Micro-Content

Prepare a micro-content - not teaching all the details or all of the content. Rather, identify what is most important that must be learned or resolved.

The basis of identifying micro-content is affected by the deviations that are discovered. This is what you drill into, as the learners work out the solutions to the deviation or problem.
Take the learners through the above learning process so they are able to approach it properly.

What have we accomplished with this design?

In the model above, realize that the job of the trainer is to organize the setting so that you may ask the learners to do all of the above steps in the process. This allows your learner to go through their own discovery journey.
  • Identify an issue with characters in conversations
  • Allow them to play around with a representation of the equipment
  • Let them go through the equipment
This allows a trial and error process as well. You can ask the learners to translate the complex technical information into real and vivid ways.


Why is this a more fun way of doing technical training compared to lecturing to your audience?

This design approach helps the learners discover the learning on their own. All you need to do as a trainer is to prepare the environment where they could do this.

It alludes to the “near-learning” concept that the learning and the distance to application in real life are very close to each other.

Let the learners do the work. You create the conducive environment and ask the learners to complete the journery to discovery.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Dash of Exaggeration Makes Story-Based Lessons More Captivating - Tip #203

Two coworkers met during break time and shared the interesting things that happened to them so far. One worked through his story in a linear fashion, i.e., from point A to point B. The other started with, “You won’t believe what happened to me today...”

Which story would be more fascinating? Which would engage you more?

What Makes a Story Interesting?

First of all, a good story talks about a topic that’s interesting or important to the audience such as adding value to the topic, according to the American Press Institute. So the no.1 consideration when writing story-based lessons should be: “What’s In It For My Audience (WIIFMA)?

After that are these three things: emotions, embellishment and authenticity, according to sales leadership expert Lisa McLeod.

A boring story is like Wikipedia. It provides the listener or learner with the facts: “This happened and then this and then that.” Boring stories give the same focus to every minute detail.

Great stories, on the other hand, provide interpretation of the facts, highlighting some details over others. By drawing attention to these important parts, great stories supply meaning to an event.

How to Exaggerate Your Story-Based Lessons

A potent method of attracting learners’ attention is exaggeration. It guides them to the important message or critical learning point in story-based lessons.

Here’s how writer and visual artist Annie Weatherwax incorporates exaggeration in her writing:

1.  Decide on your message or lesson.
“When I write a scene, I distort reality as a painter does. I decide first how I want my world to be understood. What is it that I want my readers to feel and see clearly?”

2. Pick elements to highlight or emphasize.
“Then I’ll look around at my setting and ask myself: What’s here that I can use? If there is light coming in the room, I’ll accentuate it to set the mood. If there’s a couch, I might heighten my readers awareness of how it’s worn.”

3. Choose character traits to magnify.
“And I will study my characters’ faces. Is there a specific feature I can exaggerate to make the reader understand who they are more clearly? And how can I dramatize or embellish what my characters do and say?”

4. Rinse and repeat, as necessary.
“I will pick and choose and manipulate the essential elements of my scene until I’ve reshaped reality into a new form, one that holds together and sheds an unexpected light.”

Exaggeration is a storytelling tool, so use it well. Our story-based lessons should definitely inspire learners to act and change.


American Press Institute. What makes a good story?
Cheryl Conner. Thought Leadership: What Makes a Good Story?. Forbes, Feb. 23, 2016
Assessing Authenticity Quotient in Story-based eLearning Design
Lisa Earle McLeod. Why Exaggerating Your Stories Is Good for Everyone, Mostly. Huffington Post, June 18, 2014
"Why Exaggeration Works in Learning"
John Penturn on Quora
Annie Weatherwax. Exaggeration & Distortion: What Writers Can Learn From Visual Artists. Ploughshares at Emerson College
Tip #41 - How to Weave Hard Facts and Emotions into your eLearning Lessons
Tip #201 - How Visual Arts Inspire Microlearning Lessons

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, November 26, 2018

Microlearning That Kicks Learners Into Thinking and Acting - Tip #202

Remember that science experiment where you use a magnifying glass to burn or ignite a piece of paper or dried leaf?

Microlearning is (or should be) like that.

Etching Lessons Through Glass and Sun

This magnifying glass experiment is perhaps one of the first scientific activities that we all remember having participated in as kids. Why do most people still recall that specific experiment even if they conducted it when they were still children?

Simple. As with other memories, the experiment engaged them. It was fun and it stuck in their brain.

And the best part is that most of us will find it easy to remember the lesson behind the experiment as well. After that experiment, we might never have viewed a magnifying glass the same way again. No longer is the magnifying glass a harmless little thing, but indeed a fire hazard and even “a weapon of ant destruction.”

What can this science experiment teach us? How can we apply it to microlearning?

Zoom In and Focus

Microlearning comes in different formats: videos, courses, infographics, games, simulations and many more. But underneath these various ways of presenting microlearning lessons is a core principle that should guide designers and trainers. All microlearning content should should zoom in and focus on a single problem or issue that the learner needs to solve or address.

“What does it take to build successful microlearning?,” asks this Association for Talent Development (ATD) article. “Mostly, it’s just careful consideration of the problem you’re trying to solve—the very specific, narrowly focused problem you’re trying to solve.”

Why just one problem? Well, we have to remember under what circumstances microlearning content is mostly consumed. While performing a task, an employee might run into an issue and shifts focus to overcoming this hindrance so they can continue performing their job.

This means they have very little time to solve the problem at hand. A speedy answer is necessary so they can get back to their work immediately. This actually matches with how modern workers learn. According to Josh Bersin, modern workers commit only 1% of their time at work per week to learning and development activities. (That’s only 24 minutes a week!) A separate report also found that “employees utilizing microlearning know 85% of the information they are required to know to perform on-the-job compared to 73% when they started.”

What does this data mean?

Learning That Drives Thinking and Action

The report shows that microlearning is an effective way to kick learners into thinking and acting. By smartly integrating content where learners can easily access them— i.e., embedded in their daily work—microlearning seamlessly incorporates L&D so that it actually drives action.

How do you integrate microlearning into your learners’ daily work life? Share your answers with me on the comments section below.


Tanya Seidel. Microlearning Is More Than a Buzzword. Association for Talent and Development, June 27, 2018
Josh Bersin. The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned. March 2018
Global Newswire. New Axonify Study Reveals Microlearning Key to Enabling an Agile Frontline Workforce. July 25, 2018
Tip #167 - 5 Proven Ways to Help Learners Remember Lessons
Tip #170 - How to Leverage Opportunities for Microlearning Impacts
Tip #182 - Curious Language Sparks Learning Engagement
Tip #197 - 5 Ways L&D Can Adapt to the Evolution of Employees

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, November 19, 2018

How Visual Arts Inspire Microlearning Lessons - Tip #201

If you have an important lesson to share with your learners, how do you ensure that it sticks to their memories?

You might want to take a page out of the artist’s work.

Exaggeration and the Artist

When you look at the artworks of Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and others, you might have failed to notice one important element that’s present in all of them: exaggeration. Art movements like cubism and impressionism draw the eye or illicit emotions thanks to some overemphasized element. Picasso portrayed the human form in terms of cubes, while Van Gogh amplified color and movement in his paintings.

Our tendency to exaggerate goes back to ancient times. Have you ever encountered the Venus (or Woman) of Willendorf? It’s a figurine depicting a nude woman with exaggerated sexual attributes. Believed to have been carved during the Old Stone Age period (around 30,000 B.C.), it is associated with fertility and childbearing and was perhaps even considered a mother goddess of some type. Visual artists “instinctively know” how to exaggerate, theorizes neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California at San Diego.

Adding One Level of Exaggeration to Your Microlearning Lessons

Exaggeration is a potent method of bringing learners’ attention to an important or critical message or lesson. Just take a look at the entertainment industry, mass media and social media, which use some form of exaggeration - the extreme, the absurd, the ridiculous, etc.—to hook the attention of their audiences.

According to Clark Quinn, an expert in learning technology strategy and Executive Director of independent consultancy firm Quinnovation, “We should be thinking about exaggeration in our learning design.” He suggests using exaggeration as a tool to mimic the stress of real life into our learning situations to “enhance engagement and effectiveness.”

“If we increase the meaningfulness of the learning context to match the performance context, even if the details are more dissimilar, I think it’s an effective tradeoff,” Quinn says.

In microlearning, exaggeration can hone learning ideas. Learners respond to exaggeration because it triggers our brain to remember and relate to past experiences.

Take a look at these examples. If you were shown these images at the start of a related training content, how would you feel? Would these visuals make you more interested or engaged in the training content? Why or why not?

[Workplace conflict]

[Example for bad customer treatment]

What are your thoughts about using exaggeration in microlearning? Can you think of any other benefits? How about any potential disadvantages? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.


Annie Weatherwax. Exaggeration & Distortion: What Writers Can Learn From Visual Artists. Ploughshares at Emerson College
Wikipedia. Venus of Willendorf
Chris Higgins. V.S. Ramachandran: A Neurological Theory of Artistic Experience. Mental Floss, June 29, 2009
"Why Exaggeration Works in Learning"
Clark Quinn. ONE level of exaggeration. Learnlets, September 26, 2018
Tip #2 - Using the ridiculous and exaggerated situations to hone learning ideas

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, October 29, 2018

Democratization of Learning Content: Ride the Wave of Learning Revolution with Knowledge-Sharing - Tip #200

Do you want to learn how to use Instagram Stories? There’s a course for that.

How about handling difficult conversations? There’s a course for that, too!

Think about something you really want to learn, whether for personal, professional or business growth, and I bet you, there’s a course for that online somewhere.

What does this mean?

Democratization of Learning Content is the New Normal

Knowledge sharing started with crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Fast forward to today, open access and massive open online courses have become the norm. Even big companies like Microsoft and Facebook are implementing or creating platforms for learning that are accessible to everyone.

“Technology has a ‘democratizing’ effect, eliminating barriers and granting access so that new ideas can spread,” said Casey Coleman, former CIO of the U.S. General Services Administration.

A real-life example is Accenture’s learning boards. They kinda look like Pinterest and are centered around a learning theme such as a skill.

“Learning boards are probably the best example of democratization of learning, which has been at the heart of our learning delivery strategy,” says Rahul Varma, the visionary chief learning officer at Accenture. “In 18 months, we’ve gone from a handful of learning boards to a thousand learning boards, from a handful of users to 140,000 active users, without any corporate push. I haven’t in my entire life seen such scaling of a learning vehicle.”
Democratizing Learning Content in Your Organization

The number one reason to democratize learning content at any organization is this: It’s the “ultimate competitive advantage.” According to Kevin Oakes, CEO of Institute for Corporate Productivity, “Organizations are more competitive, agile and engaged when knowledge is constantly and freely shared.”

Creating a system and providing the tools that allow employees to freely share knowledge create valuable content in the process. Tapping subject matter experts (SMEs) within the organization is not only cost-effective, it’s also a great source of tacit knowledge. Imagine the value of an expert, who actually has contextual understanding of a problem, sharing solutions to real-life issues in the workplace.

In addition, knowledgeable employees will be duly recognized for their expertise. Imagine how much better that employee’s workday would be when they receive positive feedback from their peers and how much more likely they will stay longer with the organization because they feel valued and validated.

How is your organization democratizing learning content? If your organization hasn’t started on this yet, what do you suggest they do to start democratizing learning content?


Jeff Sandquist. Introducing Team Blog, September 24, 2018
Facebook Blueprint
Harrison W. Inefuku. Globalization, Open Access, and the Democratization of Knowledge. Educause Review, July 3, 2017
ATD Research. Democratization of Learning at Accenture: Learning Boards. Association for Talent Development, December 28, 2016
Kevin Oakes. 4 Steps to Building a Culture of Learning
Tip #76 - Celebrate Your Expertise - Share and Standout
Tip #181 - The Conversation Loop: Foster Learning Through Experience Sharing
Tip #199 - Becoming an Expert: What Has Intuition Got to Do With It?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, October 22, 2018

Becoming an Expert: What Has Intuition Got to Do With It? - Tip #199

Think about this problem from the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by renowned psychologist Daniel Kahneman:
“A baseball bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much is the cost of the ball?”
What does your gut say the answer is? Now, do some analytical thinking and actually compute for the answer. What is it? Is your first answer (based on intuition) the same as your answer after computation? (Hint: The correct answer is that the ball costs 5 cents and the bat $1.05.

Expert Intuition

Analytic thinking is required for a math problem, but intuition is great for making quick decisions.

According to this article published in the Mind and Machines journal, intuition is “the speed and ease with which experts can recognize the key features of a situation” or “the rapid understanding shown by individuals, typically experts, when they face a problem.”

In Situation Expert, this is what we call Instant Thinking. This is the phase where you have initial thoughts, gut feels, guesses, or preliminary ideas based on your first impressions of a certain situation or instant recollection of memories of similar situations you’ve encountered in the past.

Intuition is one of the key defining traits of an expert. People with expertise in a certain area can easily and quickly come to a conclusion about something they’re familiar with. William Duggan, author of “Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement” calls this “expert intuition.”

Hubert Dreyfus and Herbert Simon agree that intuition has the following aspects:
  • It is quick.
  • It is fluid.
  • It takes a large amount of practice.
  • Perceptual processes lie at the core of intuition.
The Getty Kouros Statue

I want to emphasize the items above with this story.

In 1983, the Los Angeles’ Getty Museum got hold of a Greek statue known as a kouros. After due diligence - that is, after analysis and inspection - the scientists and lawyers it consulted declared the kouros and its accompanying documents authentic. Based on this finding, the museum paid millions to acquire it.

Before the kouros officially became the museum’s property, curator Evelyn Harrison was among the new set of experts enlisted to re-examine the piece. Harrison and other art historians and Greek sculpture specialists took one look and declared the kouros to be fake.

The authenticity of the kouros is still a mystery to this day. But the point of this story is this: Whereas the scientists and lawyers took their time in painstakingly analyzing and examining data to arrive at a conclusion, art historians spouted their findings in an instant. Their years of experience with art laid the groundwork for their snap judgment (Kahneman’s automatic System 1).

Additionally, although intuition and analytic thinking seem to be contradictory, they aren’t actually on opposite sides. The problem of bias requires a balance between intuition and deliberate thinking (Kahneman’s effortful System 2). Kahneman says,
“Systems 1 and 2 are inseparable. In fact, they need to work together. System 2’s explicit beliefs and deliberate choices are based on System 1’s impressions and feelings. When System 1 encounters an 'anomaly' or a 'surprise', System 2 takes charge, overriding automatic reactions by having the last say. Together, the two systems operate to minimize effort and maximize performance."

Joi Ito. The Limits of Explainability. Wired, March 1, 2018
Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2, 2013
Boston College. Trust your gut: Intuitive decision-making based on expertise may deliver better results than analytical approach. Science Daily, December 20, 2012
William Duggan. Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement
Fernand Gobet and Philippe Chassy. Expertise and Intuition: A Tale of Three Theories. Minds and Machines, May 2009
Daniel Terdiman. It Pays to Trust Your Gut. Wired, January 7, 2005
Christopher Knight. Something’s missing from the newly reinstalled antiquities collection at the Getty Villa. Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2018
MIT IDE. Where Humans Meet Machines: Intuition, Expertise and Learning. Medium, May 18, 2018
Tip #150 - Using Intuitive and Deliberate Learning in Story Lessons

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, October 8, 2018

SMART or FAST: Which Wins the Goal-Setting Race? - Tip #198

We’ve all heard the tale of the turtle and the hare. In the story, the speedy hare loses to the slow turtle.

I want you to imagine this as the traditional way of setting goals. SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, is perhaps the most popular way that most people have been taught to develop their goals, especially in the business or organizational setting.

If you’re using this method, how has that worked so far? Is it working at all?


Although SMART is popular, it has a major flaw. “SMART goals undervalue ambition, focus narrowly on individual performance, and ignore the importance of discussing goals throughout the year,” says Donald Sull of the MIT Sloan School of Management and Charles Sull of Charles Thames Strategy Partners LLC.

If not SMART goals, then what’s the alternative?

Donald and Charles suggests turning SMART goals on its head and you have FAST goals:

F - frequently discussed
Goals are constantly being reviewed and evaluated.

A - ambitious
Goals are difficult but not impossible to achieve.

S - specific
Goals are translated into metrics and milestones, which helps provide clarity on the next steps necessary to achieve objectives and measure progress.

T - transparent
Everyone can see what your goals are, and you can see what your colleagues’ goals are.

Unlike SMART goals, the FAST method emphasizes on setting goals that are difficult but not impossible to achieve, embeds these goals into ongoing discussions for constant evaluation and feedback, and publicizes goals for transparency.

Feedback is Key

Waiting for a year to receive feedback on goals isn’t very smart for organizations operating in dynamic settings. Constantly evaluating and providing feedback on goals (as in path2x) help people correct (as necessary) and achieve their goals.

“SMART goals, therefore, are sometimes smart and sometimes not,” Martin Reeves, senior partner of The Boston Consulting Group (NY) and director of BGC Henderson Institute, and Jack Fuller, BGC consultant and BGC Henderson Institute ambassador, said in this MIT Sloan Management Review Research Highlight. “We should think about goals in a more contingent manner, adjusting the fuzziness and the ambition of goals depending on the kinds of environment our companies are operating within.”

Aside from shifting business environment, the MIT Sloan article also identifies 2 other triggers why people and organizations might need to revise their goals over time:
  • The company changes through capability development or acquisitions.
  • The company learns more about its goals.
Sometimes the Hare Wins

SMART goals are valuable in stable and predictable settings, but in a VUCA environment, where context is always changing, FAST goals are the better option.

So, in the real-world race to the finish, the turtle doesn’t always cross the finish line first. Sometimes, the hare wins.


Wayne University/Wayne LEADS. S.M.A.R.T. Objectives
Donald Sull and Charles Sull. With Goals, FAST Beats SMART. MIT Sloan Management Review, June 5, 2018
Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller. When SMART Goals Are Not So Smart. MIT Sloan Management Review, March 21, 2018
Tip #76 - Celebrate Your Expertise - Share and Standout
Tip #187 - How VUCA Expands Learning Horizons

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"