Archive for April, 2010

by Dave Darrow

No, it’s not an attempt to throw as many buzzwords into a title as possible, mobile augmented reality training is a new concept that a confluence of technologies has made possible. The idea of augmented reality applications is not new. The basic concept is that some type of display technology allows a computer-generated image to overlay a current view of the world. Here are some examples of how this can be implemented:

  1. A head-mounted display that is either semi-transparent or covers only 1 eye shows computer-generated images or text over a persons vision.
  2. A head-mounted display that completely obstructs a viewers vision displays a composite of computer-generated information with a live video feed of the viewers surroundings from a head-mounted camera.
  3. A combination of a camera and display in one unit (like a smartphone) that combines computer-generated information with the live feed coming from the units camera.

Additionally, these systems may have GPS, compass, and/or accelerometer technologies inside in order to track orientation and position. The exciting part is that more and more consumers are buying compatible systems of the third type without even realizing it: smartphones.



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by Rich Mesch

(Links to other articles in this series: 1 2 3 4 5)

Stories are compelling when you think you know what’s going to happen next, and then the story throws in a twist. You can do the same thing in you learning stories; the only issue is that you need some grounding in reality.

Movies frequently build interest by inserting compelling story twists. I won’t include any spoilers, but most people will admit to being thrown for a loop when they learned the truth about Bruce Willis’ character in The Sixth Sense or who Keyser Soze really was in The Usual Suspects. But the technique is nothing new; Alfred Hitchock shocked the movie-going world in 1960 when he killed off the main character in Psycho ten minutes into the film.

One of the oddest twists is in the film Magnolia; the story takes a twist when it unexpectedly starts raining frogs. And perhaps that’s the key difference between movie storytelling and learning storytelling. If your story completes deviates from reality, you’ll probably lose your audience. So your story probably shouldn’t have any froggy precipitation.

For learning stories, I recommend the use of the “Predictable Unexpected.” (more…)

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by Reni Gorman

Ever find yourself asking this question?

“My SMEs don’t have time to contribute content to training. What can I do?”

 I have come across this question several times. Subject matter experts are that for a reason, and because so many rely on them, contributing content to training is the last thing they have time for. I have thought it over many, many times and I have the following ideas to offer:

  1. Put SMEs in a pool and tap one at a time to contribute. For example, if you are creating an e-learning course, you may ask one SME to help you gather material, discuss your high-level design with another, and a third SME would review your first set of storyboards. You may even end up with a better product than if you only worked with one SME because the different opinions and contributions balance each other out. Now, that could also mean frustration as SMEs may disagree; in that case, you can tap into yet another SME in your pool to act as “tie breaker.” This works nicely because the time for each to contribute is greatly minimized while you still maximize your design with the multiple perspectives—the best of both worlds (but a challenge to manage).
  2. Hire SME consultants. This may seem simple but many don’t think of it. However, you can hire SME consultants who will be there, dedicated and focused only on helping you create training. Before you hire anyone, get your internal SMEs to at least interview them to make sure they are on the same page before you bring someone in. You will still need to have an internal SME to answer organization-specific questions, but they’ll need to commit considerably less time.
  3. Give the task of “extracting knowledge” from SMEs to a new hire and use to onboard. New hires (I am talking about analysts out of college) are usually thirsty for knowledge and anxious to contribute. What better way to get them going than to aim them toward an SME or SME pool and tell them to go interview them and collect data? You may have trouble finding the time to do this, but a new hire will take the challenge on with excitement and laser focus—and just think of how much they will learn!
  4. Provide incentives. SMEs need to balance your training project with dozens of other priorities. It’s not suprising that your priority is sometimes the last thing on their minds. So what can you do? Figure out what motivates them—is it recognition from senior management? That one usually works. Make sure you get their senior manager’s attention and support so the training initiative is considered a key project. If you can’t do that then you can always recognize them from the training department. Take SMEs who have been helpful in the past and use them to entice the rest, put their picture on the training intranet and call them SME of the month, then send a thank you to their manager with a link. All you need is the first SME highlighted in this manner and the rest will come—trust me, I know, I have done it.


Well, that is all I have! If anyone has any other ideas, please submit them, we would love to gather all these great ideas together for all of us to share. Happy SME hunting!

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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

Coaching is one of my favorite topics to research and discuss. That might surprise you since I’ve written the majority of my blog entries on transformative learning; however, there’s a distinct synergy between the two. Think of coaching as an enabler of the transformative learning process. Coaching can be a catalyst for personal perspective transformation.

Yet, the focus here is firmly on coaching—more specifically, the coach. My manager asked me yesterday to share my opinion on why some individuals don’t make effective coaches. I cited the propensity some people have to “tell” versus “ask.” Some coaches struggle with asking powerful and probing questions. But these were my opinions based upon my study of the topic and experience as a coach; I wanted more time to chew on his question some more and synthesize my thoughts.

In the end, as I look across the literature on coaching and recount my own personal experience, I’d have to say that it appears to boil down to the coach’s approach to the coaching relationship.

Approach 1: If the coach approaches the relationship intent on addressing the coachee’s gaps or weaknesses, then problem-solving becomes the main goal of the coaching interaction. The relationship is built on addressing the coachee’s problems or deficiencies.

Approach 2: If the coach approaches the relationship intent on having the coachee reference past achievements and capitalize on key strengths to achieve a vision for success, then positive change becomes the main goal of the coaching interaction. The relationship is built on positive exploration in service of meaningful change.

What approach is more motivating and inspiring? What approach is more likely to lead to sustained change?

The second—and more positive—approach to coaching appears to be more effective in eliciting individual and organizational change. The evidence is well presented in the text Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change. Its authors are scholars and experienced consultants in the area of organizational development who have built a coaching model on the core precepts of Appreciative Inquiry. As one of the authors aptly states, “We get more of what we focus on.” Therefore, it would stand to reason: Focus on problems, get more of them. Focus on positives, get more of them.

So, to answer my manager’s question, which is what provoked this blog entry in the first place: Effective coaches are ones that adopt an appreciative approach to change and coach to possibility instead of deficiency.

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by Jean Marie Tenlen

Fifty-five percent of the time iPhone users are on their phones, they are not talking to someone. So, what are they doing? One of those activities is shopping – but as you’ll see, shopping with these apps (which are also available for some other phones) is not just shopping. It also means that you can compare prices, local/on-line availability, nutrition, and how the manufacturer rates for eco-friendliness. In addition to all this info, you’ll be able to share your findings through email that you link to within the app, thereby impressing and wowing your friends and neighbors (or at least your teenage sons).

Last weekend, my husband and I, in our never-ending quest to be more handy, decided to buy a powerwasher. While in line at Home Depot, I used the Redlaser app on my iPhone to scan the powerwasher’s UPC code. The results showed me that the same product was available online – for $30 less. HomeDepot matched the online price, and I saved the thirty bucks.

Apps like Redlaser and Shopsavvy use a scanning technology that will give you information about pricing – both online and locally. They pull from the location services on your phone to list the stores near you that have that item in stock. If you want to get it online, just click – you’re redirected to the website. Or if you prefer a local retailer’s price, you can link to the store’s phone number, get directions, email the results to someone else (or yourself), or go to the store’s website. Redlaser will also give you allergen and nutrition information on food products – and you can set price alerts on Shopsavvy.

And, if that isn’t cool enough –– if the product you’re scanning is a book, you can also see if the book is available at one of your local libraries. (Full disclosure: I haven’t been able to get mine to show me this. Since my library fines usually end up higher than the actual cost of purchasing the book , I haven’t really investigated it.)

Another app is made by GoodGuide. It also uses a scanning technology. But instead of pricing and availability, GoodGuide provides you with a rating of the product and the company who produces it. GoodGuide gives you an overall health hazard, environmental impact, and social impact assessment. You can search their recommended product list, scan a product, key in a upc number, or search by name or ingredient. GoodGuide seems to have a very sound process for arriving at these ratings. GoodGuide will even give you alternatives, if your product’s ratings are low (Similar to my mother when I was dating, but that is another blog post).


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by Rich Mesch

(Links to other articles in this series: 1 2 3 4 5)


In the first post in this series, I provided an overview for integrating storytelling into learning; now, in the spirit of translating all complex ideas into a few bullet points, I wanted to provide some tips.  These tips come from my simulation design experience, but really, they apply to most learning opportunities. While storytelling is more art than science, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  1. Engage the heart as well as the mind. The workplace is emotional, so don’t be afraid to get under people’s skin. People should feel elated when they succeed, uncomfortable when they fail.
  2. Focus on what makes the job challenging. Is it the complexity of the product line? The demands of your boss? The intimidation factor of talking to a well-educated physician? Don’t shy away from the tough stuff.
  3. Show, don’t tell. This is one of the oldest writer’s rules. Instead of writing “he was nervous,” show your character’s behavior, and let your user/reader conclude that he’s nervous.
  4. Storytelling needn’t involve narrative. While a novelist employs narrative as her primary tool, the simulation designer has many more tools available. Computer users can only tolerate reading in small doses. Tell your story with video, audio, graphics and animation.
  5. Don’t feel you have to tell the entire story of a job in a simulation. Simulation stories work best when they are focused just on those parts of the job that are complex or difficult. In designing a sales simulation for a large pharmaceutical customer, we determined that reps did well at product detailing, but had opportunities for improvement in opening and closing calls. We designed a simulation that incorporated the entire call, but focused decisions specifically on openings and closings. (more…)

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by Rich Mesch

(Links to other articles in this series: 1 2 3 4 5)

Storytelling is one of the most effective yet underused methods for enhancing adult learning.  Ever heard someone yell at characters on a movie screen or talk back to the television? Ever stay up way too late one night because you had to read just one more chapter of a best seller? Ever rearrange your schedule to make sure you’re home for the conclusion of the cliffhanger episode of your favorite TV series?

Odds are good that you answered “yes” to at least one of the questions above, and very possibly to all of them. It’s not surprising. For many cultures, storytelling is one of the most pervasive methods of sharing information. A good story speaks to our minds, our hearts, our deepest emotions. When we’re truly wrapped up in a great story, we sometimes do things that are irrational; we speak to characters we know are fictional, we give up sleep that we desperately need, we laugh or cry or rejoice or despair over the lives of people we know are completely made up, completely fabricated. We’re human beings; we are able to connect on many levels.

We hate to admit it, but the workplace is irrationally emotional as well. On a good workday, we can feel fear, anger, joy, despair and elation. But for some reason, when we train people to be effective in this environment, our approach too often becomes dry and bloodless. We engage the mind (if we’re lucky), but not the heart. As a result, we reduce the likelihood that we will gain learner attention, that our message will be heard, let alone retained and applied.

I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my career working on performance simulations. The word “simulation” means many different things to different people. But at its core, simulations provide a realistic environment for learners to try new behaviors and experience the likely outcomes. And this is where storytelling becomes critical. If I’m going to truly apply new behaviors, I need to feel the same pressures, trade-offs, and barriers to change that I will feel in the real world. If those aspects are not present, I’m likely to dismiss the whole enterprise as “just another training exercise.” There are good simulations and bad simulations (and really bad simulations that don’t simulate anything). Some interpret simulation as a complex multiple choice test, which isn’t even close. Ultimately, what raises a mediocre simulation to a great simulation is the ability of the designers to engage the learner with a compelling story.


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