New eLearning Books by Elaine Biech

Active Learning cover

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Dr. Andy Hicken and I are contributing authors in 101 Ways to Make Learning Active Beyond the Classroom, a new e-learning book by my friend and colleague, Elaine Biech.

Incorporating contributions by many of the experts in training and development, 101 Ways… is a trove of practical info for the online learning designer and trainer. The book’s front half lists 200 tips for “making training active and learning successful.” The back half presents 101 ideas for active learning activities, grouped into categories such as social learning, m-learning, blended solutions, using technology in the classroom, learning on a team, mentoring, peer-to-peer coaching, informal learning, on-the-job assignments, and learning beyond the workplace.

Dr. Hicken contributed an activity on page 71 that encourages trainers to study the design ingredients of massively open online courses (MOOCs)—their layout, emphasis on peer review, and overall sequencing of activities—and adopt these elements as training best-practices. My contribution on page 142 details how to use LinkedIn to encourage social learning and sharing.

Active Training

101 Ways… is published alongside two more books: Active Training: A Handbook of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples, and Tips, which Elaine Biech co-authored with Mel Silberman, and 101 More Ways to Make Training Active, another collection of tips and activities. Elaine has been very excited about taking over the legendary work of Dr. Silberman. When we spoke last she had this to say:

It’s been an honor to be asked to revive the Active Training work that Mel Silberman started. My goal during this project was to continue to acknowledge his work by respecting his voice, expanding his ideas, and engaging others to contribute to the work we both love. One of Mel’s personal guidelines was, “It’s not what you give them; it’s what they take away that counts.” Like Mel, I hope that readers take away ideas and activities that will make their work easier and more creative. I am sure readers will find dozens of ways to develop their learners’ competence, confidence, and commitment to their organizations. Mel would be pleased with the exceptional, easy to implement activities from extraordinary contributors, such as you, Jon.

Elaine’s Picks

When pressed for her favorite activities in 101 Ways to Make Learning Active Beyond the Classroom, Elaine said, “I love these two activities because they are both easy to implement and they address two of the issues facilitators face: maintaining learner engagement and helping learners remember to transfer what they learned to the workplace.”

  • Increase Interaction using a Whiteboard. Often we get in a rut and do the same things over and over. Joel Lamoreaux’s easy-to-implement ideas for expanding your use of whiteboards add variety and creativity to your learners’ eLearning experiences. Facilitators keep learners engaged with very little investment in time. Smart and simple. What could be easier?
  • The #1 Thing. The true test of our success occurs after the training session is over–whether in a traditional or a virtual classroom. Wendy Gates Corbett uses Twitter to share a strategy to review material. Participants share one key point they learned by posting a tweet. I suggest that you implement her variation also. Just repeat the exercise three days, one week, or two weeks after the training session to refresh learners’ memories once they return to the workplace.

These types of books still belong on the bookshelf so they can be easily accessed when looking for an idea starter. Elaine was very gracious about including me in the opening Acknowledgements. It is an honor to be mentioned alongside eLearning pioneers like Clark Quinn, Michael Allen, Bill Horton, Clark Aldrich and others.

10 Tips

Following is a sample of the book’s ten tips format that makes for rapid learning opportunities.

10 Tips to be Successful with mLearning

Learning in the palm of your hand. What could be better? mLearning, short for mobile learning, can be accessed on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and some wearables. mLearning allows you to pair a tiny but critical (either time or importance) data point with a skill check, giving you a quick connection with your learners. This accomplishes several things. It provides the learner with content, allows the learner to provide you with an update, and it keeps the relationship between the two of you active. But be careful mLearning is not eLearning on a miniature screen. The user, the purpose, and the environment are different.

  1. Think small. To ensure readability, imagine the smallest device that will be used for the content and design for it, such as a smartphone. When the content is transferred to a larger device, such as a tablet, the content will also look good.
  2. Think concise. Content should be delivered in five minute or shorter capsules. mLearning is not re-purposed e-Learning. It must be redesigned. Only include what is absolutely necessary. Mobile learners expect to acquire information quickly and easily, so break the content into small bites that can be digested rapidly.
  3. Think engaging. Create content that hooks them from the first contact. The content must be engaging and attention grabbing. Determine why they should want or need the content.
  4. Encourage a response. Integrate social learning strategies to make it interactive. Well-designed content encourages a response from the user. The response needs to be easy and short.
  5. Plan for diversions in the environment. Content should be straight-forward and easy to understand since the user will not likely be in a distraction-free environment when reviewing the content.
  6. Create just-in-time support. Ideally m-learning offers performance support or knowledge required just-in-time, like an updated policy, a job aid, or a short communication skill.
  7. Find the right development tool. Ask colleagues and others about their favorite development tool. Finding the one that works best for you is important. For example “gomo” by Epic Learning allows you to create a multi-device learning file and “gomo” configures the information for all devices.
  8. Get them emotionally involved. You can boost learners’ involvement by increasing their emotional connection. This may occur by offering rewards or real life examples that help learners relate to the content.
  9. Present videos. One of the best learning tools at your disposal is a video. Script it concisely and edit freely. If the video is over four minutes long consider dividing it. The ideal video for a small device is two to five minutes in length. Look into a private YouTube channel for videos to reduce interface issues.
  10. Clarify expectation. Everything will not look good on all mobile devices. At times you may have a file that requires a tablet or laptop. If that’s the case establish clear expectations with your users; inform them upfront in the explanation.