Friday, April 22, 2016

Introducing My ePortfolio

This message announces the birth of my ePortfolio at: It is a work in progress, and I will be making corrections and additions on the fly. The site contains; work samples, a resume, Curriculum Vitae, and a link to an eLearning module I developed based on the front-end analysis documented on this site.

Won't you have a look?  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Addressing Call Center Performance Gaps (Post 2)

 This is the second in a series of posts providing insight into the application of the ADDIE process based on skill gap identified by the client. The client requires a customized CBT capable of population on the company LMS to address all identified knowledge/skill gaps. What follows is a glimpse at the processes involved in ensuring the delivery strategy is aligned with required performance outcomes.

Needs Assessment 

This is a proposal and road map for a learning intervention to for the XYZ Corporation. The company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of scientific instruments. The global customer service center is located near my home in Illinois. There are over 25 multi-lingual Customer service representatives handling calls and products ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

My limited knowledge of the company was garnered through communication with a former classmate who works in the training department. I was originally tasked with assessing the feasibility of developing an asynchronous SCORM/Experience API eLearning module on Infrared thermometers. As noted by (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, and Kemp 2013) instructional design is an iterative process and discoveries formulated during subsequent sections of this document have necessitated minor changes to this section. Nonetheless, my analysis confirms the feasibility of my original brief. Specifically, I propose to create a bespoke module addressing the following goals: Equip XYZ Customer Service Representatives (CSR’s) with the knowledge required to apply existing Call Center soft-skills in assisting customers in selecting and trouble-shooting infrared thermometers.

Currently, CSR’s receive several days of instructor-led product and call response training before taking customer calls. The XYZ Training Center has recently initiated a program to develop a CBT curriculum covering core technical training topics; with an initial focus on CSR’s. XYZ envisions a scalable curriculum that can be leveraged by a global staff of Marketing Managers and Sales Engineers.  

Additional design specifications call for; voice narration, a moderate degree of student interaction, a moderate degree of animation and SCORM/Experience API compliance. Essentially, I was briefed to ensure the module incorporates the degree of technology required to ensure students remain actively engaged in the learning process. In keeping with conventional wisdom, the length of the course is not to exceed 20-minutes exclusive of a required mastery assessment. Assessment criteria will be congruent with the instructional objectives, and individual assessment scores will be tabulated and tracked on the company LMS. The minimum acceptable passing rate (as dictated by company policy) is 80%. Articulate Storyline 2 and Audacity recording software will be utilized in the design process.
Specific required outcomes:

1. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to troubleshoot common infrared thermometer malfunctions and operator errors.
2. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to assist customers in selecting the appropriate infrared thermometer for projected usage and duties.
3. Describe applications where other temperature measuring devices would be a better choice for a customer.
4. Describe the major components of an infrared thermometer
Learner Analysis
 There are currently 24 CSR’s working at the XYZ Call Center. The company produces hundreds of high-end scientific instruments and fixtures and markets several-thousand line-items of equipment, furnishings and instruments. 18 of the CSR’s speak English as a second language and all representatives have a minimum of a High School education. Many of the CRS worked staggered hours to communicate with customers based in various time zones. Most are under 40-years of age and many are married with children at home.

       All CSR’s receive extensive Call Center, electronic catalog, and product knowledge training. However, there is currently no curriculum devoted to infrared thermometers. Call Center Supervisors report that a substantial portion of inquiries related to infrared thermometers are forwarded to the product line manager. This problem creates a log jam of sorts, as the Product Line Manager has to draft a reply, which in turn is translated by the CSR into the language of the respective caller. Additionally, the Product Line Manager reports that a substantial portion of forwarded inquires relate to basic trouble-shooting and selection criteria.

       Although all CSR’s must pass a basic English Literacy test, the test does not assess the ability to formulate idioms. While a broad range of scientific knowledge may exist among the target population, it must be assumed that the majority of CSR’s have limited knowledge of heat transfer and methods of measuring heat. The learning strategy adopted must be mindful of these limitations. Specifically, the eLearning module will incorporate the following features designed to address the prevailing linguistic and scientific level of knowledge of the target population:

1. Self-Pacing: Forward and Back buttons allow learners to repeat content as required.
2. Avoid the use of idioms: All written and spoken English will avoid using idioms and will not exceed eighth-grade level usage.
3. Technical terms: A dictionary of technical terms will be hypertext-linked to novel scientific terms.
4. Dual inputs to assist in encoding: All slides will incorporate a combination of two or more of the following: verbal narration, graphics, animated graphics, written explanations.
5. Interactivity: A moderate to high degree of interactivity will increase feelings of self-efficacy and student engagement.
6. Experiential learning: Students will be required to respond to a “what If” scenario and report their findings directly to a Call Center Supervisor.
7. Master Assessment: A master assessment with a minimum passing score will be developed to infer adequate transfer of learning in the workplace.        

Contextual analysis
Orienting context

This contextual analysis borrows heavily from procedures outlined in (Morrison et al. 2013)   As reported, the target population is aware of their general lack of knowledge regarding the selection, usage, and troubleshooting of infrared thermometers. The T-pop has also expressed an interest in attending training on the subject. Accordingly, we assume that a well-designed module on the topic will be well received by most CSR’s. Most importantly, we suspect any efforts to reduce Product Line Manager and subsequent language interpretation will receive enthusiastic support. Since many CSR’s work non-standard hours, we also assume that asynchronous computer-based-training will be both easier to administer and more readily accepted by the CSR staff.

Instructional context

As noted in the needs assessment section, much of the leg work has been conducted by the XYZ training center staff. Essentially I am tasked with creating a 20-minute CBT model with a moderate degree of interactivity and animation. The module (if accepted) will be populated on the company LMS, and will afford the delivery and administration of the course in a self-paced computer based instructional setting. Technical requirements stipulate SCORM and Experience API compliance. Each CSR station is equipped with a cube, a desk, a computer capable of rendering multi-media audio and graphics, and an earphone/microphone headset. Give these stipulations, XYZ does not anticipate any compatibility or delivery issues. According to (Barbazette 2006) the contextual analysis should be conducted after the learner analysis and instructional objectives have been completed. Accordingly, I have reserved final judgement on the feasibility of using an asymmetric self-paced CBT to until after drafting the instructional objectives in a subsequent section. Having noted that, I remain confident that a well-designed CBT will adequately address identified gaps.    

Transfer context

Since Call Center Supervisors are satisfied with the current level of CSR engagement with customers, we assume equipping CSRs with the requisite knowledge about infrared thermometers will transfer to improved customer service. An analysis of the types (and frequency) of inquires forwarded to the Product Line Manager are indicative of knowledge gaps in the following areas:
1. Knowledge of heat transfer through radiation.
2. Knowledge of how infrared thermometers function
3. Knowledge of the range and duties of specific products
4. Knowledge of the do’s and don’ts in operating an infrared thermometer
Although the module will be delivered asymmetrically through the LMS the final exercise will be assessed by a Call Center Supervisor. As a measure of transferability, students will apply core concepts in selecting the correct infrared thermometer for a given hypothetical situation.

Task Analysis 

Note: see flowchart in appendix one for a flow chart of the task(s) CSR’s are required to perform when taking calls and emails related to assisting customers in troubleshooting and selecting infrared thermometers. An initial determination of the nature of the inquiry will divide the required tasks into one of two potential paths.  
Step one: CSR receives a call or email related to infrared thermometry.
Step two: Decide if inquiry regarding an existing device or the selection of a new device.

Path #1 Existing device

1 Determine if the infrared thermometer works when plugged in (battery/electric models) under any conditions.
a Yes: Continue with product evaluation
b. No: If item powers on, continue with product evaluation process.
2. Determine if customer is using the correct infrared thermometer for the given application.
3. Determine if customer is using the infrared thermometer per specified instructions including emissivity adjustments.
4. Determine if; surface finish, material coatings, or glass may be interfering with transmission or reception of infrared radiation.
5. Determine if product is under warranty.
6 Determine is infrared thermometer cost is greater than $500.
Path #1 Solutions
A. Continue with evaluation
B. Refer case to Product Line Manager
C. Initiate replacement policy
D. Explore potential sales and or product up sales.

Path #2 Selecting a new device

1. Determine if an infrared thermometer is the best choice for the intended use.
2. Determine the most extreme temperature device will be used to measure.
3. Determine the maximum range from the target during readings.
4. Determine system memory and software interface requirements.
5. Determine if; surface finish, material coatings, or glass will be encountered in target applications.
6. Determine if infrared thermometer matching the above selection criteria can be sold for less than $2000.

Path #2 Solutions

A. Suggest a different temperature measuring device.
B. Select an appropriate infrared thermometer and initiate the purchase process.
C. Refer the case to the Product Line Manager.

Learning Objectives

 According to (Mager 1997) learning objectives must contain a behavior, a condition, and a standard. Per this prescription, the needs assessment, learner analysis and task analysis are refined into measurable instructional objectives.
The needs assessment yielded the following:

1. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to troubleshoot common infrared thermometer malfunctions and operator errors.
2. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to assist customers in selecting the appropriate infrared thermometer for projected usage and duties.
3. Describe applications where other temperature measuring devices would be a better choice for a customer.
4. Describe the major components of an infrared thermometer.

The contextual analysis yielded the following:

1. Knowledge of heat transfer through radiation.
2. Knowledge of how infrared thermometers function.
3. Knowledge of the range and duties of specific products.
4. Knowledge of the do’s and don’ts in operating an infrared thermometer.

Terminal Objective application level of the cognitive domain:
Demonstrate knowledge of infrared thermometers when answering customer questions regarding infrared thermometer troubleshooting and application as evidenced by a reduction in forwarded inquiries.

Enabling Objectives

1 Select statements describing the three types of heat transfer at the 80-percentile level.
2 Recall the conditions that effect the accuracy of infrared thermometers at the 80-percentile level.
3. Identify the major components of infrared thermometers at the 80-percental level.
4. Utilize the company electronic catalog to identify the range and duties of specific infrared thermometers at the 100-percental level.
5. Recall the terms associated with infrared thermometers at the 80-percental level.

Instructional Sequencing and Strategies

According to (Morrison et al. 2013 p. 144) the acquisition of concrete facts and abstract facts are best obtained through a combination of repetition, rehearsal, review and mnemonics. An early physical/ visual rendering of the concept is also recommended to facilitate cognitive coding. Animated graphics and voice narration will be utilized as required to reduce cognitive loading and facilitate encoding of novel concepts. Similarly, (Caffarella 2002) expounds on the effectiveness of using computer based tutorials and drills to transfer knowledge. Furthermore, (Caffarella 2002) singles out simulation as an effective strategy for teaching problem-solving skills. Finally, a summative assessment will be incorporated to evaluate learning mastery. Articulate Storyline2 will be utilized during the development process to capture the degree of realism and interactivity required to create an engaging environment. Table one lists teaching objectives and respective learning strategies.    

Table 1. Task analysis and strategies table 

Task Description
(Abstract and concrete Facts)
Describe the process of the three forms of heat transfer.
Animated graphics supported by voice narration.
(Abstract and concrete Facts)
Describe the conditions affecting the accuracy of IR thermometers.
Graphics of familiar exemplars, voice narration and interactivity. Interspersed throughout the module.
(Concrete Facts)
Describe the function of the basic components of an IR thermometer.
Graphic representation with user interface rollover and voice narration.
(Abstract and concrete Facts)

Describe the terms associated with infrared thermometry.
Various means, both graphic and written interspersed throughout the module to engender concrete associations with related concepts.
(Cognitive procedure)
(Problem solving)
Facilitate familiarity and reliance on the company electronic catalog to identify the relevant specifications for different models of infrared thermometers.
Students are already familiar with the E-catalog. A simulation is presented requiring application of knowledge obtained in the module. Individual results are submitted to and critique by Call Center Supervisors. 
(terminal objective)
(problem solving)
 Demonstrate knowledge of infrared thermometers when answering customer questions regarding infrared thermometer troubleshooting and application as evidenced by a reduction in forwarded inquiries.

This outcome will be facilitated through mastery of all previous objectives and measured through a before and after comparisons of the volume of IR thermometer customer inquiries forwarded to the Market Manager. 

Task Analysis Flow Chart

Analyzing Performance Gaps

       I will develop a learning intervention to for the XYZ. The company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of scientific instruments. The global customer service center is located near my home in. There are over 25 multi-lingual Customer service agents on staff handling calls and products ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

My limited knowledge of the company was garnered through communication with a former classmate who works in the training department. I have been tasked with developing an asymmetric SCORM/Experience API eLearning module on Infrared thermometers. Specifically, I will have to create a module from scratch with addresses the following (tentative) learning objectives Include:
             Recall historical and contemporary methods of measuring temperature.
-          Recall the advantages and restrictions in using infrared thermometers.
-          Describe the basic operating principles of infrared thermometers.
-          Assist customers in selecting and troubleshooting infrared thermometers.

Additional parameters call for a moderate degree of student interaction and animation. According to a survey of active Instructional Designers conducted by (Kapp, Defelice 2009) it takes 150-200 hours to develop one-hour of eLearning using elearning software containing templates. Additionally, requires limiting the length of eLearning modules to 20-minutes or less. With these thoughts in mind, I hereby request to limit the length my module to 20-minutes, exclusive of a summative assessment.  If my work meets company standards, it will be populated on the company LMS.

Kapp, K., & Defelice, R. (2009). Time to Develop One Hour of Training. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from

Monday, April 11, 2016

Preparing an ePortfolio

This is the introductory page to my ePortfolio. It is a work in progress, but I plan to flesh out the main pages in the near future.  

Hi, and welcome to my ePortfolio! My name is Robin Ricket and I am a life-long learner with a passion for all things related to adult education/training and development. This ePortfolio is a capstone requirement for a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at Walden University. In aggregate, I have completed 132 credit hours of concentrated academic study in Workforce Education and Instructional Design. My professional life can roughly be divided between military service specializing in Marine Diesel Engines and associated sub systems and extensive experience in the training and development arena. While I cannot claim many talents, I am surely blessed with (If there is such a thing) a teaching/training gene.

The impetus for this skillset stems from an affliction with Dyslexia. Essentially this deficiency compels those who suffer to develop a personal tool box of heuristic shortcuts to life’s learning challenges. While I have largely outgrown many of these learning difficulties, the methods (and never quit attitude) developed to overcome these hardships remains intact. Essentially, this allows me (and those similarly inclined) to analyze knowledge gaps and develop efficient solutions which may not occur to those who haven’t had to struggle so hard to learn

Since, no single person is good at everything, learning technology must be employed in the workforce to identify and efficiently address knowledge/skill gaps. Recent developments in eLearning authoring tools has codified the popularity of “just in time” bespoke learning solutions. In the past two years, I have expanded my repertoire of these tools to include intermediate/advanced proficiency with; Articulate Storyline2, Articulate Replay, Audacity (audio editing), and the administration various Web 2.0 collaborative learning platforms. I have conducted extensive academic and empirical research in the application of high-fidelity learning simulations and have created dozens of engaging instructor led training interventions.

Thank you for taking the time to look at my ePorfollio and remember to visit my instructional design blog at:          

Friday, February 12, 2016

Addressing Plagiarism in the Online Classroom

As noted by (Jocoy, & DiBiase 2006) The Council of Writing Program Administrators states that “Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) materials without acknowledging its source” (as cited in Quinn, 2006). Note; while other forms of academic dishonesty certainly exist; this effort is confided to exploration of how online instructors can manage and respond to incidences of plagiarism.

Several methods of quantifying the prevalence of plagiarism at the collegiate level exist. However, each method produces radically different results. For example, a table listing previous studies compiled by (Jocoy, & DiBiase 2006) reports the following rates amongst first-year college students who were asked to self-report if they had previously committed plagiarism: 3%, 13%, and 21%. One could speculate that the 3% figure is an outlier stemming from fear of recrimination. Fortunately, more accurate methods of detection exist.

Of the many forms of plagiarism detection software, (Ewing, Anast, & Roehling 2015) cite a study by (Hill and Page 2009) identifying “Turnitin” as being the most accurate and trustworthy due to both higher detection rates and fewer false positive hits. According to (Ewing, Anast, & Roehling 2015) studies quantifying the rate of plagiarism using this software report rates between 12.8-14.8%. Certainly, the utilization of plagiarism detection software is a step in the right direction. Yet, in the video file (Laureate Education 2010) Dr.’s Palloff and Pratt prescribe a more holistic three-pronged approach to the prevention and detection of plagiarism.

First, create awareness of the problem, as students are not always aware of what constitutes plagiarism. Second, create an environment that rewards hard work and frowns upon all forms of academic dishonesty. Finally, employ detection software and confront students who cheat directly. To allow for an initial adjustment period, (Laureate Education 2010) Dr.’s Palloff and Pratt suggest making first-time offenders rewrite the offending papers to include required citations. Thereafter, they recommend a reduction of one grade point based on the severity of the offence.      

Ewing, H., Anast, A., & Roehling, T. (2015). Addressing plagiarism in online programmes at a health sciences university: A case study. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-11.

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by Adult Learners Online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15. Retrieved February 10, 2016.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Selecting Technology Tools to Advance Learning Outcomes

This post provides insights into considerations in selecting and adopting web 2.0 technology for the asymmetric online classroom. Previous posts covered the pre-course and the introductory phases of course facilitation. The prescriptions in this post are directed towards the “early-middle” stages of the course. Crucially, (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010) suggest Facilitators should begin adapting to individual learners, as the learning community begins to assimilate core concepts.

On the impact of technology and multimedia in the online classroom
The web 2.0 document sharing site Wikipedia describes web 2.0 as cumulative changes to the way web pages are made and used. Specifically, web 2.0 tools allow for the creation of collaborative document sharing and user friendly means of multimedia communications. Examples provided by (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010 pp. 107-108) include: Skype, Text Messaging and Tweeting, course management systems, blogs and wikis, podcasts, and screencasts.
Since the online facilitator has (by this point) developed a feel for both individual and collective prerequisite levels of knowledge, web 2.0 tools can be employed to monitor and direct customized learning experiences. As with all learning interventions, selecting appropriate technology must be based on established outcomes. In many cases, wikis, blogs and the like are great tools for collaborative learning projects. Selection criteria for individual (four-five members is optimal) teams requires careful consideration of each person’s ability to contribute to the effort.

Course management system feedback features and screencasts/podcasts can and should also be employed to increase facilitator presences and adapt instruction to student achievement progressions.

On considerations when implementing new technology
As noted in (Laureate Education 2010) online instructors should steer clear of adopting technology for technologies’ sake. Meaning, the principle criterion is, utility in advancing learning objectives and enhancing knowledge accusation. Additionally, (Laureate Education 2010) suggest consideration of the availability of the selected technology and potential resource constraints of each student. For example, some rural and international students may not have access to the internet bandwidth required to operate streaming multimedia communication tools.

Personal thoughts on how I would deploy technology in online course facilitation
Pre-selecting technology tools for an (unknown course) flies in the face of previous qualifiers related to instructional objectives. However, some generalizations are possible. I think Weblogs are great tools that allow students to solidify the formation of complex constructs through elaboration. Blogging also provides each student with an avenue for artistic expression. Finally, blogging may serve as a professional journal of sorts for the communal construction and dissemination of knowledge.

I also think facilitators should commit to a making a weekly webcast or podcast as a means of summarizing key concepts and the contributions of learners to the community. These recaps would essentially fill a void in online education that falls short of integrating (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson 1998) “Whole-Part-Whole” learning model. Specifically; they describe the “second whole” as an extension of Gestalt Psychology where the complex bytes of instruction are fragmented until a summary view of “the big picture” is formulated.

Naturally, the principle obstacle to weekly summary podcasts is the of time and effort required to construct and record a suitable passage. However, as with all endeavors, nothing worthwhile is easy       

Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (1998). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Houston, TX: Gulf Pub.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file]. Retrieved

"Web 2.0." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <>.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Online Course Preparation and Administration

This post addresses some specific actions online course Facilitators should take in setting up and administering a course.

On Familiarization with Available Technology 
This action seems obvious, but bears further consideration. For example, consider a case where an instructor is pressed into service with minimal preparation time. Clearly, Facilitator’s thrust into such a position must efficiently manage available preparation time. According to (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010) Facilitators should initially concentrate on essential tools and gradually phase in additional technology when comfortable. Certainly familiarity with the selected course management system (CMS) or learning management system (LMS) is a prime concern. Specifically; (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010 p.57) recommend proficiency in the following CMS/LMS functions:

1.    Requesting or arranging for a course template

2.    Uploading documents and graphics

3.    Updating and revising documents

4.    Setting up and creating discussion forums

5.    Setting up and using the grade book

6.    Setting up teams and groups

Once an online instructor is familiar with these important functions, the technology tool belt can be expanded to encompass multimedia communications and social media. For example, weekly podcasts can increase social presence and facilitate assimilation into an online learning community. Other resources such as, Wikis and Weblogs provide a vehicle for communal construction of knowledge.

On the Importance of Clearly Communicating Standards and Expectations
Unlike face to face instruction, where opportunities for the clarification of ambiguities abound; online instruction requires clearly defined goals, expectations and standards. As noted by (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010) online Facilitators should prepare the following items prior to student arrival; syllabus, weekly teaching guide, discussions and rubrics and the course site. In an asymmetric setting, there may be a 24-hour delay (even for attentive Facilitators) in receiving and responding to student inquiries. Accordingly, every effort must be made to insure students clearly understand the required standards for each assignment without needing additional clarification. While these items seem axiomatic, they are nonetheless congruent with Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogical Model.

According to (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson 1998 pp.64-68) the model is comprised of six items:
     1.    The need to know: Why do I need to Learn something?

2.    The Learners’ self-concept: The need to act in a self-directed capacity.

3.    The role of the learner’s experience: Previous experiences and knowledge must not be ignored or devalued.

4.    Readiness to Learn: Adults become ready to learn things they need to know to cope with real-life situations

5.    Orientation to learning: learning is life-centered as opposed to subject-centered

6.    Motivation: Intrinsic motivation can be limited due to inaccessibility of opportunities, time, or resources.   
The connection between this descriptive model and (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010) prescriptive course preparations is readily apparent. In a nutshell, adult learners must explicitly understand what is expected of them to initiate the self-directed learning process.          

Additional considerations in course setup and administration
As noted in a previous post, online facilitators must be particularly active in establishing an online presence with students. As noted by (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010) online presence has “social” and “cognitive” aspects. Establishing a social presence serves the important function of putting students at ease and making students feel as if they are communicating with a real person. Establishing a “cognitive presence” allows the Facilitator to develop a feel for each student’s knowledge and abilities and is crucial in connecting to each student’s zone of proximal development. For example, a follow up to an ice breaker could be an assignment requiring students to review course performance goals and prepare a post describing how they would employ course learnings in current or future work assignments.

Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (1998). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Houston, TX: Gulf Pub.