Thursday, June 25, 2015


This post addresses the scenario noted below.
  • Consider the following scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.
With this scenario in mind, and taking into consideration your Learning Resources, reflect on the following: “A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new.” We find a prime example of putting the cart before the horse in assuming training is the solution to known (albeit, vaguely explained) performance problem.
Before embarking on a labor intensive mission to address “communication issues”, we must first determine if the target-population does or does not know how to communicate effectively. Obviously, “effective communication” is an intangible that must be refined into tangible behaviors. According to (Mager 1997) this process is termed Goal Analysis. Essentially, a goal analysis is performed to define a vague concept of performance into observable behavior(s). In the present case, we must determine what people are doing when they are effectively communicating.
The first step of a Goal Analysis requires writing down the goal in clearly defined terms. In this scenario I will assume that “communication” refers to both written and verbal communication in group and one-on-one formal and non-formal dialog. This yields the following results:
1.      Write clearly developed concepts free of grammatical errors using conventional standards of business etiquette.

2.      Interact with classmates in formal and non-formal communications using 12th grade English and accepted standards of business etiquette.
Step two requires the listing of observable behaviors that demonstrate mastery of the two goals listed in step one.   
1.      Develops clearly written concepts that are free of grammatical errors as noted by instructor and M.S. Word grammar check.

2.      Sends and responds to emails using proper formatting in clear error free English.

3.      Participates in classroom discussions voluntarily and when called upon and exhibits sound judgement in not offending fellow classmates.

4.      Develops and delivers a 10 minute technical training multi-media presentation using 12th grade English. Presentation must include; a logical progression of concepts, appropriate voice modulation and annunciation and the ability to address follow up questions.
Step three requires the refining of step two behaviors (if necessary) into observable behaviors.
1.      Develops clearly written concepts that are free of grammatical errors as noted by instructor and M.S. Word grammar check. No problems noted.

2.      Sends and responds to emails by addressing recipients by name followed by a comma and clearly articulated concepts that are free of spelling and grammatical errors as noted by, spell check and the instructor. Closes all emails with an appropriate closing remark and name.

3.       Participates in classroom discussions voluntarily and when called upon and exhibits sound judgement in not offending fellow classmates. No problems found, may require a rubric.

4.      Develops and delivers a 10 minute technical training multi-media presentation using 12th grade English. Presentation must include; a logical progression of concepts, appropriate voice volume and annunciation and the ability to address follow up questions. No problems noted.
The remaining steps require the expansion of concepts into observable actions and further refining to determine if the behaviors selected are complete. No problems are noted, so I will use the items defined in step three.
Arming ourselves with these tangible outcomes allows us to analyze any potential non-training-related performance problems. The concepts utilized on the Performance Analysis are elucidated by (Mager & pipe 1997). Essentially, the Instructional Designer is charged with determining if non-training related issues inhibit desired performance. To engage in this process, we must ask the following questions:
1.      Is desired performance being punished? For example, is there a level of hostility in the classroom that inhibits polite discourse and frank discussion? This is no trivial matter, as it seems odd (unless we have a class of ESL students) that the entire class is unable to effectively communicate. In another example, suppose the class in question is comprised of commissioned Salespersons. Clearly, time is money to these individuals and “clamming up” in the classroom may be seen as a means truncating training and returning to make a living.

2.      Is undesirable performance being rewarded? Again, no small matter, as rewarding undesirable behavior can interfere with effective classroom communication. For example, consider the case of the class ‘Know it all” who has a swift and ready answer for every question. It is likely that rewarding such a person with constant "attaboy’s" reinforces his behavior to the point of excluding other students from the conversation.
Assuming there is nothing inhibiting classroom communication, the next logical step would be to develop a simple pre-test that excludes persons that already meet the required communications standards as outlined above. The goal here is to determine who is willing, but unable to communicate effectively. A bit of imagination is required in developing an effective pre-assessment in the most efficient manner possible. For example, we might request to see samples of potential student’s previous business emails.
The next stage of the ADDIE process is course design. This requires a holistic approach to efficiently addressing desired outcomes. The scenario requires a blended-learning solution so the first step is to determine the resources required for the classroom and online portions of the course. A partial checklist of required items drawing from previous knowledge and (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek 2015) includes:

Classroom Portion
Distance learning Portion
 
---  Presentation Material
---  Authentic Assessment methods
---  Classroom
---  Desks/table
---  Projector/screen
--- Training guide
--- Instructor guide
--- Obtain stakeholder buy in for class time
--- Determine which objectives or portion of objectives are best addressed in the classroom
 
--- Availability of computer resources for T-pop
--- Do resources support multi-media material
--- Course deployment methodology
--- Methods of monitoring student achievement
--- Methods of incorporating active learning
--- Methods of creating student-instructor and student-student written communications
--- Develop a concise syllabus that encourages to take responsibility for their own learning
--- Determine which objectives or portion of objectives are best addressed in the classroom

 Obviously, this checklist is far from exhaustive, and must be utilized as a working document. In considering the utility of original course material, it is logical to start by assuming that the live portion will largely be devoted to verbal communication and the online portion will require a great deal of written communication. To promote the course and ensure students are prepared to succeed in a distance learning environment, the first module should include a face-to-face meeting with clearly defined objectives, expectations and a course outline. It is also logical to insert the student public speaking sessions at the end of the course.

Sample (partial) Course Progression
Module One: (group-paced)
--- Course introduction (motivating statement)
--- Presentation of course learning objectives
--- Ice breaker(s)
--- Classroom behavior and expectations
--- Course outline and syllabus details
--- Instructions/practice assessing LMS and completing assignments
--- Online learning tips for success and communication of required standards
Module Two: (online)
--- Overview of the online portion of the course
--- Schedule of required actions and assessments by date
--- Module learning objectives
--- Tutorial on email etiquette and communication 
--- Interactive exercise requiring students to contribute to a chain of emails which ultimately is sent to the instructor to assess student achievement.
Module Three: (online) 
--- Introduction to module three
--- Module learning objectives
--- Schedule of required action and assessments by date
--- Tutorial on effective verbal communication 
--- Interactive exercise requiring students to record and listen to their own voices using the techniques covered in the tutorial.
While only a partial course schedule and activities list, the preceding illustrates the logic involved in the systematic design of a blended learning course developed to address known gaps in verbal and written communication amongst. Once the ambiguous goals were clarified into tangible objectives (albeit without assigned standards) it was not difficult to determine which modules should be conducted in a group setting and which modules should be populated on a LMS. The schedule requires active participation and assessments selected are as authentic as practical.    
 
References:
Mager, R. (1997). Making instruction work, or, Skillbloomers: A step-by-step guide to designing and developing instruction that works (2nd ed.). Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance.
Mager, R., & Pipe, P. (1997). Analyzing Performance Problems (3rd ed.). Atlanta, GA: The Center for Effective Performance.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education

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