Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting Social

What is social media?

Had this been my final year exam question, five years ago, I would have bluntly replied that any media which is not anti social in its intention is social media.

But today, as a netizen trapped in the web for most of the time, I should confess, I live, breath and eat social media. Did I leave out an important fact here? Yes. Not only do I live, breath and eat social media, I also make a living with social media.
Wikipedia defines Social media as `media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogues’.

That means, while tweeting or re-tweeting, writing a blog, or setting a live status message, we are breathing social media.
This certainly marks a definite shift in mass communication. While my text books told me that mass communication is predominantly one-way in nature (like, you read the newspaper, listen to radio, or watch the television) the magic spell of the `social media’ phenomenon proves the definition otherwise.

Stark statistics blare out that the world today has over 60 million bloggers. Twitter is laden with 75 million accounts. Any news website has a zillion comments and replies.

So why are all these here in my blog space? Because its time I make my elearning stuff `social media compatible’. This means wading a sayonara to bookish stuff and ushering in content that is intuitive (or seemingly intuitive).

The above content could be better presented as this –

This makes the learning process more interesting, and the content is certainly more engaging.
Quiz is yet another area where the influence of social media is strongly felt. Gone is the age when it was enough to tell the people their net score and close the module. Today, quizzes need to `talk’ with participants, giving them enough reasons to tell them why a choice is right or wrong.

LMS platforms like Moodle take the concept even more further by providing chat windows for participants / teachers to communicate.

Reminds me of 007's lines - `The world is not enough...But is is such a perfect place to start, my love!'

Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting Back to Grass Roots

Come Vijaya Dashami, and it’s time for Vidyarambham. A time to re visit alphabets, numbers and the seven music notes.

As I was scribbling the invisible alphabets in the floor, I went down two decades in the memory lane – The `era’ of my life when I used to stutter and  ponder over every alphabet. Writing each letter seemed like a mountain of a job, and my dad would be crazed with the volley of questions that I throw on  - On why `I’ cannot be written in small letters, why `A’ sounds different when used in sentences. Some would be answered, and some stonewalled.

Today, I just rush through the alphabets. No questions asked. Two decades, and am I done with the 26 alphabets? An emphatic No. Just that my curiosity to know more has acceded itself a dirty sense of complacency.

So how does this translate to my work? A conclusion is an inevitable part of an e learning course. But do we make an effort to emphasize what we told the learner a moment back? From the piles of information that we scattered, did we tell him what was really important and to be remembered?

On to a long term plan. Do we have a `semi-induction’ kit , or rather, a `reinforcement kit’ for employees?  For instance, take my own case. I work in a connector manufacturing company. I had taken lessons on the basics of connector manufacturing in my first month here.  Crossing three years, if you ask me what a terminal means, I would probably point to a bus depot. So the point is, we must re-enforce the key points on a periodic basis. As with the Vidhyarambham principle, with every year, the angle at which we look at the basics change, and therefore, will open up new insights.

Friday, September 10, 2010


  My 8 month old son refuses to pick up a toy if I give it straight away. Instead, any object is sure to gain his attention if it is just kept nearby.        

 Lesson for his instructional designer mom – Never  compel your learner to READ at something. A subtle message or an indicator would do the trick.  How many times have we thrust upon the key points to the learners by those killer bullets?   

 Yes, we have been taught in schools to summarize points into neat bullets, and I still have all my nods for it. BUT, a lot of  bullets in an e learning course might just make your e learning module more effective than a sleeping pill. .    

  There could be more creative ways of nailing your learner to the e learning course than those sharp bullets.  

 RULE No. 1 – Never explain the obvious   

Our learners are not morons. They are here in the work place after completing a decent level of education. Most of them are also familiar with a PC. This means they need not be explained what a play button or volume control stands for.  Of course, we cannot over look the fact that some learners need some sort of guidance in terms of navigation. So the best option would be to make this optional.    



Rule No 2 - Remember the Short Skirt 

A good speech, it’s said, should be like a short skirt – Long enough to cover the essentials and short enough to be interesting. It’s the same with e learning too. Time the course to be just long enough to cover the key learning points, and yet short enough to be sustain interest.     

  RULE No. 3 – Know When to Load Your Gun 

With our systems fully loaded with bullets, I know it’s quite tempting to just organize the content into some quick bullets and dump it into the course. Instead, do every bit to help your learner retain the lessons learnt. Go visual wherever possible.

Using bullets to organize information is a great way, but, know WHEN to load your gun!