Every week I ‘design’ a programme of learning when I take, one after the other, four groups of swimmers at my local swimming club.
Some 12 years of doing this, training and CPD means that I no longer prepare a programme in advance, rather I know the stroke and skills we are covering each week and have in my armoury a set of activities. These build from warm-up over 5-8 minutes into a variety of drills tailored to fixing problems with a stroke. The pattern whole-part-whole is used – to swim the stroke, spot problems, then put in a series of drills and exercises, typically involving only the legs or only the arms – as in ‘part’. There are then advance ‘whole swim’ drills and any number of complementary fun activities. Diving or racing typically ends the session.
Often I draw on sets of images from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ to show swimmers poolside what I want them to do – so a sequence of actions or a particular arm, body or leg position. Used in this way these sets of images can become like a set of cards that can be placed in whatever order I feel is appropriate as we go along.
Planning a programme of work for a squad is akin to creating a curriculum that runs from September through to the competitions season that runs through the Spring and Summer.
Creating e-learning for corporate clients – compliance on health and safety, data protection, graduate induction and so on, might follow a remarkably similar pattern.
The ‘warm up’ is an introduction, ideally something to grab their attention. Headliners on the banking crisis, a news piece on a data protection scandal, a criminal banged up (CPS induction) or a young person (actor) having an asthma attack. Like the swimming session these modules typically run for an hour, so 12 modules at five minutes each isn’t unusual. There will be introductions to themes and ideas, following by activities to check learning or integrating an activity with fact finding.
It isn’t all online – learners might have to figure something out on paper and then return to the screen.
It may also be personalised, so going into the system to generate something like a holiday request as per the instructions in the learning activity. Whilst the swimmer is observed and various skills checked off, in the e-learning experience the ticks relate to an activity successfully completed. This is not always linear, sometimes it is more exploratory, or can be done out of sequence, but the goal is to get everything done and demonstrate knowledge. At some stages a follow up set of questions will be issues to keep the information fresh.
The outcome is primary – what are you trying to achieve.
It is either state bluntly or apparent from the activities that day.
GOAL – To ensure that all swimmers keep their hands in front of their shoulders when swimming competitive breaststroke.
GOAL – To ensure that all graduate lawyers starting with the CPS can visualise a file as a defendant/law breaker – a person on whom all kinds of institutions and other people impact as their case comes to trial.
I have always used a communications industry brief to spec out the project and to help focus on the ideas that are required. On a single sheet of paper respond to the following:
- What is the problem?
- Who are you speaking to?
- What do you want to say?
- How do you want them to respond to this?
- What else do we need to know?
In Swimming ideas come from formal courses, from colleagues, from resources online and books. You see something that works, so you give it a go. You show what appears to be an intractable problem with others and they offer a solution.
In e-learning the ideas are developed in a lengthy workshop – the client(s) and several team members strip down the creative brief, draw on the knowledge of an experience L&D manager at the client end, may include a subject matter expert, but certainly includes a learning designer and project manager. Flip charts and post-it notes are used.
A number of creative problem solving or idea generating activities can also be used – moderating and leading techniques compiled, trialed and explained by VanGundy, for example.
Marker pens on large sheets of paper – typically on sheets of A1 Flipchart paper – sometimes these are taped together.
My personal preference is for wallpaper backing paper as the long strips mean that people around a table can all contribute. These sessions need to be carefully choreographed … and at various points the outcomes stated, written down so that everyone can see and agreed.
Once done the Learning Designer takes it all away and compresses it into a form that can be shared digitally – typically a PowerPoint, with the warning that this should not imply a strict linear expression of the learning. Other programmes can be used, usually something built by the agency or a licensed commercial product.
Other learning experiences I have ‘designed’ – linear and interactive video to support facilitated learning, run to some 50. These followed a far less collaborative process of taking a brief, brainstorming ideas alone … sometimes using an interactive tool called ‘Ideafisher’ then producing a synopsis, treatment and script. When other professionals come in to produce the learning the design stage is complete. For interactive learning the video is scripted as a number of components that are an integral part of the learning journey.
Guzman, R (2007) The Swim Drills Book
Herd, C., Bentley, J., Morrison, D., Earnshaw,M., Haines,B., Woodford,S., Hooper,M., Lancaster,G., Knox.S., Nebel,A., Doyle,A., Bishop.A. (2003) The Client Brief – A best practice guide to briefing communications agencies – Joint industry guidelines for young marketing professionals in working effectively with agencies. Copyright by ISBA and CAF, representing the IPA, MCCA and PRCA (last accessed 9 Jan 2013 http://www.apra.cz/data/dokumenty/PRCA-The_Client_Brief-Full_Guidelines.pdf)
VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed., Van Norstrand Reinhold.