Take Charge of the Rapid E-Learning Machine

Five Steps for Turning Straw into Gold.
Remember the story of Rumpelstiltskin?

Some jobs require special skills

It’s about a girl of humble origins, imprisoned in a tower with a huge pile of straw and a spinning wheel. She’s in that predicament because an unsubstantiated rumor (that she could spin straw into gold) reached the ear of a king who ordered her to do that very thing, under pain of death. Rumpelstiltskin’s extortionate proposal—to trade that huge pile of straw and her first-born child for a huge pile of gold and the expectation of long life—was irresistible.  Scary situation.
Now put yourself in a similar place– locked in a cubicle with a huge PowerPoint slide deck and a rapid e-learning machine (REM), with the expectation that you can use that REM to “automagically” convert  PowerPoint  slide decks into useful web-based training courses).  Scary situation. Even Rumpelstiltskin can’t offer any help.
When you’re in that scary situation, your REM doesn’t work automatically; it needs some assistance. There will be no golden training course unless you take charge in a focused way. Here’s how.

  1. Evaluate the quality of the straw you’ve been provided.What kind of slide deck do you have?
    • A presentation slide deck is organized for presentation, not pedagogy and will require re-organization, using an organizational principle that leads the learner in a logical and clearly understood direction.
    • A PowerPoint file used to support a classroom training session has to be re-purposed. The instructor who provided the file may tell you, “Just re-format this for use as an e-learning course. You won’t have to change anything.  I used these slides for classroom training  and they worked beautifully. “ Not so. Slides that work well when an instructor explains them probably do not provide enough information for a stand-along WBT.
    • A data dump of some essential, some tangential, and some totally irrelevant information stitched together by a reluctant SME is the worst grade of straw imaginable. The deck typically presents no true course objectives, no learning example, no training scenarios.
  2. Make sure you have all the relevant information that is available, in print or online. That means foraging for additional straw (manuals, reference texts, related WBT courses, design notes, etc.)
  3. Consult with the SME about target audience and course objectives. (If you’ve been tasked with turning straw into gold, ADDIE ran from the tower in tears long ago.)
  4. Outline the major topics to be covered. For each topic, try to pull examples and scenarios from your SME, based on his experience. If you’re dealing with a reluctant or unavailable SME, get creative: based on what you already know, develop your own examples and scenarios and ask the   to review them .  Those who can’t or won’t create examples for you to use find it laughably simple to review yours and pick them apart, thereby making them more accurate and realistic.
  5. Develop a storyboard, incorporating these techniques (click the links to find out how):
    • Make the course objectives performance-based. How?
    • Make the course objectives motivational. How?
    • Make the material concrete by using stories, or training scenarios.  How?

Adopt a pro-active mindset.

When you spend a lot of time huddled in your cubicle with piles and piles of PowerPoint straw, you may sometimes think, in the deepest recesses of your mind, that the essential definition of SME is NOT Subject Matter Expert (what they tell us), but So Many Excuses (what they give us). If that sounds familiar, let me offer you a decidedly non-Rumpelstiltskinian deal:

Trade that totally justified, but nonproductive mindset for what Seth Godin calls the linchpin mentality.Stop settling for what the SMEs give you; create real learning activities and interactions that you can be proud of; then present your creativity to the SMEs.

This is part of an ongoing series about adding a little spice and a lot of job relevance to WBT courses produced from PowerPoint slide decks via rapid e-learning procedures. Share your ideas for coping with the alphabet soup of SMEs and REMs.