L&D Lessons from Volleyball

As a recent observer at a volleyball practice, it occurred to me that there are definite lessons to be learned from athletic training that also translate to the work we do in Learning and Development. In volleyball practice, skills to be learned are taught, but also practiced again and again during the training.

One of the major struggles in the training and education world today is this notion of “application.” We attend training classes, watch videos, listen to a colleague tell us how to perform a specific job. However, where the rubber meets the road is in the learner’s ability to apply. Can and are employees really applying what they’ve learned to their role and position?

As you’re likely aware, even academic institutions struggle in this area. Recent graduates of universities, with diploma in hand, dive into the work world, only to find that the real world is quite different from “sitting and getting” in a higher ed class. Some employers report that some recent graduates are “not able to do” even with a college degree. The old adage of “knowing is not doing” becomes very real, very quickly.

In the same vein, corporate organizations have also struggled with application. Although employees may learn knowledge while in class, when they return to work, application is never a guarantee. Add the additional challenge of the forgetting curve, and you can see how problematic this can become.

Neuroscience reminds us that spaced repetition over time and consistent practice “doing” something with what one is learning helps sharpen focus, attention, learning, and application. For example, learners need to do talk about what they’re learning, write about it, apply it, receive corrective feedback, and then try it again.

Does this technique sound familiar?

This is exactly what we observe in athletic practices, and is similar to what I observed at volleyball practice. For volleyball, each skill was broken down into sub-parts, modeled first by an expert for all to see. Then the group practiced each sub-part of the skill together as a group, and then practiced on their own while receiving individual correction and feedback from coaches. After receiving correction, the players applied each skill and technique again and again. This practice continued over spaced intervals throughout the volleyball season. So notice how learning a skill is not a “one-time, learn it in a day” training event – similar to how we used to schedule corporate training classes or webinar instruction for employees.

The latest learning and development phrase of “flip and drip” comes a bit closer to improving how we provide corporate training. The idea of using flipped classrooms encourages learners to complete pre-work tasks that are more passive such as viewing a video or reading material before coming to class, and then reserve in-class time for more interactive activities, application, and discussion. The “drip” piece implies that after leaving the training, quizzes and reminders of content are pushed out to learners through apps to mobile devices or other venues as repetitive reminders for application.

So the next time you see the “volleyball” of training coming your way over the net, avoid the temptation to use training in the traditional way of “telling” or “talking” at learners for a one-time event. Because if your goal is ultimately, learner application, it’s going to require a different approach to “win” on the ball court of workplace learning.

What say you?

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Is Dead Air Deadly in Web Conferencing?

With the proliferation of web conferencing, more and more businesses and institutions are beginning to use webinars and web conferencing for meetings, interviews, marketing, and education and training.

I remember in 1999 when the company I worked for at the time received our first web conferencing platform. It was called Placeware, and had the capability to connect users over distance showcasing both visual slides and audio. Because VoIP was not perfected back then, we used audio bridging via the phone instead. Surprisingly, this early model offered the ability to use break-out audio rooms. But it was not simple. Attendees were required to punch a series of numbers into the phone to be “partitioned” into separate audio conference rooms and then had to punch in a different number combination to return to the virtual “main room” after discussions.

Flash forward to today where our web conferencing tools provide many more affordances. For example, facilitating break-out rooms are a breeze now comparatively. With Adobe Connect, you merely press a button to prepare participants for break-outs, attendees are automatically divided into groups, facilitators can send broadcast messages to all, facilitators can easily pop into groups by dragging their own name into a group, and break-out groups can work on white boards that display for all to see when attendees re-join the main room. With video capability now easily incorporated into platforms like WebEx, GoToWebinar, and Adobe Connect, we have the added ability to introduce our visual personalities and presence to attendees. It will be exciting to see where web conferencing takes us in the next decade!

Since web conferencing is growing, it’s fitting for us to discuss efficiencies and effectiveness with these tools. This year and last year, I’ve heard a few professionals comment that instructors and facilitators of web conferencing should never allow dead air or silence during a webinar. You may have heard that as well. They reasoned that “dead air” is deadly to viewers and can cause attendees to wonder if a connection is lost.

Do you think silence in a webinar is cause for alarm? Let’s look at this more closely.

First, let’s identify where the term “dead air” originated. This is terminology which emerged from radio. If listeners heard silence over the radio, it was seen as deadly because listeners would obviously not have the benefit of knowing the full context. As a result, listeners might turn off the radio or change the station. If the silence occurred while a listener was tuned into a station, they might wonder what happened to their connection and leave. Yet radio is very different from web conferencing. Radio employs only one sense – auditory. There is no visual anchor. Web conferencing, on the other hand, employs both visual and audio senses. So it is unfair to compare apples and oranges. Even with brief, limited moments of silence in web conferencing, attendees are still anchored to a visual connection (unless, of course, they do lose the Internet connection).

Radio listeners also interact differently than webinar attendees. They may tune in or leave a radio program at any time. Yet in the context of web conferencing, attendees usually commit to the allocated time of the webinar (1 hour or more). These viewers often attend live for the duration or listen/view the webinar’s recording later.

Additionally, if we examine webinars from a learning perspective, short stints of silence prefaced by statements of “I’ll pause briefly here so you can study this visual,” can actually be useful to learning. They allow learners to better absorb visual content in some cases. From a cognitive load and learning sciences perspective, when learners are bombarded with trying to read text on a slide and hear audio commentary at the same time, they cannot do both well. A pause to allow learners to review a slide in silence allows them to focus, be attentive, and absorb content more fully without distracting and competing audio. Does this mean facilitators should pause for every slide? Absolutely not. Pause when the learner needs time to process, study a visual before hearing the explanation, or complete a short assignment during the webinar.

That said, silence should always be prefaced with an expectation-setting statement. Say you are going to pause briefly and why, as well as explain what learners are expected to do during that time (a short assignment, write on the white board, send a message in the chat queue, study a visual, answer a brief quiz, respond to a poll question, etc.) And yes, pauses should be brief and not lengthy.

After an onslaught of constant chatter, listeners can also begin to habituate which means they start to pay less attention to the stimulus because it is no longer novel. An occasional pregnant pause offers a refreshing “breath”/break in the litany of speech–breaking the constant talking pattern and allowing some breathing room cognitively for learners.

So limited and brief periods of silence throughout web conferencing, prefaced by statements that set the expectation, “I’ll pause briefly so you can study this visual for a moment” can actually be useful.

Dead air may be deadly on radio, but in web conferencing, it may actually “give life.”

What say you?

 

Leveraging Video for Learning

projector-361784_1280In today’s digital age, where technology is advancing exponentially, new opportunities for communicating across time and space are changing like never before. The use of video as a medium for communicating and connecting is exploding. In the midst of this rapid growth, video can be a great asset for learning and teaching. Let’s examine some of the benefits to leveraging video for learning which includes the ability to re-play and review content, establish instructor presence, and visually demonstrate how to do something.

First, video affords learners the opportunity to re-play and review content, as needed. For example, videos of recorded lectures, instructors’ introductions, or an employee assignment from a corporate trainer can all be paused, played and re-played for present and future generations to come. Video permanently records the learning. Many interactive videos also include built-in automatic pauses with intermittent quizzes as a way of administering knowledge checks and corrective feedback to accompany learning. Including repetition over spaced intervals of learning is also important, and can be administered through video. As educational neuroscientist Janet Zadina attests, repetition results in the repeated firing of brain networks and is a critical component for most learning.

Second, video helps to establish a sense of instructor presence. One of video’s greatest assets is its ability to convey affect, personality, and human presence virtually. In online learning, the absence of a “guide on the side” can impact progress and deeper levels of knowledge construction and application. However, a facilitator whose presence guides the learning, challenges learners, and encourages attendees can facilitate deeper thinking and learning. Anytime an online course or workshop is offered to employees, it’s important to establish this sense of instructor presence. There are other ways to provide presence without video; i.e., threaded discussion boards, course announcements, audio or written feedback on learning assignments, etc. However, both recorded and live video can be ways to establish presence. Recorded video can be used for instructor introductions, to record an instructor’s response to previously submitted learner questions, to facilitate online pre-work before attending training, or to provide opportunities to hear experts or best practices online.

Live video, then, also has its place. Occasional use of live video in a synchronous web conferencing platform by both instructor and attendees, for example, can be used to convey personalities, leverage connection among learners, and provide visual connection cues in a virtual space. Feeling instructor support in training or learning workshops, whether you are in professional development, higher education, or corporate training helps to aid the learning process.

Third, video provides performance support by demonstrating how to complete or do something at the moment of need. When my husband wanted to complete home fix-up tasks like caulking the sink, bathtub faucet and counters, he found helpful videos on YouTube to learn the tips and tricks from experts who caulk professionally. When children need to learn how to create a hairstyle from Star Wars’ characters for Halloween costumes, they search for a “how to” video. Video provides both the visual and audio cues to understand and apply the “how” “where” and “what” for an immediate task at hand. Traditional print instructions are helpful to some, of course, but cognitive resources can be taxed more with print. But the powerful blend of hearing, seeing, and doing result in greater probability of transfer to long-term memory for cognitive storage and retrieval.

Overall, there are multiple benefits to leveraging video for learning. Just a few of those include the ability to re-play videos and reinforce spaced repetition of content, to foster instructor presence across time and space, and to leverage both visual and audio cues to efficiently teach how to do something at the time of need.

How have you used video to learn? What say you?

 

 

Celebrating a Decade: Howles Associates’ Anniversary

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This week our company celebrates its 10th anniversary in business, and our commitment to helping you craft and deliver powerful multimedia messages is stronger than ever. For ten years, it has been our privilege to have made a difference in your professional workplace and in the lives of your customers through Howles Associates, LLC, the online presentation experts.

Although our range of services over the years has evolved based on technologies of the time and clients’ needs, we still stand behind our time-worn mission to help you impact and effect change in your multimedia messaging. We accomplish this through video coaching, multimedia consulting, effective webinar delivery, video scripting and editing, video critiques, visual slide critiques, blended learning workshops on video, visual design, and multimedia, as well as keynotes.

And our commitment to our star service model has never changed. We remain proud to deliver our products and services with the utmost professionalism, multimedia expertise, excellent quality, evidence-based research, while embracing innovation and creativity every step of the way.

Most importantly, as we reflect on the last ten years it is you to whom we owe our greatest and deepest thanks. You have shared your pain points, your challenges, and your needs. You have trusted us with your messaging, explained your goals and desired results, and had the courage to implement what was needed. Working collaboratively with you has been one of our greatest, professional joys. We love the diversity of the client organizations, enjoy learning about your unique purposes, and we especially meeting people like you who want to make a difference. People who want to effect change.

All of us witnessed last weekend that even a small pebble thrown into a pond can create ripples of change never before thought imaginable. For example, the Women’s March in January, 2017 began simply with a Facebook invite from a retiree in Hawaii, Teresa Shook, to 40 of her friends. The ripple effect? Over 2 million marchers across the globe joined the Women’s March and Sister Marches. Now that’s effect.

Using multimedia messaging for your business through combinations of recorded or live voice, visual slides, video, and/or text can also make a difference in your business – all of these modalities can be leveraged effectively to create an effect. Whether it’s informative, educational, persuasive, or entertaining – multimedia tools can create powerful impact. And we love helping you do just that.

So on behalf of our scriptwriters and editors, our video coaches and designers, our graphic artists and web master, we thank you for entrusting Howles Associates with your business for the last 10 years. And we look forward to serving you another 10 years, and many years to come.

 

Backward Design Your Video Scripts

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Have you struggled with where to start when you script your video? It’s easy to get caught up in the myriad of “to do’s” for online videos. You need to set up good lighting, ensure you’re using quality video equipment, find the appropriate backdrop to your content, etc. However, there’s one “to do” element that should take front stage in video planning.

Your video script.

Your video script not only facilitates careful design ahead of time–which will save you a lot of time on shooting day–it also serves as your production blueprint. During a video shoot, it’s okay to not actually speak from your script so you can maintain a conversational and spontaneous feel, but regardless, it’s still helpful to script out your message ahead of time so you know where you’re headed.

Some individuals insist they can successfully “wing” their video productions, but this is quite rare because without pre-production planning, scripting and rehearsing ahead of time, your shoot will likely require many more re-takes. This translates into more cost and more time.

So how should you begin scripting?

A helpful technique to guide your scripting is backward design, which has been useful in other applications as well. As the name implies, this means the scriptwriter or designer works backwards. For example, you would first identify what kind of impact you want the video to produce? Do you want viewers to buy something, thing more highly of your brand, associate you with a unique message, learn something, be able to apply XYZ? Whatever it may be, identify the impact clearly and document it in writing.

Then based on the impact you want to have, identify what goals need to be accomplished to be successful. Keep goals limited to two-four in order to keep the scope manageable and achievable.

Your goals then drive the creation of an outline. As you write the outline, ensure your outline includes the call-to-action at the end or a memorable take-away. The outline should also include key points and sub-points to support your key message. You can use cut-away shots, testimonials, interviews, B roll, slide visuals, demos, and other types of visual content to support your message. In your outline, you also want to suggest how you will grab your viewer’s attention at the beginning. After all, you only have a few critical seconds to win viewers over, make a good impression, intrigue their curiosity, and keep them watching.

Now that you have an outline aligned with your desired impact and goals, set aside time to write your script from the outline. Your first attempt will be a rough draft for your eyes only. After completing the first draft, take a break for a day or so to let the script “breathe.” When you come back to review and edit your script with fresh eyes, you will find ways to improve concision and clarity. Once this editing is complete, it’s time to share the script with others.

Every piece of writing improves when it is reviewed by others, so make sure you ask one or two other people to do so. Remind colleagues to help you identify sections that may not flow well, do not make sense, are too lengthy or unclear, etc. Even the Declaration of Independence in 1776 named a lead writer, Thomas Jefferson, but the document benefitted from reviews and edits by other committee members as well, such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (patriotic peer reviews).

After you’ve received edits from others, it’s time for a final round of revisions. What works best at this stage is to read your script aloud. After all, the script will be delivered orally, so it should be rehearsed in the oral medium. When you read out loud, you will immediately hear phrases that sound awkward, are not conversational, or stick out in a distracting way. Make your final revisions, and then write the final script. Using this process, a script could endure at least three rounds of editing to trim the fat and ensure your script achieves its intended goals.

Backward design is a brilliant way to ensure your video message achieves what it set out to achieve. Script your videos with this process to place you well on your way to powerfully impacting your viewers.

What scripting tips have worked best for you? Let us know your thoughts below.

 

 

Video Lessons from a Flight Attendant

On a recent flight, I observed the actions of one flight attendant that made this particular Delta employee “stand out from the rest.”

Let’s call him Sam.

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Rather than bore frequent travelers with the usual, repetitive safety instructions in a monotone fashion, Sam did something unique.

In fact, it was the opposite of what you might have seen in the 1986 hit movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” where Ferris’ Economics teacher famously droned on with “Anyone, Anyone?” while students fell asleep.

True, Sam was required to perform his job duties and explain and model flight safety instructions. But rather, than sitting back and allowing his audience/customers to be passive recipients of the information, he included us in the process.

After explaining that there were four exits in the aircraft while simultaneously pointing to them, he suddenly stopped and asked with a twinkle in his eye, “So how many exits are there?” To my surprise, the normally drowsy half-listening crowd shouted back “four”!

Sam then spoke into the microphone and said, “I have extra snacks for the first person who can show me where their Safety Card is.” Once again, to my surprise, a gentleman in row one immediately whipped out his safety card from the seat in front of him, only to be rewarded with not one, but three extra Biscoff cookies.

Free food always motivates. Always.

Sam went on to say that the lucky winner in row one would now demonstrate how best to apply an oxygen mask to which the lucky winner and the rest of us laughed – appreciating his sense of humor.

As you can imagine, by now, Sam had all of our attention.

Do you see what Sam was doing?

Sam had created a space where the audience could participate. A participatory audience not only enjoys the experience more, but also directs riveted attention to what is being said. As cognitive psychology and the learning sciences prove, attention is an essential ingredient for learning and retention.

So what are lessons from Sam we can apply to online videos and video learning?

The bottom line is that in the age of digital multimedia, audiences want to participate.

Think about the popular reality shows where viewers are able to vote off participants or select winners from competitions. Think about your engagement in social media and your ability to post reactions or disagree with a post. Think about your ability to submit comments on YouTube and request topics you would like to see addressed in the near future.

As viewers, we want to be involved in process. Gone are the days of passive recipients.

So as we move forward to pioneer effective online videos, especially in the learning space, let’s remember what Sam taught us. We need to create a space where viewers can participate, and not just because . . . we’ll give them extra cookies.

Tune in next week, as we explore ways for viewers to participate in online videos you create.

What are your ideas for viewer participation?