Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Instructional Design Training: Creating Effective E-Learning

Ask your learners what they think of e-learning and the chances are there will be one word that trips off many of their tongues - boring. Whether you are a seasoned e-learning designer or you are about to embark on creating e-learning for the first time, instructional design training can help you better understand how to develop boredom-busting e-learning first time and every time.

So why is e-learning so frequently boring? Because instructional designers usually focus too much on content. Getting the right content to your learners is, of course, hugely important; but, focusing solely on content may not be your best starting point.

Once you start down the content-driven route, you begin thinking about your e-learning rather like a book.This leads to linear thinking; and, before you know it, your piece of learning looks more like a PowerPoint presentation. Fine if you are standing up in front of a live audience and speaking to them on a specific topic. Not so good if your learners are going to be sat in front of a computer screen reading lots of text and endlessly clicking on a 'next' button.

The conventional response to this problem is to stick with the content-centric approach but to add what most e-learning developers refer to as interactions. These are activities that are placed on individual screens of content for your learners to complete. Things like answering true/false or multiple choice questions; or dragging items across the computer screen.

You will likely be using a software authoring tool to create your e-learning. Most of these authoring tools provide you with the functionality to easily create interactions.

Unfortunately, the number of interactions you can easily add to your e-learning is quite limited. So they quickly become repetitive and boring; and, they still don't deal with the problem of asking learners to read vast amounts of content on screen.

Instead of trying to pretty up a fundamentally flawed, content-centric approach, consider using a scenario-driven approach. Scenarios are a fantastically simple, but effective way to provide a realistic context for learning to happen. For example, if your learners work in an office or the customer service help point in a store, look at using those contexts as the start point for the learning.

Build on your chosen context by developing related challenges that would naturally occur in the context. Then create a series of activities to encourage learners to meet those challenges. After all, your learners spend every day of their working lives meeting challenges and solving problems. Why should their learning be any different? Creating challenges and activities enables your learners to experiment with different ways of dealing with a situation. This provides genuinely effective learning and goes way beyond the tell and test model of most conventional e-learning.

Based on the decisions and actions your learners take, it becomes possible to provide them with extensive, meaningful feedback on their activities. This is where real learning will take place and is how learners begin to understand the consequences of different actions and decisions.

By using the four-pronged approach of context, challenge, activity and feedback, you can create e-learning that is truly effective at improving your learners' knowledge and performance.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cosmic Dragons: China and India

Many ancient cultures have stories about dragons at the center of their mythologies. Here we focus on those of India and China.

Long before there was a Chinese nation, tribes roamed the land, each with their own story of creation. Some of these stories have lasted to the modern day, being incorporated into different Buddhist mythologies. One of these tales is called "Pan Gu and the cosmic egg."

First was chaos. Out of it formed a cosmic egg in which yin and yang were combined. Inside, Pan Gu, the creator, grew for eighteen thousand years. When finally he awoke, he broke the cosmic egg in half. The top half, yang, floated up and became the heavens. The bottom half, yin, sunk down and became the earth.

In between was Pan Gu, a great dragon. And for the next eighteen thousand years he set about the task of forming all in existence.

Helping him were his four companions, Fen Huang, the phoenix, Lung Wang, the dragon, Qi Lin, the unicorn, and Gui Xian, the turtle. These were the Ssu-ling, and were the guardians of the four cardinal directions, the elements, and the seasons. The dragon guards the east, the phoenix the south, the unicorn the west, and the turtle north.

When Pan Gu died, his body dispersed. His two eyes became the sun and moon, his last breath became the wind, his body became the mountains and plains, rivers flowed from his bloods, his sweat became the rain, and the fleas on his fur became the creatures of existence, from the smallest flea, to the largest whale.

His four friends became of more importance with the great dragon gone. They were the protectors of nature. The phoenix flew into the sky with the winged creatures, the unicorn ran into the forest to protect the beasts, the turtle slunk into the marshes, and the dragon dove into the water, the blood of the creator.

In India there is the three-headed Vritra, a dragon who wrapped himself about the world and drank all of the waters.

Vritra was an asura, an evil creature that stood in opposition to the devas, or gods.

Indra, the king of the gods, drank massive quantities of Soma, the Indian version of ambrosia, and took a thunderbolt made by tvastar the architect of creation, to prepare to slay Vritra and free the water.

I will declare the manly deeds of Indra, the first that he achieved, the Thunder-wielder.

He slew the Dragon, then disclosed the waters, and cleft the channels of the mountain torrents.

He slew the Dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Tvastar fashioned. (from the Rig Veda)

So, Indra returned water to mankind and the world.

It is interesting to note that, considering the time it was written, and the spread of Indian culture, it is likely this is the precursor to the European epic legends of dragons.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How To Learn To Speak French

Language enthusiasts who are impressed with France and all it has to offer may want to learn to speak French. The language, in fact, is considered to be one of romance and cultural refinement. Men and women who decide to take on the task will have a range of options open to them. Most importantly, they will want to have fun while they participate in the activity. Slogging through dry grammar lessons can lead to boredom and a general loss of motivation, so language learners should find a way to enjoy the process.

Participating in an informal class at the local library or recreational center will give fledgling students a chance to link up with others who are serious about learning the language. When working in a group environment, students can take the opportunity to practice new vocabulary with each other. Of course, a certified instructor will also come in handy. If there is a particularly tough rule of French grammar, the teacher can provide some specific insightful examples that should give people a better idea of how to master the new concept.

For French vocabulary lessons, one specific tip that some people employ is to put labels on common household items and appliances. As they go about their business within the house each day, they can note the labels and reinforce some of the vocabulary. Repetition, as they say, is often the key to success, and this is especially true with picking up a second language. Students should try to pronounce each new word carefully and with the emphasis on the correct syllables. When they eventually move on and speak with a native Parisian, for example, they can be sure that they will be immaculately understood.

Students who are in formal school and who want to gain a true appreciation of the French language should consider one outstanding option. Studying abroad for a semester or two will give them a chance to stay with a host family, immerse themselves in the local culture, and excel at learning the language. In fact, being forced to speak French on a daily basis will improve a person's fluency quite rapidly. When they return to their native country, they will likely be far ahead of the rest of the students. They may even be able to instruct their peers in some of the nuances of French pronunciation and grammar.

Men and women who have taken Latin in the past will have an advantage over those who have not. In fact, Latin forms the basis of all of the Romance languages, including French, Spanish, and Italian. Once individuals have picked up a bit of French, they will also begin to recognize that many English words are rooted in French prefixes and suffixes. By understanding how languages grow and change over time, they will widen their worldview and come to appreciate the varied cultures of the world.

Ultimately, people who want to learn to speak French should dive into the language as soon as possible. If they dedicate themselves to progressing just a bit each day, they will soon note some real achievement. This should motivate them to continue on. By bringing some friends into the fold who are also interested in becoming bilingual, they will also have people to practice with. The trek toward fluency should continue unimpeded.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Contractors Need Proper Education

There are several career paths that anyone can choose to take in life. Many people make this choice when they are younger. They may decide to become a dancer, basketball player, singer, doctor or even a lawyer. The aforementioned list of duties seem to be the most popular when people are younger. They may even retain their popularity for those who are in high school. However, these are not the only jobs that can bring someone a nice comfortable living.

Contractors for instance have chosen an admirable career path. It is great choice for anyone who enjoys dealing with construction projects. It is especially good for anyone who loves things such as architecture yet they really don't have the architectural skill to pursue that profession particular. However, they still want to be involved with the creation of buildings such as home. This is what residential contractors are responsible for. So, if anyone is willing to do this type of work, there are several different avenues that you can take.

For instance, if you are already working in the construction industry and you have decided that you are interested in what residential contractors do, one of the things you can do is shadow a professional that you know. This can give you hands-on experience and allow you to see what to do and what not to do. It will allow you to see things from a real life perspective and you will be able to see what a specialist does on a day to day basis. Shadowing someone can also give you some knowledge that you may not have been able to attain in the actual classroom. That is because this person is able to tell you things from experience that may not necessarily be in a textbook.

For example, you can be shadowing someone one day and there is a disagreement between some of the workers. By seeing an actual professional handle the situation, it would give you a better idea as to what you can do if you were ever faced with such a situation. Things like this can't really be taught in the classroom.

This isn't to say that classroom learning is not important. Anyone who wants to go this route should also look into taking formal classes. In the classroom, you will be able to learn basic skills that will be the foundation of your career. You will be able to learn what type of materials to use. You will learn which material are the least and most sturdy. So, learning in a class setting will also give you invaluable experience.

There is more than one path to take in order to join the current pool of residential contractors. The most important step to becoming successful in this field, however, is to actually get your license.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Instructional Design Training: What Helps Adults Learn Effectively?

When you are designing learning (regardless of the delivery medium) key to success is an understanding of how adults actually process new information and, therefore, acquire new knowledge and skills.

This article summarises some of the basics of this knowledge transfer process. Basics you would usually cover as part of any introductory instructional design training programme.

Different instructional design experts use slightly different ways to describe the basic knowledge transfer process, but in essence it boils down to three broad stages.

Typically, at the start of this process is the presentation stage. This is when the trainer is introducing new or partially familiar knowledge and/or skills to the learners. Ideally, this is done through a familiar and meaningful context, rather than in a dry, abstract way. Once the trainer has carried out some basic checks to ensure learners have grasped the new information, the transfer process quickly moves to stage two.

Here, learners are given the opportunity to practice what they have just learnt in a safe, structured environment. During this phase, the learners might take part in one or several activities - depending on the level of difficulty and how much need they have for extensive practice.

Once the structured practice is complete and the learners have grasped the basics, it is time to move to the final stage - more spontaneous practice. Here, learners are encouraged to use their newly embedded skills and knowledge in a more realistic way. Ideally, this will provide a context and challenge that is both relevant and motivating to the learners.

Overall, the three stages move from a very teacher or trainer centred starting point through to a highly learner-centred one - where the trainer can take a back seat, observe the learning in action and provide feedback at the very end of the process.

One of the advantages of this broad approach is its flexibility and adaptability. You can vary the amount of structured and spontaneous practice you use based on the needs of your learners.

You can increase or decrease the amount of feedback you provide based on the results you are seeing. This feedback can be adjusted during the structured and/or spontaneous practice stages. You could even add remedial structured or spontaneous practice at the end of the entire process, if you decide this is appropriate.

Additional flexibility is available to you with the sequence of stages. For example, you could use a structured practice activity as your starting point. This would enable you to diagnose existing knowledge and possible areas of difficulty before embarking on a customized presentation and follow-on practice activities.

Alternatively, with more experienced learners, you could turn the process on its head and start with a spontaneous practice activity to see how they cope. Following on from this, you can draw out learning points, leading you to structured practice (or additional spontaneous activities) for the purposes of revision or consolidation.

Understanding the significance of this flexible 'presentation, structured practice, spontaneous practice' model enables you to create effective learning events that help your learners to quickly acquire and embed new knowledge and skills.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dental Hygienist School Accreditation

Dental hygienist is known to be one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. It's no wonder that more and more people are considering this career due to the excellent job prospects and above-average salary. Generally, dental hygienist needs to obtain licensure from the State where they are practicing and they are also required to obtain a certificate, associate degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree from an accredited school. What is dental hygienist school accreditation? Let's take a look.

In the United States, the accreditation of all programs is administered by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The accreditation of educational program was administered by the Council on Dental Education from the early 1940's up to 1975. Then, the accreditation duties were carried out by the Commission on Accreditation on Dental and Dental Auxiliary Educational Programs. In 1979, the name of Commission on Dental Accreditation was adopted. Comprising of 30 members, the Commission on Dental Accreditation includes an American Dental Hygienists' Association representative along with members from other disciplines and public representatives.

The Accreditation Standards for Education Programs in Dental Hygiene are developed for these purposes:

1) To function as a model for the development of dental hygiene educational programs

2) To function as a model for the advancement of established educational programs

3) To protect public welfare

4) To establish the standards for the appraisal of new and established programs

A dental hygiene educational program has to meet the Accreditation Standards set by the Commission to achieve accreditation status. Dental hygiene, along with other practices, is an essential form of healthcare for the general public. By setting the Accreditation Standards, the Commission on Dental Accreditation ensures that the hygienists that graduate from accredited programs are well-trained and well-equipped to provide the highest level of care to the public. Accreditation is also instrumental in the maintenance of the quality programs in the United States.

In 1953, there were 21 accredited dental hygiene programs. Today, the number of accredited programs had grown to more than 200. The Commission on Dental Accreditation is recognized by the US Department of Education and the dental profession. Here are the core responsibilities of the Commission on Dental Accreditation:

1) Appraises programs to ensure that the approved accreditation standards, institutional objectives, and programs goals are fulfilled

2) Through institutional self-evaluation, the Commission continues to appraise and enhance the programs

3) Promotes innovations in the design of programs in accordance to sound educational principles

4) Offers consultation in the early and ongoing development of programs

The Accreditation Standards cover Institutional Effectiveness, Educational Program, Administration, Faculty, and Staff, Educational Support Services, Health and Safety Provisions, and Patient Care Services. The accreditation of a dental hygienist program is thorough and comprehensive. When you enroll in an accredited program, you can be sure that you are getting the best possible education.