Monday, March 18, 2013

Learning Solutions 2013 - Day Three

Okay, the final day of the conference! This was the most brutal day for me not just because I was exhausted from the rest of the conference, but also because the breaks between each session were a tiny 15 minutes long.  Not ideal for a day where I needed to check out of my room and store my luggage between sessions. Sure, I could have skipped a session to fit in, oh, say an actual breakfast, but where’s the fun in that?

Session: Morning Buzz: Today's Challenges in Instructional Design

Speaker: Heather Porterfield

Once again, I didn't try and live tweet the Morning Buzz. These sessions seem to be more casual chats than lead sessions, so it made more sense to me to participate in the discussion in the room rather than observe and tweet. It went well for the two MB sessions I attended at Learning Solutions 2013, so I think it'll be my plan for any future conferences as well.

Anyway, this particular Morning Buzz was an opportunity for us to share some of the current challenges we're experiencing as instructional designers. What I got out of this session more than anything else was a reminder of both how differently most companies define what exactly "ID work" is and also the wide variety of paths people take to becoming an ID in the first place. Where I work there is a huge variety from person to person in what we each do in our roles as IDs and how exactly we got here, but that mixture is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the diversity of IDs in this session.

While I don't think we found a lot of solutions in this session, I suspect because of just how wildly different what we each do in our roles is, it was worthwhile getting up so early if just to continue to broaden my understanding of what IDs everywhere do in their role.

Session: What Stakeholders Need to Know: Communicating the Results of Training Evaluations

Speaker: Frank Morris

Is there anything more fascinating than seeing a co-worker in a completely different role? Like, perhaps, seeing them facilitate a session? Definitely not.

As you’ve probably guessed, Morris and I work together and, while I knew he also facilitates classes, I’d never seen him in action before. So this session wasn’t just an opportunity for me to learn some new content; it was an opportunity to see my co-worker in a new light (and see him do a fabulous job at facilitating if I do say so myself).

So, work team pride aside, this session’s theme was how IDs/Project Managers/Training Team Leads can strategically communicate the results of training with stakeholders and business partners. Honestly though, the advice was broad enough that it could be applied to any time a learning professional needs to talk effectively with those groups.

The gist of the session isn’t that complicated: good communication matters. As well, what counts as “good communication” isn’t going to be the same for every audience. What we need to do to effectively communicate is put ourselves in the shoes of the stakeholder and figure out what exactly they actually care about (here’s his slide on some typical stakeholder categories). For instance, an update about how your new training program aligns with broad company policy may not be that fascinating to a line manager, but it sure appeals to an executive in charge of that policy. Admit that a one-size-fits-all approach to your communications isn’t going to work and instead tailor your messages specifically for each audience.

Morris discussed some generally useful trend metrics to have on hand, for instance: trends over time; against standards, expectations, or targets; and compared to self or others. Quality and efficacy of the work you do can also be helpful metrics for your stakeholders. One metric that isn’t as helpful as business partners would like it to be, though, is ROI. Because ROI is tricky to quantify for learning, moving stakeholders to framing results in terms of Return on Expectations is a better, more measurable option.

Finally, Morris recommended taking the time up front to create a communication strategy for all your different stakeholders that quickly outlines how they want to be communicated with, when you should contact them, and what they’ll want to know. While it takes a bit of time, this type of strategy can easily be reused for future projects.

Session: OMG!—I Got a Budget for a Multimedia Studio: A How-to on Building It

Speakers: Mark Jenkins and David Dichmann

They had me at “OMG.” *laugh*

This session was a set of two approachable and funny experts who just walked us through some of their recommendations for purchasing equipment that’s good bang for your buck as well as tips for setting it up so it works effectively. The presentation, as fun as it was, was a lot of bullet point recommendations, so I’ll just list some of the highlights of what Jenkins and Dichmann mentioned:
  • Some cheap/free media software resources the speakers use: Solidworks viewer, Adobe Premier Pro, Camtasia Studio, and SnagIt
  • Their best practices for video are good best practices for everything: simplify, simplify, simplify
  • Two hardware recommendations for screen captures: Epiphan VGA2USB (external frame grabber capture device that captures output from any VGA source) and DVI2PCIe (PCIe capture card internal lossless frame grabber with a single-link DVI/VGA input).
  • For lights, Alzo Video’s fluorescent lights were a suggestion for new lighting, and GE Tungsten bulbs were recommended for replacing the lights in existing room fixtures.
  • If you’re choosing a single camera that has to shoot both video and stills, pick based on which of those two types you’ll be doing most often. Shooting mostly stills with the occasional video? Choose a DSLR. Doing mostly video with the occasional stills? Go for an actual video camera.
  • Green screen footage can be greatly improved with a few quick tips: keep the screen at least 5-7 feet behind the subject (to avoid green reflections on their back), keep the subject’s shadow off of the screen, and hairlight the back of the subject to make crisp edges for post-production.
  • Microphone recs: Shuie SM 58 or 57. XR-2 USB. H1 Zoom (fragile but flexible)

They finished with three key points: know your audience, fit your choices for the purpose, and having a budget does not equal having unlimited cash

Session: Keynote: Leading a High-Performance Life

Speaker: Yvonne Camus

The final session of the conference was a keynote by Camus about her experience as a competitor in the Eco-Challenge race and how what she learned from that competition relates to general advice about increasing and renewing your enthusiasm for what you do.

Camus began simply with this thought: enthusiasm is a renewable resource. It doesn’t magically replenish itself though. We need to do things to keep it fueled, such as
  • Explore what you’re capable of when you’re doing something at your best.
  • Concentrate and pay attention to the moments where you were brilliant, and then consider what you did that contributed to your high performance.
  • On hard days, just give yourself credit for showing up.
  • Work smart, not hard.
  • Surround yourself with incredible people.
  • Energy follows thought, so plan to be excellent.
Overall it felt like Camus’ story about her involvement in the Eco-Challenge was a good scaffold for talking about managing to push through adversity and continuing to raise your own bar. Each point she made was illustrated with vivid examples from the race that managed to feel both on point and genuine. I never got the sense that she was trying to force a story to fit a point or force a point in order to fit in a story.

I tend to find that the final keynotes at conferences skew towards the inspirational rather than the task-specific, but that tone change is likely a smart move. Most attendees end up leaving the conference feeling energized overall (and people who don’t love this sort of talk can consistently know to scamper off early).

And so…

That was Learning Solutions 2013. I’m planning a wrap-up post later on, but for now I’ll just sum things up by saying it was an enjoyable three days and well worth the trip.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Learning Solutions 2013 - Day Two

Okay, it's time for the Thursday Learning Solutions session roundup, now with 100% more "me leading my first concurrent session."

Session: Keynote -  Hotbed: The Blueprint of High Performance
Speaker: Daniel Coyle

Just what I like: a keynote speaker that's entertaining but also relevant to the conference topics. Nothing against Ballard, but Coyle's talk felt like it had a lot more to do with what I'll actually be able to use on the job.

The question at the center of his talk was simple: what exactly makes people improve their performance drastically? The common story we're used to hearing is that some people are just talented, but real life data challenges that assumption. As it turns out, there are actually habits and patterns that lead to talent.

The core of improvement is 10,000 hours of practice: the "magic formula" to mastery. If you've ever read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers then you're familiar with how this works. If you haven't, though, it's pretty simple - practicing an awful lot leads to an awful lot of improvement. Now, Coyle didn't mention this, but this practice does need to be high quality. If you practice caterwauling off-key in your shower for 10,000 hours without any guidance on how to improve, all you've mastered is caterwauling off-key.

Also important is pushing a learner to struggle. In that point where we're stretching ourselves to do just a bit more, that is the sweet spot for building skills. But, you need to have a balance of challenge. Too easy and learners become bored. Too hard and they become overwhelmed and frustrated.

While Coyle had a number of additional bits of advice, one really stuck with me: "Fill your windshield." What he meant by this is that you should make sure you have a large number of role models in your life to show you what you can become and challenge you to even surpass their achievements.

Session: Designing for Clarity - Graphic Design Tips for Non-Graphic Designers
Speaker: Bianca Woods

Oh look, it's me!

Yes, I presented at Learning Solutions this year. Actually, it was my first time ever presenting at a conference. I'm sure I'll write more about the experience later on, but suffice it to say I survived... and even enjoyed it.

Rather than recap my own session for you, guess what... you can actually download my deck; read through my speaker notes; and find links to all the books, sites, and documents I referenced by simply clicking this link.

Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions/comments!

Session: Learning On Demand—the Evolution of Technology and the Future of Learning
Speaker: Reuben Tozman

Have you ever seen a room full of people try to organize themselves into a number of groups all at the same time, all the while trying to reconcile the fact that they themselves actually belong to multiple groups and aren't sure how they should show that (no, as it turns out people don't naturally sort themselves into Venn diagrams *laugh*)? I have, and it was hilarious.

So, amusingness aside, this was the intro to Tozman's talk, and he used this experience as part of a larger activity to show just how tiny and often useless the information that most LMSes hold about the learners and courses they interact with is. He also discussed other distinct LMS limitations.  For instance, they essentially just repackage the traditional classroom experience in a digital format. They don't create customized courses for individuals based on their actual needs. The true/false and multiple choice assessments typically used within an LMS don't actually assess how well a learner can actually perform a skill.

Clearly, the traditional LMS model is broken, but where should we look to for better models of how to use technology to teach? Tozman suggests the web. The way we've built the web shows some amazing best practices for using technology to better reach our students. For instance, here are a few snippets from this session:
  • The web doesn't have the strict hierarchy of the learner/teacher relationship. It levels the playing field.
  • Loads of people contribute to the web with no financial reward for doing so. This creates a wealth of information.
  • The web needs to "understand what you're feeding it", so we've built more effective systems for helping it do this.
  • Going viral can actually add to the value of the content.
However, there are some core issues about the web that would also apply to a web-inspired learning system. Learners would have to be willing to share more details about themselves in order for the system to know how best to help them (the difficult balance of privacy vs. openness, a question that does't have an easy answer for all people). Also, the system would need to be a network, so that if one portion went down the content you're trying to share in it could still be accessed. The information itself would need to be networked in a sensible way, so that learners could find and follow connections themselves. As well, since current lessons aren't packaged in a way that makes all the content in them searchable, we'd need to port over any relevant legacy information from lessons built for LMSes.

I enjoyed this session immensely, partially because I've already bought in to how amazing the web is as a tool for learning (and, conversely, how limited our LMSes are in comparison). The talk apparently also ties in nicely Tozman's book, Learning On Demand: How the Evolution of the Web is Shaping the Future of Learning, which I haven't read myself but was recommended to me this week by enough people I respect that I'm absolutely going to be picking it up when I get back home.

Session: Storyline and the iPad: A Case Study
Speakers: Desirée Pinder and Rick Smith

This was part case study of creating training for a mobile group of employees, part explanation of some of the technical hurdles the development team had to overcome in order to develop learning in Articulate Storyline that would function on both iPads and PCs.

On one hand, it was great to hear someone talk about some of the ways Storyline requires a bit of unexpected fussing with (and a few bootleg solutions) in order to make your output function equally well on iPads as well as in browsers on a PC. Even the best software is going to have trouble pulling that off, so I appreciated seeing someone both acknowledge those challenges and show specific instances of how they solved them (key takeaway: don't assume what you create is going to work exactly as planned. Test early, test often!). I also appreciated how open the speaker was about admitting when something didn't initially go right. Her honesty about how the design process rarely runs smoothly was refreshing.

Oh the other hand, this session jumped between a very dry case study (they did an excellent job of outlining what the training requirements were and how they decided to address them, but the explanation had little "story" to it. It was just a series of facts.) and a tech demo of how to finagle Storyline to function in the way they needed it to (only, without a lot of order to the way the information was presented). I would have rather that they picked one or the other and focused on making it a stronger version of that type of presentation. Tell me a compelling story of a mobile team of employees looking for a flexible solution that would meet their technical needs... or choose instead to run a session billed as "Tips and tricks for designing lessons in Storyline that work well on iPads AND PCs." Don't try and do both.

Session: Let’s Hangout: Bringing Learning to Every Employee Everywhere
Speakers: Tara Higgins and Mari Capps

So this is a good example of how a focused and compelling case study can look. Higgins and Capps told a fascinating story about a training difficulty at Google: they were having a terrible time getting learners from outside their hub cities to actually attend internal in-class training. They tried a number of different training options (e.g. converting content to e-Learning, webinars, videotaping classes, and video conferencing), but those alternatives just didn't work for a number of valid reasons. They knew they needed a solution to make classes available to all employees, regardless of location, but would also provide participation opportunities for all learners.

What they eventually found worked was a new service Google was developing at the time: Hangouts. If you've never used Hangouts before, the basic explanation it this: it's an easy-to-use video chat service that can support up to 10 chatters on the free version (15 on the business edition). You can learn more by checking out this link. It was a cheap solution, company-owned, simple to use, web-based, and allowed for more interactive capabilities than any of the other options Higgins and Capps had tried before. After converting a few classes to Hangouts sessions, they found that the learners liked them too.

Overall, a happy story, but it wasn't without some hiccups:
  • Their facilitators, so used to in-class student interactions, have continued to have a hard time feeling comfortable with this new way of teaching. 
  • Hangouts also doesn't have traditional breakout rooms, which initially caused some design issues (although they found a sensible workaround by having the learners set up their own additional Hangouts and then had the facilitator bounce from Hangout to Hangout checking on their progress).
  • Learner engagement is trickier to catch and keep.
  • While learners have pretty much bought in to the Hangouts classes, some stakeholders/business partners still aren't completely on board.
Now, why did I like it so much? While, as @JS_Dilon so correctly assessed yesterday, it didn't teach me anything I didn't already know about how Hangouts worked, it did give me a great example I can take back to work of how an established company used video chats for training. And if you know anything about working for a big company, you know how much they like other people trying out new training techniques first. Plus, Higgins and Capps were high quality storytellers. This is a component I've noticed isn't included in many case studies I've seen but is vital to making it a relatable and vivid experience.

The only downside? They were very uncomfortable with us taking photos of the session and outright against any videotaping, all for legal reasons. When you're going to a conference, especially one like Learning Solutions where there's so much sharing that takes place at the event, it's a bit surprising to see presenters put limits on sharing the content they were presenting, particularly since I didn't think there was any truly proprietary information included on their slides. Disappointing.

And so...

That's it for Day 2. Day 3 coming up in the next day or two.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Learning Solutions 2013 - Day One

I don't seem to have wi-fi in my hotel room, so I'm doing this (and likely all) blog updates from the exciting hotel lobby. Yeah! Oh wait, not... not so yeah.

Thankfully, other than the wi-fi situation, the conference has been great so far. Here are some of my reflections about the day:

Session: Morning Buzz: Getting Creative
Speaker: Connie Malamed

Obviously I didn't live tweet this one. I hadn't ever attended one of the more casual Morning Buzz sessions that happen at the eLearning Guild conferences so I just sort of wanted to check it out and see what it was before committing to broadcasting it.

This session turned out to be an easygoing chat where the group just talked about what creativity is, tools you can use to boost creativity, and creative projects we were proud of making. There was a small group of people at the session who had both learning AND fine art experience (myself included), so for me it was particularly interesting to hear suggestions from them on how to keep creativity fired up.

Some of the best suggestions from this session were the ones near and dear to anyone who's ever worked in the arts hearts: keep experimenting, sketch and sketch and sketch, and the beginning of any creative process is throwing a bunch of ideas out there and then scrapping everything but the best of the best. Additional funny-yet-useful suggestion: if you work with/for people who are creativity-adverse, find ways to "cloak your creativity in mediocrity" (if I ever form a punk band, that is what I'll call it).

Session: KEYNOTE: Exploring the Role of Technology in Peak Performance
Speaker: Robert Ballard

The opening keynote was a speaker I remember studying in elementary school: Robert Ballard - ocean explorer. I'll be honest, the session wasn't as connected to the conference themes as I would have liked, but it was deeply enjoyable nonetheless.

Ballard talked about his career, in particular the way his out-of-the-box way of looking at solving problems helped to make amazing discoveries about our oceans (and the shipwrecks in them). The great thing was, this wasn't him doing the whole humblebrag thing. He was legitimately excited and happy that his unusual approaches to oceanography had helped science on a whole. He thought it was important to share examples of when looking at a problem differently helped, not so much that it was HIS non-standard ideas that made the advancements. Always a classy move.

There are two main things that I got out of this session. First, that it's vital that we have people in STEM fields act as advocates for making science approachable. People like Ballard (and his astrophysics counterpart Neil deGrasse Tyson) do wonders for making science something that anyone can wrap their heads around. In particular, Ballard's work with schools around the world is making science just plain fun for kids. Second, it's important to love what you do. Ballard talked about how lousy the conditions were in early exploratory subs. You HAD to love it or else it would drive you batty. Plus, he's 71 years old and still talking about what he does with passion and excitement. That's most assuredly something to want to emulate.

Session: Ideas You Can Play With
Speaker: Stephen Anderson

Next up was a session on, as Anderson put it, how new ideas come from "the intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures." The session was predominantly examples of how tech is evolving in all sorts of exciting ways and felt like more inspiration than advice on application (not a complaint in this particular case).

While I'd be writing all night if I tried to sum up every example he used, I would like to point out my favourite: interaction design. He spent a not insignificant chunk of the session showing examples of how playful interaction design helps people better visualize and explore their options, as well as bump into new options they never would have considered (or even expected) otherwise. There's something to be said for finding a way to make people want to play with information. It gives people more say in their choices, but without having to slog through tons of poorly collected and curated info. Anytime you can simplify things without dumbing it down is valuable for a learner.

There are clearly a lot of tech innovations evolving every minute, but not every one of them is the best for you just because it's new. That's why I'm glad Anderson remembered to mention that this shouldn't just be tech for tech's sake. Hooray for acknowledging that "new" doesn't always mean "improved for every situation."

Session: Tips & Tricks for Building Great Whiteboard Videos on a Budget  Speaker: Cory Casella

Practical application? A session after my own heart. Much like the title suggests, Casella went through the steps involved in creating whiteboard videos (like the ones RSA Animate does) on the cheap, start to finish. Casella is planning on making his instruction manual-like deck (and I mean this in the best way possible) available online, so I'll link to it later rather than try and recreate it here. Before it goes up, though, I can say that at the end of the presentation I was fully reassured that I could replicate his process for under $650 in supplies/equipment. Can't complain there!

Session: Mobile Delivery of Educational Materials to NFL Players - Lessons Learned    Speaker: Alexander Grosholz

I hate writing negative reviews, but this wasn't my favourite session. Grosholz is a deeply likeable speaker, but I think I was hoping for more from his content.

The session was a case study in how he had used two different delivery methods to move the Miami Dolphins from printed to digital playbooks. They started using a bring your own device (BYOD) set up, but found that supporting content on multiple devices (and operating systems) was tricky, people on Android and BlackBerry platforms weren't actually using the digital playbook (I'd love to figure out more about why this was the case in this situation), and, worst of all, people were still relying heavily on printed materials.

A second launch using Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) iPads worked substantially better. Everyone was on the same device, so it was (relatively speaking) easier to set the system up and support it. Since the devices were corporately owned, that meant that they had more control over them, allowing for extreme actions such as a remote device hard drive wipe in case a tablet was lost (important for the security of a team playbook) with little drama. Because the iPads were company property, they also were able to institute stiff fines if a device was misplaced, adding again to security. However, because the devices were in the hands of Dolphins employees, they could still be customized and used mostly as they pleased, adding to personal enjoyment of the device.

So, interesting, but I didn't love the session. I honestly was hoping for more information about how the digital playbook functioned, the thought process of how it was created, and how their security measures worked specifically, but instead got a case study of why they went with COPE instead of BYOD. So, not what I was expecting. Plus, the speaker's slide deck was just bullet after bullet instead of screen shots or other visual media. The deck was the polar opposite of engaging, and I think the speaker would have been better to have no deck than THIS deck.

So, not a train wreck by any means, but not my favourite.

Session: KEYNOTE: Lessons Games Teach Us About Enhanced Performance Speaker: Aaron Dignan

Last, but not at all least, was my favourite presentation of the day (and likely to be my favourite of the conference). Dignan combined all the best examples of a good speaker. He took a topic he was an expert at and made it completely accessible to newbies (without dumbing it down too much for other experts), he incorporated easy to understand examples to back up his points, his speech was simple yet precise, the material was well organized, and his slide deck was stunning (seriously, go look at the photos of it I tweeted. It's awesome AND contributes to his content).

Admittedly, I liked the session a great deal because Dignan talked about something I care a lot about: games. In this case, he talked about games from the perspective of why they're interesting and what we can learn from them as learning designers. As he put it "play is nature's learning engine" and we see all sorts of creatures, human and otherwise, who use play as a way to understand the world (and the boundaries of that world) around them. So why should we suddenly stop using this method of learning when we become adults?

For optimum game/learning enjoyment (and hitting that delightful flow state that makes the hours fly by when you're grinding away at leveling up in a game), you need to find the delicate balance of challenge and skill. Too easy makes people bored. Too hard makes people frustrated. Just right and people feel challenged but not overwhelmed. This works just as well in learning as it does in traditional games.

Games also give us a safe arena to take risks. You can make mistakes with minimal long term ramifications. In real life, however, we tend to play it safe as most IRL mistakes have much more severe IRL consequences. This means we can become too unwilling to take the valuable risks that are vital to innovation and experimentation. Learning should take the game approach to mistakes: give people a place to make mistakes, get feedback, and try again without severe punishments (a fantastic case, might I add, for high quality simulations). In this same vein, games also give us an opportunity to practice... and practice... and practice again! It's hard to find a more effective path to mastery than simply practice.

Dignan mentioned a number of examples of games weaving themselves into other aspects of life: Target's gamified cashier feedback system, Stack Overload, Open Badges, Microsoft's imbedded Office training game, just to name a few, are all interesting examples of just some of the ways game elements have entered other arenas. How we continue to do this, in particular as educators, remains to be seen.

So this is all great stuff, sure, but I think the reason I liked it so much is that Dignan did a superb job of explaining what exactly games are and why they appeal to the human brain. Too many people get involved with gamification and serious games without wrapping their heads around what exactly makes a game a game in the first place. That's why, I suspect, we see so many instances of lame "slap badges on it and call it a day" gamification these days. In helping the audience to actually "get" games, I suspect Dignan did a lot to help influence better game-inspired learning from the audience.

And so...

So that's my impressions of the first day of Learning Solutions. I had intended to cap off the night with the official conference "game crawl", but I never ended up figuring out where exactly the "hotel bar" was (thought I found it... must have been a different bar), and so I'm a sad panda who won't get to play Ticket to Ride with anyone tonight. Don't feel TOO bad for me: I'm just going to play the iPhone version in my hotel room instead.

Tomorrow has a number of great events, but what's top of mind for me is my first conference presentation (Graphic Design Tips for Non-Designers... I'd love to see you there at 10:45am!). I remain both giddy AND nervous, so the only logical thing to do is rehearse it yet again and then get a good night's sleep.

See you tomorrow con-goers (on-site and remote alike).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Learning Solutions 2013 - Pre-Conference Impressions

Well, I've been in Central Florida for half a week already visiting family, but I'm only now finally checked in to the conference hotel in Orlando. So, I suppose today is the beginning of the conference portion of my trip.

Before I mention my pre-conference impressions, I should mention that my only conference to compare this one to is DevLearn... which is held at the Aria... in Las Vegas. So, any comparison is likely to come out in favour of the location that was practically built for conventions.

So, the hotel. It's nice enough, but after DevLearn is feels so very small. Now, this can be a good thing. It means that tomorrow when I drag my sorry carcass out of bed to attempt to be coherent at the 7:15am Morning Buzz session, at least it won't take me more than a few moments to get from my room to the session. In Vegas you had to plan an absurd amount of time to even get from one part of the hotel to the other.

The smallness also means that the likelihood of bumping into a fellow Learning Solutions attendee is quite high. I rather like that. Unfortunately, no one is wearing their con badges right now, and I completely suck at identifying people from their tiny Twitter photos, but I suppose this will go better when we're all tagged and name badged tomorrow.

My room here is fine, but sadly doesn't have the frankly spectacular bathtub that the Aria rooms have. I'm not even a big bath person myself and I still fell half in love with that thing. On the plus side, at least the hotel rooms here don't automatically play terrible music the moment you walk in. That's a real plus.

As for attractions, yeah, there's no Vegas strip, but there IS, you know, Disney and all. Plus I think as conference attendees that we can get discounted "After 4pm" tickets for the parks. I am absolutely heading off for a discounted trip to Epcot on Thursday as a reward for surviving my concurrent session.

Overall, this seems like a cosier conference overall. If you're looking for a big event, this might not be your cup of tea. But if you're looking for something a smidge more intimate, I'm getting the feeling that Learning Solutions might be the right fit.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What's my Learning Solutions 2013 session about anyway?

There are few things more frustrating at a conference than getting excited about a session only to realize part way through that it isn't what you expected it to be.

You know how it works, you read a session description, plan to attend it, park yourself in the front of the session room, and then 5 minutes in you realize you've made a big mistake. Maybe the session description was a bit inaccurate, maybe the content is more basic or more advanced than you originally suspected, or perhaps the speaker wants to focus on a facet of the topic that just doesn't really interest you. Regardless, it's frustrating... especially if you happen to be seated somewhere where you can't escape the room discreetly.

Later this week I'm presenting a concurrent session at Learning Solutions in Orlando and the absolute last thing I want is for people to attend my session thinking it's going to be one thing and then being disappointed that it's something else. To prevent this, I thought I'd do a quick posting about what to expect if you come to my session.

What is it & when it is happening?
My session is Designing For Clarity: Graphic Design Tips for Non-Graphic Designers and it's taking place on Thursday from 10:45am-11:45am in the International North room.

What's it going to be about?
The session description is, happily enough, quite accurate.

Good design isn't just pretty: it can also do a lot to help learners understand your content quicker and feel less intimidated or frustrated with training in general. Clear design is absolutely worth spending time on, but the reality is that many of us don't have constant access to a graphic design team to help us out. That's why, even if you can barely draw a stick person, it's still valuable to have some basic design knowledge that you can use any time you have to create a document, PowerPoint deck, website, e-Learning lesson, or anything else on your own.

In my session I'm going to break down what exactly contributes to clear design. I'm also going to discuss simple tips and guidelines that even beginners can use immediately to create better designed projects.

Everything in the session will be focused on practical, use-on-Monday solutions. The content will also prepare you for continuing to learn about graphic design in the future.

Who's the right audience for this session?
First, the session is a great fit for anyone who has little to no design experience and would like to know more. Even people who don't directly design learning content themselves, but are asked to create presentations and documents for work, will get a lot out of this session.

Second, if you already work with graphic designers, this session can still give you a better understanding of what guides the design choices they make.

Finally, if you're someone who has a great understanding of design but is looking for some tips they can share with non-designer co-workers, this session might be for you as well.

What if I'm still not sure if this session is for me?
Definitely feel free to ask me more about it. Email ( and Twitter (@eGeeking) are great ways to reach me, but I'm also happy to chat about it if you happen to bump in to me at the conference.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Learning Solutions 2013 schedule

I'm headed out to Learning Solutions 2013 later this week and, as now seems to be my habit, I'll be contributing to the back channel in order to help my coworkers, Twitter followers, and blog readers who can't be there themselves virtually attend. Much like at DevLearn 2012, my plan is to live tweet the sessions I attend and then create day summary blog posts.

Barring the wi-fi being terrible and/or any of the sessions being particularly awful, this is what you can expect to see me reporting on from March 13-15 (Note: the times listed are all in EST):

Wednesday, March 13






Thursday, March 14


*Note: This is actually my session, so I won't be live tweeting it. However, I will make my session materials available via a link posted on Twitter around this time.




Friday, March 15