A stuttering spluttering start

The rambling story of my first few weeks…

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I don’t know about you, but the memories of ‘health and safety’, ‘accepted conduct’ or other general induction and compliance courses don’t fill me with excitement. So, I’m rather excited about the the challenge of trying to deliver compliance training in a way that’s effective and not completely mind-numbing.

The first hurdle that sprang itself up at me was the content. One of my team’s objectives is to raise awareness of legal obligation imposed on all public officers in South Australia, an obligation that is outlined in deep legalese which, unless you have experience reading and interpreting the law you’re likely to struggle to comprehend it. And the stakes are high – they are obliged to know, and failure to comply can mean pretty hefty consequences. And so, we have a responsibility to ensure information is available that helps people understand their obligations and how to prevent corruption, misconduct and maladministration.

The second hurdle then, is ensuring the right information is available, in the place, at the right time. Up until now this has been delivered as face-to-face sessions covering general awareness of the Act, the organisation, and things to look out for generally. Useful, but perhaps not the most effective possible. Therefore, as many organisations and management personnel do, they decided to look to online learning. Which is one of the reasons they hired me, kick-start their online learning project.

I looked at previous presentations and the list of objectives, got my head around the LMS of choice (largely-vanilla Moodle) and got stuck back at the beginning: how to make this not suck?

While I’ve sat through (and I use that phrase on purpose) induction and compliance training, I’ve not had first-hand experience designing it. But, armed with stories from trainers and designers I met in my Blackboard days, I was confident I could build an authentic, effective and efficient learning experience.

I started by recalling what I’ve seen others do for similar compliance training and reflecting back on what I’d experienced before. The key elements I remembered were:

  • a screen of text (that may or may not fly in or swirl as you clicked buttons),
  • a “Next” button in the bottom right to move on,
  • A quiz full of basic definitions, testing recall of, mostly useless, facts, and
  • an overall feeling of “well, duh…”, or, at worst, “what a waste of time…”

And so, at the very least, I had an idea of what I didn’t want.

But what do I want? What does effective, engaging, authentic, efficient compliance training look like?

I recalled some research I’d done into gamification for this presentation. The main point stuck with me is that the principles of gamification can apply even if the learning experience doesn’t look like a game. Further, gamification principles can help engender self-directed and self-motivated learners, which, on the surface, sound like rather enticing characteristics to desire of your learning content and learners.

If I know that gamification implies an experience that includes clear goals and objectives, rules to follow to achieve those goals, feedback on achievement progress and gaps, and a sense of ownership over participation, what to actually include in terms of activities or content?

Some rudimentary googling and happenstance Twitter posts brought me to problem-based and scenario-based learning design. In particular, this resource from University of Wollongong. The design approaches look fascinating. I have reservations about how easily they can be adapted to a self-paced self-facilitated no-collaboration, i.e. corporate compliance, style of course. As a concept, however, my first thought was how could I use the Lesson in Moodle to deliver these scenarios and problems in a guided, scaffolded, feedback-supported fashion (post to come on that).

In the back of my head (that is, upfront in conversations with my manager), was the need (that is, assumption) for summative assessment of learning. Which, it turns out, meant a multiple-choice quiz. To be honest, I had initially thought of just avoiding a quiz altogether if I could. There are versions of Moodle that allow you to map a user’s completion of any activity (beyond a quiz) to the completion of a learning outcome or competency – which seems perfect for compliance/competency-focussed learning, such as this. However, our version doesn’t have that. So, back to the multiple-choice quiz, which it turns out is one of the elements of “eLearning” that was common language for both my manager and me.

There’s been some discussion about the value of multiple-choice assessment. In particular, I wanted to know that the learner can apply the principles they’d been exposed to and make sound judgements that should predict desired behaviour in the real world (lofty, I know), but I was assured it was possible through the use of, for want of a better word, ‘applied’ multiple-choice questions.

Then, the summary of the design approach to the content of my course(s) includes gamification principles, scenario-based activities and applied quiz questions.

I can’t help but think there are plenty of things I’m missing or that need changing. Luckily, I have a few weeks before it’s due to “go live”, so that’s plenty of time… right?
In the next few posts, I plan to talk more about my plans for the actual activities, the course structure (including accompanying learning design taxonomies and debates over visible/invisible/locked/unlocked activities) and maybe some example questions. I also plan on summarising the scaffold of how I want to build this course.
As always, your feedback is welcome.

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