Last week, I presented on action mapping at the lively and thought-provoking Learning Technologies conference in London. It was great to meet and share ideas with passionate advocates and critics of elearning. Thank you, Don Taylor and the hard-working conference team, for bringing us all together!
As some readers requested, here are the main points that I hope people took from my session:
- The goal of action mapping is to design experiences, not information. We want to help learners practice making the decisions that they need to make on the job.
- Set a measurable business (not learning) goal for your project. Show how you’ll improve business performance to justify the expense of your project.
- Identify what people need to do in the real world to reach the goal and determine why they aren’t doing it. Lack of knowledge might not be the real problem.
- In activities, have learners practice making the decisions that they need to make on the job; don’t make them recite information.
- Show the realistic consequences of learners’ decisions (Bill is accidentally cut by the scalpel) and let learners draw conclusions from them. Don’t say “correct/incorrect.”
- Have learners start with an activity, not information. Embed the necessary info in the activity and make it optional, or have learners refer to the real-world job aid.
- Success in the decision-making activity shows that learners know the information. Avoid fact checks.
- Surprise and failure are memorable. Let learners make mistakes—they’ll remember them.
- Everything in your material should directly support the business goal. Have your client and subject matter expert participate in the entire process to get buy-in and avoid having to fight off the “nice to know” stuff.
Are vendors clueless?
The vendors at the conference appeared to focus on content delivery, while several speakers emphasized providing realistic experiences that build decision-making skills or sharing knowledge with social tools. This apparent disconnect between the “upstairs” speakers and “downstairs” vendors inspired some discussion at the conference.
I agree that the disconnect was clear. However, in defense of vendors, many of the ideas offered by speakers at conferences don’t lead naturally to new products. Instead, they suggest new ways of using existing tools.
Also, if the “deliver engaging content” message sells products, is it entirely the vendors’ fault? Who’s buying that message?
Summaries and discussion
Several people at the conference have shared their ideas and takeaways. Here are a few of them.
David Kelly pulls together links to resources and recaps from the conference.
Karyn Romeis offers some initial reactions about the major themes she saw.
Steve Wheeler summarizes his view of the speaker-vendor divide and several others respond in the comments.
Clark Quinn wraps up his impressions of the conference.
By the time you read this, you might be able to see a video of my presentation here (I think they’re still working out the kinks). I was in track 4. Also be sure to check out the many other presentations and Roger Schank’s keynote.
You can see recordings of my other presentations by following the links on my workshop calendar page.
Next: Learning Solutions in March
On March 24, I’ll give a talk (more like a workshop) on how to replace information dumps with realistic scenarios, no matter what tools you have. It’s based on this presentation, which I gave in several places in Australia but which is new to the US.