Tag Archives: Communication

A Listening Post

Listening is an important part of our practice as instructional designers – listening to clients, listening to SMEs, listening to our team members, listening to leaders in the field… Having an ear to the ground and an eye to the horizon allows us to have some knowledge of what’s coming next so we can prepare, position, and not just react. To actively listen we have to focus our attention away from ourselves and towards what is going on around us. 

As I sit in meeting after meeting (many of us suffer this to some degree, right?) I find myself wondering if anyone is listening. We seem to cover a lot of familiar ground and make decisions that were decided in previous sessions. It can be easy to get caught up in the need to be heard. It can be easy to get caught up in the need to meet our own individual deadlines.

When I went through military training (eons ago) I learned about establishing Listening Posts and Observation Posts (LP/OP).  These were strategically positioned outposts that allowed for the collection of information. In my memory one of the key characteristics of these posts is that if you were the LP/OP you had to be quiet. You had to take accurate notes about what you heard and saw (collecting data!) so that you could share the information once you got back to your unit. I have no idea if these LP/OPs are still part of the way military units operate, but I do think there’s an opportunity for all of us here. It’s a simple concept, yes, but not necessarily easy to implement.

Where are your Listening Posts?

For instructional design, I rely heavily these days on Twitter. I follow a mix of people and organizations involved in instructional design and technology at varying levels and from multiple perspectives: k-12, higher ed, corporate training, textbook publishers, open education resources, professional organizations, thinktanks, and journalists. Twitter allows me to customize my own kind of news feed – one in which I can participate as well, but it’s only one listening post. Others include conference attendance and networking events. What do you rely on?

You’ll find a lot of people talking about listening these days, too, not only in instructional design, but also in social media, marketing, and business circles.

What can we learn from listening to what’s going on in other fields? What can we learn from listening to what is going on within our own field, within our own organizations?

Image credit: gregwake, Flickr

Preparing Faculty SMEs to Join the Team

It is not news that online course development teams in higher education rely on (need!) faculty members as content or subject matter experts (SME). My experience is that faculty members joining design teams on these projects are often doing so for the first time. They’ve often been asked by their Department Chair to work with this often new group of techies to build an online course. They are used to working alone or with small groups of other academics on course development. They will likely end up being the instructor for the course, if they aren’t teaching it already.

Preparing faculty to serve in this new role can ease the transition. Here are a few things to consider from the perspective of project manager, instructional designer, course developer:

Connect SMEs with training on the LMS (and maybe even basic HTML editing) – Know the workshop schedules, the good online tutorials, and have a contact on the faculty development and support side you can personally put the SME in contact with. While the SME will not usually be responsible for loading content into a LMS, it may help for them to understand where you’re going.

Connect with training on online instruction – If the SME doesn’t have a lot of experience with online instruction, hooking him/her up with workshops and seminars related to facilitating online discussion (asynchronous/synchronous) and selecting instructional strategies can open up a few more possibilities.

Encourage networking with peers – Are there other faculty SMEs you have worked with in the past that might be willing to share feedback or lessons learned? It’s also helpful to provide examples of previously developed courses and multimedia elements.

Provide easy-to-edit formats – What you really need from the SME is input on content and revision of existing content. If a Word document works best, use it to provide them with the text that requires editing. This may create an extra step or two for the staffer responsible for getting the content online, but in the long run will save time and frustration on the part of the SME – the team member with the most challenging schedule.

Outline clear-cut responsibilities and tasks – Schedule regular meeting times (F2F or virtual) and assign tasks for all team members with specific deadlines. It’s a team effort and all of the pieces need to come together as smoothly as possible. Outline roles and expectations and review the project’s production schedule periodically with the group.

Develop a written Memorandum of Agreement – Perhaps this should be listed first. As the SME is identified and prepares to join the team outline in writing the project’s purpose (new course, revision), development timeline, roles and responsibilities of all team members. Also address compensation and how copyright and acknowledgements will be handled. Best to go ahead and get these conversations started.

Foster a supportive climate – Encourage creativity, innovation, input and feedback throughout the process. This goes for the team as a whole, not just the SME. Everyone has a role to play and ideas to contribute. What has this faculty member always wanted to try or include in the course, but didn’t have the resources to do alone? Now may be the time.

Communicate clearly and often – Early on it is helpful to develop some kind of communication plan. How does the SME prefer to be contacted with updates, requests for review, changes – email, phone? Find what works and document progress on at least a monthly basis.

Do you work with faculty content experts to develop online courses? Please add your comments and suggestions to the list.

photo credit: jisc_infonet, Flickr

A Day in My Online Life

This post is a response to D’Arcy Norman’s Connect Project. The project asks: How do you connect to people online? As a remote employee, managing online course development projects, online communication and connection makes up most of my day. So to answer this question I tracked first who I connected with and then how the connections took place today.

Connecting with Colleagues: Today this includes my supervisor, co-workers, and project team members (an instructional designer, subject matter experts [SME], program chairs), and teaching faculty.

  • E-mail sent from a work account mostly answering questions about courses in development.
  • Calendar Tool (our organization uses Outlook) Looked at others’ schedules. Sent out and accepted meeting invitations.
  • Skype used for both instant messaging and for a conference call. I currently have a Skype Number I use for work. I can call outside numbers and others can call in to my Skype account from their phones, too.
  • On Sharepoint I posted updated files for an instructional designer and reorganized a folder with docs that are posted in all of our courses. I also responded to an issue posted by an instructor on another Sharepoint site.
  • I uploaded documents to Basecamp and introduced this tool to a new SME to kick-off a project. Basecamp includes our project milestones, to-do lists, existing content files for editing, etc.

Connecting with Students: These are the consumers of the courses I help to prepare and produce. I am not currently teaching, but I think I connect with students nonetheless through updates to individual courses in our Learning Management System. This took place in the form of:

  • added Announcements,
  • updates to reading lists, and
  • review of a course in the final stages of development.

Connecting with Friends: Friends, family, and former colleagues

  • E-mail sent from a personal account. A former classmate just received news of a job offer! (Note to self: send e-card.)

Connecting with the Public at-large: posting information and responding to others’ posts.

  • Twitter via Tweetdeck is usually running on my computer. Today I sent out a few tweets and followed a little bit of the #ecoo conference. The majority of my tweets are related to work, either passing along some piece of information I think might be helpful or asking others for recommendations. This is the newest way in which I connect with people online.
  • Blog posts like this one. Hopefully it will help me connect with a reader or two. I also posted a comment on one other blog today.

While not used today, it is also worth mentioning that I often connect with others online via synchronous web meeting-type spaces. My employer uses Adobe Connect Pro and this has been successful recently for professional development sessions and a virtual conference.

How is your online day different from mine? Any suggestions for new tools to connect?