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Learn more

Visit the TIKI web site

Books Peacock finds useful for Instructional Designers and Independent Consultants: 

The Complete Guide to Consulting Contracts, Herman Holtz, 1997.

The Big Book of Business Games, John Newstrom and Edward Scannell, 1996.

The Complete Computer Trainer, Paul Clothier, 1996.

She is currently reading: 

My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki,

Peacock recommends:

Learn how to do just about anything (except write educational material) at: www.ehow.com

Buy cool toys for your students and yourself at: www.archiemcphee.com

Read great humor and commentary at: www.theonion.com

When I consider Learner-Centered instruction, I think “Wow, wouldn’t that be nice?” As an instructional designer in the high tech industry, I find learner considerations often secondary to the information that needs to be expressed. Time usually causes the problem. I often come into projects when someone on the development or implementation team remembers that training needs to be done. Sadly, this realization may come too late in the development cycle. This can mean developing a course in two weeks that really needs two months to do it right.

Many courses my team and I write are not end-user oriented. For end-users, many times instruction can be replaced with job aids and on-line help. The courses we create, however, tend to be very technical, developer-, system administration-, or database-oriented so job aids aren’t very useful. These courses can be crucial to users of the systems, since they often contain information not covered elsewhere in the documentation. They typically cover configuration issues, again a type of learning not always covered in a book. Of course, for some users, hands-on experience in the classroom lab environment is critical and the only way to become successful using the software product.

Can I just say that the course will be done in two months and the would-be learners will just have to wait until then? Rarely. If we take two months to develop the course, but the software product rolls out to users in two weeks, then for six weeks users struggle without the knowledge they need to use the system effectively. This is clearly not an option. Neither is delaying the software release until the training is complete.

In the end, we meet the scheduling demands to get the training to the users. Do we think about the learners while developing the course? Yes. We develop hands-on lab exercises, behavioral objectives, quizzes, and stunning graphics that convey the messages. I work toward addressing different learning styles with demonstrations, role-playing, video, and follow-along case studies.

But I always have an eye on efficiency in development, not just effectiveness in the classroom. Sometimes we are lucky and the product delivery date slips. Then we have time to think more carefully about enhancing the learning experience. Other times we do not see or use the product for which we are writing the materials until weeks into the course development cycle. This gives us a huge opportunity to work on providing the best classroom experience, since we can do little to describe the product’s functionality until we have the product in hand.

Do we have to forgo the perfect learning experience, and settle instead for too many PowerPoint slides? Often. But sometimes, in the real world of course development, simply getting the information into the hands of the users is as learner-focused as we can be. We’ll keep working on ways to enhance the learner experience.

Janice Peterson Peacock is President of TIKI Solutions, LLC. When she’s not developing courses, she’s blowing glass.  You can reach her at janice@tikisolutions.com or visit the TIKI web site.

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