Tag Archives: instructional design

Course Reboot: Visual introduction to the Professional Persona Project

The Professional Communication team has entered the design phase of the course reboot. We’ve developed our structure, written instruction sheets, and designed a course calendar. Currently, we are working on designing our instruction sheets, planning lessons, and creating visuals. I tasked my superstar lab specialist/teaching assistant, Justin Hardy, with designing the instruction sheets for the reboot. I gave him a very loose mock up of a layout, color scheme, and headings. Below is a draft of the instruction sheet Justin created. I love his overall approach, use of supporting shapes, cohesive color scheme, and attention to readability. Something I’d like to work on is streamlining the information and applying some of those ideas I’ve been learning about in Duarte Design’s Slidedocs. Trying to find the balance between a readable, visual document that is also brief enough that students are encouraged to read the content is our challenge. Keeping text large when the instruction sheets are being written by the most verbose woman on the planet (me) is a challenge Justin is taking on head first. One solution we are implementing is creating “splash pages” for our instructions that provide an at a glance view of the activity. The way our learning platform works, student see a basic instruction/description page before they download the actual instructions for an activity. I am confident he will find that balance between readability, succinctness, and visual attractiveness.

PPP Intro Infographic_Page_1

Click on the image to access the full instruction sheet

What are your ideas for shortening a document while maintaining readability? 

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Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Opportunities

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Pamela Slim’s Body of Work is amazing; I am only 60 pages in, but I understand why professionals I look up to like Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte recommend this book. I cannot wait to integrate its ideas into the course and share Slim’s insights with students! Today, I’ll be working on creating the assignments for the month after finishing Slim’s book. I’m hoping to get down to designing lessons this week and next. Previously, in discussing the upcoming PCP reboot, I covered the challenges the team faces:

  • Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication
  • Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process
  • Challenge #3: Streamlining content
  • Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs
  • Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

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Now, I’d like to talk about how we are working to turn each challenge into an opportunity for growth and what tools/concepts we’re using to tackle those challenges.

Opportunity #1: Google Hangouts to add synchronicity

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Without synchronous communication with both instructors and classmates, students never really get an understanding of how important rapport and connection are in the presenter/audience relationship. Presenting like you are having a conversation is a real challenge when your conversation is with a little green dot or camera. In order to add a bit more synchronicity to the course (in addition to weekly GoTo Trainings), students will now meet for two Google Hangouts in small teams. The purpose of these Google Hangouts is three fold. Firstly, students will be able to engage in self-analysis of their progress on the major course project, considering their strengths and areas of growth. Secondly, students will have a chance to communicate live with their peers, collaborating on project revisions and improvements. Finally, through this medium, students will have a chance to practice delivery and execution while completing fun improv exercises.

Opportunity #2: Using self-analysis and peer-analysis to reinforce process

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Currently, students engage in a bit of self-reflection in weeks 1 and 4 of PCP. First, they consider their goals, challenges, and pitch topics for a persuasive presentation. Then, in week 4, they complete a revision worksheet that includes a reflection on advice portion. Students consider the feedback they’ve received, the amount of time they’ve devoted to the project, and the time they’ll need to finalize the presentation. Peer analysis comes in the form of asynchronous discussion response posts. In the reboot, this will change a bit to include self-analysis and peer-analysis in the Google Hangout sessions. Another way we are working to make asynchronous discussions richer and more collaborative is to ask students to now videotape their responses to one another on discussion boards as opposed to asking them to write these responses out. From Alex Rister’s experience in public speaking online, videotaped responses generate stronger and more applicable feedback. Finally, self and peer analysis will help reinforce that presenting involves a systematic process of creating, designing, critiquing, and delivering.

Opportunity #3: Placing more emphasis on GoTo Training lessons

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Weekly GoTo Training lessons are currently used to reinforce the week’s lesson and activity concepts as well as cover some of the pitfalls of completing work in the course. This, however, means that they are not really used to their greatest potential–as a means of recreating the much more effective live class session, where in students are engaged in activities that reinforce what they learn via the course text and brief class lectures. In the new iteration of PCP, these live sessions will be the primary mode of instruction, with video and text lessons serving as supplements. Whereas currently students would teach themselves what a brand mantra is by studying an article by Megan Mars and watching a video on the subject, students will now learn this concept in a live class session where they can ask questions, get immediate feedback for their mantras, and collaborate with others to better understand and apply this technique. Without attending or watching the archive of a GoTo session, students will not be able to learn the concept as successfully.

Opportunity #4: Focusing on what students want to learn

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It’s been a difficult though enlightening transition from gen ed class for business students only to gen ed class for a variety of business, creative, and technical programs. Our challenge in teaching this many different types of students how to present online in one month was finding common ground, either skills-based or thematic, that would allow all students to engage with the content, their classmates, and the place of their new skills set in their professional futures. Currently, while a persuasive presentation on a non-industry related subject helps students apply their skills to a persuasive presentation delivered with visuals, the students didn’t always seem to see how this skill would fit into their careers. This made the PCP team cringe–what could be more important than learning how to effectively communicate and present your vision to others!? What we had to acknowledge was that finding a subject all students want to learn more about and also focusing their major project on something that would be immediately relevant was more important than learning presentation skills in general. What is the goal of each of our students in earning a degree? To propel themselves to professional success! This desire to grow professionally became our common ground. This leads us to the the most exciting opportunity of this reboot–the Professional Persona Project!

Opportunity #5: The Professional Persona Project

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Pamela Slim believes that a body of work is baed on the connective thread between a professional’s experiences (Source). It’s not about distinct experiences working in a vacuum; it’s about the big themes that connect all of the work you do or will do. The Professional Persona Project is an opportunity for students to consider their development and growth as professionals so far, where they see themselves going as future professionals, and how they can better communicate their unique skills as professionals in a specific field to a target audience (individual, company, or specific facet of their industry).  In this project, students will be analyzing their skills, assets, qualities, and abilities as a professional (assets). They will then consider their aspirations and goals as professionals. Finally, they will analyze the market realities in their chosen field. They will then present this information through a set of visuals and an elevator pitch. The Professional Persona Project is a showcase of what students have learned so far; work they’ve done in and out of school; and their qualities and skills (work ethic, technical abilities, communication/presenting skills, teamwork, etc.). The goal is for them to recognize their own strengths and to highlight those strengths by presenting them in an engaging, professional, and visually-driven way.

Tune in next week to learn more about the new course structure!

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Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Challenges

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This month marks my first break from both campus and online teaching since October. This is usually a time for me to review my approach to teaching the campus and online iterations of Professional Communication and Presentation. In addition to teaching, two of my most fulfilling roles as the lead instructor for this course are instructional designer and curriculum developer. The campus version of PCP changes a bit each month because I can note new areas for growth and opportunity, can consult with campus students on what works and what doesn’t work, and I can see live whether or not a lesson resonates with the students and translates into positive results. The online course, however, requires a bit more time, objective assessment, and analysis to adapt. This usually means that during the months I am not on campus I coordinate a major reboot of the overall structure, lessons, learning materials, and assignments based on the big challenges I noted for the previous six months or so of a previous iteration.

In analyzing the course this time around, I noted several challenges, opportunities, and action items. Alex Rister and I are firmly in the research and development phase. As she noted yesterday on Creating Communication, we’ve found a few amazing sources to draw from including Pamela Slim’s Body of Work. In this post, I’ll cover the big challenges this course faces now. Next, I’ll cover how I’m working to turn those challenges into opportunities, and finally share how the course will adapt and change over the next two months.

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Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication

As Alex discussed in her public speaking online series, teaching a presentation and communication class online is a real challenge. Everything we teach students is based on developing, designing, and delivering a presentation to a live audience. From audience analysis and slide design to “naked” delivery, the need for a live audience engaging with a presenter is ever present. Furthermore, students learn better when given an opportunity to present in the way they will likely do so in their everyday professional lives. However, we’ve been tasked with teaching this course online, despite the body of evidence that emphasizes the importance of synchronicity in online learner success (Source). So, it will be important in the next two months to bring in more instances of synchronicity. Currently, the PCP team uses iChat/Aim, Skype, and GoTo Meeting to add a synchronous element to the course, but we have not found the solution to helping students present synchronously to their classmates/teachers or to a physical audience.

Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process

The biggest reason for the last reboot was to help alleviate a serious deficiency that we’ve managed to work on successfully in the face to face iteration of the course–students do not understand either the importance of or the need for engaging in a presentation process. While we talk about Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem and structure the course so that students develop a portion (outline, slides, rehearsal) of their major project, an Ignite presentation, each week, many students still wait until the last minute to develop that piece and are often confused when their PCP instructor asks them to revise their outline and then implement that revision in the storyboard/design for the slides. Helping students understand how each piece fits together and also building in opportunities for them to take their time before submitting official drafts of their work is our second challenge in the reboot.

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This visualization of the presentation process by design firm Idea Transplant has been and will become an even stronger cornerstone of the course.

Challenge #3: Streamlining content

Perhaps it’s my background as a learner (I devour as much information as I can about a subject and love when there’s something new to learn and explore about a subject), but I can definitely recognize that both on campus and online I share too much information, which just leaves students feeling overwhelmed. Yes, it’s all great information, but if any of it is redundant, too complex, or repetitive, what’s the point in including it? So, our third challenge will be to reduce the number of lessons and assets to the most important and needed learning materials.

Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs

PCP began as a course offered only to music business and entertainment bachelor of science students. In the past five years, the course has expanded to other programs–computer animation, game art, game development, internet marketing, music production, media communications, and software development. While the course’s current structure, develop, design, and deliver, a persuasive speech is definitely general enough to encompass all of these programs, our students’ needs have changed. Whereas some students present informative and persuasive presentations on a regular basis to audiences, some students will only ever have to present their body of work to a potential employee or client. This leaves them wondering just how this skill will help them in the future. So, how do we communicate to students just how important and necessary strong professional presentation skills are? That’s our fourth challenge.

Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

Professionalism is important at my school, but it’s even more important in a class with the title Professional Communication and Presentation. Currently, the campus class devotes a week or so of in class time to the concept of a professional persona and communicating professional brand via a visual resume. However, this was removed in the last reboot of the online class to help streamline the approach and give students more time on the Ignite presentation. This means that our online students spend very little time if any truly exploring and practicing what it means to be a professional communicator. Our final challenge will be to refocus persuasion and presentation towards building professionalism.

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From Creating Communication: Duarte and Reynolds Inspire Another Class Overhaul

Check out Alex’s post on the Professional Communication and Presentation reboot I referred to earlier last week. Tomorrow, look for my post highlighting the five challenges we face in restructuring the course in 2014.

Creating Communication

Always interested in a good reading list, I was excited to see Garr Reynolds’ “10 Books for the 21st Century Presenter, Storyteller.”  His recommendations couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for my superteacher BFF, Chiara Ojeda, and for me.  As I mentioned earlier this week, an issue Chiara and I face is differentiating Public Speaking (our basic, freshman-level class) with Professional Communication and Presentation (our advanced, junior-level course).

With a recent overhaul of our Public Speaking online course and a focus on developing a new syllabus for the campus course, PSP is looking and feeling more solid in 2014 than it has in years.  Chiara and I decided to focus PCP both on campus and online on a visual resume project called the Professional Persona Project.  Presentation will be a major component of the course, still, but there will be even more of an emphasis on developing…

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My Teaching Philosophy: an Infographic

In preparation for our focus for Week 2, part 1 of PCP, I’ve cooked up an infographic add-on to my teaching portfolio. I used the colors I’d created for our Liberal Studies Round Table sessions and after much tweaking, I found a way to communicate my teaching philosophy/brand mantra, instructional design approach, teaching style, and leadership approach. I hope to show this as an alternative to what students can create using Keynote, and the basic building blocks of a strong deck or visualization: color, type, shape, and image/iconography.

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Have you been working on your professional persona? What did you choose as your medium?

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Tweak Your Lessons: March Updates

The reboot of PCPO is two weeks in, and already the team has seen several areas where “tweaking” will be needed in order to help students successfully complete their major project in the course, the Ignite presentation. Current challenges we face with this week by week process-based model are:

  • Students don’t sufficiently study welcome materials and don’t understand the course is based on the major project. There seems to be a disconnect between our communication of the process and their conditioning, which is to complete one task at a time without considering how each task connects with another.
    • Possible fix–schedule GoTo earlier in the week. Require attendance?
  • Students are choosing overused or unsuitable topics for the format and approach.
    • Do what we do in class–students must submit ten topics, workshop each one with their instructor, determine which three will work best for the project, then analyze each one using the model Andrew Dlugan proposes in his article “The Secret of Choosing Successful Speech Topics”.

In addition to testing the reboot of the class, I’ve also been working on several of the decks from last month I didn’t have a chance to tweak because of REAL Delivery and SIMPLE Design. I’ll be debuting Tweak Your Resume online next month, and I just used the Brainstorming and Structuring deck in today’s group workshop/planning/design session for the upcoming worst case scenario presentation.

The second version of Tweak Your Resume uses a more cohesive color scheme. I am also experimenting with smaller text unified visuals.

The second version of Tweak Your Resume uses a more cohesive color scheme. I am also experimenting with smaller text and more unified visuals.

This deck will need serious revision before it's  show ready. The content is specific to an in-class project the students are working on, though I'd like for it to become a general purpose tutorial on choosing a topic for and organizing a demonstration speech.

This deck will need serious revision before it’s show ready. The content is specific to an in-class project the students are working on, though I’d like for it to become a general purpose tutorial on choosing a topic for and organizing a demonstration speech. In this presentation, I’ve tried to detach from the image-only approach to include vector icons from thenounproject.com

What presentation projects have you been working on lately? What decks are you excited to share with others?

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Sage advice from a superteacher

So, I admit it. I am sometimes quick to judge, particularly when it comes to a subject as dear to me as instructional design. I created a reading list for myself at the beginning of the year that included some heavy focus on design, from Dan Roam’s Blah Blah Blah to my current read, Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn.

I really did not care for the book at first. I judged it based on a cursory glance and an exploration of chapter 1. I deemed it a poor substitute to my own amazing ideas for design. I scoffed at fellow superteacher Alex Rister‘s praise for the book. Then, I had a come to Chi Chi moment. This is my term for a one on one moment of nurturing yet firm honesty. I usually have them with students. I really needed this one.

Teachers, students, and business folk scoff at my approach to visual design almost on a daily basis. They refuse to see any other way to convey information besides vague bullets; they devote little time to preparation–preparation that leads to active learning in the classroom as opposed to passive information bombardment; they rely on their slides as a safety net and security blanket and lucky rabbit’s foot and mask to hide behind. I did the same thing with Dirksen and her ideas. I dismissed it without really absorbing it. Alex’s very wise statement…

Alex Rister keeps it real. Image: susivinh (catching up, or trying!)

…has led me to give this book and Dirksen, an authority in the field of instructional design and a passionate advocate for design in education, its due respect. So, this week, as the students enjoy spring break, I’ll be taking Dirksen’s book to the beach and really doing a bit of course-related instructional design soul searching. I am stoked.

My reading process, from disbelief and disdain, to piqued interest, acceptance, and finally, complete stokedness (the state of being totally stoked).

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