I saw this today, and I thought it deserved its own post, instead of just a link:
“When considering innovations in e-learning for 2008, it is tempting to focus on advances in technology—such as the use of games, virtual reality, and pedagogical agents. However, the most important innovations in e-learning will involve advances in our understanding of how to design e-learning environments that help people learn—such as how to design serious games, VR environments, and online agents that promote appropriate cognitive processing during learning. Basic research on learning and instruction will provide new guidance for instructional design, including which instructional features promote which kinds of learning for which learners.”
—Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
I just finished reading Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” and it was very insightful.
While geared towards website usability, I think a lot of the principles and practices that Krug outlines can apply to designing e-learning, online training, simulations, or just about anything interactive.
Krug writes with a light, friendly style, knowing that many readers of his book are going to be first-timers: people charged with doing usability testing, without hiring a professional.
The book is filled with practical examples of real-life “what works and what doesn’t” graphics and explanations. He highlights the differences between what web designers usually have in mind for the user to do, and what the user actually does. Web pages aren’t really read, they’re scanned for anything that seems relevant or “clickable”. Users don’t take the time to figure out how things should work; they would rather just “muddle through”.
Some design concepts covered from a usability perspective include creating a clear hierarchy and designing navigation, paying attention to conventions (rules are there for a reason!), breaking up pages into clearly defined areas, making it obvious what’s clickable, and keeping the “noise” down – cutting out unnecessary images, navigation, and especially text! Both “happy talk” (useless introductory text) and instructions (users don’t read them anyway, remember?) must die.
Finishing up the book is a clear, concise outline of everything necessary to conduct your own usability tests: materials, preparation, and a handy guide written by an expert.
If you’re in charge of doing any sort of web or interface design, or conducting usability testing, I highly suggest you give Krug’s book a read – it’s short, flows well, and gets right to the point – which, if you’re in a pinch, is a great help!
I came across Steve Pavlina’s blog about personal development the other day, and started reading back through previous posts.
Reading one post in particular – about “Career Apathy”, or being at a point in a career or a job where literally, all sense of feeling is gone – I had some questions. I know people stuck in this kind of apathy, but I wanted to clear a few things up about the article.
Steve’s advice to people in this situation was to just walk away from the job – “to dump a job you don’t absolutely love is to give up nothing”.
Asking a question
My question was, what if this career-apathetic person is the sole provider for the family? How does one walk away from a job with no savings, and somehow continue to support a family?
Steve (and others) replied that hiding behind the need to support a family is just an excuse that holds people back. We bantered back and forth a bit longer, until I got tired of this seemingly lofty rhetoric with no practical answers. (You can read the whole thread.)
After turning it over and over in my head for a few days, I realized what made me so angry about the whole exchange – I felt like I was being insulted for asking a question! I came to the forum asking for some specific details about the situation outlined in the post, and I was met with criticism and hostility. (I know many people take Steve’s advice as gold, so maybe I asked the question in the wrong place. Either way…)
Inquiry and education
I realized that this experience actually had a lot to do with education. I’m a very pragmatic person, and I like knowing everything that I can about a topic. But as someone trying to learn something new, feeling like I wasn’t being taken seriously hit me hard.
What if, growing up, every time you asked a teacher a question, they told you that you were “wasting your time”?
What if when you asked for proof of what they were saying, they told you that you had the wrong attitude?
What would education be like, if you were told to take everything that someone taught you at face value? And that asking questions was wrong?