Dishing Design: Making Great Recipes for Learning

What’s the flavor of your training?

This forum is a melting pot for those that are passionate about instructional design. Oftentimes learning can be bland, with the right spices you can cook up a more flavorful learning experience. We hope that by sharing our experiences, we are stirring the pot so that we can swap recipes for developing training solutions. We are providing basic ingredients from which you can select to make your own great learning recipe.

Monday, January 5, 2009

DishingDesign is Moving

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for being avid followers of our blog. We will admit delinquency on newer posts, but we have a good reason - we have been working on a new kitchen. Yes, better tools, functionality, and the ability to really provide more to our consumers.

We aren't completely finished with our new kitchen, but we would like you to start visiting Our posts from here will be migrated over and we will begin writing new blogs on various topics in the ID culinary realm!

So come on over and see what's cooking!

The Dishing Duo

Monday, April 21, 2008

No Bake Analysis

The Dishing Duo is debriefing Dr. Karl Kapp's Managing Mulitmedia Projects class this semester on a full-scale Needs Analysis. In our experience, one may not always complete a formal Needs Analysis because of time constraints and cost, much like not having time to bake cookies from scratch for your child's holiday party at school. The Dishing Duo has come up with a great No Bake recipe to perform an initial project analysis. Instituting this best practice will give you a better edge to start your project.

No Bake Analysis

  1. Ask if the training needs:
    • Repurposed or Converted
    • Updated or Maintained
    • Created from scratch (new: course, lesson, topic, curriculum, etc.)
  2. Who is your audience?
  3. Develop a content outline
    • From your content outline you will derive your Gap Analysis. This is a non-formal approach. For example, in the content outline it could be a question in a comment box to a particular step.
  4. Who are my project contacts? (project team)
    • Project Manager
    • SMEs
    • Stakeholders
    • Developers
  5. Are there any processes or procedures to follow?
    • Guidelines (styles and standards)
    • Development

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

To Knead or Not to Knead? That is the Assessment.

We've posted a few of our recipes that focus on starting a project, and now we want to pose a question to you. One core component that is often overlooked when starting a project is the Needs Assessment.

As we begin to write our blog on finding the adequate banquet facility (by performing the Needs Assessment), we want to get a take on what people are doing or have done to ensure that the party they have planned will meet party goers expectations, as well as meet your party goals.

We would like to know if you have performed a Needs Assessment. Was it a small scale assessment or an elaborate one? In other words, what techniques did you use to gather information (e.g., surveys, focus groups, online polls, etc.)? What conclusions did you draw from your collection of information? Were all project stakeholders on board? Or did you do your own research to ensure the goals of the project were on task? If you have not performed a Needs Assessment, please elaborate on the circumstances and/or reasons why one was not conducted.

If you have ideas to share, good advice to lend, or want to share a bad experience so that we can all learn from it, please respond to this blog post. In responding please provide the following information:

  • How many were you cooking for (target audience)?
    • How elaborate was your party?
  • Was your party a buffet style or sit down service (delivery method)?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • How did the Needs Assessment help you to plan a successful party? Or how did the lack of a Needs Assessment affect your party planning and outcome?
    • Was your facility too small for the party?
    • Was the party poorly planned?

We look forward to reviewing your recipes!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cooking for a Dinner Party

You’ve been hired by a party planner to do some cooking for a dinner event. Being a great chef, you begin to ask those all important questions prior to preparing the menu:

  • Who am I cooking for/what do they want to eat?
  • Will I be meeting with the hostess prior to the party?
  • Will I be able to work with the hostess on the menu?
  • What is the theme?
  • How is the event being decorated?
  • How much time do I have for prep?
  • Will I be preparing all foods at the location?
  • Has the facility been inspected/does it meet food preparation code or do I need to make changes?

These are just some of the things that are running through your mind right now! The same is true with instructional design. In order to design training (cook for a dinner party), you have to:

  • Obtain the project and training plans
  • Work with the Subject Matter Expert
  • Write and design the content
  • Work with the developer
  • Correct any errors or quality issues

When cooking for a dinner party you get much of your administrative direction and guidance from the planner (i.e., the Project Manager), the Host provides the specific details (i.e., the Subject Matter Expert), the decorator (i.e., the Developer) adds the right ambience to go with the meal, and the Health Inspector (i.e., the Quality Assurance Specialist) ensures the standards are met so that the meal can be served.

Your awareness of how these team members aide your ability to prepare the menu and final meal (complete the instruction) is vital to the success of not only your work but the overall dinner party (project). I addition you, as the ID through your provision of role responsibilities and key information with each of the team members impacts the overall project outcome. The shared awareness of the menu (parameters of the project) helps keep the project fluid, organized, within the bounds of the original project description without scope creep.

If this is your first time cooking for a big event or if you want to improve the odds of the project’s success use the following table to help you prepare.
RoleWhat information you need to discuss/obtain
Project Manager (Party Planner)
  • Project plan (project requirements, timeline, method of communication, etc.)
  • Training plan (target audience, delivery method(s), style guide, etc.)
  • What are the budgeted hours (both for your role and for each respective team member that has responsibilities that impact your work)
  • SME contact information
  • Are all stakeholders (external and integral to the success of the project) on board?
Subject Matter Expert (Host)*
Multimedia Designer/Graphic Artist (Party Decorator)
  • Will special media be incorporated in training?
  • Will we be working with a template? (Does training need to take place on the template?)
  • Who and how will graphics be located?
  • Is this project media/graphics heavy, requiring additional time and/or resources?
  • Will testing be conducted?
QA Specialist (Health Inspector)
  • What are the QA requirements?
  • What is the turnaround time?
  • Is the QA team aware of your project/timeline/needs?

*Though a SME is the one who typically reviews content, at times, there will be additional reviewers. Keep in mind these reviewers will also impact the timeline. If you are not working as closely with these reviewers as you are with the SME, you may need to ensure that they have the same level of knowledge about the project and their responsibilities. Also make sure you are familiar with their review cycles and the communication methods that will be used for discussion purposes and for tracking changes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Getting Everyone to Read from the Same Recipe

Department X assumes that Department Y is doing Z to make sure that the project achieves A. Department Y expects Department X to be doing Z to make sure that the project achieves A. This all ready is starting to sound like a recipe for disaster.

It’s not uncommon to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that varies in ingredients, amounts, mixing methods, cooking temperature and time; much like it’s not uncommon to have two different departments in a company wanting the same end result but having different requirements, assumptions, and expectations.

More commonly our understanding of what a requirement, an assumption, and an expectation to a project are invariably different. So let’s look at a recipe from the aspects of requirements, assumptions, and expectations.

Requirements – Recipes require specific ingredients in certain amounts. The recipe also has instructions for how to mix together the ingredients. Recipes also require a specific cooking temperature and time.

Assumption – We assume that the recipe is written accurately from the amounts, the instructions, and the cooking time and temperature. We assume that if we if we follow the recipe it will result in the dish we were expecting.

Expectations – Our expectation that we will achieve the dish we set out to make is based on the requirements and the assumptions. Assuming that we followed the requirements we expect our dish to be a certain way.

Below is a list of times when a conversation around requirements, assumptions, and expectations may be needed:

  • When fleshing out a training goal.

  • When creating a training plan.

  • When writing a Request for Proposal (RFP).

  • When kicking off a project with a vendor.

  • When discussing a goal with your team.

  • When discussing a goal that will be shared by multiple departments/divisions.

The unspoken word here is risk. Risk inevitably follows these three words when they are not communicated to achieve a common understanding. Risk is the cookie that is too hard to eat or over-cooked. Mitigate risk and have a perfect batch of project success more often by discussing requirements, assumptions, and expectations as part of the project kick-off (if not during project development).

Below are examples of requirements, assumptions, and expectations as they relate to a project.

Web-based training that is 508 compliant for ABC Company
Requirement The training module must be compatible with Flash 6.0.
AssumptionEveryone has Flash 6.0 (or compatible version) on their computers.
ExpectationThe piece of training runs on everyone’s computer.

Web-based training that is 508 compliant for ABC Company
Requirement All training for ABC Company must comply with section 508 standards.
Assumption The multimedia developer is familiar with the company’s 508 compliance standards and will create alt text and d-links as required.
Expectation The training is delivered with all interactions and graphics containing alt text and d-links.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making the SME a Master Chef in your ID Kitchen

A chef providing a list of raw ingredients doesn’t expect you will know how to make a delectable masterpiece. Initially, you don’t know if the ingredients listed make four courses or one main dish. You don’t know if this food is to be served raw, cooked, or both. You don’t even know how many servings are being prepared. In the end, the chef needs to provide the recipe, which includes all the steps and procedures to prepare the ingredients, if they expect us to duplicate their recipe.

Much like a chef, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) can provide a lot of resources, but that doesn’t mean as instructional designers, you immediately know where to place the content from them. Initially, we, as designers, don’t know the desired order of the resources or how much of each resource is applicable to the instruction. We don’t even know if we are to combine resources on the same topic or debate them. In the end, the SME needs to provide us concise guidance and instructions along with the resources if they expect us to be able to write, design, and develop quality training.

SMEs are an interesting and necessary part of the instructional design process. They are required for their validation of the training goals and content in order to obtain an optimal and successful outcome. Successful interaction with SMEs requires a delicate balance in order to maintain a favorable flow of information and feedback. Happily, there are SMEs that are quite comfortable in the ID realm and know how to participate and do their bit to ensure a successful piece of training has been developed.

Experience has taught us that our most successful encounters have been with SMEs possessing the following attributes:

  • Expert in the field.
  • Committed to the project.
  • Ability to identify the content that supports the topics/lessons.
  • Ability to communicate to the target audience without using jargon and/or clichés.

A SME is the member of a project team who is most knowledgeable about the content being taught. Frequently, the SME is an expert contracted or assigned by an organization to consult on the training being created.

There are also times when you may have multiple SME’s on the project. Larger projects that involve software rollouts or effect multiple departments typically have more than one SME. This ensures the content is reviewed and meets each vested party’s training needs, as well as, having an expert to review the content.

What They Are Not
SMEs are NOT instructional designers; therefore, you should, as a best practice, validate all objectives prior to gathering content. This ensures that your writing is focused and organized. You should validate the objectives to be sure that you gather the appropriate content to support each objective.

Note: There are times when the content outline will be created prior to validating objectives. Refine the content outline by discussing the objectives with the SME prior to content gathering.

Roles and Responsibilities
A SME contributes the core content and original materials. Additionally, the SME must be available for future content gathering through formal or informal interviews. The SME also provides access to source materials and reference items, such as journal articles, books, websites, etc. Because the SME is an expert in the particular field, he/she provides content based on his/her experiences.

It is the responsibility of the SME to review and validate objectives, design documents, scripts, and the final deliverable (e.g., online product for web-based training, printed version of IL training) for accuracy.

In our experience, it is excellent practice to distribute an outline defining and detailing the SMEs Responsibility/Role for discussion during the kick-off meeting. This document should inform the SME regarding the:

  • Role, definition, and responsibility of the SME.
  • Your expectations of the SME.
  • Number of days needed to gather content.
  • Number of days needed to review the content.
  • Number of review cycles.
  • Method of SME sign off (fax, e-mail, signed and/or mailed document).

In addition, there are key questions you need to ask the SME to get the project started off in the right direction. These questions include:

  • Does the SME have any periods of downtime, such as vacation or hours out of the office?
  • Does the SME agree to the timeline or does the timeline need to be adjusted accordingly?
  • What is the length of the training? What can be covered in this amount of time? (This will help you keep the content organized and chunked without including unnecessary topics. This will also help you to create hands-on activities that stay within the time restrictions.)
  • What form of communication (phone, e-mail, and/or fax) does the SME prefer?

Following is a list of expectations that will provide a good starting point when discussing SME responsibilities. The SME is expected to:

  • Meet required deadlines when performing reviews and answering questions.
  • Agree to the timeline and length of reviews.
  • Prepare materials.
  • Influence content.
  • Agree to the form of feedback and answer all questions thoroughly.
  • Abide by the change order process (adding little content vs. a new topic).

SME Project Orientation Sheet
We have determined that there are staple ingredients that provide the right combination for orientating, communicating, and managing SMEs. Copy and paste this quick and easy template below to successfully start off your next project that involves a SME. (Note: Any text in brackets [ ] is for you to replace with your own project specific information.) These templates aid in facilitating the orientation of the SME to the project and their required involvement. This document should be filled out by the ID in partnership with the SME. The project manager is an optional team member to involve during this orientation.

SME Guidance

Project Name: [Insert the project name the SME is assigned.]
Date: [Insert the meeting date that you have scheduled with the SME. This could be the kick-off meeting or another separate meeting you chose to have with the SME.]

This SME guidance sheet is to provide you with a basic comprehension of your roles, responsibilities, and expectations for the project you are assigned.

Current status of training

  • [Describe the current status of training, including the stage of the training (analysis, design, development, implementation, or evaluation). This section should specify any information regarding what changes have already been made to the content (e.g., SME comments that were incorporated in a topic/lesson, or if it is a new or redesigned course).]

How existing content was determined (if any)

  • [Provide the SME with information about the content outline, including how it was created (learning outcomes), the respective topics, and an overview of each topic. This section may not be necessary if the content outline is being established with the SME. If that is the case you may be able to leverage this section to explain how the ID and SME will go about developing the content outline.]

Goal of SME Review

  • The goal of feedback from a SME is to provide needed and/or additional content. A SME generally reviews existing content and provides guidance to shape the learning materials.
  • Provide content edits, not style edits. [Differentiate between “style” edits versus “content” edits. (Explain to the SME that their responsibility is to provide content, not formatting changes.)]
  • Review content within given timeline. [Provide project timeline and any review cycle periods.]

SME Expectations
As the SME you are expected to perform the following during the review cycle:

  • Provide content for gaps. The content will need to be framed by you on how it should be presented to the learner.
  • Trim content on screens with irrelevant or low-level information not important/required for the training.
  • Ignore the inconsistencies in style formatting. Don’t be an editor, be a reviewer. [(Sometimes SME’s turn into editors, this is not the goal of their review and time spent in reviewing.)]
  • Identify/suggest images to accompany content.

SME Feedback

  • [Specify how questions and instructions are directed towards the SME (these are your notes and questions to the SME.)]
  • [Differentiate between a note to a SME and a note to a developer.]
  • [Specify how the SME should provide feedback (e.g., font color or comments tool).]

The following are examples that compare a good SME comment that helps refine the content versus an incomplete SME comment.

  • Example from [XX] course. [Provide an example of a good SME comment versus an incomplete SME comment.]
  • [Delete our example when you have made your own.]Example from How to Make a Soufflé course:
    o Good SME Comment: “We do not address the egg-beating technique. Please see the attached document, paragraphs 2-3 on page 5 describe this method. Incorporate this content prior to discussing adding the sugar and flour.”
    o Incomplete SME Comment: “Perhaps we should cover the egg-beating technique.”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Want to Dish with Us? (Read before posting PLEASE!)

You can dish too! Here’s how.

We ask that anyone wanting to serve up their experiences or an opinion be mindful that we are encouraging an environment for sharing. At any time we have the right to remove any derogatory comments or “rants” from our blog. Let’s not have any “bad apples” so-to-speak.

We’ve set up a formula for you to successfully share your dish; please follow this format when providing your secrets to success. The idea is to give us a summary of your experience; feel free to write as much or as little as you would like to share:

  • Challenge/Problem – What was it that you encountered or noticed that needed worked out?

  • Constraints – What was out of your control that you needed to acknowledge and manage to institute the solution?

  • Final Solution – What did you do to fix the problem? List, if any, the other solutions or ideas and why they didn’t work.

    • Solution Idea #1
      • Pros – What was good about this idea? Why did you think it would work?
      • Cons – What was inadequate about this idea? Why did you think it may not work?
      • Final Determination – What was the final determination on this solution? Why was it or was it not used?