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May 2006
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PGI Friday: Backwards Learning

I'm fortunate to be able to work with the Commission on Dietetic Registation in creating a learning tool for professionals that's worthy of being today's potentially great idea. I guess you could describe it as 'backwards learning". 

In a traditional online continuing education course, educational content is presented, learning activities may be offered, and then a quiz is administered to assess attainment of course learning objectives.  In contrast, CDR's Assess and Learn modules do not begin with educational content.  The initial focus instead is on assessing what knowledge and skill an individual currently has in a particular area.  This assessment occurs within the context of a case scenario -- that is, learners are presented with cases and are asked questions about how best to deal with issues that arise .

While the initial focus is on self assessment, these tools are valuable learning instruments because each multiple-choice question is followed by feedback that provides an explanation for why each question option is correct or incorrect, current references, and links for additional information.  In addition, at the end of the module, a comprehensive feedback report is provided that describes the learner's performance by content domain and by learning objective, and includes suggested resources for further study.

You can view a few screen shots here to get a flavor for the tool: Download CDR_selfassess_example.pdf

If you decide to create a similar model, plan to spend extra time educating your audience on the uniqueness of the tool.  If you don't, learners may be surprised that the "test" comes first when they are used to it being at the end.

PGI Friday: Providing Guidance to Applicants

Is your application process new or complex?  Have you recently converted the application to an online form?  If so, consider adding visual instructions for your applicants to make them feel at ease with the forms and/or process.  After all, you don't want the form or process to be a roadblock for applicants.

ASTD has utilized a simple Word document with screen shots (see the tutorial link) to guide its applicants through its online application and payment system. (Note: I'd suggest converting to PDF to increase access and I'd add some pointer images on each page with more specific instructions.)

CDR has utilized a flash presentation with screen shots (click on the yellow light in the middle of the page) to describe its recertification system and walk through paper and online instructions.  Listeners can click any slide on the outline to jump ahead if only a specific section is relevant at that time (such as the online instructions on slide 33).  I created this presentation so if you're interested in how CDR did this (software used, etc.), contact me.   You'll notice there are some audio variance issues with the presentation; the audio files were taped at different times using different taping sources so we plan to retape and republish soon.  But, that aside, I think it's a great way to provide information and instructions to applicants...and it's easier and more affordable than you might think. 

Consider how you could use these ideas or others to simplify the process for your applicants.

PGI Friday: "Read" and Run

I've just found a way to accomplish two important things that I've been neglecting and it's my PGI for this week.  I've got a stack of books weighing down my bookshelf but little time to read (as a business owner and mom of 3 and 6 year olds).  I've got great intentions to exercise, but also having a hard time figuring out when to fit it in.  My solution:  I purchased a business book executive summary subscription.  I now download the audio files and take time each day for a jog while listening to key business literature.  Each is about 20 minutes long.  Now I don't feel guilty about the time away from my office because it's also professional development time.  And the summaries are helping me to filter through the mounds of available books to identify the ones I really want to dig into.  But, the next problem yet to be resolved:  I'm not in shape enough to jog through any full-length audio book...maybe in time.

PGI Friday: Context Rich Conferences

I admit it.  I'm a little blogged out this week.  I've been playing major catch-up on the We've Always Done It That Way blog (since we all agreed to post 20 ideas by end of May and I only had 6 as of a week ago) and we just started the ASAE & The Center's BostonBlog.  So, I'm cheating and referring you to a potentially great idea I already posted about over on the WADITW blog - creating context-rich conferences.  Check it out   BTW, as many of my colleagues also procrastinate as well as I, be sure to check in often at the WHADITW blog over the next week or so because I suspect there will be a deluge of interesting and mind-stretching posts.  And, I know it takes a few minutes to comment on the blog posts, but please do since your kudos, critiques and criticism will will help us make the final product (a book) much better.