Nine lessons and carols… for eLearning, and Christmas

Nine lessons and carols… for eLearning, and Christmas

Christmas tree1. T’was the night before Christmas

Many a night before Christmas has seen me wrapping presents for small children into the small hours. These days, I have conceded that as with so much in life – and eLearning projects in particular – planning and preparation are absolutely key. Starting in good time, knowing exactly how long it is going to take for a particular activity, and factoring that time in accurately, helps you to deliver to arguably the year’s most pressing deadline.

2. I saw three ships

Seeing three ships is fine, if you were hoping to see three ships and had planned around there being three ships! Scope creep is a perennial problem in eLearning projects – pinning down your expectations, and commitments, as early as possible in a project can save problems later.

3. Do you hear what I hear?

We do lots of translations for people. English to Spanish, Japanese to Korean, English to Arabic. Thinking of the design of your course at the outset, if translation is a possible requirement, might save you lots of time later when translated text pushes outside the boundaries of your text boxes and everything needs to be redesigned.

4. Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

In Arthur Christmas, Grandsanta struggles to remember the names of his reindeer: ‘Dasher, Dancer, Prancer … Bambi? John? You with the White Ear … and You … and You?’ Short term working memory can hold about seven pieces of information. Use chunking and memory hooks to help move things into your learner’s long term memory.

5. Let it snow …let it snow ………let it snow

Repetition is a fine thing! Spaced practice, at lengthening intervals, can help to fix information in long term memory.

6. The little boy that Santa forgot

Heartbreaking song. Reminded me that allegedly, someone was once challenged to come up with a compelling story, in only six words. They wrote:  “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It’s intriguing and though short, has an immediate emotional response. Storytelling can bring this same powerful impact to your courses.

7. We three kings

Eminent people often have roles to play in eLearning projects – we tend to call them subject matter experts. They may be the kind of kings who come, bring gifts, and leave awed by our projects. Or they may be Herod. Try to understand their motivation, be professional and remember that you too can be a star.

8. Glad tidings of great joy

Imagine you have to script the message for the heavenly host. Would it be passive? Would it be talking in the third person? Would it be heavily conditional? Would it be long, and complex, with sub-clauses? Would it be full of jargon? Or would it be short, direct, easy to understand and to the point? ‘Fear not! Glad tidings of great joy I bring, to you and all mankind.’

9. What can I give him?

Christina Rossetti’s carol, ‘In the bleak midwinter’, asks:

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

In my personal life, I volunteer as Chair of a Multi Academy Trust. Yesterday I was privileged to attend a Christmas production at one of our primary schools. Sitting there watching years 1 and 2 deliver their play, it struck me forcefully again how much it matters that we enhance the life chances of each and every one of those children – whatever their backgrounds, aptitudes, capabilities and gifts.

Don’t forget that we too are teachers. We may not be teaching children to read, or to love literature or science or maths, or to make the most of their many and varied talents. But all those people learning from our courses still have the potential to be changed by them.

Eighteen months ago, I thought our training admin clerk might find the Storyline training course interesting, as she had done art and computing at A level and it seemed an ideal combination of skills. Indeed she did – for the past nine months she has been our newest content developer. Her participation in that course has been transformative – it has opened up a career path that she had never considered.

What we do is important – we may be keeping our learners safe from harm by telling them how to manage dangerous goods, or from harm by telling them how not to breach financial regulations. We may be helping them to settle into a new role happily, or to learn a new skill that will bring them future success.

We may just be sparking an interest that can transform a life.

Be proud of the work you do. Give your heart to creating life chances.

Happy Christmas, best wishes for an excellent 2019.