Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

eLearning and Instructional Design Meme

Last year I wrote a brief post about tech support meme and posted a hilarious video. I recently came across a whole book about, well not exactly tech support memes though some of stories are about tech support, Indian BPO stories. BPO-Sutra is compiled and edited by Sudhindra Mokhasi and he is already calling for more stories for a volume II.

So do instructional designers have any stories to build the elearning or instructional design meme? Here are two to start with. Would love to hear more from you. Either leave your story as a comment or post a link to your blog post with the story.


ID Meme #1

This was way back sometime in the mid-nineties. We had received a huge contract to develop elearning courses from probably the largest catalog content provider at that time. So we ramped up quickly going from a team of 15 to 200 very quickly. Instructional Design was still new to India and getting good writers was hard. But we had a strong training program and very good reviewers to parse every document. During a team meeting, one of the senior reviewers very seriously suggested that we need to include geography lessons in our refresher course on writing scenarios for the American audience. Curious we asked what prompted her to suggest that. Seriously she took out a script and read out the scenario. I don’t remember the exact words but it went something like this. “You are working as a system administrator in an NGO dedicated to the cause of tiger preservation in Alaska.” We all cried laughing that day.


ID Meme #2

This is a more recent one. One of the courses was returned by an American trainer saying that he can’t teach the course as he feared he might get sued because of the examples used in the course. The course was on using SQL in relational databases. The much feared example was a SQL query to identify employees above the age or 60 years in the employee master table. Both the instructional designer and the subject matter expert were wondering what the fuss was all about. It is only an example to demonstrate conditions in an SQL query, not realizing that while in India we can get away with seeking almost any info about the employees, sensitivities in the USA is a lot different.


So what’s your elearning / instructional design meme? Share your story here.


Amit said...

This is interesting post. This can potentially give us a collection of some funny, but great instances to learn from.

A couple of them come to my mind:
I remember once a UK based client telling me about a funny visual he received, for fish 'n' chips, in one of the courses developed by his vendor. Potato wafers and uncooked fish were shown alongside.

And there was an instance when the Instructional designer and QA were not able to catch an error on page that had some numbers. The issue being wrong comma placement: instead on showing it like this - 1,000,000, it was shown like this - 10,00,000. Obviously for US audience that was easy to spot but not so for our ID and QA. Inspite of repeatedly pointing out that there was a mistake on the page we were not able to spot it and the client had to finally point out the mistake more specifically.

Hope to see many more in response to this post.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing Amit. Fish 'n' Chips visual would have been really 'interesting' (ROFTL).

Here's another one I remembered. An instructional designer seemed furious about edits she received from the editor. She said it is all okay to have and comply to the standard of providing the expanded form of abbreviations before using them, but how I am supposed to expand UNIX?

Anonymous said...

If you're open to an American story (in an American company with American Flash developers), I once did QA for a criminal justice course (think police officer training) where one of the graphics was a skeleton with a helmet, shield, and sword. It was probably some Halloween graphic, but I have no idea why the developer thought that was a good choice.

We also had some recurring problems with SMEs plagiarizing at that company. Partly that's the culture of American education; too many teachers & professors think they can copy and paste anything they want from a website and pass it off as their own. My all-time favorite example was the SME who plagiarized the section on business ethics on his course. It was a lovely paragraph on how hard it is to be ethical when everyone around you is breaking the rules--but he didn't write it himself.

Unknown said...

I am open to all international stories Christy :-). Thanks for sharing.

I thought plagiarism was prevalent only with Indian SMEs. Interesting to know that you face the same problems in America too.

Anonymous said...

I assure you, plagiarism is an issue with Americans too, especially those with graduate degrees. I can't tell you how many people with Ph.D's I've caught copying and pasting.


This is one of my pet peeves. I just want people to give a citation. I don't care if it's in the right format, but give me a link and don't expect me to pretend that when the writing style and even font changes in the middle of a document that it's all written by one person.

Once I had some plagiarism where I noticed in the Word document that hovering over certain words showed a link to definitions, all from the same site. Sure enough, a whole paragraph was copied from a site that included glossary word links. The woman who copied it didn't know how to remove links in Word, so she just changed the blue underline formatting to standard black to cover her tracks.

Anshumali Saxena said...

At a BPO that I was working, a lowend data-upload and ticket issuing opeartive dreamt of joining the high profile tele-sales team (lots of commision to be made + designation upgrade). But there were no internal career upgrade training or support plan. So he went to corporate intranet and downloaded sales training programme and also dowloaded some from web apart to subscribing to training eZines. He also enrolled for certified Travel education programme of the company (online)...and in 8 months he had also learnt best practices in interview skills and resume making (monster.com) time when the IJP (Internal job posting) call came he was ready with necessary skills. He made a focused CV and applied...got favourably noticed and did well in the interview too...and soon became one of the hottest sellers: Passion combined with the freedom of self learning. This person is Ramandeep Singh and is today a very happy and successful man...professionally liberated by eLearning.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Manish!

My instructional design meme is a very simple one, but it has huge implications for any instructional designer.

It is know your target learning group.

You have ably illustrated the need for this in both the memes you presented in your post.

Whether it is a simple learning resource that has to be designed or instruction for a whole course, the target learning group HAS to be carefully considered. This includes having knowledge of cultural background, socioeconomic background (if possible) as well as other important parameters, such as age, experience, etc.

It must also take into account the distribution, that is to say the composition, of the target learning group (if that information is available) for few groups will be homogeneous. Failure to take into account the heterogeneous nature of a learning group can be just as much a fallacy as failing to take into account any other important feature of the group.

BUT, careful consideration of the composition of the group can assist and can even become an asset when the course is run.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth

Blogger In Middle-earth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Manish!You will have seen Will Thalheimer's latest.

As a reason for my meme given above, Will's paper says it all.


Unknown said...

Thanks Ken. As always, you have enhanced the value of this post with your comments and the shared link.

Was interesting to see an example of scenario in Hindi in Will's paper :-).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Manish!

Yes I saw the Hindi example and wondered if you'd say anything about it. Good to catch up with you.

Ka kite

Unknown said...

The gift of bottle of wine in the English version became an MP3 player in the Hindi version. I thought it was a good example of understanding the audience. Wine isn't very popular in India with the masses.

Dan Rust said...

There is a new web site offering links to free sales training resources. You should check out http://www.freesalestraining.com

Very nice clean site with links to solid resources, many of them are e-learning courses.

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