Integrating and Connectors – SharePoint

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

There’s not just one way to integrate Questionmark with your SharePoint portal. There’s not just two ways. There are actually three ways to integrate a Questionmark assessment into a SharePoint page!

For Perception (on-premise) customers, it’s possible to use Windows Authentication to present to a SharePoint user a list of assessments for which they have been scheduled – without having to re-authenticate the user in Questionmark.

Questionmark has also developed a SharePoint Connector for our OnDemand customers. It’s a SharePoint web part that automatically logs the user into Questionmark and displays a list of assessments for which they have been scheduled.

The third way to integrate a Questionmark assessment with a SharePoint page is to embed it in the page. This is great for simple, anonymous quizzes and knowledge checks.

Check out this video for a quick overview of all three methods of integrating Questionmark and SharePoint.

SharePoint Video

Reflections on the San Antonio Users Conference

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

I had the good fortune of attending the Questionmark Users Conference in San Antonio, Texas a couple of weeks ago.

As required by (personal) law, I visited the Hard Rock Café for dinner on my first night in town! And let me tell you, if you missed the fresh sushi at the Grand Hyatt’s Bar Rojo, you missed something pretty doggone special.

But more special than Hard Rock visits and heavenly sushi was the chance to interact with and learn from Questionmark users. Honestly, users conferences are a  favorite part of my job. The energy, the camaraderie, the ideas – it all energizes me and helps keep me fired up!

We had a great session on Item Writing Techniques for Surveys, Quizzes and Tests. We had some wonderful conversations – I like for my sessions to be more of a conversation than a lecture – and I picked up some helpful tips and examples to work into my next presentation. For those of you who couldn’t make this session, it’s based on a couple of blog series. Check out the Writing Good Surveys series as well as the Item Writing Guide series. You’ll also want to check out Improving Multiple Choice Questions and Mastering Your Multiple Choice Questions for more thoughts on improving your multiple choice questions.

The other session I led was on using Captivate and Flash application simulations in training and assessments. As with my previous presentations on this topic, the room was packed and people were excited! During my years as a Questionmark customer, I was always impressed with the Adobe Captivate Simulation and Adobe Flash question types. I feel even more strongly about this since attending a webinar put on the other day by a fairly popular LMS. The process you have to go through to do a software simulation in one of their assessments is far too involved and complicated – it really drove home the simplicity of using the Captivate question type in Questionmark.

It really was great to see old friends and make new ones at the conference. I look forward to working with customers throughout the rest of 2014 and to seeing them again soon.

Learning Styles: Fiction?

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

Last week, I wrote about learning styles and the importance many educators place on them. Today, let’s look at the downside of this approach.

Do a Google search on “debunking 4 learning styles” and you’ll find a lot of information. For example, a few years ago the Association for Psychological Science published an article stating that there is no scientific support for learning styles. But there are a couple of points in this article that I would like to bring out.

The first is that the article isn’t really saying that the learning styles theory has been disproved: it’s saying the theory hasn’t been correctly proven. In other words, learning styles may still exist, but the proponents of the theory simply haven’t proven it yet. That’s different from “proven not to exist at all.”

Second, note the little bit that says “the participants would need to take the same test at the end of the experiment.” We know that for an assessment to be fair, valid and reliable, one of the things it must do is allow the participant to display his/her level of knowledge, skill or ability without interference and without testing multiple skills simultaneously (like reading comprehension along with the actual knowledge objective).

So how should we be looking at the relationship between learning styles and assessments? Should proponents of learning styles need to use assessments that take them into consideration? If a person is a visual learner would they be better able to communicate their understanding with a visual question—say a Hot Spot—than with a multiple choice question? And maybe an auditory learner would better communicate his/her understanding with a spoken answer. Would forcing a visual learner to prove their understanding in a non-visual way be fair? Would it truly be testing not only their knowledge? Or would it also be testing their ability to overcome the learning style barrier presented by the question itself?

Those who don’t support the learning style theory feel that anyone can learn from any presentation style—people just have preferred styles. In other words, they feel that the evidence shows that if you had two groups who identify as visual learners, and they both learned the same subject matter but one group learned it visually while the subject matter was presented differently to the second group, both groups would still end up learning the same amount. Their learning style is not a limitation (so much so that they can’t learn as much or as well when the material is presented in other styles), it’s just a preference.

I can’t say that I accept learning styles as fact, but I also can’t say that I believe they are fiction. What I can say is that I believe that learning has to do with two things:

1.       Engagement
2.       Learner motivation

I don’t believe that “learning styles” and “engagement” are the same thing. I can see where, assuming that learning styles exist, it would be easier to engage a visual learner with visual content, but if you have boring visual content, even a visual learner will not learn. I also believe that a podcast done really well can engage a (supposedly) visual or tactile learner. True, according to the theory, the visual or tactile learner may not learn as much as when the material is presented in their style, but I think you get my point that learning must be engaging, and that engagement is independent of learning style.

My experience has also shown me that when a learner is motivated, nothing will stand in his or her way. If passing that eLearning course means a promotion and a raise, that auditory learner will do what it takes to learn the material and pass, even if the material is nothing but charts and graphs. Conversely, if the visual learner couldn’t care less about the material, the greatest graphs in the world won’t make one whit of difference.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on learning styles. Do you think they’re real, and that a learner simply cannot learn as well from material not presented in their style as they can from material that is?? Or do you think that learning style is more of a preference, and that learning will take place regardless of the way in which it is presented as long as it is engaging and the learner is motivated?

Integrating and Connectors – Blackboard

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

So far in this series we have discussed integrating using common standards – launch-and-track with AICC or SCORM, or a tighter integration with the Questionmark LTI Connector. In this installment we take a look at a deeper, custom integration – the Questionmark Blackboard Connector.

The latest version of Blackboard does have LTI capabilities, but we recommend using our Blackboard Connector instead of the LTI Connector as the Blackboard Connector has more functionality. As you’ll see in the following video, the Blackboard Connector handles a number of things behind the scenes – automatically creating groups that represent courses, adding participants and instructors to the appropriate groups, scheduling, etc. You also have a great amount of control – the Blackboard Connector has settings that allow you to control which courses and/or participants can interact with Questionmark from the Questionmark side, instead of automatically synchronizing everything.

Enjoy this video about integrating Questionmark with Blackboard using the Questionmark Blackboard Connector, and let me know if you have any questions!

Integrating Blackboard

Learning Styles: Fact?

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

Are learning styles fact or fiction? There’s a lot of debate on this subject, so I’d like to join in by  presenting each side of the case: the pros in this post and the cons in my next post.

I am fascinated by the idea of learning styles, especially in the context of eLearning and instructor-led, web-based classes (where while delivered live, you don’t have physical proximity/motion/interaction between the instructor and the students).

Here are some points that favor the idea of learning styles.

This short article explains the concept nicely: Different people learn best in different ways, and effective teaching takes this into account. While as many as 71 different learning styles have been proposed, the four most common are:

  • Visual: the learner learns best by looking at things – charts, graphs, pictures, videos, etc.
  • Auditory: the learner learns best by hearing things, for example, listening to lectures or podcasts.
  • Tactile: the learner learns best by touching something.
  • Kinesthetic: the learner learns best by doing something.

Hence a visual learner, for instance, will learn better when the material is presented visually; they will not learn as well when the material is presented as a lecture.

Taking this into account as an instructor, I could design my course to accommodate all of these styles. For example, if I’m putting together an eLearning module, I would include lots of graphics and short bullet points for the visual learner. I would also include audio narration for the auditory learner. (The visual learner could turn off the audio.)

It’s a little tough to incorporate a tactile element in eLearning, but depending on the subject matter, perhaps I could have participants create an origami widget. And for the kinesthetic learner, the origami widget exercise might be useful since it is at least a little bit of movement.  At the very least, I could break my course into several very short chunks so that the kinesthetic learner could get up and move around between chunks. Or maybe I could assign a lab where they have to go to the local office supply store and research some prices–or something like that.

Wow. That’s a lot of work.

And it may not be worth it.

I’ll tell you why in my next post.

Should we formalize informal learning?

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

Charles Jennings a champion of the 70:20:10 learning model. He explains it in this video: 70% of learning takes place through on-the-job experience, 20% of learning is through informal relationships such as mentoring and conversations with co-workers, and only 10% of learning takes place in formal settings like classrooms and eLearning courses.

I recently read an article in Learning Solutions Magazine entitled Stop Trying to Formalize Informal Learning! The author, Stephanie Ivec, makes some good points about what I would call “organic learning” (she emphasizes unofficial, unscheduled, and impromptu) and how informal learning can possibly be negatively impacted by trying to turn it into a formal process. Ms. Ivec’s position seems to be one of “let formal be formal, and let informal be informal,” which is something with which I agree – in general.

The article got me thinking about one of my favorite sayings: “Everything in Balance.” The article made me ponder what might be the right balance between formal and informal learning.

Should we try to take every informal learning experience, codify it, and teach it in a classroom or e:Learning course? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, it would be impossible to do so in some circumstances: There are some things you are only going to learn and get better at by doing them on the job.

So then we should just let formal be formal, and informal be informal, and never the twain shall meet, right? Well, that’s where I think we need to find balance.

Consider Henry, the sales person who has been on the job for 30 years. He’s the top sales person in the company, and for good reason: He knows the company’s products like the back of his hand, he understands the company’s customer, and he has great people skills. Henry is more than willing to work with the other members of the sales team, and he provides great advice and insights to anyone who asks. He’s even taken some of the new hires under his wing for their first couple of months to “teach them the ropes.” There is some SERIOUS informal learning going on, know what I mean?

But Henry will retire in a couple of years, and he’s taking all of that (informal) knowledge with him. Somehow, that knowledge needs to be preserved within the company. This is where a bit of formalizing would be appropriate. What if Henry were asked to write a series of blog articles on his sales techniques, what he looks for in customers, how he customizes his pitch – and then new hires were required to read those articles (and take a brief knowledge check) as part of their onboarding?

Or maybe the training department could record a series of interviews with Henry, asking the right questions and capturing the right knowledge. The results could be made available in a podcast format. This means that rather than knowledge transfer taking place randomly (a junior sales person happens to be in the break room with Henry and has the courage to ask the venerable gentleman the right question), we can take some of that informal learning and add just enough of a formal wrapper to it so that we can make sure everyone benefits. We can track the learning as well as assess it.

Another concern I have about informal learning is that we don’t always know what’s being taught. Let’s say I work in a food processing plant, and at the end of each day we go through a cleaning and sanitizing process. If I mess it up, a lot of people could end up very sick. Human nature being what it is, people tend to look for shortcuts and simple ways to do things. So proper cleaning and sanitizing training is not necessarily something that should be left to on-the-job training (70%) or learning from a co-worker (20%).

Suppose my co-worker has a shortcut that appears benign and even saves time. He believes it works just as well as the proper procedures … but it doesn’t, and it’s not something that should be propagated through the workforce and to new hires. In this situation, the company might want to use observational assessments and Job Task Analysis surveys to understand what is really happening “out on the floor.” Then Formal training could incorporate the good practices and eliminate the poor ones. An alternative might be to run high-performing employees through formal training, certify their knowledge, and then designate them as “official informal trainers” back on the job: a formal/informal training hybrid.

I think there will always be, and should always be, formal, semi-formal, and completely informal learning taking place. Training organizations should support all of these, and they can help serve the company’s goals by keeping things in balance: determining what informal training should be formalized or at least captured in a formalized wrapper as a valuable learning resource.