Should the Door be Closed or Open: Thoughts on the Social Learning and Reflection Continuum

I have been doing some more reflecting on the Social Learning and Reflection Continuum. This reflection includes both social reflection (mostly via Twitter) and self-reflection. Part of it includes how the continuum fits in with other continuums and does the Social Learning and Reflection Continuum really make sense? I created the diagram below to see what would happen if I changed it and how other forms of learning fit in. If you click the diagram it will bring up a larger diagram in a new window:

Hydra Theory of Learning

In the diagram I replaced the Social Learning and Reflection Continuum with Social Learning and Achorite. This was mostly because of some tweets with Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia) where she thought that Solitude should be on the opposite side of Social Learning. I did not really like that word so I used the term anchorite, which in part means “rural countryside” in order to contrast it to social, as meaning village or town” (e.g. it takes a village or number or people).

NOTE: While the opposite ends of the various continuums discussed below may be a choice of one or the other, they are more often shades of various degrees and/or combinations. That is, don't just look at the ends, but also picture a wide rage of possibilities inside of them.

The Door

Door: Open or Shut?

I had the thought, “What is the real purpose of the continuum? Is it to count the number of people involved? Or does it have a deeper meaning.” Then I remembered of what I read when the physicist Freeman Dyson commented on the subject. He noted that when writing, he closes the door, but when doing science, he leaves it open. This is because when writing you need to perform deep reflective thoughts, but when doing science you welcome being interrupted because it is only by interacting with other people that you get anything interesting done.

Thus it is not really about the number of people involved in the learning episode, but rather, do you welcome the thoughts of others or do you need to sort out your thoughts and ideas without being interrupted? Counting the number of people in a learning episode does not make sense as it sort of like counting the number of seats in formal learning — who cares? The real purpose is do you need to discuss ideas with others or do you need to sort ideas, order them, toss out invalid ones, etc. within your own mind.

So I named this continuum “the door” – do you need it open or shut during a specific point when learning? And of course you may decide to choose a combination and have Social Reflection — engaging with others in a way that encourages talking with, questioning, or confronting, to aid the reflective process by placing the learner in a safe environment in which self-revelation can take place.

Thus, I am now sticking with my initial premise that reflection belongs on the same continuum with social learning.

Direction of Control

Direction of Control

David Winter (@davidawinter) thought perhaps that Autonomous should be placed opposite of Social Learning. At first I thought his term was better than Achorite or Solitude. But then I thought some more and decided that Guided Learning was really its opposite, thus in the first diagram above I have them on their own continuum. But when I started to name them, it dawned on me that they had the same purpose as the Formal and Informal Continuum — who controls the learning? Since Autonomous and Guided Learning has slightly more precise meanings than Formal and Informal, I placed them on the inside of the Direction of Control Continuum.

Known or Unknown?

Known or unknown answer

Collaborative Learning is quite similar to cooperative learning in that the learners work together in teams to increase their chance of deeper learning. However, it is a more radical departure from cooperative learning in that there is not necessarily a known answer. For example, trying to determine the answer to "how effective is reflection?" would be collaborative learning as there are a wide ranges of possibilities to this question, depending upon the learners' experiences and perspectives.

Purpose of Learning

Purpose of Learning

I included a Purpose of Learning Continuum as learning normally has a purpose during an informal or formal episode, but often we learn something that was not in the initial plan. However, that learning may prove later to have a real and important purpose.


Type of Process

The processing continuum is important because it determines how we will learn something. If it is easy to learn, we may only have to listen, observe, feel, etc. But as it becomes more complicated, we need to actually do it. Of course that is not always possible, so between the two ends of the continuum are the various activities that we may practice in order to be able to perform in a real work setting.



While writing this post, I thought of another learning continuum, workflow — can the learning be embedded within the learner's workflow or does it call for a training process?


What are your thoughts on these various learning continuums? Are there more? Do these make sense? Please let me know by leaving a comment, Twitter me (I'm @iOPT), or carrying the discussion further on your own blog (send me a tweet so I can RT it).


The Social Learning and Reflection Continuum

Recently I had a Twitter conversation with Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia), Aaron Silvers (@mrch0mp3rs), and David Winter (@davidawinter) on the subject of reflection. Or more specifically, is reflection on the same continuum as social learning:

social learning and reflection continuum

Being on opposite sides of the continuum does not mean it's one or the other, but rather there are different degrees and combinations of social learning and reflection. The reason I place them on the same learning continuum is that their definitions seem to be just about the opposite (one is performed with others while the other is often performed in one's head):

  • Social Learning: a process of learning caused or favored by people being situated in a common environment and interacting and observing one another. This allows the learners to not only perceive each other for comparison and self-evaluation, but also see others as a neutral source of information, which may help or speed several forms of instrumental learning.
  • Reflection is thinking for an extended period by linking recent experiences to earlier ones in order to promote a more complex and interrelated mental schema. It normally involves looking for:
    • commonalties
    • differences
    • interrelations beyond their superficial elements

The middle of the learning continuum might be termed Social Reflection: engaging with another person in a way that encourages talking with, questioning, or confronting, in order to aid the reflective process by placing the learner in a safe environment in which self-revelation can take place (Hatton, Smith, 1995):

Social Reflection

And of course we can combine the Learning Continuum with other continuums to form a quad:

Social, Reflection, Informal Learning, Formal Learning Tools

Note: examples of tools that promote reflection

How do you view the Social Learning and Reflection Continuum?


Designing eLearning

A learning methodology is a set of procedures composed of methods, principles, and rules for enhancing individual capacity and performance. Yet, some elearning designers only think of the technology and content, which normally leads to a “page-turning” design — the learner reads what is on the screen and then clicks the next button. While this can bring about knowledge, which is important, the design often fails to follow-up with the next step — performance — having the learners practice the skills in order to master them. While there are a number of means of achieving this, one option is using a design architecture composed of the “Five Types of Content in eLearning” (Clark, Mayer, 2007) and the six categories of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy:

Five Types of Content in eLearning

  • Fact - unique data (e. g., symbols for Excel formula)
  • Concept - a category that includes multiple examples (e. g., Excel formulas)
  • Process - a flow of events or activities (e. g., how a spreadsheet works)
  • Procedure - step-by-step task (e. g., entering a formula into a spreadsheet)
  • Strategic Principle - task performed by adapting guidelines (e. g., doing a financial projection in a spreadsheet)

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

Bloom's Revised Taxonom

Design Architecture Matrix

Putting the above two concepts into a matrix gives us an idea of what type of activities the learners need in order for them to learn the required performance skills. The chart below lists various activities and aids that can help increase the possibility of turning learning into performance. Since the chart will be cut off in the blog, this link will bring up the chart in a new window: eLearning Design Chart.

  Fact Concept Process Procedure Strategic Principle
(or being able to locate data by searching)

EPSS or mLearning for finding facts

Multiple choice, puzzles, or Drag and Drop for learning facts

EPSS or mLearning for finding examples


Reading or podcast

Social Learning Media - learning from others

EPSS or mLearning for finding the activities

Social Learning Media - learning from others

Demonstration (rich media)

Reading or podcast

Multiple choice, puzzles,or Drag and Drop for learning the events

EPSS or mLearning for finding the steps

Social Learning Media - learning from others

Demonstration (rich media)

Reading or podcast

Multiple choice, puzzles, or Drag and Drop for learning the steps

EPSS or mLearning for discovering the basic principles

Social Learning Media for discussing principles

Demonstration (rich media)

Reading or podcast

Multiple choice, puzzles, or Drag and Drop for learning the principles


Matched example/non-example pairs


Reading with simple graphics

elearning, EPSS, or mLearning for demonstration (rich media)

Social Learning Media - discussing and sharing


Reading with graphics


elearning, EPSS, or mLearning for demonstration (rich media)

Social Learning Media - discussing and sharing


Reading with graphics


Social Learning Media - discussing and sharing

eLearning - Interactive Scenario

Case study followed by questions


Case study followed by questions

Drag and Drop or puzzles

Social Learning Media - sharing experiences

Creating wiki entry or blog post

EPSS - list activities

eLearning - Interactive Scenario

Social Learning Media - sharing and receiving guidance

Creating wiki entry or blog post

EPSS - list steps

eLearning - Interactive Scenario

Social Learning Media - sharing and receiving guidance

Creating wiki entry or blog post

EPSS - list activities

Social Learning Media - sharing and receiving guidance

Creating wiki entry or blog post

eLearning - Interactive Scenario


eLearning - Interactive Scenario

Social Learning Media - reflecting and sharing

Matched example/non-example pairs

Social Learning Media - reflecting and sharing

Matched example/non-example pairs

Social Learning Media - reflecting and sharing

Case study followed by questions

Social Learning Media - reflecting and sharing


Social Learning Media - sharing experiences and creating blog posts

Case study followed by questions

Social Learning Media - sharing experiences and creating blog posts

eLearning - Interactive Scenario

Case study followed by questions

Social Learning Media - sharing experiences and creating blog posts

eLearning - Interactive Scenario

Social Learning Media - sharing experiences

Case study followed by questions and blog post or wiki entry


Social Learning Media - project interaction (chat, wiki, blog)

Blended Learning - elearning and face-to-face - Action Learning

Social Learning Media - project interaction (chat, wiki, blog)

Blended Learning - elearning and face-to-face - Action Learning

Social Learning Media - project interaction (chat, wiki, blog)

Blended Learning - elearning and face-to-face - Action Learning

Social Learning Media - project interaction (chat, wiki, blog)

What tools are you using to to help ensure your learning platform goes beyond a page-turner?


ADDIE Backwards Planning Model

I have been working on this model for some time, so I wanted to present my latest version.

The ADDIE Backwards Model is quite similar to most other ADDIE type models. Note that the Learning Platform (Implement) rests on the Analysis, Design, Development, and Evaluation Phases. The steps in the Analysis Phase closely align with Phillips' Needs Model and Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Evaluations. In addition, the Analysis steps align with the Design and Development steps:

ADDIE Backwards Planning Model

Click for a larger version with “clickable” links

Analysis Phase

  • Business Needs - how a learning initiative will support the organization's initiatives, strategies, or goals
  • Job Performance Needs - determine the cause of the performance deficiency that is preventing the business unit from reaching its objectives and identify the performance required to reach it
  • Training Needs - define appropriate performance, instructional, and informational material (includes both formal and informal)
  • Individual Needs - ensure the goals and tasks will be judged by the learners as important and doable

Design Phase

  • Develop Objectives - what tasks the learners will be able to perform after they finish the learning process
  • Develop Tests - how well the tasks must be performed
  • Identify Learning Steps - how to perform the tasks
  • List Entry Behaviors - what the learners must know before entering the learning process
  • Sequence - sequenced and structured to provide the best opportunity for learning that will lead to performance

Development Phase

  • List Learner Activities — activities that help the learners perform in order to meet the Business Needs.
  • Choose Delivery System — the medium is selected that will not only best deliver the learning platform to the learners, but also has the least interruption on their jobs (performance aids, social media, informal learning techniques, etc.)
  • Review Existing Material — see if any preexisting content can be recycled to meet the performance needs
  • Develop Instruction — the courseware, such as the activities, performance aids, content, context, etc. are created
  • Synthesize — combine into a coherent whole so that it best integrates the information and activities into a learning platform that fosters performance
  • Validate Instruction — ensure the learning platform helps the learners to reach the business objective and informs them of the need to perform to the required standards

Implementation Phase

The Analysis, Design, and Development phases provided the underlying support to ensure the learning platform:

  • Performs as predicted (solves a real business need)
  • Flows with the job performance needs (improves job performance rather than interrupt it)
  • Supports all training and learning needs
  • Ensure the learners see the training as important and doable so that they are motivated to engage in it

Evaluation Phase

Aligning the ADDIE model with Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Evaluation helps to ensure the learning platforms performs as expected


Ideas Favor the Connected Mind

In a recent TED Talk, Steven Johnson, the best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience, gives a presentation titled, Where good ideas come from.

TED Conference


He notes how England's coffee houses became a social meeting place for people that began one of the great intellectual periods in the last 500 years — “The Enlightenment” — in that it allowed different people with different backgrounds and different fields of expertise a place to meet and exchange ideas.

An idea is a network (a new configuration); however, that idea is normally cobbled together from whatever parts happen to be nearby — we take ideas from other people, people we learn from, people we meet in the coffee shop, and then stitch them together into new forms. Fred Stratton (CEO of Briggs & Stratton) once said that genius lay in the ability to see how two or more ideas that nobody else sees as related are indeed related. This ability to make an analogy between different ideas unlocks a world of potential. And the means that we get to see various ideas is often accomplished by connecting with others.

Common Environment

These meeting places where we connect are often called “common environments.” However, social media tools, such as blogs, micro blogs (e.g., Twitter & Yammer), file sharing (e.g., Flickr & SlideShare), virtual meeting places, (e.g., Adobe Connect & Elluminate), social sites (e.g. Facebook & MySpace), and wikis now provide a virtual bridge by acting as the common environment in many instances. This virtual bridge allows people to interact with each other in much the same manner as they would in a common environment, thus they are virtually able to observe, gather new ideas, and learn from others.

Social Media

Space has shifted as people do not have to be in the same physical location. The availability of the common environment has been greatly extended.

The Formation of New Ideas

While people often say they get their ideas in sort of an eureka minute, they are for the most part unreliable when performing this self-reporting on where they get their new ideas. Rather than being an eureka minute, ideals normally happen when people get together so that they can bounce ideas off other people, absorb the thoughts of others, and then build relationships between the various ideas..

Steven Johnson tells the story of how Charles Darwin wrote that he came up with the idea of natural selection in an eureka minute; however, his notebooks tell a slightly different story — he had the full concept of natural selection in them months before he was actually able to put the final theory forward.

While we might think that our ideas come in one spark, they normally are created in an incubation period consisting of 1) connecting with others 2), seeing a relationship between different ideas, 3) developing each part of the new idea, and 4) the joining of the parts in order to create the finalized idea (it is this last step that gives the illusion that the idea is an eureka moment).

Asking if Something Can be Done

In his talk, Steven Johnson tells the story of when Sputnik was launched, two guys named Guier and Weiffenbach started listening to the pings coming from its signal. After a while they noticed small frequency variations that allowed them to calculate the speed of the satellite. They began talking to their colleagues who had other kind of specialties and about three or four weeks later they mapped the exact trajectory of this satellite orbiting earth.

A couple weeks later their boss, Frank McClure asked them, “You've figured out an unknown location of a satellite orbiting the planet from a known location on the ground. Could you go the other way? Could you figure out an unknown location on the ground, if you knew the location of the satellite?” After thinking about it they discovered it would actually be easier. Guier and Weiffenbach's boss needed to be able to do this as he was working on new nuclear submarines in which it was extremely difficult to calculate the aim of a missile so that it lands on top of Moscow, if you don't know the exact location of a submarine located in the middle of the ocean.

Open Innovation

Guier, Weiffenbach, and McClure opened the avenue of GPS. Thirty years later, Ronald Reagan opened it up and made it an open platform that anybody could build upon and anybody could build new technology that would create and innovate on top of this open platform. A closed system connects with a small number of minds, while an open system has an opportunity to connect with a large number of minds that in turn, greatly increases its chance of becoming a new idea, which in turn can become a new innovation.

The Process of Creating Ideas

Thus, connecting people allows the exchange of ideas that form new ideas, which in turn can create another idea that works best when it is opened up to innovation:

The process of ideas

This process of creating ideas is important when designing learning environments.

Agile Design

Agile Design

For example, one of the concepts of Agile Design is bringing the designers, managers, learners, and subject matter experts and/or exemplary performers in on the planning stage as a high degree of collaboration needs to take place to accurately identify the problem and solution. When extending instructional system design to solve complex problems, you need to fully immerse yourself in the problem to fully understand it.

Extending Instructional Design

Extending Instructional Design

To accomplish either of these requires connections so that the idea creation process can begin.

And we need to not only include the process of creating ideas in our building of learning platforms, but also extending them to the learners so that they can create ideals that will help lead to innovation. Rather than build walls, have no walls. The physicist Freeman Dyson once wrote:

When writing, I close the door, but when doing science, I leave it open. Up to a point you welcome being interrupted because it is only by interacting with other people that you get anything interesting done.

What have you done lately to help increase the creation of ideas within your organization — have you helped to tear down the walls rather than build walls?


Blog Book Tour: Social Media for Trainers

Social Media for TrainersWelcome to the seventh stop of the Blog Book Tour for Jane Bozarth's new book, Social Media for Trainers. If you have been following the blog book tour, then you know Jane's book not only provides an introduction for understanding how to use social media tools, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and wikis; but is also chock-full of examples. And these examples are quite important as they provide models for learning.

However, perhaps you are still somewhat leery of using social media for learning, thus I'm listing a few points for you to consider.

We often think of new technologies or concepts as being silver-bullets or replacements for present training and learning initiatives. Past examples include video tapes and elearning. And yes, sometimes they are able to stand by themselves as the learning platform; however, they often work much better in blended solutions. Thus, social media should not normally be thought of as a stand-alone solution, but rather as extensions of face-to-face exchanges in order to extend the learners' networks.

Social media can provide a virtual bridge by acting as the common learning environment (see Instructional Design — Social Learning and Social Media). Thus it extends and in some instances may replace the required social interactions that takes place in a lot of learning processes.

As noted earlier, examples provide learners with real models. Social learning works in a similar manner in that it allows the learners to perceive others for comparison and self-evaluation. In addition, we can bounce ideas off of them and are often a neutral source of information, which may help or speed several forms of instrumental learning (Conte, Paolucci, 2001). We know these social interactions are important because while we might picture someone learning informally as being a “lone learner,” studies have shown that during an informal learning episode a learner normally interacts with an average of 10 people (Tough, 1999). And even though you might only be interested in formal learning, you have to support these informal learning episodes because informal and formal learning are closely tied together — an average of one-hour of formal learning spills over to four-hours of informal learning (Cofer, 2000).

Thus to transform training from an event to a real process you have to support the informal learning that accompanies the majority of formal learning. Bell (1977) used the metaphor of brick and mortar to describe the relationship of formal and informal learning. Formal learning acts as bricks fused into the emerging bridge of personal growth. Informal learning acts as the mortar, facilitating the acceptance and development of the formal learning. He also noted that informal learning is not a replacement for formal learning processes as it is this synergy that produces effective growth.

To make training an effective process, you really have think about tying the various parts of learning into a whole, such as formal and informal learning, and the social learning that normally needs to accompany the other two. While the main reason for training failing in the past was most likely the failure to link formal learning to a real business need, I would think with all the emphasis on it the last few years that we have now gone beyond that and we now need to refine our efforts. Jane's book can be an important part of the solution.

Next stop for the Social Media for Trainers Blog Book Tour is Gina Schreck, that is scheduled on September 22.

You can follow Jane on Twitter: @janebozarth and @SoMe4Trainers; connect with her Facebook pages: Jane Bozarth Bozarthzone and Social Media for Trainers; or read some of her thoughts and ideas on her blog.


Bell, C. R. Informal Learning in Organizations. Personnel Journal, 56, no. 6 (June 1977): 280-283, 313. (EJ 160 136).

Cofer, D. (2000). Informal Workplace Learning. Practice Application Brief. NO 10. U.S. Department of Education: Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education.

Conte, R. & Paolucci, M. (2001). Intelligent Social Learning. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation. vol. 4, no. 1.

Tough, A. (1999). Reflections on the study of adult learning. Paper presented at the 3rd New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL) Conference, University of Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 8, 2008 from http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/depts/sese/csew/nall/res/08reflections.pdf


On The Media

A recent On The Media Podcast has several short stories about media that might be of interest to many of you. Unlike their original podcast in which all the stories are combined into one podcast, their web page on the podcast has the stories broken down into short segments so that you can pick and choose the ones you want to listen to.

Field Guide

The first story that might be of interest is titled, Field Guide (transcript), that discusses the popularity of the Madden NFL video game among pros, college, and high school football players. One thing is for certain — the new players are much more familiar with offensive formations, defensive formations, play calls, etc. than new players 20 years ago; and both players and coaches agree that they are learning a lot about football through the video game.

The Uncanny Valley

The next one is titled the The Uncanny Valley (transcript). The story is about simulations and the human sims within them. What is interesting is that if you create a sim that is 95 percent lifelike, it is great; however, if you made one that is 96 percent lifelike, it is a disaster because it is like a a human being with something wrong. That is, if it gets too life-like, but something is slightly off, it starts to look horrifyingly dead and dull — which freaks people out.

The Facebook Effect

Why does Facebook trump all it's competitors? The Facebook Effect (transcript) story says it is because:

  • You use your real name on Facebook, and while this seems so familiar now, it was really quite revolutionary when Facebook launched
  • The service improved from a technology point of view
  • They live by the rule “only the paranoid survive”

The Death of the Web?

While the recent story in Wired magazine left many people scratching their heads, the story, The Death of the Web? (transcript) notes that we have to realize that the “web” is NOT the “internet.” The web is what we surf via our Web browser (web sites and HTML). While the internet is composed of the network, the wires, the routers and all that on which digital information flows. And it is non-web applications that are starting to have a big impact in how we receive our information (think iPad and iPhone).


Tools for Analysis

A Learner's Framework — While many analysis methods or tools study the task, this one looks at the needs and behavior of the learners and how they view a particular task.

Analysis Template Book (RTF) — A collection of instruments for performing analysis

Affinity Diagrams — A method for identifying connections among issues and to reveal opportunities for innovation. For examples, see this Google search, for instructions, see this PDF file.

Concept Mapping — A diagram showing the relationships among concepts or ideas. For examples, see this Google search, for instructions, see this site.

Flow Analysis — Identifies bottlenecks and opportunities for functional alternatives. For examples, see this Google search, using Word and Powerpoint to draw flow charts. This method uses Excel.

Various Approaches for Analyzing Tasks and Needs — In a traditional needs analysis, the analyst generates a list of tasks to be performed. This list of tools is designed to be completed by job incumbents, subject matter experts and/or supervisory personnel.

What tools do you have in your toolbox?



The ADDIE Backwards Planning Model

I have been reorganizing my ISD site and have come up with this ADDIE model:

ADDIE Backwards Planning Model

Click for a larger image

I would be interested in your thoughts.


We Need Real Examples with Social Learning

The latest podcast from Xyleme Voices, George Siemens on Social Learning Networks: From Theory to Practice is quite informative and thought-provoking; however, it still seems to leave a lot of questions unanswered.

For example, George cites the problem that Apple had with the iPhone's antenna and says it was caused by a people not being connected properly and somehow makes the leap of faith that if the people who knew about it were connected to the others on the design team, such as with social media, then the problem would have been prevented. Yet the problem is much more complex. Any good engineer will tell you that all cellphones that have the antenna inside of them, rather than sticking out, have reception problems because when you put your hand around it, it blocks the signal. But people don't want the antenna sticking out — they want it inside the phone. For example, Nokia jumped in and said their cellphones do not have this problem, yet we have a new Nokia phone in our household and the manual shows you how NOT to hold the phone so you don't block the signal.

Secondly, people want their phones as small as possible, which limits where you can put the antenna. Complicating the problem is that most of the testing was probably done on Apple's campus that gets a good signal as both ATT and Verizon have towers on it; and the problem only occurs in weak reception areas.

Thus we don't know if Apple did not know about the problem or if they knew about it, but decided it was not that big of a problem. The real problem was the way Apple handled the problem as I believe, as some other industry experts, that it was mainly blown out of proportion... after all, we love to jump on big companies.

The real problem is more of the way their public relations people handled the problem. Now could being connected with social media help them perform better, and if so how? That might have been a better and more realistic approach.

The most thought provoking part of the podcast comes about 15:10 minutes into it in which George discusses the need to do a better job of helping the learners learn how to learn (metalearning) rather than just instructing them into what to learn. I also believe that we need to do a better job at this, but we need more realistic examples — the Apple's antenna example just does not cut it.

For example, if I'm designing a course in which the learners need to learn a process to deliver our goods or service, how do I fit social learning and social media in with it? I can see how they help with informal part, but the end of the podcast wants us to a better job with metalearning in our daily training, and this is where we need some real examples.


Social Learning and Social Media

I recently wrote about bridging the common environment in Social Learning with Social Media tools — Social Learning and Social Media. I would be interested in your thoughts.

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15 Years on the Web

This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of Big Dog being on the web! In late 1994 I subscribed to Prodigy as it was one of the first of the early-generation dialup services to offer full access to the World Wide Web. However, a few months later I decided that I did not want to just surf the web, but actually be a part of it. So I then subscribed to NWLink.com and on July 13, 1995, Big Dog went live.

Big Dog 15 years ago

As you can see, my early design skills were somewhat lacking. I did most of my html coding on MS Notepad and except for a few clipart pictures, the drawings were done on MS Paintbrush — really hi-tech stuff.

The main attraction was the SAT or ISD (ADDIE) page. The April 1996 issue of Training Magazine called my site, "The World Wide Web at its best" (April 1996, p.101). Of course it did not take a whole lot to satisfy people back in those early Internet days!

ISD or ADDIE page

In early 1997, the Internet Archive's WayBackMachine started archiving my site. Later that summer I was running out of things to write about so I decided to put my 22 years in the Army to good use and created the leadership page, which is now one of the most popular sections of Big Dog.

Marne Division

One of the questions I'm often asked is, “Why Big Dog?” While serving with the 3d Infantry Division, our company had a saying, “To the Big Dog!”, which basically meant, “We can do it!” The saying was based on a bulldog mascot that was designed by Walt Disney Productions (for the cost of one dollar) as the division commander wanted a visual picture of the song, “The Dog Face Soldier” (clink link to hear the song and learn more about it). The saying meant a lot to me so I used Big Dog as part of my site's name.

In the summer of 1998 I received an email from Big Dogs clothing claiming I was infringing on their trademark and ordered that I remove the name... so I replied to them and told them I had no intention to stop using the name... and of course I am still using Big Dog. My daughter, being the jokester, gave me a couple of Big Dog shirts the following Christmas.

About 8 months later I renamed it Big Dog's Bowl of Biscuits, as my dog, Lazy (who went to the big dog house in Heaven), loved dog biscuits, and a few years ago to Big Dog and Little Dog's Performance Juxtaposition as my small dog (Buddy, a mix of chihuahua and dachshund) wanted to be part of the marquee, along with my Big Dog — Rico, whom I adapted from PAWS.


A few years back I was starting to run out of server space and exceeding the monthly quota for people visiting/downloading my site, so I got knowledgejump.com from my service provider — hopefully I'm set for a while.

Newest Big Dog page


Rethinking Gagne's Nine Steps of Instructional Design

Using Gagnè's Nine Steps of Instructional Design as a guide, I created this slideshow to show how it can be used from a constructivist view-point to create a more learner-centered learning environment.

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Instructional Design Toolkit

Deciding I need to tie four instructional design models together (ADDIE, Agile Design, Learning Design and an Extension for ISD), I created this brief description - A Framework for Designing Learning Environments.


Instructional Design Framework

Instructional Design Framework

I added a new section to my Instructional Design site — a Framework to aid in the process for creating learning environments. It is located at Instructional Design Framework. It contains two excel workbooks to aid in the design process. Let me now what you think of it and perhaps what sort of framework you use in your design and development efforts.

Learning Design Framework


Outlook for the Learning and Training Profession

There is an interesting infographic showing that Education/Training Consultants is one of the Best Jobs in America. It is based on the Bureau of Labor's Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. In fact, if you go to the Bureau of Labor's page on Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Managers and Specialists, it reads in part:

Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists occupations. College graduates and those who have earned certification should have the best job opportunities. Overall employment is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Some of the reasons listed for the projected growth of the learning/training profession includes:

  • Workers need to be trained on new legislation and court rulings that revise standards
  • Employers are expected to devote greater resources to job-specific training programs in response to the increasing complexity of many jobs and technological advances
  • As highly trained and skilled baby boomers retire, there should be strong demand for training and development specialists to impart needed skills to their replacements

But as we all know, the learning/training profession lost a number of jobs due to the recent economic woes — the report even indirectly acknowledges this:

Like other workers, employment of human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists, particularly in larger companies, may be adversely affected by corporate downsizing, restructuring, and mergers; however, as companies once again expand operations, additional workers may be needed to manage company growth.

Yet, it seems we sometimes take the biggest hits and are often the last to be called back to the workforce. Why? The biggest reason is that we often fail to directly address problems that impact the organization's performance. Managers in line departments want people who can solve some of their problems. In most cases they are not worried about ROIs or other fancy formulas — they simply want the problem to go away. Every problem that disappears is one less task they have to spend time on. Yet when given some of the simplest training problems we often go astray and rather than delivering a solution, we deliver some cute learning program that offers no real impact.

What are you doing today that shows your real worth to the organization?


The U.S. Army, Frog Design, & ADDIE: On Design

This is the sixth post in a series on extending ADDIE in order to solve wicked or complex problems:

Solving wicked problems with ADDIE

I have been doing a series of posts on Design and how ADDIE relates to Frog Design's Immersion, Convergence, Divergence, and Adaptation (ICDA) when Simon Bostock (@BFchirpy) tweeted about the U.S. Army and Design — Design Thinking Comes to the U.S. Army. And what is quite interesting is their five fundamentals of design as outlined in their Field Manual (pdf):

  • Apply critical thinking.
  • Understand the operational environment.
  • Solve the right problem.
  • Adapt to dynamic conditions.
  • Achieve the designated goals.

What makes it interesting is just like Frog Design's ICDA and ADDIE complimenting each other, the Army's fundamentals of design also fits nicely in:

Design Thinking
Click the image for a larger chart

ADDIE is probably the one basic tool that every Learning Designer needs to know and understand because 1) it is a good tool for getting new Learning Designers up and running, 2) no matter what planning and design tool you use to create your learning platforms, you will probably always fall back on some of the steps within ADDIE, and 3) it keeps teams of designers in the loop. However, like any good craftsperson, ADDIE should not be the ONLY tool within your toolkit.

Which has been one of the problems within the Learning Design profession for some time — while there are plenty of Instructional Design tools that can replace parts of ADDIE, there has been few or no Instructional “System” Design tools that make worthy replacements. Frog Design's Solving for Problem X framework with ICDA and the Army's Design Thinking seem to be viable options for extending ADDIE when you are faced with a wicked or complex problem because rather than being composed of a series of steps, which do not work well when facing such problems; they take more adaptive approaches. Thus rather than being a guide for solving problems, ICDA is a tool for innovating, while the Army's Design Thinking is for more complex and wicked problems than ADDIE is normally called for.

In addition, in some organizations innovation has become the end, rather than the means; which means we can have a surplus of innovation. For example, in our own profession we recently had elearning, blended learning, distributed Learning, informal learning, social media, and social learning enter our radar screens, which we have almost treated as ends rather than means for actually accomplishing goals within the organization. Thus, as Adam Richardson writes in his book, Innovation X, our job when working with the organization is “not so much to help its people come up with new innovations as to filter, prioritize, and refine the ones they already have.” Thus our goal is now just as much innovation effectiveness, rather than trying to create more innovations.

When trying to make our innovations more effective, we have to think systems rather than a course or content. For example, the iPod became a great product not because it was a great piece of hardware, but rather because it was a great solution to managing digital music and recordings such as podcasts. And this has been our problem for some time — rather than thinking of the end goal, which in our case is often performance, we often only think in terms such as courseware or learning.

Extending ADDIE with the lessons of Frog Design and the U.S. Army should be of great help as we move on to more complex problems.


Evaluate and Adaptation

This is the fifth post in a series on extending ADDIE in order to solve wicked or complex problems:

Solving wicked problems with ADDIE

Evaluation in ADDIE is normally composed of two parts:

  • Formative Evaluations: a method of judging the worth of a program while the program activities are forming in order to make on-the-spot corrections.
  • Summative Evaluations: a method of judging the worth of a program at the end of its activities (summation), with the focus being on the outcome.

In addition, perhaps the most popular methodology for evaluations is Donald Kirkpatrick's Four Level Evaluation Model.

Frog Design's Adaptation is less of a formal approach and more of a causal approach — "stepping back and looking for new directions to go." Wicked or complex problems often have no clear directions when it comes to improving the initial solution, thus you simply take another crack at it to see if you can add new or better functionalities. Evaluation and Adaptation could be scaled as:

Evaluation to Adaptation

The point that you wound up on the first continuum of Analysis and Immersion will more than likely determine the point that you should be on this continuum. That is, if you are working on a simple to complex problem, then you will normally use an Evaluation technique to check your initial solution (left side of continuum). However, if you are working on a complicated to complex problem (wicked problem), then you will normally be to the right of the scale and thus use Adaptation to check your solution.

Next up, final wrap-up on innovating with ADDIE by using Immersion, Convergence, Divergence, and Adaptation.


Development and Divergence

This is the fourth post in a series on extending ADDIE in order to solve wicked or complex problems:

Solving wicked problems with ADDIE

Development in ADDIE is typically thought of as creating the learning content, products, and services, in addition to selecting the media that will carry or deliver them to the learners. Frog Design defines Divergence as branching out beyond what is normally does in its ecosystem in order to take in a wider footprint that provides a holistic solution:

continuum of Design and Convergence

The Development and Divergence Continuum works differently from both the other two ones:

  • In the Analysis and Immersion Continuum the complexity of the environment determines at what point you are on the scale.
  • In the Design and Convergence Continuum the goal is to aim for the center of the scale.

While the goal in the Development and Divergence Continuum is to aim for both ends — combine “what works” with “what will make it better."

For example, blended learning is normally considered a combination of elearning and classroom learning. eLearning allows the learners to learn at their own pace, while the classroom portion provides the needed social engagement. The Army has found this to be a superior form of learning and is now moving to a dL (distributed Learning) environment. Note that the “d” is not capitalized as only the “Learning” is emphasized — classroom learning is used when it makes sense.

Another example is the greater consideration of informal and social media when creating formal learning platforms.

Thus, rather than just working from just one point in the scale, Development can often be improved by working from two or more points in the scale.

Up next — Evaluate and Adaptation.


Design and Convergence

This is the third post of a series on extending ADDIE in order to solve wicked or complex problems:

Solving wicked problems with ADDIE

In the last post I discussed using a mixture of Analysis and Immersion in order to gain insight and understand the shape of the problem. The next step in Frog Design's framework for solving problems is Convergence — the bringing together of everything you learned in the first step in order to integrate things together; or in other words — to create a whole.

Now this is basically what you do with the Design phase of ADDIE, except with ADDIE, it implies a set of steps, such as developing learning objectives, identify the learning steps, developing tests, etc. If we look at the two terms being placed on a continuum it would look like this:

continuum of Design and Convergence


Unlike the Immersion and Analysis Continuum in which the complexity of the environment determines where you would be placed on the scale, the goal here is to aim towards the middle. That is, if you follow the design process too closely, then you might be turning it into a process model as discussed in the ADDIE Timeline that may take all the creativity out of your learning platform; in addition, it may be moving too far away from Agile Learning Design in which 1) individuals and interactions come before processes and 2) you need to respond to change rather than just following a plan.

And if you go too far to the right side of the continuum then you may end up loosing focus of the goals and objectives of the learning platform. Thus, it is a balancing act of determining the correct level of process (design) with the the right of amount of creative freedom (convergence). If you find yourself at one of the extreme ends of the continuum then you need to seriously question if this is really the correct level of both design and convergence that is required for the project you are working on.

One method that will help you from straying too far to the right or left is to use a mapping or graphic technique, such as Cathy Moore's Action Mapping:

The business of design is to make things that people really want: useful, usable, and desirable — Shelley Evenson, associate professor of interaction design at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Design.

Bill Moggridge (2007) wrote that iterative prototyping, understanding people, and synthesis are the core skills of design and that these skills are central to design:

  • Iterative Prototyping: successive small-scale tests on variations of a limited function prototype in order to permit continual design refinements.
  • Understanding People: having a basic foundation of the cognitive and behavioral sciences.
  • Synthesis: applying prior knowledge and skills to produce a new, innovative, or original whole.

The Design in ADDIE and the Convergence in the Framework for Solving Problems may be thought of as a combination of Shelley Evenson's quote and Bill Moggridge's design fundamentals in order to create a holistic solution.

Up next, the Continuum of Divergence and Development.


Moggridge, B. (2007). Designing Interactions. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.


The Immersion and Analysis Continuum in Simple to Complex Environments

Performance PuzzelIn my last post I discussed Innovating With ADDIE by using the X Problem Solving Framework of Immersion, Convergence, Divergence, and Adaptation in conjunction with ADDIE. In this post I'm going to elaborate on the first step of the framework — Immersion and Analysis:

Solving wicked problems with ADDIE

When presented with performance or learning challenges there is a continuum on how to approach the problem that is composed of analysis on one end of the scale and immersion on the other end.


Allison Rossett & Kendra Sheldon defined Analysis as “the study we do in order to figure things out” (Beyond the Podium: Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital World ). This term is normally associated with the traditional steps of analysis, such as performing a needs assessment, task analysis, and building performance measures.

While on the other end of the continuum is immersion. It is defined by Adam Richardson of Frog Design as “the method of soaking yourself in understanding what the problem is that you are facing in addition to informing the other three parts of the framework.” This can be thought of jumping into the problem in order to understand it, but not being able to use traditional analysis tools or instruments due to the complexity of the problem.

In most learning or performance design situations we don't use one or the other but rather a mixture of the two, thus it is a Sliding Scale Continuum:

For example:

Left of Continuum

Simple problems will be composed mostly of analysis because we have Exemplary Performers that we can use for models. While this is normally one of the easier learning platforms to design, it does have a couple of pitfalls. The first is thinking that since it is fairly easy to design, it is also easy to learn and perform, thus we fail to build practice time into the learning platform. Designers often become so absorbed in their work that they fail to realize how much time they are putting into it, thus they spend weeks working on the task, then think they can transform it into a 30 minute information dump. The second pitfall is failing to support the informal learning that must occur after the formal learning because there is an average of a 1:4 ratio in which one hour of formal learning produces four-hours of informal learning.

Middle of Continuum

As we move to more complicated design environments there is no Exemplary Performers to be found, thus we have to rely on our own understanding of the problem and other experts who have knowledge of the type of problem you are trying to solve. Thus we are moving towards the middle of the continuum:

  • We are doing analysis in that we are interviewing experts to create a best practice.
  • In addition, we are immersing ourselves into the environment of those most affected by the learning solution in order to complete our understanding of the problem that the experts cannot elaborate on.

Like the simple environment, you will have to watch for the two pitfalls; in addition, in this complicated learning environment you will normally perform more sets of iterations to ensure you get the feedback of those affected.

Right of Continuum

As we move farther to the right on the scale to complex learning design environments there are no Exemplary Performers and few or no experts to draw upon, thus we get most of our information by totally immersing ourselves into the environment of those most affected by the problem in order to “paint a picture of an emergent practice.” This is because as Rittel (1972) discovered — the best experts within these types of environments are those affected by the solution — since they are the only ones to have experienced the complexity of the problem, they are the best experts for helping to improve that environment.

You need to look for solutions that support informal learning. This is because the complexity of such environments normally needs a small seed of formal learning with large nourishments of informal learning.

Performance Model

In addition, a performance model (such as the one shown below and I discussed in this post) acts differently in the continuum of analysis and immersion.

Performance Chart

That is, when you are presented with a problem that is mostly on the analysis side of the continuum, the type of performance problem will normally become apparent within a short time and it will be more of a simple nature. However, as the problem starts to move to the immersion side of the continuum, you will find yourself having to dig deeper and longer to discover the true nature of the problem. In addition, rather than being a simple problem, it will normally be composed of several parts that require multiple solutions, such as fixing a process, creating a learning environment, and redesigning work stations.


Thus, when presented with performance problems we have to think along the scale or continuum of Immersion and Analysis, depending upon the complexity of the problem.

In my next post we will discuss the Sliding Scale Continuum of Planning that is composed of Design on one end and Convergence on the other end.


Rittel, H. (1972). On the planning crisis: Systems analysis of the “first and second generation.” Bedriftsokonomen. No. 8, pp.390-396.


Innovating With ADDIE

Every few years the theme of “ADDIE must die” pops up on the radar. This would be a good thing except there are always two major flaws in the argument:

  • Instructional Designers are misinformed about what ADDIE is — they refuse to believe that the development of a model such as ADDIE is also iterative in nature — their arguments are always about the first iteration of ADDIE. It almost seems as if they want to stick with the practice of waterfall methods.
  • They offer no suitable replacement.

To combat the first flaw I have written several posts on ADDIE. I recently combined these posts into an ADDIE timeline with a discussion on the timeline.

I don't have an answer for the second flaw, although I did write a series of articles on Agile Learning Design that can be used to extend ADDIE.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post — I recently listened to an outstanding podcast, Got X Problems? by Frog Design in which they discuss innovation and why are so few organizations are seeing results. In this episode they discuss solving wicked or complex problems from 21st century challenges that defy conventional planning. What struck me about their method is that it almost perfectly aligns with ADDIE, except that you have to approach it from a slightly different mind-set. In the podcast they use a four-step process:

  • Immersion — soaking yourself in the problem to harvest customer insights
  • Convergence — bringing together all things such as physical, technology, software, and services into a logical design
  • Divergence — exploring new advantages
  • Adaptation — stay nimble in a fast-moving environment by going in new directions when facing roadblocks — based on learnings

These four mind-sets would map with ADDIE as:

A new Mind_set for ADDIE

If you need a different mind-set when facing difficult challenges then I encourage you to listen to the podcast. The RSS feed is http://feeds.frogdesign.com/frog-design-blog/design-mind-on-air. The episode is Got X Problems, dated March 15, 2010. The podcast is about 15 minutes long.


Team Leadership Model

A model for implementing Team Leadership: Team Leadership Model


Informal Learning and Leadership

I have updated my Informal Learning page. A lot of the updates are from my recent blog postings on informal learning, social media, etc. It seems like a lot of the concepts can be tied to Leadership. I have to think it over (reflect) and see what I can come up with. Perhaps something similar to what I did with AARs


Performance and ADDIE Models

Clark Quinn has an informative post where he discusses the need for Performance Analysis, Learner Experience Design, and ADDIE. I think I have it somewhat summed up in this chart I created for my web site (note that clicking the chart will bring up a larger image that has clickable links):

Performance Design Concept Map

Performance, Learning, & ADDIE

Click chart for a larger image & a clickable map that will take you to the various parts


ADDIE and other ISD and ID models were never designed to to discover performance problems, thus when confronted with such problems you need to discover the actual cause. Note the some managers will present every performance problem as a “training” problem, which means you need to ensure the problem is training related or requires some other performance solution.

The Performance Analysis Quadrant (PAQ) is a tool to help in the identification. By discovering the answer to two questions, “Does the employee have adequate job knowledge?” and “does the employee have the proper attitude (desire) to perform the job?” and assigning a numerical rating between 1 and 10 for each answer, will place the employee in 1 of 4 performance quadrants:

Performance Analysis Quadrant (PAQ)

  1. Quadrant A (Motivation): If the employee has sufficient job knowledge but has an improper attitude, this may be classed as motivational problem. The consequences (rewards) of the person's behavior will have to be adjusted. This is not always bad as the employee just might not realize the consequence of his or her actions.
  2. Quadrant B (Resource/Process/Environment): If the employee has both job knowledge and a favorable attitude, but performance is unsatisfactory, then the problem may be out of control of the employee. i.e. lack of resources or time, task needs process improvement, the work station is not ergonomically designed, etc.
  3. Quadrant C (Selection): If the employee lacks both job knowledge and a favorable attitude, that person may be improperly placed in the position. This may imply a problem with employee selection or promotion, and suggest that a transfer or discharge be considered.
  4. Quadrant D (Training and or Coaching): If the employee desires to perform, but lacks the requisite job knowledge or skills, then some type of learning solution is required, such as training or coaching.

Learner Experience Design

Not only must you always use a tool, such as the one above to discover the true solution to a performance problem, ADDIE should almost never be used as a stand-alone solution. Being part of the ISD family, it is very broad in nature, thus it does not go into a lot of details. You need to use it as a plug and play solution — while Clark wrote of Learner Experience Design, you can add any additional components to it on an as-needed, such as Action Mapping, 4C/ID, and Prototyping.


Clark noted in his post that one of ADDIE's failures was being a waterfall method, but as I noted in a past post, ADDIE evolved into a dynamic method in the mid-eighties. ADDIE does make a good checklist; however, use it wisely. If you blindly follow it, then it is nothing more than a process model. However, if you use it in a more creative fashion, then it becomes a true ISD model that enhances the design of the learning process.


ADDIE and the 5 Rules of Zen

As I noted in my last post, we often go astray with our learning initiatives because we fail to properly orient ourselves to the learning/performance environment. While ADDIE or ISD might look like an overblown, time-wasting toolkit, we need to realize that we do not need every tool within that kit. Every project requires a different set of tools. However, there are a few basic ones that will give you direct intuitive insight into the problem at hand. While there are several Zen rules that govern the aesthetics of Japanese gardens and other art forms in Japan, five of them can be directly applied to ADDIE to aid you in creating an energized, but calm learning platform (inspired by a Presentation Zen post).

Analysis = Shizen (自然)


Shizen means naturalness in that it avoids artificial construction. This means analysis must be sought for and expressed in a plain, simple, and natural manner. To get to its natural roots, describe the business need in terms of the performance desired and where they are now. Everything between their present state and desired performance is the performance gap. This gap must be bridged by identifying the skills and knowledge that enable the learners to perform.

Shizen also applies to the learners. Learning becomes difficult when we have to learn new concepts because we have no relationship to them, thus we construct artificial backgrounds. However, when we relate to a new concept naturally by linking it to an experience that is familiar to us, then we learn much faster and deeper. This is why we need to capture the present performance of the learners so that we can create “Advance Organizers” that will link the learner's new knowledge to this present performance or knowledge level. Learners who are given Advance Organizers at the beginning of a learning process have been shown to increase transfer of training.

Design = Shibui/Shibumi (渋味)


Shibui is coolness and beauty through a clear design and nothing more. Think of design as minimalist that articulates brevity. If you decorate or carry it beyond what it was meant to be, then it becomes gauche rather than deco. Think lean by identify the minimal steps and activities that will enable the learners to master the performance rather than rather than overdoing it by including every possibility. To help transform the learning from an activity to a process and reduce the complexity of training; determine the support, such as tools and performance aids, they will need to enable their performance in the workplace.

Development = Fukinsei (均整)


Fukinsei means asymmetry or irregularity. Controlling balance through the use of irregularity and asymmetry is a central belief in Zen aesthetics. For example, the enso or Zen circle is often incomplete to symbolize the asymmetry. Too often we try so hard to create the perfect learning platform by filling in all the blanks that it fails to draw the learners in — we tend to be drawn in more when we can fill in some of the blanks on our own. Designers also tend to carry it to the extreme by adding too much content — it overwhelms the learners with too much information. Thus we need to strive for some incompleteness, irregularity, and/or asymmetry in order to draw the soon-to-be performers into the learning process.

Fukinsei design also implies a deductive approach. That is, rather than being presented with a complete set of concepts, rules, and strategies, that explicitly instructs the learners, they must explore and experiment with the task to infer and learn the rules, principles, and strategies for effective performance (discovery or experimental learning). This approach has been shown to build “Adaptive Expertise” — becoming more adaptable in order to solve unstructured and ill-defined problems. Also closely related to this is “Error-based Learning” to allow for more control processing.



“Nature itself is full of beauty and harmonious
relationships that are asymmetrical yet balanced.
This is a dynamic beauty that attracts and engages.”
- Garr Reynolds

Implement = Kanso (簡素)

Bento Box

Kanso means simplicity by eliminating the unneeded things (clutter) to find the clear structure. Clear structure does not necessarily mean a linear list, but rather a choice of options. However, when it comes to practicing the skills, ensure it includes whole-task practice that will help to carry performance to the workplace.

A Kanso style choice of options is also critical as providing learner control has been shown to also build “Adaptive Expertise.”

Evaluation = Seijaku (静寂)


Seijaku is tranquility or an energized calm. An effective learning platform should bring a sense of peace to the organization by eliminating the gap between the present performance and the desired performance identified in the analysis phase. The use of iterations will allow you to quickly lower the unintentional noise and disturbance. Continue iterating until the disturbance has been transformed into the desired state of tranquility.

Seijaku should also be carried one step farther — having the learners participate by monitoring and evaluating in order to help them increase their metacognitive skills.

Picture Credits

deco by Ohad. enso circle by Vibhav. bamboo/rocks and dock by istock. pods and bento by me.