<![CDATA[JohnParsell.com - Blog]]>Tue, 30 Apr 2019 16:32:49 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[Hacking the Learning Design Process]]>Sun, 28 Apr 2019 14:54:11 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/hacking-the-learning-design-processHackathonPhoto by Kaleidico on Unsplash
Hackathons aren't just for technology companies anymore.  You can leverage the power of a hackathon to inspire cross functional teams to develop some truly great learning solutions.

In 2018 I led Accolade's Talent and Development team to develop and implement our 1st learning hackathon we called the Designathon.  As a result we came up with some truly inspiring solutions that impacted the bottom line.  It's now a yearly event devoted to blue sky thinking, process improvement, and promoting change and innovation across our organization. 

​Here's how you can run your own!

Start with the goal in mind:
Determine what you want to accomplish with your event before running it.   What are the challenges your team is facing now or in the near future?  What outcomes would help you solve them?  

Example Outcome:  At the end of the Designathon we'll have solutions presented that will reduce attrition of high potential employees this year.

Craft quality challenge statements
Once you've identified the challenges you want to tackle,  you'll need to turn them into challenge statements. (Alvin Chia, Hackathons Unboxed: A Field Guide to ideating, Leading and Winning Each written in a way that will help the teams craft solutions that fit expected out comes. 

Make sure to include any constraints in these statements as well.  They act as boundaries that the teams can use to work within or around as they form their solutions.  Are there any constraints around the solutions like budget, culture, or time?

Example:  How might we reduce attrition of high potential employees this year, without impacting current work streams, at little to no cost?
Make it a challenge
By limiting the time frame, and treating it as a competition, you provide a similar sense of urgency as being handed a tough project with a quick turnaround. 

Example:  The Designathon will run for one week with the expectation that each participant and team will dedicate at least 24 hours coming up with the solution. 

Commit to the event
There’s rarely a “good time” to run an event like this.  Whether you do it now on your own terms or later on someone else’s you’ll be investing this time either way.  Pick the time that works best for you and stick with it.

Recruit creative cross functional teams
To solve challenges you'll needed teams filled with resourceful people from across your organization and not just your learning team. This provides different perspectives, insights ,and in the end will lead to more holistic and creative solutions. (Alvin ChiaHackathons Unboxed: A Field Guide to ideating, Leading and Winning) 

Create teams with:
  • ​Experience in the process you are trying to change,
  • those who have experienced the process themselves,
  • and volunteers that are noted by their leaders as individuals that are creative and can help you come up with great ideas.  

Draft a diverse panel of judges
To evaluate the solutions, recruit judges who are directly impacted by the outcome of the presented solutions. These judges can provide relevant feedback and appropriately evaluate the solutions that ware presented.  Don’t be afraid to have some diversity of thought here as well. 

Craft a solid score card
Be very careful when developing the judging score card. How you score the solutions will heavily impact the solutions that are developed.  The elements of the score card serve as a guide for the teams to ensure they’re including the right things in their proposals.  For example, if you focus on creativity vs. viability you may end up with solutions that you can’t start implementing this year or next.  Your score card should reinforce your goals for the event.

Prepare teams for success
Communication and making resources available to the teams is of the utmost importance. Provide pre-read documentation to get each team up to speed on current processes, make them aware of the judge’s panel, and the score card in advance of the kickoff session.  (How to Run a Successful Data Hackathon with data.world) This helps to connect team members early, acclimate them to the current way of doing things, the Designathon process, expected outcomes, and to whom they’ll be presenting their solutions.

Kick off your event
Get the teams started and then get out of the way. The goal is to get the teams ideating as quickly as possible, not listening to someone talk about what they’ll be doing.  (Alvin ChiaHackathons Unboxed: A Field Guide to ideating, Leading and Winning) 

Check In
During the event, be attentive and available to answer questions, share those answers with everyone, and provide any support documents such as templates or materials.  Provide time for each team to meet with members of the judge’s panel to discuss and get feedback on their solutions.  You should check in with each team and provided feedback as well. 

Present, score, and provide feedback
On presentation day, each team should get the same amount of time to present their solutions and answer questions from the judges.  For example, give each team 10 minutes to setup their presentation, 20 minutes to present, and 15 minutes to answer questions from the judges.  During the presentations the judges use the score card to evaluate each solution.

Keep scores secret until all presentations are complete.  Ask the teams to step out while the judges discuss and deliberate each presentation.  When the judges are ready, ask the teams to return.  To save time have one judge provide consolidated feedback for each team prior to announcing the winner.

Once feedback has been given, announce the winner, their prize if any, and celebrate!  Each team has worked hard and deserves a little fun to close out the event.   The prize doesn't have to be extravagant.  Some credit or money towards items from your company store should be enough.

Evaluate the event
Ask for feedback from the teams and judges via a survey or focus groups.  This information will help setup your next event for success.

Make the solutions happen
Now that you have your solutions, don’t waste time.  Choose the solutions you want to take to the next level and put resources behind them.  (Hackathons Aren’t Just for Coders)
Reach out and ask the teams to break their solutions into workable tasks, prioritize, and get to work on what makes sense!   There’s no reason you can’t include cross-functional team members in the work.  They’re just as invested in making them happen as you are.

Closing Thoughts
Running your own hackathon\designation can seem intimidating.  However, using the tips above and resources provided in this article will help you to achieve your goals.  

As learning leaders you know the challenges facing your team and company.  This process provides you with a means to tap into the creativity of your organization, over a short period of time, to address them. 

Want to learn more?  The following resources helped me to run a successful session.
<![CDATA[Turning Failure to Success]]>Fri, 28 Sep 2018 04:00:00 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/turning-failure-into-successFailure
​Sometimes even your best efforts don't produce the targeted behavior change or business outcomes your learning solution was created to solve.  Not every project will be a rousing success so it's important to know what to do when things don't go as planned.

It can be tempting to point fingers and look for reasons outside of your control as to why things went wrong.   Maybe you feel that you weren't given enough time, resources, or information to do the job.  However, what's needed now is a level head and a willingness to work together across business units to fix any identified issues and turn things around.  A deeper analysis can always be completed afterwards. 

Here's how you can turn things around:

1. Tell your leader
If they haven't heard about it already they will soon and the message should really come from you.  Use the remaining steps outlined here as a plan you can  provide to them on how you are going to turn things around, 

2. Identify the performance gaps
​Setup a meeting with key members from your team and stakeholders to discuss what's going on.  If you can get a few members of your audience and/or their leaders that's even better.  Your job during this meeting is to listen, gather information, and help to formulate a plan to fix any immediate performance gaps.  You probably won't have access to all the hard data you need but you should come away with enough information to get started. 

3.  Craft a plan
Your plan doesn't have to be complex but it should reflect a sense of urgency to fix the problems in both the short and long term.

Include the following items in your plan:
  • A list of the performance gaps
  • The appropriate activity to address each.  Remember, more training isn't always the answer.
  • A due date and owner for each activity
  • Success measures and reporting.  How will you know that you've improved performance?
  • A timeline and steps to implement the plan you've created

4.  Make it Happen!
One of the benefits of failure is the recognition from other teams that something is not working.  Granted, it's typically not the kind of attention that you want.  However, you can use it to access resources that may have been previously out of reach due to the urgency of the situation.   

5.  Learn from this Experience
Now that you've hopefully fixed the issue take the time to write down the lessons learned from this experience.   Turn these lessons into best practices, policies, and procedures, so that it doesn't happen again. 

Remember, everyone experiences failure.  It's how you react to failure that matters.  Here's a little inspiration to get you back on track.

30 Powerful Quotes on Failure - Forbes.com
<![CDATA[Cornerstone LMS Case Study]]>Fri, 17 Aug 2018 14:28:00 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/cornerstone-lms-case-studyI had the opportunity to interview with Cornerstone and discuss how we use their Learning Management System at Accolade.  For me the biggest benefits are it's reporting and curriculum management capabilities.  

At Accolade, we make sure that the content we develop can be used across the organization.  Instead of tying a module to a specific customer we do our best to make the materials generic so that they can be re-used within multiple learning solutions.  We'll then address customer and role specific content in additional self-paced learning objects or during practical application scenarios.  Having the freedom to leverage content across the organization has helped us to rapidly respond to learning needs without having to create multiple versions of materials.

Feel free to read the case study if you'd like to learn more about how we leverage Cornerstone's capabilities at Accolade.]]>
<![CDATA[Instructional Game - Lyrical Genius]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 03:08:48 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/lyrical-geniusThe last entry in my series of instructional games is Lyrical Genius.  Learning a new language can be difficult, this game attempts to inject a little bit of fun into the process.  Players are asked to listen to a clip of a popular song and match words on the screen with the correct lyrics.
Lyrical Genius by John Parsell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Lyrical Genius
Challenge your friends to lyrical combat!
Enhance reading and listening comprehension for English as a second language students.​

Players will identify and match lyrics sung from popular songs to written words.​
Game Play:
Players will choose to play as a single player, challenge a friend, or another random player on the internet.  They'll select a genre of music or opt to play from a random selection.  Hints and instructions will display while the game loads.  Once the game has loaded, a timer will display counting down to the start of the song clip.  

When the music starts, players will have a limited amount of time to match the lyrics on the screen to what they hear in the clip.  Scoring will be affected by consecutive moves without an error.  

At the end of each round the score will be displayed and a winner announced.  If a player selected to play the single player option, they'll have to beat a pre-determined score based on the difficulty of the lyrics in each clip.  A leader board can display the scores of those who play the game. 

Suggested Components: 
  • Touch interface: Touch, drag and drop
  • Save/Load user interface
  • Music genre user interface
  • Leader board and ability to challenge online opponents in real time
  • 2D rendering
<![CDATA[Instructional Game - Mathlock]]>Sat, 18 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/instructional-game-mathlockGame number two on my series of instructional games is Mathlock.  Growing up I loved watching the Matlock T.V. show.  The main character inspired the plot of this mobile game intended to help children learn how to solve word problems.
Mathlock by John Parsell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
You play Mathlock, a lawyer with a gift for math and a love of hotdogs.

You must win your cases to enjoy a tasty hotdog treat.  Lose and your clients will go to jail! 

To provide middle school aged children practice solving word problems.
Mathlock: As Mathlock you play a lawyer with a heart of gold, a love of math problems, and a hunger for hotdogs.  As a successful lawyer with a history of solving cases using math there are many cases for you to take.  You'll have to be careful though because one wrong answer could send them to jail!

Clients:  Your clients need the services of a math wiz such as yourself to prove their innocence.  There is no shortage of clients and the difficulty of their cases will increase over time.  The tougher the case, the tastier the hotdog, so you'll have to bring your "A" game if you want chili with your hotdog or other tasty condiments. 

Prosecutors:  Winning your cases won't be easy.  The prosecutors you face have done their homework and will challenge you with both correct and incorrect statements in order to win.  Object or agree to their statements in order to keep the facts straight and win your case.

Judge:  The judge will provide a final sentencing at the end of each case.  If you have answered correctly then your client will go free and treat you to a hotdog.  Otherwise your client will be sent to jail for their crimes.

While the game loads you will see Mathlock attempting to order a hotdog from a street vendor.  Before his order is finished he will be called into court by the judge.  There's no time to eat now, his client is waiting.  
When the game begins the judge will provide a hands on tutorial of how to play the game.

When the actual game play begins you will be given a certain amount of time to object or abstain to the prosecutors claims.  You must correctly answer all of the questions before the time runs out.  Failure to do so will cause you to lose the case. 

At the end of each case the judge will review your work and either let your client free or send them to jail.  If your client goes free they will treat you to the hotdog that you missed out on prior to the case. 

Players will be able to pick the type of questions they want to practice, e.g. fractions, addition, multiplication, etc... to help them practice a chosen subject area.

A leader board can show how many hotdogs and the types a player has achieved and compare it with their friends and classmates.

Suggested Components: 
  • Touch interface: tap, type
  • Save/Load user interface
  • Subject area user interface
  • 2D rendering

​Next on my list is a game to help people learn a new language using popular music. 
<![CDATA[´╗┐Instructional Game - Dr. Quentin Dentin]]>Sat, 14 Jan 2017 04:15:53 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/instructional-game-dr-quentin-dentinAs part of my Instructional Technology Masters program at Bloomsburg University I attended a class on instructional game design.  Throughout the class we were challenged with developing a series of proposals for instructional games that could be developed for a variety of devices and needs.  It was an absolute blast and one of my favorite classes out of the entire program.  

Over the next few months I'm going to post the top three games that I proposed for a few reasons.  First, I enjoyed creating the proposals and want to share them.  Secondly, in the interest of sharing if you're reading this and interested in creating non-commercial work based off of them...feel free.   Thirdly, I'd like to hear your feedback.  What could I have done better or included?

With the exposition taken care of...let's get started.
Dr. Quentin Dentin by John Parsell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
 Dr. Quentin Dentin
On your quest to become the worlds greatest Dentist you have traveled to Cavity city in order to work for the one and only Dr. Quentin Dentin.  Dr. Dentin has hired you as his new Dental Assistant. It's your job to clean his patient's teeth and mark any cavities  before their exam!

To help young children learn how to properly care for their teeth using different dental tools.
Dr. Quentin Dentin: Dr. Dentin is the world’s greatest dentist.  He thinks you have potential and has hired you as his assistant!  A long the way the good Dr. will help you play the game and learn how to properly care for your patients teeth as well as your own. 
Dr. Quentin is good-natured and will initially help you understand how to use the tools of the trade.  In the end you can challenge him to a head to head battle to see who can identify and clean the most challenging of patient’s teeth.  

Patients:  Your patients suffer from a number of gross particles that plague their teeth.  It’s your job to clean their teeth and make them happy!  A patient’s emotional state will change as you clean their teeth.  A bad job will make them angry or sad while a good job will make them happy.  All patients start out in a neutral state. 

You:  You are Dr. Dentin’s only assistant and you are well on your way to becoming the world’s greatest dentist yourself.  Learn all you can from Dr. Dentin in order to learn how to properly care for your patient’s teeth!

While the game loads a sequence of animations will display showing your graduation from dental school, seeing a job post for the world’s greatest dental assistant, calling Dr. Dentin, getting the job, and then finally traveling to Cavity city.    
When the game begins Dr. Dentin will provide a hands on tutorial showing you how to use the dental pick, toothbrush, and floss to clean a patient’s teeth. You can practice as long as you like until you’re ready to begin. 

When the actual game play begins you will be given a certain amount of time to clean each of your patient’s teeth.  You must be able to identify which tool needs to be used to remove each type of particle before the time runs out.  You must also use the tool properly or your patient will get mad at you and cost Dr. Dentin a customer. 

At the end of each round an animated Dr. Dentin will review your work and either congratulate you or express his disappointment with any missing particles.  These are his patients you’re working on and he wants them all to have the cleanest teeth possible. 

In the final round of the game you can go head to head with Dr. Dentin to claim your title as the greatest Dentist in the world!  If you win Dr. Dentin will pass the title to you.  If you lose he will make you practice on more of his patient’s before accepting another challenge.

Suggested Components: 

  • iPad touch interface: flick, drag, drop, tap, slide 
  • Save/Load UI 
  • Hit detection and speed monitoring affecting game play 
  • Can’t hit mouth with tools or use them too quickly or slowly. 
  • 2D rendering
​Next on my list is a game developed to teach children math based on Matlock, a popular daytime TV show. 
<![CDATA[ISDTemplates]]>Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:30:52 GMThttp://johnparsell.com/blog/isdtemplatesSix years and eight months ago I started my first business venture, ISDTemplates.com.  The premise behind the site was to provide easy to use graphic templates for eLearning courses. The plan was simple...help people to create engaging education by letting them focus on their content and not worry about the design.  I had that covered! 
My thought was that by creating an engaging series of templates and reselling them hundreds or thousands of time at a low price I would make some money while also helping Instructional Designers to improve their courses.  Providing great customer service was important so I provided implementation guides as part of the purchase along with tutorials on my site to help get users started.

In the end I didn't break even but I was able to purchase some great tools, maintain my site, and get some great experience running my own business.  

Here are a few of the lessons I learned:
  • Let go of something that's not working.  I kept the site going for way longer than I should have. This cost me money and stress as a loose end.
  • Do your research before committing to a tool that will support your business.  I used Joomla to create and manage my site.  It had all of the compontents I needed for ecommerce, site architecture, and user management but it took me too long to get setup, learn to customize the site, and then manage updates.
  • It's not enough to create something useful, you have to market your business to reach customers.

As I write this post I'm in the process of backing up ISDTemplates for the last time.  I haven't updated the site in four years, since I started at Accolade, and it's time to let it go.  I'll be releasing all of the content developed for the site as free downloads to support the development of elearning courses and curiosity of my fellow Instructional Designers and educators. 

Instead I'll be working on my blog, exploring ideas, and sharing my leadership and instructional design experience with the instructional design and technology community.   

Thanks to Raj Palat for helping me to understand the hosting side of the business. Thanks to Jim Malloy for helping me to think through my template designs and developing some of the templates and buttons for the site.  As always, thanks to my wife Jessica Parsell for supporting me as I worked nights and weekends to build out my idea and make it a reality.