Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Objectives

ob·jec·tive[uhb-jek-tiv]

noun
1.something that one's efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish; purpose; goal; target: the objective of a military attack; the objective of a fund-raising drive.
2.Grammar .
   a.Also called objective case. (in English and some other languages) a case specialized for the use of a form as the object  of a transitive verb or of a preposition, as him  in The boy hit him,  or me  in He comes to me with his troubles.
   b.a word in that case.
3.Also called object glass, object lens, objective lens. Optics . (in a telescope, microscope, camera, or other optical system) the lens or combination of lenses that first receives the rays from the object and forms the image in the focal plane of the eyepiece, as in a microscope, or on a plate or screen, as in a camera.

adjective
4.being the object or goal of one's efforts or actions.
5.not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.
6.intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.
7.being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject ( opposed to subjective).
8.of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.
9.Grammar .
   a.pertaining to the use of a form as the object  of a transitive verb or of a preposition.
   b.(in English and some other languages) noting the objective case.
   c.similar to such a case in meaning.
   d.(in case grammar) pertaining to the semantic role of a noun phrase that denotes something undergoing a change of state or bearing a neutral relation to the verb, as the rock  in The rock moved  or in The child threw the rock.
10.being part of or pertaining to an object to be drawn: an objective plane.
11.Medicine/Medical . (of a symptom) discernible to others as well as the patient.
 
- from dictionary.com 
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Notice how the definition of the word "Objective" is all over the place.
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How many of you struggle with getting real educational objectives out of  your clients? 
 
You know...the actionable ones.  Never mind the "At the end of this tutorial the student will understand..." ones.

I know I struggle with this.  Constantly.

Why?  Because I suspect that what the client says they want out of the training and what they REALLY want out of the training are two different things.

What the client SAYS they want:
- The audience to act like their topic is the most important thing they will encounter all year.

- Greater awareness of their services. 

- Behavior change to more closely map to their processes 

- Whatever else they want me, the money folks or their higher ups to hear.

What the client REALLY wants:
- To check the box that says "training" - either because that's what they've always done or because an outside group has insisted on "training" (usually money or threats of lawsuits is attached to this)

- To cover themselves if their process doesn't work - "They were 'trained' on the process, therefore the training must be faulty"

Notice that what the client REALLY wants has nothing to do with behavior change, education, business improvement or anything else remotely useful.

I've come to accept that "check the box" training is not going away.

I dare say that with the increasing ease of development tools and the constant connectedness of the workforce - the demand for "online training" where there wasn't any is going to continue to increase.
 
People seem to be less cognizant of an employee's time when they are building online training vs. classroom training.  They seem to think that employees can still "work" while training.  

And funny how most of the topics for "mandatory online training" are not for things that would help the business or the person - other than to prevent them from getting sued or fired. (I will step off the soapbox now before I start this particular rant).

On the bright side for us instructional design and developer folk - demand for our services is increasing.  But I find that cold-comfort when I am creating dreck to push out the door.

The only way I've figured to mitigate the damage (and make myself feel better) is to encourage the SMEs and clients to keep asking how to make this as painless as possible for the audience.  What are the minimums the audience needs to know?
 
Many of my clients are amenable to this.  They just want the reporting, proof to whoever that the audience took the training, and have it done yesterday.  They are honest with themselves about their real objectives for the training.

The more stubborn ones, I'm starting to pull out other weapons:
- Policy.  Our organization has to be careful about making employees train outside of business hours.
- Awareness of the OTHER mandatory trainings that need to be done by the audience.
- Research (works for the more analytical ones)
- The occasional higher-up who understands that he/she would rather have the employee working over them doing yet another mandatory training.  Piloting with a higher-up usually removes excess REALLY fast.

It's a victory for me that in almost 5 years in my current job the culture is shifting from knee-jerk classroom to an acceptance of online resources and other modes of training. 

Instructional design, measurable objectives, and actually getting something USEFUL out of these check-the-box trainings seems to be my next 5 year mission.

1 comment:

Sarah Eadie said...

Wendy, would you be willing to write a guest post expanding on this topic? Specifically, how elearning buyers and sellers can write clear, specific, honest course objectives?

I work creating content for OpenSesame.com, a marketplace for buying and selling elearning courses. One of the day-to-day challenges we face is hammering down course objectives for the courses we sell. Reviewing the courses, we think to ourselves, "If I were someone buying this course for my employees, what would I think is the most valuable takeaway?" Sometimes this question can be tough to answer.

Based on your insights here, I'd love to see your tips for optimizing course objectives. I'd be willing to write a guest post for you as well, if that's something you're interested. Let me know: sarah.eadie [at] gmail [dot] com