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Saturday, September 17, 2016


At the dawn of my career in Instructional Design, I was made aware of the learner’s attention span limit. Thus, I had got the logic behind limiting the lectures in schools and colleges to 45 minutes. This awareness happened more than a decade ago. Today, when I look back, this fact seems irrelevant. 

Today the students are more aware with exposure to information through various mediums. They want more than just information; they also want a great learning experience. And what has happened to the attention span? It has almost reduced to one third of the earlier span. Hence, practically, a teacher has only 15 minutes to make the students spellbound. This is the age of smart kids, who will listen to the 1st sentence, evaluate the 2nd one and by the time the 3rd sentence reaches their ears, they will make their decision to avoid or listen. How to deal with such students? Forcibly teach them? You can’t. They will find ways to outwit you. A simple solution is to become SMARTER than them.

Apart from exploring the learning mediums beyond the confinements of classroom and syllabus, you can consciously include few checklist items in your daily teaching task.

Quick checklist for making your classroom a SMART CLASS:
   Encourage  students’ curiosity to know more; go beyond textbook
   Allow the students to explore new things
   Use cognitive association to enhance learning
   Focus on active learning rather than passive listening
   Keep lecture sessions short and blend it with activity and demonstrations
   Give each of the students a challenge where they can apply and synthesize knowledge
   Make your classroom SMART by blending traditional teaching with  technology-based learning

The topic of evolving to SMART CLASS is a subject of indepth research. But, even before we deep dive and make stupendous discovery, a step towards renovating our approach to teaching is a good start. My attempt in this post is to list those starting points. Happy Teaching!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Maths – A Child’s Nightmare

Have you ever thought why most students find maths so scary?

Many a times, I have wondered what is so scary about this most ancient science, and I came to a conclusion that it may be the very nature of the subject itself. Maths means systematic steps, set of rules and abstract study. Even though maths is part of our daily life, the process of practicing or studying it is too cut off from reality. Students find it difficult to directly relate it to real life and most of the concepts are left to imagination. This very abstract and complex composition of maths as a subject makes it difficult. The difficulty level of the subject along with the compulsion to follow a systematic methodology makes maths a nightmare, especially for school kids.

Here, we also need to understand the basic psychology of kids. Kids are more spontaneous and less methodical, they are curious about things around them and they rely more on their cognitive skills. In general, children take more interest in tasks that they can comprehend or relate to and this is the area where maths fails. To be more precise, this is the area where the methods used to teach maths fail.

So, what could be the possible solution? Indeed, the answer is making the process of teaching maths more interesting.

Few tips that can be followed while teaching maths:
  • Explain mathematical concepts giving examples from a child’s day-to-day surrounding.
  • Before actually getting to numbers and equations, explain the importance of learning them and how that study is used in real life.
  • Use interactive classroom/online activities and games to generate interest in learning maths.
  • Use things easily available around you as teaching tools.
  • Encourage children to learn maths by recognizing their achievements even in simple tasks.
  • Use a simplified way of communicating difficult concepts by avoiding overuse of technical terms and difficult words.
  • Tell stories about mathematicians and mathematical discoveries or inventions to motivate children further.
You will find some useful online resources for maths education (games, interactive exercises, worksheets and teaching tools) on the following sites:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is your child typing the whole day?

Few days ago, I was having a virtual communication with one of my school friend in the USA. During our conversation, she voiced out a concern about the modern education technique in her kids’ schools. She revealed her kids’ were asked to carry only IPad to the school. They never wrote but only browsed their lessons and typed their classwork and homework. All submissions were online; there was no use of paper and pen in the school. She feared her kids may not properly learn to write using pen and paper, and the whole day typing and use of IPad may also lead to related health issues. This conversation made me think and I decided to look at the issue wearing my E-learning Consultant hat.

The first thought that came to my mind was “blending traditional and digital learning” so that a child gets the best of both worlds.

Traditional schooling methodology too has some significant benefits, which are essential for building strong foundation for a child’s education. Basic skills, such as writing, reading, social behavior with peers and elders, integrity while working in groups and humanitarian values, can easily be inculcated in a child through conventional learning tools and conventional teacher-student and student-student interaction. But, a complete dependence on the conventional methods has some shortcomings too, which surface more glaringly in this IT savvy age where information gathering is just a click away. Additionally, the conventional tools and methods of interaction have limitations catering to various learner types having different learning styles.

By using online learning having digital media, such as good quality images, videos, 3D graphics, animations and so on, a topic can be explained in a better way as it aids in holding learner’s attention, generates interest and provides better perspective of the topic than the course book description or teacher’s explanation. But even though digitization of learning has certain benefits, complete dependence on it is again not advisable for two prime reasons:
  •  Hindrance in providing holistic education to a child
  • Adverse effect on child’s health due to over-exposure to the technology
This brings me to a query, “Should your child be typing the whole day?” And I would prefer to give a definite “No” as the answer. Just like it is essential for your child to cope with modern ways and technology, it is also essential that your child learns to write by hand, solve math without the use of calculator and use his/her reasoning and analytical skills rather than simply searching the internet. Another point every parent should think about is that if your child is overusing IPad, PC or laptop, he/she is getting exposed to the IT industry related occupational hazards in the tender age itself.

Hence, it is wise to choose an educational system for your child that ensures holistic education by blending the best methods from the traditional and digital learning process.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Storyteller’s Solution for ERP Training

Have you come across anyone who doesn’t like reading or listening to a story? Think, may be you could find someone because I couldn’t. And this ‘couldn’t’ is the key to our quest of making our ERP trainings more interesting.

Yes, your thoughts are trailing in the right direction. I am indeed pointing at the ‘Art of Storytelling’.

In general, ERP trainings cover too much information on complicated systems; and the trainings focus more on ‘what all the learner can learn’ and less on ‘how interesting the learning process can be’. Very few training professionals think that the ERP trainings can be made interesting without breaking too many constraints of ERP training design and development.

That brings us to using storytelling in the learning design strategy. This method can make the courses interesting without many changes to the normal ERP training design and development strategy. In this method, you can provide real life context to the ERP activities that the learners are supposed to perform as a part of their job role. Building context will make the learning process more engaging and enhance learners’ curiosity to learn.

Now the point is ‘how’ and ‘what’ to write in a story. Writing stories for ERP training is not that difficult if you know few real facts about using the ERP application. You can write a convincing story if you know few basics, such as:
  1. Who uses the application?  (This gives you the lead of your story.)
  2. When to use the application?  (This gives you the plot of your story, that is, the challenge/situation your lead is facing.)
  3. How to use the application?  (This gives you the action your lead needs to take to tackle the challenge/situation.)
Once you have the generic facts, you can personalize the story by giving a name to your lead and other characters.

Example of a Story or Scenario:
Rita is a member of the Finance Report User Group. She needs to execute the Internal Orders – Actual vs. Budget Variance report using the transaction code S_ALR_87013019. She needs to first enter the selection groups as ‘1000 to 9999’, and then the controlling area as ‘CO01’ to access the report.

A query that may pop up is where to use the story in your training. A story can precede a simulation, demonstration or a training activity. It can also be used as a transition before explaining a process activity.

Another form of story that can be used is business example, which builds a business context for learning an ERP process. A business example focuses more on business need for using the process/sub-process rather than the individual activity within a particular process. Business examples can be used as a lead in before explaining a particular ERP process or topic in a course.

Sample Business Examples (courtesy training material by SAP):

Business Example for SAP SRM Topic: SRM Architecture and Software Components
Your company will be implementing SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SAP SRM) and you have been assigned to the project team. As a project team member, you need to be familiar with the different software components that make up this solution and their integration points.

Business Example for SAP ABAP-HR Topic: Using the Workflow Log
The implementation team has some experience of transactions for workflow runtime monitoring, and now wants to use the additional options available in the workflow log.

Are adults motivated enough to learn even from boring presentations?

When I browse through some of the corporate trainings, a question pops up in my head:

Are adults motivated enough to learn even from boring presentations? 

If I put myself in the learner’s shoe, my honest answer would be ‘No’.

Then, we may wonder, why companies opt to create boring courses for their employees. Is it that they lack awareness about the quality of their presentation or is it that they settle down for the option? As a learning consultant, I feel, most of the companies ‘settle down’ for the option thinking it is the best they can get within several constraints.

There is a prevailing notion that interesting courses involve high cost. Many companies start with this notion and go ahead with training strategies that appear to be cost effective and simple to manage, which many a times turns out to be simple page turner web courses or plain PowerPoint presentations. Eventually, the companies land up adding boring training material to their repository. One other assumption around which the trainings are designed is that the audience for these corporate trainings (especially technical trainings) is already motivated to learn and what they expect from the training is direct information that they can use. Even though this analysis about the audience is true, it doesn’t provide a valid point to design courses that fail to capture a learner’s attention and interest. At this point, a Learning Consultant can play a pivotal role in designing cost effective but engaging training strategies.

Learning Consultants need to break the notions and create more awareness about training development.  Usually, when people think of making interesting courses, they think of rich graphics, interactivities, animations and simulations, which may involve development cost as well as expenses on buying the graphics/images and the licenses for the tools. Thus, a Learning Consultant first needs to convince the companies (or clients) that innovation need not always involve high cost, and to back this claim they should present some sample solutions. The solutions can be as simple as using smart art and clip art to using creative writing techniques, such as storytelling, scenarios or dialogues to using freely available multimedia resources and development tools. But, all the while, Learning Consultants  should focus on the client requirements and remind themselves that no one (even matured professionals) likes courses which make you yawn just after few pages. And needless to say, they should be thorough in their homework.