Why are offices boring? Why do we still embrace this cubiclife?

This is a really interesting question. Why do offices look like the one in the picture above? Do these increase productivity? No, in fact, most research shows that offices that are comfortable increase flexibility (see research on sick building syndrome). So why do we still have these? Why are they still being built? Its a good question and I think the answer is that its what we know. Its easier, doesn’t take as much thought/planning, and it utilizes space well. However, we need to start to get away from this type of thinking and start focusing on making the place where a worker spends 40+ hours a week as comfortable as their home. And I don’t mean adding a plant, hanging a picture, or a slogan to an already boring cubiclife (what I call working in a cubicle). I mean adding couches, making the office colorful, making the office comfortable, and cater to various types of working styles. I see this trend in tech world but other industries still aren’t catching on. I see workers dressing business professional and sitting in a grey office cubicle all day and I can’t help but cringe. So come on companies, loosen up. Let workers work the way they live and see how much productivity increases.

Online Privacy – Why is it important and how do I keep my information private?

Online Privacy – Why is it important and how do I keep my information private?

There has been a lot of buzz recently about online privacy, however; this is not a new issue by any means. Online privacy has been a concern for years. Go do a quick google search for online privacy and you will see articles from 2010, 2008, etc. discussing the issue. What is new is that thanks to our government your ISP (company you buy your internet from i.e. Verizon, charter, time warner, etc.) will be allowed to sell your browsing habits. So first, why does this matter?

For the most part, it doesn’t. A large percent of what we do online is harmless. For example, me searching for a new video game in google will tell amazon I want that game. And ads on Facebook will be for that game. Kind of cool in a sense that the internet knows what I want. This is also scary. Imagine that you think you are sick with a disease, and now amazon, google, health insurance companies, life insurance companies, future/current employers, know about it. The real question though is, should anyone be able to see what you are doing online? Is it their right? Should your ISP be able to spy on you? If you say OK, I would ask, would you allow your mortgage company to come in your house and go through your drawers? Because that is essentially what is happening. So yes, it is a concern and should be to anyone.

So, what can you do to prevent this from happening? There are a number of things and I am going to break this up so that it’s easier to understand. The important thing to remember is that you are never going to be 100% secure. But you can take steps to make it harder for anyone to spy on you. Think of it like an onion, the closer you are to the middle, the harder it is to get to you. The outer layers (i.e. no security) are easy to get to but several layers in takes more work. Also, keep in mind I am not discussing Malware, Viruses, etc here, I have other blog posts about that but I do always recommend antivirus software, malware software, and a good firewall.

For your computer/browser (for most home users):

Step 1 – get a VPN.

VPN – This is the first thing you need. I am not going to explain what a VPN is, just that it makes it so that your ISP (or job) cannot see what you are doing. They can only see that you are connected and using data. Now, the issue with VPN is that the VPN company can see what you are doing. So yes, they can sell your data just like your ISP. But I trust them more and most do not sell your data, just the shady bad ones do. However, keep in mind if you are doing something illegal, the VPN company will turn your information over to authorities if they are subpoenaed – no one is going to jail for you.

There are tons of options for paid and free ones. I personally like Hotspot shield, CyberGhost, and Windscribe because they have free versions. Here is a link to them:

https://www.hotspotshield.com/

https://www.cyberghostvpn.com

https://windscribe.com/

Step 2 – Start using Firefox.

Why? Because of the security and add-ons. Once you download Firefox, you need to install the following add-ons. They are: HTTPS Everywhere and 1 of the privacy/adblock addons I explained below. They will not affect your browsing experience, they will however make it much more secure. Additionally, use the private browsing mode of the browser.

And do these:

  1. Add NoScript, uBlock, Disconnect, or Privacy Badger to your Firefox add-ons. This prevents only scripts that you allow. I personally use uBlock and Privacy Badger together.
  2. Use DuckDuckGo search engine. This is a search engine that does not record/track your searches. You can very easily make this your default browser by going to your browser settings and its just as good as Google. https://duckduckgo.com/

For the most secure (for people who are more technically inclined):

Use Tor Browser. Tor browser with its default settings is going to be super secure. Its slower because of how it works to hide your identity but if you are searching things no one can know about, use this. https://www.torproject.org/

Download Tor Client. Tor is the best security that most home users can set up themselves. If you are a super high tech person and want something more secure you already know way more than what I am blogging about and shouldn’t even be reading this so this post is not for you.  https://www.torproject.org/

For your mobile device:

  1. Get a VPN. There are tons of free ones. You can use hotspot shield as I mentioned above. I use X-VPN on IOS. Keep it on always.
  2. For android, get Firefox browser and use the add-ons I mentioned above. Use private mode.
  3. For apple, use Firefox Focus browser. Apple does not allow Firefox add-ons, so use their focus browser. It’s actually much fast than any other mobile browser.
  4. Use DuckDuckGo search engine. This is a search engine that does not record/track your searches. https://duckduckgo.com/
  5. Use the web version of apps, not the apps themselves. For example, use facebook in the browser, rather than the app. Yea I know a big pain.

For those that want to be super secure, use a Tor browser. While there is no official mobile Tor browser there are tons that are free ones that use the Tor network. I personally have Onion browser for my iPhone.

Online learning vs eLearning vs Distance Learning?

We have multiple types of delivery formats available to us, however, many times we use words interchangeably and never think about what they really mean. This causes problems when talking to clients because what they envision as eLearning might be what you consider distance learning and all of a sudden your final product does not meet their needs. So its always best to define and describe during your proposal so that an operational definition can be established. In this post I will describe some of differences between all of these common terms so that you can more easily describe to clients what you are designing.

Online learning – Online learning is any type of learning that takes place online. However, to most people this refers to 100% asynchronous learning where there is no live meeting and the learners have 24/7 access to the content

eLearning – Self paced learning that is computer or mobile based. The module is completed without an instructor. A lot of people also refer to this as online learning and use the two words interchangeably.

Distance learning – Again, this is another term that people use interchangeably with online and elearning. However, distance learning means learning that takes place at a distance without an instructor. There is no technology requirement but it can exist. In fact, the first distance education courses were developed in the 1800s.

Virtual learning – Learning that takes place in a virtual environment, that is live, and uses video conference technology.

Face to face learning – learning that happens real time in a classroom.

As you can see, there are real differences between all of these but most clients wont know those differences so you need to be careful when discussing them to make sure that you and the client are on the same page.

Call For Papers – Journal of Training, Design, and Technology (JTDT)

Call for Papers

Journal of Training, Design, and Technology (JTDT) – http://tdtjournal.blogspot.com/

ISSN 2475-0921

Call for papers:

The Journal of Training, Design, and Technology (JTDT) is a new online journal seeking submissions.

JTDT is designed to bring together current practices and research. The journals focus is on the following:

Instructional Design
Instructional Technology
Research – manuscripts
Practice – case studies, lessons learned, etc
Instructional Models
Instructional Strategies
Technologies
Usability
Virtual Reality
Mobile Technology
Learning/Training
Multimedia
Games/simulations
Instructional Development
Analysis and Evaluation
Performance Improvement

Types of papers:

Research Manuscripts
Brief articles (on current practice or theory)
Book reviews
Technology reviews
Strategy reviews (Using a strategy in the workplace/classroom)
Case studies
Special Topic papers
Literature Reviews

All papers are blind peer reviewed.

Please see our submission guidelines and submit papers to tdtjournal@gmail.com

Deadline – There is no deadline as volumes will continuously be released. First volume will be published 3/1/2017 with more after that.

Professional Presentations

Giving a professional presentation? Look no further than this presentation analysis on the late Steve Jobs. This is a great breakdown and can give anyone a lot of great pointers on make a boring presentation much better.

 

Problem solving and designing

Tonight in my class I will be discussing various ways to design and one of those is called Open Space Technology (Read here for directions on how to conduct OST – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology)

OST is a way to empower users/stakeholders to design and solve problems in a fun and safe environment. It generates individual and group creativity. OST is usually done face to face however given that my classes are virtual I have figured out how to do it online. To do it only you need to be able to form groups in a forum or chat room. Otherwise it can run just as would in a live face to face environment. Anyway, this is a great activity for instructional designers, businesses, software developers, etc to engage in.

Do you need a degree in Instructional Design?

I have written about this before but given that we are starting a new school I will reiterate my thoughts: Yes you more than likely need an instructional degree in order to be a good instructional designer.

Can you learn to be an instructional designer without getting a degree? Yes. In fact, you can learn about any subject through libraries, internet, etc. You have been able to do this as long as books have been available to the public. However, would you want a doctor to work on you that didn’t have an MD? and just learned through some internet resources? Sorry but you would not. Instructional design is no different. There is a lot that goes into the design process and being a good designer is not easy. I would never hire someone that was not trained in a very solid ISD program that taught them how to be an instructional designer and provided them experiences to apply it.

So where does the notion that you do not need an ISD degree come from? Most often, bad designers. I am sorry to say that but usually when someone says this they either do not have the degree or came from a bad program. Choosing a good instructional design program taught by qualified instructors is a whole other issue. But usually when I find these people that do not believe in the ISD degree and that you can learn ‘on the job’ I can ask them anywhere from 3-5 questions about design, that are vital to design, and they do not know any of the answers – why? Because they themselves are usually not good designers because they do not know how to really do instructional design. Because if they did, they would realize that you really need someone trained to do it well.

Just as an example. I run into this problem all the time with managers. Managers that were hired because they were good workers. Yet they were not trained in management. So they end up failing, messing up, etc and at the very least making simple management 101 mistakes that they didn’t realize they were doing because they had no training.

Some related blog posts:

How to become an instructional desginer

10 reasons to get a degree in ISD

What to look for in an instructional design program

Should you go to college

How to evaluate a professor’s teaching

This is a very good question. I recently wrote a blog post on how professors are evaluated based on students reactions to the course (as in do they like you are not). Unfortunately when doing an evaluation, this is least important compared to other criteria (not that its not important just that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t tell you much). In that post I discussed how you properly evaluate a course by doing the following:

Step 1 – Student reactions. Did students like the training, process, course, instructor? This is the lowest and least important level. It doesn’t tell us if the course, instructor, or training was effective at all. This is the only thing student evaluations measure. Thus faculty are critiqued on whether students liked them or not. Not whether they actually taught anything at all.

Step 2 – Learning. Did the students learn what was taught? This is pretty important. If they learned the content then the course was effective. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 3 – Transfer. Are students able to apply what was learned to their jobs? This is very important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 4 – ROI (return on investment). Was the training worth it? What were the benefits of the training? This is extremely important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Personally, I only look at step’s 3 and 4 when evaluating myself. They are difficult to obtain but I periodically check on my graduates and they tell me what was useful, what they got from my courses, and they thank me for courses or information that they may have not appreciated at the time but then did when they started their careers. This is the exact feedback we all need to hear. All of my courses and materials are geared towards a career in instructional technology and design – so they are all practical and project based. I teach the students how to work, handle/respond to situations and clients, and how to excel in their careers. So I hope that my students give me that type of feedback but you never know until you ask and unfortunately we are not asking. So when doing a professor evaluation we should be looking at those important factors, not just popularity. I should note that my reaction/popularity scores are always good. I just feel that they do not tell me anything.

Having said that, when I fill out my annual performance charts I usually only have step 1 from above, provided by the school along with some quotes from alumni who lead me to believe step 3 and 4 were met. However, I do not think those quotes are really examined as part of my teaching because they are qualitative and not everyone will take them seriously. So I write this to call on faculty to start demanding that we examine whether learning took place, if the students are using it, and was the class worth it. Otherwise why are we teaching it (the topic or course)? Maybe there is justification (as in its an intro course that is needed to get to the more advanced topics and thats fine). But it’s something we need to consider. The teacher with the highest step 1 may not teach the students anything and this is a problem. As a result I am personally going to start doing a few things…

1. Do a pre and post test of content in my courses. This will evaluate student learning and will be objective (true/false or mult choice) and will measure low and high level knowledge. This will measure course objectives. This will tell me if students learned or not as I can compare the scores.

2. Send out annual or biannual surveys to my alumni asking them for input into how my courses and program is impacting them. What information are they using? What didn’t they get from courses that they needed?

I believe this information should be required of all faculty but since it’s not I will start collecting it and providing it for myself for my peace of mind. Hopefully I can start a trend here into better accountability for my own teaching and that of others.