The second half of CECS 5210 has been a bit less structured. Although the class schedule lists tasks for each week, no major assignments are due each week to ensure that my classmates and I are on track for having the final project finished by the end of the semester. As a result, we are having to self-regulate more.

Online graduate courses, in general, require self-regulated learning. There is no instructor (and no parent) checking in with you every day or even every week to ensure that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. That job is yours alone. You are paying a hefty sum to take a course and learn, and if you do not want to waste the money, you must plan your own learning schedule, monitor your learning, and evaluate whether learning is taking place. If learning isn’t taking place, it is up to you to change your strategy and seek help when necessary. Only then can goals and objectives be met.

Communication is essential during self-regulated learning. You must communicate with yourself and really think about where you are, where you need to be, and how to get there. You must convince yourself to sit down at a computer after work to make progress on a class project, even though you would like nothing more than to plop down on a couch and watch television. You have to convince yourself to curl up with an article for class instead of a fictional novel. And if an assignment doesn’t make sense, self-regulated learners need to communicate with peers and instructors to get clarification. Open communication lines (e.g., checking and responding to email regularly and in a timely manner, taking time to reflect) and an organized approach facilitate communication, whereas unavailability and inconsistent, unorganized, incoherent directions impede communication and cause frustration.

As instructional designers and educators, we likely have a knack for self-regulated learning. We know what it takes to make something stick and we have the motivation to do what it takes. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  As Daniel Pink so eloquently summarizes in his talk at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), “there are three factors that the science shows lead to the better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery and purpose.” CECS 5210 is giving us the autonomy and purpose to solve the real-life problem of a real-life client so that we can gain the mastery to solve instructional problems more efficiently and effectively.  I’m loving it!

Project A Reflection

Creating Project A was a lot more challenging than I expected it to be. I had no problems finding a client (I knew an optometrist who wanted help with creating training for the staff of his private practice), but I had trouble determining the appropriate amount of content to meet the limited time frame and getting the client to pinpoint exactly where training was needed. It took some digging. When asking my client what problems he was currently experiencing with his staff, he immediately said, “Consistency.” Trying to get him to go into detail and elaborate was a bit more difficult. Eventually, he summarized with, “Well, the training can be divided up into three areas, the reception area, the optical area, and the clinical area. We’re just having issues with having them consistently perform certain things, like remembering to walk the patient to the door, etc.” I immediately suggested that a checklist could solve that problem, and he said, “Well, we have a checklist, but for some reason, they’re not following it.”

At that point, I was unsure about what to do next, so when I saw the assignment instructions to create a three hour course for a client, I thought, “Okay, I’ll have my client narrow down what they need to nine topics (three for the optical, three for the clinical, and three for the reception) and I’ll continue to dig from there.” I naively thought I could easily create twenty-minute instruction on each topic. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

My first actual interview was with the Office Manager, the person who was in charge of training the employees. She wanted to begin with creating training for the optical area, since her employees were already performing well in the reception and clinical areas, and once we began determining the business goal for the optical, and what it would take to get there, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have the time to create training on all three topics for the optical area, not to mention training for the reception and clinical areas. There were so many little topics in the overarching topic of lens options alone. I felt horrible after confessing this to my client and his Office Manager, but they seemed pretty understanding. At least we had narrowed down the topic to selecting and communicating lens options, and I knew that the Office Manager really wanted an online course so that she wouldn’t have to spend too much time training new hires and the current staff.

The online course quickly turned into an instructor-led course, however, when I realized how much information I had to learn about selecting and communicating lens options. In order to create effective instruction, I feel that I have to become comfortable with the content myself, so I took a great deal of time getting trained on the content, and the deadline approached way more quickly than I would have liked. How was I going to have the time to learn about selecting and communicating lens options and how to use Captivate in such a short amount of time? After all, it took me ten hours to simply create a job aid in Captivate (approximately 1/10th of the content I needed to address), not to mention an entire course. I got to the point where I had to wave the white flag again and admit to myself and my clients that I wasn’t going to be able to have an online course ready in a month with so many other responsibilities to attend to (e.g., another course, a family, a full-time job). So we agreed that I could create an instructor-led course for this first project and transform the course into an online course for the second project. (I am extremely fortunate to have found such a flexible and forgiving client.)

In the end, the instructor-led course turned out great. The staff thinks the job aids I’ve created are helpful, and they are being used regularly. But the implementation brought to light a couple of problems. First, my training failed to address the fact that certain options aren’t available in certain scenarios. For example, Transitions Extra Active and Transitions Vantage lens options are not available for Essilor 360 lenses with Hi-Index 1.74. There is an availability chart that optometric assistants are supposed to reference, and I did not learn about it during my research. Secondly, the optometric assistants need more practice with calculating what patients with Superior, Spectera, or EyeMed insurance would have to pay and more practice scenarios. I hope to address these issues in the online course I am creating for my second project for CECS 5210.