Need inspiration for an e-learning course on budgeting/forecasting

Hey E-Learning Heroes. Heard from a designer this morning who's got a challenge for you. She asks:

"I am hoping that I could get some creative suggestions for an elearning project that I am currently working on. I have to convert a training manual on how to use a budgeting and forecasting system. The content of the existing manual consist of primarily screen shots, okay lots of screen shots and it is not the most riveting topic. I want to capture the information in a fun and interactive way to keep the learner's interest as well as make the testing piece less intimidating."

What advice ya got?

9 Replies
Ananda Gupta

I would show a few steps and then have a couple of steps for the learner to do. These would be the critical states where s/he chooses options that will affect the flow later. Ok this means that we will need more work as we will have to capture some incorrect steps. But this can be interesting as whilst you are learning you are exploring as well.

Eg. Have 2 options out of 6 hot in a drop list one correct (meaning how you wish to go) and another that will give some funny result.

I am most likely giving this visualization out of context as I do not know the complexity of the screen.

Cheers

Ananda

James Brown

Here's my 2c worth. Currently I'm doing a similar project with a redesign of a software tutorial and after watching a video by Cathy Moore yesterday a lot of design principals and analysis principals that I had used during a lengthy instructional design course at Boise State flooded back into my head. You have to start off with a clear, measurable, obtainable goal and build your training off that using Action Mapping.

The software I happen to be working with is collection software. The software is used by collection agencies to collect on bad debt. The software is used by a number of people from managers, to clerical staff, IT technicians, lawyers, Accountants, and the collectors.  When I initially started my project I thought I was going to have to transition my 270 slide power point presentation into the e-learning course when in all actuality I only needed to create learning scenarios to teach the various job skills to each individual worked.  With any organization, the people who are using the product must be able to perform certain job skills after they have completed the training. During my analysis phase of the redesign process I had actually broke out each job description and since I have provided both on-site consulting and technical support for approx. 12 years, I  am a SME in the realm of collections so I started asking myself what skills does each job require. What skills should the learner possess at the end of the training session that will allow them to perform the necessary tasks they need in order to use the progam.

For example, one section of my new training program is called the collector training and I have identified approx. six goals I want the learner to be able to accomplish after they complete the training. (1) Be able to create a worklist of accounts and be able to navigate the worklist. (2) Be able to log an activity comment (3) Be able to add or remove information from the collector window (4) Be able to build a debt repayment plan.(5) Schedule a letter contact to a debtor (6) key in a credit card or eft payment.

After I set  my goals, I can then create scenarios that will guide the learner through the necessary steps and at the end I may quiz them on the steps by using another scenario.  Since I cannot teach everything in the e-learning course, I need to also incorporate training that will train the learner how to find the supporting materials when they are stumped on a section of the program.

Anyway that has been my new plan of attack and I hope that helps.

Tom Kuhlmann

Here's an idea:

Create a way to show the consequences of budgeting and forecasting.  Instead of sterile screenshots of the application, create a scenario where the person has to make the proper budget/forecast decisions, enters them into the system.  Then they get feedback that is more like the real world.

Oh no, we made the wrong forecast, now here are the consequences: people lose jobs, have to work overtime, not correct inventory, etc.

Use the feedback as the mechanism to teach more about the system as they have to input adjusted data.

James Brown

That's a great idea Tom.. I could see using that same logic in some of my scenarios. In a collection agency setting, a collector's salary, (i.e. a collector is the person who calls people for money) gets minimum wags and  off a commission based on how well they are able to get people to pay. I could see building a scenario where the collector forgets to schedule a first demand notice which is required to be sent by law and the agency is then sued for $3,000 by the debtor and the collector is then sent packing. However this isn't really a real scenario since the collectors typically do not schedule these important first notices. However if they failed to key in the proper bank information on an EFT (electronic funds transfer) payment, it's kind of embarrassing having to call back the debtor and get the banking information a second time.

Anyway, nice idea.

Kevin Thorn

Yep! First thought was build a scenario. The best thing about scenarios is incorporating game-like attributes. To Tom's point, you set the learner on a path - a story/scenario. This path presents decisions/choices they have to make. Good choices result in good feedback and rewards. Bad choices result in bad feedback and consequences. Isn't that what happens in real life anyway?

This request suggests a manual with a lot of sreenshots which I'm assuming is from a particular software and/or spreadsheets. As noted, its not the most 'riveting topic.' So, how do you make it riveting? Not knowing the overall context, details, and audience, my first thought would be to somehow step away from the 'in-world' context and present the content in light-hearted fun way.

Just an idea: Whenever I think of eLearning in the context of P&L statements, finance, budgeting, etc. I always think of a lemonade stand. It is the most fundamental simplistic way to explain how all that works. In this case, the learner would be a character in the scenario that has to budget and forecast potential lemonade sales for the coming weekend. Attributes like the local temperature and weather can play a role that would equate to something the learner can relate to in their job. For instance, if its raining, the probability of sales will be lower. Thus the forecasting earlier in the week would affect the budget in how many lemons to purchase.  Something in the learner's real job could/may affect that same budgeting/forecasting cycle.

As James was reminded on Cathy Moore's site, what's the clear, measurable, obtainable goal? To sell a certain volume of lemonade by a certain date, with proper forecasting, and staying within budget.

Simple, but the potential storyline and scenario options could present the 'not so riveting' topic into something a bit for fun.

Kevin Thorn

Just to share a similar scenario I'm working on...

Building a course around product knowledge for Air Conditioning chemicals. Fairly simple and the content can be found literally anywhere on the interwebs.

Instead, I'm taking the learner on a journey 'through' the AC System. Along the way, they are learning how the system works. Then, all of a sudden the system has a leak and they are tossed out of that path.  Then presented with various chemicals (think Stop Leak, Freon recharge, etc.). They then learn about those chemicals and choose one to fix the "leak."

If they are correct, they return to the place in the system where they were tossed out. Leak fixed and they move on through the system. If they're incorrect, they return to the chemicals section to learn more about which ones to use.

The progress meter is a little face that continues to get hotter and hotter with little sweat beads if they keep choosing the wrong chemical. The goal is to make the face look happy and cool.

Kinda dorky, but the SME's are eating this idea up.

Steve Flowers

Sounds like it could be heap-of-task-itis. I would consider looking at all of the tasks and prioritizing in a couple of lists:

What tasks have a high consequence of failure / error?

What tasks have a low consequence of failure / error?

From those lists I would subcategorize into frequency and mark those tasks that are very complex. The goal of this exercise is to indicate those tasks that might not need any training at all. You'll also be on the look out for tasks that may not be worth training due to the infrequent performance of the task (use it or lose it proximity effect).

What we usually see after performing this exercise is a list of tasks that are PERFECT for performance support tutorials a-la-carte. There are also some activities that are clearly part of a nuanced process. Those tasks we add to a training sequence (particularly those that are performed frequently but have a high consequence of error).

Perhaps the best way to engage the learner is not to force them through something that isn't the optimal means of obtaining the skill This process helps to triage tasks and assign appropriate solutions to the task.

Once this is done, the methods described above are nice ways to apply the ARCS model. As a learner, I'd really rather not be exposed to irrelevant or poorly selected fun Take out the things that aren't as important first.

Joe Deegan

I'm with Tom and company with the idea of throwing them into a task where they have to perform tasks in the system.  Try and make them actually perform the tasks by using the screenshots in "hot spot" questions or simply using hyperlinked shapes over the spot they need to click on. 

When it comes to software training I like to throw them straight into the scenario while giving them access to whatever resources they may have on the job.  It's likely that when they are on the job they will use some type of job aid such as the manual to get them through the tough tasks.  If that's the case, then let them access the manual or some other type of resource from within the scenario.  This makes it more realistic and more importantly teaches them how to use any job aids or resources that are available to them on the job.

Good luck on your project!

Jennifer Dow

Hello,

I am working on a similar project - to teach how the company makes money. My client would like me to use the Lemonade Stand analogy as Kevin suggested. 

I suppose I could just use this: http://bizkids.com/games/dollar-a-glass

But, has anyone created anything similar in Storyline that I could use as a template? I'm not sure I have the experience to create all these variables from scratch. but, any assistance would be greatly appreciated and I'm sure Jeannette would benefit as well.


Thanks!