PROCESS: Understand processes such as change, design, development, and learning

artifact: (edtec 540) Job-Aid Prototype • e-filing

Context

In Educational Technology (Edtec 540), Instructor Corey Faymon introduced our class to the concepts and application of Educational Technology, Instructional Design, and a number of educational theories. This was in many ways a new world for me. Every text, module, project and class discussion introduced either a new concept or gave name and order to something that I'd only considered in the most general and abstract manner prior to these lessons. Our last major assignment for Edtec 540 was to develop, and evaluate, a prototype job-aid based on information we had gained from an earlier Needs Assessment project. This process was particularly enlightening when it came to applying practical responses to real-world issues. This is why I selected it as my artifact to represent Process.

I designed a job-aid to support legal professionals who use the Electronic Court Filing System (“ECF”) in the California courts. ECF is a complicated combination of procedures, terminology and rules attorneys must follow when filing trial documents online. Each type of filing (there are many) has its own set of rules and each court has its own unique requirements that are often similar to the other courts, but never identical. It is simply impossible for anyone to know every quirk of every jurisdiction and filing type. Realistically it should be a specialized job, but the firm where I conducted this study, this task was often relegated to those with little experience with the process. This job-aid would ideally support these individuals.

My concept was to create a “living” online PowerPoint presentation with a variety of links and screen shots from each jurisdiction that users could practice with and learn from. They could keep it open while they were involved in an ECF transaction as a reference guide and place to try something before they committed to it in reality. Further the document would have wiki-like functions that allow users to add learned information. This would be cataloged appropriately and worked into the job-aid. Hence if someone discovered a rule about a particular filing type at a particular court, they could add the information and it would be incorporated in a logical manner when another user may have need to search for it.

Challenges & Opportunities

There were a number of challenges involved in this task. Most surprising was the subtle and not-so-subtle resistance I encountered from some ‘advanced users’ to participating in testing the prototype. While this was purely an academic assignment some colleagues literally thought I was spying on them on behalf of HR and evaluating their performance. This limited my audience in terms of who I could prototype test and where I could get feedback. It was a real-world lesson about performance problems and support in the workplace. I experienced first hand what Mager and Pipe had alluded to, a group of my coworkers had, “lived with this problem for some time without seeing the solution.” and “may not take kindly to an implication that their way isn’t the best way.” (Mager and Pipe,1997). It was tough to work through this and not feel as if I’d done a poor job of negotiating change. But I also realized I had no mandate or sponsorship for this project from a senior staff member. Rossett and Schafer’s emphasis on the need for Assured Executive Sponsorship in Job Aids and Performance Support, makes several good points about the advantages of having someone above supporting this task and acknowledging the need for this analysis (Rossett and Shafer, 2007).

I was able to target several willing members of the staff to test the prototype. The feedback was varied. Most loved the idea, but had had mixed feelings about the technology and specific areas that need the most support. The vast amount of information I’d collected in the initial needs analysis strongly suggested a desire for an interactive or embedded learning product, and recognized the specific type of help participants referred to in surveys. (Rossett and Schafer). But there was also resistance to the level of technology that the performance aspired to and the density of the process. This was interesting. I may have gone too far in my prototype, overwhelmed some or given them more than they needed to get the task done.

Lessons

I learned a lot about the value of a well conducted Alpha and Beta testing in this first prototype. I adjusted the “concept” of the job-aid to focus on the most relevant information and got a good sense of how people like to interact with performance support, though was not able to fully realize this given my limited resources. I amended this job-aid to address the most anticipated issues, and most notably determined that the glossary would need to be extremely well cross-referenced. The most practical piece of information I got out of this particular project might be summed up as, a cool job-aid may keep their attention, but a functional job-aid is far more useful. With that knowledge I was able to "dumb it down." based on their feedback. Conceptually the job-aid became simpler. Functionally it now makes more assumptions about the requests that the user makes, rather than seeking to clarify or confirm. If they're not getting the correct information, leave it to the user to dig a little deeper. Without a successful prototyping process, I would not have considered this perspective.

At the end of this project I still felt multiple testing phases would have been necessary were this a real-world situation. With distance, perspective and experience today I’m also able to distinguish between the obstacles to change and influence on design/development that factors like politics and management support can play in developing performance improvement. These were practical lessons and have helped me see how one needs to adjust their approach to the design and development of learning, by fully understanding the audience, the environment and potential impact of any type of intervention.

When I think about “process” today, I think in terms of strategy, stakeholders and variables. Outside of a purely static learning environment (if such a thing even exists) I don’t see how anyone can know they are applying a successful process until they consider these factors and test their approaches.

 

Mager, R.F. and Pipe, P. (1997). Analyzing Performance Problems (3rd ed.),
Atlanta, CEP

Rossett, A. and Schafer, L. (2007). Job Aids & Performance Support,
San Francisco, Wiley & Sons, Inc.