How Agile Is Adapted for Instructional Design & Online Training
By Laura Cowan
Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.
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Torrance Learning is an online training software company based in Chelsea, Michigan, just west of emerging tech hub Ann Arbor. Torrance has won awards from the eLearning Guild Demofest and the Brandon Hall Awards for its methods of developing new forms of instructional design, primarily for corporate training. The small consultancy has thrived thanks to the innovative thinking of founder Megan Torrance, who has adapted agile programming methods for application in instructional design and corporate training.
Megan Torrance is founder and CEO of Torrance Learning.
"There are global standards for professional development training in the corporate space," Torrance explains. "But we are now replacing a 20-year-old somewhat vague specification with something that is flexible and open source." And that's just one way Torrance is helping corporations adapt to new online learning standards and integrate new technology into their in-house training programs. Torrance Learning has several products to this end.
ID WOW Platform for Instructional Design
ID WOW is the Instructional Design Ways of Working Platform, a professional development software platform. "We're teaching peers in the vending space or large organizations to design better training programs," Torrance says.
"This is the platform for our workshops, where we share our secret sauce, LLAMA."
LLAMA Agile For Designers
LLAMA, or Lot Like Agile Management Approach for Instructional Designers is a process for instructional designers that follows the "same values, principles, and some techniques of agile," Torrance says. She's taken some heat for the differences with agile in places, but she says her process holds true to the different way instructional designers need to work with user stories. The idea is to change the way designers think about stories in terms of features and functions in the learning platform.
The primary difference? "We want people to do something away from the learning platform," after they're done with the training, Torrance says. And so the LLAMA system teaches designers how to create training programs that create change both on and off the platform. It's not just about how the platform is developed in an agile fashion, but about how instructional designers shape training programs for a different user experience.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Corporate Training
"A virtual classroom is synchronous most of the time," Torrance explains of the company's process for helping teachers and trainers create great learning experiences. "A skilled facilitator can build out a great class quickly using any synchronous platform such as Zoom, but to continue this, everyone has to keep showing up." The challenge of building an online class or training program, then is in how classes come together over time.
"There are two main modes of asynchronous learning," Torrance continues. "In a non-interactive mode, classes often consist of PDFs, video clips, and non-interactive quizzes. A great example of this would be LinkedIn Learning or parts of Khan Academy." But with interactive online learning, the process of interactive testing, questions for classes that allow users to type in text to answer complex questions--all of this requires specialized software. "The interesting thing about working to create this kind of software," Torrance says, "is that the more engaging the content is using specialized software, the better data engineers can get out of it."
The recommendation is simple: if you have a class where you can do the work synchronously and can engage people enough to bring them back repeatedly, you can use any mainstream video conferencing or non-interactive teaching software pretty easily. The heavy lifting is in the community building and the engagement. But if you have a large number of people who need to engage and learn a subject deeply, that opens up possibilities through custom software to not only teach in more interactive ways, but to glean from analytics what people are doing with the training programs and the information they've learned. It opens up a back side of the data analytics that many corporate training offices find extremely useful for gauging results.
Torrance Learning offers a whole host of programs for engaging with their content to see if it's right for your corporate training program or company. We find it promising that they're thinking about analytics, engagement, interactivity, and deep learning, and not just the functions of software to replace in-person learning experiences. A whole new world of online training is opening up as corporate America goes virtual, and we're looking forward to seeing where this goes. If you would like to join a free 12-week training program on Torrance's process or check out their other resources, check out their website.
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