TTMWL: Episode 13 — “Defining the New Normal: Unlocking the Potential of Emerging Training Trends & Technology” with UCF’s Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi

Training the Modern Workforce Live is a weekly show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Hosted by Allogy CEO Colin Forward, each episode features an informative conversation with a prominent guest in the training world.

Watch the full video interview above, listen on any of the platforms below, or continue reading to see the full transcript (edited for clarity).

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About Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi, Professor, Instructional Design & Technology, University of Central Florida (UCF)

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi is a Professor of Instructional Design and Technology with joint appointments with the Department of Learning Sciences and the Department of Medical Education at the University of Central Florida. For the past 25 years, he has dedicated his research, teaching, and service to establishing and improving eLearning environments with a current focus on advancing online and blended learning across the health professions.

Episode Transcript

Adam Wagner: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Allogy’s podcast, Training the Modern Workforce Live, a show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Each episode, we’ll talk about a different training topic—and make sure to keep an eye out for special guests and interviews from top training professionals.

With me, as always, I have Colin Forward, CEO of Alogy. For the last decade, Colin has provided major U.S. hospitals and federal agencies with distance learning solutions. He studied mobile technology at the University of Central Florida while earning a degree in computer science and his MBA.

And joining Colin this week is Dr. Atsusi Hirumi, or “2C.” Dr. Hirumi is a Professor of Instructional Design and Technology with joint appointments with the Department of Learning Sciences and the Department of Medical Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF). For the past 25 years, he has dedicated his research, teaching, and service to establishing and improving eLearning environments with a current focus on advancing online and blended learning across the health professions.

This week, we’re going to be talking about defining the new normal and how to unlock the potential of emerging training trends and technology. We’ve got some great questions on deck already, but feel free to ask any questions that may come up in the chat, and we’ll get to as many as we can. Alright, Colin, over to you.

Colin Forward: All right. Thanks, Adam. And thank you, Professor, for joining us. It’s great to have another UCF Knight on the podcast. We’ve already interviewed David Metcalf, who I know you know. One of the reasons I was really excited to have you on the show to have this conversation is because when I was at UCF at the Institute for Simulation and Training as a student, a couple of your presentations left a really lasting impact on me and how I think about learning design. So I’m excited for you to be able to share some of your insights with our audience, who I think can really benefit from them.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Thank you, Colin. I appreciate that. That’s a nice comment.

Colin Forward: Sure. So, why don’t we start out with some definitions? So the title of the conversation today includes the “new normal” and as it relates to training and learning tech. So what is the old normal? What is it that we are changing in this new model?

What Is the Old Normal vs. the New Normal in Training and Learning Tech?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: That’s a good place to start, I guess. The definition of old and new normal, in my opinion, really depends on the context. What some believe is new might be old to others and vice versa. But, in general, I guess I would refer to the Industrial Age model of education that holds time constant and allows achievement to vary and is based primarily on teacher-directed instructional methods and means that frame the instructor as a center of epistemological authority as the old model. As for the new model, I really don’t think anyone can forecast what that will be like in five years and maybe not even three or four years.

What we do know is the amount of information available to humankind as well as the advances in technology will continue to accelerate at an exponential rate. We can also assume that some current trends—such as but not limited to, AI and big data analytics, blended and online learning, generational differences in learners, and things like telehealth, telemedicine, and even telecomputing—will play a significant role in a new normal.

Colin Forward: So it sounds like it’s just as much, in your opinion, about the amount of information that we need to work with in our day-to-day as it is about the way that we are delivering this information and expecting people to absorb it. Is that fair?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: I would say because there’s so much information, we have to change how we present that information. We can’t keep continuing to ask learners to learn more and more and more and read more and more and more. As I said, I received a joint appointment in medical school, working in a medical school, this lasts three to four years, and it’s amazing how much content and how much resources are thrown at them. They’re really inundated with content, and faculty keeps struggling with how do we fit more content? How do we fit more content? I need more time. I need more time in the curriculum.

So that’s why I think this move to learner-centered and information literacy is so important. Instead of focusing on the content, focus on helping students access it, interpret it, vet it, and apply it. So you’re covering less content, but you’re covering it in more detail in terms of processing rather than the facts.

Colin Forward: I know that you talk a lot about alignment in instructional design, and is that kind of what you’re referring to here, where we need to maybe change some of the goals that we have in our instructional design and how we expect to achieve those?

Why Is Alignment so Important in Instructional Design?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Yes, definitely. So alignment of the content with the objectives. You know, I just gave that keynote for one of the conferences. If you don’t mind, I actually have a graphic that I think better illustrates the point. Would that be okay? Give me a second here.

Let me start with this. So this, to me, depicts what I call both horizontal and vertical alignment. Horizontal alignment is the alignment of the objectives, instructional strategy, and learner assessments. So have you ever taken a test and wondered where the hell did that question come from? Or submit an assignment and thought, “Why did I get the grade that I got; that doesn’t make sense?” So, in that case, typically the assessment is not aligned to the objectives. Now, we always hear about how we want to teach students higher-order critical thinking, and the faculty members focus on that, but then we give students a multiple-choice test and that is more valid and reliable for assessing the acquisition rather than the application of knowledge.

So that’s a good example of misalignment. We also present students with a litany of objectives or fuzzy objectives. And so we don’t clearly communicate what the expectations are. And that to me, Colin, is the fundamental reason for the horizontal line. Educators need to clearly communicate expectations and then either meet them or exceed them.

And so the alignment is fundamentally for that purpose. You know, it’s pretty basic. If you’re trying to teach someone how to list 50 states, guess what, the assessment should ask students to list 50 states, and the instructional strategy, including the organization and sequencing of content, should help students list 50 states.

It’s really very very simple conceptually, but when you get into education and teaching and learning and actually what happens, especially in higher ed, it can get complicated.

Colin Forward: The theory here seems pretty straightforward. I imagine that everyone listening has a sense of this, but it makes me think that maybe part of the problem with some programs not having this kind of alignment is that people are defaulting to traditional tools. The same type of summative and formative assessments that you’re describing where it’s multiple-choice or sort of regurgitating something from memory. So is this a matter of needing to introduce new tools into the toolbox for instructional designers? Is there a mismatch between the type of skills and competencies that we want to drive in our training and the way that we’re assessing the outcomes of that training?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Tools is another issue, in my opinion. To me, technology is a tool, and there’s a plethora of emerging tools and technology. But to me, technology can increase productivity, it can increase access, and it can even provide a lot more affordances depending on which technology you’re using. The fundamental problem, though, is that the use of these technologies does not ensure the quality of the educational experience. And to me, the quality comes from an alignment of objectives, assessments, and instructional strategy. Quality is meeting and exceeding expectations.

Colin Forward: So another way to put that, I’m going to try and rephrase, and you can tell me if this is fair: we should think of the technology that we’re using the same way that we think about multiple-choice versus a free-response assessment, where it is just another way to either deliver the training or assess the outcome.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Correct. Yeah, it’s another tool, but there’s fundamental design. I always tell people, students, are going to learn more and like a piece of self-instructional, print-based instruction more than a 3D-immersive game if it’s well-designed.

Colin Forward: Yeah. I mean, I think we could probably all take that for granted, but there’s so much pressure now on—especially people who are already in learning and development and then people who are falling into training roles—to start onboarding these new high-fidelity training formats: AR and VR, gamified learning. And it sounds like you’re saying that’s not necessarily where we should start, as far as the objective, onboarding that type of content. It should be more about whether or not that satisfies the goals of our training program.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Yeah. With instructional design, the first thing you have to do is determine what the need is. What’s causing the problem? There are many reasons why people do not perform on the job. Training and education are really only appropriate if the cause of the problem is due to a lack of skills or knowledge.

And even in that area, you have to have other interventions like knowledge management systems, performance support systems, job aids, just to name a few that might be more appropriate under that condition. So we really have to start by understanding what’s causing the performance problem. And then, if it’s due to a lack of skills and knowledge, when coursework or training is most appropriate, then we can start working on an instructional solution and using a systematic process to ensure alignment between those elements I showed you before.

Colin Forward: Okay, so that makes sense. And I know well enough that you’re no training Luddite, and you do have a lot of great thoughts on how to effectively apply gamified learning and some of these other sorts of bleeding-edge technologies. Can we talk a little bit about when it’s appropriate and what is necessary to effectively apply those technologies?

How Can Instructional Designers Incorporate Story & Gamified Learning for Learner Motivation?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Sure. One thing I know about learner motivation is that you don’t want to motivate or try to motivate learners with some type of intervention if they’re already motivated. So if they’re already motivated, just get out of the way, give clearly aligned instructional materials that are effective and efficient, and engagement will come just from their individual interests.

However, that’s not always the case, right? So we have a separate but integrated series of studies that examine motivation and how you systematically address human motivation using a systematic process. My major professor, John Keller, was the author of the ARCS model, and that was his major contribution to the field, and he won awards for the ARCS model. And we can get into that in a lot of detail, but just in short, he’s come up with four basic constructs and basically says, in order to motivate students to learn, you’ve got to gain and sustain their attention, it’s gotta be relevant to their needs, it’s gotta foster confidence in their abilities, and has to satisfy their expectations.

So that’s one way to address motivation. The gamification is a whole nother area that I really got into about 10, 15 years ago. I was working with some fantastic people in the entertainment industry. I think one of them, I think I see him: Chris Stapleton. Hey, Chris! He’s onboard. He’s really one that really helped me explore this area. Creativity. So much of what I’ve learned, I have to give him credit for.

But it’s the whole idea of interactive entertainment. There are so many entertainers that know about how to engage people and how to gain and sustain their attention that we as designers and educators aren’t formally trained on and, quite honestly, don’t have a clue in many cases.

So based on that we really explored how do we integrate key elements of story and game and play. And Chris is the one that really helped me distinguish play, where there are no winners or losers, with game, where there are winners and losers, and how to apply that to gamify the instruction. Because the problem with game-based learning and VR and MR is that it costs too much. Because, to me, if you can’t leverage these interventions to help the masses, it’s great if you’ve got a million dollars, but if you don’t—and I know I don’t have a million dollars in my back pocket—we’ve got to learn lower-cost solutions and gamification is one of those solutions, in my opinion.

Colin Forward: So let me poke at that a little bit because a lot of people that I talked to, either in our customer base or people that are just interested in adopting new types of learning technology, when they think of gamified learning, they think of it as a feature. They’re looking for a game engine or badges or something that introduces that gamified element to training. But some of the most interesting ideas that you shared are around how instructional design and narrative built into training can provide gamification without any additional features set. Can you talk about how someone can do that, especially on a budget?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Sure. This is great. Let me go back to that presentation that I was doing, because it has one of the key illustrations, if I may. There’s the ARCS model. There’s that? Oh, so this is actually a drawing that Chris Stapleton made. So here again, Chris, I’m giving you credit for all this.

So this is a story arc. The experience arc traditionally followed by authors, by play writers, by people in the interactive entertainment business. So here you have a hook. You have an inciting incident. You have rising challenges, a climax, and resolution, right?

So, to me, it really is perfect for case-based learning or problem-based learning because, guess what, each one of those rising challenges can be simple to complex problems or challenges. You just have to come up with the rest of the story, but obviously, it has to resonate with your audience. But that’s where the magic comes in. That’s the difference between a million-dollar movie or a billion-dollar movie and a box office flop—how well the story and its characters resonate with the audience.

But anyway, I would suggest how many courses or training programs are designed based on this story arc. I would say it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch with a little bit of experience and background to start trying to incorporate these elements into your training.

Colin Forward: So I think it’s obvious how this might affect motivation, having narrative arc to draw someone through all the training content that you’re providing. But how does that actually affect learning outcomes?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: We know from neuroscience research that the brain remembers stories better than isolated facts. So we have neuroimaging technology, brain images, that shows when you tell people a story, it lights up your neurons on both sides of the hemisphere. Where compared to more technical writing and plots or speeches that focus on very discrete facts, it only lights up part of the brain.

Now, we are making some assumptions about what does it mean when you light up all the brain versus part of the brain. But we also know from neuroscience that neurons that fire together wire together. So, in my opinion, the fundamental purpose of training and education will be to try to stimulate as much neuro-activity that fires these neurons because that’s what leads to memory.

Colin Forward: And so that makes sense with the sort of macro narrative as you laid out in that graphic that you just showed. But one of the other interesting concepts that you’ve shared is how within that narrative there’s a smaller micro-cycle where we want to associate training objectives or information that we want someone to retain with a severe emotional shift. Can you explain that a little bit?

How Can Instructional Designers Use Narrative and Story to Affect Emotions and Facilitate Learning?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Oh, sure. And I go back to this graphic, if I may. So again, I think Chris really captured it well in this graphic. This is the emotional rollercoaster.

So there is research out there on emotional intelligence and managing emotions, which is all important, but I use emotions in a different way. So again, neuroscience research, in this case on emotions, tells us that it’s the changing emotions that keep people engaged, and it’s the strength of emotion that fires more neurons. So the stronger the emotional reactions, you release more neurotransmitters in your brain that will actually consolidate those memories better.

So what we want to do is send people on an emotional rollercoaster. Think about James Bond, right? Or think about your favorite movie—Indiana Jones, for example. Stuff happens and you’re on the edge of your seat, and then it’s resolved. But then, something else happens immediately, and it’s “Oooh,” and then you’re on the edge of your seat again. And then you relax a bit, let it resolve. But then, the next thing happens and the next—and that’s what keeps people engaged.

Think about when you’re bored. The speaker is just talking in this monotonous way over and over and over again. That’s why interaction is so important. You’ve got to insert interactions or interactivities within your training to sustain people’s attention as well as to facilitate memory.

Colin Forward: So my brain goes to some absurd places when thinking about examples. So maybe we could provide something a little bit more concrete because for someone who’s actually designing this training, obviously, you don’t want the training to be something like, “You’re fired; just kidding. Here’s what you need to know.” You know, providing the swings that way. So is it empathy with a character? Is it new information that motivates this emotional shift? How can someone affect that on their learners?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: I think, again, depending on which tool you’re using. If you’re using story, you could talk about the theme. What is the emotional reaction you want the audience or the learner to have as they go through your story? What’s the fundamental theme or tone, right?

If you’re using game mechanics, there’s a bunch of game mechanics, and I want to get back to that because you’ve talked about badging and other mechanics that are out there that are limited. So we know talking to game experts, like I was working with Rick Hall at FIEA, at Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, and he showed me a lot of different mechanics that entertaining video game developers will consider that’s way beyond what we find in our literature on gamification that focuses primarily on badging and rewards. So that’s just one class of mechanics that we see predominantly in the gamification literature. But there’s a bunch of other mechanics that video game producers and designers will learn about and apply that we need to learn from as well, in my opinion.

So you asked about some concrete examples, is that right?

Colin Forward: Yeah, it can be very broad strokes, but how can someone incorporate this knowledge into future instructional design?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: The first thing I would do is to do a psychographic profile of my learners. So that’s another thing I learned from Rick Hall at FIEA. When they design a video game, they do a psychographic profile. Very similar but different from what we learned to do in instructional design. In instructional design, we analyze key learning characteristics, but we go beyond that and say, “What interests our target learner population? How do they use their free time and free finances or available resources?” Then, you start getting a clue of what types of entertainment, what types of game, what kinds of other activities interest them and engage them. And that’s the knowledge we need to start with in order to design highly engaging and effective instructional materials.

Colin Forward: But just to be clear, we’re not talking about the traditional concept of learner types: visual, audio, kinesthetic, or anything like that, right?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: No, because there is no such thing as learning styles, right? So for everyone out there who believes in learning styles, we have proven, pretty much, that people are not born with learning styles. Everybody, physiologically, basically learns the same way. They develop learning preferences.

If you don’t like to read, guess what, you like graphics. But guess what? Everyone actually learns better and more effectively with graphics because our sense of sight is the most powerful in terms of processing information. That’s what explains YouTube so well, the popularity of YouTube.

Colin Forward: So when we’re talking about psychographic profiles and the differences between learners, what are these differences you’re talking about?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Again, what does engage them? What do they really enjoy? What motive? We had different generations that like vampires, right? And now we have zombies. And now we have the next generation that likes other kinds of themes or topics, but that’s just a way of theming your training, in this case, or learning.

What are the game mechanics? What is the story? All that has to filter to or point to a certain type of emotion but also will inform how you design your graphics, like what characters you put into your story. So that’s where I would start again. What is the psychographic profile of the learners? What is the emotional reaction you want to get from the learners primarily? And then, we use those data points to start formulating a story and game mechanics.

Colin Forward: That makes sense. So at this point, we’ve talked a little bit about the instructional design on the front end and the ways that we can achieve some of these, I’d say, like higher-order mechanics of instructional design. I want to ask you a bit about training delivery. So, I’ve noticed that you and I both tend to point to the schoolhouse as an educational anachronism. It’s this thing that someone from a hundred years ago would recognize if they were brought into current times. They wouldn’t recognize just about anywhere else that we take them, but they would see a podium and a whiteboard or a blackboard and they would say, “Oh, this is the classroom.”

So, you know, as instructional designers—especially people doing vocational training, supporting professionals—surely we can borrow from some of these things that we’re familiar with in primary education. But are there any other assumptions that we need to shake off in order to effectively deliver some of this training that you’re talking about?

How Does Technology Flip the Classroom and Introduce More Effective Student-Centered Learning?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Another excellent question. And if you don’t mind, I have another graphic that I use to actually illustrate my points here. Let me find that real quick.

Colin Forward: By all means. I think the audience is appreciating your graphics because we’ve gotten a couple of requests for the slide deck so far.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: So this is a graphic that I did back in 2002, I think, when we first started emphasizing learner-centered methods.

So I think it clearly illustrates the whole idea of teacher-directed learning. That’s what we see on the left-hand side. All the knowledge and information is in the instructor’s head. He or she acts as the center of epistemological authority and transmits that knowledge to a class of students who are all supposed to learn the same things at the same rate at the same time. You do have family members and people in the community, but they’re tangential. They’re not really integrated into this model, but they’re out there and they affect the learners in some form.

In true student-centered learning, you’ll have individual and groups of learners working together, solving problems. They have direct access to the knowledge base, whether that’s on the internet or other resources. And the teacher is that guide on the side—you might’ve heard of that phrase—and they’re helping the students interpret and apply the knowledge, basically facilitating learning.

And what’s nice about this—and you talk about how we get away from the old visions of the classroom—now telecommunications really allow us to break the barrier of the classroom building and bring in family members and experts from the community as an integral part of the learning experience. So, to me, this illustrates some of the key points that, as we move away from the more traditional, what would we be familiar with, right? We talk about how if George Washington walked into the classroom today, he would recognize the podium and lectures and presentations.

Colin Forward: Yeah. So there are a couple of things about this that I didn’t notice the first time you shared this graphic with me. The first thing that jumps out to me is one of the big differences here is that in the old model, the teacher is somewhat of a gatekeeper to information and knowledge. And you’re saying here that it’s not just even like a flipped classroom where they’re saying, “Here’s the assignment, read it before class.” It’s that this is truly on-demand information that the students should have access to whenever they need it.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Yeah, because that’s life now. That’s how people learn and work and have fun. They access the information just in time. What you hope is that it’s not just too late. For example, if you design training on a jet fighter, there’s just-too-late information and just-in-time information. Or a medical procedure: you don’t want someone learning brain surgery just in time; you want them to know how to do it right beforehand. So the point here is you really gotta distinguish what’s critical and provide that information before or after.

So here’s one more thing I’d like to present if you don’t mind.

So this is the interplay instructional strategy that I’ve been working with Chris Stapleton to develop over the last, I don’t know, how many years now, Chris? We both have a lot more white hair, don’t we? But I’ve adapted it a little bit to medical education because medical educators don’t always believe in gameplay. They think that education has to be serious. And it does! What they cover is obviously serious stuff. All I’m suggesting is we could utilize these concepts from interactive entertainment to make education more engaging.

So here’s an example: you bring people in through a story—like I was telling you before, some kind of hook—and then, in this case, they could get the content—this is COTS, commercial off the shelf, learning resources—which is what they have exposure to all the time through the internet. And then, the students can go there first and learn, like traditionally, “Here, learn the content first and then do the assignment,” which is the cases in this case, right, if you will. Or like most video game players: how many of you read the manual before you play a video game?

Colin Forward: Yeah, it’s got to be built in, right?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Maybe none. Probably no one reads the instructions. So in this case, you’re giving the learners a choice: whether they confront the problem first and then acquire the information in just-in-time mode, or you could present them with information first, and then they could go play the game or, in this case, solve the cases or problems.

And so, what’s also interesting with this model is that we have the technology now to push the information to the learners based on how they’re progressing through the case or problem. So the learners can pull the information just in time if they’re good at monitoring their needs, or we could push it to them as well.

Colin Forward: This brings up an interesting question for me, and this might be outside of the scope of your focus, but a lot of the work that we do at Allogy is providing standards-based learning resources. So, for example, when we’re working with combat medics, we want to make sure that they’re not going to YouTube to look up outdated tourniquet protocol, which I think that kind of falls into your COTS circle there. So it seems like this model might introduce some risk as well of bad learner habits or things that we might have to compete with as instructional designers. So have you seen that come up in your work?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Oh, sure. And again, I think it’s turning constraints into opportunities. That’s a perfect opportunity to bring in the whole idea of information literacy. How do you vet all that information to make sure that it’s valid, reliable, accurate, appropriate?

Colin Forward: And, I mean, it seems like, for medical students, they’re using Anki Flashcards, and they’re going out and finding all these things that are catering to the STEP exam, which the professors that they work with may or may not be doing. So is there a way to make sure that you’re incorporating the things that these learners do respond to but also addressing some of the misinformation or outdated information that they might be getting exposed to if they’re doing this in a truly self-directed fashion?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Oh, certainly. Again, this, to me, is the silver lining in the pandemic. It’s really pushing educators to think of how to deliver content in a new and different way. So many of us were forced into what we call emergency remote teaching, and we call it emergency remote teaching because we’ve been doing blended and online learning for 20, close to 30, years now. And we know that it takes time to transform traditional teacher-directed methods and materials into strong, high-quality student-centered materials.

But then, the instructor had to go online in two months or less, and again, I want to very much applaud all the people who did that. And not just the educators but also the instructional designers and educational specialists. They did an incredible job to get thousands and thousands of educators online to meet students’ needs and interests. But we have to recognize that that was typically, not all the time but typically, emergency remote teaching—things that we know we shouldn’t be doing, like putting a PowerPoint online and calling it instruction. Right?

Colin Forward: Yeah, I see some people who were in the audience now who I think are in this group of people that you’re describing that over the last 18 months have all of a sudden found themselves in a—maybe they were already in professional training, but certainly now it’s remote. And I worry that some of the stuff we’re talking about today, even while it can be fascinating, when you go to apply it, it can be intimidating. It can feel like maybe you need to have a Ph.D. in instructional design or pedagogy to apply these kinds of things. So how necessary is it for someone to really internalize all of this learning science in order to get the ROI that they’re looking for in training?

Do You Need a Ph.D. in Instructional Design to Get the Desired ROI in Training?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: I think it’s a step-wise evolutionary process, right? So for an online distance educator, for example, we know that it evolves. First, you have to learn the technology. And then, you might take what you’ve traditionally had done and put that online. And then, as you get experience, you start evolving your methods and your means. And I would suggest that instructional design is like that. Maybe not all professional educators and subject matter experts will have access to an instructional designer who can help them apply what we’ve learned over 20, 30 years.

You don’t have to be a Ph.D. It’s not rocket science. It’s all very logical. It’s just, it takes time. You’ve got to think of what the ROI in instructional design and systematic design is. Because people have been learning using these traditional teacher-directed methods for centuries. And I’m not saying that those methods are ineffective. What I’m suggesting is that when you create what I call the SME or craft-based designs, you can’t replicate them. You can’t give them to someone else who can teach them in an effective and efficient manner. The instructors who created those materials typically have to be the educators who teach those materials.

If you want to get the ROI that systematic design affords, you have to take the time and energy to create these materials that you could then give to other people who are qualified, and they could teach it or utilize it and achieve similar outcomes.

Colin Forward: That is such a huge point and very topical to a lot of the challenges that people I’ve spoken to over the last few months are dealing with, where maybe they have some subject matter experts that are managing this content centrally, but then they need to equip this distributed workforce of trainers to deliver it. I mean, what you’re talking about, I think, is something that a lot of people are struggling with right now. Are there any sort of key takeaways that go into making sure that your instructional design meets those requirements that you’re describing and that you could equip any instructor to deliver that content?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Again, fundamentally, I think it’s that systematic process of some kind of analysis to derive objectives, using the objectives to drive the development of your assessments, and then using your objectives and your assessments to drive your instructional strategy, including the content information. And I think that’s what allows for the alignment that’s fundamental to high-quality education and training.

Now, all the engagement stuff, I talked about the ARCS model, we talked about gamification, that’s extra when you’ve got learner engagement because you can have a lot of material that’s really boring, right? So that’s a little extra, but again, that’s what professional instructional designers with a background in gamification can give you.

Colin Forward: I want to try and tie your last couple answers together because we’re talking about making sure that you’ve identified the appropriate ROI for your training, and I think that’s where a lot of people that we’re talking to right now are maybe in a position where they have to manage up. And they have to communicate to the folks who are funding their programs what the ROI is and what it should be. So do you have any examples you might be able to share? Medical education is fine or any other projects that you’ve worked on where you say, “The ROI is not just knowledge retention. The ROI is not just someone performing well on an assessment.” But an example of where it is really well aligned.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Sure. We did a big project for Fort Huachuca, Army/Military intelligence in Mexico. And I was contracted specifically to come up with a formula to help them determine what should go online versus what should be done face to face. They were confronted with new conflicts in the Middle East that required us to get soldiers out in the field much quicker, with less time in the schoolhouse, and covered really new tactical warfare because it was so different to stage battles in the desert compared to in Russia or China during the Cold War. So they had to learn a bunch of new things that were highly dynamic.

So we did this process and we analyzed hours and hours and hours of military intelligence training and came up with the formula that will hopefully, now—and I can’t release those, obviously the training—lead to more sustained and effective uses of their dollars that they’re spending in training.

And let me make one other point. One of the highlights of my career is I got to brief General Custer. He was the acting chief at that schoolhouse. And one of the fundamental messages I was trying to get to him was don’t spend high dollars, billions of dollars, on high-tech solutions covering content that is so dynamic. Because what happens is the military will give out this contract, people will address the contract with a million dollars for a solution, and then we know that we have to change the content in six months because we learned something different. Guess what? You don’t have that in your budget. Then, they’re looking for more resources and more.

Spend the high dollars on doctrine, if we’re talking a military example, on things that you know are stable that they have to know really well before they get into the schoolhouse that could then facilitate the time an expert has with the learners, soldiers in this case, so they can interpret and apply it in a medical case. You could go into variants and comorbidities and how you address that kind of situation. You don’t have to cover the contents because they’re already covered in an effective way.

Colin Forward: So I have to ask: is that formula for what gets delivered remotely versus in the classroom, is that proprietary? Can you give us a sense of what goes into that formula?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Oh yeah. It’s in the article. It’s a lot about the stability of the information, but it gets down to the instructional strategy. You’ve all seen graphics about flipped classrooms and blended learning. And that conceptually covers those things. What we get into is more about the cost of the different media that could be used to facilitate synchronous and asynchronous learning, but we also get into the instructional strategy.

So if you use a strategy that’s grounded in research and theory to determine what’s online versus face-to-face, now you’re using pedagogy to drive key design decisions instead of, “Oh, I just think this should go online, or my experience is just that should be done face to face.” So to me, that’s effective.

I could certainly send you the article. It is a little dated now because technology has advanced, and I actually just talked to my primary co-author of that article, George Bradford, and we’re thinking of redoing it, considering other contextual factors, because we’re finding that a missing component of the current model.

Colin Forward: Yeah, well we’ve had multiple requests just in the time that we’ve been talking about some of the materials that you’ve been sharing and referencing. So anything that you can provide that we can share out to the audience, I think that would be widely appreciated. But in general, I feel like you’ve just shared so much information in the last 45 minutes or so that I really hope can help some of the folks listening in make more informed decisions in the investments that they’re making in training.

So I really appreciate you spending this time with us today. As I mentioned at the top of the conversation, some of these ideas that you’ve shared have really impacted my work at Allogy, and I hope that other folks that have been listening in can gain some of that same benefit. So thank you very much for taking this time today to have a conversation with us.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: I’m more than happy to do it. And I’ll send you a bunch of handouts, all the handouts are free. Whatever you could utilize or anyone can utilize, so that’s wonderful. It’s a synthesis of a lot of work on actually applying evidence. We didn’t really get into the application of learning sciences so much, but that’s really the focus of my research now is how to optimize evidence-based instruction and training. Because, not one size fits all and not everyone has the time to go out and acquire and appraise and then apply evidence.

So people are now looking for people like us or instructional designers to provide the evidence. But then, that has ramifications too. But anyway, if we have time, we can get into that. If anyone’s interested, more than happy to share. I will send you a bunch of documents. I’ll send you the top five handouts that people asked me for. How does that sound?

Colin Forward: Excellent. Yeah, so we have the LinkedIn event page that Adam just shared in the chat, and anything that you think should get posted there, we’ll make sure it’s available to everyone that has followed that page or RSVPed or anything like that. And you know, as you’ve mentioned, the science is changing, the technology is changing. And so, I hope that sometime in the future we can revisit this conversation and share some of what you’ve been learning in your ongoing work with our audience.

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: Certainly. And if you don’t mind, please feel free to release my email. If people are interested, please encourage them to contact me directly.

Colin Forward: Sure. So what is your email so everyone listening can know?

Dr. Atsusi “2C” Hirumi: I will put it in chat because that’s just easier. That’s why everyone just calls me 2C, right?

Colin Forward: Right. Yeah, and so for anyone who’s listening that’s not on the live broadcast, it’s atsusi.hirumi@ucf.edu. All right, thank you very much, Professor. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. So I’m going to turn it over to Adam to take us out.

Adam Wagner: Yeah, thanks, everyone. This was Training the Modern Workforce Live, presented by Allogy. If you’d like to explore previous episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or like us on LinkedIn and Facebook. And if you’d like to connect with one of our learning specialists to see how Allogy could help improve your training, head to allogy.com and schedule a demo.

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