I did it! I just turned in my last assignment for my Masters degree. What an amazing experience it has been. I am feeling such a deep sense of accomplishment. The last two years have been a whirlwind of deadlines and projects. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to go back to school, to make so many new wonderful friends, and to have grown so much professionally and personally. Now onto the graduation ceremony!

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A great way to assess learning, when you can’t perform a formal assessment, is to demonstrate learner improvement via a pre- and post- Likert Scale strategy. You just take the objectives of the course, and have the student self-report their own knowledge in a quick survey. It takes very little time to design (since it’s based off of the course objectives), very little time to participate in (3-7 questions with no wrong answers), and if you have the student fill it out in class, you will have 100% participation.


Ideally, you would be able to perform a formal assessment of the learner’s knowledge. When you are unable to, at the very least you should perform a Likert pre- and post- assessment to demonstrate to the learner their personal development.

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I recently had a conversation with a huge corporation about their needs assessment and course development process. I was happily surprised to hear that they perform a formal needs assessment which includes onsite assessment, and a focus group process. I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering why that came as a surprise to me. It’s such an important part of the instructional design process, and is one that I’ve been taught should be the basis for all course development efforts.

I realize we are often given very little time to do our work, but the power behind the feedback you can get from a focus group is just that…it’s powerful. In addition to critiquing several courses, I’ve had the pleasure to facilitate a couple of focus groups now: one especially comes to mind. We had been giving the same basic course for years, and just as a checkin, we decided to hold a quick focus group after the last day. We asked for volunteers, and had three students offer to stay a bit later the last day, bribing them with pastries.

Overview of Our Questions for the Group

  • What was their overall view of the course?
  • Was it of value to them?
  • How did they feel about the instructor’s teaching style?
  • What activity had the most impact?
  • Would they remove an activity?
  • Did they find anything lacking, or glossed over?
  • How could we add to the course to make it more meaningful?

The suggestions we walked away with helped to support the learners in that recent class, as well as future students. The number one thing the participants were asking for was procedural knowledge; enabling them to act and do things, or perform tasks. The general leadership course was too high level, and not detailed enough on actual steps for how to perform in their new roles. The result was we developed a new course on performance management for the new leaders to take in conjunction with the more general course.

We all know that post-course surveys are very seldom filled out. That’s one of the things that was so great about doing the in-person focus group right after class. The course was fresh in their minds, and was on a volunteer basis. We actually had more people participate in that focus group than we were getting via the online likert scales.


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This term I’m taking a class on Facilitating Live Events. We’ve been asked to discuss CARP (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity) in its relation to presentation design.

Contrast: This can take many forms. Whether it’s contrasting color, size, shade, or even font choice, you want a good deal of contrast in your layouts.

Alignment: You can bring focus to an element by changing it’s alignment, or naturally guide the viewer’s attention by keeping a nice alignment to your slide. I always design on a grid layout with columns.

Repetition: I actually prefer the word consistency here. There should be one style for headlines, and a complimentary readable body font treatment. There should be a consistent layout to your slides, rather than each looking like their own presentation.

Proximity: This is grouping things that belong together, and keeping the illustration or diagram with the topic.

While I employ all of these approaches in my layouts, I think that proximity is probably the most important aspect in presentations. It is really difficult to understand the point, when the supporting graphics do not appear with the lesson. Think back to any school book you read in K12. Did you have to search for a diagram or chart? That disruption to the learning is tiresome, and you’ve lost your audience if you employ that method. Most learners don’t appreciate having to search for the information.

Initially I had searched for a good and bad example to illustrate a bad PowerPoint screen. Ultimately I decided to create my own.

Here is a very, very, very bad design example. If you’re talented enough to read any of it, then you’ll likely have a giggle:

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 9.37.45 AM

And here would be a much better solution:

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 10.05.47 AM

I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of “Death by Powerpoint” by now. If you aren’t, check out this funny video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbSPPFYxx3o


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I am an avid consumer of online educational materials, and one of the common delivery methods is a webinar. This (my last) term in my graduate program, we are learning about how to design and facilitate live online events, and about what makes certain webinars great, while others fall short. I decided to perform my review of a webinar that was presented by a well-known eLearning professional, whom I very much respect and admire.

The theme of this webinar was the creation of infographics. Here are the major topics that were to be addressed:

  • How visual perception should influence the type of information graphic you choose
  • How to match the graphic type with the learning goal
  • A design process for creating information graphics
  • Where to find resources for designing information graphics

One of the downfalls of a webinar, is that it is difficult to get the audience’s attention. Often people will be checking their email, speaking with their coworkers, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc. Their are a few common methods for engaging the audience throughout the presentation: using polls, knowledge checks, breakout rooms, pre- and post-tests, encouraging chat functions, etc. This webinar included the following active learning strategies:

  • Active chat participation and hand raising encouraged, agree/disagree
  • Polls were used twice (which I have not yet found to be of value in webinars)
  • Encouraged once to respond to a question in chat
  • Encouraged once to take notes on similarities between 3 historical infographics

Your audience’s time is a precious thing, and so your presentation should be of value to their personal or professional development. In addition to including handouts at the end of your presentation, the webinar should include actionable methods. In this case, the speaker gave the following advice on designing infographics:

  • Use a curved arrow to show motion/action.
  • Use reading order, apply consistent style/shape/color/weight
  • Show magnified parts in a circle or square next to the main illustration
  • Use photos to chunk/break down/deconstruct each move (as in gymnastics) to display the steps
  • Color code the information, add a wheel graphic around to point out the main image (example was effects of smoking on the body with callouts on a wheel around an anatomical illustration)
  • Show structure (org chart) as in a family tree
  • Show flow: Yes, No, follow the path as in a flowchart
  • Start with sketching, paper and pencil

Since a webinar is an audio/visual presentation, it’s important to apply solid graphic design methods (such as CARP), as well as having clear audio. Here are my notes on the audio/visual layout:

  • The mic was way too close to the mouse. Lots of taps and squeaks. The speaker should have used a mouse pad to soften the sound of its movements.
  • This is the first webinar that I’ve had to lower the volume, so that tells me the levels were really good/loud enough for people like me.
  • They started off with a template for the PowerPoint, but then abandoned it.
  • The font treatment seemed to be within one sans serif font, but changed quite a bit in weight (all the way from thin to extra bold, and italics)
  • There didn’t seem to be a consistency in the graphic treatment (which is kinda ironic, since it’s about infographics). There could have been a color scheme at the very least, or a grid layout so that elements are organized similarly in each slide.
  • The info was easy to read, most of the issues I noticed were CARP related

Here are the aspects that I felt worked well, and would like to employ in my own webinar design and facilitation:

  • The speaker had an enthusiastic tone of voice, and was familiar with the slides.
  • They kept tabs on the chat topics and reached out several times to address comments made there.
  • I liked that there was 15 minutes of intro music and slides for early arrivals (such as myself). They also started off with a chat, asking people to share where they were from. 
  • A facilitator assisted the presenter. I wonder what their planning process is to ensure that it goes smoothly.

Here are my thoughts on what could have been improved:

  • I feel as though the description for the presentation wasn’t very accurate. I ended up critiquing the webinar, since I wasn’t learning anything new. If I’m going to plan to take an hour of my workday to attend an event, I want it to be valuable for my professional growth. I think that in this case, it was a victim of marketing. They likely wanted as many people as possible to attend, and so built up a good deal of hype about it. I longed for more actionable lessons on building infographics, rather than a very general overview of what an infographic is.
  • Some of the intro slides had a huge amount of material on them, and were only on the screen for 4 seconds. They did cycle through them though, so you had the chance to review them again. It seemed a little tacky that the only ones that were up on the screen for a readable amount of time were promotional in nature. Whereas the technical advice on how to participate and check your internet speed cycled through very quickly.
  • There were many slides that were not 508/WC3 Accessible for learners with disabilities, and they wouldn’t address any of the many comments on that. The presenter had lots of suggestions for use of color specific treatments (bad for color blind), blinking/flashing graphics (bad for seizures), and no support for the non-sighted such as descriptive text, or how to translate infographics for those with disabilities.
  • The last several webinars I’ve attended have been a bit on the boring side (especially the one on creating learning engagement), and have seemed like self-promotion rather than educational. As much as I love attending webinars, it seems as though solid education is the exception, rather than the rule.
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Although I have worked on many teams throughout my life, I have never received any formal training/education on how to be a strong team leader, or member for that matter. As an extroverted, organized, and ambitious person, I have naturally fallen into a leadership role multiple times. I have been a project manager many times but have not been a manager of people directly reporting to me yet. One of my personal and professional development goals is to become a stronger leader: one that is persuasive, inclusive and motivating to others.

The following links are resources that I’ve found useful in my leadership journey. Rather than an abbreviated list, I’ve chosen to provide notes for each entry on why I chose the link, and what especially resonated with me.


Websites/Online Articles

  • 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team, Cynthia Johnson, Entrepreneur.com. Easy steps for prioritizing team values. I enjoyed her suggestion that you get to know your teammates. The best jobs I’ve ever had were those that I became friends with my team members. We spend so much time together (more than with our actual family) that it’s a shame when people don’t want to take the time to get to know each other at work.
  • Building A Strong Team: The Secrets Of A Successful Leader by Taunya Williams, Forbes.com. “As a leader, do you exhibit competence? Are you kind? Do you exemplify work-life balance? The behaviors leaders portray directly affect employee behavior. If a leader doesn’t have a life outside of the office, it suggests their employees shouldn’t either. If a leader is incompetent, insincere or leads by fear, employees will check out immediately. Kindness is a lost art in corporate America.”
  • 6 Ways Successful Teams Are Built To Last by Glenn Llopis, forbes.com. I like the sections on knowing your own management style, and being clear with the goals and responsibilities.
  • Leadership by Persuasion – Four Steps to Success, impactfactory.com. This article seems like an overview of Resonate by Nancy Duarte (love that book).


  • Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge Part 1. Notes: Find your domain, what you are in charge of, and make it as great as possible. That demonstrates ownership, and will show managers you can handle being in charge. Leading yourself is your first major challenge. Don’t wait for the perfect situation/manager/opportunity. Set your own goals for yourself, and bring a high level of positive energy to work. It’s important to be honest with yourself: why don’t I want to go to that meeting? Why do I feel the way I do? Nothing proves to management your ability to lead more than leading yourself well.
  • Coaching for Leaders Podcast by Dave Stachowiak. Since discovering this resource, I’ve been consuming as many of their podcasts as I have time for. One that was especially applicable was Episode 334: How to Be a Happier Person. They discuss the major problems with the concept of retirement, how to find your “Ikigai” or purpose in life, the concept of embracing a positive demotion as you age and reducing that stigma. The guest suggests that our brains are programmed for three things: 1) look for problem, 2) find problem, 3) solve problem. Rather than making happiness the end goal, make it the starting place.


  • Leadership and Managements Skills for Non-managers & Aspiring Leaders. I took this 3-day course in May of 2017 at DOIU. It’s geared towards training federal employees who are interested in one day becoming a supervisor. One of the most interesting group projects was to build a sculpture out of Lego’s, and then design an instruction sheet for your partner to recreate the shape. It highlighted the value of providing clear instruction. My solution included a contents list with drawings of each Lego’s shape and color, a numbered list of how to assemble, and a completed sketch of the end product with callouts to each Lego on it. There was a very short section devoted to typing your conflict approach. I was evenly spread among all 4 types, so it was inconclusive. One positive suggestion was that if you can address both needs/wants and fears/concerns in an employee, then you can have greater influence on their behavior.
    • The following image is a graphic representation of the notes I made from the Influencing section of the course.

aspects of influence

Personality Tests

Personality tests are a heated topic these days. In fact, I was just listening to NPR’s The Hidden Brain, and there was an episode discussing their merits and downfalls. Unfortunately, some people have been discriminated at work due to the outcome of tests such as these. They have missed out on opportunities because, “that’s just not your personality” reactions to assigning work. I do find value in introspection though, and suggest their use as a personal development tool. For example, the Myers Briggs test (MBTI) is one that describes me very well. The other two popular tests listed below were inconclusive when I took them.

  • The Myers Briggs Personality Type. I know there are a lot of folks out there that don’t buy into this (or personality tests in general), but this one resonates with me. I love the book Please Understand Me II. If you don’t have any familiarity with Myers Briggs, and are just curious, there are a lot of free sites out there to choose from. 16 Personalities, Psych Central, etc. I’m very much an ENFJ. But it’s not always conclusive for others.
  • One that was recently suggested to me was the 4 leadership personalities. There’s a link there to the Insights Discovery website, where you can take a test. Interestingly, it’s also based on Carl Jung’s theory. I didn’t pay for the full test, but the quick freebie says I’m a “Motivator.” I don’t take much stock in the free test though, since I was drawn to all of the 4 choices.
  • DISC personality test. My husband is fond of this approach, as the MBTI didn’t type him. I struggled with this test, as many of the choices were difficult to make. I scored high on Dominance and Influence.


Much of my findings revolved around the power of being positive and mindful. I had expected to learn a plethora of specific approaches to “rally the troops,” but instead there were many more suggestions on not only modeling the kind of behavior that you want your team to display, but also extending empathy, recognition, and trust as a powerful motivational tool. One of the quotes that most resonated with me is the opening quote for the Coaching for Leaders Podcast, “Great leaders are not born, they are made.” Having had quite a bit of leadership and teamwork practice on a wide variety of projects, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about the power of great teamwork. I’m looking forward to one day becoming a manager/team leader in an organization with direct reports.

Resources Recap

Bolton, R. (1979). People skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflicts. Simon & Schuster, New York, New York.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Penguin Random House, New York, New York.

Duarte, N. (2010). Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Boston, Mass. Harvard Business School Press.

Kiewra, K. (2012). Idea Paper #51: Using graphic organizers to improve teaching and learning. IDEAedu.org, Manhattan, KS. Retrieved from: http://www.ideaedu.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/IDEA%20Papers/IDEA%20Papers/PaperIDEA_51.pdf

Keirsey, D. (1998). Please understand me II: Temperament, character, intelligence. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis.

Komisar, R. (2001). The monk and the riddle: The art of creating a life while making a living. Randy Komisar, US.

Lombardo, M. M, & Eichinger, R. W. (2009). FYI: For your improvement : a guide for development and coaching. 5th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Ltd.

Stachowiak, D. (2018). Coaching for Leaders Podcast: Episode 334: How to be a happier person. Retrieved from: https://coachingforleaders.com/podcast/334/

Stanley, A. (2017) Leadership Podcast: How to lead when you’re not in charge, Part 1. Retrieved from: http://andystanley.com/how-to-lead-when-youre-not-in-charge-part-1/


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