When I left you last, I had revised both my... prototype. I’m now busy doing the Cycle 3 Prototype and...

When I left you last, I had revised both my design document and my instructional
prototype. I’m now busy doing the Cycle 3 Prototype and the Cycle 3 Design Document.
But before we get into that, let me tell you where I am in my story first.
Alex had gone back to her Streamline project and left me alone, and I was enjoying that.
Maybe she thought I could do the job after all.
I was thinking as much one day when I was working out in the gym with a number of
people from the Streamline team – it was the first time I had even seen any of them.
They must have just gotten back from their onsite.
Bart, a technical writer for the Streamline project, struck up a conversation with me right
away as he worked out on the treadmill next to me.
“I’m out of shape, work does that to you.
I smiled, too out of breath myself to say anything.
“Heard you are working with Millard Enterprises. Millard’s a good person to work for.
This Streamline project seems to be a death march.”
“A what?” I asked.
“A Death March … a project that is doomed to fail from the start due to lack of financial,
time, and personal energy resources.”
“Hope you haven’t been through too many of those.”
“Only about 30% or the projects.”
That seemed like a lot, but I didn’t want to sound green, so I nodded.
Bart was talkative and continued, “Millard’s a good guy. No death marches with Millard.”
“So I hear.” I said.
Bart must have been looking for an excuse to talk about Alex “let me guess, Alex has
filled you in. yeah ……. Alex is Bruce’s pet project at the moment. Grooming her, as Alex
says.” Bart said in a shouting whisper, barely audible above the hum of the treadmills,
but catching the attention of those around us nevertheless.
“Alex drops Bruce’s name into every conversation she gets into. It doesn’t seem to occur
to her that it might not be a good thing. Most people don’t trust Bruce beyond their next
“I’ve never talked with the guy? ” I said.
“That’s because he’s in constant meetings with Leppers, that guy from Boston.
At that point Terry, another technical writer joined in on the conversation from
a nearby stairmaster.
“Creepers”, she said cutting into the conversation, “you could only be talking about one
person, though I also call him a Vampire.”
“Why a Vampire, or should I ask?” I stopped in my tracks and was nearly thrown off the
“Oh, he wears those long, black, beautifully tailored wool coats. He looks from another
world really. Most of us wear ski parkas and jeans. He looks sophisticated - but
“I think Creepers – the name - stuck after Max disappeared.” Said Bard, moving off the
machine and grabbing some free weights.
“ Yeah, that was bizarre.” Terry said. “You probably haven’t heard about it?” she asked
“ No, I haven’t. But I’d like to … maybe” I murmered.
“Max was the lead instructional designer at Multimediaverse. Sometime late summer he
just didn’t show up for work. His desk was completely cleared. The only thing we heard
was he had been offered a better job and needed to start right away.”
“We all knew Max enough to know that he had been very happy here. He had a lot of
roots in the area, family, favorite sports,…he was close to Star. We couldn’t see him just
pick up and move out. I tried calling...got a disconnect message.
“They hired you to fill his position. That is why you were assigned to one of the best
clients, a coveted position in this company, given the number of death marches that go
on in this business.” Bart explained.
“Alex is beside herself with envy.” said Terry. “She can’t stand having someone looking
better than herself.”
“So that is the problem.” I said, now thinking that once again that old intuition had been
trying to tell me something. “She started babysitting my visits to Millards.”
“Why is Alex acting like your manager?” asked Terry.
“Bruce Bolt wants to groom her for management, so he assigned Alex to the Millard
account. Just to oversee it and step in if anything was needed.” Bart clarified.
We talked a little more, getting to know each other. I suddenly realized how lonely I had
been there. It felt really good to have colleagues!
That afternoon I looked over the usability data I had collected on the most recent
prototype and started plans for the next, and what turned out to be the last, prototype
and design document.
This is what I wrote up that afternoon, you will see some of it in the next and last
Prototype 2: Formative evaluation
A stakeholder from management and two representative learners (a salesperson
and a sales manager), user-tested the modified Cycle 2 prototype using a talkaloud procedure. Comments fell into two categories:
Instructional quality
Ease of use or usability
Instructional quality comments
The sales manager asked for more relevant examples in the unit of instruction.
For instance instead of using a medical scenario at the start of the instruction, he
suggested using a department store scenario.
The salesperson who tested Prototype 2 thought that people would not engage in
the instruction if they weren’t forced to think through the questions and
examples. To this salesperson, the examples in the training asking people “what
would you do?” or “what would you think?” would be more effective if the learner
was forced to answer them. The salesperson suggested requiring answers from
learners that would be checked or graded by supervisors.
Ease of use or usability comments
Users wanted to see where they were in the bigger picture of instruction at all
times. They wanted to know what “page” or screen number they were reading out
of the total number available. They wanted to know the major lesson sections.
In addition to having an overview, users wanted to be able to navigate more freely
than the “next” and “back” buttons allowed. Users wanted to be able to go back to
different sections, start over, or end the training at any time.
Summary of decisions
Overall, there were far fewer changes required to Cycle 2 instruction based upon
the audience analysis that concluded Cycle 2. Though this was true in this case,
for this ageism training, it is not always the case that the second cycle requires
few changes. More often Cycle 2, 3, or 4 have many changes. This in part is
explained by the need to make many fine adjustments or tweaks to get the
product into a final form. As a product nears completion, its capacity to
communicate its purpose strengthens, and people tend to be more forthcoming
with what they like and don’t like.
To improve the instructional condition or strategies, I simply made a chart (see
Table 1) describing the changes needed based. For each change, I create a
corresponding design plan. After making the changes noted, I revised the
prototype (see Prototype 3 following this section).
Table 1
Change Needed Chart
Change Needed
Design Plan
Create more relevant examples
Opening scenario should be a
department store example.( True and
false questions should state
implications of the fact for the
elderly consumer (for example, if
eyesight is poorer with age, then
price tags and sales materials need to
be designed for greater legibility.)
Require active learner participation
Use a database to store learner
Require some type of grading by
Show users where they are in the
Show page or screen numbers. For
example, page 4 of 20.
Allow more flexibility in navigation
Show a clickable table of contents at
all times, allowing the user to move
throughout the lesson as desired.
So why did I tell you about all that gossip? Aside from being important to the
story line, I shared this scenario to bring up the Death March concept- the
name for a project doomed from the start due to lack of resources (money and
Try to avoid them. It is tough, especially if you are paid to take part in one.
Even though Bart said 30% of all projects could qualify, I've known friends and
other IDs who say it is more like 50%. I don't know if there are red flags to help
you recognize a Death March before you get in one. Just try to find out as much
as you can about how a project is run before you sign on. If you don't see any
type of organized process, then run!
Go ahead now and look at the third prototype and design document.