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 paycheck.” “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 treadmill. “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 vampirish.' “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 me. “ 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.: 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 answers. Require some type of grading by supervisors. Show users where they are in the lesson 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 skill). 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.