A Compass or a Map?

Jules Verne Pocketwatch (compass) by nullalux. Taken on February 12, 2008, uploaded February 12, 2008.

Jules Verne Pocketwatch (compass) by nullalux. Taken on February 12, 2008, uploaded February 12, 2008.

I have been working designing courses lately for our Leadership Development Program (LDP) on important topics for first time supervisors and managers. All of the courses involve soft skills in management and leadership. Some of the topics include Managerial Behavior, Solving Problems, Coaching and Mentoring, Delegation, Effective Communication and others.

Recently, over the past two or three courses, I have been mulling over the question of how to present the core material to the users. We are a traditional training department, so most of the courses in the past presented material in a “glorified PowerPoint” manner – you know the drill – narration with graphics and bullet points…hit the next button to continue. Basically, we torture the users by forcing everyone to go through each and every screen of material in order to “pass” the course. Regardless of what they might already know or bring to the course or what they want to learn about the material, each and every user MUST review each and every narration. It’s all mapped out for them – just like a AAA triptick. Every turn, every stop, every road.

Roadmap by Brain farts. Taken on May 30, 2003, uploaded February 9, 2006.

Roadmap by Brain farts. Taken on May 30, 2003, uploaded February 9, 2006.

In the past few courses, though, I’ve tried a different approach. Specifically, I’ve been challenging the users with a problem or an activity right off the bat and then providing a “Manager’s Toolbox” for them to access information about the core content as they need it. The analogy that comes to mind is the difference between a compass and a map – or the AAA TripTick mentioned above to be more exact. The compass gives you the tools to solve your problem by letting you determine the direction you wish to go in order to reach your destination. The TripTick on the other hand shows you exactly how to get there – turn by turn. What if you know a shortcut? What if you want to go off the specified road for a different view? The TripTick doesn’t provide much help in these instances.

I think I like the compass a bit more since it allows freedom to discover, to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. It just feels like a better approach, but I am interested in hearing from all of you as to what approach you prefer. I know, I know…many of you will strongly state that “It depends.” I get that. But I am still interested in learning if this approach has worked for you and MORE IMPORTANTLY, has it worked for your learners? Does it leave them frustrated or are they happy to be free to explore the content on their own?

So which is it for you….a compass or a map?

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One response to “A Compass or a Map?

  1. Nice post! I definitely concur that the compass makes more sense than the map. It gets at the whole notion of critical thinking over regurgitation.

    In my graduate class, I have used your approach. Since it was “different,” there was some initial pushback from the students…but when they succeeded, they were extremely pleased.

    Keep pointing the direction! You never know what you might discover!

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