Saturday, May 21, 2011

3 New Roles for Learning Professionals Driven by Web 2.0 #LCBQ

Last month, the Learning Circuits Big Question (#LCBQ) asked, “How can you address the "I want it now!" demand from stakeholders?” You can read answers from those who were asked to weigh in at the Learning Circuits blog, and you can read my response here. To follow up on that question, the #LCBQ for May is:

How do we need to change in what we do in order to address learning/performance needs that are on-demand?

My read of this question is that it is asking us what new elements we as learning professionals need to add to our jobs to support our learners in the on-demand world of instant answers available through web 2.0 search engines, social media, and online collaboration.

I’m not an industry researcher or thought leader so I’m not pretending to an expert on this topic. But as a person who makes my living as a workplace learning professional, I can share my perspective on what I’ve had to do differently to embrace these tools and incorporate them in the mix of solutions available to the learners at my company.

As I see it, there are three new roles I’ve been playing because of web 2.0 that either didn’t exist - or I didn’t need to play - years ago.  We as learning professionals need to consider these roles part of our job in today's world:

Personal Knowledge Manager – For years, we talked about capturing and documenting organizational knowledge to enable business continuity in knowledge banks and other places. Now with the glut of information that comes at us each day, we need to think about knowledge management on a personal level too. We can’t possibly keep all the available information in our heads, so we need to come up with ways to organize, store and retrieve content ourselves, for both our own personal knowledge and for use in helping our learners. Online note taking tools such as OneNote or Evernote can help us capture thoughts, ideas and things we hear; while bookmarking tools such as diigo or can help us store and tag web content.

Content Curator – As learning professionals our traditional role has been to analyze a business problem, uncover the learning need, do some research to identify content that can address the need, and then use it to build a course. That was then and this is now. In the on-demand world, by the time we go through that process our learners have already sought out alternative sources to meet their needs using company intranets, Google searches or Wikipedia. So alongside being content creators, we need to be content curators as well. We need to be able to filter through available information and select the most appropriate bits of it, discard what doesn’t fit, organize and sequence what’s left in ways that will tell the story to help learners meet their needs.

Community Manager – Probably the biggest shift for us as workplace learning professionals is embracing the idea that people can learn from each other without much information coming from us. With today’s social media tools, it is so easy for groups to organize, share information and collaborate. We can help them be effective at this by translating our facilitation skills to this environment. Sometimes all that is needed is to provide an online venue and dangle a small piece of content out there for them to organize themselves around. Then pose a few thought provoking questions and let them at it. They can use their collective skills and experience to problem-solve and learn from each other. You may need to do a little coaching from time-to-time to keep them on the right track, but community members will ultimately decide what they want to contribute to, and take away from the experience.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inspired by the Lectora End-to-end eLearning Solution

This week two of my team members and I attended the Lectora User’s Conference in Cincinnati. (Lectora is an elearning development tool from Trivantis.) It has been a few years since I last attended this conference. It has certainly grown. There was double the number of attendees at this year’s event, which was a bit surprising. The last Lectora conference I attended was held in Las Vegas, a place that certainly offers more to do in the off hours. But it was the tool, not the location that compelled me to return to this event. Before the end of 2010, I purchased a few licenses for Trivantis’s then new release: Lectora Inspire. The Inspire version of Lectora improved on what was already a great tool for authoring elearning by including the ability to launch and use flypaper, Camtasia and Snagit right from inside the software. My team members and I wanted to attend this conference to get ideas from both the folks at Trivantis and the other conference-goers, on how to take advantage of these great new capabilities. We got that and much, much more.

The Trivantis team put together a terrific event that included captivating keynote addresses from Elliott Masie, on key learning trends, and Tim Ferguson, CIO at Northern Kentucky University, on the explosion of mobile learning. Each day, these were followed by practical, informative sessions and workshops on how to use the new tools built into Lectora Inspire.

But the biggest news from the conference was the four announcements from Trivantis:
  1. They’ve entered into an agreement to acquire flypaper, a tool that allows you to add interactivity to your courses by creating flash animations and effects simply, without having to be a flash developer.  This should lead to even more capabilities in future versions of the Lectora tool.
  2. They introduced Snap! by Lectora, a PowerPoint-to-elearning tool to serve the same needs as Articulate and Adobe Presenter at the low cost of $99.  From the looks of it in the demonstration, they are going to give the other guys a run for their money.
  3. They launched WeLearn, a new social eLearning network. They tried something similar a few years ago, but didn’t get much traction with it. WeLearn is a retooled approach that is currently in Beta.
  4. They introduced CourseMill Express, a lower end version of their CourseMill Learning Management System that should be helpful for small businesses that don’t have the funds to invest in a full-blown LMS.
All-in-all, this was quite an event. It gives someone like me, who leads an enterprise team of instructional designers and course developers, a lot to think about. The Lectora line up now creates a strong end-to-end solution with Snap! at one end and Inspire (including flypaper, Snag-it and Camtasia) at the other. I could outfit my team members with the tools they need based on their level, but have them all working across the same platform.

Note:  To read messages from the conference-goers on twitter, search on #2011LUC

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Use the Six Disciplines to Create Breakthrough Learning

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning is a terrific book for anyone who is interested in fostering effective workplace learning. Now in its second edition, it is about time I got around to writing about it. The 6D concepts and the approach outlined in the book have helped me and my team create successful learning experiences that have led to real behavior change and improved business performance.

There are few surprises in the book for a well-trained or well-read learning professional. The magic is in how it has all been put together. Cal Wick, Roy Pollock, and Andy Jefferson have done a great job synthesizing quite a lot of theory and research which they have distilled into a practical, no-nonsense framework for learning design. They create a clear, easy-to-follow road map for learning professionals and business leaders alike. Their company (Fort Hill) has also developed some great tools, such as the Results Engine® (an updated version of the Friday5s® tool that I wrote about in this 2009 blog post), to support the later stages of the 6D model, where the activities required for genuine learning are usually tougher to sustain.

What are the Six Disciplines? Just that: disciplines. What a great word for us in the workplace learning field. Even when we know the right thing to do, workplace issues such as competitive pressure, speed-to-market needs, and budget constraints sometimes tempt us to abandon good intentions or compromise our standards. We need to maintain the discipline needed to create a complete learning experience, one that will lead to desired business results.

So here are the 6Ds:

D1 – Define Business Outcomes – D1 reminds us that we need to start with the end in mind. We need to look upstream to what the business is trying to accomplish, not just look at learner needs in a vacuum.

D2 – Design the Complete Learning Experience – This is my favorite concept in the book. We need to attend to all phases of learning, (Prepare, Learn, Transfer, Achieve) not just create a course or a learning event.

D3 – Deliver for Application – If we truly want learners to do something different as a result of what they have learned, we need to make sure they understand the context of what they are learning, make learning relevant to their needs, and ensure they have the opportunity for practice and feedback.

D4 – Drive Learning Transfer – This is where the rubber meets the road. Can learners repeat what they have learned in the work environment? Will they have opportunity to use the skills? Will they be motivated to do so? Will they have the support of their managers and peers? All of this must be considered in the Prepare phase, so that when learners get to the Transfer phase, the mechanisms to support learning transfer will be in place and working properly.

D5 – Deploy Performance Support – Closely aligned with learning transfer is having the performance support to sustain motivation. At the very least, this means learners have the support of their manager. At best, they have job aids, performance support tools, and receive coaching to help them during the Achieve phase.

D6 – Document Results – Of course, it is important to measure performance. It is important for learners, their managers, the learning department, and business leaders to know what is working, what is not, and what the impact is to the business.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and begin practicing the 6Ds. Also, check out the Fort Hill Company website for more information on the 6Ds and the Results Engine® transfer tool.