Saturday, November 10, 2012

DevLearn 2012 Resources

Sadly,  I was not able to make it to DevLearn this year.   Like many others, I was sidelined by Hurricane Sandy.   Fortunately for me, I was able to send several of my team members, so we had good coverage at the conference.   When they returned they were excited by the greater understanding they gained on issues such as HTML5, Mobile Learning, Tin Can API and the latest trends in learning analytics.  They also met some great people through networking.   Now they face the daunting task of educating me!

But to aid in the process, once again we have the great treasure trove of resources from conference curator David Kelly aka @LnDDave.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Perfect Storm: HTML5, Tin Can API and Mobile

Having just endured the powerful forces of Hurricane Sandy here in the northeastern United States, my heart goes out to the people who lost homes and loved ones during the storm. Meanwhile in the learning industry, another storm is brewing. If you haven’t been paying attention to topics such as HTML5, Tin Can API, Learning Records Stores, and developments on the mobile front, then you better batten down the hatches. These things are upon us now. They represent a climate change that can create super storms, ones that have ability to disrupt daily life for those of us in the workplace learning industry if we aren't prepared for them.

I work in a corporate learning department for a relatively large global company. We have been providing high quality learning services to our employees for years. I’m proud of the work my team does and the impact we have had on our organization’s success, particularly during the tough economic times of the last few years. We have never been what I would consider “cutting edge” but we have always managed to be creative and innovative in our approaches to learning. We have not only embraced change, but we have driven it through our organization. We are doing this once again as we have launched a project to introduce mobile learning as part of our mix. While I am excited by the possibilities, I feel like I’m walking through a storm. We seem to be in a time and place where so many things are swirling around us at once, so it is hard to know where to step next. Here are some of the challenges that we need to weather over the next few months:

Everybody’s Going Mobile – Smartphones and tablets are wonderful productivity tools, aren’t they? These days everyone has one…or two… or three. But they are all different. Yes, we have some company issued devices, but our learners are going to expect to be able to access learning content from their device of choice. This means designing and publishing multiple ways.

Gone in a Flash – I’m talking about Flash output. Up until now, all of the e-learning content we have produced has been published as Flash output. Of course we all know that that is coming to an end. To be able to publish engaging learning that can be accessed on a mobile device, we are going to have to produce HTML5 output now. Of course HTML5 Standards aren’t finalized yet, and none of our current course development software tools publish to HTML5, so there are those little things to deal with.

I’ll trade you an “M” for an “R” - That is as in LMS vs. LRS. We have thousands of learning objects on our Learning Management System (LMS). But of course, our LMS can’t handle content published for mobile devices (Yeah, I know that capability will be coming out in a future release of our LMS software… Q1 of 20xx). Our LMS is looking for SCORM standards, whereas mobile learning will mean using Tin Can API. (Yes, we are all learning about Tin Can.) If we want to record and track mobile learning, we’ll need a Learning Record Store (LRS).

As I said, I’m excited by this new direction we are taking. Mobile learning will be a real game changer for us. But I have to admit, figuring out how to fit all these things together is keeping me up at night almost as much as Hurricane Sandy did.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Capitalizing on 7 Learning Modalities

Last week I had the opportunity to get into a dialog with my company's learning council about the future direction of our approach to workplace learning.  My goal was to get them to support the idea of using tools and technologies to foster more informal learning opportunities. Our learning council is made up of a group of senior leaders from each of our business units and some key functional areas.  They are all savvy, successful business men and women in their areas of expertise, but their knowledge of what makes learning effective is uneven.   My approach was to write and present a white paper to them on how to capitalize on the learning modalities that are currently available for use in our organization - including mobile learning and learning through social media.

I wasn't sure how they would react to this.  Like many companies, our approach to workplace learning has mainly been focused on using traditional delivery methods such as classroom training, webinars, and self-paced elearning. To set the stage in the paper and in our discussion, I started by talking about the 70:20:10 Learning Framework.   This was a good choice as it comes across as rational, logical, and easy to understand.  Next, we talked about the proliferation of mobile devices and the explosion social media usage over the last few years, drawing the conclusion that our employees are already engaged in these arenas and that to provide effective learning support, we need to be in there with them.

After setting the stage, we moved the dialog into discussing how we would use each of the seven learning modalities I included in the paper.  I arranged them along a continuum from most formal to least formal (as shown in the image above).  You could argue with my sequencing, but this worked for the purposes of my discussion.  In the paper, I covered each modality by describing its current use, benefits, drawbacks, and recommendations for usage in our future learning offerings.

Here are the seven modalities we discussed, with a brief line about how we plan to optimize each:

Instructor-led training (ILT) - to optimize ILT we need to make sure our courses are learner-centered and discussion-oriented, offering ample opportunities for practice and feedback.

Virtual Instructor-led training (VILT) - to optimize VILT we need to design full, facilitated learning experiences that may include multiple sessions, pre-work, assessments, interactive exercises and post work (not just have a subject matter expert talking over PowerPoint slides).

eLearning (CBT or WBT) - to optimize elearning we need to use story-based, character-driven, and game-based approaches that are interactive and engaging to motivate our learners to stay with them through to completion.

Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) - to optimize EPSS we need to provide relevant tools and place them (physically and contextually) where our learners are most likely going to look for them.

Podcasts and Videos - to optimize our use of podcasts and video we need to create short burst learning objects that address a single topic or specific objective.

Mobile Learning - to optimize mobile learning in the short term we need to post .pdf, audio and video files and take advantage of two-way communication opportunities; longer term we will work with an external partner and our IT team to create and support a mobile learning app.

Social Learning - to optimize social learning we need to create groups and/or topic archives based on areas of interest to our learners, focusing on information sharing, collaboration, and content co-creation.

All-in-all we had a great dialog.  Our learning council members were excited about the possibilities of mobile and social learning.   They recognize the power of embedding learning directly into the workstream: minimizing disruptions to productivity while our employees grow and develop their skills.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Upskilling: The 21st Century Trainer

Boy the times they are a-changing.  Food for thought from Diane Gayeski.  Lifted from Upskilling resources provided by @JaneBozarth.  Click this link for other goodies.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Considering 70:20:10 in a Curriculum Framework

Over the last few months, we have hired several Curriculum Managers in my company to focus on curating learning content for key topics that have been identified as being closely aligned with learning needs in our business.  This new group of learning professionals provides us with awesome capabilities. If they help us to use available information strategically, it will truly enable us to drive growth.   Right now, they are engaged in hammering out our curriculum framework and I am advising them on governance issues.

One of the key things I want them to consider is the 70:20:10 learning model based on research from the Center for Creative Leadership. It states that the breakdown of how we actually learn to do our jobs effectively is as follows:  about 70% from on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving; about 20% from conversations and feedback from people we work with; and about 10% from formal learning sources such as ILT or e-learning courses.  The concept is stated very clearly in this brief video clip from Internet Time Alliance member, Charles Jennings:

As the Curriculum Managers work together to develop our framework, I am asking them to consider how to structure our offerings so a motivated learner will have appropriate choices.  Learners must be able to pull learning to get what they need, rather than have us prescribe and push "courses" out to them.   We have the tools and technology to allow our learners to connect to experts and peers, to join communities of practice  - or to create their own.  We need to help them gain the right experiences for their development, not just train and test them as we may have done in the past.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Extending Learning through Yammer

Take a look at the two machine parts in this picture.  They are Vacuum Deck Blower Motors.  When presented next to each other side by side, it is pretty easy to see that they are not the same.  The one on the left is slightly taller.  If you were to go inside the housing you would see that they have different constructions and different controllers.  That is because they are made for different machines and they are not interchangeable.  But if you didn’t have them standing right next to each other, you might easily mistake one for the other and place the wrong one in the wrong machine during maintenance or while making repairs.  Some of our service representatives have made that mistake.

Of course, when they go through training they are instructed on the differences in usage and labeling so they can recognize and install the right part into the right machine.   Fortunately our equipment is pretty reliable which means there might be a long interval between the time service reps receive this training and the time they might actually have to make this repair.   It is easy to see how they might forget what they’ve learned and install the wrong part.

That is one of the frustrations expressed by the Technical Training Instructor who leads the class in which this is covered.   He is an excellent instructor.  He covers everything the reps need to know, gives them a chance to practice doing it, and provides appropriate feedback before sending them out into the field.  He had been doing this for years and hoping for the best, until he discovered Yammer.   Now he extends the learning beyond the classroom by sharing tips and tricks that the service reps can easily access off of their laptops or mobile devices at the point of need.   The picture of the vacuum deck blowers is actually part of a job aid he attached to a post in the Yammer group he recently created.  In the short time since this group has been up and running, he has been able to share pictures, videos, and job aids -  and generally give the service reps the benefit of his expertise at the point of need.  At the same time, he is learning from them.  He is learning about the challenges and the most common problems they face in the field.  This information allows him to incrementally improve his classroom training approach and materials.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thoughts on ASTD ICE 2012 (#ASTD2012)

This week I attended ASTD’s International Conference andExpo (ICE) at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO.  It has been three or four years since I last attended ICE (it was in Atlanta that year).   It is such a big event; it is just too overwhelming to attend every year.  But I find it valuable to go every couple of years.   The snapshots over time give you a better sense of what is really progressing and changing in the learning industry.
Here are some random thoughts and reactions that stuck with me from this year’s conference:
The Learning & Development profession is strong and growing – there were about 10,000 attendees at this year’s conference.  The Wells Fargo Theater started filling up well before ASTD President Tony Bingham took to the stage to welcome everyone, and they were still coming in while Jim Collins was delivering his excellent and inspiring keynote presentation.
The Learning & Development profession is becoming well…more professional – I spoke to many people who had or were completing advanced degrees in Adult Education, Instructional Systems or the like.  Many academic institutions were represented at the expo enticing conference attendees to explore their programs. There was also a good showing of people who have obtained the relatively new CPLP credential.
This conference is international with a capital “I” – my guesstimate is that about 20% of the attendees were from outside the US.  Kudos to ASTD for setting up the “Global Village” networking room which was often packed during the session breaks.
Everyone’s conference experience is unique – with somewhere between 350-400 sessions to choose from, everyone has the ability to create their own conference-within-a-conference based on their own needs and interests.  I spent most of my time in sessions about mobile and social learning.
Technology rules – there was a notable difference in technology usage from my last conference experience in Atlanta.  Everyone had mobile devices, many people tablets, and ASTD provided a great app for the event that allowed you plan your day, read speaker’s bios, grab presentation materials, complete evaluations, take notes, and follow the twitter stream (#ASTD2012).
Networking rules – it was great to meet some of my twitter connections in person for the first time.  It was also create connecting with fellow members of the ASTD Forum, and to meet and make new contacts.

Since this is my blog, here are some “Mike Awards” that I’d like to bestow related to the conference:
Most practical session award – Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth):  Social Media for Trainers.  Jane did a great job covering many ways to easily incorporate social media tools in training.
Sleeper session award – Joe Saturnino:  Implementing Mobile Learning Applications.   I didn’t know Joe or what to expect going into this session so I was pleasantly surprised. He went through the what, why and how of mobile learning and provided great ideas on things that are easily doable.
The best session I did not attend award – Allison Rossett (@arossett) and Frank Nguyen: The Yin and Yang of Informal and Formal Learning.   I had the opportunity to read the cases and try out their evaluation tool prior to this session so I did not attend, but I know it was a good one.  Allison is always informative and entertaining.
Most amazing content sharing award – David Kelly (@LnDDave): for curating and creating this treasure trove of conference resources.
The oddest surprise award – goes to the Colorado Convention Center escalator that goes to and from the expo floor.  It laughs at you while you ride it.  No, really.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Pallette of Places for Learning

This week I had an opportunity to attend the ASTD Forum Spring Lab, hosted by Steelcase Inc. in their Steelcase University training facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a new member of the Forum, this was my first time attending a face-to-face event. It was great to meet and network with other learning leaders in such a concentrated way. We were together for a few days with very little to distract us. So the conversation was lively, engaging and productive.

But today, I want to talk about the experience of being at Steelcase University. Steelcase is in the office furniture and office space design business. I was expecting to see some exciting new designs from Steelcase, and they did not disappoint. Like many companies of today, Steelcase has been transforming their business model. They have moved from being a traditional manufacturing company, to one that is insight driven, focusing on innovation to improve the customer experience. They are much more about “design” than they are about “build.” This was apparent when the Steelcase learning team took us on a tour of the facility. We were able to see evidence of some of the insights they had gained about designing work environments that were conducive to learning. They shared some of those insights with us as we strolled through the building marveling at the interesting places and spaces they created for people to use as they move about their day.

Here is how they expressed some of those insights:

Democratic Access – many of the Steelcase workspaces were designed to promote a sense of inclusion and community. This was evident in spaces that had no particular front or back, no “seat of power” and in which everyone had easy access to tools such as whiteboards, and monitors for projecting and sharing information.

Flexible Spaces – much of their furniture design is modular, foldable, storable and scaleable. The training room that we were in the first day, miraculously doubled in size the second day. The room did not look or feel make-shift in any way on either day.

Generative Spaces – Steelcase recognizes that people gather for different types of work and meetings. They have many spaces designed specifically for idea generation. These spaces are characterized by having long white-boarded walls, table heights for standing and thinking, and reduced barriers so people can move about freely and see everything that is going on from any position in the room.

Before, During and After Spaces – at every turn there we ad-hoc spaces that gave people the ability to gather in small groups for break-outs or intimate conversation. There were also places to easily plug in a laptop for quick email checks and the like.

Informal Learning – in general all of the designs were sensitive to the fact that we learn while work and we work while we learn. There were a variety of rooms, alcoves, and open work spaces that were comfortable, inviting and often casual looking, providing an environment that encourages thinking, idea sharing and collaborative work.

Steelcase is ready to help us say goodbye to the outdated work setting made up of offices, cubicles, and conference rooms.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Praying for the Right Answers

A few months ago, the Catholic Church decided to make text changes in some of the hymns, prayers and responses in the Sunday Mass. Apparently the intention of these changes is to have the English translation of the Mass more accurately reflect the Latin from which the Roman Missal was translated.

Now as a life-long Catholic, I am pretty much on autopilot when it comes to delivering my responses during the Liturgies of the Mass. The new word changes just don’t feel normal or natural, so it will probably take the second half of my life to commit them all to memory.

As I was looking around in church today, I could see that my fellow parishioners are pretty much in the same boat. Many of the devoted have been at this much longer than I have, so I can imagine the challenge of breaking away from the old habitual responses and replacing them with new phrases is even tougher for them.

Of course, the Church has updated the prayers and responses in the Monthly Missalettes that are scattered about the pews, but that alone is not enough to help people through this change. To provide additional support, the Church has created a double-sided laminated card that you can pick up and quickly scan when you find yourself getting tongue-tied or out-of-synch with the rest of the congregation during those moments when your voices should be joined together harmoniously.

Today, it was obvious our parishioners are relying more heavily on this card than the Missalette. As a workplace learning professional, this just reinforced for me the importance of helping the employees in my company to get simple answers to work issues into their hands when they need them. For quick answers, a good job aid beats a good manual any day. Similarly, using instant messenger or other social media tools to quickly connect with subject matter experts at the point of need, beats sitting through a formal class that is disconnected in time and space from the moment real answers are needed.

The bottom line is that we in the workplace learning industry need to continue to capitalize on the social media tools and technology that allow us to imbed learning into the workstream so that our workers are getting the right answers when they need them and we are all singing from the same hymnal.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Social Media Star Contest

"I'm a Social Media Star."  

Well, I'm a nominee at least.  Trivanits, the people who bring us wonderful elearning tools such as Lectora Inspire and Snap! are sponsoring a Social Media Star contest running now through February 15.

I have been a fan of their tools and a Lectora user since 2002.  Last May, I attended their annual user conference where they unveiled the newest addition to their line: Snap! by Lectora.   I had a great time and did a lot of backchannel tweeting while at the conference. Afterwards, I wrote this blog entry about it.   I guess that was enough to get me nominated.

Check out the contest here.  Vote for your favorite learning professional from among the nominees - or vote for me!  I'm a star!