Saturday, May 9, 2015

Check Out the ATD Forum Sessions at ICE

Are you headed to the Association for Talent Development International Conference & Expo next week in Orlando?   If so, you may want to check out an ATD Forum session.

The ATD Forum is a networking group of senior learning and talent development professionals that share best practices and help each other problem-solve.  My company has been an ATD Forum member since 2011 and  I have been privileged to serve on the Forum's Advisory Group for the last two years.

Each year at ICE we offer a workshop series that provides conference attendees with an experience that is a little bit different than what you get in other sessions.   The Forum workshops are led by our members and are generally experiential in design.   So not only do you get to discuss the topic at hand with other session attendees, you also get to experience some techniques that might be helpful when you are looking for creative ways to facilitate back on the job.

Here are the dates and times for the ATD Forum sessions at this year's conference:

Click here to add any or all of these sessions to your schedule.   Or just stop by room W209C when you have some down time during the conference.  There is usually a Forum staffer or two and/or a few members in the room if you have any questions about what we do and how we work together.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Five Questions to Ask when Translating Learning Content

Are You Translating Learning Content?

Over the last two years, my company has evolved its operating structure from being a multinational corporation into a true global organization.   As a result of this, our L&D services have changed in scope and scale.   In addition to developing and delivering training for our employees in North America, we are now tasked with supporting all of the markets in which we do business.

Needless to say, we have developed our capability to deliver learning services in multiple languages.  In fact, our internal translation management group recently told us that we have pushed ahead of marketing and communications to become the number one consumer of translation services in the company.   We have now taken on somewhat of a spokesperson role inside the company to help other departments who have translation needs.

We have learned quite of few things along the way – some of them the hard way.   Now when faced with a learning project that has to be produced in multiple languages, here are a few questions we must get answered in order to move forward:

  1. Who pays?   This is the biggest issue we face.   We do not carry a budget to cover the cost of translations as part of our learning design process.   We must ask this question to the project requester.   Most often the response is, “I hadn’t thought about that.”   We do our best to provide an estimated translation cost.  Then the project sponsor must decide how to proceed.  In most cases, the cost ends up being borne by whoever is trying to push the content out to a particular audience.  But in some cases, the costs are covered by the countries that require the translations.   Either way, we do not move forward until it is clear who will be paying the bill.

  2. Who will review this?   We work with some wonderful translation vendors.  They are reputable and reliable, but they are not part of our company and don’t know our culture.  Before we can finalize any learning material, we require sign-off on the translation from someone inside the company.   It can really derail your project if you don’t have your reviewers lined up ahead of time and ready to go when needed.   Our L&D team doesn’t have the language skills or resources to evaluate the translations, so we require whoever is paying for the translations to identify who the reviewers will be.

  3. What is unique about your content?  The world would be a great place if there was one translation vendor who could do everything we needed, but unfortunately, that is not the case.   Just as different vendors specialize in different languages, many of them specialize in different content types.  We provide learning services to all parts of the company.  This means that we deal with content that can sometimes be very technical in nature (such as product training), very nuanced (such as soft skills training), very marketing oriented (such as training aimed at external audiences), or very heavy with legal implications (such as compliance training).  Different vendors specialize in each of these areas.   It is good to have relationships with a few vendors to cover the whole content spectrum.

  4. What is unique about the target audience?   Straight translation from one language to another can be a dangerous thing.  It is important to understand a little bit about a country and its culture before publishing translated learning content to them.   Some countries expect more formal language than others.   Idioms don’t translate well.   And there are host of other differences that need to be taken into consideration.   A good translation vendor can help with some of these issues, but it really falls on to your in-company language reviewers to let you know what will and will not work for their audience.   A few years back, I worked on a new orientation program that we titled, “Get Connected!”  It had to be translated into several languages.  One of my in-country reviewers told me that the way our vendor had translated the program title it came out as, “Let’s Hook Up!”  That is certainly not what we meant to convey.

  5. What type of learning approach are you taking?   Different languages say things in different ways.  Some languages require more time and space to say something that may have been short and quick in the language of origin.  This has implications for text size, placement of graphics, synchronization of narration, and a number of other things.   It can create some complex problems for integrating translated content back into your source files.   Some translation vendors can do this for you, but they don’t do it for free.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Three Essential Workstreams for Deploying Mobile Learning

For years, corporate learning has been ramping up to go mobile.   At conferences such as ATD ICE, mLearnCon, DevLearn, and others, the concurrent sessions that feature mobile topics fill up with learning professionals anxiously awaiting a session leader who they hope will unlock the mysteries of mobile learning and show them the way to make it happen for their companies.   I’ve spent plenty of time sitting in those sessions myself.

Where has it gotten us?   Not very far.  According to the ATD 2014 State of the Industry Report, only 1.47% of learning content is made available to learners through mobile technology.   Yet we all carry around our mobile devices trying to puzzle this out like Rubik’s cube.

In 2013, my company decided to get serious about developing a mobile learning program.  We did some research, worked out our plan, and selected a vendor partner to help us run a pilot.  (You can read about our pilot here.)  Two years later, we are up and running but it has been a long journey.  Getting an experienced vendor with a ready-to-go platform and a track record of success in setting up mobile learning with other companies was critical for us.

As I think about it now, there were three key workstreams that we had to move through to get our mobile learning program up and running.

Learning Strategy workstream – This is the most important workstream.  We had to flesh out how we wanted to use mobile learning in my company and build a communication plan to manage expectations.   Our plan focuses on using mobile technology for supplemental learning and performance support.   At this stage of the game, we don’t see our mobile program as the way to address primary learning needs, but rather a way to reinforce and support what people are learning in the classroom or through self-paced eLearning.

Information Technology workstream – This is the most challenging workstream.  We had to establish a feed from our Human Resources database to the mobile platform and establish single sign-on to ensure a positive user experience.   Partnering with the IT team was critical for our mobile launch.   At first, our IT team didn’t understand what we were trying to do. We lost a lot of time on our implementation trying to get the right level of support, but once we finally did things went smoothly.

Content workstream – This is the most fun workstream.   I have a good team of Instructional Designers.   They are passionate about learning and they understand what it takes to create a meaningful, engaging and effective learning experience.  Once we were clear on our strategy and got over the IT hurdles, I was able to let my team do what they do best – build great learning solutions.   Although I must admit, there has been a learning curve.   Most of our mobile learning objects run about 1 to 4 minutes in duration.  Creating short burst learning nuggets and mini-courses that are being deployed over a hand-held device or tablet requires different thinking when it comes to design.   Our learning objects are continuing to evolve as we gain more experience and gather feedback from our learners.

I’m glad I can now count my Learning and Development team among the few who are actually offering mobile learning to their workforce.   It is so powerful for learners to be able to get what they need, right in their hands, right when they need it.