Making Social Learning Happen!

This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS

What’s happened to social learning?Social learning handbook

Maybe it’s just me but, after several years of hearing and seeing the term ‘Social Learning’ on an almost daily basis, it now seems to have faded out of frequent use. Forget Bandura’s social learning theory for one moment, as that’s not what we’re talking about here. Neither is the fact that social learning is an inherent human condition. No, what we’re talking about here is the way that learning and working is happening, or should be happening, in organisations.

It was back in 2011 when Jane Hart really pushed the whole idea of Social Learning into the limelight with the publication of the first edition of her extremely well-received Handbook. Back then, Jane, and others, were talking about and demonstrating how the social media tools of the day could, and should, emancipate people to become workplace learners. It was these tools that shaped social learning in the second decade of the 21st Century.

4 years on …

Not only do all these tools still exist but they have also been improved, made more Social mediauser-friendly, grown in number and, even more importantly, are now used by even more people than ever before. Just compare how many people are using tools like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube and Pinterest today with 4-years ago, and what they are using them for. Are people learning through the use of these tools? You bet they are! Are they using them even more for workplace and social learning, and if not, why not? Well, on that one the jury is out but it’s about to be called back in!

The #chat2lrn jury

Social Learning is not something you just talk about or read about, it’s something you do!” (Jane Hart, 2011). So, as a member of the jury, is social learning happening in your world or not? If it is, what’s making it happen? If it’s not happening, then what will it need to take to make it happen? 

Join the jury and discuss these and other questions on 27th August 2015.

 

 

The Learning Trap: Why Satisfied Learners and Knowledge Retention is Worthless

“Ajay is a Chartered Professional Accountant and a Certified Training and Development Professional but considers himself a Workforce Revolutionary. Ajay is a 3-time published author with John Wiley & Sons recently publishing his third book titled, “The Trainers Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning and Growth to Organizational Strategy” (http://amzn.to/c3Qsk0). Training Magazine recognized his company CentralKnowledge (and LearningSourceOnline.com) as the 2008 Project of the Year for their work with Apple Inc. He is also a multi award-winning writer receiving the 2014 and 2015 prestigious TrainingIndustry.com Readership and Editors’ Award for Editor’s Choice and the Top 10 most read articles. Ajay regularly appears on the #1 Montreal Talk Radio morning show discussing workforce performance issues.”

knowledge-retention

Learning practitioners are taught early, or should I dare say brainwashed, to believe the ‘essential’ four levels of evaluation. Many of us refer to these levels as the Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model and it has been a cornerstone in every learning event and also a foundation for many evaluation models that followed.

But let’s be honest, the unspoken truth is that the Kirkpatrick model is flawed. Yes, I dare say it out loud and may the learning gods, and some of my peers, strike me down. While you pick you jaw off the floor, the fact is that the evaluation method has some apparent issues. new-and-improvedWhile the Kirkpatrick organization will not admit to this publicly (naturally, since it is the foundation of the revenue stream) they are attempting to ‘adjust’ it accordingly by repackaging it as the ‘New World Kirkpatrick’. This reminds us of an ‘All in the Family’ episode where Archie and Meathead ask the question about a product being new and improved asking what was wrong with the original one, was it old and lousy?

But I digress. Let’s review the four levels. Level one refers to learning satisfaction. Simply put, this is what learning practitioners refer to as the ‘smile sheet’. This learner feedback process asks everything from did the learning meet your needs to whether the lunch was adequate.

Level two speaks to learning retention or simply put, do you remember what you are supposed to remember? Often this is considered through some form of ‘testing’. While this is what many practitioners accept as learning success, the Kirkpatrick model assumes that if the learner remembers the knowledge they will naturally apply it to their job. I’ll revisit this logic shortly.

Level three is about changing the learner’s behavior or in layperson terms, skills application. This level is the first ‘holy grail’ for learning practitioners. The logic is that if the learner retains the knowledge from the initial learning process then their behavior will change and become more effective in their job. This sounds reasonable and correlates to Level four.

Finally, achieving level four for learning practitioners is similar to wining the Super Bowl. This level refers to the learning effort having an impact on business and performance objectives. What the Kirkpatrick model implies is that if learning practitioners are able to connect their efforts to this level the will gain the admiration of their business leaders. Essentially, this is the promise of demonstrating tangible results for your learning budget.

Now, the Kirkpatrick methodology sounds logical and simple enough that learning practitioners are able to buy into the process but dig deeper and you will discover issues that undermine learning efforts.

To accept the premise of this post you must first accept that the role of learning in any organization is considered an internal business unit. Just like every other internal business activity whether it is accounting, marketing, or HR, learning is also held accountable to specific performance expectations for itself and how it contributes to organizational results. You don’t have to accept this premise. But if you don’t then you should also not question why your training budget gets reduced every year.

By accepting the reality that your learning efforts are part of the business and ultimately affects the business, hopefully positively, you begin to see learning from the perspective of your business leaders and business unit managers.

With that said, for any business level one and level two are essentially irrelevant. Think about it. Why would leaders care whether their employees like the learning event (level one)? It has no bearing on the business or expected results. Level one smile sheets exist for learning practitioners to prove that they are actually doing something that helps them to avoid getting fired from their job.

Every learning practitioner has done this at least once. They wave their smile sheet results to their leaders hoping that this will validate their efforts, similar to a child seeking the admiration of their parent and trying to get their work put on the family refrigerator.

Don’t believe that Level two is any better. Like level one, your leaders could care less that employees actually can remember any of the skills they learned. Like the smile sheet learning practitioners are quick to fly their successful ‘test’ results in their leader’s faces. The problem with level two ‘learning’ retention is that, more often than not, they are inaccurate or invalid. Why? Essentially, practitioners ‘game’ results in their favor, the knowledge tested is often irrelevant to changing learner behavior, or worse, the skills tested are not applicable to their job. Whatever the reason, the practitioner’s goal is a futile attempt to prove to leaders that their efforts are close to being effective.

wrong-wayLevel two is as irrelevant for the business as is level one. What your leaders expect is that employees actually apply the skills on the job. Their logic, which many practitioners ignore, is that if an employee is applying a new skill or knowledge that improves their performance it will consequently improve the organization’s performance.

Fundamentally, leaders are concerned solely about level three and four. In reality, this all you should be concerned about as well. Regretfully for the Kirkpatrick model, there are still concerns that practitioners must be made aware. Even Kirkpatrick found flaws and hence, developed a ‘new world model’, but lets not get into that now.

At Level three the need to change behavior is not as relevant as the need for leaders to see the actual application of knowledge and skills. As any qualified psychologist will tell you changing human behavior is something that happens consistently over time and not something any type of training effort can accomplish successfully.

Simply, your leaders see level three evaluations as the vehicle to meet pre-established performance metrics and not necessarily to change employee behavior. The question we are asked from practitioners is, “how do we connect to level three expectations?” The answer is quite simple. First, don’t create new learning measures to prove your efforts are effective. Your leaders and business unit managers have their performance metrics already set. All you need to do is to partner with the business units, learn about their performance expectations, and then proactively work with them to conduct a needs assessment to determine the required skills that will help contribute to achieving their performance metrics.

Finally, level four is what every practitioner strives to achieve. Keep in mind that while level four is what your leaders expect they don’t expect every training effort to meet it. And for those initiatives that must achieve level four expectations you are not alone in your effort. You leaders don’t expect learning to be the sole hero. Recognize that when attempting to impact business results to take into account the involvement of other internal activities.

Your leaders will never believe that your ‘level 4’ achievement is only a result of your learning solution. It is a cross-functional effort so involving many internal business processes. So take credit when due but also, give credit to those that deserve it. This will build your business impact credibility and ensure sustainable leadership support for learning.

Finally, never, ever go to your leaders and refer to the Kirkpatrick four levels. They won’t understand what you are talking about and frankly don’t care about your evaluation methods. Just sayin’.

Join #chat2lrn to share your views and thoughts on “The Learning Trap” Thursday 13 August 8.00 PDT/11.00 EDT/16.00 BST

Total Cost of Ownership – What is the ‘real cost’ of a learning intervention?

This weeks post is written by Lesley Price (@lesleywprice).  Lesley is a co-founder of the #chat2lrn crew and now, although supposedly ‘semi-retired’, she works part-time for Learn Appeal  and continues to love challenging and being challenged!  Lesley is Scottish and the Scots have a reputation for being ‘canny’ with money…so her challenge to you is: Does the Total Cost of Ownership of a learning intervention really matter?

When we buy a car, some folks only look at the purchase price, others may also consider obvious running costs e.g. insurance, road tax, petrol consumption. Some may take into account the cost of servicing and replacement parts, but I wonder how many factor in depreciation cost and how many years we expect to have the car before we replace it? I have yet to meet anyone who does all of this, puts the information onto a spreadsheet and then calculates the cost of having the car over a number of years. If we carried out this exercise prior to purchase, would we be able to work out which car would offer us the best value for money and the optimum time to replace it? Logic would say yes, as we would then know the total cost of ownership.

IcebergSo what has buying a car to do with learning?  I would suggest that as the picture says, ‘what we see often is only a fractional part of what really is’.   So the question I ask is, ‘what is the real cost of a learning intervention?

All too often we only consider the cost of the course itself or the purchase cost/license fees of either an LMS and/or a content authoring tool, but what about the other ‘hidden’ costs? Do we even know what these are?

When we consider face-to-face training, these are relatively easy to calculate, or are they? If we send somebody on a course that is held elsewhere, there is generally a flat fee, but do we include the cost of the attendee’s time? We are told on a regular basis that time = money, so if we expect colleagues to disseminate what they have learned during the course, how much does that cost both in terms of their time and the time of others who are learning from them?

If face-to-face training is ‘in house’, what is the cost? Should we include the trainer’s delivery time, the time the trainer has spent on creating learning materials, the time of all those who attend the course, the cost of the space used for training which takes place on the premises or might the training involve room hire?

This becomes even more complex when we move into elearning. Yes, we think about the number of licenses we need, but do we consider whether we will need more IT equipment? Most people would say ‘yes of course we do’, but if the system needs a dedicated server what is the cost of IT support of both the software but also equipment?

If we are offering an elearning programme that we are going to create, how do we put a cost on that? We have to consider the time it will take to create…that’s easy….it’s the cost of an Instructional Designer (ID). Mmmm….. but most IDs refer to subject matter experts (SMEs) to ensure the content is fit for purpose and that then takes up the time of the SME and how many do we need to consult?

The other thing we know about elearning is that we cannot assume that just because we create and build systems and content that people will use it. So we have to generate interest and awareness otherwise all the time that has been spent creating the elearning content will be wasted, but that also takes time and to reiterate time = money!

Let’s not forget that to implement a new system; we will need the support of the senior management team (SMT). How many of us factor into the cost of the intervention the number of meetings we have attended, on-going conversations and reports we have written to get SMT buy-in?

Ooohhh and lets not forget all the conversations we have ‘out of hours’ with colleagues and pondering we do ‘in our heads’ about whether or not the learning intervention we feel passionately about will make a difference.

I guess the ultimate question is so what? Does the Total Cost of Ownership of a learning intervention really matter? Do we really need to know the real cost and if we do, what impact does that have on whether we proceed or not? So many questions and probably even more answers. Join #chat2lrn to share your views and thoughts on Total Cost of Ownership #TCO Thursday 30 July 8.00 PDT/11.00 EDT/16.00 BST

Is This a Training Problem?

by Patti Shank, PhD

I was very lucky when I was a young training manager and had the opportunity to learn with Geary Rummler (http://www.performancedesignlab.com/geary-rummler-founder). I truly believe that this training greatly helped my performance over the lifetime of my career. It provided a certain way of doing my work. The resource I will share with you will provide a brief synopsis of some of the thinking involved that I hope will intrigue you.

Why Care About This?

Training is an expensive intervention. We only need to provide training for one reason: People need skills they don’t have (or need to upgrade or re-establish their skills) and it makes sense to provide it in a formalized way.

When there are problems, such as people unable to do their jobs because of inadequate tools or not enough feedback about whether they are performing as needed (no performance standards), those problems must be fixed and training won’t solve the problem.

Example: A manager asks for team training for her staff because they are don’t work well together. In reality, she causes problems among them by how she treats them. She favors some over others. She provides more work and overtime to people she doesn’t like as much. Training might help this but she is the one that needs it. And before that, she needs coaching about the problems she is causing so the training might be valuable to her.

When we get requests (or demands) for training and we don’t determine if training has a good chance of solving the problem (or being part of the solution), we are creating a problem, not solving it.  Why?

We are using resources that could be better put elsewhere.

We are removing people’s time (when they are stuck in training) that they could be using towards better purposes. They could be using that time to get work done.
The problem doesn’t get fixed. (Think of all the resources used to not solve the problem!)
We look foolish and are unprofessional, and frankly, this happens too often. Who would hire a carpenter who couldn’t measure or build the right solution?

How Training Doesn’t Work

Example: When someone asks for customer service training but they have insufficient tools to answer customer questions or their process requires multiple workarounds, adding customer service training is a misplaced and expensive intervention.  They may need some training (or not) but they DO need better tools and an improved process so customers aren’t angry about being put on indefinite hold or sent to the wrong department.

Carl Binder’s discussion of Gilbert’s Six Boxes is a great introduction to thinking about what we need to do to have the type of performance organizations need and what influences these performance outcomes in the workplace. Read it and think about what part each part plays in your work. If you don’t think it fits in L&D’s world, we’ll have to disagree.

The Six Boxes: http://www.binder-riha.com/sixboxes.pdf

Cognitive Biases in Learning

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist.

Cognitive biases color almost every aspect of our daily lives. We all have them, whether Cognitive Biases Woprd Cloudwe want to admit it or not. They develop through our lives as we gain experiences that allow us to take “mental short-cuts” to navigate situations and make decisions. They are usually an indication of our values and beliefs, and in many cases cognitive biases can be helpful. Cognitive biases can help us make decisions more quickly in situations where time is of the essence. They can help to keep us safe in times of heightened emotional or physical stress. But cognitive biases can also lead to bad judgements and a resistance to learning and incorporating new information into our thought processes.

As learning and development professionals, it is imperative that we maintain an awareness of both our own cognitive biases and also an understanding of the common cognitive biases that the majority of us, as humans, hold on to. By keeping these common biases in mind as we design and develop instructional materials and events, we can incorporate strategies to mitigate them and open the way for learning.

So what are some of these common biases that most of us fall back on consistently, but can get in the way of learning?  There are dozens of them documented, but here is my top ten list of cognitive biases that I try to find ways to mitigate in both learning and organizational change situations:

  1. Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to easily accept information that confirms your point of view and reject information that does not support it.
  2. Anchoring bias: This is the tendency to place excessive weight or importance on one piece of information – often the first piece of information you learned about a topic.
  3. Dunning-Kruger effect: This is the tendency for incompetent people to overestimate their competence, and very competent people to underestimate their competence.
  4. Curse of knowledge bias: This is when well-informed people are unable to look at an issue from the perspective of a less informed person.
  5. Functional fixedness: This bias limits a person to utilizing an object or idea in only the way it is traditionally used.
  6. Mere exposure effect: This is the tendency to like something just because you are familiar with it.
  7. Not invented here bias: This is the tendency to discount information, ideas, standards, or products developed outside of a certain group.
  8. Reactance: This is the urge to do the opposite of what you are asked to do in order to preserve your freedom of choice.
  9. Status quo bias: This is the tendency to want things to stay relatively the same as they have always been.
  10. System justification bias: This is the tendency to try to actively maintain the status quo.

Are there biases that you attempt to mitigate in your work? What strategies have you found to be effective?  Join us for a #chat2lrn about cognitive biases in learning on Thursday July 2nd, 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT, 4:00pm BST.

Creativity and Constraints in L+D

This week’s post was written by #chat2lrn crew member Holly MacDonald.

I recently read: Push Button Creativity and it really got me thinking about creativity and constraints in the L+D field. Push button creativity is:

“…outsourcing all the creative decision making and creative work to some software or another designer”.

Let’s assume that this is driven by business constraints. What constraints exist for us? What might push us towards push button creativity?

  • Time – more specifically the lack of time. Most people I talk to are under pressure to complete projects by a deadline. And they are often juggling many projects or demands on their time.
  • Resources – many people are also in a place where they have to skimp on budget or people to do the work. I think this is the most common constraint, and it’s really where push-button creativity is targeting. We are often pushing L+D folks to be multi-disciplinary in their approach (visual design, development, LMS Admin, change management) and it’s hard to do it all and to do it well when you are limited by money or people.
  • Skill – with the increase in WYSIWIG authoring tools and free or easily accessible creative elements, many people CAN create learning solutions. This is the real crux of the push button creativity problem. You don’t necessarily need to know much, you can use a template or a wizard that makes it so easy. But it can also mean you don’t have to learn or grow, you can just download.

“It isn’t so much that some people want to be instructional / training / learning designers who find ways around doing actual design. It’s more the attitude of wanting something for nothing. It’s about putting the minimum effort (and expense) into a design task and expecting good results. (excerpt from Push Button Creativity)”

I think that’s a great point. But, we don’t live in the ideal world where every project has what it needs and we can be creative on our own schedule or within an open-ended budget. Clients and managers expect outputs and training needs have to be met. Sometimes we need to get creative about the process as well as the “product” we’re creating. Here’s the rub, though. If we continue to participate in push button creativity (especially the freebies), we are essentially driving down of price and value of creative work like training solutions, and we are effectively de-valuing our own work and the field as a whole. If we use push-button creative solutions, we need to do so with intention.

Constraints can actually push us to create better things. Sometimes working within a set of constraints can help us focus. A creative team that I know very well recently posted on how constraints impacted them:

“Constraints can seem like a barrier to doing good creative work, but there are actually benefits to a limited canvas. On the plus side, imposing limitations drives innovation and forces focus. This can be especially useful in a large project with multiple stakeholders. Limiting certain choices can reduce the burden of making decisions and allows more time to be applied to the creation and follow through of the main objective.”

So, what’s the deal? Are constraints a bad thing or a good thing? Is the drive to push button creativity going to push us over the edge or should we embrace the constraints and treat every project as our own version of “the Biggest Loser”? I’ll leave you with this final quote from Marissa Mayer http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2006-02-12/creativity-loves-constraints:

“Yet constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity. While we need them to spur passion and insight, we also need a sense of hopefulness to keep us engaged and unwavering in our search for the right idea. Innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision.”

Come join us at the chat on June 18th and share your insights.

Communicating your training strategy

Tell_EveryoneThis week’s chat2lrn is from Brent Schlenker (@bschlenker), who is one of our new crew members. Brent is Chief Learning Officer for Litmos

How do you communicate your training strategy to everyone who needs to know? Technology has changed so much over the last decade but many still see training as not having changed. It may seem strange but most of the world is not interested in training the way we are. That one realization will change your life. It will not only change your approach to instructional design but it will help you better communicate the benefits you bring to the organization.

Despite 20 years of self-paced eLearning tools, methods, and amazing possibilities, most people still see training as a teacher and a student, or students. People seem to easily make the leap from live classroom to virtual online live classrooms. But for them that’s as far as technology-based learning has come. Oh sure, everyone knows about interactive self-paced elearning but the process is a mystery…and seemingly unnecessary unless you have money to burn.

And if mysterious technologies aren’t enough to cause them anxiety, then try talking to them about your epic instructional design process you intend to inflict upon them. Trust me when I say that rarely goes over well.

I’ve seen the blank stares of many managers in my career. I have no doubt each and every one appreciated my efforts and found the self-paced course I created to be quite good and effective. But I also know they wondered why we couldn’t just create and plan many more classroom sessions in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. And whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. What matters is what they believe.

The art of communication is well documented by others. Listening is critical. Spend more time understanding your stakeholders before telling them about you and your plans. Building relationships early on will pave the way for implementing successful training solutions.

Be prepared to over simplify your work. Being able to state your core beliefs about the career you’ve chosen is also helpful when communicating with stakeholders. I call these core beliefs the Guiding Principles of the Training Department. Communicate these principles early and often. In all of your communications make sure you show how your work connects to each of these principles.

We are knowledge brokers.
We build expertise in those who need it, by leveraging those who have it.

We put People first–Technology second.
We recognize the best training is often 1:1, but that doesn’t scale.  We strategically  use technology to amplify, and efficiently scale up, the human element of training.

We build as we deploy.
We iteratively develop scalable solutions while meeting current and immediate training needs.

We see learning as a long-term process.
We believe training events are only a part of the journey towards expertise.  We  leverage multiple content delivery channels to make content more readily available on demand in real-time.

We measure to evaluate success.
We ensure the effectiveness of training solutions by linking desired outcomes to business performance indicators, and tracking and evaluating results.

These are my principles. And you can read more about them here. They may or may not apply to you in your current situation. Do you have certain beliefs that guide your work?

We’d love it if you could join us on chat2lrn to discuss these principles with Brent, Thursday 4th June.