Social Planning for Learning & Development

For this week’s post, we’re delighted to have thoughts shared by Julian Stodd embedded within our discussion post. Julian is heavily involved in the development of e-learning and blended learning solutions, working at a strategic level with global clients to understand how their learning needs can be met. To read more about Julian, see his blog here.

Image courtesy of and copyrighted by Julian Stodd, used with permission.

Image courtesy of and copyrighted by Julian Stodd, used with permission.

As professionals in the field of learning and development, we frequently engage in online social media to learn new things, find new resources, discuss new approaches, discover new technologies, and generally improve ourselves to better meet the challenges we face today.

But are we using our social tools for maximum benefit? How effectively are we using them to increase the size and diversity of our team when creating a new program or improving an existing one? Consider a few of these truths in our business today:

We’ve all been in this situation: faced with a deadline, there’s just not enough time to think through all the options or evaluate every alternative. We probably don’t have a team diverse enough to always think well outside the box to assure that (1) our concept of how to meet a particular need is appropriate and (2) that our planned design will be effective. This is especially true when doing something we and our team have never done before. The good news is there’s probably someone somewhere who has done it before–we just need to find them.

Some of us turn to our social networks for help, while others don’t or can’t – discussing plans in public places may not be appropriate in many situations. But another important place to turn to early in any development cycle – at the concept and planning stages – are online communities. There are dozens of such communities in the field of learning and development, virtually all free to join, and they’re populated by thousands or tens of thousands of members who work in the same field.

[JS: Thinking about how and why people engage in these spaces, for challenge and support, notions of social capital may be relevant too. Maybe this is of interest:]

How have you used your networks to improve your products and services? Are you among the tens of thousands of members in online communities? If so, how do they work for you? Join us Thursday, May 2 at 16:00BST/11:00EDT/08:00PDT to share your thoughts and discuss this further!

Using Stories in Learning

I was brought up in a culture where storytelling was an important way of communicating between the generations. My grandfather was an injured war veteran. For a young man born of the Catholic faith in Northern Ireland this was unusual. He told truly amazing and inspiring stories of how he enlisted at the age of 16, whilst the actual recruitment age was 18. His stories of perseverance, teamwork and working hard to understand others shaped how I now think about life and work.

I am fascinated by the power of the story to really break though our adult learning barriers of “the curse of knowledge”, or in other words, cognitive bias. By the time we reach a certain age and level of experience in life and work, learning new things may take more work than we all realise.

How can we use stories for learning?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the privilege to work as the lead Instructional Designer in the development of a learning portal for the Irish Heath Service. The portal – has been developed by Mr. Pat Kenny in partnership with Belfast based eLearning company AurionLearning. They have 60,000+ registered users with thriving communities across different healthcare disciplines, including Nursing, Mental Health Services and Allied Healthcare Professionals (Physiotherapists, Speech Therapists etc.).

Pat, a trained social worker, is currently working to collate and record stories from both patients and clinicians for use as core learning content within the portal. Listen to his views on the value and impact of stories to bring about change and learning.

Stories as a tool for personal and professional reflection

As Pat explains, in health and social care education, patient stories have gained important recognition as a reflection tool for both patients and clinicians. Patients who experience sudden and acute, or on-going chronic illness, for example, often report losing themselves in the system – losing a sense of their individuality and just becoming a mere disease or condition. Someone recently diagnosed with cancer becomes a cancer patient or someone recently suffering a stroke becomes a stroke victim. By forgetting the human being at the heart of the disease or condition, clinicians can often focus on the disease rather than working with the patient in a more holistic manner. Encouraging both patients and healthcare professionals to tell stories of their experiences within the healthcare system can help both to better understand and communicate with each other.

So, why are stories important?

If you drive a car, chances are that you know and UNDERSTAND the rules of the road. But does that mean you never break the speed limit? No – it doesn’t. Unfortunately for the families who suffer loss at the hands of people who may only be a few km/per hour over that limit, their stories become important lessons for us all. To foster long term behaviour and attitude change, we sometimes must go beyond merely understanding the facts. Stories can put us in touch with emotion and empathy, which can play an important role in learning. Sparking an emotional reaction can also make learning stick.

Using stories in workplace learning

So where and how might we use stories in workplace learning? With L&D’s current emphasis on just in time learning and performance support, does storytelling really have a place?

I suppose if I was in a hurry to answer a specific question, such as what is the procedure for ensuring that I protect a customer’s data, the last thing I’d want is a “story”. Do I really need to hear from a customer talking about how they were impacted by a company handling their data poorly? In many cases, no – but what if your workforce had continually been trained on data protection, yet data protection breaches were still happening?

I think the real power of stories lies in helping us to uncover tacit knowledge. Or to put it more simply, we all know more than we think we do. We are all a product of our experiences and we all have wisdom to share. I don’t have all the answers just yet as to how stories can be used effectively in workplace learning. My experience of healthcare education tells me that stories can be a powerful learning and communication tool. It is certainly something worth exploring.

Please join us to discuss Using Stories in learning, on Thursday 18th April at 16:00 BST / 11:00EDT / 08:00 PDT

Look forward to seeing you there!

PatKennyPodcast by:
Pat Kenny, National eLearning Manager,
Health Service Executive, Ireland

CQSW; Adv.Dip CPW; MSc Applied eLearning.

Further links

Social History Story Project – Fiona Quigley

Towards a Working Theory of Learning: The Affective Context Model

Patient stories from Pip Harding – Patient Voices

McMillan Cancer Support

The transcript for this chat is now available.

What Learners Want!

We are delighted to have a guest post from Laura Overton, managing director, Towards Maturity.

This chat has taken place. View the complete transcript here.

It’s 2013 and we have more ways to engage learners than ever before. But do we know what our colleagues really want from L&D?

This question is not meant to be facetious. On the contrary, the aim of the question is to challenge the pre-conceptions of learning professionals.

From the first work on learning styles 30 years ago, we’ve understood that people like to learn in different ways and that we should adapt to their needs. Nowadays we are more likely to be discussing the generational differences that influence what our staff actually want and prefer when it comes to learning and work.

We understand that the decision-making baby boomers in business are traditionally motivated by prestige, they are comfortable in working in hierarchies where knowledge is power and nervous of technologies that they don’t understand. One the other hand, we also hear that the tech savvy millennial is more motivated by meaningful work, collaboration and community and won’t tolerate traditional ways of learning. And we’re told that the L&D professional had better be ready!

Armed with this knowledge about our learners we should be better equipped than ever to create learner centric programmes that put individuals into the driving seat of their own destiny. After all we’ve got the technologies and tools and models to help make this a reality.

So how are we doing?

According to this year’s Towards Maturity Benchmark, L&D professionals believe they are opening up choices for individual, with 7 out of 10 providing learning management systems packed full of any time any where online e-learning.

But are we giving our colleagues what they want? This year’s benchmark is also showing that almost all of us are looking to increase sharing within the organisation yet often our communities are like ghost towns – not even the collaborative millennial are gathering there.

What is holding us back? L&D professionals believe that whilst they are trying to create learning that improves engagement, employees themselves are holding them back with over 50% citing reluctance by users to learning, with new technology as a barrier to change.

In our research we’ve seen staff reluctance as the number one barrier to change for a few years and we are beginning to wonder why. Part of the problem may lie in the fact that we aim to put learners in the driving seat but most of the time we remain firmly in control telling them what is available, and where and when they can and should do it.

Another reason might be that we are perhaps projecting some of our own concerns onto our staff, making assumptions about their wants and needs based on our standard training needs analysis and happy sheets.

I fear that we are also making assumptions about how they want to learn based on the new generational labels that we are applying.

It’s time to challenge our assumptions.

We need to start to understand that our staff are not millennial, gen X or baby boomers, neither are they reflectors, activists or other learning labels. They are individuals – doctors, project managers, engineers, train drivers and civil servants – and they probably all react differently in different situations.

And it’s not just millennials who are tech savvy now. When it comes to bring your own devices into the workplace – the biggest ‘culprits’ are senior managers – 77% of them bring their own technology into the workplace. Did you know that 65% of Facebook users and 55% of Twitter now are aged 35 or over?

All these stats have the potential to do our heads in! So, what is the truth about what our learners really want?

Please join us to discuss What Learners Want, on Thursday 04 April at 16:00 BST / 11:00EDT / 08:00 PDT

Look forward to seeing you there!