Preparing for the future of learning

This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter B.Ed (Hons), M.Phil, FLPI, Chartered FCIPD. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS

Are you preparing for the future of learning and if so, how?   We all know of L&D people future-of-learning-jlswho stubbornly refuse to let go of what they hold dear, most of it historical and deemed to be safe. Some will say that “if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it”, but the growing consensus is that L&D is broken and in desperate need of being fixed!  So, just how can it be fixed and how can we prepare for the future of learning? Inspiration for this post comes from an excellent Towards Maturity* report published earlier this year.

The fast changing world of work

Here’s the thing: we live in a world in which new working practices are fast emerging, new technologies are being adopted, flexible working patterns are becoming the norm, people are working in different locations and often in multi-generational teams. The upshot of which means that how, when and where people learn is also changing, which, in turn, leads to a new and different learning landscape. It is this new landscape that requires an accessible, agile and flexible approach to be adopted by all L&D professionals, as only will such an approach ensure that L&D plays a major contribution to the performance and productivity of all organisations.

For most L&D functions small tweaks will not suffice, it is major shifts that are required: “But for these shifts to take place, learning professionals must also address their own knowledge and practice, and to upskill and reskill themselves. They need to make sure they have the skills to listen, observe, question and reflect how learning can best support the delivery of organisational goals. They need to understand where and how learners are learning, and to understand the potential for all the different forms and channels for learning, and when to create and when to curate. They must be role models in the new learning agenda where close alignment to the business operation must be the norm.” (Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD, 2016). So, what exactly do these “shifts” entail and, even more importantly, how can they be achieved? This is the focus for our chat.

What does L&D need to do?

We need to:

  • let go and move on
  • change our attitudes towards learning
  • ditch all those learning traditions that are downright unhelpful
  • always stay relevant to the needs of our learners
  • become facilitators, creators of network connections, social mentors, curators of knowledge and learning resources.

How can L&D achieve this?

We need to:

  • improve our “business” credibility
  • demonstrate our value, and help people to develop and build the skills they need to do their jobs
  • move to a more customer-activated strategy
  • respond quickly and work fast, and be accountable to our customers
  • demonstrate key behaviours – all based on actions and not just words. 

This is your task, if you will accept it, to join in and discuss these requirements on 20 October, 2016, and let’s see if we can generate ideas for some much needed changes in true #chat2lrn style.

*If you have time, check out:

http://www.towardsmaturity.org/article/2016/05/09/in-focus-preparing-future-learning-2016/

 

It is time for learning to get back to messy

Messy learning

This week’s post is from chat2lrn crew member, Fiona Quigley, who works with Logicearth Learning Services based in Ireland. 

I don’t know about you, but I love a bit of a mess – or more to the point, I love working through a mess to make sense of it, structure it and tidy it up in my mind. To me that is what ‘real learning’ is. To have to make sense of something that you are unsure of, to have to put in a bit of effort and to have a bit of angst about it all until the penny finally drops – that is the best of learning for me.

So does this type of thing happen in or get facilitated by corporate L&D departments? Not in my experience. This is not a blame game though – I think it is more to do with the business environment that we are currently operating in. Often L&D get blamed for not ‘providing’ the best learning experiences – but in my opinion, many times they are just responding to what the business is demanding. Business needs people to learn fast and many of us mistakenly think that organising it centrally will be quicker. Quicker isn’t always better.

Getting lost in translation

And the other problem is this – we lose the nuance and complexity; we distort, reduce and obfuscate real learning. We dumb things down and complex learning topics like leadership, communication skills and working well with others often get lost in translation. How many organisations these days continually speak of difficulties in ‘training’ leaders or helping people to communicate and work together better. Maybe it has something to do with trying to make the messy much tidier than it needs to be?

So join us in this week’s messy chat2lrn and share your thoughts on this topic.
Thursday, July 14 at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern, 4pm BST.  See you there!

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

How Do We Do It? Crafting Decision-Making Practice in eLearning

Today’s post comes to us from #chat2lrn crew member, Meg Bertapelle. Meg is a Senior Instructional Designer for Clinical & Product Education at Intuitive Surgical. You can find her on twitter at @megbertapelle.

Decision-makingI think most of us would be happy to build more scenarios and practice decision-making activities into our elearning projects (time permitting) – if we knew up-front how to plan and execute them. Sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to start.

This week, I’ve asked a couple of our #chat2lrn community members to share their experiences crafting decision-making practice elearning activities. Fiona Quigley (@FionaQuigs), one of our #chat2lrn crew,  is Head of Learning Innovation at Logicearth, an Irish learning services company with a global client base. They specialise in the production of modern multi-device elearning content, learning technologies and training support services. Laura Payette (@ljwp) now works at Nielsen, but is coming off a three-year stint designing and developing elearning and corresponding product/marketing communication for KPA, a dealer services and internet marketing provider for over 5,000 automotive, truck, and equipment dealerships and service companies across the US. Her DOT Hazardous Materials course won the National Excellence in Training Award from the Automotive Training Managers Council in 2013.

We’ll get some great information from them in the form of an interview, then we can all discuss the pros & cons, and crowd-source some suggestions during the chat on Aug. 7th. I hope this will help us all take the initiative to help our audiences start applying their new knowledge & skills right away.


Q1: What kinds of decision-making practice activities have you been able to incorporate in your elearning projects?

Fiona: I’ve designed a lot of content for health and social care professionals, especially in the area of communication skills and policy compliance. I have designed scenarios that present a typical patient interaction and then ask the question – what would you do or say next? That would be what I call a level 1 decision making scenario.

Higher level scenarios are more immersive and instead of leading a leaner down a pre-planned path, they include random events that differ each time you ‘run’ the scenario. I’ve used these higher level scenarios with nurses and pharmacists in areas such as medication management – reducing errors and also for dealing with patient complaints.

Laura: I spent three years building elearning for the automotive industry, particularly in the areas of environmental safety and compliance. There was a lot of regulatory information that had to be included and I was constantly challenged to find ways to make it relevant and interactive. One of the ways I did that was to inject scenarios into the training. Keep in mind that many of them were on the smaller side. In other words, I didn’t build a course around one big scenario with a million branching options (although that would’ve been so cool!). My content simply didn’t lend itself to that. Instead, I used smaller scenarios and sprinkled them in where they had the most impact.

Q2: What kind of planning steps did you take before beginning to write the activities?

Fiona: You must talk to real people who do the jobs. Observing people making the real decisions is the gold standard – but it is often difficult to get the opportunity to do this. You need to be careful who you chose as the Subject Matter Expert is. Often SMEs are senior ‘expert’ people who are very far removed from day-to-day practice. To help people practice real decisions you must talk to the people who make the everyday decisions.  I also like to structure conversations with SMEs into what I call a ‘DIF’ analysis:

  1. Difficult – what if anything, do you find difficult about this decision
  2. Important – what is most important about getting this decision right/wrong?
  3. Frequent – what frequently comes up, e.g. common myths/misunderstandings, good practice?

Often competent practitioners won’t be aware of how they make good decisions. They are unconsciously competent; so it is the job of the ID to turn this tacit knowledge into explicit learning. Once that learning has been made explicit, you can more easily share that with others.

There is also a difference between formal and informal practice. There may be formal rules in place about how someone does their job – but many competent practitioners create shortcuts as they gain experience. Being able to identify these ‘tips and tricks’ is very useful learning in itself.

Finally, I would also advise talking to people at various levels of experience. For example, talking to a novice in the area will help you see the challenges first hand, rather than relying on the recall of someone more senior who may gloss over these challenges.

Laura: Research! Obviously, reviewing content from SMEs and talking to SMEs is critical but, like Fiona said, talking to people on the frontlines — or who at least aren’t far removed from the frontlines — really helps build context for understanding the challenges that employees face in doing their jobs. Sometimes that access can be hard to get; it was for me. If that’s the case, use everything you can to tease it out. Think of yourself like an investigative reporter. In my case, I had access to a robust database with thousands upon thousands of real-life examples that had been logged. I also had access to people who could elaborate on those examples to help fill in the gaps. I relied heavily on them and went back many times to ask additional questions.

Q3: How did you determine appropriate activities that would simulate the real-life application of your learning objectives?

Fiona: Again – much like the answer to Q2, observe decisions being made, find out how people actually make the decisions and base the activities on what actually happens in the workplace – not what SHOULD happen. Too often in elearning, we are forced to idealise and formalise the learning process, which then becomes so far removed from reality that it loses credibility with the target audience! You often see this in elearning content where the scenarios are so easy that you don’t actually need to complete the course to be good at them.

For example, when we designed a Medications Management programme, quite a few of our nurses said that one of the most difficult challenges they had was doing the ward round, handing out medication and being interrupted by patients or family members. They said they needed to concentrate and focus on making sure they gave out the correct medication – often a complex range of drugs for patients with very different medical needs. Another source of concern was worrying about patients who found medications hard to swallow and not having enough time to spend with them to help them. Together, we came up with guidelines about how to resolve these challenges and built in a scenario challenge around this.

Laura: The scenarios that I wrote were usually an outgrowth of the content development process. In other words, I didn’t approach a course with a specific scenario in mind. I generated them organically as I pulled the content together. It becomes apparent in talking to SMEs and frontline employees and in reviewing existing content where the gaps in understanding and practice are. Those gaps were usually the places I chose to insert scenarios because they illustrated the performance issue and allowed employees to think through things by answering the questions. In some cases with my content, there were right and wrong answers (remember, a lot of it was compliance based), but there were also usually shades of gray — and it was in those areas that I was able to challenge employees through scenarios to think about their actions and the ramifications of them.

Q4: How did you evaluate the effectiveness of your activities?

Fiona: I normally ‘dry run’ the decision plan with a selection of the target audience in a focus group setting. It is important to have a range of different people with different levels of experience. Role-playing the scenario, trying it on for size, works well to see if it is a realistic enough representation of the actual day-to-day-job. I normally use simple post-it notes to visualise the decision and focus on:

  1. Decisions – what is the actual decision to be made?
  2. Knowledge/Skill – what knowledge or skills do you need to make the decision?
  3. Actions – what specific actions do learners take to make the decision?
  4. Consequences – what are the results of each action, for both good and poor decisions?

Laura: I ran the activities by stakeholders and SMEs, as well as a core group of what I’ll call advisors for lack of a better word. (They were internal employees who interfaced directly with the external employees I built training for.) If they responded by effectively saying, “Oh, that really made me think about things differently,” or, “That really caught my attention,” then I knew I had hit the mark. If they didn’t, or if they were confused by what to do or how to respond, then I knew the scenarios needed more work. I know that’s vague, but there’s really no set recipe for scenario building; it’s very context specific. I also evaluated the activities by looking at actual evaluation responses from employees who took the course once it was deployed.

Q5: What made certain activities more effective/impactful than others?

Fiona: The more realistic the decision and scenario – the closer it is to the learner’s actual normal workplace activities, the better. Not only does the decision need to be realistic, but so does the consequence. We don’t want to use phrases like “Well done, that is correct” – rather, we need to show actually what happens in the workplace.

We have a challenge in elearning in that we usually have to design for a very generic audience. That means we lose the nuance and subtlety that actually drives high-performance. If you look at what drives and helps people to perform at a high level, it is mainly about understanding the subtlety of communication that goes on around you. It is also about reacting to unexpected happenings – like covering for a co-worker or working when you are understaffed.  We need to make sure we build in this nuance and realism.  To do this well, we perhaps need to have different types of scenarios to suit different types of people in our target audience. As learning designers we just can’t go on accepting a once-size fits all approach to our learners.

Also – a by-product to this analysis is that you need to be open to the fact that not all challenges that you uncover will be solved by training. For example, for our nurses, we identified that adding a simple “Drugs round in progress” notice to the drugs trolley, helped to reduce the interruptions staff faced. Identifying these possible environment or process problems is a great benefit of doing good decision making analysis. If you explain this to your client upfront, it can also be a great motivator for them to really engage with you.

Laura: Fiona makes some very good points here. I think including real consequences to real situations, and writing them in the parlance your target audience speaks, is key. If you fabricate your scenarios they won’t be authentic and people will dismiss them. They also have to be contextually bound. In other words, you may see a great idea for a scenario somewhere and think, “I’ll put that in my course!” But if you don’t mold it for your audience/content and their specific performance needs, it won’t be a great scenario for what you’re building. I think sometimes the scenarios that are most impactful are those that address gray areas — the places where employees are a little uncomfortable or uncertain — and the places where the biggest performance gaps are.

Q6: Please share your top tips/tricks for crafting decision-making practice activities.

Fiona: I think I have covered most of these in answering the questions above, but to summarise:

  1. Talk to real learners of different levels of experience.
  2. Be aware of the formal way of doing something versus the informal way.
  3. Help your SMEs make their decision making practice more explicit by asking good questions.
  4. Have a range of scenarios to suit different types of people in your target audience.
  5. Dry run your scenario plan with representatives of the target audience and adjust accordingly.
  6. Find out why people are making common mistakes e.g. is it a process or environment problem rather than a training problem?

Laura: Fiona’s tips are great. The only thing I’d add is be sure to craft your scenarios in the language your target audience speaks so they sound authentic.

Thank you to Fiona and Laura for sharing their insights. What about you? If you have some experiences and insights to share, or just want to hear what others may have to say, please join us Thursday, August 7th for #chat2lrn at 8am PDT, 11am EDT, 4pm BST.