Cleaning House and Taking Stock: Past, Current, and Future Trends in L&D

2007

This week’s #chat2lrn comes from crew member Andrea May, Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson based in Minneapolis

January is typically when we try to pause for a moment to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. We look at this journey not only from the perspective of individuals, but also from the perspective of our respective organizations and the entire L&D industry.

Depending on the exact nature of each person’s work in L&D, a year can see an instructional designer develop and deploy countless deliverables for use in instructor-led training, eLearning, blended learning, and online help systems. They may produce videos, quick reference materials, games, activities, test questions, exercises, animations, graphics, and a number of other items to support learning objectives.

For another instructional designer, a year can barely contain a detailed job/task analysis and curriculum recommendation for a highly technical job role in a heavy industrial situation. This designer may only produce a grand total of one deliverable by the end of the year and that deliverable can layout the work to be done for several years to come.
Most of us fall somewhere in between on this continuum with plenty of work to keep us busy, and little time to sit and really consider new ideas you have seen or read about, and how they might be used in your organization. Retiring old methods, software, processes, and materials also takes time away from development and the voids left by those items need to be filled with new ideas, new software, and new processes.

In the interest of helping this process along, #chat2lrn invites you to take an hour at 8am ET/10am CT/4pm GMT on Thursday, January 26 to join us to discuss the L&D trends that have seen better days and are on the way out, the trends and ideas that are currently working for us, and finally what we envision on the L&D horizon. We will clean house, take stock, and think about what will be filling the L&D shelves in years to come.

Does Game-Based Learning Work?

Today’s post is written by Anchal Manocha, #chat2lrn crew member and Founder of Design Storm (www.designstorm.in). Anchal has a background in psychology and is a new media expert. She is dedicated to helping organizations make learning fun and meaningful.

Game-based learning has been all the hype for the last two years. Requirements for game-based learning usually come in the form of:

  • We want people to collaborate more with each other. Can we add points for collaboration and reward them for it?
  • Not enough employees are interested in taking our learning offerings. Can we create game-based learning to increase enrolment?

As we know, game-based learning and gamification can resolve some of these issues. However, as the hype subsides, there are many voices that speak against it. What are the pitfalls of game-based learning that we should avoid?

  1. Content in the Garb of a Game

If we ask learners to “hit the football to answer the questions,” in one glance people can see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  If we’re trying to push content by engulfing it in the skin of a game, we should be prepared to be disappointed.

Learning is in the very fabric of games. People enjoy games because slowly they learn to ace the system, to bend the rules, to work with other players, to resolve conflicts, to repeat their efforts till they’ve mastered the game and much more.

Games for learning should take advantage of these mechanics. Game design should facilitate interactions that lead learners to actually “use”, “explore” and “apply” the information or content we want them to learn.

There’s rarely room for presenting detailed explanations in a game. Learners should be the creators of their own meaning. Content should either emerge from play or it should be the context of play. It could be constructed by the player and formalized as the game progresses.

  1. Focusing Too Much on Extrinsic Rewards

We should ask ourselves: If I remove the external reward, does my solution still stand ground? Would people participate in the absence of rewards?

For example, playing a game of chess is its own reward. Through games, humans seek pleasure, mastery, competition, learning, collaboration, conflict, meaning, problem-solving etc. Incorporating this into our game-based learning solutions may bring out their true benefits.

Monetary rewards, relating results to performance or gamifying core work may, in fact, have a negative impact. This is because it takes away learners’ freedom to fail and try again.

  1. Creating Puzzles Instead of Games

Many times we fall into this trap. We end up with puzzles instead of games. So what’s the difference between the two?

Puzzles are something that people solve by themselves. The level of interpersonal interaction in solving a puzzle is low. Puzzles may be tests, while games are the learning environment.

As Eric Zimmerman, a game design theorist points out, a good game-based solution will include:

  1. Playfulness/fun
  2. Low stakes/Freedom to fail
  3. Gradual mastery and repetition
  4. Emergence of play, emotion, meaning, interaction and so on
  5. Winning and losing—usually an end to the game

Keeping the spirit of games alive, let’s keep learning!

Does Game-based Learning Work?

Today’s post is written by Anchal Manocha, #chat2lrn crew member and Founder of Design Storm (www.designstorm.in). Anchal has a background in psychology and is a new media expert. She is dedicated to helping organizations make learning fun and meaningful.

Game-based learning has been all the hype for the last two years. Requirements for game-based learning usually come in the form of:

  • We want people to collaborate more with each other. Can we add points for collaboration and reward them for it?
  • Not enough employees are interested in taking our learning offerings. Can we create game-based learning to increase enrolment?

As we know, game-based learning and gamification can resolve some of these issues. However, as the hype subsides, there are many voices that speak against it. What are the pitfalls of game-based learning that we should avoid?

  1. Content in the Garb of a Game

If we ask learners to “hit the football to answer the questions,” in one glance people can see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  If we’re trying to push content by engulfing it in the skin of a game, we should be prepared to be disappointed.

Learning is in the very fabric of games. People enjoy games because slowly they learn to ace the system, to bend the rules, to work with other players, to resolve conflicts, to repeat their efforts till they’ve mastered the game and much more.

Games for learning should take advantage of these mechanics. Game design should facilitate interactions that lead learners to actually “use”, “explore” and “apply” the information or content we want them to learn.

There’s rarely room for presenting detailed explanations in a game. Learners should be the creators of their own meaning. Content should either emerge from play or it should be the context of play. It could be constructed by the player and formalized as the game progresses.

  1. Focusing Too Much on Extrinsic Rewards

We should ask ourselves: If I remove the external reward, does my solution still stand ground? Would people participate in the absence of rewards?

For example, playing a game of chess is its own reward. Through games, humans seek pleasure, mastery, competition, learning, collaboration, conflict, meaning, problem-solving etc. Incorporating this into our game-based learning solutions may bring out their true benefits.

Monetary rewards, relating results to performance or gamifying core work may, in fact, have a negative impact. This is because it takes away learners’ freedom to fail and try again.

  1. Creating Puzzles Instead of Games

Many times we fall into this trap. We end up with puzzles instead of games. So what’s the difference between the two?

Puzzles are something that people solve by themselves. The level of interpersonal interaction in solving a puzzle is low. Puzzles may be tests, while games are the learning environment.

As Eric Zimmerman, a game design theorist points out, a good game-based solution will include:

  1. Playfulness/fun
  2. Low stakes/Freedom to fail
  3. Gradual mastery and repetition
  4. Emergence of play, emotion, meaning, interaction and so on
  5. Winning and losing—usually an end to the game

Keeping the spirit of games alive, let’s keep learning!

The Importance of Buy-in

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. Find her on Twitter @andreamay1.

Buy-in. This is an easy concept to understanding in terms of investing money. You find a company whose product you love, or that you agree with in terms of fiscal or, perhaps, environmental policies, or that has buy-in-2just historically provided a great ROI, and you buy-in by purchasing shares in that company.  The company gets an influx of cash and you get to share in the profits.

Buy-in is a little more difficult to define when it comes to selling people on a necessary change. Even though change is one of the only constants in life, we human beings don’t like change and generally resist it at every opportunity. We have cognitive biases that lead us to keep the status quo. We are even more likely to resist a  change when “WIIFM” is unclear.

So let’s say your organization or client is implementing a new system company-wide and training is required to get everyone up to speed and ready for the change. You should be able to sign-up everyone for the appropriate training, get them through their courses, and have everyone ready to start using the new system day 1, right? Nope, not right. In fact, that approach is practically guaranteed to fail.

The reason it would fail is buy-in or, more specifically, a lack of buy-in at one or more levels of the organization. In this scenario, a handful of people at the top levels of the no-buy-inorganization have bought-in to the idea that a new system will improve efficiency, eliminate redundancy, and have a positive impact on the bottom line. They have bought into this idea to extent that they authorized a large sum of money to purchase and implement the system and have assigned the project to the folks below them in a position to make the project happen.

This is the first place where buy-in can start to break down. If the executives don’t make the effort to get buy-in from those below them, all the way down to the people the front line, the change will be an ongoing struggle at best and an outright failure at worst.  A lack of buy in from the project team can cause delays in the timeline and corners being cut. A lack of buy-in from middle managers can cause little or no enthusiasm for the change in those below them. A lack of buy-in from those on the front line will throw a wrench in system adoption and can easily turn a multi-million dollar investment into a very expensive lesson about the importance of buy-in at all levels of the organization.

Join us for #Chat2lrn this Thursday, November Nov 3rd 9:00am PDT/12:00pm EDT/4:00pm GMT to discuss the importance of buy-in to the success of your projects.

On Our Love-Hate Relationship with the Next Button

Anchal is the founder of Design Storm (www.designstorm.in), an e-learning company that provides innovative, simple and effective corporate learning solutions.

“Click Next to Continue.”—This seemingly harmless instruction describes e-learning in ways that nothing else does. It says that e-learning:

Continues to be Linear
Linearity has its benefits, and that is why we’ve loved the Next button.

However, adults learn non-linearly, from colleagues, from our own experiences, searching on Google, and referencing various resources. If you’re in the “adults don’t learn linearly” camp, chances are that you hate the Next button.

Is Pushed Top Down
Learning professionals are the creators and owners of content. The Next button is a crucial enabler here. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that we’ve given them all the information they need to do their job. Sometimes we even block the Next button to ensure that they go through everything.

On the other hand, haters of the Next button have been asking—Do they really take our content seriously? What about making the learning learner-centric? Learners should be the creators and curators of their own content. Break the Next button, only facilitate learning.

Is Following the Tried and Tested Navigation Methods
There used to be courses made in Flash with a neat GUI and instructions on how to use the GUI. We believed in the myth that a “scroll” is not user-friendly. A lot of e-learning still follows this tried and tested navigation method. The Next button is king.

When we, however, optimize the content for mobile devices, the Next button loses its charm. Responsive courseware lends itself very well to a more web-like experience. In mobile devices scrolls, swipes, hyperlinks etc. define our online experience. For courses to be linear, do we really need the Next button? Are there other, content dependent, navigation methods we need to incorporate even in linear e-learning?

Is Instructivist to an Extent
We like to inform, provide knowledge and carry our learners through the courses with instructions that will prevent them from feeling lost. The Next button enables this journey.

We ask—What happens to the Next button when we move away from instruction? How does Next button based e-learning adapt when we look at learning by doing, or learning through constructing our own meaning within the context of formal online learning?

Is a One-Way Stream
Online learning can enable a few different types of interactions, such as:

  • Learner to content interaction
  • Learner to learner interaction
  • Learner to expert interaction

Next button enabled e-learning definitely allows “learner to content” interaction. It can be engaging, entertaining, and gripping. Sometimes this content allows learners to comment and rate too.

However, this approach is mostly a one way stream. It’s great for content consumption. Many haters of the Next button feel that by allowing only one type of interaction, e-learning misses out on a lot more that the online medium can do.

I personally feel there are certain topics that should be taught linearly. However, it’s time we started choosing that content carefully. E-learning needs to break some moulds. It does need to utilize the online medium better by allowing people to learn in the way we work—through chaos, through human interaction, and through a collision of several ideas.

Is there a balance we can strike between linear learning and the chaos of the real world? How can that be achieved?

Recap of FocusOn Learning Conference: Interview with Candelario Lopez

Today’s blog post brought to you by crew-member Meg Bertapelle, Sr. Instructional Designer of Clinical & Product Education at Intuitive Surgical.

The FocusOn Learning Conference, formerly known as the Mobile Learning Conference, was held in Austin, TX last week. My team member, Candelario Lopez, a fellow Sr. Instructional Designer of Clinical & Product Education at Intuitive Surgical, attended and brought back some great insights for our organization. He’s happy to share his impressions and takeaways with us today:

What tech were you most excited about?

Augmented reality – bringing the user interface and display out of the monitor & into the real world. Keynote from Wired Magazine’s Editor in Chief, looking at companies’ roadmaps for future technologies – lots of investments in augmented reality, virtual reality & mixed reality. (Mixed reality is sort of like some combination of realities.)

Interactive video – branching and assessment/scenarios in video format, allowing the user to dictate their learning path & allowing assessment/evaluation at the time of consumption. Provides more user control and engagement. Study: interactive video provides engagement opportunities through a delivery method that is easier to access and consume (vs. e-learning) and the study saw positive results in terms of retention.

Performance support – access to the right content at the time of need. Make sure that you evaluate the end-users’ process to make sure the performance support content is delivered effectively & is the right amount for that task/need. Case study: threw stuff together to be performance support, but was wrong medium, so couldn’t access it when they needed it.

The Good, The Bad, the Ugly & Beyond

The Good:

Path-based conference organization strategy:

  • Video
  • Mobile
  • Performance support

This allowed you to attend sessions geared toward what you want to accomplish in your organization.

Quality of speakers & sessions was very good. The speakers had real-life experience, sharing case studies and real experience or research & planning for future implementations. This allowed you to take away lessons learned from their experience to implement in your own organization. Both keynote speakers were well-respected in their industry: Scott Dadich, Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, and Big Data analyst Soraya Darabi. They provides insights into their respective fields & where the industry is going in the near & distant future, helping to future-proof your training strategy at your organization.

Case studies that directly applied to our organization. Specifically, the Nature Conservancy laid out their strategy for learning materials, talked about the strategy as a whole, as well as planning and implementation, the tools and training delivery methods they used. They were also able to share evaluation outcome data: higher use of performance support materials, users’ knowledge of topic increased, reduced troubleshooting calls from users, have been asked to use same structure for other applications & topics.

The Bad:

If you have experience with these topics, getting to the real meat of what you’re looking for – like more advanced topics – was more difficult, have to outline your own agenda using the session details.

The Ugly:

Couple of sessions that focused on the “clicky-clicky bling-bling” aspect of the technologies, but no meaningful applications.

Couple of sessions that were all theory & research with no real-world application discussions.

The Beyond:

The way we consume content is leaning more and more towards performance support, and just-in-time content. Augmented reality looks to be a leader in supporting this transformation.

Takeaways?

Performance support is the right way to go, assuming you evaluate the users’ job processes & support them effectively.

Augmented reality is real. Companies are investing resources into creating real, serious approaches to learning solutions.

 

Did any of you attend the FocusOn Learning Conference? What would your answers to these questions be?  Please share during #chat2lrn on Thursday, June 16 at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern, 4pm BST.  See you there!

Guerilla Learning!

This weeks post was written by Adam Weisblatt, a Learning Technologist focused on creating environments for great learning experiences. A specialist in the selection, deployment and optimization of learning infrastructure and tool sets that support the delivery of online and in person training, Adam is a creative problem solver with an in-depth understanding of the workflow and business drivers that Learning Professionals grapple with every day. He has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of corporate learning, and he has a proven track record of implementing the infrastructure required to consolidate training efforts across business units and country offices. Adam learned about business from his father’s electrical contracting company. He expressed his creativity and leadership by running a Performance Art Troupe while at art school and he fueled his passion for learning by being an instructor, an eLearning designer, and a blogger. Adam writes about the intersection of technology and learning and how it is reshaping business. He promotes a business-driven learner-centric approach to using learning technology. He believes in opening up the definition of what learning can be.  Reach Adam at: Twitter  @weisblatt or    Email  adamjweisblatt@gmail.com

I was on #chat2lrn a while back and we were talking again about how difficult it is to get buy in from our organizations on all the innovative things we learn from our online community and the conferences we go to. A phrase popped into my head and I typed it into the Tweet Chat window: Guerrilla Learning. Suddenly there were a ton of retweets with people saying, “What a great idea.” But it wasn’t an idea. It was just a clever phrase. I had no idea what Guerrilla Learning was.

Later on I thought about the problem. Why is it so hard to implement new ideas in an L&D environment? After all, as learning professionals, we are expected to find out about the latest innovations. That’s why we go online and attend conferences. We get all revved up on the possibilities of transforming learning. We see the future impact of technology on work. But when we come back to our teams and share our enthusiasm with them, we get nothing. “Oh that sounds great, but it won’t work for my program.” You know how learning people are. The project they are working on today is the most important thing to ever happen in this company. They don’t want their high priority, high visibility, high stakes project to be your guinea pig.

The problem is that without a guinea pig, your new ideas are not going anywhere. I thought more about what Guerrilla Learning would look like and how it might solve the problem. What if I became a rebel? What if I created learning programs under the radar? What if I asked for forgiveness rather than permission? I could create programs, deploy them without anyone knowing and then declare success.

Of course, I would have no content, no resources, no audience and no budget.

Content:

  • Think small. If you run a small program, you don’t need much content.
  • Be a junk collector. Dig deep into the bottom of your LMS and pull out some old content that’s been sitting there for a while. No one will mind you using that.
  • Curate content instead of creating it. Use content that already exists. But don’t just make a link farm. Put some context around the content to give it relevance to the learner.
  • Let the learners create the content. Set up a place where they can contribute their own ideas and resources.
  • Create experiences instead of content. Give instructions for learners to go out on their own or in a cohort and experience the learning through activities.

Resources:

  • Use what you have at hand. Your phone has a video camera in it that is better quality than a top of the line camcorder from 20 years ago.
  • Use free tools and resources. Cloud-based tools usually have a free version. Use this just to get started.

Audience:

  • Start with your network. Every viral video had to start somewhere, and that is usually with your friends. Get them to be your conspirators.
  • Use social media. First though, you need followers. Go on your company’s social media tool and post about yourself, your work and resources you’ve found. Then, once you get a following, you can post about your programs.
  • Use reverse psychology. Tell people that no one is supposed to know about this and people will want to be involved.

Once you’ve created the program and ran it successfully, you can present to senior leadership like it was a planned, sanctioned program. You will already have an audience that you’ve built for the full version. Just remember to talk to them about their experience. You are innovating and by definition you will make mistakes. Take advantage of people’s willingness to help you find and resolve them.

You are well on your way to creating Guerrilla Learning. Viva La Revolution!

Go to my Facebook page to access resources and examples: http://www.facebook.com/awspeaking

Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn Thursday, May 19th, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!

 

 

Death to Learning & Development! Fact or Fiction?

This weeks post has been written by Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA (a member of the #chat2lrn crew) and Teresa Kirkwood CTDP are founders of CentralKnowledge.com and LearningSourceonline.com. They are renowned employee performance management experts and 3-time authors most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014/2015 prestigious TrainingIndustry.com Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help them start a, “Workplace Revolution” at blog.centralknowledge.com or contact: ajayp@centralknowledge.com

Is workplace learning and development (L&D) dying? Does it deserve to continue to exist? What should L&D become to survive? These are some of the questions people have recently been asking. My friend and colleague, Tom Spiglanin, just blogged about a significant change in the workplace learning space. Tom knows his stuff and I encourage you to read his post, “It’s Happening” first before reading this. But also, Tom (and me too) is open to discussion so please share your opinions.

What I appreciate about Tom’s post is that it brings to light the need for L&D to keep up with the times. Regretfully, I meet too many L&D practitioners who have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude or are seeking a ‘quick fix’. If you fall into this category then soon say ‘bye-bye’ to your job and L&D role.

Colleagues from the Internet Time Alliance asked, “What would happen if there were no L&D department?” or as I want you to ask yourself, “What if my role becomes irrelevant?” Don’t scoff at these questions, it’s very much a reality, not a possibility. Our position is that L&D won’t die but will evolve significantly. Essentially, death to L&D, as we currently know it and in my professional experience, is as close to being ‘irrelevant’ as you can get.

There are a variety of reasons why I firmly commit to the L&D (r)evolution hypothesis. Those who know me, read my books (recently, The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy), or participate in my workshops (Learning DevCamp, ‘Gaining Buy-in for Your E and M-Learning Projects‘), know that I’m an L&D hard ass…I like to refer to it as L&D ‘tough love’ and always look at L&D from a business perspective, not from one of learning. This means that I interact with many business leaders, and trust me, they’re desperately seeking more from their L&D people. But not in the traditional context. They need L&D to be innovative and become a leading performance indicator partner.

Another reason that I believe an L&D (r) evolution is afoot has to do with generational progression. What’s that you say? At no other time in modern human history has there been so many generations in the workplace at one time. Think about it, there are the traditionalists (the 75+ crowd), the boomers (the 55+ crowd), the Xer’s (the 40+ crowd) and the boomers’ children, commonly referred to as millennials, (the 25+ crowd). Count’em. That’s four generations. Typically, there are only three. But wait…there’s more! Gen X generation’s children, gen Z or the Facebook gen, are popping-in. Both the millennials and gen Z employee population will soon exceed the combined employee population of older generations or at least they will in some countries, but not worldwide. In the UK, the workforce population is getting older and it’s not just in the UK that things are changing…it is a worldwide occurrence that L&D professionals will have to address.

So, what does this generational progression mean for L&D? Well, you may notice that millennials and generation Z are mobile ones. They were raised with, and using, the Web. Gen Z is even more mobile than millennials as they typically rely on using tablets and smartphones. Worse, they have the shortest attention span compared to any other previous generation. Recently an interesting Forbes article, Generation Z: 10 Stats From SXSW You Need To Knowhighlights many pertinent Gen Z facts but more importantly for L&D are bullets 2, 3, and 4. They say that pictures speak a thousand words…have a look at this infographic… L&D are facing a huge challenge!

There must be some type of (r) evolution considering the options available to deploying L&D solutions that is inclusive. This technology (r) evolution is accelerating forcing L&D to rethink its place and how it moves forward.

Finally, ‘the learning curve is the earning curve’ resonates with millennials and older generations alike. In the Bersin by Deloitte report, “The Future of Corporate Learning – Ten Disruptive Trends“, people are increasingly seeking additional knowledge or education. In the last four years, 35 Million people enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs), with 2015 enrolments doubling 2014 (Bersin et al.).

It’s safe to assume that L&D’s is an endangered species and I say, so be it! If L&D can’t evolve with the new need then should we let it die? But what then of the workforce that likes and feel safe in traditional methods of delivery?  Do we need to find a different way – a way that supports all employees? From its ashes what we have is a stronger, more innovative, more adaptable and a more relevant L&D to rise. Be part of the solution and not part of the legacy.  Align with your business leader’s needs, adapt your learning solutions to meet generational expectations, and seamlessly integrate technology to facilitate the learning process. Simply doing just one of these things will make you an indispensable part of the L&D revolution and for your organization as well.

What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss something that will revive or possibly kill L&D? Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn this week Thursday, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!

 

 

The Trouble with Tribbles: Traditional Smile Sheets. Lovable? Or Exponentially Dangerous?

Will bookSmile sheets, happy sheets, reaction forms, response forms, learner evaluations, level 1’s. The same thing, different names.

In a 2016 ATD survey, 88% of respondents reported that their organizations used smile sheets, yet only 44% said their learning measurement efforts were supporting their organization’s learning goals.

In two meta-analyses—studies of many scientific studies—traditional smile sheets have been found to be virtually uncorrelated with learning results, with correlations r = .09. That’s like correlating the daily number of my footsteps with the number of Patti Shank’s social-media posts. Not highly related, with the slight negative correlation being due to me being riveted by Patti’s brilliance, which keeps me from walking away from my computer screen!

Smile sheets are ubiquitous, but they are clearly not effective—in their current form—for giving us feedback about the success or weaknesses of our learning interventions. And, aren’t we, as learning professionals, sort of charged with ensuring that what we’re doing is working? Shouldn’t we get good feedback and make improvements?

Maybe we should just throw them out… On the other hand, there are many reasons besides getting good feedback to use smile sheets. From my recently published book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form, I offer the following list, which I borrowed and modified from measurement expert Rob Brinkerhoff:

  1. Red-flagging training programs that are not sufficiently effective.
  2. Gathering ideas for ongoing updates and revision of a learning program.
  3. Judging strengths and weaknesses of a pilot program to enable revision.
  4. Providing instructors with feedback to aid their development.
  5. Helping learners reflect on and reinforce what they learned.
  6. Helping learners determine what (if anything) they plan to do with their learning.
  7. Capturing learner satisfaction data to understand—and make decisions that relate to—the reputation of the training and/or the instructors.
  8. Upholding the spirit of common courtesy by giving learners a chance for feedback.
  9. Enabling learner frustrations to be vented—to limit damage from negative back-channel communications.

In the book, I focus on the first four—the ones related to getting good feedback. I wrote the book because I think we can create better smile sheets. Not perfect smile sheets! There’s no such thing as a perfect measurement tool, and in the complex world of learning, this is doubly true. But organizations will still use smile sheets, so if we can make them better, we should. Also, as the list above shows, there are other reasons to use smile sheets.

To create better smile sheets—better in enabling feedback—we have two imperatives. First, we have to ask questions that give us information related to learning. Second, we have to ensure that our questions give us results that are more actionable. When a course is rated using a traditional smile sheet at a 4.1, it causes two HUGE problems. First, it enables bias. There is no clear standard for whether a 4.1, 4.3, etc. is acceptable or not. So, we evaluate the number based on our biases. Second, these numeric responses also create paralysis within our organizations. Because we don’t know what a 4.1 means, we stick with the status quo, which too often means we stick with learning interventions that are not as effective as they might be.

For further reading before our chat, here is an article that describes what improved smile sheet questions might look like:

https://www.td.org/Publications/Magazines/TD/TD-Archive/2016/02/Its-Time-for-a-New-Type-of-Smile-Sheet

 

What can L+D learn from product management?

Today’s post is written by Holly MacDonald, #chat2lrn crew member and Chief Spark at Spark + Co located on an island off the coast of BC in Western Canada. Holly is an instructional designer, consultant, serial dog walker and a self-confessed whale nerd. Find her on Twitter @sparkandco.

According to wikipedia:

Product management is an organizational lifecycle function within a company dealing with the planning, forecasting, and production, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.

In L+D, we often focus on what goes into our instructional product (content), but less about WHO uses it, WHY they use it, WHEN they use it etc. We tend to think of our work in terms of “projects” not products, but what if we changed our perspective?

What if we developed instructional products? What lessons could we learn from product management?

Lifecycle

Product managers are guided by the following principles:

  • Products have a limited life and thus every product has a life cycle.
  • Product sales pass through distinct stages, each posing different challenges, opportunities, and problems to the seller.
  • Products require different marketing, financing, manufacturing, purchasing, and human resource strategies in each life cycle stage.

Lessons for L+D

We could develop principles for our instructional products.

How do we develop instructional products to make maintenance or sustainment easier? Do we even consider that? Do we start a “project” thinking about it’s lifespan and how things might be different on launch than 2 years down the road? For our audience and for ourselves? Do we consider product roadmaps?

Planning

Product planning involves relentless focus on the customer – using tools like Customer Discovery – the product manager is always thinking about their customers and how to deliver their product to their customer segments. They often use techniques like the “Fuzzy Front End” – which is the conceptual idea stage of the product. Some also use the “Minimum Viable Product” methodology to test their design.

Lessons for L+D

This is analogous to our analysis phase, however do we ensure that we define our customer on every instructional product? Do we truly define the problem that our instructional product will solve? Are we focused on our customers? Do we understand that our customers and users are not the same?  Do we do an FFE? Could we adopt a Minimum Viable Product methodology?

Forecasting

Product managers know their competitors – who are yours? Who vies for your customer’s attention? They also scan the competitive landscape to determine what influences are happening: political, economic, social, and technological.

Lessons for L+D

What is going on in your “market” that you need to keep tabs on? Do you do any forecasting around external forces? Do we anticipate what our business/client is going to need in the future? Are we prepared to provide that?

Production

Product managers of course spend a lot of time on producing their product. They use techniques like “design thinking”. Consider all of the things that are designed: teapots, cars, solar panels, chainsaws, electric cars, stand up desks (and a bazillion other things). Take the lowly door. Even doors can be designed in a way that’s right or wrong. A door that isn’t designed well is a “Norman Door”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY96hTb8WgI

Lessons for L+D

Do we approach design in the same way? Do we look at the overall process of design from all angles: http://alistapart.com/article/design-for-real-life-excerpt. Can we resist the pressure to just jump in and start building? Do you have “safeguards” in place so you don’t build a “Norman Course”.

Marketing

There’s been variations on the “Marketing Mix“, or the “P’s” of marketing – product, price, promotion, place, (and in some instances, 5 P’s, adding profit) and more variation for service businesses (adding physical evidence, people and process to the mix) and even more for more “digital products” for decades. However you think about it, product managers use a model for marketing their products.

Lessons for L+D

Could we use some of  the “P’s” for our instructional products or adapt them to instructional products?

We’d love to know what you think. What CAN we in L+D learn from product management? Come and join us on April 7th to share your ideas, insights, questions, challenges and concerns.