Thursday, August 9, 2012

Using Current Design Methodologies to Create New Ones

By Danielle Slatinsky

Lance Dublin, Chief Solutions Architect at Dublin Consulting, hosted a webinar on March 6th titled “A Whack on the Head: Re-thinking Learning Design.” Dublin encouraged listeners to create and reformat learning designs instead of only using existing modules. He is really interested in finding alternative solutions to solving problems.

Dublin started out the webinar by showing a picture of a bicycle with no spokes. He said how fascinated he was when he first saw this picture, because he never would have thought to create a picture like that. He emphasized how design is not a department in a building; rather, it is a behavior or attitude.

Studying various learning tools and taking what we like from them to form our own tools is a very creative process. Dublin asked the audience what a new model for learning design would look like, and he encouraged a thought process that is creative and combines multiple approaches.

He referenced current design methodologies such as ADDIE, HPT, BPR, Six Sigma, LEAN, and AGILE. He stated that while these are all excellent resources, we should be learning from them to make new methodologies instead of continuing to use the same ones.

Branching Out and Expanding Resources

Dublin focused on how many people try to utilize everything they know about how a problem started when trying to solve a problem. According to him, learning designers need to look into the future instead of the past for problem solving by examining learning and organization trends. Solutions should all be interrelated and expandable.

It can be helpful to seek inspiration from great innovators of the past. Dublin referenced Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Frank Llyod Wright, and Wayne Gretzky as good role models for how to create something new.

As technology expands, so does innovation and competition in the workplace. Everything is expected to be done at a greater speed and at a lower cost. Dublin explained this point further by saying that while all of these things increase, resources such as money, people, and time often decrease. Thankfully, wireless networks allow for resources to be used in an optimal manner. The entire world is networked together, making location irrelevant.

Current Methodologies and Possible Innovations

Dublin explained how these days it seems that just good enough is considered alright. Learning designers don't have enough time to provide superior performance, so they need to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

Next, Dublin briefly described the current design methodologies used for learning development. He started with ADDIE, which is a five phase instructional design model. As often discussed, this model is very generic, and there are multiple variations of it. Then he described Human Performance Technology (HPT), which strives to improve competence and productivity by using three processes: performance analysis, cause analysis, and intervention selection. Dublin asserted that this model has value and encourages thinking more holistically.

After that, Dublin mentioned Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), and he explained how this consists of an analysis of processes within a company. For example, an organization that follows this methodology would examine what is effective and ineffective for them, and then figure out how to get the organization where it needs to be.

Another design methodology Dublin brought up is Six Sigma; this is an approach that is data-driven with a goal of eliminating variability. It is a measurement-based design strategy that focuses on improving processes. While Six Sigma positively impacted multiple organizations, many companies switched to LEAN because it has the advantage of speed combined with good qualities from Six Sigma. Lastly, Dublin described how AGILE is a software development methodology that focuses on incremental and iterative development. AGILE is being increasingly adopted within the learning development community.

When Dublin finished explaining various design methodologies, he transitioned by saying that there are alternative methods other than ADDIE. He focused on the importance of new design and how learning designers should take what they like from each methodology to create their own.

Dublin then went on to explain his new learning design, which consists of eight points. Below is a brief description of his eight points:

  1. It is important to work from right to left. Begin by understanding the problem that needs to be solved, and then try to solve it.
  2. Defining metrics and success is essential. Examine how the organization will measure success, and keep the audience in mind.
  3. Speed is crucial, so be ready to move faster if needed.
  4. Make sure to understand what the audience wants.
  5. Gain knowledge of processes and develop learning processes.
  6. Create multimedia environments that enhance performance.
  7. Don't get too committed to one thing.
  8. Be a good people person. Add value to the product.

Dublin concluded the webinar by saying that his way is not the only right way. He encouraged listeners to create their own methodologies and branch out from the structures of the past in order to make the way for the future.

Which methodologies are you currently using or considering?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Utilizing Social Media to Improve Social Learning

By Danielle Slatinsky

In my last post, I listed the 5 benefits of the Web Clark Quinn identified for social learning in his “Best of mLearnCon: How Mobile Enables Social Learning” webinar. Today, we’ll look at the various social media platforms Quinn identified as being useful.

Advantages of Blogging

Quinn has his own blog,, and he explained how it has helped him and how it can help other people. Writing on a blog can help the writer think more clearly about their ideas. Sometimes it is very beneficial to put your ideas on paper, or in this case, online. Another benefit is that feedback can really help shape your ideas, similar to a response team.

Quinn provided an example about a CEO who blogged internally about how the executive team was striving to survive the recession in the economy. When the employees saw the effort of the executive team they were inspired by all that they were doing to save the company, and because of this they were more loyal to the company. Sharing can be very powerful.

Formally, blogging can be used for reflections on newly learned material. Employees can write about how the new material will change things going forward. It can be helpful to require a certain number of posts over a length of time. Informally, blogging can be used for leader reflections, product directions, and product advancements.

In addition to blogging, discussion forums can also be very beneficial for corporate learning and improvement.

Using Discussion Forums for Corporate Improvement

Discussion forums, such as LinkedIn, have been very helpful for many companies. Ford utilized a discussion forum to create discussion about a new car, and they used the feedback from customers to make improvements. Ace Hardware created an internal discussion forum for people to share knowledge and ask questions. This allowed for a stream of useful information for the employees.

Quinn talked about how discussion forums can be used formally to elaborate on concepts, post responses, provide ideas, or ask questions. They can be used informally to talk about issues, ask questions, have an ongoing discussion, or debate topics. Typically people give more thoughtful responses when they have time to sit and think about it instead of being put on the spot.

Another way to use social media is to create a wiki.

The Value of Wikis

Quinn provided the example of how Sun created a wiki for the development of Java to show the value of wikis. He said that the interaction with the market greatly improved the product. He also explained how Intel used wikis to create a glossary. They acquired many companies with different vocabularies. They were spending too much time defining terms, so they created the glossary as a solution. Employees could reference it as needed, and new employees could learn the terms through the wiki.

Formally, wikis can be used for collaboration, win and loss stories, or to improve course guides for learners. Informally, people can use wikis for white paper development, project documentation, policy/procedure development, or joint writing.

Quinn went on to discuss the ways that sharing media files can help a company.

Sharing Media Files

According to Quinn, Home Depot created several 'how to' videos for employees and customers. This led to people using their products with more ease. An engineering firm had multiple white papers that employees needed to read, but they could not find the time to do so. The company decided to turn the white papers into audio files and podcasts so the employees could listen to them while driving. These are just a couple examples of the benefits of media files.

Media files can be used formally for a sales pitch, to capture examples or best practices, or for dynamic captures. They can be used informally for communication or to share a problem.

Another aspect of social media Quinn emphasized is online profiles.

Online Profiles for Networking

Quinn explained how SAP set up an external network for their customers where they could get support or identify employees who were helpful to others. CAT used profiles for an internal network so they could create teams with similar skills.

Formally, online profiles can be used for social purposes, to friend others, to explain why you are taking a course, or to include something surprising. Informally, they can be used to describe what your interests are, what your expertise is, or to search for expertise.

Another way to gain and share knowledge is to subscribe to a blog.

Gain Knowledge by Subscribing to Blogs

Subscribing to other blogs is a great way to track what other people are thinking. Subscribing to blogs can be beneficial formally by tracking courses and instructors or tracking other learners. Reading about what your instructors find interesting may be advantageous while taking a course. It can be helpful informally by tracking experts, leaders, projects, or looking at diverse fields. It is important to keep up-to-date on information in your field, and it can also be good to see what is going on in other fields as well.

Using a microblog may also be helpful for companies.

How to Utilize a Microblog

An example of a great microblog is Twitter. Quinn used Twitter to help him with a job. He needed to be familiar with Oracle, so he tweeted to ask if anyone could give him information on Oracle Connect or Mix. A guy who wrote Oracle actually responded, and Clark was able to set up a phone call with him. He got all of his questions answered, and he was very prepared for his new job.

A microblog can be used for a knowledge check, clarifications, status updates, comments, quick questions or responses, and quick pointers. In many cases microblogs such as Twitter are very useful when used correctly.

Applying What You Learned to the Corporate World

Social media is integrated into the lives of nearly everybody. We cannot stop the signal, so we need to learn how to take advantage of it instead. We need to provide time for reflection and create an environment where it is safe to contribute. We should be collecting data and improving it. There are so many ways to utilize social media to enhance the learning environment.

Mobile devices are also a channel for existing needs, and they can be used in addition to social learning. A mobile device has context awareness, meaning that the device knows where it is and it has a camera that can capture images and videos. People can use this to connect with others near them, find someone with a special expertise, or do things specific to their location.

Quinn concluded his webinar by explaining ways we can annotate the world. He said to take action, have a village mentality, create a profile, join twitter, blog at least two to four times a week, follow blogs, contribute to discussions, post media files, and just be active. Find ways to use mobile devices to accomplish these tasks while out.

This cannot be done all at once, but you can slowly integrate social media into your corporation to fully utilize the benefits that technology has to offer.

Do you use social media in your corporation learning?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quinn’s 5 Benefits of the Web for Social Learning

By Danielle Slatinsky

Clark Quinn, who has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, held a webinar on May 23, 2012 titled “Best of mLearnCon: How Mobile Enables Social Learning.” He focused on the strong connection between learning and computers, and how technology offers the two converging factors of the social web and user-generated content.

This blog post highlights key points Quinn made during the webinar.

Quinn started out the webinar by saying how there are five types of things which give users the power of the web. These benefits are:
  1. Things are findable or searchable.
  2. Things are editable; we can modify and improve existing information.
  3. Things are linkable, and we can link to the ever-changing content instead of simply sharing the content.
  4. Things are tagable, so you can edit information around the content.
  5. Things are feedable or subscribable; users can choose what content they want to see.
Quinn went on to say how formal learning is declining, and it is considered novice. A mix of formal and informal learning is considered practitioner. And informal learning is rising and considered expert, because people need to collaborate with other people and share ideas.

The two main points of the webinar were eCommunity and Broader Distribution. Quinn focused on various forms of social media, and how they can be used to enhance social learning.

The Importance of Social Media

Quinn emphasized the benefits of utilizing social media, and it mainly boils down to this: the more people working on a product the better the outcome.

The power of social media is shown through the ability to update information after a problem is solved. When there is a breakdown in available information found on a topic, people need to have an avenue to find the desired information. At this point, people go into problem solving mode, and they search for information through data, models, people, etc. Once they solve the problem, they can reflect on the new information and update it online. They can edit existing information, or add new data they found while searching for the answer to their problem. After the information is updated, people that come across the same breakdown in information later will be able to solve their problem easily by using the updated resource.

In addition to sharing new and updated information, you can also use social media to improve an idea for a product. Once you have an idea, you need to go through a process before creating a product. Multiple people need to look at what you want to produce, and they can create a response team. Then you can integrate their responses into the creation of your product, and with the outside viewpoints the product will ideally be improved. This can be accomplished in a few ways; for example, a very effective one is blogging.

In my next post, I’ll outline social media platforms Quinn suggested using for learning such as blogs, forums, wikis, online profiles, and microblogs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Preparing for Virtual Training

By Danielle Slatinsky

Cindy Huggett, author and online trainer, delivered a webinar titled “Virtual Training Implementations: Preparing for Success” on April 19, 2012. She mainly discussed ways to successfully utilize online training for corporate learning.

A challenge you may face in the workplace is how to switch to virtual classroom technology from traditional, in-person methods of training. The 2011 Training Industry Report showed that “76% of organizations report using virtual classroom technologies (up from 71% over previous year).” This shows a significant increase in the use of online training.

Before we go further into how to implement online training, it is important to understand the definition of virtual training. Cindy defines virtual training as an instructor-led, online class that includes participants from various locations. There are four types of online training: meetings, presentations, seminars, and training classes. Each type varies in the amount of interaction from participants and trainers.

Cindy described many “best practices” that will help make the transition into virtual learning smooth and effective.

Best Practices
  1. Define it. You need to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the expectations for the online training. Explain what type of sessions will be held (meeting, presentation, seminar, or training class). Explain if it will be a casual learning environment where participants can eat lunch and e-mail, or if it will be a more structured learning environment where participants will be expected to interact and be responsive.
  2. Involve the right people. It is very important to get support and buy in early on. Figure out who needs to be involved: trainers/facilitators, IT department, designers, managers, participants, etc.
  3. Thoughtfully select facilitators. Be sure to prepare facilitators on the virtual delivery and platform. Facilitators will need adequate prep time. Consider what facilitators will need: headsets instead of speaker phones, correct technology, and possibly a co-facilitator. A co-facilitator is someone who can assist with technology and delivery.
  4. Consider scheduling. It is necessary to consider the schedules of participants. If the participants are in a different time zone, then arrangements need to be made to accommodate them. Virtual training is not necessarily on a typical 9-5 timetable.
  5. Create an appropriate learning environment. Find a good spot for effective learning. Maybe set up a room specifically for training where learners can focus. If participants need to be at their desk, then it is good to at least have them clear off their desk to reduce distractions.
In addition to her five best practices, Cindy also discussed three “must dos.”

Must Dos
  1. Prepare facilitators. Facilitators need a different skill set from classroom trainers. They need to be able to multi-task, engage with an unseen audience, and use technology. They also need to learn a virtual platform.
  2. Prepare participants. Before conducting online training, make sure the participants are ready to get the most out of the training. Check to see if they have an appropriate learning environment. Find out if they have the necessary technology. Ask if they will have any distractions that will keep them from focusing for extended periods of time.
  3. Get details right. Administrative work needs to be done before the virtual training begins. A process for logistics needs to be established in regards to how the participants will get handouts, who the communicator will be, whether or not there will be a discussion board, etc. It is also very imperative to send out correct connection information, including proper links, handouts, and session times.
Cindy also provided a few practical tips for the successful implementation of virtual training.

Practical Tips
  1. Check technology. Participants need to have the right technology in order to receive the online training. They need to know ahead of time if they will have to install software or obtain headsets.
  2. Have a kick-off session. You might find it beneficial to provide an overview of the training before it begins. Include a welcome message from leadership. Teach learners how to participate in an online environment. Give them an opportunity to experience what it is like to use a virtual platform.
  3. Conduct technology checks. Test the audio to make sure the participants will be able to hear the training.
  4. Involve the participants' managers. A participant should not have to worry about their boss thinking they are playing online games instead of working. It might also be helpful if the manager tries not to disturb the participant during the training so they can focus on learning.
  5. Have backup plans. As everybody has experienced at one time or another: technology fails. Make sure to have a plan in place so that if the technology does fail, the training does not have to stop.
As the major shift from traditional classroom training to virtual training continues, these best practices, must dos, and practical tips that Cindy provided will prove very helpful.

Do you already use these methods when planning your own virtual training sessions?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ways to Improve the Effectiveness of eLearning

By Danielle Slatinsky

Training Magazine Network hosted a webinar on April 10, 2012 titled “Making eLearning Stick.” Dr. Barbara Carnes, author and CEO of Carnes & Associates, Inc., was the main speaker, and more information about her work is available here.

Dr. Carnes mainly discussed the reasons why information learned through eLearning is not typically retained, and she also provided ways to make sure that eLearning sticks in participants' minds.

Common Frustrations with eLearning

Dr. Carnes started the webinar by explaining that many people are frustrated with training programs because the completion rates for eLearning and webinars is very low. Developers spend a substantial amount of time creating training programs that are designed to be meaningful, and people are not applying what they learn to their jobs.

Scrap learning is a term Dr. Carnes used to describe learning that is not applied in the workplace. The key to avoiding scrap learning is in the training transfer, according to Dr. Carnes. Training transfer means that the knowledge and skills gained in training are transferred, or applied, to the job.

What Contributes to Effective Learning?

Based on Dr. Carnes' research, there are three components that contribute to the effectiveness of eLearning: pre-work, learning event, and follow-up. Pre-work, such as a questionnaire or survey, contributes about 25% to learning effectiveness. The learning event, or eLearning training course, also contributes about 25%. Follow-up actually contributes the most; it impacts the effectiveness of training by roughly 50%, which is twice the amount of pre-work and the learning event. Ironically, follow-up is usually the least implemented event.

In Dr. Carnes' presentation she listed a variety of learning content and activities: active participation, relevant content, learning goals, behavior modeling, self-management strategies, strategy link, and error-based examples. She specifically focused on error-based examples and strategy link. Error-based examples are not commonly used, and she said that they lead to higher levels of training transfer when they are coupled with good examples. Strategy link consists of linking core content to teaching objectives, mission goals, or the business strategy. This helps participants see the larger scope and relevance of the training.

Methods for Knowledge Retention

Dr. Carnes listed many T.I.E.s, or Techniques to Integrate Education. These techniques should be used before, during, and after learning, regardless of the content. They can be used for new or existing training presentations, and they increase the training transfer.

For example, a pre-training briefing is beneficial to provide expectations and encourage a positive attitude about the training purpose. Dr. Carnes suggested sending out an e-mail from the boss before training, which should include what they will learn, how they will apply it to the job, and what could happen if they do not learn the material.

There are a multitude of methods that can be used during the training to improve retention. Studies have shown that it helps if participants are asked to close their e-mail or other applications while learning because distractions increase the time it takes to learn. Pop-up reflections containing self-regulation questions are also advantageous. A pop-up reflection asks the participants rhetorical questions to get them to think about what they are learning, such as “Do I understand the key points in the training material?” or “Are the study strategies I'm using helping me remember the content?”

Another method that can be effective is threaded discussions. Dr. Carnes mentioned that interaction leads to better outcomes. It is important to use open-ended questions in threaded discussions, and it is also helpful to require a certain amount of responses. These threads allow the participants to process the material and think critically about the content. When you take this approach, you will need someone to monitor and track the dialogues.

At the end of training, summarize the material and have participants reflect on ways they can apply it. Dr. Carnes discussed the method of asking learners to write a note to themselves about what they learned and how they intend to apply it to their work. She also brought up the idea of using a training transfer certificate instead of a certificate of completion. With this tactic participants do not get credit for the course until they answer a questionnaire or survey three to six weeks after the training.

The common theme of these retention methods is increased, relevant interactivity.

Relapse Prevention

Dr. Carnes concluded the webinar by talking about relapse prevention, which should take place at the end of training. Methods such as conducting a specific and structured group discussion will help avoid loss of knowledge gained. These discussions can include topics about the benefits of using the training, the possible obstacles with applying the training, and ways to overcome those obstacles. This process is similar to what rehab facilities use before they release patients.

By applying these methods to eLearning before, during, and after the learning process, it will be much more likely that participants retain the training and apply it in the workplace.

Do you already use any of these methods for eLearning?