Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mobile Learning in a Consumer Driven Market

By Danielle Slatinsky

Stacey Harris, VP of Research for Brandon Hall Group, and Mark Hellinger, President and CEO of Xyleme, led a webinar called “Let's Get Mobile: Changing Your Concept of Mobile Content Design and Delivery” on February 21, 2012. Brandon Hall Group, a research based analyst and advisory firm, hosted the webinar.

Mark and Stacey started out the presentation by explaining that many people struggle with getting Mobile Learning, or m-Learning, set up. Creating a Mobile Learning environment is a big process that consists of more than simply transferring e-Learning content over to mobile devices.

Stacey commented on how m-Learning has been a major topic of discussion since 2002, and the use of m-Learning is pretty low considering that it has been talked about at conferences for about 10 years. She stated that m-Learning is not only an issue of technology, but it correlates with the changes taking place in the economy. There has been a shift in how people view learning and what their expectations are.

According to Stacey, a shift is taking place as we move from the Information Age to a Social or Communication Age. Mark and Stacey continued the presentation by showing how people need to shift learning formats in this Social or Communication Age.

Transitioning to m-Learning

Many changes need to be made in the way learning programs are developed. Mark stated that a very fundamental shift needs to take place in organizations as they make extreme changes. Content development needs to move away from large annual courses to agile quarterly courses.

Some difficulties arise when organizations switch over to m-Learning. Mark explained how it can be hard to implement m-Learning because the tools that were used for e-Learning are not easy to transfer to mobile and multiple delivery options. Mark said that this change is inevitable though because learners need to access the content they need in a format they want.

Learner requirements need different design considerations. Stacey explained how consumers are currently looking for easy to use and intuitive learning environments. Mark supported this by saying how the focus has shifted from what is easy for the content creator to what is easy for consumers. Currently, social learning on mobile devices is what is easy for consumers.

Social Learning on Mobile Devices

Learning has morphed from classroom to e-Learning and now to m-Learning. Mark commented on how learning is now focused around m-Learning and social networking. People need to be connected to a community that can help them learn, and mobile and social learning are converging together to accomplish this.

Stacey explained how learning is now relationship centered, as opposed to teaching or learner centered, and that this style of learning focuses on relationships, people, work, and content. Social learning is larger than individual learning: it is made effective by the act of learning in a group and forming relationships.

Social learning needs to connect with social living, or social environment. People desire to interact in social learning in the same way they interact in social living, which can consist of Facebook, Twitter, etc. Stacey showed how social living mostly takes place in a mobile environment.

Stacey and Mark continued the presentation by discussing tablets and smartphones. Stacey commented on how there is a huge interest in tablets, especially since the Kindle Fire came out. Mark explained how tablets are excellent learning devices, and smartphones are great performance support devices. M-Learning offers the ability to serve different audiences for a variety of purposes. Mark reiterated the importance of building content that can reach different audiences because simply building content is not enough.

Stacey concluded the presentation by explaining how imperative it is to meet consumer driven expectations. M-Learning needs to be optimal not only in content but also in screen resolutions, touch screen, audio, etc. An understanding of tools and applications is very important in addition to content strategy. One of the most important aspects to remember when designing m-Learning is that in this new market people want to be a part of the dialogue and a community of learners.

Have you started to switch from e-Learning to m-Learning in your organization?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Atlanta eLearning & Coffee, March 28, 2012

Several Atlanta eLearning professionals are gathering March 28th at 4pm for an informal eLearning & coffee meet-up to discuss mobile learning development techniques,
The meet-up's overall topic will be "what are you doing for mobile?" Each of us is approaching mobile development a little differently, so the idea is to share from our experiences.
We will meet at Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, Walton Coffee House, 6640 Akers Mill Road SE Atlanta, GA 30339. If you are not familiar with the coffee shop, it's in the back of an apartment complex, but with a scenic view overlooking the Chattahoochee River (across from Ray's).
Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Strategic Learning Plans for Innovative Companies

By Danielle Slatinsky

Allen Krom from ACD Learning Solutions led a very informative webinar March 1st on strategic learning plans titled “Developing a Strategic Learning Plan for Small and Medium sized Business.” He described how strategic learning plans are the difference between having a planned strategy and simply coming up with ideas that are never implemented. The strategic learning plan is the link between ideas and business goals.

In today's economy, learning becomes secondary because learning budgets are frequently cut. Learning plans take a certain amount of trial and error as well as exploration. Krom compared strategic learning plans to Thomas Edison's attitude towards inventing the light bulb. Edison did not see his thousands of failed attempts at inventing the light bulb as a waste of time; rather, he said the he discovered thousands of ways not to invent the light bulb. Effectively applying this attitude to strategic learning plans requires an open mind and willingness to modify plans as needed.

Krom described that there are two types of learning plans: formal and informal. Most learning takes place informally, typically between co-workers and peers. Learning does not necessarily always take place in a classroom; co-workers often share knowledge between each other and ask questions as they come up. Krom compared strategic learning programs to an iceberg. Only a small fraction of an iceberg appears on the surface, and the majority of it is under water. The majority of learning happens under the surface as opposed to in the open.

Krom continued on to describe the main components that make up effective strategic learning plans.

The Four Main Topics for Effective Learning Plans

According to Krom, there are four general topics that are the most important when it comes to strategic learning plans. The first one is alignment, which means that the learning plan lines up with the goals of the company. For a learning plan to be successful, it needs to have a projected goal that aligns with what the company desires to accomplish. The second topic is awareness; the team members need to know where this learning plan should take the company. This third point is adaptation, which involves getting everyone in the business involved in the development of that plan and in agreement about the direction it needs to take. The final topic is accountability; every team member needs to be accountable for certain tasks and responsibilities for the learning plan to be effective.

To provide more depth on the topic, Krom mentioned how the people who create strategic learning plans are similar to reporters in the sense that they need to ask a series of questions and evaluate the answers to create their plan.

Investigative Planners

Krom explained how strategic learning planners need to ask the questions: who, what, when, where, how, and why? They need to figure out what the importance of advancing the knowledge of team members is. The targeted audience for learning is very important to consider, and the return on the investment is another factor. The team members also need to consider whether the learning is for an independent pursuit of knowledge or mandatory for every member of the company. In addition, planners need to decide if the learning will take place online or in a classroom setting.

Krom suggested a separate room for learning apart from the workplace where employees can partake in online learning or read books on the topic. He explained that some people find work a scary or tense environment, especially if they work in cubicles, and learning is more effective in a relaxed environment. He also pointed out that there is a smaller amount of time devoted to learning these days. People do not typically attend long seminars; rather, they take in information as quickly as possible through technology that is easily accessible.

After a strategic learning plan is created, it needs to be implemented in the workplace.


Once a learning plan is established, Krom said that the end results of the plan should be considered. The company needs to decide where they want to be in the future. Learning plans can either be short-term or long-term, and the length should be decided by the team members. The creators of the learning plan should get a group together and present the plan. They need to prove the importance of the plan to executives and stakeholders. The budget and specific goals need to be established for the plan to have clear direction. Krom emphasized how imperative it is for executives, middle-management, and employees to buy into the strategic learning plan in order for it to be effective.

Krom's next point was that there needs to be follow-up after the learning plan is implemented in order for it to mold to the changing needs of the company.

Follow-up is the Key

The main goal of a strategic learning plan is to improve job performance. Krom used the Kirkpatrick Model to discuss the follow-up process. This process consists of four steps: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. Reaction is how the participants feel about the learning experience. Learning is the increased knowledge that results from the training. Behavior is the application of the acquired knowledge to the job. Results of the training can be assessed by performance or revenue. Krom stressed the importance of using the feedback to change the learning plan in order to help the employees and company in the best way possible.

Has your company developed and implemented a strategic learning plan?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Social Learning in the Corporate World

By Danielle Slatinsky

Karen O'Leonard, a principal Bersin & Associates analyst, recently wrote an interesting article titled “Investments in Social Learning.” This article discusses how corporate learning is becoming social, employee-driven, and collaborative. According to O'Leonard, an effective learning environment should incorporate collaborative problem solving. Basic content is not enough to produce fruitful employees, and that is why corporations need to provide context for the content in an interactive manner.

Here are some other points she made.

The Need for Mixed Learning Environments

Learning organizations are finding that they need to create new learning environments with a mixture of formal and informal learning instead of simply redesigning programs they already use. Formal learning entails instructor led learning, testing, e-learning, simulations, and other more traditional forms of instruction. Informal learning can be broken up into three categories: on-demand (search, books, articles, podcasts, etc.), embedded (performance support, rotational assignments, after action reviews, etc.), and social (wikis, blogs, social networks, expert directories, etc.).

Examples of Informal Social Learning

In the article, O'Leonard mainly focuses on the social category of informal learning and gave three primary examples: communities of practice, blogs/wikis/discussion forums, and expertise directories.

Communities of practice are a very popular tool for social learning. They allow learners to share ideas and interact with others about a specific topic of common interest. The goal of this interaction is to provide learners with a way to further their knowledge on a subject and build relationships with
members of the group. O’Leonard cited Cisco, a company that has developed and implemented hundreds of these communities to supply support information to their employees.

Blogs, wikis, and discussion forums can also be very effective tools for social learning. Blogs are typically used to share information with a large audience; for example, Symantec created a blog right before launching a new product and this allowed employees to gain a basic understanding of the product before receiving formal training. Wikis are also used to share information, but wikis are created and modified by a group as opposed to an individual. And online discussion forums provide an outlet for employees to discuss specific topics, similar to communities of practice.

Expertise directories are another form of social learning that are an extension of corporate contact directories. These directories provide a searchable database of employees and their areas of expertise. This allows employees to find people in the database that can inform them about a specific subject. Employees are able to send an email or start a discussion about a question, and then the directory sends the question to experts on the topic.

New Vision of Social Learning

O'Leonard writes about how The Cheesecake Factory is successfully using social learning to improve their corporate training in regards to employee performance and engagement. Before The Cheesecake Factory implemented this new social learning, employees were learning content through volumes of paper-based checklists and workbooks.

Now, a new video-based and YouTube inspired platform called “VideoCafe” allows employees to access short videos about an array of work and social topics, such as an executive chef depicting the flavor and origins of a signature dish. Core vignettes supplement the videos, and employees receive attached knowledge checks.

The response to this new style of video-based learning has been encouraging and extremely positive. After a recent addition of new menu items, employees of The Cheesecake Factory commented on how the videos really helped them connect to the content they were learning as well as to their leadership team. They reported that they were able to master skills much more quickly and effectively than they would have by reading and studying a workbook.

The Growing Amount of Money Spent on Informal Learning

O'Leonard concludes her article by commenting on how a growing number of corporations are spending money on tools for informal learning. This new era of learning environments is leading the way for social learning in the corporate world.

Has your organization put any of these into action?