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My Day 3 of LS2011  kicked off with Jeff Blackman’s Wonderful Widgets! Creating Cool Interactions in Adobe Captivate. I was very excited to discover the potential of widgets, which I had not yet explored, despite 6 months experience developing many Captivate demos and simulations (and very fun ads), which included branching, variable text fields, and ties to an enterprise assessment system for in-depth reporting. The presenter, Jeff Blackman did not disappoint. [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Jeff, a former Disney character trainer (with his Ducktorate Degree-I asked!), really put on a show.[/blockquote]First, let’s talk presenter. Jeff, a former Disney character trainer (with his Ducktorate Degree-I asked!), really put on a show. This was needed for an early morning session on the last day of a conference in a session that was packed out the back doors.  He really demonstrated masterful facilitation of the session, keeping the mood fun and engaging without mocking the quality of the information he was sharing- despite the use of Mike “The Situation” on one of his slides (but even Tom used Charlie Sheen during the Ignite presentation, right?). It really showed how well-employed humor can really help keep an intimidating topic for many attendees more approachable, and just wake up the room during an early session Widgets are simply pre-built functions (Flash files as shown in the screenshot above) you can drop into your Captivatev4 or above project (by selecting Insert>Widget from the main menu). Some widgets are a little trickier than others, but overall, they have a drop-on-the-page-and-configure-using-a-wizard design. Jeff live demo’d a few widgets. Admitting that he was self-taught and not Flash literate helped Jeff drive the point that this is an approachable feature to add some neat functionality to a project, and active experimentation is the best way to really learn how to use widgets. So, let’s talk about some of the widgets (and some things I’ve learned since the presentation): [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Perpetual button– When you drop this into your project, it adds a standard forward/back button set to your screens, and does some nice aut0-configuration (first slide only shows the forward, last slide only shows back- no tweaks needed, it’s hard-baked into the widget). You can resize and place the items, but you aren’t able to change color and design without bringing it into Flash and editing (which isn’t too difficult with basic Flash knowledge).
  • Go to Slide– This creates a drop-down (or combo) box to enable the user to select a slide to navigate to. This replicates the baseline functionality of the TOC (it doesn’t include progress tracking and slide timing). If you are like me, and don’t love the TOC design in Captivate, this can provide a pretty streamlined alternative (but you do give up some functionality).
  • Checkbox – Creates a list of text items with checkboxes a user can select. The selected items can pass variables. You can use this for several functions, but an example could be passing text values to branch users to different topic areas (routing to pages based on selected items).
  • Help – This creates a popup window for more text to appear. That text can include links and media. I believe this required a right-click unless you brought it into Flash to adapt the code (it should be possible to recode it for a standard click or hover, and if needed to release a window to target _blank). Apologies I cannot confirm at this time, I have plans to use it, but haven’t found it for Captivate 4 yet. It was also noted that the standard graphic provided (a question mark) could not be substituted from the widget menu. It would need to be adapted in Flash as well (I see huge potential to extend this widget to “Ask a coach” for an avatar, or “Consult Policy” to access workplace policy guides- some big plans to use this).
  • Chart- Allows you to build charts in Captivate much like you would in a Powerpoint presentation or Excel by entering data into tables and choosing a chart type. This will be SO much better than creating a chart externally, creating a graphic, importing the graphic, publishing, then learning we need to update the data- frequently.  Now, I’d like to see if we can use those checkboxes above to see if we can make the charts respond based on specific selections (expect to see some future posts on experiments with widgets- and perhaps a few mayday calls via blog!).
  • Question– Currently, there is one question widget, multiple choice widget. You can create a quiz slide using multiple choice. Meh.  However, Jeff did note that if you have a good Flash developer (I do) you can create a custom Flash question widget to include as an option (such as match activities, crossword).  We have a few of these types of interactions built in Flash, so if we figure out how to widgetize (yes, I make up words), we’ll offer it.
  • Table– Import a table into Captivate directly from CSV file. Tear rolled down my eye. if I could have the hours I have lost on hand-formatting tables in Captivate…  …please learn how to use this (trust me, it’s MUCH better than the standard way of doing tables in Captivate).
  • YouTube– From Flashfactor. Allows you to embed a YouTube video right into your Captivate project.
  • Certification– Creates a printable completion certificate. Check the print orientation. And, if you want to chage it, or the design- you guessed it- you need to play in Flash.
  • Web page– This one is perhaps the most powerful. It allows you to embed another web page right within the Captivate screen. The actual function behind this is the standard html tag IFRAME. Do a bit of research on it. It’s easy to understand and you can use it in a great many products (I use it extensively).

    The widget from Captivate gives you some nice options to perform the embedding without needing to learn code. It allows you to define the size of the frame, whether or not it has a border or scrollbars, and what page to display in the frame (a bit like picture in picture for TV).  And, if you launch links within the embedded page, they work (including pop up windows).

    There is tremendous opportunity using this design. For example, the chart object I was talking about. It would be great to have the chart data in Captivate, but if you didn’t “own” the data and it changed on a frequent timeline, perhaps you could coordinate with the data owners to put the data into a spreadsheet they probably do already) and publish out the graph to a specified web page. If you use the Web page widget instead of the chart widget, the published Captivate file updates every time the data on the web page is refreshed. No handoff of data for you to reenter into Captivate, render the chart, republish the file…   … this is the type of trick I use with IFRAME frequently (so, even if you explore the Web page widget for Captivate, or it’s equivalent in Articulate, you may also look for opportunity to explore IFRAME- the learning curve is not steep, and the benefits are tremendous).
[/list] Jeff posted Follow up questions and updates from Wonderful Widgets to the Elearning Guild LS2011 resources page, and included many web resources in his presentation: Adobe Captivate Exchange http://tv.adobe.com/watch/adobe-captivate-advanced-functions/widgets http://jimleichliter.blogspot.com http://www.cpguru.com http://blog.flash-factor.com http://www.infosemantics.com.au/widgetking As noted, I plan to experiment with widgets- in fact, I need to- I have a very large project kicking off that seems to require using some of the widgets to make more managable (but I plan on exploring more, or building, if needed). If you have any insights to share, or have any specific questions on your own exploration of widgets, please comment. My sincere thanks to Jeff for a very informative and enjoyable presentation.
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The final session I attended on day 2 of LS2011 was Finding and Using Open Educational Resources presented by Tony Nisse of Brigham Young University. Education, at it’s core is about sharing. Openness is really the only means of education. Expertise is nonrivalrous. It can be given without being given away. This is exaplained well by the quote above from Thomas Jefferson.

A spectacular amount of open education resources

Today, we have unprecdented capacity to contribute, share, and leverage shared resources to educate. The number of creative commons licenced content is growing at an accelorated rate, surpassing 250 million items in 2009. Creative Commons licensing provides a framework to provide guidelines for the “4 Rs” of sharing resources: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Reuse: copying verbatim with attribution
  • Redistribution: sharing with others
  • Revision: adapting and reusing
  • Remixing: combining with other resources
[/list] The presentation provided links to many resources (and mentioned several I have included) for open education resources: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”] [/list] I have had a keen interest in open education resources for some time, for my own personal development, and have the following additonal resources saved in my bookmarks online (delicious): [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”] [/list] And, of course, each day, users are posting amazing resources like Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Here is one scheduled this month on mobile with some tremendous mentors (several you may recognize from LS2011): http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2011/03/join-open-and-free-course-on-mobile.html Tony also offerred additonal resources at slideshare.net/opencontent and illustrated how Google search can filter on usage rights to search on open content.

Are we missing an opportuntity to move industry forward like never before?

There is truly an astounding amount of resources available to educate. However, this raises an interesting dilemma. On a personal level, these resources are spectacular and I may use them for my personal development, but as a training professional working for commercial organizations, recommending these resources presents a very slippery slope. Even when there is a perfectly good free resource offered for free for “educational purposes”, I cannot, within a commercial organization, recommend the resource for use. I think this is holding back industry at some levels.  Let me offer concrete examples. I work in a large, multinational organization with a global learning management system housing over 67,000 learning assets.  Virtually every division (and even different departments within a division) has redundancy in regard to common training subjects that apply to all areas of the business like leadership, management, project management, communications, and several others. This is not business-specific project management tools or forms for the organization, but the generic, foundational project management training. It is not specific organizational norms for communicating nor business-specific practice scenarios, but the generally applicable practices for being an effective communicator. A formal study has not been done, but in reviewing MANY vendor offerings, and looking at resources to share across divisions and departments of the organization, I would conservatively estimate that in excess of 80% of the content developed or purchased and deployed is this tier of content: foundational, generic, and not specific to the business (like systems training or customer scenarios). Equivalent or superior open education resources exist to fill these needs and stop companies from investing needlessly (build or buy) in creating these assets for use within a commercial organization. The time and money spent to create these resources could be better invested to enhance mentor support,  develope more interactive and engaging practice scenarios specific to the business, etc. It just seems that if the OER materials could be used (with all appropriate attributions, and share-alike and other creative commons restrictions that apply to educational use), that industry would spend less time re-creating assets, and leverage the power of these resources. We would be freed to invest more efforts in extending the impact of these resources in specific application to make a difference for our employees and customers. Is it that simple to see? What am I missing?  Any time I raise the issue with legal teams (admittedly, they are not specifically Intellectual Property lawyers- though I have found one to explore this dilemma further)- nobody wants to brave these waters. I am convinced there has got to be a way to leverage these resources in an intelligent manner without violating the spirit of the agreement and treating authors fairly while addressing the opportunity to forward industry.

Soon, every click we make will shape our experience

During his presentation, Tony also discussed how technology is tracking our choices and constanty adapting our experience as a result. This adaptive technology is commonly seen on Amazon or Netflix. After performing searches, browsing, and placing orders, these sites track your choices and behaviors and index these actions to reshape your experience with recommendations. We are starting to see the pervasive adaptive technologies extend to many platforms. It extends beyond the profiles you fill out on the site which specify your preferences; it actually tracks and analyzes each and every interaction to customize your experience. Obviously, this raises the large questions on what this type of integrattion would mean for learning and performance. Understanding profiles and activity streams from multiple sources can adapt the user’s experience to assess and intervene with customized solutions to effectively address issues in a manner that is proven most effective for that user, based on measured activity. It is a very exciting time to be in our field. I am hoping that we can resolve the challenges of leveraging the rich open resources available, and continue to explore the potential of adaptive technologies to provide training that was truly unthinkable just a short time ago.
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The first session I attended after Nancy Duarte’s keynote day 2 of the LS2011 was The Next Generation of Mobile Learning with Brenda Enders. Brenda presented a case study for a solution that was provided to a leading rehabilitation services provider. The solution was designed for a widely dispersed workforce who was not considered technically savvy. It was designed to develop the necessary knowledge and skills required, and delivered the training in short time increments so it could be quickly learned and reviewed quickly for optimal on-the-job application.  The solution was a “Day in the Life” design running through the tasks employees would perform on the device during their workday. The solution had 2 hours of content in total broken into specific modules with a consistent design of an introduction, demonstration video (5 mins), practice simulation (10 mins), and conclusions with appropriate job aids provided.  This allowed employees to quickly rehearse using their new software through real-world scenarios deployed directly on their mobile device. It was built using Lectora to SCORM wrap the content for deployment through the company’s LMS. Screenshots and graphic assets were edited in Adobe Premier for the demonstration videos. Brenda shared some great tips on some of the key elements for the success of her solution: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • A video streaming server is recommended to ensure good video performance
  • Screenshots and graphics assets were broken down into very distinct components (even multiple finger graphics were created for each type of touch on the screen) so they could be reconstructed into different scenarios for demonstrations and simulations; the upfront time and effort to develop at this level of detail ensured that the solution would be more flexible and less expensive to update over time
  • The employees were provided a handbook on how to use the device which would help with adoption and coach users through initial orientation to the device
[/list] The second session I attended was Chris Adams presenting another case study Mobile Performance Support for Maintenance Procedures. Chris’s team was tasked with developing a mobile solution to support and track completion of Coast Guardmen executing maintenance procedures. It converted a paper-based process that had systemic integration to reporting or management systems to a mobile solution with links to a management system.e The conversion of a paper-based process to a point-of-execution electronic format that will report to a management system has obvious benefits from performance support and administration perspectives. However, the two most interesting components of this case study were: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Device selection: involving the end-user in device selection can yield unexpected results. In this case, an obvious choice, a “rugged” tablet design was selected, but the second option, a durable HP laptop was selected for the simple reason that it had a built-in carrying handle because it enabled the device to be hung in small quarters when not in use. Both devices were windows-based platforms, which isn’t really considered “mobile” (nor is a laptop truly considered a “mobile” device).
  • Connectivity: A major consideration for design is the reliability of connectivity. While in port, WiFi is available. But while out of port, devices did not have connections to a central reporting or content server. Thus, the solution needed to include a synching function. When the ship pulls back into port, it reconnects with the content and reporting server, and run a content comparison when synching. It would update the content on the ships server, and flag any procedures completed by Coast Guardsmen while out of port that had changed. The supervisors could easily identify these procedures and make the determination whether the updates were significant and would need to be reperformed or not.
[/list]
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If you feel like people really connect with and act on the messages youdeliver, stop reading. This isn’t for you. If you feel that you would benefit from techniques make strong connections with your audience to inspire and make important changes, you should be exploring the techniques shared by our keynote speaker for Day 2:  Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate. LS2011 Day 2 kicked off with a keynote from Nancy Duarte presenting on the topic of resonating with your audience. The image above is sourced from a video on Duarte’s YouTube Channel . It shows how many grains of sand move in response to different noise frequencies. My colleague  Sumeet Moghe tweeted a nice summary about the link between the video the concept of resonating “when little bits of sand move together it’s beautiful. when your audience moves together it’s beautiful too“. [blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]To succeed as a presenter, the audience must latch onto the idea, and spread it when leaving the room.[/blockquote]To succeed as a presenter, the audience must latch onto the idea, and spread it when leaving the room. This is why obessing over your audience and understanding what will resonate with them is critical to effective communication.  So much of today’s communications are both visual and centered around persuading others. Yet, few presentations actually resonate with their audience-especially with web presentations content engagement trails behind checking email.  The art of resonating is actually as old as oral culture itself. Inherently, we are storytellers. It is hard-wired into the human experience. Yet, over time, as we progressed through oral to written cultures and through the industrial age to the information age, storytelling seems to have become a lost art. Nancy has posted a wonderful video about engaging through stories. The more that engaging storytelling techniques can be infused into your presention, the more likely you can make it resonate with your audience. Use storytelling technqieus to move your presentation along the spectrum from Exhaustive Detailed Reporting toward Dramatic Storytelling. This reminds me of a maxim that was shared with me some time ago “Data proves, but stories sell“. If you look at any Presidential address over the last two decades, facts are presented, but very specific, individual stories of impact are employed to make the sale. Making an effective presentation that resonates with the audience is a critical skill in today’s world, but where is this really being taught? The art of resonating with an audience is the art of storytelling, and these are skills that can be built. Duarte shared resources and techniques: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Stories have a likable hero (this can be the audience) who encounters challenges, and emerges from the experience transformed in some manner. See Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
  • Storytelling is about creating a dynamic tension between a current state and future “bliss” state. The change must be signficant to be meaningful.
  • Stories have a beginning, middle, and end with turning points between each of these “acts”. See Freytag’s Dramatic Structure .
[/list] Duarte presented a detailed analysis of two speaches: Steve Job’s iPhone unveiling. and Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”. Nancy showed a graphical mapping of the dynamic tension between current state and “the new bliss” for each speech.  Another layer of detail for the Job’s speech showed physical reactions (clapping, laughing, cheering). King’s speech mapped specific visual language techniques used (metaphors, cultural and political references, etc.). It is in this analysis that one can truly see the science behind the storytelling.  This analysis technique can and should be applied on the construction end of a speech. Duarte’s YouTube channel has a video of the analysis of these speeches . A shortlist of takeaways from the analysis: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Tension is created by shifting between “what is” (current state), and “what could be” (the new bliss). Both speeches move the audience between these two contrasting states to engage the audience.
  • A “Burst/Pause” technique between with what is/could be, creates repitition of key points to solidify the message (and, as we learned Medina’s keynote from Day 1, repetition key to making it memorable).
  • Short phrases that change from what is vs what can be are generally the most quotable and memorable.content
  • Every presentation needs a STAR moment: Something They’ll Always remember.
  • Metaphor (visual words) can be more powerful than slides because the audience member can create the vision specific to his/her experience.
  • An audience must get emotionally attached to story for it to resonate. That requires real risk from the presenter to put themselves out there and show real challenges. If the audience has the same idea, and it has an attached emotion, it will be supported.
[/list] This writeup of the Duare keynote certainly won’t resonate with it’s readers as the LS2011 presentation did with the audience. I hope I have spread the word to those who could not attend: there are techniques you can learn and employ to drastically improve the impact your messages. Seek them out from the Duarte YouTube channel and the book Resonate.
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http://www.slideshare.net/nickfloro/desigining-for-mobile-learning Once you download the slides Nick Floro made available for his session on Designing for mLearning: What You Need to Know to Get Started, there isn’t really much more that I can add to the presentation except to clarify a select few items by adding just a little bit of additional context. Nobody can miss the fact that mobile is a game changer. More people own cell phones than toothbrushes. However, despite the fact that cellphones are almost universal, the development platform is not standard. The core concept of “develop once and push everywhere” presents some difficulties for mobile. Only a small portion of the market is smartphones. There are several operating systems and differences in capabilities between versions. There are also significant differences in screensize and resolution. Pixels, aspect ratio and screen orientation are some of the most simple yet challenging factors in developing an appropriate mLearning experience. One size does not fit all. For the eLearning industry (and web development in general) Flash has been an almost uncontested development platform that could address most of these challenges. But the jury is still out on Flash and translation utilities like Wallaby and what ultimately functions as expected on mobile devices. Nick did share that HTML5, Javascript, CSS3, JQuery, and Ajax are the development tools that will produce the most widely applicable functions for mobile devices. There are a wealth of resources available in Nick’s presentation such as wireframe utilities to sketch out your mobile design idea (my favorite is the  iPhone GUI PSD file at http://www.teehanlax.com/blog/2010/06/14/iphone-gui-psd-v4/).  He also mentioned http://diveintohtml5.org/.
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Ray Jimenez, PhD presented a case study for session 411 during the Learning Solutions conference. What he demonstrated was a very strong design which clearly integrates business objectives and job performance metrics with formal and informal development interventions.

Alerts to managers for variances in key performance metrics

The core is a performance tracking tool. Key business performance metrics that drive business results are identified and tracked (daily). Variances between target levels and actual performance levels alert managers to lagging performance areas.  Managers investigate to decide what action(s) should be taken. So, it is a support tool to focus managers on performance areas that may require their attention.

A learning plan for scheduled, assigned training

Another section of the dashboard is a Leaning and Development plan. This is used for key assigned trainings, like onboarding, or compliance and licencing training. These items can be scheduled and tracked as key learning metrics which need to be maintained in the business. As with other performance metrics, the learning metrics can be clearly understood at a glance, and trigger alerts where necessary.

Strong coaching tools to address performance variances

Another section of the dashboard is specifically dedicated to coaching interventions to respond to performance variances. For example, if a salesperson begins to lag in a specific performance metric (number of outgoing calls), the manager is able to select one or more coaching interventions to assist the employee in closing the gap. These performance-triggered interventions are tracked separately from the Learning and Development plan (which is a bit more vanilla and not specifically tied to on-the-job performance). Ray shared that the interventions available to the managers to coach their employees are: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Pre-defined: each performance metric tracked has a set of support materials recommended to the manager as potential resources to help address the issue
  • Searchable: in addition to formal training resources recommended to the manager, a searchable wiki houses a wealth of community-authored solutions (many times, stories and tips submitted by employees)
  • Easily deployed: any item found in a Google-like search can be bookmarked, assigned, or send the URL to the employee via email
  • Rated: a rating system evaluates the training interventions (the rating system is also utilized as a relevancy “audit” to evaluate content at a systems level)
[/list] [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Most training is curriculum- or subject- based, but not performance-based.[/blockquote]Ray made a very clear statement about the general problem with learning designs today when he noted that most training is curriculum- or subject- based, but not performance-based. It is canned content for certain skills sets, but not optimized for responding to real time needs of learners while they are on the job. It is almost never designed as a direct remediation resource to be deployed in response to a measured performance issue.

The worlds is getting smaller, time shorter; how about training?

Jay had one slide in his presentation that looked at “Big ID” (tradtional) and Micro (instant, simple, affordable). Micro content, micro-sharing, micro-coaching, micro-analysis, micro-feedback, micro-conversations… It reminded me of Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager. It seems that traditional training hasn’t been right-sized for today’s business world. Despite Eliot Maise describing himself as a nanolearner, most systems don’t provide managers tools to have laser-beam focus on specific performance issues and targeted solutions to address it in an optimized fashion, quickly and efficiently. This isn’t about training; it’s about operational efficiency. Providing managers almost instant clarity on performance items and line-of-site resources to address them with no-filler, quick-hit solutions is a tremendous value to the business. Ray offers several resources on the subject, like 3 Minute Games.

The work/learning connection

There are many in the industry who have spoken out against LMS systems and traditional training designs because real learning occurs as employees perform work. Although you can attend a sales seminar or take an online course on Flash Actionscript, you really don’t know how to truly apply and refine these skills until you perform the tasks in real-world environments. Yes, experience is still the best teacher. Worse- specifically in the case of the LMS- too often the training environment is significantly disjointed from the work environment. If employees want to improve their work skills, should they have to disconnect from the natural workscapes and project spaces to “go to training” so it can be tracked, or is there some way to embed learning in the natural activity streams of work (and, if needed, track it- preferably “invisibly”)? Ray’s model seems to hold a lot of promise. There is clear alignment between performance aspects of work being the trigger for learning. And, it seems it specifically separates out the formal learning plan for necessary tracking, but also offers informal tools that can be used in workscapes or assigned and tracked where a more formal coaching arrangement is necessary.

Empowering and supporting managers

The system alerts, but does not make decisions. It empowers managers to make the right decisions by providing information and resources. I have seen systems that assume too much and auto-assign training based on business metrics. Invariably, this causes mis-assignment that a manager can more intelligently filter. A great example is when a sales representative does not hit call volume metrics because s/he worked on active contracts and closing deals that more strongly correlate to business success (actual sales dollars).  Managers can see that grey area. Systems, no matter how well they can cross reference data, cannot always get these nuances. Not only should managers be making the decisions of whether or not to intervene, they should be aware of their employees’ struggles and accept their role as the employee’s mentor. Managers often avoid aspects of the mentoring role because they are knowledgeable in the business, but not in developing people (i.e. managers promoted based on high individual contribution, not their ability to manage others). Without resources to identify problems and coach, managers lose significant and valuable time on these tasks, and may elect to work on management tasks they feel are more immediately relevant and achievable. A metrics-performance-learning driven system provides managers with initial information to focus their attention for further investigation, and provides resources for quick resolution if an intervention is required.

What one idea can you apply?

At the end of his session, Ray asked “what one idea can you apply?”  Certainly, his system took the coordination of many teams: business operations, IT, and training. Many of us won’t the opportunity, time, or resources to develop a system that is this interconnected. However, I left with a few take aways that perhaps would help in using components of this design for your business: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Can you identify the key operational performance metrics defined and tracked for your business (I assure you, they exist)? Can you gain access to the reporting system or an exported data feed?
  • Can alerts for variances against target levels be created (or alternatively- can you create a simple spreadsheet template and instructions for managers to plug in numbers to highlight variances as a decision support tool)?
  • Can you develop appropriate “response training” resources (short, focused, accessible, deployable) to address gaps for each of the key performance metrics?
  • Can a “coaching system” be set up so managers can find and assign resources most appropriate to assist their employees in addressing performance gaps (if not systemically, maybe a spreadsheet or webpage showing the map of developed resources for each of the performance areas, or keywords to use in searches)?
  • Can you leverage community-based authoring tools like a wiki, and rating tools (or “like” buttons) to create a wealth of resources “from the field”? (Ray’s shared stories about how simple tips shared by employees became some of the most powerful tools managers could use: i.e.  ‘this is how I blew this sale’ or ‘100% of my clients said they would show to the meeting, but only 50% did’)
[/list] It was a great case study to walk through to show how far learning systems design can go to stop being a support process for the business to being a central part of the measured business performance results.
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After presenting my session at Learning Solutions 2011, I attended “Creating Engaging Learning Designs” with Joseph Fournier of Amerigroup. Most of his presentation was fairly straightforward advice that we all should be following already: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Close the distance between the instructor and the learner.
  • Get learners involved early and often.
  • Focus on true needs of the learner.
  • Keep it short and sweet (I loved his discussion on this topic: “and that’s all I am going to say about that”).
[/list] [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Change the conversation. We aren’t a cost center. We are a collaborative business partner.[/blockquote]Most of the presentation were tips such as these that most of us have learned, but often lose sight of during the flurry of activity in our work. It serves as a good reminder. Joe did say something that resonated with me, and I hope every learning and development professional in the industry. We need to change the conversation. We aren’t a cost center. We are a collaborative business partner.  I believe many in the industry agree, but are not acting on it nor are they engaging in changing the dialog.

Pay attention to the in-between spaces

Another keen insight Joe offered was to pay attention to the in-between spaces which is where learning happens. There are many in-between spaces in learning design. Scaffolding. Conceptual to application. Transfer of learning to the workplace (if you separate the environments instead of embed the work as learning and learning as work). Transfer support is often missed in design. Business process improvement often yields improvement by focusing on the whitespace between processes. Joe’s advice applies this same concept in a learning context for improved learning designs.

Take-away: Simple, adaptable analysis matrix

The last take-away from Joe’s presentation for me was a simple matrix that can be adapt for many uses. Joe uses a 5 Opportunities Framework (shown in the diagram at the top of this post). These are ways the learner can progress through different stages of learning from initially engaging in content to constructing understanding to mastery, refining, and sharing. Then, Joe plots his learning model into on axis of a matrix, and places specific learner properties into the other matrix. For example, he plots his learning model against learners according to the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) quadrants as shown below: Joe noted how the matrix could use different criteria such as job role, tenure, or other learner demographics that would effectively categorize learners. You don’t have to buy into Joe’s 5 Opportunities Learning model or his use of the HBDI quadrants to see the value of this tool. You can substitute your own learning model-or any key learning success criteria you need to track-into the matrix. For the other matrix, select any categorization schema for learners that would help guide your development. (or did I take Medina’s advice of ‘have learners start improvising off of learning’ too far and completely corrupt what Joe was intending here?) The reason this tool was such a good take-away for me is that I too often see silo-type thinking with training designs. Designers focus on a training design for group A, and follow that design through. Then, they use that baseline and attempt to tweak it for Group B, then C…  The process is inefficient and generally only one group gets it’s core needs addressed. All subsequent development only perform tweaks to the first development offered as a compromise, which only partially fulfills the needs of the other groups. This tool is effective because it is simple to use and can be extended to incorporate your own learning models and learner categories for your analysis purposes.
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