Learning in Context

In a recent guest post, I wrote about the importance of context in learning. And for a featured session at the upcoming FocusOn Learning event, I’ll be talking about performance support in context.  But there was a recent question about how you’d do it in a particular environment, and that got me thinking about the the necessary requirements.

As context (ahem), there are already context-sensitive systems. I helped lead the design of one where a complex device was instrumented and consequently there were many indicators about the current status of the device. This trend is increasing.  And there are tools to build context-sensitive helps systems around enterprise software, whether purchased or home-grown. And there are also context-sensitive systems that track your location on mobile and allow you to use that to trigger a variety of actions.

Now, to be clear, these are already in use for performance support, but how do we take advantage of them for learning. Moreover, can we go beyond ‘location’ specific learning?  I think we can, if we rethink.

So first, we obviously can use those same systems to deliver specific learning. We can have a rich model of learning around a system, so a detailed competency map, and then with a rich profile of the learner we can know what they know and don’t, and then when they’re at a point where there’s a gap between their knowledge and the desired, we can trigger some additional information. It’s in context, at a ‘teachable moment’, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be assessed.

This would be on top of performance support, typically, as they’re still learning so we don’t want to risk a mistake. Or we could have a little chance to try it out and get it wrong that doesn’t actually get executed, and then give them feedback and the right answer to perform.  We’d have to be clear, however, about why learning is needed in addition to the right answer: is this something that really needs to be learned?

I want to go a wee bit further, though; can we build it around what the learner is doing?  How could we know?  Besides increasingly complex sensor logic, we can use when they are.  What’s on their calendar?  If it’s tagged appropriately, we can know at least what they’re supposed to be doing.  And we can develop not only specific system skills, but more general business skills: negotiation, running meetings, problem-solving/trouble-shooting, design, and more.

The point is that our learners are in contexts all the time.  Rather than take them away to learn, can we develop learning that wraps around what they’re doing? Increasingly we can, and in richer and richer ways. We can tap into the situational motivation to accomplish the task in the moment, and the existing parameters, to make ordinary tasks into learning opportunities. And that more ubiquitous, continuous development is more naturally matched to how we learn.

Showing my age, er, experience

I’ve been reading What the Dormouse Said (How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry), and it’s bringing back some memories.  Ok, so most of this stuff is older than I am, but there are a few connections, so it’s reminiscing time.  I’ve said some of this before, I believe, so feel free to wander on.  This is me just thinking aloud.

I was taking some computer science classes because I’d found out that biology was rote memorization and cut-throat medical (which I did not want to do; I was hoping for marine bio), and a buddy was doing it.  Given that I was at UCSD at the time, I naturally learned UCSD Pascal (as well as Fortran, which I fortunately forgot almost immediately, and Mixal likewise). I enjoyed algorithms, however, and could solve problems. I also was enchanted with AI (despite my first prof).  And I was  tutoring for some extra pocket money, math and science (even classes I hadn’t taken yet!).

Then I got a job doing the computer support for the office that did the tutoring (literally carrying decks of cards in Algol to run through the computer center). And a light went off; computers for learning!  There was no major then at my school, but there was a program to design my own major, and I found a couple of professors willing to serve as my advisors (thank you, Hugh Mehan and Jim Levin). They even let me work on a project with them (email for classroom discussion, circa 1978; we had ARPANET, the predecessor to the internet).  It eventually even got published as a journal article.

I called all over the country, trying to find someone who needed a person interested in computer learning.  I even interviewed at Xerox PARC with John Seely Brown, courtesy of Tom Malone (I didn’t get the job; they wanted something I’d done but I didn’t know their term for it!).  After a small job doing some statistical work for a research project, I managed to get a job designing and programming educational computer games for DesignWare (you can still play some of  the products here, the magic of  the internet).  We went from Basic to Forth (for speed and small size), though I later moved away from coding with the demise of HyperCard ;).

And the main connection to the cool stuff, besides the interview at PARC, was visiting the West Coast Computer Faire.  It was cool in and of itself, but there I met David Suess, who along with Bill Bowman was starting Spinnaker, a company to do home educational software.  DesignWare had been doing games to go along with publisher offerings, and I was pushing the home market.  After a conversation, I introduced David to my boss Jim Schuyler (Sky) and off we went. As a reward, I got to do FaceMaker. Eventually, DesignWare started doing it’s own titles, and I also did Spellicopter and Creature Creator before I realized I wanted to go back to grad school.

Along the way I also read Byte magazine and tracked efforts like SmallTalk and folks like Alan Kay.  I’ve subsequently had the pleasure to meet him, as well as Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson, so I’ve somewhat closed the loop on those heady days.  There’s much more between then and now, but that’s enough for one post. And most of my counterculture experiences were behind me by that time, so I didn’t really get a chance to see those connections, but it was an exciting time, and a great exposure to the possibilities.

Workplace Learning: The Individual’s Perspective

A few weeks ago I published a series of posts that looked at how you learn a work and how you can support these different ways of learning. This was a very L&D-centric view of workplace learning, with training at the centre and the outer – and larger – concentric circles containing the other ways of learning at and for work.

In this post, however, I want to consider the Individual’s Perspective of Workplace Learning. First of all, please note, I have not used the word Learner here, because for the Individual – the employee, the worker – it is clear it is not all about the learning but about the work. It’s primarily about getting their work done, addressing performance problems, and being part of a functioning team – and in fact learning is often an unconscious activity here! But it is also about personal improvement through both company-organised and self-initiatives, and about keeping up to date with what is happening in their industry or profession so that they remain relevant. So, here is a graphic that shows 10 ways how an individual might learn at and for work.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 08.51.12

Of course, the amount (%) of learning that happens in these different activities will vary from person to personal – dependent on their job, their needs and interests. For example, as an independent consultant I learn mostly from my daily work (2) and from external activities (8-10), whereas a high achieving, company-employed knowledge worker will undoubtedly learn from a wider spread of both internal and external activities.

Although the organisational focus on workplace learning has up to now been on developing an individual (through training (5)), the work of workplace learning professionals (L&D) is now expanding towards supporting the individual at work as well as helping an individual develop him/herself as the graphic below illustrates. And it is very much about the Individual – one-size no longer fits all!

satw

Consequently to support an individual effectively in these different ways requires new professional L&D practices (it’s no longer just about creating, delivering and managing training. What is more, it is clear (from my work with organisations around the world) that this can only come about if those L&D practitioners are mentally and personally ready themselves.

“Never get sucked into the ‘company knows best’ approach to your career”

road-sign-798176_640The quote in the title of this blog post comes from my favourite post in April 2016, When it comes to career. it’s up to every individual to stay relevant (Talent Management and HR, 25 April). Here’s a longer quote from that article.

“The workplace of today is changing, and workers’ skill sets must keep pace with employers’ expectations. However, who determines that expectation if your livelihood is dependent on some employer to make the right strategic moves? They lose, and ultimately, you lose.

For this reason, every one of us must have a career strategy, and that strategy should be guided by your industry’s trajectory. You should be fine-tuned to the intricacies of your profession. You have no choice. You have to self-develop to stay relevant. Always remember that YOU are in charge of your career  Never get sucked into the “company knows best” approach to your career.”

Here are a few other blog posts and articles I enjoyed in April – with some short quotes from them too.

Bring your own network, Harold Jarche (4 April 2016)

“In today’s digital economy, you are only as good as your network  … When work is learning, and learning is the work, organizations need to look at how good people are at actively engaging in learning networks. The network they bring may be much more important than the individual skills they have. Today, job interviews should include a note to ‘BYON’.”

People won’t grow if you don’t think people can change, Monique Valcour (Harvard Business Review, 21 April)

“Believing that employees can change doesn’t just make managers more willing and able to coach; evidence also suggests that it makes them more accurate judges of improvements or drops in performance. Leaders with a fixed mindset are less likely to notice a change, especially in someone whom they’ve judged (either favorably or unfavorably) in the past. And this behavior can alienate top performers and undermine motivation. The people who are most committed to learning are likely to leave or disengage if learning opportunities are scarce or if their growth goes unrecognized. On the other hand, when leaders do demonstrate a belief in people’s ability to grow, research shows that employees are more motivated to improve their performance, more satisfied with their jobs, and less likely to quit.”

What value do you in L&D bring to your organisation?, Clark Quinn (Learnlets, 5 April)

“My perspective is that the role of L&D could (and should) be about improving performance and facilitating development. If, instead of just providing courses, P&D were focused on making sure people could do their jobs, using performance consulting and developing the appropriate solutions – whether job aids, contextual support, coaching, or what have you – they’d be contributing to optimal execution. If they went further, and were also facilitating the ability for the organization to continually innovate – fostering communication and collaboration via tools, practices, and culture – they’d be key to getting people to provide their best. And this is increasingly important.”

You Can Never Empower People, but You Must Engage Them, Chuck Blakeman (Inc, 26 April)

“Don’t waste time trying to empower people. They already are. Just give them a reason to be engaged, give them the resources they need to grow, and get out of the way. And watch your company take off.”

Finally, a reminder of my own blog posts in April 2016

Moving forward

A few weeks ago, I posted about laying out activities in a space dividing the execution side from the innovation side, and in the head from in the world.  None of you took the bait about talking what it meant (I’m so disappointed), but it continued to ponder it myself. And at least one idea came to mind.

LearningSpaceImplicationsSo what I’m thinking is that the point is to not be using our heads to be doing simple execution. Machines (read: robots or computation agents) are very good at doing what they’re told. Reliably, and repeatably.  They may need oversight, but in many ways we’re seeing this play out.

What we should be doing is trying to automate execution. We aren’t good at doing rote things, and having us do them is silly.  Ideally you automate them, or outsource them in some way.  Let’s save our minds for doing important work.

Of course, many times the situations we’re increasingly seeing are not matters of simply executing. As things get more ambiguous, more novel, more chaotic, we’re really discovering we need to have people handle those situations in innovative ways. So they’re really being moved over regardless.

And, of course, we want that innovation to be fueled by data, information in the world being made available to support making these decisions. Big analytics, or even little analytics are good basis, as are models and support tools to facilitate the processes.  And, of course, this doesn’t have to be all in one head, but drawing upon teams, communities, and networks to get solution.

The real point is to let machines do what they can do well, and leave to us what we do well. And, what we want to be responsible for.  As I see it, the role of technology is to augment us, not replace us.  It’s up to us to make the choices, but we have the opportunity to work in ways that align with how our brains really think, work, and learn.  I reckon that choice is a no-brainer ;).

Learning in context

In preparation for the upcoming FocusOn Learning Conference, where I’ll be running a workshop about cognitive science for L&D, not just for learning but also for mobile and performance support, I was thinking about how  context can be leveraged to provide more optimal learning and performance.  Naturally, I had to diagram it, so let me talk through it, and you let me know what you think.

ApartLearningWhat we tend to do, as a default, is to take people away from work, provide the learning resources away from the context, then create a context to practice in. There are coaching resources, but not necessarily the performance resources.  (And I’m not even mentioning the typical lack of sufficient practice.) And this makes sense when the consequences of making a mistake on the task are irreversible and costly.  E.g. medicine, transportation.  But that’s not as often as we think. And there’s an alternative.

We can wrap the learning around the context. Our individual is in the world, and performing the task. There can be coaching (particularly at the start, and then gradually removed as the individual moves to acceptable competence). There are also performance resources – job aids, checklists, etc – in the environment. There also can be learning resources, so the individual can continue to self-develop, particularly in the increasingly likely situation that the task has some ambiguity or novelty in it. Of course, that only works if we have a learner capable of self learning (hint hint).

The problems with always taking people away from their jobs are multiple:

  • it is costly to interrupt their performance
  • it can be costly to create the artificial context
  • the learning has a lower likelihood to make it back to the workplace

Our brains don’t learn in an event model, they learn in little bits over time. It’s more natural, more effective, to dribble the learning out at the moment of need, the learnable moment.  We have the capability, now, to be more aware of the learner, to deliver support in the moment, and develop learners over time. The way their brains actually learn.  And we should be doing this.  It’s more effective as well as more efficient.  It requires moving out of our comfort zone; we know the classroom, we know training.  However, we now also know that the effectiveness of classroom training can be very limited.

We have the ability to start making learning effective as well as efficient. Shouldn’t we do so?

Deeper Learning Reading List

So, for my last post, I had the Revolution Reading List, and it occurred to me that I’ve been reading a bit about deeper learning design, too, so I thought I’d offer some pointers here too.

The starting point would be Julie Dirksen’s Design For How People Learn (already in it’s 2nd edition). It’s a very good interpretation of learning research applied to design, and very readable.

A new book that’s very good is Make It Stick, by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel, the former being a writer who’s worked with two scientists to take learning research into 10 principles.

And let me mention two Ruth Clark books. One with Dick Mayer from UCSB, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, that focuses on the use of media.  A second with Frank Nguyen and the wise John Sweller, Efficiency in Learning, focuses on cognitive load (which has many implications, including some overlap with the first).

Patti Schank has come out with a concise compilation of research called The Science of Learning that’s available to ATD members. Short and focused with her usual rigor.  If you’re not an ATD member, you can read her blog posts that contributed (click ‘View All’).

Dorian Peters book on Interface Design for Learning also has some good learning principles as well as interface design guidance.  It’s not the same for learning as for doing.

Of course, a classic is a compilation of research by a blue-ribbon team lead by John Bransford, How People Learn, (online or downloadable).  Voluminous, but pretty much state of the art.

Another classic is the Cognitive Apprenticeship model of Allen Collins & John Seely Brown. A holistic model abstracted across some seminal work, and quite readable.

The Science of Learning Center has an academic integration of research to instruction theory by Ken Koedinger, et al, The Knowledge-Learning-Instruction Framework, that’s freely available as a PDF.

I’d be remiss if I don’t point out the Serious eLearning Manifesto, which has 22 research principles underneath the 8 values that differentiate serious elearning from typical versions.  If you buy in, please sign on!

And, of course, I can point you to my own series for Learnnovators on Deeper ID.

So there you go with some good material to get you going. We need to do better at elearning, treating it with the importance it deserves.  These don’t necessarily tell you how to redevelop your learning design processes, but you know who can help you with that.  What’s on your list?

20 ways to prepare yourself for modern workplace learning

twenty-38489_640Listed below (in the right hand column) are 20 things that you, as a learning professional, will need to have done PERSONALLY in order to be adequately prepared to support new approaches to workplace learning in your organisation PROFESSIONALLY (as shown on the right-hand side).

How many can you check off? If it’s not more than a handful, then you might find the upcoming L&D CHALLENGE useful. Click here for more information.


What you need to have done
PERSONALLY
In order to help your orgANISATION
PROFESSIONALLY
NEW MINDSET

1

You realise that learning in the workplace is more than being trained or taking e-learning courses; ie that it happens in many different ways as people do their jobs at work, from interactions with people as well as from personal learning activities. L&D can help the organisation value the learning that happens through a multitude of experiences in and out of work, by encouraging and supporting it in new ways, and enabling the the sharing of relevant experiences.

2

You recognise that you need to take personal responsibility for your own continuous learning and development to ensure you remain marketable in the industry. L&D cannot provide everything everyone needs for their jobs, so need to help organisations recognise (and support) the fact that continuous self-improvement is as much an individual’s responsibility.
NEW WAYS OF LEARNING

3

You have built a strong professional network of connections (aka PLN) on a social networts like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+, with whom you interact and learning form on a daily basis – and which you regularly review to ensure they bring you value. L&D can help individuals build their own professional networks/PLNs.

L&D can organise a range of networking events to foster connections and relationship building within the organisation.

4

You subscribe to a number of blog and website feeds to keep up to date with new ideas, thinking and resources in the field. L&D can help individuals to locate useful sources to keep up to date in their industry and profession and/or provide a trusted feed of new ideas and resources.

L&D can create resources in relevant and appealing modern formats.

5

You have located and used a variety of other resources, like YouTube videos, podcasts, slidesets, etc and identified trusted sources.

6

You use a variety of alerts and curation services to gather new articles and resources in your field.

7

You have participated in social courses and MOOCs to understand their benefits and constraints. L&D can identify valuable MOOCs for those who still prefer formal learning experiences

L&D can offer guided social learning experiences.

8

You have been an active participant in a number of online communities and understand the activities involved in of community management and what makes a good community manager. L&D can better manage or support the management of organisational communities.
NEW SKILLS

9

You are able to validate the resources you find for accuracy, currency and authority, etc. L&D can help to develop effective personal learning/knowledge management skills in their people.

10

You have developed a range of filters to help you avoid information overload from the multitude of sources you use, in order to isolate the “gems”.

11

You are able to connect the dots between the new resources and ideas you have encountered.
PROFESSIONAL GOAL-SETTING AND EVIDENCING

12

You have identified your own personal and professional goals (aligned with organisational objectives) for the next 6 months, and the actions you will take to achieve them. L&D can help individuals to produce their own personal learning plans, as well as how to evidence their achievements.

13

You evidence achievement of your own goals – not just through what you have learned but what you can now do as a result.
DAILY LEARNING WORKOUT

14

You spend at least 30 minutes a day on learning (eg to meet your professional goals) using the resources and formats that best suit you. L&D can help individuals develop their own daily learning workout plans to become a continuous learner.
LEARN FROM YOUR DAILY WORK

15

You spend time reflecting on your daily working activities to learning from your experiences. L&D can help individuals to find the best ways to reflect on their own daily work and extract the learning from the work.
DEAL WITH PERFORMANCE PROBLEMS

16

You solve your own performance problems by finding valid resources in appropriate formats. L&D can organise the creation, co-creation or curation of resources to help with common organisational performance problems.
ARE PART OF A SOCIAL WORK TEAM

17

You are a committed member of a social work team – where a supportive, sharing and collaborative culture are seen as key to effective work. L&D can help other teams in their organisation become successful social teams showing them how to share effectively, work out loud, as well as make good use of underpinning social technologies. `It’s not about telling other people to be social!

18

You regularly share relevant work experiences with your colleagues so that they can benefit from them too through working out loud.

19

You regularly share resources and ideas that you have encountered outside of work by explaining their value to your colleagues.

20

You make good use of social and collaboration platforms or tools (like enterprise social network, or other group tools to underpin your social team activities.

Revolution Reading List

I’m still a book guy (whether print or ebook), and have been reading a number of tomes of late. And, more and more, we’re seeing books that talk about the revolution itself or relevant components.  Here’re a few that have come to my awareness of late, and I have perused in some depth, relative to my own Revolutionize Learning & Development:

Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning is an excellent complement to my book, with detailed descriptions of a rich suite of practices that foster a learning workplace.

Another ITA colleague, Harold Jarche, has his Perpetual Beta book series, which is a curated collection of his posts about the changing nature of work that make the case for the revolution and and covering personal knowledge mastery skills that are a necessary accompaniment.

And Charles Jennings, along with Tulser colleagues Jos Arets and Vivian Heijnen, have 70:20:10: Towards 100% Performance which is a (very) detailed set of processes to address performance needs from go to whoa but working backwards from the ongoing support, not forward from the course.

Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work is a valuable (and beautifully designed) book that talks about the why and how of showing your work (an important component of the Revolution), peppered with examples.

Nigel Paine has penned The Learning Challenge, a book that takes a similar stance as my own Revolution book, but with some changes in emphasis.  A slightly different  way to look at the changes.

Bill Bruck has published his own tome, Speed to Proficiency, which similarly covers some of the problems and recommendations as the Revolution book.

We should not forget some classics, e.g. Jay Cross’s game-changing book on Informal Learning, which really altered the way we think about workplace learning.

A classic on the social side, Tony Bingham & Marcia Conner’s The New Social Learning is in it’s second edition.

Of course, Marc Rosenberg’s early Beyond eLearning was a landmark in going beyond the course to a performance ecosystem.

BTW, I’ve requested Amy Edmondson’s Teaming, so that may join the list.

Which reminds me, I’ve previously talked about 3 books team structures, and 2 on changing culture (here and here), also relevant.

I don’t agree with all that appears in all the books, but they all help illuminate the ways we need to be thinking. And if you want help implementing, you know who to contact.  So, what’s on your wall?

 

Next L&D Challenge starts 30 May

light-bulb-978882_640The next social L&D Challenge runs for 12 weeks from 30 May to 19 August
(or you can sign up for the private challenge at any time)

“Transformation of workplace learning won’t just come from digitising training, but changing the very essence of what “learning” means in the company, through both a new understanding of how it happens in the workplace as people carry out their daily job as well as how performance problems can be solved in different ways

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!”

This L&D Challenge consists of 12 Activities (some of which contain more than one task). Part A is designed for you to experience a range of different learning approaches, so that in Part B you can consider how to put them into practice in your own organisation.

PART A PART B
  1. Getting started with the Challenge
  2. Learning from work experiences
  3. Learning from people
  4. Keeping up to date
  5. Managing your own learning
  6. Addressing performance problems
  1. Developing flexible content
  2. Organising modern learning experiences
  3. Promoting independent learning
  4. Supporting social collaboration
  5. Working with managers
  6. Reviewing the Challenge

Note: All participants will receive a PDF copy of Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning book as part of the Challenge materials.

How it works

Social Challenge Private Challenge
You will work through the Challenge activities on a weekly basis, and share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of the group. If you would like a Challenge Completion Certificate you will need to complete a final activity. You can work through the Challenge activities in your own time, and if you would like a Challenge Completion Certificate you will need to have kept a Learning Log with your responses to the different activities.
Cost: £149 Cost: £99
SIGN UP HERE and follow the payment instructions below SIGN UP HERE and follow the payment instructions below

Payment instructions

Once you click on the relevant sign up link above you will be taken to a page at the PayPal site to pay.

  • You can pay in two ways:
    • By credit card: select Pay with a debit or credit card in the right-hand column, and complete the form with your credit card details. You can also print a receipt here too. Note: our merchant name is Tesserae Ltd, and this is the name that will appear on your credit card statement.
    • By PayPal: enter your PayPal details in the box shown.
  • Where there is more than one participant, please provide the name and email address of each participant in the Instructions to Merchant.
  • Click Return to Tesserae Ltd to return to this site.
  • You will then receive an email from us with your joining details.
  • If you do not receive the email within 24 hours, please contact jane.hart@c4lpt.co.uk

Work Experiment

At a point some days ago, I got the idea to map out different activities by their role as executing versus innovating, and whether it’s in the head or in the world. And I’ve been playing with it since.  I’m mapping some ways of getting work done, at least the mental aspects, across those dimensions.

LearningSpace

I’m not sure I’ve got things in the right places.  I’m not even sure what it really means. I’ve some ideas, but I think I’m going to try something new, and ask you what you think it means.  So, what’s interesting and/or important here?

Work Experiment

At a point some days ago, I got the idea to map out different activities by their role as executing versus innovating, and whether it’s in the head or in the world. And I’ve been playing with it since.  I’m mapping some ways of getting work done, at least the mental aspects, across those dimensions.

LearningSpace

I’m not sure I’ve got things in the right places.  I’m not even sure what it really means. I’ve some ideas, but I think I’m going to try something new, and ask you what you think it means.  So, what’s interesting and/or important here?

Top 10 Tools for Learning 2016

It’s that time again: Jane Hart is running her 2016 (and 10th!) Top 100 Tools for Learning poll. It’s a valuable service, and points out some interesting things and it’s interesting to see the changes over time.  It’s also a way to see what others are using and maybe find some new ideas.  She’s now asking that you categorize them as Education, Training & Performance Support, and/or Personal Learning & Productivity.  All of mine fall in the latter category, because my performance support tools are productivity tools! So here’re my votes, FWIW:

Google Search is, of course, still my top tool. I’m looking up things several if not many times a day. It’s often a gateway to Wikipedia, which I heavily rely on, but a number of times I find other sources that are equally valuable, such as research or practice sites that have some quality inputs.

Books are still a major way I learn. Yes, I check out books from the library and read them.  I also acquire and read them on my iPad, such as Jane’s great Modern Workplace LearningIn my queue is Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work. 

Twitter is a go-to. I am pointed to many serendipitously interesting things, and of course I point to things as well. The learning chats I participate in are another way twitter helps.

Skype is a tool I use for communicating with folks to get things done, but also to have conversations (e.g. with my ITA colleagues), whether chat or voice.

Facebook is also a way I stay in touch with friends and colleagues (those colleagues that I also consider friends; Facebook is more a personal learning tool than a business tool for me).

LinkedIn is a way to stay in touch with people, and in particular the L&D Revolution group is where I want to keep the dialog alive about the opportunity. The articles in LinkedIn are occasionally of interest too, and it’s always an education to see who wants to link ;).

WordPress is my blogging tool (where you’re at right now), and it’s a way I think ‘out loud’ and the feedback I get is a wonderful way to learn.  Things that eventually appear in presentations and writing typically appear here first, and some of the work I do for others manifests here (typically anonymized).

Word is my go-to writing tool, and while I use Pages at times too (e.g. if I’m traveling with my iPad), Word is my industrial strength tool.  Writing forces me to get concrete about my thinking.

Omnigraffle is as always my diagramming tool, and it’s definitely a way I express and refine my thinking.  Obviously, you’ll see my diagrams here, but also in presentations and articles/chapters/books. And, of course, my mindmaps.

Keynote is my presentation creating tool. I sometimes have to export to PowerPoint, but Keynote is where I work natively.  It helps me turn my ideas from diagrams and/or writing into a story to tell with visual support.

So those are my ‘learning’ tools, for now. Some are ‘content’, some are social media, some are personal representational tools, but reading and talking with others and representing my own thinking are  major learning activities for me.

 

Beyond Instructional Design: How Performance Support is Revolutionizing eLearning

design-1210160_640Ready to get results with performance support? Trivantis have asked me to host this free webinar, in which I will consider how you can move beyond instructional design to designing for performance  support.

In the session I will cover the following aspects

  • Trends in modern authoring
  • Insights on providing resources and bite-sized content, such as video, screencasts, or text instead of courses
  • How to support content personalization
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What would happen if there were no L&D department?

This was the question I asked last week on Twitter:

In advance of the publication of the article, I thought I would share some of the responses I received, and offer the opportunity for others to contribute their thoughts in a comment below.

There were quite a few who thought that organisations couldn’t do without a Training/L&D department ..

“Learning depts. contribute to enabling agility and competitiveness. (There would be) Lost opportunity to maximise learning design and therefore learning, more death by PowerPoint or PDFs. Inefficiencies – potential for increase in loss of time and monies.” Marie Anne Daniels

“you definitely need a Dept or individual to drive a learning focus. Else getting things done always seems to take priority over spending time on learning and reflection … who else will design, create, sustain these systems and catalyze learning behaviour?” Vasanta Akondy

“Without the L&D department, a team is still needed to help make tacit knowledge explicit & available for the entire organization. Without L&D, a team is still needed to create/curate resources to interest & guide people to learn more, just in time & better. Without L&D, a systemic approach towards individual development & the transformation of the whole organization would be missing.” Monica Sulecio de A

“The ones without L&D will not survive long.”  Yixin Peng

But a number of people pointed out that most small companies don’t have a training/L&D department – so how do they survive?

“They either buy in expertise when needed or managers/staff identify & source”  Simon Jones

“A small org I know have no L& D but all employees have a dev plan & 90min Mindgym sess’s organised ‘as required’.” Gina Chapman

So how would larger organisations survive without a L&D department? Many people thought that things would happen very differently  …

“what matters would get addressed. Anything else wouldn’t. learning design would disappear and performance design would replace it. Compliance would become a business practice rather than a training solution. I’ve seen/ COOs driving for efficiency identify knowledge gaps and close them on a large scale with no L&D involvement at all.” Peter Davis

“Some corporate history would be lost – which may be a good thing. Some compliance may be as well – which is not. The latter recovers.” John Bordeaux

“Removing the L&D function would liberate learning from the shackles of education. Bring on more informal and experiential learning!”  Dave Haynes

“a return to on the job learning – apprentice and mentor relationships between colleagues” Gavin Hendrick

“Learning would continue, learners just adapt. Learning like OJT, knowledge sharing, coaching and mentoring would take center stage. Jecca 

“People would find ways to learn. The formal capture of volumes of learning might fade, but often that’s patchy anyway.” Julie Dryboroguh

“We’d have to take responsibility ourselves. That would either make us (a direct improvement) or break us (indirect).” Hilary Gallo

“Every individual will be accountable for their personal development and performance improvement….” Sesan

“In some cases Lynda.com is the new L&D department” Natalie Lafferty

Learners will use the Internet for the teaching and learning resource it truly is and can be. #CriticalThinkingSkill required” Kecia J.Waddell, PhD

“recruiting for lifelong learning & with collective/ distributed responsibility for innovation and learning :-)” Rachel Hammel

“L&D dept motto – ‘striving for redundancy’ Help people develop the skills to be self directed learners” Helen van Ameyde

“People would interact, learn from one another & help each other as they have done since the beginning of time” Paul Duxbury

“If no T&D, managers, CEOs, execs, employees would have to take responsibility for continuous learning of organization.” Stephen Gill

  1. Organisations would get better at documenting or at the very least describing the standards and operational procedures that they required for their business
  2. Individuals would take personal accountability for their own success at work
  3. The workplace would be most favourable for the tasks that were performed there.
  4. Tasks would be simplified wherever possible, and supported by performance aids
  5. Managers would manage and provide workers with the skills, information, knowledge and environment they need in order to succeed
  6. It would be acknowledged that failure is an opportunity for the individual, the team and the organisation to learn and improve
  7. Team dynamics would strengthen and each person would be a stakeholder in, and contributor towards the success of one and all
  8. People would find a way to do things
  9. Lots of wasted time would be recovered!!
    Phil Green (by email)

“we could spend the money on architects (better collaborative spaces), chefs (team lunches) and fully-staffed IT concierge desks! Jonathan Marshall

Some believed a new type of L&D department would evolve …

“Like natural evolution….. biz would “find a way”, “evolve” – also prob equally true that they may not even realise we’d gone!” Craig Taylor

“Perhaps nothing in the short term; may create space for something new to emerge.” Meg Peppin

“Learning would devolve to teams/individuals. They’d start to collaborate and a new L&D department would evolve made up of ppl from the ‘shopfloor’ with an interest/passion for helping others in the org learn and improve? Alistair Cockroft

So what did my Internet Time Alliance colleagues think of this question?

Charles Jennings
“My thoughts are that if the Training/L&D department didn’t exist no organisation would create one in the image of most today. Alistair Cockcroft might be on the money – learning would devolve to teams/individuals, they’d start to collaborate and (possibly) some new form of (L&D)Compliance department would evolve (to deal with regulatory requirements). As it is LMSs have been developed in the image of L&D departments as Compliance Departments.”

Harold Jarche
“Removing barriers should be the focus of the learning and development professional, not delivering content. It is time to stop being takers of orders and become better diagnosticians. Solving problems will help L&D be seen as a valued part of the enterprise. L&D professionals therefore have to master their own field as well the business they support.”
Read more ay L&D outside the box

Clark Quinn
“They’d eventually start over. Agree with the devolve to individuals, teams, & communities, but eventually will want to have some overarching principles to make into practices, and a new, sensible L&D would evolve (maybe labeled P&D :). Which is where L&D could and should go.” Read more at L&D value

Would you like to add your thoughts?  Please do so in a comment below.

A complex look at task assignments

I was thinking (one morning at 4AM, when I was wishing I was asleep) about designing assignment structures that matched my activity-based learning model.  And a model emerged that I managed to recall when I finally did get up.  I’ve been workshopping it a bit since, tuning some details. No claim that it’s there yet, by the way.

ModelAssignmentAnd I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it’s complex, as the diagram represents, but let me tease it apart for you and see if it makes sense. I’m trying to integrate meaningful tasks, meta-learning, and collaboration.  And there are remaining issues, but let’s get to the model first.

So, it starts by assigning the learners a task to create an artefact. (Spelling intended to convey that it’s not a typical artifact, but instead a created object for learning purposes.) It could be a presentation, a video, a document, or what have you.  The learner is also supposed to annotate their rationale for the resulting design as well.  And, at least initially, there’s a guide to principles for creating an artefact of this type.  There could even be a model presentation.

The instructor then reviews these outputs, and assigns the student several others to review.  Here it’s represented as 2 others, but it could be 4. The point is that the group size is the constraining factor.

And, again at least initially, there’s a rubric for evaluating the artefacts to support the learner. There could even be a video of a model evaluation. The learner writes reviews of the two artefacts, and annotates the underlying thinking that accompanies and emerges.  And the instructor reviews the reviews, and provides feedback.

Then, the learner joins with other learners to create a joint output, intended to be better than each individual submission.  Initially, at least, the learners will likely be grouped with others that are similar.  This step might seem counter intuitive, but while ultimately the assignments will be to widely different artefacts, initially the assignment is lighter to allow time to come to grips with the actual process of collaborating (again with a guide, at least initially). Finally, the final artefacts are evaluated, perhaps even shared with all.

Several points to make about this.  As indicated, the support is gradually faded. While another task might use another artefact, so the guides and rubrics will change, the working together guide can gradually first get to higher and higher levels (e.g. starting with “everyone contributes to the plan”, and ultimately getting to “look to ensure that all are being heard”) and gradually being removed. And the assignment to different groups goes from alike to as widely disparate as possible. And the tasks should eventually get back to the same type of artefact, developing those 21 C skills about different representations and ways of working.  The model is designed more for a long-term learning experience than a one-off event model (which we should be avoiding anyways).

The artefacts and the notes are evidence for the instructor to look at the learner’s understanding and find a basis to understand not only their domain knowledge (and gaps), but also their understanding of the 21st Century Skills (e.g. the artefact-creation process, and working and researching and…), and their learning-to-learn skills. Moreover, if collaborative tools are used for the co-generation of the final artefact, there are traces of the contribution of each learner to serve as further evidence.

Of course, this could continue. If it’s a complex artefact (such as a product design, not just a presentation), there could be several revisions.  This is just a core structure.  And note that this is  not for every assignment. This is a major project around or in conjunction with other, smaller, things like formative assessment of component skills and presentation of models may occur.

What emerges is that the learners are learning about the meta-cognitive aspects of artefact design, through the guides. They are also meta-learning in their reflections (which may also be scaffolded). And, of course, the overall approach is designed to get the valuable cognitive processing necessary to learning.

There are some unresolved issues here.  For one, it could appear to be heavy load on the instructor. It’s essentially impossible to auto-mark the artefacts, though the peer review could remove some of the load, requiring only oversight. For another, it’s hard to fit into a particular time-frame. So, for instance, this could take more than a week if you give a few days for each section.  Finally, there’s the issue of assessing individual understanding.

I think this represents an integration of a wide spread of desirable features in a learning experience. It’s a model to shoot for, though it’s likely that not all elements will initially be integrated. And, as yet, there’s no LMS that’s going to track the artefact creation across courses and support all aspects of this.  It’s a first draft, and I welcome feedback!