where does learning go from here?

In my organization, personally and as a “learning professional”, I have been wondering “what’s next?”

I’ve found a couple articles worth reading.   This one and this one.

It’s an interesting discussion.  Recently, there’s been much discussion about devices at work and how they are used.   This stems, of course, from the idea that people should be in charge of their own learning and that formal learning probably only accounts for about 10% of people’s learning.  If this is true, why not let them “learn on the fly” – and instead of having to find somewhere to learn, enable learning on their devices and let them have that flexibility.  Let’s embrace the idea that people learn socially and from peers and that much of what we’ve even learned has been experiential and not prescriptive.

And yet, the conversations continue to be around tracking and documenting and making sure people don’t abuse the system.  And I’m not being specific to my organization  – I was speaking to a friend who manages a store from another retailer and she brought up the same arguments.  Many of them probably valid.  But limiting.  And old-school.

The truth is, 90% of what we learn is undocumented.   And I feel like in this age of technology, too many of our conversations are around how to compile and use that 90% of learning, instead of how to support it and direct it.  How do we make sure that the informal learning, social learning, and experiential learning turns into the right situational cognition (the ability to take what one knows about something and make it useful in the right context) in our spaces?    We’re busy trying to own that informal learning piece because we’re afraid of the future instead of asking ourselves how that other 10% can be better designed and supportive of what our businesses need.

The future of L&D, in my opinion, belongs to those who are unafraid of letting go.  Those people who want to track everything, make rules about how people learn and when, and deliver old solutions to new problems – they will only hold people back.

Instead of asking something like “how do we ensure people only use their device for learning and not texting their friends?”  we should be asking, “what do our people need to augment what they’re learning through peers and on the internet?”


an article review – typical vs serious eLearning

To read the article I’m about to review, click here.

This is a great article.  I could just end my review there.  It’s great.  It’s timely, it’s well-said and it addresses what is wrong and how to improve it.  I’m going to be sharing this with my team.

Here’s what I like about the article, beyond my initial gushing:   it’s an eight part discussion about the “what’s in it for me” for the learner.  It explains why an information dump doesn’t work, and gives some very practical advice on how to make content meaningful.   My only serious criticism of the article is that I would say this issue is not constrained to the borders of eLearning – but could be applied to ANY learning developed.  Live, virtual, web–based, it all applies.

So why aren’t we doing this?

I have a couple of guesses.  The first is that it takes a skilled instructional designer to take an information dump of content and turn it into something meaningful and useful for the learner.  It’s easier to copy and paste and present.  It’s easier to pretty it up.  “Let’s put in some smooth graphics and some stupid avatars and make this thing look awesome!”  It takes time, it takes creativity, it takes an advanced understanding of learners and it takes someone acting as the learner’s advocate to get this done.  It takes asking a lot of questions – the right questions.  It’s all about curation.

I’ve used this term before and I will use it again.  When I say curation, think of an art gallery.  The paintings, sculptures and other art are not displayed willy-nilly, but rather designed to take you on an emotional journey through the gallery.  They tell stories or evoke strong emotions.  They do not just hang on walls.

You may argue this.  Maybe you think art just hangs on walls because you don’t know the story.  Maybe you went to a sub-standard gallery or maybe you were not invested in the experience.  Maybe the question of “what’s in it for me” was not answered as you gazed at paintings.  As someone who sees instructional design as an art – and who has a love of galleries, I can tell you that most art experiences are curated and meaningful.  And I would advocate that our learning needs to be.

But back to the discussion,  I honestly believe that this isn’t getting done because many people who have the title of “instructional designer” are not truly instructional designers.  They may be instructional copiers, they may be graphic designers, or they may be completely out of their depth.   They may be people-pleasers who just want to make the customer happy instead of understanding that as a learner’s advocate we are forced to make our customers a little uneasy.  That’s the value we bring.

Another guess is that our customers, the business, may not understand the value of a performance based immersion style of learning.  It’s hard to edit, it’s hard to understand, and quite frankly, the business’ job is to get us to put content on the page.  If it’s there, information just typed out across well-designed screens, that’s easy to evaluate.  What’s harder is deciding if the content was curated properly.  If it’s engaging, enticing, giving the right context and helping learners explore how to learn more.  And, because so many of our reviewers or customers are subject matter experts, they worry that “they won’t learn enough” or “we aren’t telling them everything” – forgetting that most of what they learned as subject matter experts was not in an elearning course or sitting in front of the trainer.

So what do I think?  I think we need to get better at what we do and I think we need to be exponentially better at explaining to customers what the value is in curating content and not dumping information on a pretty screen.   How would I suggest getting better?

I ask questions, and I always ask at least five of them:

  • What does the learner really need to know?
  • Why does the learner need to know this?
  • When will they apply it?
  • Where do they apply it?
  • What happens if they do/don’t do it?
  • Who could be a resource to learn more or help?
  • How does this benefit the learner?

This gives me some framework, even if the first question is answered with “everything i gave you”.  If you get that answer, but real answers for the other questions, you can begin to answer the first question yourself.  You can begin crafting unique scenarios and context and stories for your learner to weave that content into.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as I did!

a look at learners

How do you define your learners?   Do you define them by how they learn?

multiple-intelligences-learning-stylesIn this example, you can see the Multiple Intelligences wheel, that suggest that each of us is smart in our own way, and that our learning – when we design it – should contain elements of these styles to appeal to each type of learner.  The question is, of course, HOW?

Others look at learners as how they approach learning:  the vacationer, prisoner, expert and learner.  The vacationer is the person who sees learning/training as a vacation from their desk, the prisoner is the person who is forced into training against their will, the expert is that person we all have in our classes who knows more than us and constantly argues their own position, and the learner is the person who genuinely signed up because they want to know more.  And how do we design for these types of learners?  Is there a way to engage the prisoner or expert more effectively?  What about the vacationer, especially as we think about eLearning, is there a way to make them move from “whatevs” to “I could use this”?

The other design question that comes up is “who do we design for?”  In a class of 15 – with some experts and some newbies – do we design the class for the most experienced, least experienced, or somewhere in between?  Do we risk losing our experienced learners as we dumb down content or do we risk going over people’s heads or adding additional work for the instructor as we write content for the experienced person?  And if we design, as common sense would dictate, in the middle somewhere – how do we handle those edge cases in the classroom?  on the web terminal?

Perhaps these questions can begin to be solved by creating and operating with sound objectives and a great list of “assumptions”.  When I’m preparing objectives for my SME, I try to also include a list of assumptions – things like “this pre-work was included” or “these learners have no experience in this area” or the like.  I’ve even included things like “the current content is valid”.   Having a SME not only review and agree to the objectives, but that your basic assumptions are correct, gives you a little more insight into Who will be taking this piece of learning and why you’re creating it.

I’m challenging myself to find ways to engage learners – both from a mulitiple intelligences point of view and from a “vacationer to prisoner” point of view.  I have connected to someone who claims to use this effectively in her practice.  I’ll let you know what she says and how easily it can be adapted.

a post-use review of Replay

So, as promised, I will review my experience with Replay.

And I’ll do that by sharing my result.  Click here to see the video I made – the subject matter was a ‘critical assessment of learning methodologies’ – essentially an argument about how we use the sage on the stage vs guide on the side.

What I liked:  the overall result – looks okay with a talking head and professional transitions.  It’s simple to use and publishes to a format that is easily uploaded to youtube.

What I didn’t like:  I wasn’t able to put in a lot of “ad hoc” information/text boxes/images and format them in the video screen  – but that could be me not knowing how to do it yet.  It’s dry and boring – but that is more a reflection on the design and the use of the video than the actual tool itself.

I definitely need more practice with this tool to use it to its full capabilities.  Beyond my dry delivery of content (it was for a course I was taking), I think it has some great potential to be used as a tool in my practice.

A pre-use review of Replay

I need to record a presentation for my course.  Actually, I use the functionality quite a bit in my personal and my professional roles.  My manager recently recommended trying Adobe Replay – and so I downloaded it and viewed a couple tutorials and then went about setting up my presentation and scripting it.  Today, I will try it out “for real”.

Before using it officially, I’d like to offer this review.  It looks pretty good.  Here’s how I’m intending to use it:  I’ve created and scripted a deck that goes over my presentation for my final assignment at school.  What Replay does, as I understand it, is it will record me presenting the slides – there will be a “camera” on the monitor so that you can follow along with the deck, and there will be a camera on me as a webcast.  As well, the recording will capture my audio.

Replay then mashes these together as a split screen where the deck is prominent and you can see and hear me presenting it.  In edit mode – I can switch the priority of the webcast or deck, I can remove one of the features as it makes sense, and I can add a “bottom third” to the screen – essentially like you’d see on a newscast where it might say “Christine Smith, Instructional Designer”.

As I understand it, you can bring in objects like pictures and media files to your presentation and the program will seamlessly and professionally meld them together.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this occurs and what sort of product I get.  I’m apprehensive about whether or not I can bring in other objects like text boxes and commentary – but we shall see.

Stay tuned for the post-use review and maybe the video itself – which, apparently, should be able to be linked to or posted here.