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Think Beyond the Course

8 Nov

Training is not a singular event. The notion of “doing to the training” was never a useful paradigm, but even less so now with our always-on digital world. What information will the learner have already found on his own before taking the course? What social media posts has he already read about the training event he is set to undertake? After the fact, where will he turn and what will he discover to reinforce, amplify, or potentially torpedo the e-learning activity?

Learning is an ongoing activity that now takes place significantly online. ImageRather than think of e-learning as an event, smart organizations deliver timely useful information throughout the year on a continuous basis. People are always going to search for interesting, useful and engaging information. Human nature demands we find patterns, connect the dots, synthesize information.

How does your organization deliver information so that people are learning lessons that map to their success? And, how do e-learning products, be they courses, webinars, job aids, social media posts, etc., fit in to that larger strategy? We need to step back to consider if the digital milieu supports or undermines effective training, and take action accordingly (see more on this from Jane Hart). E-learning becomes an act of information curating rather than – or in addition to – creating content.

Objection Sustained? Not if you hit objections head on

7 Oct

Not all people welcome even well thought-out and executed training. (Shocking, I know!)

Some find it irrelevant. Others, that it is an unwelcome interruption to their already overflowing schedules. There are also people who object to the nature of a specific type of training, such as compliance or harassment training.  Some are simply hostile to the entire notion of training.

In planning a training activity, we need to dedicate part of our needs analysis and instructional design time to investigate and plan methods to address learner objections and obstacles. We should never assume that negative attitudes are unimportant nor simply ignore (what may be) valid attitudinal barriers to our efforts. I’ve found that the best way to address these issues is by engaging a learner up front with the relevance of the topic at hand.

Make it personal; tell a story. This is important to her because there may be real consequences – organizational, legal, and personal – to her or her colleagues if performance objectives here are not learned and internalized. If you can’t discover the direct relevance of a particular course, see this earlier post or the Cathy Moore topic it refers to.

The digital native advantage: Integrate the world into e-learning

26 Sep

In most organizations, learners spend much of their day in front of the screen. Don’t fear that email, the Internet, Twitter, et. al., will distract learners from your module: Of course it will!

However, what was a worry, with some holistic thinking, can become an asset (see Lessons 1 – 4). Flip the scene to imagine how social learning, the organizational intranet or forum feed, and the larger on-screen window-to-the-world become an asset to your e-learning goals.


E-learning is only one small stream reaching your learner. Learn to employ the full spectrum.

A learner, even if taken away from his computer for coursework  at a dedicated “e-learning terminal” carries the world with him in his mind (not to mention phones and tablets!). It is beneficial, if done thoughtfully, to invite the world at his fingertips into the course. Make a browser search part of a directed activity. Require that he IM his manager at key points throughout the e-learning course. Perhaps he’ll be directed to add to the intranet forum on the given topic. Why not? Learning is not separate from, but an important part of his working life. The outside world is not a threat if we bend it to our needs.

What’s more, for many topics the tool he uses to train on – his computer – is the same tool he uses to complete tasks. All the better! He is much more apt to remember and transfer his e-learning lesson when he is supported by the same visual and environmental cues that were there when he first learned it.

Learning is there to be found: How about an atlas?

9 Aug

Yesterday I had the pleasure to facilitate our home-grown, Portland-based learning professional’s group, the Collaborative Learning Network. (A big hats off to the IdeaLearning Group for bringing the CLN to life.) The topic I chose was the (purposely) vaguely titled, “The Evolving Role of the Modern Training Professional.”

I was equal parts heartened and disappointed to hear that pretty much everyone else was having the same struggle I was in figuring out how to leverage our world awash with digital artifacts into something to empower learners’ ability to take charge of their own learning. We touched on the idea that curated content could be an answer: Either curated and served in a defined “pool” of content, or learner-discovered and curated collections to demonstrate one type of learning outcome.

While we barely scratched the surface, the idea of curation has been rolling around my head a lot lately. A future topic for CLN, perhaps?

Serendipitously, while I was flipping though my recommendations this morning, I came across The EduPunks’ Atlas of Lifelong Learning. A periodic table of sorts (and sort-able!), it organizes a galaxy of learning portals for the motivated seeker. While it has an academic bent, it’s got me wondering if something similar might work for specific adult learning/training topics.

It’s an idea to marinate a bit. In the meantime, check it out:


Flipped classroom and Instructional Design: Flip me!

19 Jul

My workplace’s primary historical purpose was to improve, support, and supplement classroom teaching. And while Education Northwest’s scope has expanded over the years, there are thankfully still many very smart people steeped in the world of education and scholastic excellence.

I am not one of them.

My background, as you know if you’ve read this blog before, is in Instructional Design (ID) and e-learning, especially for adult workers (i.e., training). This is both a challenge and opportunity. On a day-to-day level, it means learning each other’s terms, nomenclature, and assumptions, so we are speaking a common language when we talk about projects and solutions.

A colleague recently pointed to th

Interaction is essential for class room learning.

Interaction is essential for class room learning.

e (terrific) trend toward “flipped” classrooms, where teachers spend most of the class time coaching hands-on activities while allowing students to watch the “lecture” online, suggesting that this was a step closer to what I do. Yes, a challenge and an opportunity.

While watching lectures, TED talks, videos, and other infotainment is all well and good, it is in fact not what we IDs and e-learning designers do. When instructors or trainers stand in front of learners, whether to lecture or to train, they have an immediate feedback loop: The learners are engaged, bored, eager, confused, frustrated, etc. Through conversation, application, and exercises, the instructor has an immediate way to judge success and failure. It is a true two-way give-and-take, and good trainers (and teachers) thrive in that environment.

When we think about e-learning, we start with the learner—alone, at a screen, hoping at best to have a useful and mildly engaging 15 minutes, but fearing pages of text that bore him to tears and from which he will retain next to nothing. (Well, there’s always email, solitaire or less wholesome ways to pass the time if forced to sit at a screen.)

An ID’s job is to design something to surprise, delight, and exceed those dreary expectations.

IDs think about the lonely learner: "How can I reach these kids?"

IDs think about the lonely learner: “How can I reach these kids (or adults)?”

How can we replace that human classroom experience with a learning experience that engages learners and, in its most elevated form, allows them to transfer the knowledge and skills to their work performance? That is our starting point. Creating that design is part science and part art. It requires a deep understanding of the topic, and then combines it with the science of how people learn, how they might apply what they’ve learned to real life, and what kind of activities convert a screen watcher into an immersive participant in his own learning. That’s what e-learning specialists do.

Anyone with modest proficiency can tape a lecture or throw slide sets online and call it learning. At best, it’s an interesting invitation that might lead to learning: The flip in the flipped classroom is where the magic happens. E-learning delivers the flip, not (just) the lecture.

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