Monday, December 30, 2013

Influence and Persuasion - resource

Someone sent me this clip as an introduction to some influencing techniques. It makes a good introductory argument for some simple changes. I'd like to see how a group of grads (or similar cohort) would react to trying these techniques in a professional setting. I love the engaging format of the clip, not dissimilar to the Dan Pink & RSAnimate motivation clip, but I think increasingly professionals look for examples that relate directly to their context. This makes sense, if you know anything adult learning principles or the Connectivist theory.

Influence as presented in this clip seems heavily tied to sales activities within businesses, but for learning practitioners I'm seeing more and more need for strong influencing skills to make the case for changing behaviour and embedding learning objectives after the initial formal presentation of new information/procedures/products etc. Working with the learner and their on-the-job context (i.e. peers, managers and internal stakeholders) to influence for the change is more and more a role the learning designer plays. Food for thought.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Summer Reading

Given its the silly season, and most of us south of the equator are taking a well earned break, this summer reading flow chart could come in handy. This is the first solid break I've taken in 15 months and naturally I immediately made a list of all the things I would do to 'be productive' while on my break. Pretty counterintuitive. I digress. This flow chart should help for those like me who have a natural inclination to pick 30 books and assume you'll easily read all of them in addition to doing all the odd jobs and catching up with everyone over a two week period.

The Summer Reading Flowchart

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Recent numbers for global learning [infographic]

A recent infographic presents some handy stats if you're stuck in a conversation about just how many people are using, and how many institutions are adopting some form of online solution:
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Global Online Education

Monday, December 16, 2013

EdTech Startups - how does that happen?

Here in the blogosphere there are a ton of influences and resources and events and companies pushing ideas and *stuff* at the education consumer. It's easy to forget that for those L&D professionals/educators/learning people not normally working online, the edtech idea can be more than a little confusing. How do so many companies get started? Why do they get started? Are the people who make the products and the brands and the campaigns and events and everything else that gets pushed in our faces - are they educators or are they business people? Are they advertisers or are they entrepreneurs? If you've ever asked or been asked these questions, I recommend watching the below presentation by Khalid Smith. Khalid is involved in an event called Startup Weekend that takes the ideas associated with entrepreneurship and design thinking, and brings a whole bunch of people interested in education together to work with those ideas to meet learning needs.

In a rough kinda 'how-to' way, his presentation that seems to be one of the first from the weekend, is a nice introduction into how we got to this entrepreneurial edtech state in the first place.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Learning and Development as Strategy Execution

After writing about Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method last week, I fell into a vortex wonderment, watching and re-watching his presentation at Learning Technologies 2013. Brinkerhoff spoke about Making L&D Matter. Proving the true worth of L&D is hard to do and requires very deliberate effort. How do we know we're hitting the right goals, using the right measures, telling the right stories to the right people?

Well, to get you thinking, grab a beverage and settle in for this session. It's choc-full of great takeaways about how to think about L&D as a valuable contributor to the organisation, and how this perception has changed over time. My personal favourite however, because it's how I've been telling the story of the value of L&D in my current role, is right up there in the post title: Learning and development as strategy execution. If we're aligning our actions to the most commonly used measure in the organisation, it's hard to not justify a seat at the big kids table come decision-making time.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tangent: Help those affected by Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan is thankfully over. The aftermath will unfortunately continue to affect thousands of people in the Philippines for years to come. This silly season, please consider an act of generosity as you wind down for the year and celebrate health and wealth with those near to you. Most agencies are taking donations and formulating plans, both short and longer term, to respond to this humanitarian disaster.

Some links to easily donate are below.

Compassion facilitate approximately 13,000 child sponsorships in the Philippines. So far, none have been counted among those lost. Compassion's approach to child development is one of cradle-to-grave, involving communities in a big way. I've made donations here, as I'm a sponsor of children through their program, one of which is in the Phils. I'm hoping I get a letter hearing about his family's survival soon.

Red Cross Phlippines

Oxfam Australia

Unicef Australia

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Am I doing a good job? Kirkpatrick v. Success Case Method

I stumbled on this fantastic comparison of two methods of evaluating learning in the workplace. Most of us are already more than familiar with the Kirkpatrick approach: difficult to manage levels, quantitative, isolated to the learning intervention itself, based on a reductionist method exposing 'averages'. Please believe me when I say I'm not against Kirkpatrick in some contexts. It is important to recognise the limitations of one of the most common models being used in the industry however.

Gram compares this with the success case method. We have Robert Brinkerhoff to thank for this alternative. As soon as I started reading about this approach to evaluation I was attracted to it because of the loose links to appreciative inquiry. I'm a big believer in appreciative inquiry, and although the success method is definitely focused on evaluation (and therefore not just observing but placing conclusions on research), I can see connections. The success method places more value on qualitative evidence and recognises that learning as an 'intervention' cannot be isolated from the context it takes place in.

Keen to get a little more detail on the success case method, in case it could help in your organisation? I'm about to start reading The Success Case Method (and maybe follow up with Telling Training's Story).

I still think there is a case for the Kirkpatrick model evaluation. It's still necessary to demonstrate the impact of learning in businesses, and get data in front of decision makers. How we collect that data, present that data and tell the story about that data, is more and more a part of the role of the in-house L&D professional. Just another set of abilities being added to the changing role of the learning practitioner.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Edublog 2013 eddies

Nominations are now closed for the 2013 Edublog eddies. These are annual awards that recognise some of the best in the online ed space. Sure, it may be part PR exercise, part popularity contest, but there's a heck of  a lot of content out there and a fair amount of the most decent stuff comes out in the wash with these awards.

Check out past awards here.

What is Edublogs? Check them out. As they say, wordpress for education/educators. (And Aussie!)

I for one am really looking forward to seeing what I can glean/add to my reading list from the nominations and awards.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Paradox of Choice - implications for learning

Barry Schwartz's TED talk on the paradox of choice is a good few years old now. It's a very succinct summary of his book of the same name. You can also read a pdf summary of the book here. Choice in learning is something that many instructional designers love to hate and hate to love. Often associated with control, increasingly learners in all contexts are demanding more control and more choice over their learning - both how and what.

So does Schwartz's argument have any implications for handing over control to the learner in the design of solutions? I would argue firstly the argument for decreasing or incresing choice needs to be balanced. Stephen Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, argues against Schwartz's ideas, like most good economists. His main point is that there needs to be a distinction between choice and complexity. And therein I believe the value lies for instructional design. Designing for sophisticated simplicity, allowing choice to remain while shaving away unnecessary complexity is the real value of the learning design process. Doing that with finesse I don't believe will ever be automated. Even with the fantastic gains we're seeing in intelligent algorithms for data processing, it will remain extremely hard to remove the human aspect of excellence. So even though the role of the instructional designer is definitely changing, and the needs of the audience are changing too, there should always be a place for great learning design, and the humans to help make that happen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Learning Strategy for the Workplace

Increasingly my time is not spent facilitating, or designing content, but shepherding people and content so that others can gain access and do the learning for themselves. This is of course a smart use of my time, as I am only one person, employed to assist up to 500 employees’ learning experience. However, a tension exists between doing the ‘action’ of facilitating and designing, and doing the strategic things. Why? Because of my unrealistic expectation that I should be doing all the things.

Strategy is not a dirty word. Neither is delegating, planning or prioritising. I am much more comfortable being strategic about my content development, using those terms in relation to developing actual sessions that will be delivered to staff, however when it comes to dealing with the whole gamut of activities that a Learning and Development Consultant needs to do, all of a sudden the pressure rises and I feel guilty. Why the guilt? Other roles have strategies, other business functions are recognised for the full suite of their activities. By not being deliberate, clear and confident in my use of time, I give credence to the incorrect assumption by others that anyone in a learning team should be training all the time. This is simply not the case.

So how to develop a learning strategy? These things have been written about extensively and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Deb Gallo even presented on elearning strategies at the elNet event a couple of months ago. There are models galore to base a strategy on: ADDIE, agile, design thinking, systems, VSE. A fairly good summary of the main learning design methodologies is available here. These don’t necessarily address how a strategy involving those activities should be developed. A good initial place of reference should be the organisation in which you’re operating. Does the company already have a business strategy? If so, what model have they used? It would be an easy step for stakeholders to adopt a learning strategy if it were in the same framework they’re used to. Allison Rossett put it well when she posted: “It’s [success in workplace learning practice] not any one thing. It’s many things, aligned, in systems”. It involves personal learning networks, evidence, blended delivery, choices, devolved control, transparency, a grounding in common vision which is in turn supported by need which should be clarified by specific objective targets.

So, a new resolution for us learning and development professionals in the brave new world of businesses with increasingly more and varied needs for learning solutions: be comfortable with non-delivery activity and be prepared to back it up to your sponsors and stakeholders. Just like any other productive business unit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Workplace Trainer PD: presenting, facilitating, influencing

I've been asked more than a couple of times in the last few weeks about presenting, confidence and influence. Sometimes it's been asked by trainers, other times I'm deferred to because people assume I have all of this down pat 100% simply because I've presented in the past and regularly facilitate group sessions. It led me to start looking for resources that reflect what I have observed, picked up and been coached to do over the years. Of course everyone will develop their own presenting and facilitation style once they increase in confidence. But how do we get to the confident stage in the first place? Amy Cuddy's TED talk pretty well hits the nail on the head. I have never had anyone articulate these behaviours as explicitly as Amy does, but simply by turning on your critical observer eye while watching seasoned confident presenters will take you a long way to identifying most of what she outlines.

I've had so many people rush at me with a link to this clip that I almost assume everyone has seen it. It really is a great reminder for professional facilitators if we have a particularly challenging session or group of participants ahead of us. Realistically, how much time do we devote to such an essential skill in the workplace learning professional toolbox? But stopping at power posing does ourselves (and those we're trying to help) a disservice.

I mentioned at the beginning influence. For some reason, many professionals looking for a helping hand in this area, assume influence is inextricably linked to excellent presentation or facilitation skills. Not always so. In some cases influence is simply another tool in the negotiators kit, or a handy thing to be keeping in the back of your mind at a high stakes social event (cocktail networking anyone??). If you want to start somewhere relatively removed from 'influencing for success at work' or 'influencing for better learning', Nicholas Christakis' talk on the power of influence in social networks is a pretty good choice. Take those concepts of the social network at work and add in conscious effort or some explicit goal, such as a project or KPI, and people start looking for things like Goleman's Emotional Intelligence to get the upper hand. And then if you keep going down that path, looking for more and more explicit sets of instructions you'll eventually come across something like Deborah H. Gruenfeld's Lean In presentation on power and influence. Whether or not you agree with Gruenfeld, Goleman or Christakis, it's pretty clear there is a lot to be said for these topics to be separated from one another.

So why do we allow businesses to group presenting, confidence and influence into the same professional development needs, categories, solutions? Surely we can utilise some of our (now excellent) influencing skills to help our stakeholders see our side of things. Oh, the irony.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Technology and 21st Century Learning

And I quote:

"21st century learning: A transformation from learning 'what' to learning 'how'. - Elliot Soloway

"I think one of the breakthrough ideas is to change the concept of the learner into someone who becomes a contributor by doing their work, which means we have to redefine the work. That represents a shift of control. From the teacher who is at the very the network of children who are helping one another learn." - Alan November

Elliot Soloway and Alan November are both talking about the future of learning and technology in this century. Their focus is on children (just like Stephen Heppell's from the other day).

I challenge you to read the above in the context of today's workplace.

Learning and work being redefined as the same activity in an organisation sounds pretty risky. Isn't that exactly what is expected of employees when they're asked to have on-the-job experience though?

Shifting control from the expert to a network of employees within an organisation, helping one another get the job done, that sounds both risky and not. Knowledge management types have long decried the 'key man risk' that the expert represents. But releasing control within an organisation still sounds pretty darn radical.

What about learning at work anyway? If we have to acknowledge the loosening of control around knowledge, expertise and how learning happens, how does your garden variety workplace learning professional bring home the bacon? That's definitely another conversation for another day. But I do believe it's high time it became a lot more frequently discussed. The more fear is associated with acknowledging a changing role in learning, the more painful that change is likely become. There are a lot of strengths learning types offer companies. If the way learning happens is changing, that doesn't mean those strengths are any less valid, unless they're no longer being used because the practitioner has withdrawn out of fear of the change in the first place.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Empowering Learners

I recently stumbled on this great short film featuring Stephen Heppell, on empowering young learners. So much content exists out there that focuses on young learners - there are so many people, groups, papers agitating for change in education.

I challenge you to watch this and think about adult learners.
Think about professionals (who are also learners by the way).
Think about how work gets done at work.
Think about how change happens at work.
About how people deal with change at work.
About how new things are taken on, absorbed, adapted to fit.

The ideas Heppell talks about are supposedly a reaction to the way education has been managed as a system and institution up to now. If that's the case, and education (or learning) for adults is still happening inside institutions (the companies we all work for), what should the response of the adult education professional be? How do we create engaging, learner-centred, authentic learning experiences? How do we remove the standards and expectations placed on 'learning interventions' while still serving a business objective? Is that even possible?

I was lucky enough to speak on the same program with Stephen Heppell a few years ago at Teaching and Learning with Vision conference (as an aside, I'm so disappointed there was no conference this year!). I would never compare myself to Heppell, but until we met at the opening night drinks I had no idea how lucky I was to be hearing him speak, let alone be on the same program as him! Stephen's work is very focused on young learners (read: children) and schools, however I highly recommend going to the trouble to hear him speak if you get the chance. His natural style, ground-breaking research and funny asides are worth it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What are MOOCs? Are they here to stay?

A great panel discussion at WISE in Doha addressed MOOCs. If you've been too ashamed to ask (or google) what that means, this is a deep end definition, but a great one. So often definitions over-simplify and trivialise the potential impact of emerging ways of doing learning. This panel looks at what a MOOC is, whether they're a good thing and what the future of MOOCs could look like.

George Siemens jumps in a few minutes into the discussion about whether or not MOOCs are disruptive to the current system and provides a great definition that supports his view that the disruption was inevitable:

"They're part of a shadow learning economy. They're a supply-side solution to a demand-side problem around knowledge that's been building for decades."

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Innovation of Loneliness

There's been a great short clip floating around, putting forth the case for reducing the amount of time spent on digitial social channels, and replacing it with face to face interaction.

Naturally I started thinking about the potential impact of these ideas on social learning in the workplace and learning design using technology. Ultimately, the appropriate response is to encourage authenticity in participants and create a blended solution that takes advantage of the benefits of social media as well as face to face interactions for learners. This is already implicitly addressed in the flipped classroom.

I'm keen to see how this emerging knowledge of behaviour impacts on learning design, social learning solutions and even informal social learning. Perhaps this pervasive image curation is a part of the reason why lurkers exist in online learning contexts?

Friday, November 8, 2013

10 time management tips i wish someone told me

What's the use of knowledge and experience unless it benefits you and those around you? Every time I'm swamped with work I'm pretty quick to recognise stress levels rising. It's then that I get serious about time management. Sure, I am usually pretty good with this anyway, but when it comes to pressured situations, I think we all sink to the baseline of what we know, we don't normally rise up to a higher level of functioning. So the 10 most useful things I remind myself about time management are:

  1. Be honest with yourself. This is just basic self-care. Be real about the sheer size of the work to do, and be honest that it's stressful. It won't seem so much like a monster when the thing is acknowledged.
  2. Be honest with others - manage the heck out of those expectations. Clarify with everyone and once you're on the same page, even though the work hasn't disappeared, a lot of the pressure usually has.
  3. Days always fill up. So it's essential that we prioritise. Prioritisation is an actionable value statement. It's a way of demonstrating what you think is the most valuable thing at that point.
  4. Flow isn't always immediately available. There will always be times when you really hit that sweet spot and things just flow. There will also be times when the exact opposite is true. High workload, stressful times don't have any consideration for either state. Having strategies in place for both situations is important. This means planning and knowing yourself really well.
  5. Time to plan is not wasted time.
  6. Procrastination is the enemy. Just. get. it. done.
  7. Burnout times happen. Just make sure they don't happen often.
  8. Connectivity can be a hindrance. Sure, it's great to have IM open so you can quickly access those SMEs, but the opposite is also equally helpful.Social media, IM, phones, open work spaces - disconnect from that stuff for periods.
  9. Multitasking is a fallacy. There, I said it. If you can get a 'passive' task done at the same time, go for it. very few to-do list items fall into that category though.
  10. Time is valuable. Respect it and make it respected. Are all those items on your list really that vital and urgent? Are the definitely only doable by you? What value is being placed on *your* time by doing all that stuff?
If all else fails, just go with this:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Instructional Design funnies

Just stumbled on this hilariously accurate clip on instructional design as viewed by the customer/client. I've heard every single one of these requests from business unit stakeholders. If I'm honest, I've even considered a couple of them as options myself. Thank goodness I quickly came to my senses. Enjoy.

I wonder how useful this clip would be to help stakeholders understand how crazy some requests are? Maybe a little more polite diplomacy is required...

Monday, October 28, 2013

ElNet Sydney Congress speakers

The people I spoke alongside at the ElNet Sydney Congress way back in June were great practitioners keen on sharing their ideas and experiences. I thought I'd pull together where you can find more of their work and (hopefully) make it slightly easier to get to great content and resources that will tide us L&D practitioners over until the next event. Each presenter brought something unique to the day. Some have blogs, some run their own business, but all are generous in what they can offer the field. I highly recommend at least browsing each of the presenters online presences at some point.

Mel Doriean is a facilitator and consultant who's worked in the public sector. Her presentation, Would you like fries with that, was a super practical session on project management as it relates to learning interventions. She's also got some handy resources saved on her diigo profile.

I missed Matt Moore's presentation on Doing it better, but from his questions of other presenters throughout the day, and watching the clip afterwards, I know to expect challenging stuff from him in future! With a background in knowledge management, Matt's got a great ability to identify cross-over between disciplines.

Debora Gallo's session was fantastic. She talked candidly about her personal experience cross over from commercial practice to higher education as well as what it's like to maintain strong relational ties with an organisation when you're an introvert. Developing a strategy is something so vital to internal representatives who want to move away from reactive practice. She also writes sporadically (and has some great resources available) at eBites.

Robin Petterd shared some detailed thoughts on how agile could be used to manage eLearning projects. It's a great discussion on multiple disciplines converging to create greater results. Robin's also an artist (go check out his work here) and runs Sprout labs.

Alison Bickford is always great to hear. She's a dynamic, incredibly experienced leader in the Australian L&D field and never fails to push the limits of what's currently accepted as the norm. This session was no exception. Titled Horses for courses, we were given a chance to grapple with better defining project needs and learning needs to arrive at a solution sooner, and with less sacrifice along the way. Alison also runs Connect Thinking and the eLearning Academy. You can follow her on twitter at @connectthinking too.

Unfortunately I also missed Larisa Ishchenko's session on social learning for the workplace which is a real shame as the clip shows it was a super interesting 40 minutes. Not to worry, you can keep pace with her work by following her on twitter at @seagull128 and see some of her other work on slideshare.

Looking forward to what ElNet come up with at their next Sydney Congress.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Multiple Choice Assessment Design at Work

I've been writing a lot of multiple choice assessments lately. It seems to be the mainstay of compliance training theory assessment. While it's just as easy to donkey design a multiple choice quiz as it is to donkey complete one (we've all been there - just pick c and hope for the best), I have found a few resources around the traps to mostly summarise what I understand as pretty solid assessment design.

Thinking about good multiple choice questions
10 rules for writing multiple choice questions
University of Texas on writing multiple choice questions
Brigham Young University's 14 rules for writing multiple choice questions

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10 Quick Networking tips for the haters

A few people have asked me about networking. I'm no professional, and in fact get quite turned off by those who think they are. I have kinda figured out what works for me though.

Below are 10 tips I've found help with professional networking:

  1. Quality v. Quantity - there's a place for both these kinds of networking. Depending on what method of network you're using (online or offline) the strength of tie is likely to vary. For example, building a relationship with someone over LinkedIn, while hard, is possible, and may result in a slightly weaker tie than a family friend who works in the same industry and city as you. That's fine. A spectrum exists, and can be really handy at different points in a career.
  2. Only go to events, places, mixers, conferences, companies that excite you. I love Jess Hagy's image to really drive this home:
  3. Follow up immediately. I mean, have you ever been annoyed at someone doing something for you promptly? No. Consider how good an impression it would be then, to *actually* send someone that article, make that email introduction, share that resource.
  4. Be honest. Don't tell your new conference buddy that you're gonna lunch with them every week from here until eternity if you know very well your only chance to run is at lunch. Instead, be honest and try to find a compromise.
  5. Don't feel guilty. No one expects you to be great at this, or make x new contacts in your personal professional network each month. If they do, you're in sales buddy, and you better get comfy with networking. Otherwise, cut yourself a break and quit the guilt trip.
  6. Think about the long term and short term. Both kinds of relationships are useful. It's great to have someone you can reach out to for a quick answer, and you'll never know when keeping in touch with that florist-slash-acrobat is going to come in handy.
  7. Listen more than you talk. It's cliche, but you have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly. Who is the most interesting person you talked to lately? Why did they hold your attention? The best people to talk to are the ones who want to know all about us.
  8. Don't be elsewhere. Be in the room. Don't be in your phone, bag, drink, buddy's conversation. Be present in the conversation you're having. Anything less is an insult.
  9. Focus on the other. If you're focused on the other person that you're meeting, it's more than likely they'll feel seen, heard and valued. They're much more likely to want to hear about who you are from there.
  10. Authenticity is king. Be real. Just be normal. If the new person doesn't know the real you, how are they going to know if they want to keep in touch? It's that simple.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sophie Carter - Free is Good, Freedom is even Better

I presented at the ElNet Sydney Congress a couple of months back. The theme of the day was project management, and while I talked a bit about that, my main goal was to challenge  everyone to start thinking about learning as a larger activity taking place at work. Check it out below.