The Learning Buzz!

The Learning Buzz!
November 18, 2010

I recently returned from the Learning 2010 conference in Orlando and was among more than 1700 attendees.  Apolo Anton Ohno was the keynote speaker.   What is Apolo doing at a learning conference?   Because in learning, passion and intensity matters!  Elliott Masie chatted with Apolo about the role that intensity played in training for his performance at both the Olympics and Dancing with the Stars.  He knew that to reach the "1%" level of performers, he had to engage in a long term intensity of training and focus. This meant coaching, mentoring, numeric feedback and framework shifts. His training did not consist of only one method. We also know that there is not just one right approach for every course or learner. 

Much of the buzz was around socal media and performance support, mobile learning and metrics.

Social Media and Performance Support

Many of the speaker led sessions involved a discussion of social media in business.  Learners must always be learning particularly at the moment of need. Social Media tools are being added to LMSs as well as other vendors creating stand alone products.  Many felt that classroom is not the optimum place for knowledge gain.  Why?

  • They are out of their normal work environment

  • Not enough practice

  • Classroom should be more about teaching how to use support materials and tools after the class and concentrate more on learning skills in live classes and not on knowledge.

Governance and training employees how to use these tools was paramount to ensure adoption.  Also, if you implement a social media tool, you need to have requirements in place to specify what tools to "no longer use" for collaboration, such as Outlook.

It was interesting to hear speakers mention that if you refer to social media as employee engagement you will get more attention/resources vs. social learning.

A number of speakers commented about the hype and "ghost town" quality of many internal social networks that start with a big bang but don't really impact the daily lives of employees or assist them with performance.  Also discussed was the importance of ownership and responsibility of who monitors the discussion forums, blogs and other social media features and the importance of executives participating in and leading forums, blogs gain a following and to ensure success.

Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning continues to be hot.  By the year 2013 predictions are that 35% of workers worldwide, 1.2 billion people will be mobile.

When we arrived at the conference we were provided with a conference app to download to our phones to experiment. The app included all sessions, locations, and a calendar tool to create which sessions you choose to attend. Any updates or changes were pushed to the device.

It did seem that many of the vendors I spoke with are able to meet most of the SCORM requirements, but it was not clear how to handle certain SCORM requirements when learning is delivered on a mobile device.  For example, we heard from many vendors that they struggle with bookmarking on a mobile device.  If anyone can share vendors that currently can, please share that information!

Everyone reiterated that mobile learning needs to be shorter chunks of content and best practices need to be taken into account.  You cannot expect an on demand course typically distributed on a computer to look the same on a mobile device.  For example, not all graphic formats work on every device. 

Click here to view an example of how Sun Microsystems is using Mobile Devices for learning. Click Here

Metrics, Metrics, Metrics!

The focus was more on Return on EXPECTATIONS and not always Return on Investment, especially when it comes to learning.  Key stakeholders/sponsors need to sign off on what is important and what their expectation is.  Conducting a pilot first is very important.

We were still hearing the common challenges we all face in measurement and determining ROI:

  • Many times no baseline

  • Poorly defined business need

  • Big challenge trying to tie metrics directly to training since there are so many variables.

  • No stakeholder, no champion

  • Unrealistic time frame

  • Want results without the work

  • I will ask you to prove this, but I know you cannot give us an answer…reaching for the Holy Grail!

  • Also, should informal learning be measured?  Lots of discussion around that topic

Four levels or Five levels of evaluation?  Depends on who you ask! Regardless, what is important is what the stakeholders determine the measurement objective to be.  If you are not familiar with evaluation, the 5 Levels of Evaluation are:
1. Reaction
2. Learning
3. Application
4. Impact
5. ROI

Will the same topics still be "the buzz" next year?  My opinion, yes, and I feel that next year we won't be discussing "if" social media and delivering mobile learning is an important business strategy, but instead "what tools has your organization implemented, that support these strategies?"

Submitted by Audrey Polce, Practice Manager, Learning & Development