Monday, December 28, 2009

Will eLearning Work For You?

By Shelley A. Gable

Many organizations are converting pieces of their classroom training into eLearning modules. While there are a lot of advantages to eLearning - reduced delivery costs, on-demand availability regardless of time and location, consistent delivery, etc. - this delivery method might not be optimal for all of your training needs.

I've worked on a couple of projects over the past year that have involved analyzing the training needs of a particular business unit and determining which can be met with eLearning solutions. For those of you who may be working through a similar process, below are a few of the factors we considered when making this determination.

  • Is the content procedural and/or straight-forward? eLearning can be an efficient delivery method for content that is fairly black-and-white and tends to generate few clarifying questions from learners.

    If the content is complex, must be applied differently to various situations, or tends to generate a lot of clarifying questions, eLearning alone might not be the best delivery method. However, it might make sense to introduce the content's basic concepts with an eLearning lesson, and then address more advanced topics in an instructor-led environment.

    For example, a course on technical writing might benefit from this blended approach. An eLearning lesson could introduce the basic mechanics of writing style and formatting, while a facilitator-led method might be more appropriate for eliciting performance and providing detailed feedback.
  • Does the content involve interpersonal skills? Interpersonal skills (such as handling customer complaints, interviewing, public speaking, etc.) can rarely be fully developed in an eLearning environment. But as described above, a blended approach can allow an eLearning lesson to introduce a topic's basic principles, followed by a facilitator-led environment that fosters the application of those principles.
  • Where is your audience and when are they available for training? eLearning might be an ideal delivery method for audiences that are geographically dispersed or have schedules that are challenging to sync (perhaps because of time zone differences or job demands).

    For example, a customer care unit with agents who work from home might be a prime candidate for eLearning. Not only does the virtual access to training avoid travel time and expense, but also the on-demand nature of eLearning reduces the need to pull several agents off the phones at the same time to attend training.

I should point out that the organization this work was done for had the resources necessary to support eLearning. If your organization is wandering into this arena for the first time, there are basic logistical questions you should probably consider early on in the process. For instance:
  • Are your learners technologically equipped to access eLearning (i.e., Flash, multimedia, etc.)? If not, there are less complex eLearning options available, but this is important to determine early.
  • How will learners access the training (via an intranet site, a learning or content management system, etc.)?
  • How will you accurately track who has completed the training (via a learning or content management system, printed completion certificates, automatic emails to managers, etc.)?
  • Who will respond to technical issues that arise (internal technical developers, IT, external consultants, etc.)?

Obviously, neither of these question lists are exhaustive. However, if your organization is considering a transition to eLearning, hopefully these lists will be helpful to you in your decision-making process.

And remember, there are no 'stupid' questions. It's better to ask now and be confident later. Then you will know that eLearning will work for you, and the fun can begin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Low-Tech Ways to Add Social and Collaborative Learning To Your Training Plans

By Shelley A. Gable

I think we've all heard the buzz about social and collaborative learning. Based on their research, Bersin & Associates suggests that "modern" corporate training organizations are transitioning to collaborative, talent-driven learning. A survey conducted by The MASIE Center earlier this year indicates a similar trend. Many blog posts have contemplated how Web 2.0 technologies can enhance workplace learning. In fact, a post on this blog a few months ago (Understanding Web 2.0) offers an informative crash course on the topic.

All this chatter prompts me to think about constructivism. Constructivist theory posits that people construct knowledge by making sense of their experiences. The theory also acknowledges the important role that social interaction plays in this. And really, it's these concepts that are at the core of this trend. The technologies of Web 2.0 provide us with ways to reach out to others, discuss what's on our mind, and ultimately attempt to make sense of the world around us.

If you're like the majority of organizations who responded to The MASIE Center survey, you may be intrigued by what Web 2.0 can offer, but not in a position just yet to take full advantage of it. If this is the case, consider how some of the low-tech collaborative learning options below might work for your organization.

  1. Provide a discussion forum for learners to post their insights from training. A simple discussion board can easily be set up on a Microsoft SharePoint site or on other types of intranet sites. Consider directing learners to post "ah ha" learnings, plans for applying what they've just learned, and/or unanswered questions from training. Asking learners to post their thoughts at key points during training not only prompts reflection, but also allows them to learn from others' insights. Requiring learners to use the discussion forum multiple times during the training and/or at suggested intervals after the training can help deepen the dialogue and enhance its interactivity.

  2. Assign learners to a partner or group to discuss the training via email. This medium can be used in a way similar to the discussion forum described above.

  3. Design a structured conversation for the learner to have with a manager about the training. In order for the lessons learned from training to transfer to the job, they must be reinforced by the learners' managers. Providing structure for a learner to discuss the training with a manager can be an effective way to encourage this. Such a conversation could take place at a specified point during or after the training, and it could aim to accomplish the type of reflection described in #1 above.

If you're among those who are interested in dabbling in collaborative learning, consider easing into it with one of these low-tech approaches. And if you do, be sure to use Web 2.0 (blog comments, Twitter, whatever your tool of choice) to tell the rest of us how it worked out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

ADDIE should have been DADDIE all along

By Jay Lambert

Being in the realm of performance improvement, we are always searching for ways to improve our own processes. So it was an “aha” moment when I read Gerry Wasiluk’s post about the DADDIE model on the Articulate Forum. Basically, his former group borrowed from Six Sigma and added the ‘Define’ step to the beginning of the learning industry-standard ADDIE model. (As a reminder, ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.)

What constitutes Define? Things we are all already doing anyway really. Tasks such as creating a team charter, gaining a high-level understanding of the issue being addressed, creating a project plan, kicking off the project, etc. Define encompasses the logical first steps of a project.

Yet, I truly like the D being called out because these first steps are so critical to later success. I can think of times where we moved too quickly into a fast-paced project only to hit major bumps. The root cause? We had skipped over a key Define task and all of our ducks, so to speak, were not in a row.

By switching to the DADDIE model, the risk of this becomes much less likely. Charter documents and such are no longer an item to complete before starting a project, they are a called out and integral part of the project. Adjusting the model emphasizes their importance.

Give me a D all the way. Truly, ADDIE should have been DADDIE all along.