Posted tagged ‘implementation’

Allergic to ATNA

21 December 2010

The reactions of some world leaders to the US diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks has been, well, predictable.

According to The Guardian, Gaddafi of Libya praised WikiLeaks for exposing American “hypocrisy”. Chavez of Venezuela called on Hillary Clinton to resign in the wake of “all of this spying and delinquency”. Linera of Bolivia decried “insults” and “third rate espionage”. And so on around the globe.

I look forward to these governments submitting their own diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Then the world can judge their behaviour behind closed doors.

Yeah, right.

Obama and Chavez shake hands like old friends

The hypocrisy of these world leaders has prompted me to self-reflect.

I don’t want to be one of those e-learning “experts” who waxes lyrical about emerging technologies and lofty ideals like collaboration, only to leave it to others to implement (because that’s the hard bit).

I actually want to do it, enable it, drive it, test it, improve it, share it.

Hence I have published this post. Now that I’ve told the world, I have to keep myself accountable!
 

How not to do social media

1 December 2010

As my friends can attest, I’m a big Socceroos fan.

Socceroos fan

I grew up playing football (aka soccer) and although a few different codes compete for my attention in my home town, the World Game is the one I truly care about.

It was to my great joy, therefore, that the national administrators of the sport comprehensively revamped the local league several years ago. I think it’s fair to say the previous administration was widely perceived as incompetent, so it was no surprise when it was scrapped. The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) was born, and in 2005 the A-League kicked off.

Side note: I wasn’t the only one scratching my head when West Sydney wasn’t a founding club. Maybe it was a sign of things to come.

Around this time I was getting into Facebook. I had become a “fan” of a couple of other sports clubs (eg Wests Tigers) when I noticed there was no Facebook page dedicated to the Australian national football team. So, being the passionate fan that I am, I started one.

In no time I had attracted over 10,000 fans. I dutifully sent out updates for upcoming matches, and I even provided the details of local TV coverage for fans who couldn’t attend in person.

This went along swimmingly until I got a message from Facebook HQ telling me that I had no rights over the page and my administration access was suspended. The message said I could submit an appeal outlining why I should be granted access, which I did on the basis of the page being a “fan” page. I even suggested that the title of the page be changed to “Fans of the Socceroos”. Naturally I staked no claim whatsoever to any IP such as the Socceroos logo.

Lo and behold, Facebook never replied.

What can I deduce from this? Obviously some clever dick in the FFA had the bright idea of jumping on the Facebook bandwagon – and the easiest way to do this was to hijack the fan page that I had lovingly curated.

The irony is I would gladly have handed them the reins if only they had the professionalism to ask.

But they didn’t. Suffice to say it left a bad taste in my mouth.

A different approach

The sorry affair was a faded memory as I watched Grace Gordon from Soap Creative present at last month’s SMCSYD.

Bubble O' BillGrace was busting social media myths when she mentioned a brand that piqued my interest: Bubble O’ Bill.

For those of you who are not aware, Bubble O’ Bill is an ice cream that was first launched in the US in the 1980s, but achieved peculiar success in Australia soon after.

In 2009, customer Nick Getley liked the brand so much he created a Bubble O’ Bill page on Facebook that – at the time of writing – has 844,276 fans!

Switched on Media tells us how it came about:

The history of the Bubble O' Bill fan page

It is the penultimate sentence that resonates with me:

Overwhelmed by the warm support for this Aussie icon, Streets Ice Cream contacted Nick and offered to work with him to make the page official.

Take a bow, Streets. You approached social media in the spirit that was intended, and now you are reaping the rewards.

The difference between right and wrong

So what does this have to do with e-learning?

Well, as time goes by, e-learning is increasingly converging with social learning through social media. The two marketing cases outlined above teach us that when we implement a social media strategy, there is a right way and a wrong way.

The right way is to be inclusive, collaborative and supportive. If you empower your champions to follow their passion, they will lead the charge on your behalf.

The wrong way is to be draconian, faceless and isolationist. If you burn your champions, you will lose your allies.

The proof of the pudding

So to conclude, let’s compare fan bases.

The fan bases of the Socceroos and Bubble O' Bill pages on Facebook (01/12/10)

The Socceroos, the pride of a nation, has 144,378 fans on Facebook.

Bubble O’ Bill, the ice cream cowboy with a bubblegum nose, has 844,276 fans on Facebook.

Whose social media strategy will you adopt?

Square pegs and round holes

28 September 2010

What’s your role in the workplace?

How does that compare to what you do on a day-to-day basis?

I ask you this because what we think we should be doing and what we actually find ourselves doing are often two very different things.

That concerns me because I’ve been blogging a lot about a revamped learning model which relies heavily on Web 2.0 technologies to support informal learning.

In the back of my mind, I realise that revolutionising the learning model in this way would shock some organisations.

To work effectively in those environments, the model would demand significant shifts in roles and responsibilities away from the status quo, towards what I suggest the employees should be doing instead.

Allow me to elaborate…

Various pegs in their right holes

The role of the learner

In my view, every employee has the obligation to drive their own development.

An Informal Learning Environment (ILE) empowers them to do just that. It’s a space where they can explore content, ask questions, and seek help from their peers.

This relieves the L&D professional from alternately spoonfeeding and coercing grown adults into doing what they should be doing for and among themselves.

In short: the role of learning should be assigned to the learner.

The role of the subject matter expert

Taking the logic one step further, every employee also has the obligation to share their knowledge with their colleagues.

Web 2.0 empowers them to do just that. With tools like blogs, wikis and discussion forums, they can contribute content, participate in the conversation, and keep everyone up to speed in their domain.

This relieves the L&D professional from developing and managing content over which they have no authority.

In short: the role of knowledge sharing should be assigned to the SME.

The role of the manager

Must it be said that every manager has the obligation to manage the development of their own staff..?

With the help of their subject matter experts, managers should identify required competencies, assess proficiencies, assign development goals, fund and approve training, and hold regular development discussions.

This relieves the L&D professional from getting bogged down in technical matters over which – again – they have no authority.

In short: the role of managing the team should be assigned to the manager.

The role of the L&D professional

So if the L&D professional is no longer responsible for babysitting and strong-arming employees, conjuring content, and doing the managers’ jobs for them, what on Earth are they responsible for?

The answer is plenty, including consulting, training needs analysis, instructional design, developing content for which they are the expert (eg development plan templates, development discussion workshops), facilitation, community management, training evaluation, research and governance.

In short: the L&D professional supports the learners, subject matter experts and managers in playing their parts to improve the capability and performance of the organisation.

Change management

In the 99% of organisations in which a greenfield opportunity does not exist, my revamped learning model represents a paradigm revolution.

Given legacy systems, entrenched practices and perhaps a less-than-booming corporate culture, successful implementation would require skillful change management to say the least, not to mention a lengthy, multi-phased rollout period.

Dare I suggest the new paradigm may also prompt a review of the organisation’s recruitment criteria?
 

How to revamp your learning model

7 September 2010

In my articles Online courses must die! and The ILE and the FLE in harmony, I advocate the development of a virtual Informal Learning Environment (ILE) to work in tandem with the Formal Learning Environment (FLE) to support both the learning process and its administration.

Heeding the advice of Bill Brandon, I will now flesh out that idea with an illustration of how it might be implemented in a real organisation.

Informal learning

I believe in the power of informal learning. In fact, I go so far as to say it should be the central philosophy of the organisation’s learning model.

In a practical sense, that means we need to provide our learners with tools and resources that they can use to drive their own development.

This is where the ILE fits in: It’s a space (like a website or intranet site) that centralises those tools and resources.

The ILE illustrated

There are a thousand and one possible combinations and permutations of an ILE.

However, if I were to consider (read “fantasise”) a greenfield opportunity (read “pipedream”), what would I design?

Essentially I would base my design on three core components, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Informal Learning Environment, consisting of a wiki, a discussion forum and personal profiles

Figure 1. Informal Learning Environment

Core component #1: Wiki

The primary component of my ILE is a comprehensive wiki.

In a big corporation like the one I work for, knowledge is distributed everywhere – on obscure intranet pages, in random folders, in people’s heads – which makes it really hard to find.

A wiki enables the organisation to centralise that collateral, whether directly (by inputting it) or indirectly (by linking to where it exists elsewhere), thereby functioning as the first port of call.

A wiki can contain – or point to – all manner of media, such as text, graphics, documents and multimedia. The learner can search and explore the content that’s relevant to them, just-in-time if need be.

The flexibility of a wiki also allows anyone to contribute content. This empowers the learner to share their knowledge with their colleagues, build on the knowledge that has already been contributed by others, and communally keep it up to date.

Core component #2: Discussion forum

The secondary component of my ILE is an open discussion forum. I say “secondary” because my rationale is that, if the learner can’t find the knowledge they need in the wiki, they can crowdsource it via the forum.

A discussion forum enables the learner to post a question to their peers, thereby leveraging the collective intelligence of the organisation. Of course the learner can also share their knowledge by answering someone else’s question, and they can learn incidentally by reading the questions and answers of others.

The questions posted to the forum may also serve to expose knowledge deficiencies in the organisation, which can be remedied by updating the wiki!

Core component #3: Personal profiles

The tertiary component of my ILE is a bank of personal profiles. I say “tertiary” because my rationale is that, if the learner can’t find the knowledge they need in the wiki nor via the discussion forum, they can target an SME directly.

For example, if the learner is struggling with a Java programming problem, they can look up a Java expert in the system and send them a direct message. The SME may be recognised as a “Java” SME because they have said so in their profile, or – if the technology is sophisticated enough – their contributions of Java-related content in the wiki and participation in Java-related conversations on the discussion forum flag them as such.

I’m in two minds as to whether a full-blown social network is useful for internal learning purposes. Apart from profiling, I’m not convinced that friending, status updating and other Facebook-like activities add much value – especially when a discussion forum that accommodates groups is already in place.

Formal learning

Self-directed, informal learning is great. However, there are some things your employer must know that you know.

The most obvious example is compliance, eg privacy, trade practices and OH&S. If you breach the regulations, the company will be in hot water, so they’re not just going to take your word for it.

There are plenty of other examples, such as a certain level of product knowledge, that may be critical to the role.

In a practical sense, this means we should map required competencies to each role and assess the employee’s proficiency against each one. That probably leads to a development plan, which in turn forms a subset of the performance agreement and is subject to regular appraisals.

Then there are formal training events like courses and workshops that are important and require documentation, and some people want their informal learning (eg reading a book) recorded too.

The FLE is a space (like a database or platform) in which all this administration is done.

The FLE illustrated

Again, there are a thousand and one possible combinations and permutations of an FLE.

However I base my design on two core components, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Formal Learning Environment, consisting of an LMS and reports

Figure 2. Formal Learning Environment

Core component #1: Learning Management System

The primary component of my FLE is a Learning Management System (LMS).

The LMS is an oft-derided yet invaluable educational technology. I suspect the typical organisation under appreciates it because it uses it illogically.

My advice is to use the LMS for what it’s designed for: managing learning. Competency maps, auto-marked assessments, registrations, completion statuses, grades, transcripts, performance agreements and performance appraisals are what the LMS does well. Some even extend into talent management and other HR domains.

Conversely, my advice is to avoid using the LMS for what it is not really designed for: managing content. Leave that to the ILE, which is a much more open and flexible environment, and is purpose built to support “learning”.

Core component #2: Reports

The complementary component of my FLE is the range of reports that can be generated from various systems to provide useful data. Such data may include productivity statistics, quality scores, complaint volumes, engagement indices… whatever can be analysed to identify training needs and/or evaluate learning outcomes.

At the end of the day, learning must support performance.

Putting it all together

My revamped learning model, then, comprises two discrete but related virtual environments:

1. An ILE, and
2. An FLE.

The former supports the process of learning; the latter supports its management.

A revamped learning model, consisting of an ILE and an FLE

Figure 3. A revamped learning model

Separating the two environments like this aids in segregating them in the human mind.

Why bother?

Because learning should be a joy.

By definition, an ILE should be unforced, unscored, unthreatening.
It should be a safe, open space where people are excited to go because they want to learn, without the burden of forced navigation and pass marks.

Simultaneously, an FLE should focus on what really matters. Too often when formal and informal learning are mixed, goals blur and we run the risk of formalising for formalising’s sake. We don’t need to monitor our colleagues like Big Brother; we just need to assess them when necessary.

How long is a piece of string?

Of course, many more components may be reasonably argued for inclusion in the learning model.

An onsite classroom, for example, is obviously a part of the formal learning environment. So too is a university campus on the other side of town.

In terms of informal learning, the water cooler, a cabinet of books – and even the pages in a book – may be considered components of the ILE.

How about a library of online courses? That might be considered a component of the ILE if the learner is free to explore it at their convenience, but it will suddenly revert to the FLE if the learner is instructed to complete a particular course.

Clearly then, the ILE and the FLE are elastic concepts, highly dependent on perspective and context. That’s why I have focused on the core components that I think can provide a universal framework for a revamped learning model.

The two virtual environments are constant; everything else around them is variable.
 

The ILE and the FLE in harmony

15 July 2010

In my previous article Online courses must die! I advocated the development of Informal Learning Environments (ILEs).

Since then, Steve Wheeler’s thought-provoking article Anatomy of a PLE has prompted me to extend my argument a little further.

My updated premise is that an organisation – be it a corporation, university or otherwise – should facilitate two discrete but related virtual environments on behalf of its learning community:

  1. An Informal Learning Environment (ILE) which supports the learning process; and

  2. A Formal Learning Environment (FLE) which manages that learning.

The ILE will contain self-paced, self-directed, unmeasured learning resources such as readings, video clips, podcasts and discussion forums. The ILE might be called a learning portal, a learning centre, or some other friendly moniker.

In contrast, the FLE will contain administrative tools such as enrolment lists, formal assessments, grades and transcripts. The FLE might be called an MLE, VLE, LMS, or some other acronym.

Both the ILE and the FLE can be hosted on the same platform, but I think the front end of each needs to be demarcated in order to psychologically separate the “learning” from its administration.
 


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