5 podcasts every e-learning professional should listen to

Posted 3 July 2019 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: podcasts

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…or should that be “to which every e-learning professional should listen”? Never mind, I can end a sentence with a preposition if I want to.

Arcane grammar jokes aside, I’m a late bloomer to podcasts. While everyone else was apparently obsessed with them, they never really appealed to me until I starting taking long trips on the bus. Now I’m hooked.

As many of my peers will attest, there’s no shortage of podcasts directed to the L&D practitioner. In fact, the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming.

If like me you’re just getting started with podcasts, or perhaps you’re looking for another one to add to your subscription, I hereby offer you 5 of my favourites.

A mobile phone with earphones

1. Learning Uncut

Produced by three of the best in the business – namely, Michelle Ockers, Karen Maloney and Amanda Ashby – Learning Uncut recently celebrated its first birthday.

Over the course of the past year, Michelle and Karen have interviewed an impressive cross-section of experts in my corner of the globe. The episode featuring Nic Barry is a standout.

2. The Learning & Development Podcast

A new comer to the podcasting scene, The Learning & Development Podcast is hosted by David James.

David’s view of our profession largely mirrors my own (hence he is a genius) and I consider his interview with Simon Gibson a must-hear.

3. Learning is the New Working

Given his experience as Microsoft’s Chief Learning Officer, Chris Pirie’s Learning is the New Working is well worth a listen.

Chris reaches out to people around the world whom I haven’t heard of before (to be perfectly honest) which is welcome because they diversify my feed.

4. The eLearning Coach Podcast

No self-respecting e-learning professional would fail to devour Connie Malamed’s The eLearning Coach blog, which she complements admirably with The eLearning Coach Podcast.

What I love about Connie’s expertise is her focus on practicality. Thought leadership is great and all, but how do we apply it to our work?

5. Hardcore History

While educational, Hardcore History isn’t about education. I include it in my list of faves however because it flies in the face of contemporary notions of instructional design.

Each episode spans several hours and frankly I could listen to Dan Carlin talk all day. Despite the hoopla over micro-learning (which, for the record, I advocate) clearly one size does not fit all.

My point is it’s healthy for we professionals to continually re-assess our own philosophies by appreciating contrarian approaches – especially those that are raging success stories!

Light bulb

If you’d like more ideas for what an e-learning professional should do, check out the following blog posts by yours truly:

And these by my friend Matt Guyan:

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Micro-learning’s unsung sibling

Posted 9 April 2019 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: micro-learning

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Micro-learning is so hot right now.

But I’m not going to deliberate over its definition. If you’re into that, check out Shannon Tipton’s Microlearning: The Misunderstood Buzzword and 7 Deadly Myths of Microlearning.

Nor am I going to try to convince you to jump on board, or abandon ship.

Instead, I’m going to consider firstly how micro-learning might be used in a corporate training context; and secondly, pivot towards something slightly different.

And if you were to find any value in these musings, I’d be delighted.

How micro-learning might be used

The nature of micro-learning lends itself to the campaign model.

Independent but related packets of content that are distributed over time can be woven into the working day of the target audience, and hence reduce time “off the floor”. In this context, the micro-learning is the training.

Similarly I see an opportunity for micro-learning to be deployed before the training. The content can prime the target audience for the experience to follow, perhaps in the form of a flipped class.

And of course I also see an opportunity for micro-learning to be deployed after the training: what one may call “reinforcement” to improve retention and increase the probability of knowledge transfer.

Sure, but does it work?

Well cognitive science suggests it does. I recommend reading up on the forgetting curve, subsumption theory, Piaget, cognitive load, the spacing effect and interleaving. It’s worth it.

A hand holding a pen pointing to a chart.

The pivot

While I’m obviously an advocate of micro-learning, a less buzzy but perhaps just-as-important variant is micro-assessment.

This is similar to micro-learning except the content is in question format – preferably scenario based and feedback rich.

In one sense, the two approaches may be conflated. Formative assessment is nothing new, and a few daily questions over a set timespan could constitute training, or prompt critical thinking pre-training, or promote application post-training.

If you want more bedtime reading, I suggest looking up the testing effect or its synonyms, retrieval practice and active recall.

However I feel the untapped potential of micro-assessment lay in its summative power. As the bank of results builds up over time, the data can be used to diagnose the population’s understanding of the subject matter. If the questions are aligned to competencies, the knowledge gaps can be identified and closed with further interventions.

Hence, micro-assessment can be leveraged to execute an assessment first strategy, thereby increasing the relevance of the L&D service offering to the business.

And if you want yet more bedtime reading, I suggest exploring metacognition and its effect on motivation.

On that note, good night!

The L&D maturity curve

Posted 4 March 2019 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: strategy

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Over the course of my career, I’ve witnessed a slow but steady shift away from formal learning to informal learning.

Of course, remnants of the “formal first” philosophy still exist, whereby every conceivable problem is attempted to be fixed by a training solution, typically in the form of a course. Over time, the traditional classroom-based delivery of such courses has increasingly given way to online modules, but that’s merely a change in format – not strategy.

While courses certainly have their place in the L&D portfolio, the forgetting curve places a question mark over their longterm effectiveness on their own.

The informal first philosophy balances the pendulum by empowering the employee to self-direct their learning in accordance with their personal needs.

While in some cases informal learning obviates the need for training, in other cases it will complement it. For example, I see the informalisation of learning as an opportunity to deliver the content (for example, via a wiki) which can be consumed at the discretion of the employee. The focus of the course then pivots to the application of the content, which is the point of learning it in the first place. Similarly, the assessment evaluates the learning in the context of real-world scenarios, which is what the learner will encounter post-course.

And since the content remains accessible, it can be used for ongoing reference long after the course has been completed.

A hand holding a pen pointing to a chart.

While I consider the informal first philosophy a giant leap in L&D maturity, it essentially pertains to instructional design. For a more holistic view of L&D, I propose an “assessment first” philosophy by which the capability of the target audience is analysed prior to any design work being undertaken.

The rationale for this philosophy is best appreciated in the context of an existing employee base (rather than greenhorn new starters). Such a group comprises adults who have a wide range of knowledge, skills and experiences. Not to mention they’ve probably been doing the job for a number of years.

Sheep dipping everyone in this group with the same training doesn’t make much sense. For a minority it might be a worthwhile learning experience, but for the majority it is likely to be redundant. This renders the training an ineffective waste of time, and an unnecessary burden on the L&D team.

By firstly assessing the target audience’s proficiency in the competencies that matter, a knowledge gap analysis can identify those in which the population is weak, and targeted training can be delivered in response. Individuals who are “not yet competent” in particular areas can be assigned personalised interventions.

This approach avoids the solution first trap. By focusing the L&D team’s attention on the real needs of the business, not only does the volume of demand reduce, but the work becomes more relevant.

The assessment first philosophy may appear incongruent where new starters are concerned, who by definition are assumed to be weak in all competencies – after all, they’ve only just walked through the door! – but I counter that assumption on two fronts.

Firstly, not all new starters are doe-eyed college grads. Many have had previous jobs in the industry or in other industries, and so they arrive armed with transferable knowledge, skills and experiences.

And regardless, the informal first philosophy holds true. That is to say, the new starter can consume the content (or not) as they see fit, demonstrate their understanding in the scenario-oriented “course”, and formalise it via the assessment.

The results of the assessment dictate any further intervention that is necessary.

Of course, some topics such as the company’s own products or processes will necessitate significant front-end loading via content development and maybe even curricula, but these may be considered the exception rather than the rule. By looking through the lens of assessment first, the L&D team works backwards to focus that kind of energy on where it is warranted.

It is also worth noting the assessment first philosophy renders the traditional “pass mark” obsolete, but such a radical idea is a story for another day!

Laptop showing business metrics.

While the assessment first philosophy represents an exponential leap in the maturity of L&D, there is yet another leap to make: “performance first”.

The raison d’être of the L&D team is to improve performance, so it’s always been a mystery to me as to why our work is so often disconnected to the business results. I do appreciate the barriers that are in our way – such as the inexplicable difficulty of obtaining the stats – but still, we can and should be doing more.

Under the performance first paradigm, it is not knowledge gaps that are analysed, but rather performance gaps. A root cause analysis identifies whether the cause is a capability deficiency or not – in the case of the former, a capability analysis feeds into the assessment first approach; in the case of the latter, a solution other than training is pursued instead.

As with assessment first, performance first may appear incongruent where new starters are concerned. After all, their stats thus far are zero, and waiting to recognise poor performance may have unacceptable consequences.

So again we have another exception to the rule whereby some folks may be scaffolded through L&D intervention prior to their performance being analysed. However the point is, we needn’t force everyone down that road. It depends on the circumstances.

And again, by looking through the lens of performance first, the L&D team works backwards to focus its energy on where it is needed. But this time with results at the forefront of the team’s purpose, its relevance to the business goes through the roof.

The L&D Maturity Curve, featuring Formal First rising to Informal First rising to Assessment First rising to Performance First. The x-axis represents maturity of the L&D function and the y-axis represents its relevance to the business.

I realise my take on L&D maturity might freak some of my peers out. Concurrently, others will argue that we should leapfrog to performance first now and get on with it.

Personally I consider the maturity curve a journey. Yes, it is theoretically possible to skip stages, but I feel that would be a shock to the system. From a change management perspective, I believe an organisation at one stage of the curve would achieve more success by growing into the next stage of the curve, while ironing out the bugs and creating the new normal along the way.

Besides, it isn’t a race. Important journeys take time. What matters is the direction in which that journey is heading.

20 real-world examples of Augmented Reality

Posted 26 January 2019 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: augmented reality

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The 2019 instalment of Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week kicks off next month. For a couple of previous VR WOL Weeks I’ve collated lists of the examples that the participants unearthed – see 20 real-world examples of Virtual Reality and 25 more real-world examples of Virtual Reality.

This time however I’ve decided to do something different. I’ve decided to focus my attention on Augmented Reality.

As with VR, there’s plenty of talk out there about how wonderful AR is and the incredible potential it offers us. There’s also a lot of talk about how much better it is than VR, which I find comically absolutist. Surely it’s circumstantial?

In any case, I’m interested in what people in the real world are currently doing with this emerging technology, so I’ve collated the following examples.

Mixed reality jet engine

In the post-Pokémon Go era, an increasing number of AR games pepper the market. While one game replaces Pikachu with robots, another goes a step further by leveraging the background environment as you ward off alien invaders.

For its part, Niantic is continuing to evolve Pokémon Go with occlusion, by which the augmentation integrates with the background environment. (For example, a monster pops its head up from behind your couch.) Word on the street is this kind of next level immersion will feature in their upcoming Harry Potter spinoff.

The trail being blazed by the entertainment industry is being quickly followed by workplace educators. For example, Japan Airlines uses AR to train its engine technicians, while Deakin University uses it to teach its healthcare students. In terms of performance support, doctors use AR to perform target guided surgery, while the Royal Navy uses it to aid the officer of the watch.

Some companies are also using AR to educate their customers. In my previous blog post Educate everyone I praised Hyundai’s virtual guide which helps Sonata owners maintain their vehicle. Another car maker, MINI, has glasses that not only provide its drivers with navigational prompts, but also lets them see through the car.

In the world of retail furniture, Ikea lets you see how their products look in your home and another app walks you through assembling them.

Customer education blurs with marketing, and prime examples of the latter are ModiFace’s hair colour and nail polish previewers. In a similar vein, Kinect lets you try on clothes, Lacoste lets you try on shoes, Shop 4 Rings lets you try on jewellery, while Speqs completes your look with glasses.

In regard to the point-and-play type of AR, one of the most impressive I’ve seen is that of winemaker 19 Crimes who brings the convicts on their labels to life. The eerie black-and-white treatment reminds me of Koko tormenting a cat in The Clown’s Little Brother – which was released back in 1920!

A cartoon clown riding a real cat.

My coverage of augmented reality here is by no means exhaustive; it simply represents the instances I’ve stumbled upon recently. If you are aware of another real-world example, please share it via a comment below.

For more virtual reality, follow the #VRwolweek hashtag on Twitter and I encourage you to participate yourself.

In the meantime, who fancies running an #ARwolweek…?

E-Learning conferences in Australia in 2019

Posted 2 January 2019 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: conference

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Guess what… it’s less than a year to the iconic “2020”.

I wonder what will emerge in the lead-up to this futuristic milestone for so many talkfests gone by.

Now is the time for action and I sincerely hope our PD calendar is dominated by demonstrations and showcases.

C’mon Aussies, let’s lead by example…

The National Carillon on Aspen Island in central Canberra, Australia.

International Conference on E-Learning and Distance Learning
Sydney, 30-31 January 2019

Learning & Development Leadership Summit
Sydney, 19-20 February 2019

International Conference on Virtual and Augmented Reality Simulations
Perth, 23-25 February 2019

iDESIGNX
Brisbane, 27 February 2019

APAC Totara User Conference 2019
Melbourne, 18-19 March 2019

Learning Disruption
Melbourne, 20 March 2019

National FutureSchools Expo and Conferences
Melbourne, 20-21 March 2019

Digital Disruption X
Sydney, 26-27 March 2019

Learning Disruption
Sydney, 28 March 2019

International Conference on e-Learning & Innovative Pedagogies
Hobart, 2-3 May 2019

Online & e-Learning Summit
Melbourne, 7-8 May 2019

National Future Work Summit
Melbourne, 15 May 2019

The Higher Education Technology Agenda
Wollongong, 19-22 May 2019

Australian Workplace Learning Conference
Sydney, 6-7 June 2019

Leading a Digital School Conference
Melbourne, 8-10 August 2019

CanvasCon
Sydney, 13 August 2019

Learning & Development Leadership Summit
Melbourne, 20-21 August 2019

Ignite Asia Pacific
Gold Coast, 16-17 September 2019

FuturistiX Live
Melbourne, 15-16 October 2019

EdTechPosium
Canberra, 28-29 October 2019

CEBIT Australia
Sydney, 29-31 October 2019
15% off discount code: CC15OFF or CCEAS19

L&D Innovation & Tech Fest
Sydney, 18-19 November 2019

Eportfolio Forum
Canberra, 20-21 November 2019

Lanyard

If you are aware of another e-learning related conference down under this year, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Crazy Eight

Posted 10 December 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: blogging, innovation

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Is it just me or is every year a “big year”…?

Well 2018 marked a decade of blogging by yours truly, and that alone is something that I’m proud of.

Throughout the highs and lows that life gifted me this year, I was able to share another 8 thought bubbles in addition to my annual list of conferences.

I call them my Crazy Eight and I recall them here for your enjoyment and critique…

An eight card on a poker table.

  1. Battle scars – We can’t fight an “ism” with yet more ism.

  2. 25 more real-world examples of Virtual Reality – Yes, VR is being used in the real world.

  3. My decade of provocation – 10 years ago I made one of the best decisions of my professional life.

  4. The foundations of innovation in L&D – The 70:20:10 model informs the building blocks of long-term efficiency, flexibility and creativity.

  5. The best of both worlds – I love Design Thinking because it’s evidence based and it delivers.

  6. Gift horses – Let’s empower the experts whom we have hired to practise their expertise.

  7. Back to the future – Add these museums to your bucket list.

  8. Figure it out – Instead of being the expert who knows the solution, be the one who solves the problem.

I’d be delighted if you were to add a comment to one or two of the above, either in support or offering a constructive alternative point of view.

In the meantime, I wish you joy and safety over the Christmas season, and here’s to a big 2019!

Figure it out

Posted 5 November 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: wellbeing

Tags: , , , , , ,

I can honestly say I’ve never suffered from imposter syndrome.

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to work out how to do something hands-on, so I can talk about it with confidence.

I suppose I’ve been lucky in the sense that, throughout my career, I’ve been able to align my curiosity and sense of direction with the needs of the business.

Having said that, I also suppose I’ve created some of my own luck by keeping a few steps ahead of the business.

Einstein bobblehead

It is in this light that I read this fascinating article about consultants. Initially I considered it an alarming exposé into the fake-it-til-you-make-it culture of professional services.

Upon continued reading, however, I increasingly sympathised with their discomfort of not feeling on top of their game.

In the knowledge economy we can never know everything. For me, there is always another thing that I don’t just want to get my head around, but also deconstruct and reconstruct to understand deeply. When busy-ness gets in the way, the discomfort grows.

Over time I’ve learned to embrace the discomfort. It’s paradoxically liberating to recognise that I will always feel uncomfortable; that’s the nature of this kind of work.

It’s not like digging holes when at the end of your shift you can forget about it until your next shift. As a knowledge worker, you never clock off. Anywhere, anytime – or more accurately, everywhere all the time – you’re thinking about it. It consumes you to the point that it becomes way more than just a job; it’s a lifestyle.

So yes, I sympathise with the consultants in the article. They’re dealing with multiple clients while under pressure to deliver at speed. To this the client will say “We pay you because you’re the expert.” And to a certain extent I agree, but I also appreciate the expert must adapt his or her expertise to the context of the client’s environment. This takes time and cognitive effort, especially when you need to lay the foundations and start building up to the maturity level the client thinks they are already at!

Friends and peers have been urging me for years to do my own thing – to become a consultant – and while it’s still on my radar, thus far I’ve resisted. The benefits of a steady paycheck aside, I haven’t so much feared knowing everything as knowing enough.

Client needs are so diverse, it puts the fake-it-til-you-make-it construct into perspective. Perhaps it’s nigh on impossible for an external agent to do anything else?

Besides, I love driving the agenda from within – executing thought leadership, getting hands on, experimenting, starting small and scaling up – to effect positive change.

Yet as day-to-day business for regular employees like me gets ever more insane, must we eventually adopt a similar construct?

I sincerely hope not, but I must temper this view with the realisation that on occasion, I’ve had cause to question my own capability. More often than not, that’s been due to unreasonable expectations or poor job fit; nonetheless, I’ve been proud of my readiness to call out the shortcomings of my own skillset whenever the need has arisen.

This apparent courage, I think, is largely due to my confidence in my ability to learn what needs to be learned. And so this leads me to propose an alternative construct for knowledge workers: figure it out.

Instead of being the expert who knows the solution, be the one who solves the problem. This subtle but powerful shift transforms the objective from a noun to a verb. Solving involves thinking, researching, designing, deploying and evaluating.

When we do this to build upon what we already know, all impost is lost.