Posted tagged ‘virtual’

Transformers

1 September 2020

It seems like everyone’s spruiking the “new normal” of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping millions of previously office-bound employees at home, forcing L&D professionals to turn on a dime.

Under pressure to maintain business continuity, our profession has been widely congratulated for its herculean effort in adapting to change.

I’m not so generous.

Our typical response to the changing circumstances appears to have been to lift and shift our classroom sessions over to webinars.

In The next normal, which I published relatively early during lockdown, several of my peers and I recognised the knee-jerk nature of this response.

And that’s not really something that ought to be congratulated.

Who led the digital transformation of your company? The CEO (incorrect), The CTO (incorrect), COVID-19 (correct)

For starters, the virus exposed a shocking lack of risk management on our part. Digital technology is hardly novel, and our neglect in embracing it left us unprepared for when we suddenly needed it.

Look no further than the Higher Education sector for a prime example. They’re suffering a free-fall in income from international students, despite the consensus that people can access the Internet from other countries.

Beyond our misgivings with technology, moreover, the virus has also shone a light on our pedagogy. The broadcast approach that we deliver virtually today is largely a continuation of our practice pre-pandemic. It wasn’t quite right then, and it isn’t quite right now. In fact, isolation, digital distractions and Zoom fatigue probably make it worse.

I feel this is important to point out because the genie is out of the bottle. Employee surveys reveal that the majority of us either don’t want to return to the office, or we’ll want to split our working week at home. That means while in-person classes can resume, remote learning will remain the staple.

So now is our moment of opportunity. In the midst of the crisis, we have the moral authority to mature our service offering. To innovate our way out of the underwhelming “new normal” and usher in the modern “next normal”.

In some cases that will mean pivoting away from training in favour of more progressive methodologies. While I advocate these, I also maintain that direct instruction is warranted under some circumstances. So instead of joining the rallying cry against training per se, I propose transforming it so that it becomes more efficient, engaging and effective in our brave new world.

Transformer-style toy robot

Good things come in small packages

To begin, I suggest we go micro.

So-called “bite sized” pieces of content have the dual benefit of not only being easier to process from a cognitive load perspective, but also more responsive to the busy working week.

For example, if we were charged with upskilling our colleagues across the business in Design Thinking, we might kick off by sharing Chris Nodder’s 1.5-minute video clip in which he breaks the news that “you are not your users”.

This short but sweet piece of content piques the curiosity of the learner, while introducing the concept of Empathize in the d.school’s 5-stage model.

We’re all in this together

Next, I suggest we go social.

Posting the video clip to the enterprise social network seeds a discussion, by which anyone and everyone can share their experiences and insights, and thus learn from one another.

It’s important to note that facilitating the discussion demands a new skillset from the trainer, as they shift their role from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”.

It’s also important to note that the learning process shifts from synchronous to asynchronous – or perhaps more accurately, semi-synchronous – empowering the learner to consume the content at a time that is most convenient for them (rather than for the L&D department).

There is no try

Next, I suggest we go practical.

If the raison d’être of learning & development is to improve performance, then our newly acquired knowledge needs to be converted into action.

Follow-up posts on the social network shift from the “what” to the “how”, while a synchronous session in the virtual classroom enables the learner to practise the latter in a safe environment.

Returning to our Design Thinking example, we might post content such as sample questions to ask prospective users, active listening techniques, or an observation checklist. The point of the synchronous session then is to use these resources – to stumble and bumble, receive feedback, tweak and repeat; to push through the uncomfortable process we call “learning” towards mastery.

It’s important to recognise the class has been flipped. While time off the floor will indeed be required to attend it, it has become a shorter yet value-added activity focusing on the application of the knowledge rather than its transmission.

Again, it’s also important to note that facilitating the flipped class demands a new skillset from the trainer.

A journey of a thousand miles

Next, I suggest we go experiential.

Learning is redundant if it fails to transfer into the real world, so my suggestion is to set tasks or challenges for the learner to do back on the job.

Returning to our Design Thinking example, we might charge the learner with empathising with a certain number of end users in their current project, and report back their reflections via the social network.

In this way our return on investment begins immediately, prior to moving on to the next stage in the model.

Pics or it didn’t happen

Finally, I suggest we go evidential.

I have long argued in favour of informalising learning and formalising its assessment. Bums on seats misses the point of training which, let’s remind ourselves again, is to improve performance.

How you learned something is way less interesting to me than if you learned it – and the way to measure that is via assessment.

Returning to our Design Thinking example, we need a way to demonstrate the learner’s mastery of the methodology in a real-world context, and I maintain the past tense of open badges fits the bill.

In addition to the other benefits that badges offer corporates, the crux of the matter is that a badge must be earned.

Informalise learning. Formalise its assessment.

I am cognisant of the fact that my proposal may be considered heretical in certain quarters.

The consumption of content on the social network, for example, may be difficult to track and report. But my reply is “so what” – we don’t really need to record activity so why hide it behind the walls of an LMS?

If the openness of the training means that our colleagues outside of the cohort learn something too, great! Besides, they’ll have their own stories to tell and insights to share, thereby enriching the learning experience for everyone.

Instead it is the outcome we need to focus on, and that’s formalised by the assessment. Measure what matters, and record that in the LMS.

In other words, the disruptive force of the COVID-19 pandemic is an impetus for us to reflect on our habits. The way it has always been done is no substitute for the way it can be done better.

Our moment has arrived to transform our way out of mode lock.

E-Learning conferences in Australia in 2020

8 January 2020

The iconic “2020” has dawned.

What does it mean for digital learning?

Let’s find out…

Sydney Opera House at night

EDIT: The COVID-19 pandemic may affect these events. Please refer to the event’s website for more information.

International Conference on E-Learning and Distance Learning
Sydney, 30-31 January 2020

International Conference on Virtual and AR Simulations
Sydney, 14-16 February 2020

Blended Learning & Innovation Summit
Sydney, 24-27 February 2020

iDESIGNX
Sydney, 26 February 2020

AITD Conference
Online, 17-18 March 2020

International Conference on Mobile Learning Technology and Online Education
Online, 26-27 March 2020

International Conference on Education and E-Learning
Online, 8-9 May 2020

Melbourne Learning Summit
Online, 18 June 2020

The Learning Conference
Online, 3-5 August 2020

Future Work Summit
Online, 3 September 2020

LearnX Live
Online, 16-17 September 2020

EdTEchSA State Conference
Online, 29 September 2020

Online & e-Learning Summit
Online, 27-29 October 2020

Learn@Work
Online, 9-10 November 2020

Learning & Development Leadership Summit
Sydney, 9-10 November 2020

L&D Innovation & Tech Fest
Online, 7-11 December 2020

If you’re aware of another Australian conference relevant to e-learning professionals, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

Effective virtual facilitation

14 October 2009

As virtual classes rapidly become de rigueur, the need for an effective virtual facilitation framework accelerates.

I propose the 5-stage model of e-moderation developed by world-renowned networked learning guru, Gilly Salmon.

While Salmon’s model primarily supports asynchronous networked learning, I contend that it supports synchronous networked learning just as well.

The Model

Salmon’s 5-stage model of e-moderation is based on, umm, 5 stages:

Salmon's 5-stage model of e-moderation

All 5 stages contribute to the learning process.

Here’s my take on each one, based on my reading of E-Moderating: The Key to Teaching & Learning Online and of course my own two-cent’s worth…

Stage 1: Access & motivation

This stage is about getting your remote participants up and running.

Inform your participants very early that the virtual class will be happening, when and where. Book the time out in their calendar, and let them know that they will be receiving an email to provide them with the access details. Also let them know that they won’t need any special equipment, just a phone (or headset) and an internet connection.

Provide them with any documents they will need beforehand.

Encourage the participants to enter the virtual class 30 minutes early so they can iron out any technical glitches. It’s a good idea to provide them with the contact details of someone for troubleshooting, and to explain if it all goes belly up, it’s not a disaster: just let it go and you can work out something later. (You might consider running a trial session, but that might be overkill – afterall, virtual platforms are fairly straightforward these days.)

Click Me!, courtesy of wagg66, stock.xchng.

On the motivation side, it’s a good idea to explain to the participants up front why they should attend the class. As previously noted, adult learners are problem-oriented, so you need to explain how spending this hour or so will help them in their job. You should also explain why they should do it in virtual format (eg so they don’t waste time traveling into the office).

I’d also suggest encouraging the participants to text chat as soon as they enter the virtual space, to introduce themselves and get to know each other. Not only does this initiate socialisation (see Stage 2), but it also checks that they know how to use the technology. Of course, the facilitator should greet everyone as they enter.

Stage 2: Online socialisation

Smiley, courtesy of ctr, stock.xchng.Socialising would have already gotten started on an ad hoc basis as the participants entered the virtual space and waited for official kickoff.

I’d suggest following this up with some sort of ice breaker – with a lot of people, you might want to keep it reined in. For example, it could be a simple question like Have you ever met anyone famous?

Following this, the facilitator should emphasise the collaborative nature of the session, and reinforce how it’s all about sharing ideas & experiences and learning from each other. Ask them what they personally want to achieve from the session. Cultivate a warm, friendly environment.

Stage 3: Information exchange

This is where the “serious” class begins. The facilitator should define the learning outcomes of the session (and tailor them according to the audience’s expectations), then refer to the information that was previously provided.

If there’s more information to disseminate (in instructivist format), then this is where it’s done.

Real-life examples should be used wherever possible.

Stage 4: Knowledge construction

Digger, courtesy of mzacha, stock.xchng.This is arguably the most important stage for learning.

Everyone’s at the same place at the same time, the ice is broken and they’re familiar with the information that’s been provided to them. Now it’s time to figure out what it all means.

The facilitator should actively invite the participants to discuss the key concepts, raise ideas and ask questions. It’s very important to ask them to share their experiences, and to suggest how they might apply the new learnings to their own role.

At this point, the participants are actually learning from each other. The facilitator guides, prompts, prods, questions, challenges and clarifies.

Close up of The Thinker, courtesy of marttj under Creative Commons, Flickr.Stage 5: Development

This stage is all about reflection, and it can be done after the actual session. A post-session worksheet might prove useful for this purpose.

The facilitator should also raise awareness of other resources that the participants can continue to use after the session. Perhaps other courses, websites, discussion forums, podcasts, blogs etc.

Evolving e-learning in the workplace

Using Salmon’s 5-stage model of e-moderation as a framework, SMEs can transform from sage on the stage to guide on the side.

And isn’t that what adult learning is all about?