Learnlets
Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

24 March 2015

Tech Limits?

Clark @ 8:26 am

A couple of times last year, firms with some exciting learning tools approached me to talk about the market.  And in both cases, I had to advise them that there were some barriers they’d have to address. That was brought home to me in another conversation, and it makes me worry about the state of our industry.

So the first tool is based upon a really sound pedagogy that is consonant with my activity-based learning approach.  The basis is giving learners assignments very much like the assignments they’ll need to accomplish in the workplace, and then resourcing them to succeed.  They wanted to make it easy for others to create these better learning designs (as part of a campaign for better learning). The only problem was, you had to learn the design approach as well as the tool. Their interface wasn’t ready for prime time, but the real barrier was getting people to be able to use a new tool. I indicated some of the barriers, and they’re reconsidering (while continuing to develop content against this model as a service).

The second tool supports virtual role plays in a powerful way, having smart agents that react in authentic ways. And they, too, wanted to provide an authoring tool to create them.  And again my realistic assessment of the market was that people would have trouble understanding the tool.  They decided to continue to develop the experiences as a service.

Now, these are somewhat esoteric designs, though the former should be the basis of our learning experiences, and the latter would be a powerful addition to support a very common and important type of interaction.  The more surprising, and disappointing, issue came up with a conversation earlier this year with a proponent of a more familiar tool.

Without being specific (I’ve not received permission to disclose the details in all of the above), this person indicated that when training a popular and fairly straightforward tool, that the biggest barrier wasn’t the underlying software model. I was expecting that too much of training was based upon rote assignments without an underlying model, and that is the case, but instead there was a more fundamental barrier: too many potential users just didn’t have sufficient computer skills!  And I’m not talking about programming code, but instead fundamental understandings of files and ‘styles‘ and other core computing elements just were not present in sufficient quantities in these would-be authors. Seriously!

Now I’ve complained before that we’re not taking learning design seriously, but obviously we’re compounded by a lack of fundamental computer skills.  Folks, this is elearning, not chalk learning, not chalk talk, not edoing, etc.  If you struggle to add new apps on your computer, or find files, you’re not ready to be an elearning developer.

I admit that I struggle to see how folks can assume that without knowledge of design, nor knowledge of technology, that they can still be elearning designers and developers. These tools are scaffolding to allow your designs to be developed. They don’t do design, nor will they magically cover up for lacks of tech literacy.

So, let’s get realistic.  Learn about learning design, and get comfortable with tech, or please, please, don’t do elearning.  And I promise not to do music, architecture, finance, and everything else I’m not qualified to. Fair enough?

 

18 March 2015

Giving it away, or worse

Clark @ 7:58 am

The other day, I was wondering about the possibilities of removing mandatory courses.  Ok, maybe not mandated compliance, but any others.  And then a colleague took it further, and I like it.  So what are we talking about?

I was thinking that, if you give people a meaningful mission (ala Dan Pink’s Drive), the learner (assuming reasonable self-learning skills, a separate topic), they would take responsibility for the learning they needed.  We could have courses around, or maybe await their desires and point them to outside resources, etc, unless it’s specifically internal.  That is, we become much more pull (from the user) than push (from us).

However, my colleague Mark Britz took it further.  He argued that instead of not making them go, instead we’d charge them what it cost to provide the learning!  That is, if folks wanted training or webinars or…, they’d pay for the privilege.  As he put it, if requests for elearning, being cautious about signing up, etc happened: “I couldn’t be happier!”

His point is that it would drive people to more workflow learning, more social and shared learning, etc.  And that’s a good thing.   I might couple that with some way to make sure they knew how to work, play, and learn well together, but it’s the different view that’s a needed jumpstart.

It’s a refreshing twist on the ‘if we build it it is good’ sort of mentality, and really helps focus the L&D unit on doing things that will significantly improve outcomes for others.  If you can make a meaningful impact, people will have to pay for your assistance.  You want change?  You’ll pay but it’ll be worth it.

If we’re going to kick off a revolution, we need to rethink what we’re about and how we’re doing it.  Mark’s upended view is a necessary kick in the status quo to get us to think anew about what we’re doing and why.

I recommend you read his original post.

3 March 2015

On the road again

Clark @ 7:42 am

Well, some more travels are imminent, so I thought I’d update you on where the Quinnovation road show would be on tour this spring:

  • March 9-10 I’ll be collaborating with Sarah Gilbert and Nick Floro to deliver ATD’s mLearnNow event in Miami on mobile
  • On the 11th I’ll be at a private event talking the Revolution to a select group outside Denver
  • Come the 18th I’ll be inciting the revolution at the ATD Golden Gate chapter meeting here in the Bay Area
  • On the 25th-27th, I’ll be in Orlando again instigating at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions conference
  • May 7-8 I’ll be kicking up my heels about the revolution for the eLearning Symposium in Austin
  • I’ll be stumping the revolution at another vendor event in Las Vegas 12-13
  • And June 2-3 I’ll be myth-smashing for ATD Atlanta, and then workshopping game design

So, if you’re at one of these, do come up and introduce yourself and say hello!

 

 

25 February 2015

mLearning more than mobile elearning?

Clark @ 6:17 am

Someone tweeted about their mobile learning credo, and mentioned the typical ‘mlearning is elearning, extended’ view. Which I rejected, as I believe mlearning is much more (and so should elearning be).  And then I thought about it some more.  So I’ll lay out my thinking, and see what you think.

I have been touting that mLearning could and should be focused, as should P&D, on anything that helps us achieve our goals better. Mobile, paper, computers, voodoo, whatever technology works.  Certainly in organizations.  And this yields some interesting implications.

So, for instance, this would include performance support and social networks.  Anything that requires understanding how people work and learn would be fair game. I was worried about whether that fit some operational aspects like IT and manufacturing processes, but I think I’ve got that sorted.  UI folks would work on external products, and any internal software development, but around that, helping folks use tools and processes belongs to those of us who facilitate organizational performance and development.  So we, and mlearning, are about any of those uses.

But the person, despite seeming to come from an vendor to orgs, not schools, could be talking about schools instead, and I wondered whether mLearning for schools, definitionally, really is about only supporting learning.  And I can see the case for that; that mlearning in education is about using mobile to help people learn, not perform.  It’s about collaboration, for sure, and tools to assist.

Note I’m not making the case for schools as they are, a curriculum rethink definitely needs to accompany using technology in schools in many ways.  Koreen Pagano wrote this nice post separating Common Core teaching versus assessment, which goes along with my beliefs about the value of problem solving.  And I also laud Roger Schank‘s views, such as the value (or not) of the binomial theorem as a classic example.

But then, mobile should be a tool in learning, so it can work as a channel for content, but also for communication, and capture, and compute (e.g. the 4C’s of mlearning).  And the emergent capability of contextual support (the 5th C, e.g. combinations of the first four).  So this view would argue that mlearning can be used for performance support in accomplishing a meaningful task that’s part of an learning experience.

That would take me back to mlearning being more than just mobile elearning, as Jason Haag has aptly separated.  Sure, mobile elearning can be a subset of mlearning, but not the whole picture. Does this make sense to you?

11 February 2015

Rethinking Redux

Clark @ 9:04 am

Last week I wrote about Rethinking, how we might want and need to revise our approaches, and showed a few examples of folks thinking out of the box and upending our cherished viewpoints.  I discovered another one (much closer to ‘home’) and tweeted it out, only to get a pointer to another.  I think it’s worth looking at these two examples that help make the point that maybe it’s time for a rethink of some of our cherished beliefs and practices.

The first was a pointer from a conversation I had with the proprietor of an organization with a new mobile-based coaching engine.  Among the things touted was that much of our thinking about feedback appears to be wrong.  I was given a reference and found an article that indeed upends our beliefs about the benefits of feedback.

The article investigates performance reviews, and finds them lacking, citing one study that found:

“a meta-analysis of 607 studies of performance evaluations and concluded that at least 30% of the performance reviews ended up in decreased employee performance.”

30% decrease performance?  And that’s not including the others that are just neutral.  That’s a pretty bad outcome!  Worse, the Society for Human Resource Management is cited as stating  “90% of performance appraisals are painful and don’t work“.  In short, one of the most common performance instruments is flawed.

As a consequence of tweeting this out, a respondent pointed to another article that he was reminded of.  This one upends the notion that we’re good at rating others’ behavior: “research has demonstrated that each of us is a disturbingly unreliable rater of other people’s performance”.  That is, 360 degree reviews, manager reviews, etc., are fundamentally based upon review by others, and they’re demonstrably bad at it.  The responses given have reliable biases that makes the data invalid.

As a consequence, again, we cannot continue as we are:

“we must first stop, take stock, and admit to ourselves that the systems we currently use to reveal our people only obscure them”

This is just like learning styles: there’s no reliable data that it works, and the measurement instrument used is flawed. In short, one of the primary tools for organizational improvement is fundamentally broken.  We’re using industrial age tools in an information age.

What’s a company to do?  The first article quoted Josh Bersin when saying “companies need to focus very heavily on ‘collaboration, professional development, coaching and empowering people to do great things’“.  This is the message of the Internet Time Alliance and an outflow of the Coherent Organization model and the L&D Revolution.  There are alternatives that are more respectful of how people really think, work, and learn, and consequently more effective.  Are you ready to rethink?

#itashare

5 February 2015

Agile Bay Area #LNDMeetup Mindmap

Clark @ 8:05 am

I’ve been interested in process, so I attended this month’s Bay Area Learning Design Meetup that showcased LinkedIn’s work on Agile using Scrum for learning design. It was very nice of them to share the specifics of their process, and while there were more details than time permitted to cover, it was a great beginning to understand the differences.

Basically, a backlog is kept of potential new projects.  They’re prioritized and a subset is chosen as the basis of the sprint and put on the board.  Then for two weeks they work on hitting the elements on the board, with a daily standup meeting to present where they’re at and synchronize.  At the end they demo to the stakeholders and reflect.  As part of the reflection, they’re supposed to change something for the next iteration.

There’re different roles: a project owner who’s the ‘client’ in a sense (and a relation to who may be the end client).  There is a Scrum master who’s responsible for facilitating the group through the steps, and then the team, which should be small but at least represent all the necessary roles to execute whatever is being accomplished.

When I asked about scope, they said that they’ve found they can do about 100 story points (which are empirical) in a sprint, and they may distribute that across some elearning, some job aids, whatever.  They didn’t seem too eager to try to quantify that relative to other known metrics, and I understand it’s hard, particularly in the time they had.  Here’s the Mindmap:

(null)

 

Allen Interactions also discussed their SAM project (which I know and like), but the mind map didn’t match too well to their usual diagram (only briefly shown at the end), and I ran out of time trying to remedy. It’s better just to look at the diagram ;).

 

3 February 2015

Rethinking

Clark @ 7:58 am

(in the future)
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies? Or hot fudge?

Dr. Agon: Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

In Woody Allen’s Sleeper about someone who wakes up in the future, one of the jokes is that all the things we thought were true are turned on their head.  I was talking with my colleague Jay Cross in terms of why we’re not seeing more uptake of the opportunities for L&D to move out of the industrial age, and one of the possible explanations is satisfaction with the status quo. And I was reminded of several articles I’ve read that support the value of rethinking.

In Sweden, on principled reasons they decided that the model of prosecuting the prostitute wasn’t fair. She was, they argued, a victim. Instead, they decided to punish the solicitation of the service, a complete turn around from the previous approach.  It has reduced sex trafficking, for one outcome. Other countries are now looking at their model and some have already adopted it.

In Portugal, which was experiencing problems with drugs, they took the radical step of decriminalizing them, and setting them up with treatment.  While it’s not a panacea, it has not led to the massive increase in usage that was expected.  Which is a powerful first step.  It may be a small step toward undoing some of the misconceptions about addiction which may be emerging.

And in Denmark there was an experiment in doing away with road signs. The premise was that folks with regulations will trust the regulations to work. If you remove them, they have to go back to assessing the situation, and that they’ll drive safer.  It appears, indeed, to be the case.

I could go on: the food pyramid, cubicles… more and more ideas are being shown to be misguided if not out and out wrong.  And the reason I raise this is to suggest that complacency about anything, accepting the received wisdom, may not be helpful.  Patti Shank recently wrote about the burden of having an informed opinion, and I think we need to take ownership of our beliefs, and I think that’s right.

There are lots of approaches to get out of the box: appreciative inquiry, positive deviance, double loop learning, the list goes on.  Heck, there’s even the silly and overused but apt cliche about the definition of insanity. The point being that regular reflection is part of being a learning organization.   You need to be looking at what you’re doing, what others are doing, and what others are saying.  Continual improvement is part of the ongoing innovation that today’s organization needs to thrive.

Yes, we can’t query everything, but if we have an area of responsibility, e.g. in charge of learning strategy, we owe it to know what  alternative approach might be. And we certainly should be looking at what we’re doing and what impact it’s having.  Measuring just efficiency instead of impact?  Being an order taker and not investigating the real cause?  Not looking at the bigger picture?  Ahem.  I am positing, via the Revolution,  that L&D isn’t doing near what it could and should, and we are via the Manifesto that what it is doing, it is doing badly.  So, what’s the response?  I’ve done the research to suggest that there’s a need for a rethink, and I’m trying to foster it. So where do we go from here?  Where do you go from here?  Steak, anyone?

#itashare

28 January 2015

What I do, don’t do, and why

Clark @ 8:51 am

My background is in learning technology design, leveraging a deep background (read: Ph.D.) in cognition, and long experience with technology.  I have worked as a learning game designer/developer, researcher and academic, project leader on advanced applications, program manager, and more.  More recently, I’ve been working with many different types of organizations including not-for-profits, Fortune 500, small-medium enterprises, government, education, and more with workshops, project deliverables, strategic consulting, writing, and more.

This crosses formal learning, mobile learning, serious games, performance support, content systems, social and informal learning, and more.  I reckon there’s a benefit to 30+ years of being fortunate enough to be at the cutting edge, and I work hard to maintain currency with developments in learning, technology, and organizational needs.I like to think I’m pretty good at it, and I am for hire.  I’ve worked in most of the obvious ways: fixed-fee deliverables when we can define a scope, hourly/daily rates when it’s uncertain, and on a retainer basis to keep my expertise ‘on tap’.

What I have not done, is work on a commission basis. That is, I don’t push someone’s solution on you for a cut of the action. I’ve cut a few such deals in the early days, particularly for long-term clients/partners, but to no avail.  And I’m fine with that. In fact, that’s now my stance.

There are reasons for this both principled, and pragmatic. On principle, I want to remain able to say Solution X is the best, as I truly believe it to be true, and not be swayed that Solution Y would offer me some financial reward.  I believe my independence is in my clients best interests.  This holds true in systems, vendors, individuals, whatever.  I want you to be able to trust what I say, and know that it’s coming from my expertise, not some other influence.  When you get my expert opinion, it is to your needs alone.  And, pragmatically, I’m not a salesperson, it’s not in my nature.

I also don’t design solutions and outsource development. I have trusted partners I can work with, so I don’t need solicitations to show me your skills.  I’m sure your team is awesome too, but I don’t want to take the time to vet your abilities, and I certainly wouldn’t represent them without scrutiny. When I have needs, I’ll reach out.

So I welcome hearing from you when you want some guidance on reviewing your processes, assessing or designing your strategy, ramping up your capabilities, considering markets, looking for collateral, and more. This is as true for vendors as other organizations.  But don’t expect me to learn about your solutions (particularly for free), and flog them to others.   Fair enough?  Am I missing something?

27 January 2015

70:20:10 and the Learning Curve

Clark @ 8:09 am

My colleague Charles Jennings recently posted on the value of autonomous learning (worth reading!), sparked by a diagram provided by another ITA colleague, Jane Hart (that I also thought was insightful). In Charles’ post he also included an IBM diagram that triggered some associations.

So, in IBM’s diagram, they talked about: the access phase where learning is separate, the integration where learning is ‘enabled’ by work, and the on-demand phase where learning is ‘embedded’. They talked about ‘point solutions’ (read: courses) for access, then blended models for integration, and dynamic models for on demand. The point was that the closer to the work that learning is, the more value.

However, I was reminded of Fits & Posner’s model of skill acquisition, which has 3 phases of cognitive, associative, and autonomous learning. The first, cognitive, is when you benefit from formal instruction: giving you models and practice opportunities to map actions to an explicit framework. (Note that this assumes a good formal learning design, not rote information and knowledge test!)  Then there’s an associative stage where that explicit framework is supported in being contextualized and compiled away.  Finally, the learner continues to improve through continual practice.

I was initially reminded of Norman & Rumelhart’s accretion, restructuring, and tuning learning mechanisms, but it’s not quite right. Still, you could think of accreting the cognitive and explicitly semantic knowledge, then restructuring that into coarse skills that don’t require as much conscious effort, until it becomes a matter of tuning a finely automated skill.

721LearningCurveThis, to me, maps more closely to 70:20:10, because you can see the formal (10) playing a role to kick off the semantic part of the learning, then coaching and mentoring (the 20) support the integration or association of the skills, and then the 70 (practice, reflection, and personal knowledge mastery including informal social learning) takes over, and I mapped it against a hypothetical improvement curve.

Of course, it’s not quite this clean. While the formal often does kick off the learning, the role of coaching/mentoring and the personal learning are typically intermingled (though the role shifts from mentee to mentor ;). And, of course, the ratios in 70:20:10 are only a framework for rethinking investment, not a prescription about how you apply the numbers.  And I may well have the curve wrong (this is too flat for the normal power law of learning), but I wanted to emphasize that the 10 only has a small role to play in moving performance from zero to some minimal level, that mentoring and coaching really help improve performance, and that ongoing development requires a supportive environment.

I think it’s important to understand how we learn, so we can align our uses of technology to support them in productive ways. As this suggests, if you care about organizational performance, you are going to want to support more than the course, as well as doing the course right.  (Hence the revolution. :)

#itashare

20 January 2015

Getting strategic means getting scientific

Clark @ 8:13 am

I’ve been on a rant about learning design for a few posts, but I ended up talking about how creating a better process is part of getting strategic.  The point was that our learning design has to embody what’s know about how we learn, e.g. a learning engineering.  And it occurs to me that getting our processes structured to align with how we work is part of a bigger picture of how our strategies have to similarly be informed.

So, as part of the L&D Revolution I argue we need to have, I’m suggesting organizations, and consequently L&D, need to be aligned with how we think, work, and learn. So our formal learning initiatives (used only when they are really needed) need to be based upon learning science. And performance support similarly needs to reflect how we process information, and, importantly, things we don’t do well and need support for.  The argument for informal and social learning similarly comes from our natural approaches, and similarly needs to provide facilitation for where things can and do go wrong.

And, recursively, L&D’s processes need to similarly reflect what we do, and don’t, do well.  So, just as we should provide support for performers to execute, communicate, collaborate, and continue to improve (why L&D needs to become P&D), we need to make sure that we practice what we preach.  And a scientific method means we need to measure what we’re doing, not just efficiency, but effectiveness.

It’s time that L&D gets out of the amateur approach, and starts getting professional. Which means understanding the organization’s goals, rejecting requests that are nonsensical, examining what we do, using technology in sophisticated ways (*cough* content engineering *cough*), and more.  We need to know about how we think, work, and learn, and apply it to what we do. We’re about people, after all, so it’s about time we understood the science in our field, and quit thinking that our existing practices (largely from an industrial age) are inherently relevant. We must be scrutable, and that means we must scrutinize.  Time to get to work.

#itashare

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress