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

15 December 2008

Words of Wisdom*

Clark @ 11:23 AM

L&D speaking:

We got into elearning when there were scattered experiments going on around the organization.  Of course we stopped those, as we need a coordinated approach.  We want to grow in a controlled way.

Our first move was, of course, to purchase an LMS.  A good LMS is like a fine automobile, with lots of capabilities to handle all conditions.  We selected the top of the line, to last a long time.  Two years ago it was up and running.  Our vendor was very helpful, taking the necessary time to have it optimally integrated with our IT system.  Our IT group changed the infrastructure a year ago, to *open source*  (I don’t know what they were thinking), but fortunately my vendor says that they’d be happy to help change the installation to work with the new services architecture.

We found out that some years ago a competency modeling exercise had been done, so we were able to populate the LMS with the roles, and the associated competencies.  Now our people can look up interesting roles from back then, and see what competencies are required. Then we realized we needed content about those competencies, so we went for the greatest volume per dollar.  You’ve got to have all the content you can to hopefully match up with those competencies.

It became clear that the off the shelf content didn’t cover our proprietary processes, so we needed to develop our own content.  We got a full fledged authoring suite and asked our trainers to develop courses.  They’ve become very good at taking those PDFs and PowerPoints and putting them up online with quiz questions.  Of course we have pre-tests so we can show a delta and validate our work.  It’s amazing how quick we can crank one of these out!  We’ve got to find more content to transform, as our team is just too efficient at it.  Now we’re looking at PowerPoint plugins.  We’re getting more flexible, too.  We used to have SMEs give workshops, and those were attended, so we’ve purchased virtual presentation software to allow our SMEs to present online.  Who needs all this rapid eLearning stuff?  And that LMS makes it easy to schedule the presentations!

We’re doing some more trendy things as well.  Right now games are hot, and we found that one of our loading dock personnel was a talented game designer. He’d taken a popular FPS (whatever that means) and built our offices in it, where you wandered around the premises and shot zombies (who represented managers).  We got him to scatter the words of the company mission around the premises, and you pick them up and bring them to headquarters, and when you collect them all there’s another game where you organize them into the mission statement, and then you win the game.  There’re still zombies running around to shoot, but now we label them as the competition.

We’re also aware of the excitement about virtual worlds, and so we’re porting the game into Second Life.  We can’t figure out how to build zombies, so we’re paying our employees to act like zombies ‘in world’.  It’s a bit of incentive to work hard so you can earn a chance to play as a zombie.

While our focus is formal learning, we recognize that all needs may not be able to be met by courses.  We’ve checked with various departments to see if they’ve got portals of information.  So, to get product information, you go to the sales site, er, or is that engineering?  No matter, what’s important is that the information is out there, and we provide links to all the portals (there’re hundreds) for all the courses.  However, we need to be focused: the information people need should be available internally, and if there’s a need, they can ask us to fill it. We strictly firewall off access to the outside, as we don’t want people getting information that hasn’t been vetted internally.

We’re also working on mobile deployment.  We’ve captured the CEO speaking at the latest shareholder meeting, and we’ve made available an audio for listening in the car  His vision of the firm, like that of his forefathers, helps us understand just why the firm is as it is.  It’s available on our portal for downloading.  For a next step, we are trying to convert it to video.  We’ve also developed a full ethics course for delivery on mobile phones.  There’s the content to read, and then a quiz that can be uploaded back to our LMS.  It’s required, so we’re getting some interest.

We recognize the importance of community.  Beyond the phone, we have email, and we’re trialing this new ‘instant messaging’.  We continue to track new directions.  There’s a lot of new TLAs out there, XML, DITA, SCORM, etc.  Frankly, we’re trying to find someone who knows this stuff.

We’re careful to know our areas of responsibility.  When someone wants to talk expertise directories, or other KM-type activities, we point them to IT. Wikis and blogs?  We’ve no time for a drunken Hawaiian party.  Our responsibility ends at formal learning.  Informal learning is an oxymoron.

You’ve got to ensure you’ve got an adequate budget, and then you fiercely protect it.  Don’t spend money unless it will make you look good; better to hoard than to squander.  New technologies need to be touched to demonstrate to management that you’re on top of industry trends, but going overboard can ruin a career. At the end of the day, you need to find out what the executives are hearing about, and make sure you are doing something with it.  Your job is to respond.

In conclusion, we’ve implemented a centralized system of eLearning. We’ve got it all there if people are interested.  Now it’s up to the managers to get their people to use it.  Little pockets of experimentation keep popping up outside our control, but we’re pretty good about stopping those and informing them about our capabilities.  Thanks for your time.

Any resemblance to any person purely coincidental; any resemblance to any organization purely intentional.


  1. This is a classic, Clark, and shows how HR is preparing for its own obsolescence.

    Comment by Harold Jarche — 15 December 2008 @ 11:40 AM

  2. So very wise, so very wise.

    Thanks for giving me a much needed laugh this afternoon (because I sort of feel like I’m living this nightmare right now!)

    Comment by Cammy Bean — 15 December 2008 @ 1:40 PM

  3. You nailed it. I have been on the receiving end of that conversation for so, so long. My metaphor for the economic cataclysm is pruning the plant. When the dust settles in a year or two, I hope the people who express this point of view have found something productive to do with their lives.

    Comment by Jay Cross — 19 December 2008 @ 12:46 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress