How to Facilitate Community-based Learning?

How to facilitate community-based learning cover

How to Facilitate Community-based Learning?

The general job of L&D could be defined as transferring knowledge from those who have learned to those who need to learn. However, a challenge is that no matter the resources available, an L&D team is never able to accommodate all the learning needs in an organisation. The business needs and skills required at work are simply too complex – and changing rapidly. But could we do more without adding traditional resources? Community-based learning is a strategy that aims to connect organisational experts to learners and cut away the clutter in between. So, let’s look at how leveraging learning communities could benefit your organisation.

What is community-based learning?

Like mentioned, a community-based learning approach aims to connect organisational experts to the learners directly. On one hand, this allows willing experts to share their knowledge in a convenient manner. On the other hand, it enables the L&D to “crowdsource” a large part of its traditional work. A practical application of this could be employees sharing their own expertise to colleagues through a medium of their choosing.

How does this benefit the L&D team?

The benefits of community-driven learning can be manifold. Generally, effective strategies follow a particular division of labour. The L&D function tends to handle high-intensity, high-cost initiatives, whereas the community contributions tend to be more “long tail”. Regardless, organisations employing community-based learning strategies may see the benefits such as:

  • Much broader offerings of learning, without huge increases in direct cost
  • Better visibility to changing learning needs in the organisation
  • Increased collaboration opportunities, as people become aware of each other’s work and projects
  • The ability for the L&D team to focus on high-impact activities

How can we facilitate community-based learning in an organisation?

While there are many solutions to a problem, and you should always take your organisational culture into account, we’ve seen two distinct enablers for community-driven learning.

Firstly, since the idea is to match subject matter experts (SMEs) with interested learners, you need a some sort of marketplace. Within that marketplace, SMEs can share their knowledge and offer their expertise to others. The actual “delivery” of learning can take many forms (workshops, short talks, digital content etc.), but the important thing is to make it available. If the employees don’t know that the opportunity exists, they can’t take up on it.

Secondly, you need to embrace user-generated content. Combining the above marketplace method with easy tools for content development can really enable a great offering with good efficiency. From a resource constraint perspective, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the L&D team to intervene even in the instructional design phase, if you can guarantee an acceptable base level of quality. By enabling the SMEs to freely generate and publish digital learning content, you unlock significant scalability. There are a lot of platforms out there enabling the users to seamlessly and quickly generate content. Then, naturally, if such community-generated learning program becomes a resound success, the L&D team might step in to optimise and add to the learning experience.

Final thoughts

Overall, community-based learning as a strategy has a lot to offer. However, implementing it successfully requires the L&D team to relinquish some of its control. Fundamentally, it’s about enabling learning by connecting people. And the funny thing is, that these more informal and collaborative learning activities might even be much more effective than conventional classroom training or eLearning courses. If you’d like to give community-based learning a try, or find ways of leveraging user-generated content in your learning strategy, we can help. Just contact us here.

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How to Move from Face-to-face to Blended Learning? 3 Tips

From face-to-face to blended learning

How to Move from Face-to-face to Blended Learning?

The rapidly changing business environment requires companies to learn more rapidly and flexibly than ever. Hence, no-one has time to sit their employees in classrooms. However, 100% digital approaches might not be the best solution either and many organisations have realised that. Thus, organisations are looking to move from face-to-face to blended learning programs.

Blended learning programs require careful design. Simply digitalising some parts of the content while keeping others in the traditional format is unlikely to yield meaningful results. Rather, we should focus on using technology in meaningful manner, to enable us to make the most out of our face-to-face time and support learning throughout. To help on this journey, here are 3 tips to consider when moving from face-to-face to blended learning.

1. Figure out what is scalable and can be digitalised

We cannot digitalise every learning activity and it’s hard to make generalisations. However, a general rule of thumb that we use on figuring out what to digitalise relies on the foundational research behind “flipped learning”. In summary, the research tells us that knowledge delivery is not necessarily particularly efficient in a social setting (i.e. it’s likely that someone retains more information by studying alone rather than in a group).

Additionally, in this information era, information and knowledge alone are constantly diminishing in value. Our employees have also realised that their time is not efficiently spent attending a “death by powerpoint” session when they could study the same information via a much more convenient medium. Thus, when moving from face-to-face to blended learning, you should try to distinguish the learning activities that consists of simple knowledge delivery and look at digitalising that. This is where the greatest initial value-add usually lies.

2. Start using face-to-face time in meaningful way

Once you take away the knowledge delivery, what’s left? Hopefully still a lot of things, or your learning programs might have been not very well designed in the beginning! Regardless, in most cases, what is not knowledge delivery, tends to be more practical activities, like workshops, discussions, projects, collaboration, role play, etc.

Consequently, these are also likely the type of activities that you should be focusing your expensive face-to-face resources on. The reason being that knowledge delivery or acquiring information hasn’t been a particular challenge for L&D. Rather, the challenge is facilitating behavioural change and getting that learning applied on the job. Thus, it makes to focus your most expensive resource (face-to-face) on the most important task (behavioural change), by creating safe environments for employees to practice and make mistakes. And now that you’ve digitalised knowledge delivery, you even have more available resources to commit to that.

3. Try to embed the “digital” in the workflow

An ever-lasting problem with corporate learning has been that it often happens in isolation, in a silo of its own. When moving from face-to-face to blended learning, the two steps above provide a good start. In fact, the new type of face-to-face activities are likely to automatically become more aligned with the business, since they focus solely on the application of the learning. However, there’s a risk that the newly digitalised element becomes another silo of its own.

The reality is, that we rarely want to create new processes. If we digitalise learning in a way that simply moves the employees from the classroom to their desktops, we are pretty close to a zero-sum game. So, rather than creating new processes, we should focus on embedding learning in the existing workflows. You could use mobile learning to enable employees take up on learning resources wherever they are. Furthermore, microlearning can enable them to use their micro pockets of time for the activities, rather than schedule “learning time”. The means are plentiful, but in the end it’s all about discovering what works for your people and organisation.

Final thoughts

Meaningful digitalisation of learning is incredibly important, if we wish to create value through the L&D function in the future as well. However, many organisations struggle in putting it together. Some learning activities may be better off face-to-face. Some you might even be able to deliver 100% digitally. But unless you go through the considerations from a learning design point of view, you easily end up creating siloed activities with no linkage to each other or the business. We know, we constantly help organisations in making these transitions from face-to-face to blended learning (you can contact us here to find out more). But even if you’re going at it alone, take these tips into consideration. In our experience, time spent on this level of design shells out great returns!

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Why Less Is More in Corporate Learning

Why less is more in corporate learning featured image

Why Less Is More in Corporate Learning

In a lot of things, quality often trumps quantity – and learning is not different. While corporate L&D departments often aspire to run large amounts of good programs stocked to the brim with quality content and offer online resources for every need imaginable, that might not always work out as intended. Indeed, it’s so that the beauty is often in simplicity. Even if you have excellent quality content, having too much of it might have adverse effects. Let us explain. Here are three reasons why less is more in corporate learning.

1. Have you encountered the “Netflix problem”?

In today’s information age, content is abundant. For a long time, we believed that the more choice, the better. However, we are slowly starting our mistakes in that logic. Many corporate learning platforms and portals nowadays represent a ‘library’ or a ‘resource pool’ model. Whatever the employees may want to learn, there’s likely to be something for them. Sounds good, no?

Well there’s a problem. Similar to how you spend 45 minutes selecting a movie on Netflix on a Sunday evening, the learners may be struggling to find what they need. When employees search for resources at the workplace, it’s usually not for the sake of learning something completely new. Rather, it’s to quickly help them with whatever they are doing after which they move on. So what if less is more there? Abundance of options causes ambiguity, as the users spend too much time searching for the specific bit of information they need. And that doesn’t really work in anyone’s favour.

So, what could be an alternative approach, keeping in mind the less is more mantra? In our view, wherever there’s abundance of content or options, the L&D team should work to curate content, rather than put it all out there. Personalising the learning experience might also help to eliminate some of the unwanted effects.

2. Less is more also in cognitive loading

Most people are familiar with the concept of cognitive loading: the human brain is only able to handle a limited amount of information. Once that “quota” gets filled up, there’s no room for more and processing of information also slows down. In learning, this means that there’s only a limited amount of information that people can intake before requiring a break (hence sleeping is incredibly important for learning – to offload this loading!).

Yet, we often see organisations trying to achieve the impossible – cramming hundreds of slides into a day of training, or designing online learning to be completely exhaustive. The result: people get overloaded cognitively and retain even less than they otherwise would have. You might be thinking that you’re doing the learners a favour by delivering all the information, but in fact it’s the polar opposite. So what could we do to reduce cognitive loading?

Once again, less is more. Instead of trying to decipher all the information available into an activity, focus on the things that matter the most. Key topics, reinforces with practical activities. All the rest the employees can look up later when and if they need it. If you’re dealing with subject matter experts, this might be a challenge. But the job of the learning professional is to curate and strategically limit the amount of information, no matter what kind of expert you have to convey it.

3. Corporate learning is not about learning, but performance

Perhaps the most compelling reason why less is more in corporate learning is a practical one. Fundamentally, workplace learning is not about learning itself. Rather, it’s about whether the learning gets transferred to the workplace in the form of new behaviours and practices, which then hopefully result in positive performance. This learning transfer, in fact, seems to be one of the biggest problems in itself. Evidently, not much is being transferred.

What we’ve found that often happens, is that organisations are too busy shoving content down the learners throats to focus on creating opportunities to practice, discuss and reflect in a safe environment. Your employees may be “aware” of the new way you want them to do a particular thing, but if they haven’t practiced to the extent that they are comfortable with the new way, they are going to revert to the old way. Thus, you would be much better off going with the less is more mentality. Less content, more practice opportunities, workshops, collaboration, discussion and other hands-on activities. The flipped learning model that we advocate for may be a good framework for structuring activities.

Final words

Overall, workplace learning should focus on quality rather than quantity. Learning is not the goal, but just the means to achieving favourable business outcomes. Less is more holds true not only in the above examples, but also in UX design, communications etc. So, hopefully you’ll also start considering your strategy, and a more qualitative approach. And if you need help with that, in e.g. content curation strategies or personalised learning design, we are happy to help. Just contact us here.

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Agile L&D – How to Stay Ahead in the Modern World?

Agile L&D - how to keep your learning and development agile

Agile L&D – How to Stay Ahead in the Modern World?

The business environment and skills required in the workplace are changing faster than ever. Often, it’s the learning and development teams in organisations that are tasked to keep the organisation’s capability up to date. Unfortunately, we often see such inertia in the learning and development function that responding to changes in the business – let alone doing it rapidly – seems a mission impossible. To constantly deliver value to the business, L&D needs to become agile. To help you start your agile journey, here are three building blocks for agile L&D.

Be smart in building your learning technology stack

Nowadays, technology is something that you cannot escape if you want to run an effective L&D function. However, you shouldn’t just blindly buy up technology to keep up with the latest fads. Naturally, you should always work out your own specific goals, and then find suitable technology, rather than buying tech first and then figuring out what you can and cannot do with it. However, to remain an agile L&D function, you should also look to make sure that the technology you get today can still be useful tomorrow. Here are a few things to look out for.

  • Interoperability. Can the technology be integrated with other systems, that perhaps don’t even exist yet, to pass crucial data and information? Some vendors may integrate only with their own products or their partners’ – or not at all. Don’t paint yourself into a corner by locking yourself to a particular vendor.
  • User experience. Don’t buy into technology that doesn’t have a great user experience. If it doesn’t exist yet, it’s unlikely to magically arrive later on. Professional teams and providers understand that not having a great UX is not an option.
  • Evidence-based learning methods. Business and the world around is changing. However, learning is not. We still learn the same way as before, and the mission of technology is to find the ways to amplify that experience. Thus, you should carefully evaluate the pedagogical expertise of your vendors and the research they’ve put into their products. There’s a lot of false information out there being sold as a good way to learn (learning styles are a good example).

Agile L&D is data-driven and proactive

If you’re still doing training needs analysis or assessment once a year or bi-annually, you’re already lagging behind. Responding to real-time business problems through learning interventions requires real-time data. At any point in time, you should be able to grasp the organisational competency and skills level without conducting additional assessment. This naturally requires capabilities for collecting data, and conducting data-driven training needs analysis. But it’s also about the mindset.

On the mindset level, you need to face the fact that you can no longer plan a year ahead. Of course, long-term strategy remains important, but it’s unlikely that the learning interventions you plan today would be as effective a year from now. So it’s about getting into the heat of the moment, operating within the business rather than from the outside. Proactively assessing and spotting skills gaps through learning analytics as well as rapidly evaluating the impact of your interventions should be standard practice.

Designing learning at the speed of business

Another area where agile L&D can really shine is learning design. Traditionally, you would identify a learning need, develop activities, programs or materials, fine-tune them, then roll them out and hope that people take up on them. The process can easily take several months, but the learning is always needed yesterday. Additionally, there’s always uncertainty whether the end product will be “liked” or taken up on by the employees. The level of uncertainty combined with long development times is a combination simply too slow and inflexible to support a modern business.

Agile L&D practitioners, on the other hand, are comfortable with “beta-versions”. They roll out activities and learning experiences rapidly, constantly collecting data, assessing, iterating and refining. They also switch old instructional design methods to design thinking and service design. Thus, they are able to design and deliver much more impactful learning experiences more rapidly. By setting their focus on the people and how to help them perform better, agile L&D practitioners enable themselves to work at the speed of the business and provide value with their learning interventions.

Final words

Overall, learning and development as a function is facing a challenge. Business leaders are often not confident in the function’s ability to deliver. We have to adopt new technologies, use them smartly, make decisions based on data instead of guesses and learn to operate at the speed of the business, serving business goals rather than “learning objectives”. To actually manage this, more agile L&D approaches are definitely needed and have proven to be valuable. Naturally, change is always difficult and painful. But it may help to stay agile even when adopting agile: take small steps and learn and improve as you go. While the three building blocks presented only scratch the surface, they do provide a good starting point for building the L&D function of the future on. And if you need help, you can always contact us and we can coach your L&D towards more agility.

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Branding Your Corporate Learning – 3 Quick Tips for Success

Branding corporate learning - how to create a corporate learning brand

Branding Corporate Learning – 3 Quick Tips for Success

Employees nowadays expect more and more personalised company-provided learning experiences. They want activities that are tailored to them, rather than just access to no-name depositories of non-integrated content. This is where branding can play a big part. By branding your corporate learning, you can communicate and showcase to your learners that you value them. Furthermore, a good corporate learning brand can also improve engagement. So, here are three quick tips on how you can create a learning brand for your organisation.

1. Invest in your visual design

Visual design is incredibly important. Familiar designs not only create a feeling of safety, but they also help us to associate to a brand. Thus, investing in your visual design across the board is incredibly important. For instance, all your online learning platforms should carry the colours and signs of your brand. And no, just changing a logo on a platform is not enough, but rather you should look into a variety of things. Here are a few visual design pointers to consider when branding corporate learning.

  • Using consistent fonts throughout all text elements
  • Sticking to the brand colour template in everything. The colour palette should be wide enough to not make everything look the same, but also constricted enough to avoid creating a blur.
  • Using pictures of your organisation, people and locations instead of stock photos. If you don’t have any, get a photographer come over for a half-day, it won’t set you back much!
  • Using your logos, icons and company sigils consistently and holistically

2. Make it about the people and culture

There are two common denominators for great learning brands: people and culture. Whatever corporate learning you do, it should always be about the people. By helping them succeed and go forward, you’re creating value and building brand equity. Likewise, learning requires culture. Not only should you focus on building a learning culture, but your corporate learning brand should embed your company’s culture – otherwise it may seem distant, or at worst, pretentious. Furthermore, creating a feeling of social presence and togetherness helps not only in learning, but also adding to the company culture. Here are a few good practices to consider.

  • Give your people a voice – let them become active creators instead of passive participants
  • Highlight the successes of your people and let them become your brand ambassadors
  • Embed company values as well as cultural artefacts, “inside jokes” etc. in your learning experiences – don’t be afraid to have a little fun!

3. Communicate purpose

Like Simon Sinek says, start with the why. Communicating purpose is one of the most important, however often overlooked part of learning. Often, we just assume that our employees understand why they should engage in learning. But in reality, that’s not always the case. When branding corporate learning, you need to focus on making the case to your people. Why should they engage with your learning experiences? How does it help them in their jobs, careers or personal lives? Why is detrimental to the success of the company? If you answer these kind of questions well and upfront, you’re likely to see a higher uptake with your learning brand. Some practical things organisations have undertaken.

  • Short videos by senior leadership to communicate the importance of any particular training
  • Testimonials from employees who have participated before and benefitted from it
  • Clearly communicated, personalised goal posts, e.g. “this training will prepare your for a promotion” or “by learning this, you enable a lateral move to another team”.

Final words

There’s great value in creating a good corporate learning brand. A great brand promotes culture, creates a shared sense of purpose and enables people to take ownership of their learning. Like most good brands nowadays, the focus is not on the “product” but the people and how the brand aligns with the goals of the the individual. So, put your people first, be consistent, communicate well and deliver on your brand promises and you’re up for good things. And if you need help along the way, don’t hesitate to shoot us a message. We’re happy to help.

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Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) vs LMSs – What’s the Difference?

Learning Experience Platforms and LMS differences

Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) vs LMSs – What’s the Difference?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a new product category emerge in the HR technology market. With the predicament that learning management systems (LMS) have not been very successful in delivering learning impact, the Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) have emerged to fill a need. However, from corporate L&D’s point of view, these two categories might seem very similar (an interesting observation on that later!). To clear some of the ambiguity, we decided to write up our own view on the differences between the two. We’ll also tie those differences back to potential use cases, depending on the state of your L&D ecosystem.

What is a learning experience platform?

First, however, let’s quickly define what the term means. In our book, LXPs constitute personalised open online environments with the capability to aggregate resources across a variety of sources to facilitate both formal and informal learning. They are also social platforms, leveraging on the employees’ intrinsic motivation and autonomous learning rather than a top-down “push” approach.

How are LXPs different from LMSs?

Although all the definitions of the product categories are slightly ambiguous, there are a few distinguishable key characteristics with the two.

LXP

  • Employee-driven
  • Open system, can accommodate outside resources
  • Personalised, adaptive learning paths powered by recommendation algorithms and AI
  • Enable participation and contribution by employees
  • Often enables curation-focused content strategy

LMS

  • Administration-driven
  • Closed system, difficulties in accommodating outside content
  • Defined, often linear and limited learning paths
  • Managed by the L&D, with little freedom for users to share their own knowledge and expertise
  • Often requires design-heave content strategy

Whereas the real appealing use cases of LMS may be limited to compliance training, LXPs enable a more holistic approach. These platform providers often invest heavily into user experience, which nowadays can be a detrimental factor in adoption. Furthermore, the platforms are much more learner-centric, focusing on the employee’s individual needs and learning requirements. This type of personalisation often helps to engage the users beyond the scope of mandatory training. Finally, LXPs also enable more curation (rather than design) focused approach to content, which enables L&D teams to do more with less.

Are LXPs going to replace LMSs?

Yes and no. While the problems of traditional (low engagement, difficult to manage) LMS systems are clear, they are still going to be around for a while. However, the advent of the LX platforms should be a wake-up call for many professionals. User experience, personalisation and learner-centricity are things that you can’t just brush off. These are, in fact, things that you should require even from your LMS providers.

However, LXPs don’t always allow for crucial things such instructors/trainers/coaches tracking, managing and assessing employees. At the moment, the offering for situations requiring complex set of business rules (certifications, expirations) is not quite there yet (although some companies are coming up with good solutions). Furthermore, as learning is going more into the workflow, it’s questionable whether these types of systems are the best to be deployed at such level.

Thus, the LXP often doesn’t yet replace the LMS but rather works in conjunction with it, e.g. by pulling internal content to the platform and passing on data. Some vendors are adding more LMS like features to their products (which is sometimes ironic, as the data capabilities of these platforms have often been far better than those of LMSs) to overcome the need to run multiple systems. For organisations who are making their first learning technology investments, it might actually make sense to look at some of the LXP providers who also deliver the required features for administering e.g. traditional classroom training activities.

Final thoughts

Overall, the direction of the market is clear. All the vendors have recognised the needs for more open systems and better user experiences. The inertia and the need to integrate with legacy systems will slow down some of the bigger players, whereas totally new entrants are able to develop truly innovative solutions from scratch. Besides the technology aspect, the marketing and sales departments of pretty much every vendor out there have taken up on the language. Unfortunately, we also see many companies who over-promise a fair bit (e.g. by introducing a barebone LMS with modernised UX as an “LXP”). Thus, a potential buyer needs to be careful when evaluating the different offering. So, vet the technologies carefully, and don’t buy all the promises of better tomorrow at face value.

If you think you need help vetting or selecting learning technologies, we are happy to help. Our experience with technology vendors enables us to cut through the clutter and find what works for your organisation. Just contact us here.

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3 Quick Tips on Facilitating Discovery Learning

Discovery learning tips

3 Quick Tips on Facilitating Discovery Learning

Professional learning is more important than ever, thanks to the speed of change in the business environment. However, simple delivery and recall of facts and information is not enough. Rather, it’s how we and our employees use information to solve problems within our environment that matters. To encourage a more problem-solving approach to professional L&D, discovery learning might be worth looking into. Here are 3 quick tips on how to incorporate discovery-based elements in your learning design.

1. Steer away from the mundane multiple choice assessment

Most of traditional eLearning is the same. You start with a deck of material and end with a multiple choice quiz meant to test your learning. While a battery of multiple choice questions doesn’t actually even fill that purpose, and you should consider more formative assessment methods, organisations use them as they are the cheapest evaluation method. For learning purposes, a simple change to a discovery learning approach, e.g. open-ended questions can go a long way. Instead of spoon-feeding information and asking mundane questions just for the sake of asking them, use that time wisely. Open-ended questions activate thinking and self-reflection. Furthermore, solving something oneself leaves a more lasting memory trace than simply ‘choosing the right answer’.

You can also add some flavour into these types of questions by introducing social elements and turning the thing into a discussion. Social tools are also beneficial in bringing out those real-world experiences, which further facilitates cognitive processes and assigning meaning to the content. And don’t worry, as an evaluator, you don’t have to manually read everything either. Rather, some of the more advanced tools out there deploy semantic and keyword analysis to determine the “value” of the answers.

2. Discovery learning is moving from known to the unknown

We all are more comfortable with things we are familiar with. The same goes for learning. When designing learning experiences, you should aim to identify the already familiar concepts and ideas and start with them. From there on, you can then gradually introduce more advanced or difficult topics. Serving a baseline of information before inviting the learners solve problems and practice on their own helps to alleviate some of the pressure. However, it’s important that you always create and maintain a safe environment for the learners to discover, practice and make mistakes.

Technology can also assist in the process. For instance, you can use adaptive learning to offer the right content at the right time (whether in terms of difficulty, etc.). Recommendation engines and platforms using them can also prove handy in making more of the ‘unknown’ available.

3. Creating feedback systems is vital for discovery learning to work

Naturally, discovery learning relies on involvement, engagement and participation. As a method, it’s not nearly as “standardised” as some of the other methods, allowing for people to achieve the desired outcomes in their own personal way. For such a system to work, it’s vital that you create good feedback processes to support the learning experience.

Good methods of integrating continuous feedback can vary depending on the need. For instance, collaborative learning and peer-to-peer activities provide a feedback network without adding to the workload of the L&D team. You should also consider digital coaching and the possibilities it brings for 1-on-1 feedback. If coaching is too resource intensive, instructor-led facilitation might be a good alternative for providing the required support.

All in all, a discovery learning approach not only helps to create a lasting learning impact, but also prepares the learners for the future. In a world where critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are some of the most sought after skills, you’re hitting two birds with one stone! And if you think you need help in future proofing your learning strategy, we’re happy to help and discuss potential methods in more detail. Just contact us here.

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Why You Should Forget Learning Styles

The truth about learning styles

Why You Should Forget Learning Styles

Sometimes the field of education and learning – fuelled by the businesses behind it – may take unwanted turns that end up having long lasting consequences. When it comes to learning as a science, there’s quite a bit of information out there. Most of its good; research- and evidence-based information about learning that we as corporate learning professionals can leverage. However, occasionally you end up with the bad apple. One of the most profound bad apples in the learning space within the past years is the concept of learning styles.

Now we are all familiar with the theorem. People have different preferences for learning (e.g. visual, verbal etc.) and by catering to those, we can improve learning results. Sounds logical doesn’t it? It may, yes. Unfortunately, the idea is totally false (if you don’t take our word for it, here’s a rather recent well-written piece).

Learning styles and preferences have been researched extensively over the past decades. No reputable and well-designed research has been able to prove that there’s a positive correlation between catering to one’s learning style preferences and learning results. In simple terms: “learning styles” don’t work. As a matter of fact, they don’t even exist.

Or actually, they do for some entities, and that’s a problem. Several organisations have adopted the concept of learning styles. They’ve developed big businesses on “assessing your learning style” and then catering to those self-reported preferences. The approach has not been proven to work in a properly designed and repeatable review. Yet, it’s easy to sell and make money with, because we intuitively buy into the idea. It sounds logical, and it also helps to shift the blame to something else (“oh it wasn’t really the right style of learning for me, that’s why it didn’t work…”).

What should organisations do then?

Corporate learning & development is a field that tends to easily pursue fads, as long as they’re presented by a perceived authority. Compared to the education field, there may not be qualified educational and pedagogical experts even working within the function. And if there are, they might have been even taught myths like learning styles as a “truth” over the course of their formal education (e.g. qualification on instructional design or training). Whatever the case, you will be wasting a lot of resources in assessments and design efforts that won’t pay off if you take up on this myth.

Thus, you should be very cautious if you hear someone in your organisation talking about learning styles. Furthermore, hearing that from a vendor or a service provider should be a major red flag. It does strongly indicate that they haven’t really done their research. Or alternatively, they’re knowingly selling falsehoods. If you want to make an impact with your learning, you should focus on evidence-based methods. Looking into cognitive science in learning and its findings on e.g. multi-modality may also prove helpful. But the important thing is to forget the learning styles nonsense right away.

If you’d like to discuss learning strategies with real impact, feel free to contact us. We advise organisations on organisational learning and help to transform L&D into the digital age. You can contact us here.

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How to Use MOOCs in Workplace Learning?

How to use MOOCs in Workplace Learning

How to Use MOOCs in Workplace Learning?

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, have been a major driving force in the online education market development. These offerings have enables unparalleled access to education for many. More and more providers of this type of online education are emerging every day. Overall, the market is so huge. There doesn’t seem to be a learning topic that you wouldn’t find a MOOC for. While these learning offerings come with their own challenges, it seems reasonable for professional organisations to at least explore possible use cases. So, this article will detail how to make the most out of using MOOCs in workplace learning. But first, let’s look at some of the challenges.

Challenges with MOOCs

In the context of corporate learning, MOOCs present a few challenges that hinder their implementation and impact.

  • MOOCs are one-size-fits-all rather than personalised experiences
  • They alone don’t address specific, contextual business problems
  • The style of learning is mostly formal and long-form

Now, these challenges are real and they may seem dreadful. However, we can solve, at least to an extent, all of them. Let’s take a closer look.

How to personalise MOOC learning experiences?

MOOCs initially started out as a medium for universities to transfer their offering online. Universities, by default, teach us abstract thinking, concepts and wider skill sets through standardised curriculums. The learning is a lengthy process (many years), and there’s fairly little personalisation within the chosen study topics and course offerings. In organisations, however, people (and the business!) demand faster and more relevant learning. For both, personalisation of learning is very important. While it might be unlikely that the MOOC provider lets you re-engineer their content, there are still a few things that you can do.

For instance, you could address the relevance problem by using your internal learning platform to collect data and recommend relevant MOOCs based on that. E.g. by completing some internal training on UX design, you can give your learners the option to take up a MOOC on the subject, in case they develop an interest for the topic and wish to know more. Another way to personalise could be based on perceived difficulty. For instance, you could require employees to complete specific learning paths or jump on the career ladder before offering them particular MOOCs. This will also help you on the cost side, since providing everything for everyone is just unfeasible for the business.

How to make MOOCs relevant to the business?

Another problem, also related to personalisation, is that MOOCs don’t address specific business problems – the very thing modern L&D should do. In organisations, we are not learning for the sake of learning per se. Rather, we are trying to solve business problems by evoking behavioural change initiated by learning. On this mission, another level of personalisation of learning is required. Just delivering information and knowledge (what MOOCs do quite well) really falls short in providing the context and practical applications by which to apply the newly learnt in the workplace. Your people can learn all they want, but if they don’t bring that back to the workplace and change their behaviours, your corporate learning is a waste of money.

So, how do we solve this? This does require a bit of design efforts. However, a good goal would be to view MOOCs as resources to tap into, and then design an organisational learning approach for making sure the learnt gets transferred to the workplace. It’s important to bridge the gap between the “abstract” level of learning and what the organisation needs. Often, this is just communication. Hence, you should make clear why a particular MOOC is offered and how the learning outcomes from that are intended to support the business. Further, you should always be specific in outlining the expectations after the fact. Finally, the real results can be evaluated with learning analytics, comparing learning results to performance data.

Refrain from using MOOCs where they don’t work

As mentioned, MOOCs mostly represent a long-form, formal approach to learning. And in that capacity, they work quite well. However, you shouldn’t rely on them for most of the other needs. According to the 70:20:10 framework, only a small part of workplace learning takes place formally. Even though some MOOCs do incorporate social elements, that ‘social’ is not contextual to your organisation. While that ‘social’ certainly helps to facilitate the learning process, you’re not transferring knowledge within your own organisation by offering MOOCs. Hence, for internal knowledge transfer, mentoring and coaching, you should look for other alternatives.

Moreover, MOOCs are not experiential either. Rather, they are quite the opposite – learning often abstract concepts at a distance, without exposure to a practical environment. As learning is increasingly moving into the flow of work, this “70” becomes perhaps the most crucial thing to get right. That type of workflow learning is much more about just-in-time, on-demand performance support rather than traditional long-form education.

Final words

Overall, MOOCs are a great addition to the workplace learning mix. They enable us to offer high quality content on topics that we cannot justify designing learning experiences for ourselves. As MOOCs are often certified by accredited institutions, offering them can also provide an incentive for your staff to stay with you, as they’re also adding to their own personal learning portfolio. Nowadays, some more sophisticated internal learning platforms also enable you to curate, offer and recommend MOOCs within your own system, which helps you to provide the learning where it is needed.

Fundamentally, the use of MOOCs is similar to designing any other kind of learning. It’s about finding the ways and developing a strategy for using the available resources where they best fit. And remember, if you need help with that, or with your learning strategy overall, we are here to help. Just contact us.

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How to Support 70:20:10 with Learning Technology?

How to use technology with 70:20:10?

How to Support 70:20:10 with Learning Technology?

If you have a job in professional- or corporate learning, chances are you’ve come across the 70:20:10 framework. Hopefully, you have even explored the framework’s meaning and perhaps even implemented in your own learning strategy. The companies who do tend to be successful! Whatever your experience, the framework is today more relevant than ever. The advent of technology, on one hand, enables us to facilitate a 70:20:10 strategy much better. On the other hand, it also forces us in that direction. Thus, we thought it would be good to look at how technologies can help you to get there.

Quick recap of the 70:20:10

The framework is prevalent and big. So big that there’s even an institute for it. The framework indicates that workplace learning takes place in 3 different ways:

  • Formal learning such as training sessions and eLearning courses (the “10)
  • Social learning, such as discussions, coaching, mentoring and personal relationships (the “20”).
  • Experiential learning, such as on-the-job learning, challenging assignments and discovery within workflows (the “70”)

While you can argue about the validity of the specific numbers until the day’s end, there’s a good consensus that the 70:20:10 provides a good approximation. Fundamentally, the framework orients us toward more performance focused learning activities.

But how could we use technology to support these 3 different aspects? Let’s take a look.

1. Using technology to support formal learning

Now this is probably evident to everyone out there, but we’ll spell it out anyway. We’ve been using technology to support and deliver formal learning experiences for a long time. Just think all those eLearning courses you have gone through. There are countless ways of doing it and it doesn’t have to be all digital. You should probably consider blended learning and flipped learning as well.

However, the thing to learn from the 70:20:10 framework is that the formal training activities shouldn’t happen in isolation either. Rather, they should be integrated into the larger workflow and built to support performance in various aspects. To enable this, you should consider learner-centric design methodologies to learning.

2. How to support social learning with technology?

When we jump to the 20 of the 70:20:10, things get a little more interesting. Traditionally, eLearning has done a terrible job in augmenting any social behaviours that normally take place in a classroom. However, that has changed with the advent of social media and the subsequently developed digital learning capabilities. Nowadays, most learning technologies come with social features that enable your employees to interact with each other.

Fundamentally, it’s about getting your employees to share and communicate in a natural and seamless way. Different learning technologies provide a great way to facilitate informal discussions and collaborate. You can also look into things like peer-to-peer learning and digital coaching. The technologies to support all these things out there, just make sure you determine carefully how you align them with the business. It’s all about the performance in the end.

3. How to support learning on-the-job with technology?

Learning on-the-job, or learning in the workflow is not traditionally something that L&D has done an excellent job on. That’s partly because the rules of the game are totally different. It’s not about courses. It’s not about classroom sessions. Rather, workflow learning is all about helping people succeed and improve their performance in a non-obtrusive manner.

Instead of intensive, lengthy activities or learning sessions, this 70% of the 70:20:10 consists of performance support resources, just-in-time learning and actual work projects (incl. stretch projects). All of this is focused on performance, hence results are easier to monitor. Data analytics also play a big part in capturing all this information, from point of need activity to behaviours and finally performance. Therefore, there is no role for traditional corporate learning objectives. Rather, the learning and the objectives needs to be designed with the business with clear performance impact goals.

Final words

Overall, the 70:20:10 is a valuable and relevant framework. If nothing else, implementing it should take you towards more performance-focused learning. Because if you cannot show the impact your learning has on the business, you cannot really demonstrate the value of the L&D function either. Then, you get cut out very quickly.

Today, technology is a great enabler for these new ways of learning at the workplace. While much of the informal learning (the 70 and 20 in 70:20:10) takes place naturally, you can really supercharge the effects with a bit of smart facilitation!

If you’d like to explore the idea of moving to performance-focused learning in the workflow, we can help you. Just contact us here.

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