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Archive for the ‘Elearning’ Category

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Imagine for a minute that you are a Sales Director with a medium-sized company. Following a series of field visits and observations, you reach the conclusion that your team needs some additional training in negotiation skills. So you sit down with your HR Director or Head of Learning & Development and either agree to bring in a company to run a “training course” or perhaps reach into your company library of e-learning material, pull out the course marked “Negotiation” and ensure that your team complete the course. Job Done.

That is a scenario which probably takes place many times a day in organisations across the country. Unfortunately, the likelihood of seeing any improvement in skills or changes in behaviour is probably close to zero and large sums of money will have been poured down the proverbial drain.

Why am I so confident about that? Basically, because in the workplace, people simply no longer learn much through formal training. That’s not simply my opinion. It is based on huge amounts of research, much of it carried out and compiled by Charles Jennings, a global expert in learning. Charles has developed a concept which he calls the “70:20;10 Framework” to explain his theory. The research carried out with over 150 companies worldwide shows that:

* 70% of workplace learning is experiential ie, people learning through experience and their own investigations and then using that knowledge to develop their skills

* 20% of learning is “social”. ie, learning through either formal or informal interactions with colleagues

* 10% of learning is “formal” ie, classroom-style training or eLearning courses.

Let’s be absolutely clear, this isn’t an opinion or a theory about how learning might change, it’s about what is actually happening now.

So should FE college Principals and eLearning company CEO’s be having sleepless nights on seeing this data? Well “yes”, if they believe it is nothing more than some academic mumbo jumbo which may or may not happen in 30 years time and which they can comfortably ignore. However, more forward-thinking leaders may see this as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

The reason I believe that is because I do not see “formal training” disappearing completely. It may only represent 10% of learning but especially in areas of compliance, it’s a very important 10%. I do not want to be served in a restaurant by someone who is learning basic hygiene standards as they go, nor do I want to fly in an airplane, where the pilot is learning about the use of an altimeter from his mate in the cockpit.

The second point to remember is that these 3 different types of learning experience do not fall into strict silos surrounded by insurmountable barriers. Nobody wakes up and says “I think I will do some learning today and 20% of it is going to be social. When I’ve done that, I must do some eLearning in order to get my 10% of formal training”. A far more likely scenario is a “blended “ solution where different types of learning are moulded into a single experience.

This is very much the approach we have adopted towards the delivery of Functional Skills. Many of our learners have, for one reason or another, had a negative experience of learning and education in general and there seems little point in simply subjecting them to more of the same. So whilst we use some excellent eLearning software from our partners at Guroo to provide the “formal” part of our training and deliver some basic underpinning knowledge, we encourage our learners to reflect on their experiences in the workplace and use these to embed their learning and gain understanding.

Moreover, we are working on a number of different initiatives to encourage “social” learning. These range from Webinars to the use of different social networking platforms to raise issues and share solutions. Our objective is to create a single learning experience which brings together all the components of the 70:20;10 framework. It’s a long journey and we are continually seeking to evolve and develop our methodology, but our results and our exceptional pass rates speak for themselves and we are convinced that this is the right way forward.

Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills

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Talent Management

As someone who always thought that a “stakeholder” was a person who held the stick whilst the vampire met their maker, I have held a long-standing aversion to “management-speak”. I guess it probably started when I was first told that it was “time to pick the low-hanging fruit” and it reached its height when a colleague suggested that we adjourn a meeting for a “bio break” (sadly, I kid you not!).

So when the term “Talent Management” first started to creep into the management lexicon a decade ago, my antennae were bristling. Surely this was just new jargon to cover a set of processes which any decent HR function had been following since they morphed from being the Personnel Department. However, if that was bad enough, the situation soon became far worse when software companies started jumping on the new bandwagon and convincing us that the only effective way to manage talent was through the purchase of a “System”. And thus were a range of incredibly expensive and complex “Talent Management Systems” inflicted on organisations across the Western World.

Why Has the TMS Failed to Deliver?

Sadly, the “TMS” is now being revealed for the dinosaur which I always believed it to be. I think there are two key reasons for this.

Firstly, the dreaded “Annual Performance Review” is a central plank of most TMS’s and the structure around which “talent development” plans are hung. The concept of Annual Appraisals is now being challenged across the whole HR sector. I would go further and suggest that not only has it failed totally to raise individual performance, it has probably done untold damage to both individuals and their organisations. Invariably, both parties enter an Appraisal poorly prepared and hoping it can be completed as quickly as possible. The result is a mediocre box-ticking exercise which leaves everyone unsatisfied and rarely if ever results in behavioural change. The fact that Michael Gove now appears to want to introduce this anachronism into the teaching profession fills me with dread.

What of course we really need is effective and continuous “Performance Management”, a much more informal and less rigid practice which enables people to develop their skills through a wide range of different processes of which manager feedback is just one small component. Unfortunately, most TMS’s are far too rigid to track employee progress in this way.

Secondly, the TMS fails to deal with the very rapid changes which are taking place in the way in which we learn. The TMS tends to point employees in the direction of formal training programmes which will supposedly assist in their “development”. However, recent surveys suggest that less than 20% of workplace learning is now acquired through formal (whether classroom-based or eLearning) programmes. People now learn socially, informally or collaboratively and there are far more flexible and effective ways of capturing and tracking this learning than via a rigid TMS.

Is Talent Management Still Important?

So I believe we need to forget about Talent Management Systems and revert to thinking about what Talent Management really means. If it’s about recruiting the very best people, providing them with the appropriate skills and opportunities to learn and retaining them in the business, then of course it is more important than ever. Globally, we face a huge skills crisis and the task of finding and retaining talented people has become critical for most organisations.
I don’t believe we will achieve that by investing in Talent Management Systems. Instead, we need to focus on the drivers which persuade Generation Y (who will soon make up the majority of the workforce) to join and stay in a business. That’s about values and culture, genuine engagement and empowerment and satisfying and rewarding work. Does anyone know of a TMS which is based around that concept? if not, then let’s start thinking outside of the box and adopt a different approach to the way we manage our talent.

Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills

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Learning-technologies

How can the UK address the current skills crisis, whilst at the same time reducing the disastrously high level of GREETs (Getting Ready for Education, Employment or Training)? One thing is for sure – the role of the adult education sector will be of paramount importance. The sector should be leading the way by implementing innovative learning techniques, and using technology to engage individuals and introduce efficiencies. Sadly, I believe that is often not the case.

Over the last 12 months, I have chaired conventions and workshops and attended a variety of conferences with fellow practitioners in the sector and I am deeply worried about the responses that I often get to questions and suggestions in the educational technology arena. Here are just a few examples:

eLearning: “May work for some, but not for us. Our learners don’t have access to computers”

Flipped Classrooms: “Never heard of it”

e-Portfolios: “There’s nothing wrong with workbooks. We’ve always used them”

Social Learning: “Twitter is a load of rubbish”

I believe that many of these responses are emotional rather than rational and are based largely on Fear. People are afraid of change, afraid of technology and afraid of losing their jobs. So if the sector is going to move on and play what could be such a key role on the skills agenda, we have to find a way of addressing those genuinely-held concerns.

Fear of Change

Change is never an easy process to handle. It takes us out of our comfort zones and into areas which are unfamiliar and challenging. . Yet change is an essential feature of our working lives and a critical process for any successful organisation. Type in “Change Management” in Amazon, and you come up with nearly 75,000 books on the subject but from my experience, there is one simple process you need to follow.

Consider the following two statements to a team of adult education trainers

“We have decided to implement an e-Portfolio system, so we will no longer be using workbooks and we are arranging some familiarisation sessions for you”

“We know that you have had a lot of issues with workbooks so we want to look at some alternative solutions and would value your input in the process. We have therefore arranged for some team meetings during which you can help to evaluate the different options”

There are absolutely no brownie points for guessing which statement will be more likely to win hearts and minds. Involve people in the process rather than imposing solutions and suddenly the fears dissipate and people focus on the benefits. It’s not rocket science but sadly it still seems to be alien to the culture of many organisations.

Fear Of Technology

Fear of technology is a different issue. The term “Educational Technology” covers a huge range of areas from mobile platforms to social learning. A vital first step is therefore to understand exactly where the fear lies and the reasons behind it. I suspect that in many cases, that fear results from a fear of redundancy. In other words, a belief that technology will in some way reduce the need for bodies on the ground. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. Training providers who embrace technology will almost certainly be more successful than their compatriots who resist change and are therefore more likely to be recruiting rather than downsizing.

That said, we have to accept that the world of learning is changing rapidly as a result of the introduction of new technology and as such, the roles of the people within it will also change. The concept of the teacher or trainer as a “provider of knowledge” is no longer relevant when such knowledge is readily available via Google, The Khan Academy and thousands of YouTube videos. Instead, we are looking for people who can coach and mentor, people who can influence behaviour and people who can show learners how to functionalise and adapt the knowledge they have obtained to different situations they will face both in the workplace and in life.

That of course, requires a different set of skills, but they are skills which can be learnt and developed through experience and which potentially provide traditional trainers and teacher with a much more satisfying and fulfilling role.

So I think it is time to ditch the “Fear Factor” in vocational training and to embrace change and technology, not for their own sake, but because they can enhance the learner experience and improve the overall quality and perception of vocational training. That surely has to be an aim to which we would all aspire.

Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills

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I recently read a blog provocatively  entitled “Are Teachers Obsolete?”. Of course, like any good headline, it was written to grab your attention.  I don’t believe that teachers are a dying species, but it did for me raise the question of whether some ways of “teaching” should not be confined to history….

Whilst not wanting to get too hung up over definitions of “teaching” and “facilitating learning”, for me the primary difference is about ownership and responsibility.  Teaching is traditionally, in the prescriptive form, about the passive transfer of knowledge by an acknowledged expert. As such, the teacher owns the process and is held responsible.

If, on the other hand, we take a more descriptive approach to teaching we arrive at learning facilitation: that is, an active process and the responsibility of the individual learner who takes ownership and makes their own decisions as to how they will use the information.

And this is the direction young learners are moving in. A recent survey showed that schoolchildren are now far more likely to use Google to find information than to ask an adult. Our position as “experts” in the value-chain of knowledge transfer is changing.

That scenario is being mirrored in the workplace. A few years ago, I was approached by a disgruntled colleague who was complaining about the lack of opportunity for personal development. I pointed out to her that as her role had developed she had taken on additional responsibilities and was now managing people and taking decisions. At the same time, ongoing mentoring and support was constantly available.

But it was no good. She insisted that she “wanted to go on a course”. When it came to deciding which course she wanted, she was somewhat less clear. I got the distinct impression that any course would have done, as long as it involved formal training.

That scenario is unlikely to be repeated today. Just five years later, another recent survey has shown that the vast majority of senior managers prefer informal learning to formal training courses. That position is likely to extend across all levels of an organisation as the power of Enterprise Social networks such as Yammer help people to learn from each other. Like teachers, workplace trainers will need to change and adapt if they are to survive. L&D departments will need to morph into “Coaching and Mentoring Teams” and opportunities for collaborative and social learning will need to be actively encouraged

The move from prescriptive to facilitated “learning” poses some exciting challenges for those of us who are committed to the use of technology in education.  Not least is the issue of how to manage the enormous repositories of information that are now available to learners.  A Harvard Business Review study showed that in 2009 alone, more data was made openly available than in the whole history of mankind up until the end of 2008! That explosion of information and the learning opportunities it represents is scary. What sort of LMS can handle that?

I confidently believe that elearning will remain firmly at the heart of this revolution and I am already coming across the term “eLearning 2.0” (Does anyone know anything that is not “2.0”?). However, elearning will, like teachers, need to adapt and change. For example, producing expensive Hollywood blockbuster elearning courses may no longer be appropriate when perhaps a well-produced “bite-sized” trailer can provide all the relevant information and a much more intense learning experience.

We cannot expect that in the future elearning will meet all the needs of our learners. However, with the appropriate content and high “production values” it can still provide the framework from which other informal or collaborative learning experiences can be hung. And of course, we do start from a good place. Remember, it’s elearning – not eTeaching!

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, ThirdForce Services and HR Director

There was a time in the dim and distant past when we used the term “learning” as a single noun.  Now of course we talk about “traditional learning”, “e-learning”, and “informal learning” and I have now seen the term  “social learning” used in at least two recent articles I have read.

So I’ll start by sticking my neck out and define learning as “the acquisition of skills, behaviours and knowledge and values”.  That seems to fit well with the Wikipedia definition and if that is the case, there can be little doubt that the way we learn has changed dramatically. For example, it is a proven scientific fact that wild rabbits have larger brains than tame rabbits. Why?  Because tame rabbits spend all day in a closed environment and are fed lettuce leaves by their owner.  Wild rabbits have to work things out for themselves and  forage for food in a dangerous environment.

So  should we send people on training courses and “feed” them information  or should we put them in cross-functional project teams, let them try things out for themselves and coach them through the inevitable mistakes and  encourage them to join forums and discussion groups?

I firmly support the latter approach because I believe that we need to breed “wild” managers and leaders who can think outside the box, operate in difficult, highly competitive environments and yet still survive and develop. However, that approach throws up serious challenges for anyone involved in the e-learning arena . The danger is that e-learning simply becomes an electronic version of traditional learning techniques and we end up feeding juicy pieces of e-lettuce into the open mouths of our baby rabbits.

So if e-learning is going to continue to be of value, it needs to adapt to encompass the new world of social and informal learning.  It will no longer be relevant simply to expect learners to sit at a computer and work through a “course”.

I believe that such a change in approach is possible. For example, we can include e-learning content within a wider Talent Management system which can capture informal learning interventions and link to social networking sites and e-portfolios.  Looking for some extra support?  Tweet for information, join a Linked-In discussion group,  undertake a project in your e-portfolio and get feedback from your on-line tutor.  That’s real learning –  not just lettuce leaves.

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