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Training for Success: Learning and Technology Trends

e-Learning Concept. Computer KeyboardSix out of ten learning and development managers say their training budget is one of the first to be cut when times are hard, according to a report published in Personnel Today. Now more than ever it’s vital that training is closely aligned with key business goals, that the effectiveness of training is properly evaluated and that return on investment is accurately measured.

But no one can deny that workplace training has changed. Where once the role of the training manager focused on developing classroom based programmes, scheduling events, measuring effectiveness, and reporting on attendance and performance after events, it’s now much more about harnessing the best learning technologies to provide access to information and learning content.

Training managers need to be solutions architects – capable of designing innovative ways for employees to access relevant knowledge, on-demand, no matter where they are. And they need to keep up-to-date with the latest learning developments, to guarantee success.

Here we examine some of the top trends in learning and technology that influence modern workplace training, and that we utilise to support our clients.

1. 70/20/10 Model of learning

The most effective way to facilitate workplace learning is by giving workers opportunities to develop, apply and practice new skills and behaviours on the job and in real-life situations. Many organisations have adopted the 70/20/10 learning philosophy, whereby:

  • 70% of learning & development takes place on the job, through tasks, experiences and problem-solving;
  • 20% of learning & development comes through feedback, learning and sharing with others (formal and informal); and
  • 10% of learning takes place via formal training, study and reading.

Recognition of the 70/20/10 approach means that the entire learning environment is changing from:

  • knowledge delivery to knowledge sharing and problem-solving;
  • formal and structured training to free flow of knowledge;
  • individuals to learning communities; and
  • training courses to learning environments (offline and online).

* 70/20/10 concept developed by McCall, Eichinger and Lombardo
2. Convergence of learning, performance and talent management

Businesses are beginning to seek enterprise wide solutions where they can unite the functionality of a learning management system (LMS) (e-learning, classroom training, reporting & tracking, certification & assessment) with a performance management system (performance appraisals, performance management, career & success planning, competency management) and talent management system (on-boarding, talent acquisition, compensation management, workforce planning).
3. Learning technologies are becoming social, collaborative, and virtual

Google, LinkedIn, twitter, YouTube, wikis, blogs all contribute to modern workplace learning. Live training is often virtual and facilitated via tools such as Skype, GotoTraining and WebEx.

4. The rise of mobile learning

It’s been mentioned before, but has been slow to be adapted in many organisations. Mobile or mlearning is about delivering learning content and experiences to learners when and where they need it. Typically mlearning is accessed via a mobile device such a smart phone or tablet – it’s particularly useful for performance support – checklists, quick guides, short ‘how-to’ videos.

5. The rise of DIY rapid elearning

More and more organisations want to be able to create their own e-learning to build in-house capabilities, save money and time. Demand for Aurion’s rapid eLearning training course has tripled over the last two years. Training staff want to know how to use the best rapid authoring tools to create their own e-learning and gain an understanding of e-learning theories and strategies.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

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Checklist for choosing an e-learning vendor

By Glynn Jung

Glynn Jung

Glynn Jung

Whichever product or service you seek, an organised, comprehensive selection process is required – perusing websites of e-learning companies just doesn’t work. The selection process for a suitable e-learning vendor should be  guided by whether they are supplying:

  • technology,
  • off the shelf e-learning titles or
  • design and development services.

It helps if you develop a checklist, (indeed most purchasing departments demand this) so that you are consistent in comparisons. We recommend listing all the attributes of a perfect-fit vendor and deciding which features are must-haves, whether these are immediate needs or future growth and finally how important each feature is (“points”).

We also recommend that organisations adopt the “MoSCoW” method for determining their needs. This is based on agreeing:

  • ‘must-have’
  • ‘should have’
  • ‘could have’ and
  • ‘would be nice to have’ – most organisations concentrate exclusively on “must have”.

Below is a sample checklist that you might consider as a starting point for your own selection of a technology vendor.

In any e-learning vendor selection process there are generally a number of important criteria, such as pricing, technology, quality, service and so on. With regard to technology, ensure your vendors know what they will be dealing with in your organisation.

Attribute Must Have Now or Future Points
Vendor Qualifications
Does the vendor serve organisations similar to yours?
What do current customers similar to yourselves say
Is the vendor’s customer base sizeable enough to ensure continued operation?
Are customer references available?
Does the vendor support customer implementations with training and support?
Can the vendor assure you of a successful implementation?
Does the vendor have a proven plan for implementation of its system?
How long has the vendor been operating in the e-learning market?
Pricing
Is pricing in line with similar offerings?
Does the vendor rely primarily on revenue from its commercial system or is customization a large part of its income?
Does the vendor offer a base price that scales with volume?
Does the price include everything you will require to get started?
Can you see a relationship between cost and quality?
Quality
Does the vendor guarantee successful operation?
Is there a stated quality policy?
Are “bugs” resolved quickly or do they wait for a future release?
How easy is the system to use: How much training is required?
Does the system require minimal resources for administration?
How reliable is the system: How often and for how long does it go down?
Technology
Do the technical qualifications reflect our technology
Is the system’s technology up to date? State-of-the-art?
Does the vendor rely on outside support for its basic services?
Is the system capable of delivering current types of media?
Does the vendor provide multiple solutions for your needs?
Can the system support with various authoring tools?
Does the system support the browsers we need supporting?
Does the system support mobile devices?
Does the system support our compliance requirements?
Support
Are maintenance fees readily available?
Does the vendor require the purchase of periodic updates?
Does the vendor provide 24/7customer support?
Does the system support multiple languages?
Does the system support the accessibility we require?
Can the software be placed in Escrow?

Bespoke e-learning development

If the need is for bespoke course development or off-the-shelf titles many of the same technical considerations still apply. You need to ensure that any course content can be accessed and viewed using devices which your staff will be using. You further need samples of their work to compare but before you do this we recommend you identify:

  • who will be using the courses,
  • where they’ll be using them and
  • what you consider to be fit-for-purpose regarding design of content.

For example if your IT people operate a “no download, no plugins” policy that the course material requires no extra software, will operate properly on your LMS (if you use one) or as a web-playable course and on any special devices your learners may use.

Location of learning is significant – if it’s in a retail store, warehouse or factory audio is rendered virtually useless.

Your list may be modified as you start talking to potential vendors: the critical thing is to keep your absolute priorities and needs in front of you at all times and not be swayed by sophisticated marketing or sales.

Project planning and management.

Ensure the vendor provides a clear project approach which is logical and understandable – they’re the experts so they should be able to keep to plan, warn of any pitfalls and deliver on time, within budget and to agreed benchmarks.

Working relationships

The final thing I want to talk about is working relationships. Working with willing, supportive, responsive and flexible vendors can quickly develop into a true partnership: if you really solely on numerical weighting systems you run the risk of attempting to work with people who don’t fit your organisation’s or people’s style and culture.

Demand three personal referees similar to yourselves in their client base. Talk to these referees; don’t use a pro forma reference form: find out what they’re like to work with and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Also find out who will actually be working on your project: assess them as people when you come to interview your shortlisted companies – have a get-out clause ready in case the sales time disappears after they’ve closed the business and there’s no-one to talk to in the vendor organisation who understand your needs.

What checklist do you use when selecting a vendor? Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this checklist.

ABOUT THE AUTHORGlynn Jung

Glynn Jung is Non-Executive Director at Aurion Leanring. He has over 25 years’ experience delivering innovative and cost-effective learning and process improvement strategies for a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.

Why adding interactive activities is important for e-learning.

By Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning.

At Aurion Learning, our experience tells us that one of the best ways to guarantee learner interest and retention is through the appropriate and frequent use of interactivity.

This short article identifies the top five benefits of adding interactive activities to your online learning resources.Engagement

  1. Changes learner behaviour – Interactive activities such as, scenario-based exercises, behaviour modelling and guided practice prompt learners to review the lesson against their own work-place practices which is an ideal approach to affect positive behaviour change amongst staff.
  2. Ensures the message is understood – formative assessments, questioning and assessed role-plays provide learners with instant feedback, offering appropriate affirmation or explanation depending on whether the learner has answered correctly or incorrectly.
  3. Connects with the workplace – printable job aid exercises, such as checklists and action plans, prompt learners to focus on the application of the course material to their particular role.
  4. Engages all learning styles – variety of presentation, practice and assessments support high levels of user interactivity and engagement. Rich task-based multi-media and audio immerse learners by providing realistic practice in the subject areas being taught.
  5. Promotes a positive learning experience the use of appropriate interactivity encourages learners to return to refresh their learning as well recommend the resource to their colleagues as material for group or individual learning.

As a quick rule of thumb, we feel that the definition provided by American Instructional Technology guru, Brandon-Hall encapsulates the spirit of good interactivity:

“An interaction is an engagement of the mind……. not the finger!”

Push or Pull E-learning – Which is Better?

by Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer 

I recently came across an article by Tom Kuhlmann of the Rapid E-learning blog entitled “Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled?” Although a few years old it got me thinking, because the issue is still completely relevant today. Is it better to push content onto learners or is it better to let learners decide what learning content they want or need to learn? And isn’t there an inherent risk in letting the learner make such an important decision?

The push approach to e-learning

The push approach to e-learning is very traditional. Like a school curriculum which is laid out module by module, traditional push e-learning programmes follow a similar cycle:

Learners work through each module in sequence and take the assessment at the end to test their knowledge. Each module is compulsory and while learners might encounter knowledge checks as they work through the content, the final assessment tests their learning on the entire programme.

A push type e-learning programme has its advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages Disadvantages
It’s a traditional style of learning which most learners are familiar with. Learners must complete all modules, despite the fact that they may already be familiar with some of the learning content.
You can ensure that your learners have at least seen the entire programme. It assumes your learners approach the programme with the same amount of prerequisite knowledge and need to acquire the same amount of new knowledge.
It can enlighten learners to new information they would not have otherwise read. Learners may not be motivated to learn all of the content, especially if they feel they already know it.

The pull approach to e-learning

The pull approach to e-learning is based on what the learner wants to learn. It recognises that some learners don’t need to take the entire programme and that different learners enter the e-learning programme with different levels of knowledge.

As with the push approach to e-learning, you provide learners with all the learning content, but you arrange it in a way that the learner gets to choose which modules they want to take in order to fill in their knowledge gaps.

You also create a reason to use the content (objectives). For example you could present learners with a real-life task or question they would typically encounter in their work or role, and allow them to choose which modules they want to take to be able to complete that task or answer that question.

For example, a pull type e-learning programme on improving the Customer Service skills of Waiting Staff would typically begin with the following question:

“It’s a busy Friday night at the restaurant, how would you serve your customers to ensure that they have a pleasant and satisfactory experience?”

You then provide the learner with modules on Customer Service such as Communication Skills; Preparing and Serving Food; and Etiquette and Complaints Handling.

The learner accesses the modules that they  believe will help them to answer the question satisfactorily and skips the learning content that they already know.  At the end of the programme, they take an assessment which allows them to answer the original question on how they would serve customers satisfactorily.

This type of e-learning programme is illustrated below:

A pull type e-learning programme has its advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages Disadvantages
Learning is interactive and engaging. Learners skip modules which may enhance their knowledge.
Learning is set in context, i.e. it replicates real-world scenarios. The non-traditional format may not appeal to all learners.
Learners have autonomy over their learning and are more motivated to learn. Some learners may need more guidance in their learning.

Push or pull?

So which approach should you use in your e-learning – Push or Pull?

Push type e-learning programmes are more suited to delivering compliance-based programmes and when you want to ensure that your learners have at least viewed all of the learning content.

On the other hand, pull type e-learning programmes offer instructional designers more of a challenge but at the same time more flexibility. They’re more suitable for when you want to give learners real-life scenario-based challenges to complete, opportunities to improve their performance, and autonomy over their own learning. They are ideal for non-compliance training and just-in-time learning.

Knowing which approach to use requires an understanding of your learners and what will best serve their needs.

Effective User Interface Design for Mobile Learning

by Noleen Turner

Sample mobile learning user interface developed by AurionWith the explosion of mobile learning many of us are now in the position of creating brand new mobile e-learning programmes or transforming existing e-learning content to mobile.

*A friendly word of warning to those involved in ‘conversion’ projects – mobile is different to traditional web – and your mobile learning programme won’t work if it’s just a regurgitated experience. Mobile learning is micro-learning, designed for short bursts of activity – your learners are likely to access it while on the job, performing a task, or in between other activities. And learners need to be able to access it via a range of mobile learning technologies which are likely to include smartphones and tablets.

But I digress…and to get back to the original point how do you design an effective user interface for mobile learning? And how do you manage navigation, usability, and aesthetics ensuring that the transition between screens feels natural and that users know where they are at all times during the programme?

LearningSolutions Magazine recently published an article entitled “From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface”. In the article they consider how the user interface design contributes to
the success of a learning mobile app – one in which the user interface enhances and eases the learning process.

According to LearningSolutions, the layout you build for your mobile learning app must enable users to answer these five questions:

  • Where am I?
  • How did I get here?
  • How can I return to where I once was? 
  • How far have I gone?
  • Where else can I go?

In response to these questions I’ve tried to come up with my own tips for optimising the mobile learning interface:

  How to improve the experience
Where am I?
  • Don’t overload functionality, features or content – just focus on what is necessary to get the job done.
  • Simple functionality will enable you to create a straightforward and easy to follow user interface.
  • Structure information so it can be easily accessed – learners expect to get the information they need with just a few taps.
  • Group similar topics together. The Learning Coach has a useful blog post on visual grouping.
  • Keep the screen uncluttered and use clear screen titles so learners won’t misinterpret visual cues.
  • Emphasise menu items already clicked (change colour or attach bookmarks).
  • Design for a low error rate – remember that selection errors on mobile phones are higher than desktops so surround selection areas with white space so that a learner can easily tap them and invoke the correct action.
How did I get here?
  • Create a visual trail as learners move through the content. For example, highlight a section already clicked on or use a “breadcrumb trail” so learners can track their progress through the programme.
How can I return to where I once was? 
  • Use navigation buttons to allow movement between learning units.
  • Ensure some navigation menus are visible throughout the entire course.
  • Provide Back buttons or Menu buttons to return to a map of choices.
How far have I gone?
  • Include a screen ID such as “Screen 2 of 24” to inform users of how far they have progressed through a lesson and how much there is left to do.
  • Use the word “screen” rather than “page”.
  • Group similar content and create intense learning nuggets rather that one long course – nobody wants to see “Screen 3 of 60”.
Where else can I go?
  • Use clearly labelled navigation buttons to help learners orient themselves.
  • Make sure navigation buttons are easy to find.
  • Stick to simple touch tap or swipe commands to manage navigation between screens (for now). Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use all the interface features of their smartphone / tablet – e.g. pinch open gesture to magnify text.  According to Josh Clark, author of Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, most people don’t know about the more obscure gestures that work on some mobile phones.

And finally…don’t forget to test your user interface
Once you design an interface, make sure you test it with a sample group of learners, checking how long it takes to complete the learning, how easily they can navigate the learning, how many navigational errors they make etc.

Useful resources for designing mobile learning
iOS Human Interface Guidelines
http://thatcoolguy.github.com/gridless-boilerplate/  guidelines on HTML5 & CSS3 topics
W3C
10 Tips For Designing mLearning And Support Apps
From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface
Ten things to think about when designing your iPad App

Training Smarter in the Recession

by Dr. Maureen Murphy, Aurion Learning

Learn BlackboardResearch published last year from the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), at the Institute of Education, University of London, and researchers at the University of Cardiff shows that, despite predictions to the contrary, the recession has not deterred most UK companies from training their staff in new skills. Yes – training expenditure is down….but not by as much as expected (the report* quotes a 5% decrease in training expenditure in England between 2007 and 2009). In fact, the research shows that rather than putting the brakes on skills training, the recession has simply forced most companies to train smarter.

Easier said than done? Here are my top tips for training in the recession:

  • Shift training focus to key business areas – an obvious one but the best place to start. Align training with key business strategy – so if you want to improve sales, deliver meaningful sales training. If you want to develop stronger leaders, deliver powerful leadership training.
  • Embrace technology – increasing your use of e-learning, mobile learning (mlearning) and virtual learning environments will seriously cut time out of office as well as travel costs while giving staff access to on-demand and just-in-time learning.
  • Organise more in-house training – by developing staff competencies you can use internal staff to deliver training and manage communities of learning.
  • Share, share, share – encourage knowledge sharing, collaboration, coaching and peer mentoring. Make the most of the existing knowledge pool in your company.
  • Cut course length – make your learning short, sharp and strong!
  • Evaluate the learning – ask your staff about how they have put the learning into practice and improved performance. Evaluate the learning and measure return on investment.

*Source: The Impact of the 2008-9 Recession on the Extent, Form and Patterns of Training at Work LLAKES, Institute of Education, University of London

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