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"devlearn" Posts

Reflections From DevLearn: Informal and Social Learning

I attended the “Informal and Social Learning” session led by Patti Shank and Ben Betts. Did you know that 70 – 90% of workplace learning is informal and social? The big inquiry for this session was whether or not it makes sense to spend most of our resources building training courses when people learn informally and socially for most workplace needs.

We hear the terms “social” and “informal” a lot in the learning world, but what do they mean?

On Trends in Informal Learning…

Informal learning includes situations where the learner determines some combination of the process, location, purpose, and content. The learner may not even be aware that instruction has occurred.

When we ask professionals where they get their work-related knowledge, they increasingly say “not from my training department.” Half of the respondents say training is somewhat important. We’re entering an age in which people are taking control of their own learning.

Many of us work in knowledge-oriented businesses. It seems that we can’t build training courses fast enough for people to keep up with their jobs these days. What does this trend mean for learning professionals? We need to change what we’re doing, Patti and Ben suggest. The cost of content is gradually reducing to zero. We must remember that our specialty is knowing how people learn. It’s becoming more important to collaborate with teams, meet with people, and curate content.

On Trends in Social Learning…

Social learning is part of informal learning. It helps build our social efficacy, which allows us to judge how we’re doing in comparison to someone else. It is not a new concept. It happens naturally; you don’t “switch” it on. We’re being enabled by new technologies to interact with each other in a social sphere.

Social learning helps us learn what “good” looks like. If people don’t know where they are, it’s difficult to determine what they need to improve. Here are some guidelines for using social learning principles at work:

  • Interacting with someone else who can help you scaffold is much more effective than learning alone.
  • Participating in what Patti and Ben call “communities of practice in situated learning” allows you to learn from the crowd. Some examples include Quora and the eLearning Guild.
  • Learning in the presence of others is a growing trend. Acquiring personal endorsements on LinkedIn is a good example.

On Implementing Social and Informal Learning at Work…

There’s nothing worse than starting a “community of practice” in your organization that no one uses. It’s embarrassing, say Patti and Ben. They suggest finding out where learning in your organization is already taking place, and then identifying ways to improve those opportunities.

Patti and Ben offer additional guidelines for supporting informal learning at work:

  • Most of the time it’s about giving permission to talk to one another. They quote Jane Bozarth: “The best social media policy is ‘Don’t do anything that would make me write a social media policy.’”
  • Don’t act like a parent; don’t tell people what to do. Instead, ask, “What resources do you need?” People respond well to self-study resources.
  • If you want to kill informal learning, make it mandatory.
  • Create, source, and curate resources.
  • Leverage appropriate technologies for your organization.

On Further Reading…

Patti and Ben suggest reading Informal Learning Basics by Saul Carliner, published by ASTD. They also suggest reading Groundswell for an overview of new social technologies.

Reflections From DevLearn: Designing eLearning that Gains and Keeps Learner Attention

I attended Dan Myers’ session on how to maintain learner attention. Dan is a Manager of Instructional Design at the Cheesecake Factory.

Getting learners’ attention should be a primary concern for instructional designers creating online courses. (Remember: “Build it and they will come” does not apply to eLearning!) Dan suggests considering the following framework when creating an attention-grabbing course:

  • Cognitive domain (thinking): Content, knowledge checks
  • Affective domain (feeling): Story, characters, music, art, values, conflict, humor
  • Psychomotor domain (doing): Interactivity, hands-on practice opportunities

(This happens to align with the second phase in IdeaLearning Group’s Complete Learning Experience approach: “Think, Feel, Move”!)

He discussed a couple of potential pitfalls to avoid, such as not breaking character. Once you start with a story theme, stick with it. Theme is part of what helps keep learner attention. Interactions should also be integrated into the theme as much as possible.  He also advised against building yet another course to float in what he calls “the sea of sameness.”

Think about the visual experience learners typically have—they see the company logo and the same colors on every screen. In our attempt to create uniformity, we may sometimes prompt learners to feel disengaged. Instead, Dan advises, find ways to give courses a unique look and feel. Throw out templates and incorporate elements of surprise into courses to help create a unique adventure for learners.

Other great ideas Dan suggests for personalizing the learning experience:

  • If you’re writing third-person content in training and it’s posted on LMS, include the learner’s name as a character to personalize the experience.
  • Include an “evidence log” learners can use to take notes within the course.
  • Try putting learners in a place where they’re taking a quiz but don’t realize they’re taking a quiz.
  • Take out the “objectives” slide. Write them, but you don’t need to reveal them. Putting in formal learning objectives and long course description page can kill the momentum.
  • Build in vocal variety into training courses. If you structure it right, it makes it easy to edit.
  • If you have any procedural videos technical in nature, include drag-and-drop items that need to be placed in the correct sequence. Dan shows us a clever interaction involving a Cheesecake Factory recipe. The learner drags and drops images of ingredients to the video area, which activates the relevant clip. He suggests building in remediation clips for incorrect options.

My favorite quote from Dan’s session: If you’re bored making it, your learners will be bored taking it.

Reflections From DevLearn: Storytelling, Gamification, & Problem-Based Learning

Ken Hubbell’s session on storytelling, gamification, and problem-based learning started with several questions: What’s problem-based learning? What’s in it for the learner? Why is storytelling important?

On Problem-Based Learning…

Problem-based learning is a great framework for helping people learn to work together in teams or work with integrated parts. It’s a concept that’s been around a long time, involving:

  • A need to know
  • A driving question
  • Learner voice/choice
  • Inquiry and innovation
  • Feedback and revisions
  • Publicly presented products

In problem-based learning, the only thing you might achieve is what not to do. Sometimes the answer to a problem-based challenge is simply “I have no idea.” Failure might inform your next set of decisions.

On Gamification and Scenario-Based Learning…

Gamification means integrating gaming dynamics into your site or business in order to drive participation. For those who aren’t very familiar with the dynamics of gaming, Ken drew some connections to learning and training:

  • Goals and incentives = levels and points
  • Projects and tasks = missions or quests
  • Managers, team leads, or SMEs = experience facilitators

On Gamification at Work…

Just like problem-based learning, gamification has been around a long time.  “Just ask the Girl Scouts,” he says. Where gamification is paving new ground is as an integral part of business and learning. It’s been historically underused by businesses. “Hire a gamer and he can teach other people. They like to share,” Ken suggests.

How many of us have thought about including points and levels to entice people to participate in work-related challenges? How many of us actually earn points for roleplaying with colleagues to accomplish something at work together? These are classic ways of driving team-based participation.

On Gamification and the Classroom…

Ken showed us a fantastic example of how gamification is used in an elementary school classroom by teacher John Hunter. The game is called World Peace, a four-foot square game board with four levels and hundreds of game pieces. Players work together through the “lens of the economic, social, and environmental crises and the imminent threat of war,” with the goal of eliminating dangerous situations for each country and achieving global prosperity using as little military intervention as possible. (Check out the film trailer here.)

On the Connection Between Story and Instruction…

According to BF Skinner, many instructional arrangements seem contrived. You can adapt story-based learning and replay it in various contexts. The story is a snapshot. A narrative continuously grows and can be dynamic.

What changes a story into drama? Plot, character, thought, diction, music, and spectacle. People think of stories as having a beginning, middle, and an end. The end is a way to let people calm down. Many companies stay in the middle, Ken says, and people burn out as a result.

The main difference between books and problem-based learning simulations: The character can change her mind in a simulation. It begins when something happens, and it may not end at a specific time. Players don’t have to agree on the story as long as they agree on the journey or problem they’re solving. If you play with someone else, you can together solve difficult problems. Only when you fail enough can you figure out the mechanism to succeed.

On the Role of the Experience Facilitator…

In the experiential learning model, understanding the decision-making process of each individual is just as important as the decisions themselves. The role of the “Experience Facilitator” is to:

  • Lead/guide/referee.
  • Recount the entire adventure through storytelling.
  • Cultivate the best user experience by making sure the quietest person in the room participates just as much as the ones who are most vocal.
  • Make all equal participants in the story.

On Additional Reading and Inspiration…

Ken recommended a great site for free roleplaying resources. He also suggested further research by reading work by “the king of narrative-centered learning,” Dr. James Lester, a professor at NC State University.

Reflections From DevLearn: Trends in Emerging Technologies

This is the first in a multi-part series of posts about what we learned at the annual DevLearn conference in Las Vegas this past week. I attended Koreen Olbrish’s vibrant early-morning discussion on the latest trends in emerging technologies. Here’s a recap.

DevLearn 2012 Trends in Emerging Technology

On Mobile Learning…

As with any type of learning content you’re developing, it’s important to ask: What are the goals/outcome expectations? What’s the business problem? If the goal is to access content or performance support tools, consider developing for a mobile site. Mobile apps allow people to learn within a particular context.

Keep in mind that if you’re developing mobile learning, every time changes are made to an app or a system you have to think through the various platforms: iPads, iPhones, Androids, etc. all have different development requirements.

Koreen also mentions that Rockmelt is a great browser to use for iPad.

On Social Media…

Organizations sometimes hire people in the learning industry and then treat them like they don’t trust them. Many organizations block social media access, but so many employees still access facebook, twitter, and other social media sites directly from their smartphones. In fact, 18% of facebook users only access facebook through their phones.

I learned a new phrase, “Subject matter networks,” which was coined by Mark Oehlert. It refers to the systems of experts we now have access to in our interconnected lives who can answer questions on specific topics. Accessing our network should be a daily exercise in learning—enhanced by social media.

Koreen recommends that learning and development professionals who don’t regularly use social media should still visit social media sites frequently. They should take on the role of anthropologists who observe other people and collect data about how learners are using data and interacting with others. She emphasizes that it’s important to understand the environment in which learners spend time in order to develop content that appeals to them.

On Bandwidth Issues…

Koreen predicts that in 10 years, bandwidth issues will no longer present problems for most users. She talks about quantum networking as a way to teleport data from one point to another, independent from 3G, 4G, etc. She predicts that physicists will figure this out before long.

On Learning Through “Apprenticeships…”

“As a world, we lost the apprenticeship model because it wasn’t scalable,” Koreen says. Now technology has reached a point where we can recreate this model through online experiences. The real proof is when people enter the real world and actually do the things they’ve learned about.

On Feedback and Learning…

Think about games compared with eLearning. The average amount of feedback in eLearning is every 15 to 20 minutes. In a game, it’s every few seconds; games are “designed as feedback machines.”

On Immersive Technology…

Immersive technology and design provide the chance to create experiences instead of just presenting content. The context-based practice is what is usually missing and where immersive learning kicks in—it could be storyline driven, or like “role-plays on steroids.”

Tools like FaceTime are great for observing behavior and providing immersive feedback.

My favorite quote during this session: “If you’re rolling out a game, it shouldn’t be ‘required.’ It should be fun. And you can’t force fun.”

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