With that context, let me quickly recap some nuggets of wisdom that I really liked, coming out of each of my Breakfast Bytes.
Social Learning Patterns
I proposed this session with the aim of eliciting patterns and antipatterns around social media in the enterprise and to also see how people were using social media at work. Here are some little bits of the discussion that are really interesting.
- It's important to first articulate the problem before jumping into the tool. We're problem solving consultants, not one-trick ponies.
- Change is difficult and we need to provide transition paths for our colleagues. For example, do we really need to declare war on email? Change management is a crucial competence.
- Strategy trumps the tools - we need to resist jumping on the bandwagon just because it seems cool. Key thoughts are - how do we help people work smarter? How do we create a workscape?
- Instructional Design still remains a crucial skill - how do we as IDs help structuring the experience for our colleagues? How can we create a context for collaboration and learning? Problem analysis skills and performance consulting are the need of the day.
- What business results are you driving? Look for inspiration. For some people in the room it was about driving efficient customer support.
- "Build it and they'll come." is a myth. Education, curation, community management and user support go a long way.
- A lot of people in the conversation pointed at the Articulate community as an example of great community management. I've liveblogged Tom's recent talk on the same topic.
- It's key to get C-Level leaders (and opinion leaders) involved heavily in championing social media use in the company. When leaders show the way, others are likely follow.
- There's nothing technical about being social. There are several social learning patterns that have nothing to do with technology.
- The enterprise collaboration space is essential, though spaces for individual communities only lead to walled gardens.
- The traditional approach of defining structure before release has to disappear. Instead we need to facilitate emergent structure through rich metadata. Folksonomies are the way of the future.
- When selling social media we need to be mindful of two things:
- People's time is a zero-sum game -- social learning can't be yet another thing for people to do. It needs to make something else easier. Take some other work away.
- Collaboration is only a means to an end. Instead of championing the tools, we need to champion how we wish to drive business and individual performance results.
My second session had a crazy working title though Brent changed it to "Understanding and Dealing with Elearning Myths". My hope was to have a discussion that focussed on some myths that people either believed in or had busted or were struggling to combat. I think our discussion veered in a slightly different direction, but that was fine because I think it was excellent conversation all the same. The fact that this group had Cammy Bean, Neil Lasher and Tom Kuhlmann in the room, meant that we had enough juice for a refreshing chat.
Our discussion started off with some myths that people brought out. We couldn't get to all of these:
- Elearning? People don't learn that way.
- Mobile Learning is all about the iPhone
- People come to work and not to socialise.
- Powerpoint Sucks.
- People go to work not to play games.
- Compliance training should be in PDFs.
- We first need to define the scope of what elearning means. Neil argued that elearning has a much larger scope from the time we defined it. Any learning enabled by technology is elearning. Everyone uses Google for example, so the assertion that people don't learn using technology is definitely a huge myth.
- Neil further asserted that we need to eschew the 'Next' button - frankly the tool tip says "Click Next to Continue". In that case, why don't we just call the button 'Continue'? This drove a few peals of laughter!
- Our discussion then moved towards the notion that "Powerpoint sucks". I have some strong views in this space.
- Albert gave us a great quote, "Design happens outside the tool". We talked a lot about Kevin Thorn's award winning Powerpoint based course. That's an example of great elearning using a humble tool and a great way of seeing how design has nothing to with the tool you use. If you're a rapid elearning designer, here are six tips that are likely to help you design better.
- Moving back to the topic of resistance we talked a bit about the ills of the course factory approach. John Seely Brown's keynote had focussed on flows of information over stocks of knowledge. The approach of creating course after course is flawed. We need to go to our audience, ask what they need and deliver that fast - that's where rapid elearning has it's value. Ask the BBC! More importantly, we need to question the value of every course we need to create. What's the shelf life? Can a conversation suffice? Can coaching on the job help? Is it really a skills and knowledge problem?
- I shared my experience with ThoughtWorks University. A bunch of links on an LMS don't encourage anyone. It's not just enough to create good content. People like social context around content. At ThoughtWorks University, we do our best to facilitate elearning through forum discussions, one-on-one coaching and guidance and by using that to drive better discussion face to face. It's almost like you need a vibrant community around your content.
- We then came to the point about compliance training. Neil mentioned that most compliance training could be a quick PDF tip sheet with a signature sheet. We don't need to create expensive elearning. We can do the simplest thing that works.
- We also talked about the flip-side. Compliance training in organisations is a time when you have a huge number of eyeballs looking. This is a time for L&D departments to put their best foot forward and use this as a branding moment. Can we get people excited about learning by making this mandatory training an exciting experience?
- The topic of games in elearning raised a few eyebrows. Almost everyone agreed with Byron Reeves' points from the keynote, though Cammy raised an interesting point. If someone's job sucks, can you really make it any better by dressing it up to be a game? Isn't that like putting lipstick on a pig?
- We also talked about slot games, jeopardy and tic-tac-toe in elearning. A gaming mindset definitely challenges the brain, but a whiz-bang game to just dress up a course and make it engaging isn't really a great idea as most people agreed. While Tom was kind enough to say these games may have some place in elearning, he definitely advocates designing for applying than for recall. His tip was to try and design courses that model real life actions as far as possible.
- At some point we also discussed that we don't need to do everything inside a flash based course. There are several other ways of creating engagement. We need to think beyond the course and think about social media, rich media on the internet, coaching, etc as opportunities to change performance.
- We wrapped up the discussion talking about Cathy Moore's action mapping approach as a way to create inexpensive, yet lively elearning that actually mimics real world actions. I've used action mapping as a way to drive out design outcomes for instructor led training as well, so I really like this approach. There are times when to get a stakeholder to understand the value of designing this way, you may need to reconstruct a course from scratch. You can then show both courses to your stakeholder and have them choose what's the more engaging way to learn! It'll take some of our time, but will perhaps help us be more succesful as designers. The Harvard teaching for understanding framework is also quite a nice way to think through your design approach.
So that's it! This ends my reporting responsibilities from DevLearn. I apologise for slacking off with these recaps - work's been quite hectic and the fact that I'm heading off on leave in a few days just makes things even tougher. For those I met at the conference - I'm really grateful for your company. In fact, I'm humbled by the great work I saw and the passion that most of you exude. It's been a pleasure!