Posts Tagged Learning Strategy

How to use Labels for Learning & Development Approaches

There are a range of labels or overarching terms in use in Learning and Development (L&D) to describe different modalities or approaches to learning e.g. eLearning, mobile learning, social learning. My recent search to understand how the L&D profession defines the term ‘blended learning’ led me to think about the pros and cons of the way we use labels in the L&D field.

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An Example – Blended Learning

There a range of views on what the term ‘blended learning’ means, exemplified by Taruna Goel’s 2010 post ‘Make It Blended‘ (As an aside, it was prescient of Taruna to product that the specific blend would change over time as more possibilities became available via technology).  The situation had not changed In 2015 when Jane Hart  ran a poll on what the term means. The poll results show a range of interpretations, with 49% selecting ‘a training programme containing a mix of face-to-face and e-learning.’ This dominant view is reflected in the Wikipedia definition.

Other people have suggested that in addition to using a range of delivery formats and media the range of aspects that can be blended include:

– social contexts* – individual / one-to-one, small group/cohort, community
– learning strategies* – exposition, instruction, guided discovery, exploration
– communications media* – same-time/synchronous, own-time/asynchronous
learner opportunity to learn, do, share and teach

* source – More Than Blended Learning by Clive Shepherd, 2015

Clearly when discussing blended learning it’s important to explain what you actually mean by the term for people could have different interpretations. I like the approach taken by Chris Coladonato who told me “I don’t call it blended learning, I simply say we are creating a learning experience that is a blend or mixture of a few different media formats and delivery modes to create an experience that will achieve our desired performance outcomes….and meet your needs.” The point of sharing this explanation from Chris is not to propose that this is the correct definition of ‘blended learning’.’ Rather it’s to suggest that a plain language explanation of what you are trying to do and why in a specific context is clearer than using jargon that others might not understand, or may interpret differently to you.

Pros and Cons of Labels

What are the benefits of using labels such as blended learning, mobile learning, working out loud (add your own to this list – there are plenty)? When they first emerge these labels can alert us to emerging trends in our field – be they something that is genuinely new, or something that may have been around for a while but we have moved away from or have the opportunity to use in a new way, usually through technological advances. They can invite us to explore and have conversations. They prompt us to examine our practice both individually and collectively. They are triggers or reminders to consider a range of approaches – to be flexible in our practice, and an invitation to consider a wider range of options in designing learning experiences.

However, if we latch onto labels or get lazy in our use of them or thinking about them they can become unhelpful. It’s easy to throw a term around or focus on one aspect of an approach without taking the time to understand it or critically examine it. This leads to myths (e.g. social learning requires the use of technology) and unrealised potential. A ‘mini-industry’ can arise around an approach with people overcomplicating it and making it seem harder to implement and less accessible. Jane Bozarth’s ongoing reminders to keep ‘showing your work‘ simple and accessible is a plea against this kind of overcomplication. Different interpretations of a label can impede discussion and development of our practice rather than promote it. Confusion and rigidity can result, rather than openness, flexibility and increased effectiveness.

How Should Labels Be Used?

Labels can be useful shorthand to refer to learning approaches, however should be used with care. To help me use them effectively here are some guidelines I’m adopting:

  1. Take the time to understand a label before you start using it or applying the approach that it refers to.
  2. Identify the essential characteristics of the approach in order to avoid unnecessary over-complication.
  3. Consider whether the label is redundant. Does the approach it describes already exist under a different name?
  4. Consider whether the label is necessary. Use labels sparingly. Could you use a plain language description instead?
  5. If it’s appropriate to use the label, then clarify what you mean when you use it. Keep it as simple as possible.

What do you think of these guidelines – Agree? Disagree? Got something to add? Post a comment if you’d like to continue the discussion.

PS – My Conclusion on Blended Learning

In the case of ‘blended learning’ my view is that it’s too broad a term and has too many interpretations to be helpful. The important point is to be flexible in learning design.

My thanks to Chris Colandonato and Shannon Tipton for sharing your views on this issue with me.

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#ATD2016 My Post-Conference Insights

I attended the Association for Talent Development International Conference and Exposition (ATDICE) in Denver 23– 25 May 2016.  On the day after the conference I made a short video to share key insights I gained from some of the sessions I attended. Video is below, followed by (slightly polished-up) transcript.

Personal Leadership

My first insights I relate to aspects of personal leadership. I attended a session called Leading with Impact and Influence by Amy Franko from Impact Instruction. Amy spoke about leading from the inside out, and not being knocked about by external circumstances, or letting them dictate how you show up.  She spoke about creating your own leadership path to create a ripple effect on others in order to have impact, influence, and provide inspiration. She shared research from the Centre for Creative Leadership that identified key future leadership skills:

  1. Communicator
  2. Collaborator
  3. Agile learner
  4. Multi-Cultural Awareness
  5. Strategic Thinker
  6. Self-motivated
  7. Adaptable
  8. Social

I really liked the tips for building resilience. These include:

  • having a sense of purpose,
  • developing a strong network
  • self-care,
  • asking ‘What can I do right now?’
  • reframing
  • having a gratitude practice.

View my notes on Amy’s session.

Thought Leadership

Another session I’ve got a lot out of for myself was on Stepping Into Thought leadership. The session was presented by two very dynamic people – Alexia Vernon and Halelly Azulay. Before they went into different thought leadership they talked about what thought leadership is. They suggested that you don’t need to carve out a completely original area of thinking or an original idea; rather it’s about bringing your original voice and perspective to the topic to articulate what you want to say about it. They provided questions to help you uncover your focus area of thought leadership.  They also stressed the role of building strong networks to help build thought leadership.

Thought Leadership Secret Sauce

Then they went through a stack of different though leadership activities in the areas of:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Service
  • Media
  • Hosting
  • Online Training

Their presentation was well laid out and I’ve captured key points in these notes.

Brave Leadership

Sticking with the theme of leadership, there is no way I couldn’t mention the amazing keynote by Brene Brown. Many people will have seen her TEDTalk on vulnerability. She was a fabulous speaker, very authentic, and spoke to her topic really well. It’s a topic that can be quite raw and I had a feeling she was reaching out directly to my heart and talking about topics relevant to my personal life around thing such as vulnerability and trust, and also that she was speaking to my head in organisational context around bringing trust into the workplace. She suggested that leaders have to make a choice as between comfort and courage. It takes courage to do the essential work of being a leader – which is to go to places that others may not want to go to, places around emotion and behaviour. She spoke about the four pillars of courage:

  • Vulnerability
  • clarity of values
  • trust
  • rising skills, which is about how to get back up after a fall.

She really made me want to embrace life, to live a bigger life and to be the very best leader that I possibly can.  I’m definitely a Brene Brown fan girl now.

View my notes about this session.

Science of Learning

I went to the ATD Science of Learning Community of Practice panel.  Four speakers each spoke about a different aspect science of learning.

Paul Zak , Chief Research Officer at Olfactor, talked about trust as the basis for effective culture.  He shared interesting research which uses oxytocin as a signalling mechanism for trust.

Sebastian Bailey is a psychologist with a PhD in learning transfer. He’s used his research to develop a model for supporting learning with bite-size methodology. He has founded Mind Gym.

Patti Shank PhD and is president of Learning Peak challenged the use of the term ‘neuro-‘ anything. When someone claims that a product or approach is backed by neuroscience she suggested that you need to be wary as we haven’t learnt much about learning from neuroscience. However we have learned a lot from cognitive science and we should be paying bit more attention to that and applying it.

Will Thalheimer is a PhD, consultant and research translator. He spoke about ways of improving smile sheets, which I’m sure anyone working in an organisational training context could benefit from looking at.

View my notes on this session.

Benchmarking

TM BenchmarkThe next area I was really interested in here was benchmarking and Data. I had a great conversation with Laura Overton of Towards Maturity who specialise in benchmarking and research on organisational learning. We discussed their benchmarking tool which is open at the moment. I strongly encourage workplace learning practitioners to complete the benchmark. I’ve recently done that and it’s giving me some good data to look at where my organisation sits compared to the benchmark in a range of elements of learning strategy and practices, and helped me to start identifying areas for improvement. Here’s a link to the benchmark .

Laura also presented with Peter Casebow from Good Practice about improving how managers learn using an evidence-based approach. The Towards Maturity data shows that only 30% of learning professionals understand how their people learn. Good Practice has done research with 500 managers on how they deal with unfamiliar challenges. It turns out that access trumps the perceived effectiveness of method for finding answers and solutions. People will use the easiest way to access information, even if they know they may not be using the best quality information. Lack of access and lack of relevance of content were highlighted as barriers to people using their intranet to help solve problems.

Practical Uses of Social Media for Formal Learning

The final session I wanted to mention here is from the super-energetic Dan Steer who had us cheering along at the right times. It was on practical uses of social media in formal training. His objective was to ensure that everybody left with something practical that they could put into action immediately to improve the formal training – and he delivered. He provided some basic principles around only doing in the room what need to do, and thinking about using social media tools to do other things that don’t need to be done in the room. He also suggested you need to think about the type of activity you are doing, the objectives of the activity and identify the best motivating and most useful tool.

One tool I learned about that session which I will definitely be looking to use is Ginkgo, which is a collaborative note-taking tool. What is awesome is that you can download the collaborative notes into a MS Word format and make that available as a readily accessible recap afterwards.

View my session notes – or go straight to the source and view Dan’s materials and additional resources.

Thank You ATD

ATD Michelle

The other thing I wanted to do is to thank ATD. 10,000 people, huge conference venue, amazing organisation. ATD did a great job at every single aspect of the organisation, and as a speaker I really appreciated the opportunity to be here and share a case study. I don’t know that I’ll be back every year it is a long trip from Australia but I’m certainly planning on being back in two years . I will be blogging and sharing more of my notes from sessions over the next couple of weeks so lookout on my blog for more insights

 

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