Thank you for trusting us with your learning needs and for inviting us to collaborate and contribute to your success.
Wishing our Facilitador friends and family a healthy, happy, inspiring and amazing 2018!
Nothing guarantees an eLearning project’s success or failure more than your stakeholders not understanding clearly what is expected of them. Here are some tips on how to do an amazing job setting and explaining the right expectations to keep your project on track:
1) Set up a project kick-off call or meeting: In this meeting, explain the entire process and clearly define tasks, responsible parties and timelines.
2) Create a project plan that lays all this out. Make sure to have all stakeholders review and approve. Create accountability!
3) Make sure to agree on stylesheets and brand guidelines for the project.
4) When feedback on design documents, storyboards, graphical user interfaces, graphical elements, built courses, etc. is needed, make sure you clearly explain what they are reviewing, what kind of feedback you are expecting of them, how you want them to provide it, and by when.
5) If there are multiple stakeholders providing feedback, make sure they compile the feedback in one place and agree on it. Many times when this step is skipped, contradictory feedback might make the process longer with back and forth questions and needed explanations.
6) Version control is important! Make sure you have a good and intuitive internal system in place to ensure no version control issues arise mid-project.
7) Good and constant communication between all stakeholders will ensure expectations are explained, red flags or delays are discussed and progress is tracked and celebrated.
Follow these steps and you will never again here the much dreaded words: “You never told me that!”
I may learn something new but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am ready to apply it. Many times I learned great concepts that made sense and was eager to use or implement. However, when I tried using them for the first time, reality hit. I was bombarded with all the variables that reality brings and it was not easy to actually apply what I had just learned.
When this happens, research tells us that this discourages individuals from attempting to apply what they learned again. As adult learners we are sensitive about making a fool out of ourselves and especially in front of others. The result is that the concept I was thrilled to implement goes to waste.
What do we do as instructional designers if we don’t have the budgets or the time to build full-fledged simulations that try to recreate reality?
I want to suggest that the key is to consider the following question:
How will the learners use the knowledge when they are back on the job?
Given the answer, you can then devise strategies for providing scaffolds that support the acquisition of competence in the application of the new knowledge. Think of training wheels for a bicycle so that the learner can feel confident they won’t fall or make a fool of themselves in attempting to apply the new knowledge. This way, you can prevent your learners from becoming discouraged to apply what they’ve learned.
If we start from the premise that any training or learning and development investment is an investment in the individuals that participate in that training event, then it follows that those individuals are the ones who are best suited to determine the worth and merit of that training event. Isn’t this obvious and don’t most organizations allow for that? The answer is sadly no.
Surveying the participants is definitely the right move but not before, during or immediately after the training event. It is about allowing a span of time to pass so integration or learning transfer occurs. It is only when the participants are back on their jobs facing the realities of unexpected challenges and ever-changing conditions that they can determine how the training investment better equipped them to succeed. This determination may change with time and this is why it makes sense to measure it more than once at different intervals.
Therefore, what is the question we need to ask at different intervals after the training event? The answers to this two-part question, when documented and systematically organized, can demonstrate the link between learning investments and positive business results. We’d like to suggest it is: Since you participated in XYZ training event, how have you improved yourself and what results have you achieved due to those improvements?
It really can be that simple.
To learn more about this approach, take a look at our new article in CLO Magazine on the value of documentation: http://bit.ly/1OtIqRd
Optimizing technical training for the business is a challenge that learning and development departments must meet in order to advance the goals of the organization. Usually a lot of technical information is available and it is not easy to discern and identify what needs to be taught to each of the different employee groups or stakeholders such as front-line leaders, marketing and sales departments or distributors.
Usually technical teams will have the best intentions and these are manifested in their desire to be thorough and cover everything possible about the given technical process, product or service. These good intentions lead to the creation of training programs that contain a lot of data and information. Essentially, I have seen these training programs become what I refer to as an information dump – and sometimes they can be pretty stinky!
Life can be easier for the technical team and for the training team if they consider the first question of our guiding principles when designing training programs. This question is: How will the learners use the knowledge when they are back in their job? Answering this question from the perspective of each different group of employees and stakeholders allows instructional designers to start identifying what will be most useful. In addition, by considering these different perspectives we can create guidelines for the subject matter experts (SMEs) to discern what of their expertise will be most useful. For example, if the stakeholders are managers, SMEs would put more emphasis on the technical knowledge needed to manage the technology and less towards understanding all the details of the technology.
As obvious as this sounds, it is important to focus on what is important for the “other”. It is not about the “I” (what I think is important as a technical expert), rather it is about what information is a “need-to-know” for the learner to achieve peak performance at their specific position within the organization.
It is not a secret that chefs have experienced a steep rise to celebrity status with their ability to reach millions of people through multimedia channels. By creating new dishes and combining new flavors, these chefs offer their craft as art, each infused with their own personality, to deliver unique eating experiences that adapt and evolve with ever-changing trends and tastes.
Instructional designers have experienced the rise of the Internet, mobile devices and an ever increasing array of software tools and platforms giving them the ability to reach more learners in different ways than ever before. There appears to be a parallel between the creative work of the chef and the creative work of the instructional designer when developing either elearning, virtual classroom, instructor-led training or any blended training and development program.
Let’s start with success. The success of the chef is delivering a great (delicious) eating experience. The success of the instructional designer is delivering an effective learning experience. Defining an effective learning experience can merit an article on its own but let’s extrapolate a definition from the model of personal development of the Center for Creative Leadership which states that you must strike the right balance between: challenging, supporting, and evaluating individuals. This would mean that instructional designers must deliver recipes that strike the right balance between these three factors.
The chef uses the best ingredients and brings them together to create palate bliss. For the instructional designer, the ingredients are the principles of adult learning and the subject matter. The instructional designer has to use the principles of adult learning and the subject matter expertise to deliver a learning experience that will strike the right balance between challenging, supporting and evaluating the learner. When this balance is achieved, the instructional designer can generate the state of flow in the learners. Otherwise, individuals will be either bored if not challenged, worried if not supported, or lost if not evaluated. As an illustration, here is a graph from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that depicts the emotional state of the learner depending on the level of challenge versus skill level.
Every time an instructional designer delivers a learning experience that generates flow within the learners, they have created learning bliss, much like the celebrity chef creates palate bliss when the delicacies are consumed. So to all the instructional designers who every day strive to become celebrities: bon appétit!
As the year comes to an end, we are grateful for the projects we have been able to contribute to. Through these projects we know we are impacting the lives of many for the good. When our clients invest in developing their talent and partner with us to create success opportunities for their employees, they allow us to fulfill our mission to expand knowledge and bring about progress. With this in mind, we want to suggest the following questions that can help training and development departments fortify their position within organizations as value creators instead of cost centers:
– Can we implement strategies to further demonstrate the value we bring to the organization, through success stories and tangible business results that can linked back to the training investments?
– Can we demonstrate how the acquisition of experience is accelerated through the programs we create?
– Can we anticipate the training needs of our internal clients?
– Can we look into strategies to replicate our top performing employees and support them on the job?
– Can we inject fun, excitement and a little intrigue into our programs to enhance perceived value and generate more participation?
We are excited to explore these questions with you in 2016!
Can you train an adult who is not motivated to be trained? Can you motivate an adult to learn? Anybody who has trained adults will tell you that when motivation is present learning occurs, one way or another, because the individual will be able to overcome frustration, disappointment or any other obstacle that gets in the way. The opposite is also true: when motivation is not present it is practically impossible to train someone.
So if motivation is essential, why do we forget as instructional designers to incorporate methods to motivate individuals to make the best of the training and development programs we create? In my opinion the culprit is assuming our learners are motivated to learn. As Felix Unger in an episode of The Odd Couple says: “When you ass-u-me you make an ‘ass of u and me’!”
The fact that motivation is important for adults is not new. E.C. Lindeman’s in The Meaning of Adult Education in 1926 noted that adults are motivated to learn as they experience needs. The late renowned psychologist, Carl R. Rogers, stated that adults will learn only those things they perceive will help them enhance themselves, clearly underlining the value of relevancy for the adult learner. Recent research has summed it up to two basic questions adults will ask themselves before they engage in learning:
The first question hits on the concept of motivation, since the adult learner is asking if what they are about to learn is worth their time and effort.
How to Avoid It
As good instructional designers we have to start by understanding our audience and their motivation and can’t simply assume individuals are motivated to learn because the training program is mandatory, necessary for advancement, or a high-potential leadership development program, for example. We need to incorporate strategies that address the needs for adult learners to align their own needs, aspirations and desires with the objectives of the elearning, virtual classroom, instructor-led, game, simulation or blended training program we are designing. It starts with basic questions such as:
— Have we done a good job in sharing how individuals will benefit? (This question addresses the external or extrinsic motivators that may be leveraged).
— Have we shared how others have benefited and what they have been able to accomplish? (This question is intended to ensure the creation of a vicarious experience that leads the learner to determine that it can be done).
— Have we leveraged communication, recognition, or other strategies to stimulate positive behavior before, during and after the training? (This question addresses the internal or intrinsic motivators).
In summary, have we respected the need for the adult learners to question the importance of the training program and provided satisfactory answers along the way that align with their own agenda? Remember what Oscar said: never assume that these strategies are in place. Assume they are not and embed them to ensure your learners always find their motivation.
The purpose of any learning or training program is to help the learner or trainee improve him or herself and the results they achieve for the organization. So if this is this case why not make the learning and training program subservient to how the individual will utilize the learning to improve herself and her organization? And keep in mind that acquisition of knowledge and skills to develop competence and ideally reach a level of mastery does not occur from one day to the next; it is a process that in some cases can take years.
We find that when it comes to deciding on a curriculum to prepare individuals for a job role and when leveraging instructional design to deliver this curriculum, most organizations forget the obvious points above.
The first problem is that many organizations try to fit a series of topics, or “things individuals must know” or are “supposed to know” to be successful in their job into an ever expanding curriculum. Chances are that they end up with a huge curriculum that can’t be covered in the amount of time allotted for the training and development program and as a result, critical topics can be left out. The second problem is that many organizations forget the fact that the road to mastery is a process and don’t leverage sound instructional design to support this process.
The first problem is tackled by taking holistic approach to the curriculum and this starts with asking what are successful behaviors of top performers in that role. From there we derive the competencies that need to be developed to execute those behaviors. Then, we ask what are the skills and knowledge that make up those competencies that over time will lead to mastery and lastly, given the aforementioned, how do we make the knowledge and support through this process as least disruptive as possible from the employee’s current work responsibility and environment. Here is where a blended approach is king since it is only through a blended approach that we can find ways for individuals to work and collaborate real time with others, access information when they want it from wherever they want, and access live support on their road to mastery.
Only by taking a holistic instructional approach and leveraging technology can we make the learning subservient to how the learners will utilize the learning to improve themselves and their organizations. We are excited to work with organizations that don’t forget the obvious.
Do you want eLearning to have an impact on your people, so your people can have a positive impact on the business?
Yes, that is actually what our research demonstrates. When eLearning is accompanied by an action plan the results go through the roof.
What results? The business results that can be attributed to the training. The reason is simple. An action plan documents how the learner will apply what he or she learned. Accountability is created when the individual completes the action plan and shares it with managers. Hard evidence is created when the individual records the results of his or her application of the action plan. The action plan essentially becomes a link between what is learnt and the impact it had on the business.
An action plan includes any type of document created by a learner that states the actions he or she will undertake in relation to what they have understood to be the learning objectives or goals of any given learning, training, mentoring or coaching program delivered via self-paced e-learning or a virtual classroom. Adult learning theorist Malcolm Knowles describes a series of problems that are solved through the use of action plans, primarily because they allow individuals to develop a sense of ownership and take responsibility for outcomes.
To incorporate action plans into eLearning courses is simple. What is important is that the action plan be structured in a meaningful and relevant way and that it allows for easy access and follow-up. Typically, action plans have been paper-based making them hard to store, retrieve and track. Within an eLearning course they become electronic; the learner can access them when they want; others like managers can view them at any time; learners can complete them at their own pace and make any changes as needed. In a way, the action plan acts a self-regulating mechanism that the individual uses to hold him or herself accountable to apply what they learned. Marshall Goldsmith states in Trigger that our performance improves when we know we will be tested in regards to our personal effort. An action plan commits the individual to exert the effort in applying what they learn with themselves and others.
It’s a simple technique. A powerful one that adds rocket fuel to your eLearning programs. It’s a technique that more often than not gets dismissed and should not. Adding an action plan to an eLearning course can ensure that it positively impacts your people and improves your bottom line.