Trends


Elliott Masie has just released his Learning Resources Barometer, the results of a survey to determine how learning budgets and resources are enduring the tough economic times.

The survey measures the increase or decrease in:

  • learning budgets
  • learning departments
  • volume of elearning modules
  • volume of f2f classes
  • amount of employee travel for learning
  • use of social learning
  • and more…

Check it out to see if there are any surprises. While you’re there, take a look at the Social Learning survey results. Where do you think your staff training sits on the scale of things?

An interesting thing is happening in the San Francisco East Bay area: a local chapter of the American Society for Training & Development is becoming the trainer-teacher-learner’s version of a literary salon, and its community of members has increased by nearly 33 percent (from 62 to 82 members) in less than six months.

 

Here’s how it’s evolving: Three of us who work on programming for the ASTD Mt. Diablo Chapter’s monthly two-hour dinner meetings at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville decided to build off of the Chapter’s tradition of bringing in the best available speakers on the interrelated topics of training, leadership, and human resources; we encouraged presenters to use engaging, cutting-edge presentation styles while playing off of the camaraderie which existed within the small group of 10 or 15 repeat attendees.

 

Chapter member Steven Cerri, presenting on the topic “Why Most Training Isn’t Sticky and What to Do About It” at the Chapter’s April meeting, didn’t just cover the topic effectively; he frequently called attention to the techniques he was using and, as a result, kept the event lively, personal, and sticky for the audience he was addressing. And that’s when the magic began: the regulars had never been shy about engaging speakers and each other throughout the monthly formal presentations, but they upped the ante—and made the experience memorable—by being part of the discussion rather than sitting back, listening passively, and politely asking questions while Steven stood before them. And when the hour-long formal program was over, people didn’t quickly empty the room. The discussion continued informally for at least another half hour.

 

Daren Blonski, VP of Leadership Development for Sonoma Learning Systems, inspired an equally engaging exchange the following month on the theme of what trainers need to know to function effectively in multigenerational workplaces. We worked together, as he prepared his PowerPoint slides, to incorporate a Cliff Atkinson Beyond Bullet Points style to his presentation—creating a visual narrative flow from slide to slide without using much text. The level of engagement between Daren and the other participants—it would be inaccurate and unfair to refer to them as an “audience” in this context—was electric. Daren didn’t even use all the slides he had prepared; he took advantage of the lively interactions to cover the material, and the discussion continued informally for almost 45 minutes after the monthly meeting was formally adjourned.

 

Provokare Presentations Founder Roberto Giannicola, at the Chapter’s June meeting, took the process over the top. With visually stimulating slides, a puckishly engaging sense of humor, and a presentation virtually free of bullet points (except when he was using them to show how ineffective they can be), he set an enormously high bar for all presenters who will follow him at Mt. Diablo Chapter dinner meetings. He facilitated a very lively discussion on how the combination of  imagery and storytelling creates effective learning experiences, and it was again with reticence that everyone parted ways nearly an hour after the meeting ended.

 

It hasn’t taken long for the word to spread. That small community of regulars in March has quickly expanded so that the Chapter’s meeting last night, featuring ASTD Senior Chapter Coach Scott Wilson (based in Washington, D.C., but traveling under the auspices of ASTD to serve as keynote speaker for the event), drew 32 participants—nearly half of them first-time attendees, and two of them returning after at least a few years away from the Chapter. One after another, they confirmed that they were drawn to Scott’s presentation on “Current Reports and Best Training Practices from ASTD’s National Office” because colleagues have been telling them about the “incredible energy” that is coming out of the Mt. Diablo Chapter presentations and discussions. And, of course, it was no surprise to find two people standing outside in that warm summer evening weather 90 minutes after Scott’s formal presentation ended last night. Which suggests that we may not be far from seeing after-meeting discussions which exceed the two-hour time frame for the formal dinners and presentations themselves.

 

For more information about the Chapter’s activities, please visit its website.

 

 

If we are to believe David Maister, the sky is once again falling, everything you know is wrong, and we’ve all been wasting our time by doing what we do as trainers.

 

Having modified an earlier series of blog postings into Why (Most) Training Is Useless in the May 2008 issue of T+D, ASTD’s monthly review of what is new, exciting, and challenging in the world  of training, Maister offers a thought-provoking confession and a suggested remedy.

 

Among his assertions are the proposition that “the majority of business training—by me and by everyone else—is a waste of time because only a microscopic fraction of training is ever put into practice with the hope for benefits obtained” (p. 53).  He also, in a section subtitled “The Right Approach,” suggests that a “full-change program” should be created; people should be trained with their coworkers so the lessons are carried back to and implemented in their workplace; and that staff rather than outsiders should be used to provide effective training experiences: “Outsiders should be used only to help train-the-trainers programs” (p. 58).

 

There’s much to admire in Maister’s article, and he is not alone in questioning whether current training procedures are effective. More pre- and post-workshop activities undoubtedly lead to better learning opportunities. Training employees in their “regular operating groups” does help create the possibility that the learners will have their lessons reinforced.  There is, however, also much to question.

 

Those of us who have managed training programs featuring a combination of in-house trainers and those hired from outside our organizations hear from our colleagues that they appreciate the training opportunities they would not have received if we had to rely solely on in-house resources. We also hear and see that what we offer is far from useless when our colleagues consistently tell us how helpful it is for them to have the variety of options we provide: one-hour, half-day, and full-day offerings on a variety of topics; occasional series which extend over two- or three-day periods; series which may continue once a month for several months; and other combinations such as asynchronous online learning opportunities or lesson plans which can be printed out and used on a schedule established by employees rather than supervisors or trainers.

 

Useless? I think not. Common? Not as common as it should be, but we all have to start somewhere.

 

The current “learning revolution,” which concentrates on learners as much as on instructors and which encourages abundant pre- and post-workshop activities to assure greater results from training sessions, is something to be admired and supported. It does not, however, mean that one-time workshops need to be eliminated.

 

A one-time harassment prevention session led by attorneys and involving an actor and an actress who did short, improvised vignettes on the topic led to unplanned workplace and lunch-time conversations among employees for several weeks after the sessions ended. Those informal discussions drew in employees who were not even present for the original presentations and helped create more awareness of the topic throughout the organization.

 

Workshops including discussions and tips about how to more effectively work with transgender colleagues and library users led to similar viral learning and the unsolicited assertion from at least one participant that the effectiveness of the instructor’s presentation had caused a major shift in the way that the participant worked after attending the session.

 

In the same way, we don’t need expensive surveys to know that employees who choose to attend one-hour, half-day, or full-day workshops on how to use the latest versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint are returning to their workplace and using what they learned to their benefit and to the advantage of those who use the services of the organizations for which they work.

 

I have no argument with Maister and others who suggest that more training time and more cohesive planning of long-term training goals can produce fantastic results. I’m also a strong supporter of having comprehensive in-house peer-based training programs along the lines of what the Contra Costa County Library offers. Where I do part ways with them is when they act as if they’ve suddenly seen the light, discovered that everything they’ve done was useless, and try to lead us to the one, true way to reach our goals—until they discover that this new way is also far from perfect and needs to be replaced by yet another “right” way to do things. As if everything we know were wrong.

 

THE FIFTEENTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LEARNING The University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 3-6 June 2008: http://www.LearningConference.com

The International Conference on Learning is for any person with an interest in, and concern for, education at any of its level – from early childhood, to schools, to higher education – and lifelong learning in any of its sites, from home to school to university to the workplace.

Main speakers include James R. Gavelek, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Juana M. Sancho Gil, Educational Technology Professor at the University of Barcelona; Susan R. Goldman, Chair of the Governing Board of the Society for Text and Discourse; Fernando Hernandez, Professor in the Unit of Art Education at the Fine Arts Faculty of the University of Barcelona; James W. Pellegrino, Distinguished Professor in Psychology and Education and Co-Director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Salim Vally, Senior Researcher at the Education Policy Unit, School of Education, University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

The Conference will also include numerous paper, workshop and colloquium presentations by practitioners, teachers and researchers. We would particularly like to invite you to respond to the Conference Call-for-Papers. Presenters may choose to submit written papers for publication in the fully refereed International Journal of Learning. If you are unable to attend the Conference in person, virtual registrations are also available which allow you to submit a paper for refereeing and possible publication in this fully refereed academic Journal, as well as access to the electronic version of the Conference proceedings.

The deadline for the next round in the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 13 March 2008. Proposals are reviewed within two weeks of submission. Full details of the Conference, including an online proposal submission form, are to be found at the Conference website – http://www.LearningConference.com

(News from Stacy Schrank, CLENE Round Table Training Showcase C0-Chair)
CLENE Training Showcase 2008
2008 CLENE Training Showcase
Sunday, June 29, 2008 – 1:30-3:30pm
Anaheim, California

Greetings CLENE Friends,

I hope your 2008 is off to a great start! As with the new year comes time once again to solicit participants for the upcoming CLENE Training Showcase to be held at the ALA Annual Meeting in June – this year is sunny Anaheim, CA.

This past year, the showcase was a great success – we had hundreds of people come through our doors and with the participation of great people (like yourselves) we were able to give away a large assortment of prizes throughout the event. We also had three great sponsors – WebJunction, The Crisis Prevention Institute, Inc., and Infopeople – who made it possible for us to furnish snacks and beverages during the event.

This year, we are securing sponsorships again and hope to be bigger and better than ever! As you have presented in the past, we would encourage you to once again consider participating in our showcase. And if your budget allows, consider sponsorship of our event. What a great way to connect one-on-one with colleagues who are using your products, services, or your ideas to continue the educational advancement and networking of library staff across the nation and the world. We want the CLENE Showcase to be what people are talking about at Annual!

Participation proposals can be completed online by visiting the CLENE page on the ALA website: www.ala.org/ala/clenert/trainingshowcase/index.cfm .

Deadline for submissions is Friday, February 22nd. We hope to accept as many participants as possible. Final decisions will be made prior to March 7th.

Please Note: Each participant will be provided with a 6′ banquet table and two chairs. Electricity is available (please select this on your proposal form). Wireless Internet may be available for an extra charge. If you are planning to use wireless, please contact me.

Sponsors and participants will be featured in the June edition of the CLENE X-Change in preparation for the Annual Meeting. Advertisement for the showcase will also be conducted at the Public Library Association Conference in March in Minneapolis, MN. CLENE will be sponsoring three programs there and information on CLENE events at Annual will be distributed. If you will be at PLA, look us up – we would love to see you!

If you have any additional questions regarding the CLENE Showcase, please feel free to contact me at your convenience using the contact information listed here. I look forward to receiving your proposal soon!

Cheers,
Stacy Schrank, Co-Chair, CLENE Training Showcase

January signals the time of year to look forward across the expanse of what’s to come. I’m no futurist but I’m fascinated by those who are willing and eager to make predictions for the near and far future.

Of the ten predictions for 2008 from the eLearning Technology blog, these stood out for me:

  • #2. Second Life Lite —“A medium size Virtual Classroom / Meeting Tool will announce features in 2008 that are not 3D immersive, but that are more like Mii characters in a 2.5D world.” (Me and my mii are curious to see what this environment looks like.)
  • #5. Mobile Learning —“large adoption of mobile as THE learning platform still won’t be there.” (This sparked the most comments.)
  • #8. Serious Games —“Likely YOU will get to attend a session on them. But YOU won’t get to build one, or buy one, or participate in one.” (Not even Guitar Hero?)
  • #10. Knowledge Worker Skills —“The discussion of knowledge work skills is going to be BIG … We won’t hear much this year, but in 2009, this will be something you’ll hear in a big way.” (Library and information science for the masses?)

The Mobile Technology in TAFE blog chose to identify five challenges for the coming year:

  • #2. Firewalls —“Inability to access web sites will continue to frustrate educators.” (and learners.)
  • #3. Bandwidth —“…lack of bandwidth will drive [educators] insane.” (and learners.)
  • #5. Mobile Devices —“… most educators will continue to be prevented from accessing their educational potential due to school or Government policies.” (A different take on the topic; this blog is from Australia.)

This is just a sampling from a heap of predictions. What do you see in the new year?

Familiar with alternate reality games?  Basically, players interactively participate in an in-depth story that is revealed as a series of puzzles in the real world.  ARGs are usually open-ended as the players create the content and influence the development of the story arc.  One person or a small group serve as the puppet masters who steer the game that other players happen into through the rabbit hole – the game’s conceit.  Read a whitepaper on ARGs here and even check out one of the best “serious gaming” ARGs, World Without Oil, here. 

Alternate reality games, in my opinion, are the natural evolution of simulations, which have proven invaluable in learning environments.  We know that simulations provide learners safe contexts in which to practice real-world skills.  Now imagine the level of immersion we could provide our learners if they were involved in a larger story, while simultaneously learning and developing those new skills.   

Recently, I experimented with alternate reality gaming here at the library using one of our bi-monthly Quality Book Discussions as fodder.  Here is the situation: 

Thirty staff members signed up to discuss the book, “Branded Customer Service: The New Competitive Edge.”  The staff members were expecting the same let’s-gather-together-in-a-circle-and-discuss-the-book format, but what do you really take away from that kind of discussion?  Nothing.  Instead, I, acting as the puppet master, sent all 30 participants an encrypted email message from the character I would portray in the game, Dr. X.  Over the next few days, the staff members deciphered the code, which ultimately sent them to a hidden discussion board inside our intranet, Sharepoint.  During the course of a week, participants (now dubbed “field agents”) gave themselves silly pseudonyms and contributed to discussion questions I rolled out every other day. 

When the actual face-to-face discussion occurred a week later, Dr. X met with the field agents and instead of me leading an unguided discussion about “Branded Customer Service,” I had the participants complete a series of creative exercises to stimulate further discussion and to maximize transfer. 

I had two-fold learning objectives for this ARG: to have staff members demonstrate on-brand customer service behaviors at several touch points in our branches and to have staff members utilize the web parts of Sharepoint 2007, which we just implemented about two months ago.  While I have not formally assessed the learning goals, the early signs seem promising for this pilot project. 

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