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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for the ‘Learning in General’ Category

What Corporate Trainers Can Learn from Associations

Posted by Ellen on March 8, 2012

In her reaction to our recent post, “Did You Feel That?” Adrienne Gross said, “One thing that technology can’t really help with though is motivation: ‘I want to do this training.'”

I responded by agreeing that we can lead people to training but we can’t make them learn.

And that got me thinking about a key difference between corporate training and association training. Our problems are 180-degrees in difference.

Corporate trainers struggle to get learners engaged. Often they’re showing up for courses because they’ve been sent, the sessions are mandatory, attendance is required. They aren’t always in the mood. They don’t feel close to the content. Etc. Etc.

Trainers spend a lot of time with “WIIFM” — what’s in it for me. Getting learners to connect with the content. Trying to motivate them to engage in the content, to figure out how they’ll eventually apply what they’re learning.

Yes, we do some of that.

But mostly we’re struggling with getting the trainers — usually our volunteer content leaders — to get out of the way of our members, who generally show up ready and eager to learn.

Quite the opposite of corporate trainees.

Corporate trainees attend sessions that the company pays for. Even when that training requires travel, the employee’s costs are covered, at minimum via a per diem.

Our members, on the other hand, consciously choose to attend our learning events, whether they be online or face-to-face.

Think about that a second.

They’ve paid to be a member.

Now they’re paying a registration fee to attend an event.

Sometimes they even pay to travel to that event.

That’s motivation, don’t you think?

So if we’re sending people out the door frustrated that they didn’t learn anything, that’s our bad. Our very bad. (And the topic of a different post entirely.)

What are we doing right that corporations seem to be getting wrong? Why are our learners showing up so ready to learn while corporate learners are reluctant to show up at all?

What can corporate trainers learn from us?

Probably a lot more than what I’ll describe here, but we’ll consider it a start. In no particular order, we design sessions that:

  • Deliver what people need to know and do so they can make better decisions and perform tasks more efficiently. We don’t assume we know what they need — we find out from them what they need to know, and work from there.
  • Leverage various experience levels, so those newer in the profession learn from those who have more experience and do so in an environment where organizational, reporting hierarchy doesn’t matter. We know our sessions will be filled with individuals from across the professional spectrum, and do our best to make that combination work for the session, rather than against it.
  • Create online and in-person environments where social, informal learning is a natural outflow from the session. We expect attendees to meet others and learn from them in the hallways, during breaks and meals, and often well beyond the session itself.
  • Start with the assumption that people want the latest information, research, strategies, tactics, tools, etc. They want an edge over their competition and know we can give them that edge. Never mind that those competitors are often sitting in the same room!
  • Encourage an atmosphere of open discussion, networking, debate, sharing, and exchange. Our members have discovered over time that often they get the answer to a problem in the least-expected way — usually outside of the formal training situation.
  • Appreciate the value of social interaction. Sharing meals, taking tours, and participating in other activities together isn’t just about “team building.” It’s about relaxing enough in the presence of others that you can feel comfortable sharing your problems, asking necessary questions, and generally letting your hair down.

Corporate trainers out there: yes, you probably think you’re doing these things already. But you’re not. The next time you attend a professional development event offered through an association, pay close attention.

  • What made you want to attend this event? What about your decision can you incorporate into your corporate offerings? Do you need to change a venue? Re-order your agenda?
  • When were you particularly engaged? Why? What was being done that you can steal and use in your own sessions? Do you need to change-up your facilitators? Tools? Training techniques?
  • Where were you when you picked up a particularly helpful bit of information, advice, skill, or other nugget of learning? Do you provide that sort of interaction in the corporate training sessions you design? How can you do that?
  • Did your attention flag at some point? When? Why? Do your corporate training session attendees suffer in a similar way? What do you wish had been done during that session to re-engage you? How could you elevate the engagement in your sessions, based on what you experienced at the PD session?
  • When did you feel most comfortable? Why? What about the session’s environment or facilitation or other aspect made you feel this way? How can you integrate that into your own corporate sessions?

Generally, you can approach this from a lot of directions.

Here’s one more (a bonus suggestion!): if you were to put a pricetag on the corporate sessions you offer, what do you think your employees would be willing to spend on them? Why? Would they be willing to pay membership dues, then a registration fee and travel costs on top of that us to attend?

What can you be doing differently so they would?

Answer this question, and you’ll likely solve much of that  “motivation” problem that Adrienne mentions and that  plagues so much of corporate training these days.

Posted in Conferences, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Don’t Assume Anything

Posted by Ellen on March 5, 2012

You’ve heard that old expression, right? Don’t assume anything, it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

Haven’t ranted in awhile, but I ran into one of those situations lately that had me swearing under my breath.

And it had to do with some of you, probably.

Yes, you. You who have your blog comments linked to particular response vehicles.

Nothing worse that reading a long post, getting into the point of view expressed in it, drafting and editing a thoughtful response, then starting to submit it when — wait! What’s this?!?!?

I have to have a FACEBOOK account or a TWITTER account or another some-such account to post my comment?!??!?!??

PUH–LEEZ!!

Has it not occurred to you that not everyone is enamored of Facebook or Twitter?

Sure, I’ve heard that it’s business-smart to have these accounts so I can keep my followers up-to-date and all that. I had a Facebook account for awhile, but cancelled it when I read the agreement (do you read those? If not, you really, really, really should), which said they could use what they wanted from what I posted there…. Yes, that’s what it said. It might be my property (my photos, for example), but by using Facebook I was agreeing that they could use it too, whether for advertising or other purposes. Hmmm…..

Maybe you’re comfortable with that, but I wasn’t. Personal (and business) choice.

I get all that.

But it’s not about you or me, remember?!?

It’s about your members. Your potential members. Your clients and potential clients.

How many are you gagging when you insist they use Facebook or Twitter or another specific account to contact you?

Who’s really benefitting? Not you. Not those who want to comment or contact you. The only ones benefitting are Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

And who is it you want to benefit?

Right.

Yes, I’m peeved about this. Anything that drives people to use one specific online tool or application to the exclusion of all others rankles me. Ruffles my feathers. Goes against my grain.

Why should someone else decide what tools I should be using? Why should you be deciding the tools your members must use?

Just because “everyone” is on Facebook doesn’t mean it should be the only avenue open. Remember what your mother used to say: “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”

I have nothing against people using Facebook or Twitter, mind you. I just choose not to use it and resent anyone trying to force me into it.

I’m guessing some (many?) of your members feel the same way. Even if you’ve surveyed your members and your profile says that 95% have Facebook accounts, that still means 5% of your members don’t have the same access. How will you reach them? How will they reach out to you? Aren’t they as deserving to be “in the loop” as the others?

Ah! Now you’re thinking. And thinking it through is always better than assuming anything.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, eLearning Marketing, Learning in General, Social Learning | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Stealing from the Rich…

Posted by Ellen on February 17, 2012

Stealing what works in elearning from the rich corporations, that is…

First, my usual caveat: we’re not corporations. We shouldn’t assume that everything they do is worthy of emulation by associations and other nonprofits.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them, right? And because the series we did that dissected what the ASTD BEST Award winners did in 2009 had so many hits (and still does), I figure it’s worth our time to look at some other companies, what they’re doing, and what we can learn from them.

Source? Way last summer Intrepid Learning released a white paper, “Learning Experts at Work: How Social Tools and Technology Catalyzed a Learning Renaissance.” It’s a great read in its entirety, but here are a couple of nuggets:

  • “…[T]he best learning cultures encourage people to help teach others in the organization. This happens at Google a lot. A company shouldn’t get in-between the learner and the expert. Otherwise, you can’t democratize the spread of knowledge. And that’s what the next decade will require.” So say Ann Farmer (Information Engineer) and Julie Clow (Manager of Learning & Organizational Development), both at Google.
    •  Would you describe your association as having a culture of learning? Why not? Inadvertently or not, are you standing between your members and the experts and mentors they need? What can you do to bring them together, then get out of their way? Is “the spread of knowledge” “democratized” in your organization? If not, why not? What can you do to encourage open exchange of knowledge and training?
  • At TELUS, a Canadian communications company, “field technicians carry video cameras with them, and, if they encounter a particular problem or situation for which they need assistance, they’ll shoot some video, feed it back to company headquarters, and within a short amount of time they’ll have answers from other employees on how to solve the problem. The videos are highly practical, not highly produced, and have made significant improvements in the training and effectiveness of field technicians,” writes Tony Bingham (President and CEO) at ASTD, describing an one of the case studies he includes in his book, The New Social Learning.
    • Are you using video? To what ends? This is an example that supports what the women from Google said in the previous point: democratizing learning — field techs sending problems to other field techs who provide solutions. Are there ways you could be using video — or audio or Twitter or other technologies (other than social networking platforms) to enable this sort of exchange? What could you implement that would help your members learn from each other?

Some other key ideas from this report:

  • According to Ethan Zuckerman (Senior Researcher) at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, we’re making a shift from an “Attention Economy” to an “Intention Economy.” “In an Attention Economy, companies produce products and create advertisements to capture viewer attention and, eventually, their dollars. In an Intention Economy, customers tell producers what they want and companies compete to meet their needs.”
    • Do you still see your educational offerings as products you need to “sell” to your members? If you have to “sell” them so hard, don’t you think maybe your members are already telling you something about that program (traditionally offered and beloved as it may be)?!? What are your members saying they want — and need — to learn about? What training are they asking for? What can you be doing to listen more carefully to them?
  • David Metcalf, PhD,(CLO Adviser/Researcher) at the Institute for Simulation and Training the the University of Central Florida says, “Looking ahead, I think we should keep our eyes on the concept of ‘learning theory mash-ups.’  This approach will allow us to achieve a level of granularity with each learning theory and will also enable us to apply the right technology to a very specific learning objective. This is very similar to a technology mash-up, which doesn’t try to re-invent each component in a monolithic structure.”
    • Is your organization working toward a technology goal of having a one-stop-shop for your members’ learning needs? Are you crawling out from under the traditional notion of “programs” and into the bright new day of integrated learning? Of seeing your offerings as interwoven opportunities for learning — beyond a particular curriculum? Why not? What can you do to knock down walls so your members can learn more and learn better from each other?
  • The 9000 globally-located Peace Corps volunteers need more than their nine weeks of face-to-face training. To supplement that, they can access “extra learning [that] includes a series of how-to videos that are 60-180 seconds in length. They offer three to five steps, and they’re available on YouTube and iTunes,” says Chris Hedrick, Peace Corps Director in Senegal.
    • Have you been assuming that videos have to be long, or elaborate productions? Are the only videos you offer those that were filmed at a face-to-face event, and feature talking heads? How might you implement a series of 60-180 second visual learning nuggets? What could you be showing your members how to do?

The possibilities are everywhere. You just need to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, then look for the tools and methods to implement them. Making sure, of course, that those tools are the same ones your members use… (more on that next time).

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Time Flies…

Posted by Ellen on January 27, 2012

…when you’re having fun, right?!?

And we have been having fun here at the aLearning Blog! Suddenly, it seems, we’re publishing our 250th post and celebrating five years.

Yep, five years. And so much has changed!

When aLearning published its first post back on January 27, 2007:

  • no LMS systems (that we know of at the time) were designed especially to meet the needs of associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) research endeavors about online learning focused on associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) organizations bothered to survey association learning leaders to find out what we’re doing in the field and how things were going
  • the number of association-specific blogs could be counted on the fingers of one person’s hands
  • social learning and virtual learning environments were mysterious, hocus-pocus, scary entities

A lot has changed over just five changes of the seasons, hasn’t it?!?

Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts

To celebrate this milestone, we’ve compiled an ebook of our Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts. Just skimming through these selections made us realize how quickly the elearning sands shift, affecting the landscape, even moving the horizon.

At over 200 pages, this compilation brings together in one place the best — and most controversial — writing from the aLearning Blog. We’ve included most comments (the fine print is that we’ve deleted pingpacks, backtracks, and outright sales pitches) and are proud of the attention the aLearning Blog has garnered over the years by elearning and education experts.

To Get Your Copy

We’ve made this e-publication very affordable at just $5. To order, go to www.ellenbooks.com/store.html and click the “Buy Now” PayPal button. You should be able to read this PDF from any device with a PDF reader (such as Adobe Reader).

Special Offer

If you’ve purchased aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning, we’ll send you a copy of the Top 100 Posts for free. Just send Ellen an e-mail at ellenbehr@aol.com and attach an electronic copy of your Lulu receipt, and we’ll send you the Top 100 Posts by return e-mail. We appreciate your support and are happy to say “thank you” in this small way.

Thank You!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Conferences, eLearning Marketing, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General, LMS, Measuring Results, Online Learning in General, Social Learning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

December Quick Clicks

Posted by Ellen on December 28, 2011

As usual, here’s aLearning’s attempt to provide you some valuable, quick PD — for you! We know that you give more time to your association members and fellow staffers than you do to nurturing your own professional acumen, so we’ve gathered some links to articles, sites, blog posts, and other resources that we think would be worth your time.

This is a brief version… whenever it’s quiet on this blog, you can be sure there’s a lot of activity behind the scenes. Watch for an end-of-the-year post for a peek.

In the meantime, if you have suggestions for Quick Clicks, send them along for a future post!

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Help With Tutorials

Thinking of creating some online courses yourself, but don’t know where to start? Feeling intimidated about learning how to use an elearning authoring tool? Patti Shank’s “Beginning Instructional Authoring: Learning How to Author” at Learning Solutions e-magazine breaks it all down and provides a plethora of resources. Take a look.

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But Which Tools to Use?!?

Craig Weiss at the E-Learning 24/7 Blog has evaluated what’s out there and has posted his Top Ten “Best of the Best” list. Find out who made the list and why popular choices like Articulate Studio and Captivate didn’t make the list.

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When Brainstorming Fails

“Even though groups generally enjoy their brainstorming efforts, it turns out that people in groups actually tend to generate fewer ideas than they would if they were to brainstorm individually and then submit their ideas to be compiled later,” writes Mary Arnold in another great Learning Solutions article: “The Human Factor: The Trouble with Group Brainstorming.” Here’s the best part: she gives specifics for how to create an environment for the best brainstorming. Don’t assume you can bring people together in front of a whiteboard or flip chart and that amazing things will happen.

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Posted in Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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