aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘online learning’

aLearning Trail Guide Going Dark

Posted by Ellen on February 9, 2013

Not my choice, but the days for ordering e-versions of aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning are numbered.* The e-reader enabled versions and possibly the PDF version will no longer be available after the end of this month.

If you’ve been putting off purchasing the aLearning Trail Guide, don’t wait much longer. You can order here.

For info on this book and others, click here.

The print version will continue to be available (with its accompanying postage and shipping fees) for the foreseeable future.

*Lulu.com has decided to no longer support DRM, which provides certain protections for the way e-versions are made available.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Did You Feel That?

Posted by Ellen on February 28, 2012

We’ll call it a technological earthquake (because we’re currently in Soutern California; you can call it a tornado or hurricane or monsoon… whatever).

The “seismologists” are the researchers at the USC Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future. They’re reporting on more than ten years of studies, tracking the emergence and use of technology and online activity. (You can find a summary of the results here.)

The article identifies some key takeaways from their work.

  • Despite its popularity, social networking suffers from just a 14% confidence rate. According to Jeffrey I. Cole, Director of the Center for Digital Future, “…51% of users said that only a small portion or none of the information they see on social networking sites is reliable.” Yep. Makes you wonder: how credible do people think your association’s Facebook presence is? What can you do to improve their confidence in your social networking presence?

 

  • The desktop PC is going to dwindle to 4-6% of computer users — and those will primarily be professionals who rely on computers for their work (programmers, financial planners, scientists, writers, gamers, analysts, and scientists). Tablets will soon become the most used personal computing devices because they are “more convenient and accessible than laptops and much more engaging to use.” Are you preparing for this shift? And, as you know I like to warn, do your members fit into the tablet profile, or are they in a field that will be in the minority but devoted group of desktop PC users? Because it won’t matter if 96% of the country is using tablets if 98% of your members are still using desktop PCs and/or laptops. Just sayin’.

 

  • The irony about personal computing is that we believed they would be labor-saving devices — and they are — but they have also extended the workday into the evening and expanded the workweek into the weekend. Many people on vacations stay tethered to the office via e-mail, Twitter, and other methods. So here’s what you should be asking about your online offerings: are you making it worth your members’ time to participate in your Webinars, social networking discussions, online courses, and otherwise engage in the online activities you make available to them? Better make sure. The report suggests that people are soon going to have had it with all this and start cutting back. Don’t give your members reasons to cut you out.

 

  • With the exception of four major newspapers (the NY Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal), Sunday metros and small weeklies, most US print newspapers will be gone in five years. The report asks, “How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?” What opportunities for you does this open up? How can your organization make up for any lost quality or depth of journalism? Where are the gaps that you can fill?

 

  • How transparent are you? How do you reassure your members that their online presence with you is safe? “Our latest Digital Future study found that almost half of users age 16 and older are worried about companies checking what they do online; by comparison, 38% said that the government checking on them is a concern,” says Cole. While our members love making purchases and connecting with others online, they’re also very aware that the Web is public, and that information on them is collected with nearly every click. So far that isn’t stopping people from participating in online shopping, surveys, commenting on blogs, reviewing purchase experiences, adding rankings and ratings, etc…. But what are you doing to make sure your members don’t log off your site or your blog or move away from your Facebook or LinkedIn pages thinking, “Darn… I wonder what they’ll do with what I said there?” What are you doing to make sure your members aren’t balking at the information you’re asking for on profile pages? The tipping point for privacy concerns might still be a ways off… but there’s no doubt it’s on people’s minds.

 

  • “Even though online outreach to voters continues to expand, and Internet fundraising is a major priority for candidates, the Internet is not yet considered a tool that voters can use to gain more political power or influence,” Cole says. Yet they believe this is changing and over the next two election cycles the Internet will become “a major factor in changing the political landscape.” Occupy Wall Street, Occupy LA, Occupy [fill in the name of your organization]. Occupy it online. What are the possibilities here? Threats? How can you get ahead of the potential impact of influencing politics online to benefit your organization’s mission? Is there a part you can play in accelerating this trend?

 

  • Can you believe online buying is 18 years old? Amazon has flourished and Borders Books has suffered because of it, to cite an example from just one industry. Music CDs have pretty much gone by the wayside as fans download digital files. “Even though purchasing online has already had a significant impact on buying habits, the changes still to come in American purchasing brought by the Internet will no doubt be even more extensive,” says Cole. Are you leveraging online buying trends as fully as you could be? Are you taking orders online but still shipping out print books and manuals? Time to think hard about converting to ebooks…. I’ll digress from the report summary here to mention that ebook readers have satisfaction rates of 60% and higher (up to 75% for Kindle buyers). Kindle books outsold print books at Amazon this past year for the first time. It isn’t a fad. It’s a trend. Don’t be the Borders to someone else’s Amazon.

 

  • A friend recently recounted his nephew’s description of a college party. “About fifteen people were there. And they were all texting each other. In the same room. My nephew said it was quiet. The quietest party you can imagine. Except for the occasional laughter when someone forwarded something funny or texted something witty. Then there would be a laugh, then another, as the message floated around the room.” Yes. In the same room. Texting each other. It’s no joke, it’s true, and the Digital Future’s report validates it. People are spending more time connected online than they do face-to-face. “But is quality being sacrificed for quantity?” Cole asks. “Will those who use social networking services consider them as alternatives to face-to-face involvement with the people in their lives?” In your organization’s social networking and other online environments, how are you ensuring that quality is overriding quantity? That your members are getting something valuable for their time? That they are able to make the same sorts of strong connections online that they make at face-to-face events?

 

  • Are you ready for what’s next? “In 2006, YouTube and Twitter had just been born, and Facebook was a toddler. Six years ago, who would have thought that these nascent technologies would become the standard for social communication in 2011? The next major online trend is being developed right now by a new crop of Internet visionaries just waiting to be heard,” says Cole. How adaptable is your organization to upcoming change? Because there will be change.

And if I were to guess it would be about personalization.  Think about it. You can order M&M candies with any message you want (that will fit their basic specs). You can create your own movies and upload them for the world to see. You can write and publish your own books with a few clicks of the mouse (okay, the publishing part… not the writing part). You can produce your own music and market it to your fans. You can order any number of items with your name or logo on them.

So can your members.

And the youngest members of our associations have been growing up in a personalized, customized, all about “me” world for a long time.

What are you doing to give your members a unique experience in your organization? Do they get the same tee-shirt as everyone else, or do you give them the opportunity to design their own? Do they have a say in the educational sessions available at the national conference? Can they control how and where and for how long they access online learning sessions? Or are you still making them fit your schedule? (Oh, that’s so last century!!)

Okay, glad I got that off my chest.

At least you can start with these ideas from the Center for the Digital Future and your pal here at aLearning, right?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

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 »

Why Your Board of Directors is Dysfunctional

Posted by Ellen on December 21, 2011

And it is, isn’t it? Admit it. Well, maybe things seem okay for the moment, but at some point, you’ll experience frustration with a board of directors that you’ll be convinced is off its rocker, in whole or part.

It isn’t their fault.

Think about it.

They volunteer to run for the board of directors of your nonprofit organization, get elected or appointed, and voila! — they’re supposed to know what’s expected of them.

“But Ellen! We have an extensive board orientation program,” you say.

Sure you do.

You cover the organization’s pertinent documents (bylaws, standing rules, etc.), mix in the most critical legal stuff (open meetings laws, liabilities, etc.), spend some time with the financial data, maybe cover some of Robert’s Rules of Order.

Everybody leaves with a fat binder and cognitive overload.But nobody leaves having experienced effective training.

Stop a second and think about that.

You’ve just entrusted major decisions to a group of people based on a binder, a lot of conversation, and maybe a few expert speakers.

You’ve given them a lot of “what” stuff, but very little “how.”

Board members perform several tasks. Learning those tasks requires learning new skills — or adapting existing skills to new applications.

When is the last time your board orientation included practicing performing a necessary task? Or practicing anything?

When’s the last time you presented your board members with hypothetical problems of the sort they’ll need to solve? Case studies? Asked them to work together on a simulation?

I hear your protest: “But Ellen! That takes so much time and we already have several days devoted to this orientation!”

You’re right. You do not want to extend your orientation time. If anything, you want to reduce it.

Instead of walking the members through the bylaws, pick a half-dozen key items and create role-playing scenarios so they will experience them.

Instead of asking members to sit through a presentation by a legal expert, create a few scenarios based on the most likely litigation you could face. Have members work in small groups to work through what they should do and why.

Instead of handing your members a manual on Robert’s Rules of Order and expecting them to magically know the ins and outs of conducting a meeting with them (even assuming they actually take the time to read the manual, which they probably won’t), tell them you’ll be conducting part of the orientation using Robert’s Rules.

Instead of handing them a bunch of financial documents and tediously explaining each item line by line, ask them what they think the most pressing financial issue for the organization is, then use the documents to show the current fiscal situation. Ask them what they think the organization wastes the most money with, then use the budget to determine where the most money is spent, and where the least money is spent.Create an online version that includes explanations of those items through call-outs that appear when the mouse hovers over them so they can continue to refer to it even after the orientation session.

You probably have even better ideas than these to introduce more effective training techniques into your board orientation — the point is to involve them actively in the materials they will be using as board members. Get them thinking like board members through case studies and scenarios and small group discussions. Help them begin to behave like board members by modelling and practicing Robert’s Rules of Order (or other meeting management techniques).

We expect our children’s teachers to be trained in classroom management. We expect our doctor’s office to know how to keep our medical records straight. We expect our attorneys to have the answers to our questions.

Why should our board members be any different?

You wouldn’t want your children in a classroom where the teacher was given a week’s series of lectures and handed a binder then considered ready to do the job. If you’ve had a car accident, you wouldn’t want your insurance agent showing up in his pajamas complaining you interrupted his favorite daytime TV show, would you? of course not. You expect that they’ve been properly trained so you will get the service you expect from them.

Members expect that your board members are properly prepared, too. But taking on a board position is taking on a new job. New jobs require training. Yes, there’s some “orientation” involved, but to overlook the importance of training new board members is to render those members incompetent to fulfill their duties…

…leading to the very dysfunction you really, really, really don’t want permeating your board.

Posted in Learning in General, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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