aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘benchmarking’

Getting to the Core

Posted by Ellen on March 16, 2011

“What Are the Core Competencies of a Trainer?” This great question was posted by Ling-Huey on ASTD’s LinkedIn forum, and her question generated dozens and dozens of comments.

Here’s a summary:

Effective trainers …

  • know the subject matter and can adapt key messages to learners’ levels of understanding while helping learners see the relevancy of the content
  • involve the learners
  • exude enthusiasm and passion
  • accept that it isn’t about them — it’s about the learners
  • understand how adults learn
  • model the desired behavior
  • can provide constructive feedback
  • are good listeners
  • can ask great questions
  • must be flexible — things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes a side-track can be a more valuable learning opportunity than what was supposed to come next
  • are able to “tune in” to learners’ reactions and pick up on subtle signs that someone just isn’t getting it or is losing interest
  • are confident and can build learners’ confidence
  • “view each interaction as an opportunity”
  • understand the strategic direction of upper management so they can implement effective tactics to affect change
  • “should be good human beings”
  • are optimistic
  • are greedy about learning from their learners
  • appreciate that what they do is more than a job — it’s a profound responsibility because “one bad trainer can create thousands of bad students”
  • understand it takes many,many years — maybe a lifetime — to become really accomplished trainers
  • have patience not only with learners but with their other stakeholders
  • have an analytical ability in order to measure results
  • possess showmanship and a stage presence
  • “have the heart of a parent to keep solid relationships with their learners”
  • “draw out the collective expertise of participants”
  • practice what they teach
  • must establish and maintain their credibility
  • understands where learners are starting from
  • can anticipate where learners might go awry and knows how to deal with it
  • welcome diverse viewpoints
  • handle challenging questions and situations with finesse
  • create an environment where disagreements can occur
  • without disrupting the learning environment
  • must be approachable and accessible
  • encourage learning from mistakes and engender risk-taking and experimentation
  • have a sense of humor

Whew! That’s a lot! But notice how many of these “competencies” are actually personal traits?

“Core Competencies” are usually skills and knowledge identified as being necessary for performing a function to an acceptable level of competency (i.e., “ability to properly structure instruction with respect to Kirkpatrick…” or “ability to manage the learning environment”).

But aren’t those personal traits as important?

Of course they are! We can define some of them as competencies — the ability to communicate clearly and perform active listening skills, for example.

But exuding enthusiasm and passion or having a sense of humor? It seems to me you either have those qualities or you don’t. Even so, they’re qualities that the best trainers (and facilitators) possess, don’t you think?

So, do we handle the personal characteristics as part of the job interview when seeking good trainers, and leave the competencies as job performance criteria?

What do you think? How do you define a great trainer/facilitator? How do you balance the personal characteristics that make a great trainer with the core competencies of training?


Posted in Learning in General, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Something e-Old, Something e-New

Posted by Ellen on March 20, 2010

Sounds sort of stinky, doesn’t it?

Well, according to the results of a broad-reaching survey done by Allison Rossett, professor emerita of educational technology at San Diego State University, and James Marshall, consultant and educational technology faculty member at SDSU, current elearning is a combination of old and new — but mostly old.

The research is “broad-reaching” because five groups invited members to participate in the survey — groups that include a range of learning (and elearning) professionals:

  • ASTD
  • The eLearning Guild
  • The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)
  • PINOT (Performance Improvement Non-Training Solutions)

Rossett and Marshall focused on determining what we’re all *actually doing* when we say we’re doing elearning. Are we doing…

Online collaboration?

Mobile delivery?

Asynchronous programs with visuals and audio?

Training in virtual worlds?

Blogs and wikis? Twitter? YouTube?

Thanks to the authors’ willingness to share just their results even more broadly, you can catch a full article about it in the January 2010 issue of T+D from ASTD, listen to a podcast of the article , and/or you can view a recording of a Webinar she did to discuss the results. [Note that Elluminate requires a Java download that will launch automatically when you complete the registration form.]

I opted for the Webinar recording, “eLearning is Not What You Think It Is,” and highly recommend you choose at least one of the ways to see this report. The results will give you an idea of where your association’s elearning sits right now compared to where it is in other organizations.

Here’s a teaser:

Their carefully crafted “snapshots” uncovered these five most frequently occurring elearning practices:

1. Online testing.

2. Use of computers as part of classroom instruction.

3. “Our programs present content and opportunities to practice and receive feedback. Employees work on these tutorials at a time of their own choosing.” (I’d call this asynchronous, stand-alone learning with embedded learning checkpoints and feedback.)

4. “Our programs use visuals with an audio track. Employees watch and listen at a time of their choosing.” (I’d call this asynchronous learning, including archived Webinars, without embedded learning checkpoints.)

5. “Our programs are based on realistic scenarios that press employees to make choices and learn from the results of those choices.” (I’d call this using branching scenarios.)

With all the buzz lately about incorporating social learning into the mix, are you as surprised as I am to see it missing from the top 5?

And the “least frequently occurring elearning practice”? Mobile learning, with training in virtual worlds in next-to-last place.

“Personalized learning” topped the wish list and lack of funding was the primary elearning constraint.

As Rossett notes, “Old favorites dominated our study. eLearning today appears to be mostly about delivering assessments and designs, testing, personalization, scenarios, and tutorials. All these are familiar, and they all have deep roots in the training and development community.”

She also points out that “Those who reported themselves to be leaders reported more of everything than did practitioners.”

Those of us who are “doing” know the constraints we face everyday, despite our wish list, despite nodding our heads in agreement with the bloggers and consultants who tell us we need to be doing more A, B, or C.

Yes, we should be doing some things differently. But the reality is that we are on huge ships that are hard enough to turn when you’re at the helm. And when you’re not the captain, it’s that much more difficult to change direction.

What can help make the difference? A well-formulated elearning strategy of course 🙂

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Justifying aLearning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

14 Things We Can Learn from the BEST – Part 4

Posted by Ellen on January 7, 2010

What started as a short list of what we can learn from the winners from ASTD’s 2009 BEST Awards grew, so here’s the third of four posts.

Remember, these are in no particular order. No special year-end countdown here. They’re all important!

12. Most winners engender or are transitioning into a more collaborative learning environment, pushing away from conventional “sage on the stage” presentation of content formats and providing more options for employees to connect directly with each other and to work across the miles via online collaboration tools.
      India’s Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited implemented a system to help coordinate job rotations and exposure to diverse roles within the organization.
      The Dahej Manufacturing Division of Reliance Industries Limited provides cross-discipline/cross-functional training to its employees, including an “engineering for non-engineers” program.
      — What cross-functional learning opportunities are you providing your members so they build a resume that will open up opportunities for them, should they need to change jobs?
      — What could you be doing to facilitate cross-functional learning within your association’s staff?
      — Other than implementing social media, what are you doing — or could be doing — to encourage collaboration and peer-to-peer education?
13. All winners have success criteria and/or outcome measurement in place. Many include learner scorecards or other ways for learners to see for themselves where they are in their personal education path and their next steps.
      — What key metrics determine the success of your educational programs? How well are you tracking them? Are they the appropriate metrics or should they be re-visited? 
     — Are you providing ways for your members to track the training they’re receiving through your association? Do you offer a PLE (Personal Learning Environment) in some format that’s accessible directly to them? Or are they forced to call your office and ask you for a list of what they attended? How can you make it as easy as possible for your members to access their own learning records?

14. Most winners recognize the dynamics of change. Whether that change occurs in the company’s dynamic (via merge, acquisition, restructuring or other shift) or is the result of external forces (increased competition, rapid evolution of technology, etc.), these companies are helping their employees adapt and embrace that dynamic, and their training departments are central in developing those programs.
      — What are you doing to help your members anticipate and adapt to changes in their environment?
      — Are you doing all you can to help your association to deal with change internally? Is your staff ready to cope with a sudden or dramatic shift caused by external factors? Internal circumstances? What could you be doing differently? Better?

Please see the ASTD’s October 2009 T+D magazine for a full listing of winners and complete descriptions of what they’ve done to deserve the honor. (Yes, I’m behind in my reading, but wasn’t this worth the wait?)

What have you learned from our cousins in corporate training? What have you implemented or avoided?

What are you watching them do to see if it works for them before plunging in?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Measuring Results | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

14 Things We Can Learn from the BEST – Part 3

Posted by Ellen on January 5, 2010

What started as a short list of what we can learn from the winners from ASTD’s 2009 BEST Awards grew, so here’s the third of four posts.

Remember, these are in no particular order. No special year-end countdown here.
9. All winners see their function with a wider lens than simply as “education” or training. The trainers at DPR, a commercial construction company, created a database of environmentally-friendly products and services that also guides employees in decision-making around the options. This internal, proprietary software will likely help this organzation sustain its lead in the construction business.
      The learning organization at Barilla America, the North American operation of Barilla Group, a top Italian food corporation, designs, develops, and facilitates the organization’s annual strategic planning sessions in partnership with the organization’s leadership.
      — What’s your role in your association’s strategic planning sessions? Could you be providing more expertise as a facilitator? Organizer? In training small group discussion leaders?
      — Are you seeing the possibilities a database can provide for informal, just-in-time learning?
      — Other than social networking (which should be assumed at this point), what other non-course options are you implementing to aid your members in learning?
      — What job aids and other materials could you be providing your members to help them perform their tasks more efficiently? At lower cost?

10. With the occasional implementation of such things as mobile and virtual world (i.e., Second Life) learning, few of the winners actually broke new ground in how they’re developing or delivering their training. Instead, they’re using tried-and-true elearning and face-to-face methods to reach their educational goal, often mixing them within a single module or course to achieve that end.
      The Fallon Clinic, a group medical practice, implemented their Patient Shadowing Program so staff and clinicians could be observed from the patient’s perspective; the results contribute to their ability to increase patient satisfaction scores. They believe the program’s ROI was 298% over the cost of an external consultant.
      — How could implement a shadowing program to benefit your association? How could it benefit
your staff? Your volunteers? Your content leaders?
      — Are you maximizing mentoring, coaching, and other individual training modes within your association? What could you be doing differently?
      — Are you leveraging the benefits of role-playing within your education events? Scenarios? “I Survived….” case studies? Project-based learning? 
      — How could you “re-mix” your content to meet needed learning goals while leveraging the available media?
      — What’s the most creative thing you could do, right now, today, that would help an ailing educational session? (Don’t say you don’t have one; everybody does.)

11. A few of the winners branded their learning curricula around a theme. Alabama’s Mayer Electric Supply Co. Inc. used the abbreviation of their learning initiative, MAST (Mayer’s Acquisition Support and Training) as a nod to Homer’s Odysseus, and incorporated Greek mythology.
      Public accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton incorporated a musical theme when it rolled out their Tax Symphony tax services and methodology tool suite.
      — Is there a theme, symbol, or unifying image you could be using to tie your curriculum together, create a brand, or otherwise make your offerings and/or their content more memorable?

Think this covers all the BEST ideas? Not yet!
Next time: 12-14

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

14 Things We Can Learn from the BEST – Part 2

Posted by Ellen on January 4, 2010

What started as a short list of what we can learn from the winners from ASTD’s 2009 BEST Awards grew, so here’s the second of four posts.

Oh, and did I mention that these are in no particular order? No special year-end countdown here — they’re all important.
5. With budgets cut everywhere, more training departments have been faced with doing more with less. Rapidly-changing markets also demand that education and training be developed and deployed more quickly than ever.
      What are you doing to shorten your design to delivery process while retaining the level of quality your members expect?
      How can technology help?
      How agile are your volunteer content leaders and contributors when it comes to providing the expertise you need, when you need it? What are you doing to help them be as efficient in their roles as they can be?

6. Some organizations are finding that their employees are responding exceedingly well to college credit. Partnering with colleges and universities — near and far, via distance education and elearning — is going beyond connecting for mutual content to providing college credit, sometimes for reduced fees.
      Are you making the most of existing college and other courses to provide the best content AND value to your members?

7. Successful organizations integrate learning within all functions. For example, CSC (formerly Computer Sciences Corporation) launched a brand campaign — and the learning function was involved in several ways.
      How involved are you in supporting marketing, membership, leadership, and other association functions?
      Are you recognized internally as providing unique value, or is education narrowly defined in your organization? For example, who drives and implements orientation or your new board members? Isn’t this a training situation? If you don’t have a role in it, why don’t you?

8. A few have incorporated careful use of well-designed games to accomplish the learning objectives. In one case, a Jeopardy-style game measures learning retention for an online course; in another, the game is used during face-to-face training to stimulate discussion and because one team will win, competition drives participation and bonding with colleagues.
     Are you using games within your offerings? Are they added extras to keep people’s attention, or do they contribute to the learning goals? 
      If you have not added games to your learning mix, why not? If you’re sure your members wouldn’t respond to game within learning, have you asked colleagues at similar associations about their luck with games? (Sometimes the people you’d least expect to respond to them become your greatest supporters!)
What else can we learn from our first cousins in corporate training?

Next time: 9-11

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