aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘elearning’

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!


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.


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.


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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More is the Word

Posted by Ellen on December 9, 2011

We’ve all been watching what’s been happening around the world: from grassroots political movements that are changing who’s running a country to mass demonstrations with multiple themes
championed by thousands of passionate followers. Flash mobs have morphed into demonstrations lasting weeks and months. More people are connecting to common causes faster and more cheaply than ever before in history.

But you knew that.

So what does this have to do with learning?

According to Duncan Lennox, co-founder and CEO of learning tech company Qstream, we should be offering “more” educational events:

“Learning is increasingly moving from occasional long events (a classroom lecture or a self-paced traditional online course, for instance) to more frequent and shorter events (five minutes of questions per day, but everyday, for example).

“Of course, this isn’t a binary situation, where it must be one or the other; instead, it’s a blend of event types and lengths, but with a consistent shift over time away from ‘long but few’ to ‘short but often.'”

Lots of face-to-face events, for most organizations — especially small, underfunded groups — just isn’t practical. Not only would the logistics be a nightmare, but the likelihood that our members would be able to afford to travel more often than they already do — particularly for an event that’s even shorter in duration — is slim.

“Short but often” events must occur online. Period.

The good news is that ‘short but often’ fits online delivery extremely well, and with increasingly mobile members, ‘short but often’ fills that need as well, especially since “mobile” doesn’t mean a two-inch square phone monitor any more. Tablet computers and other super-portable devices make carrying learning almost anywhere possible.

More learning doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Think small bits.

Think “easy to develop and access” options: podcasts, simple tutorials, Tweets, blog posts.

You can KISS (Keep It Stupidly Simple) and still do more.

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Welcome to the Learning Decade!

Posted by Ellen on July 24, 2011

So says Sam Herring, writing for Fast Company¬† in his article, “Moving Toward 2010: The Learning Decade” (3/21/11) .

Bravo! I’m all for that. Of course, I wouldn’t limit the value of learning to just one decade, but if we must, this one is as good as any.

Better, says Herring. All because of the Great Recession. “…[M]ore and more organizations recognize that learning can help solve the most vexing economic and financial problems of the day. As a result, we predict that the years leading up to 2020 will be known as ‘The Learning Decade.'”

What about that?!?

He goes on to note the key drivers behind increases in corporate learning investments:

  • Top-Line Innovations
  • Disruptive Technology (especially social media, digital games, and mobility)
  • Competitive Pressures
  • Increasing Speed
  • Beyond Commodity (determining “how to efficiently synthesize this fungible data in order to obtain the incisive clarity required to drive genuine innovation and growth” — yep, that’s what it says)
  • Virtuous Circle (“Knowledge will become the new value-add, and the ultimate growth differentiator, as we approach 2020.”)
  • Emerging Markets
  • Industry Change
  • Industry Consolidation
  • Brain Drain
  • Failing Grade (we’ll come back to this one)
  • Return to Growth (and we’ll come back to this one)
  • Future Jobs (this one, too)
  • Knowledge Workers
  • Leadership Vacuum
  • Culture Change
  • Unanticipated Conditions

All of these offer tremendous opportunities for associations and professional societies’ learning departments. Read the article. Brainstorm all the ways you could fill the gaps that Herring notes amidst this list — you’ll probably even think of a few specific to your industry that he might have missed.

I’ll get you started. Take another look at the three items I promised we’d come back to.

Each of these are very specific to education in general. Some employees (and potential association members) will hire on with gaps in their education we could be filling (Failing Grade); others will have been out of the workforce during this long recovery and will have some educational catching-up to do (Return To Growth); and still other industries will see jobs emerge and change as a result of the shifting times (Future Jobs) — again creating gaps we can fill.

Okay… now that your brain is working, go read that article and start your own list of possibilities.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Get ICEd!

Posted by Ellen on July 13, 2011

It’s a wonderful thing when you stumble across an article that says exactly what you’ve been trying to find the words to express…. That’s what happened when I started reading Rick Wilson’s article, “Learning Content is Not Your Job Any More: The Effect of Convergence” from¬† e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine (June 21, 2011 issue).

I’ll try to summarize without duplicating the article, which is worth the time to thoroughly pour over. He starts with two new rules about learning leaders’ responsibilities:

“Rule One: You are no longer in the business of learning content development and delivery.”

“Rule Two: You are in the business of bringing dexterity to your content.”
This is because of the “convergence” of learning content within an organization: educational events and training aren’t separate from other organizational content, not anymore. Learning isn’t a series of courses, not even within a curriculum. Instead, we’re amidst a convergence of all institutional knowledge.

So instead of spending our time and energy creating new courses and sessions and learning events, we need to devote ourselves to “intelligent content engineering” (a phrase he credits Joe Gollner with) and is, essentially (to paraphrase Wilson), rendering your organization’s content manageable, enhancing its searchability, and producing it “in formats that collectively create remarkable new value for the content.”

How awesome is that?

It’s what’s been called “knowledge management,” but from a learning point of view.

I know I say “This is critical” a lot in this blog, and I always mean it. That’s true for this concept as well.

Here’s why “intelligent content engineering” (let’s call it ICE for short — cool acronym, huh!?) is critical and why it’s such a great fit and opportunity for associations and non-profits…

Wilson goes on to cite these important statistics from Robert Eichinger and Michael Lomgardo from The Center for Creative Leadership:

  • 10% of learning can be attributed to formal instruction
  • 20% “occurs through other people informally, or formally through coaching and mentoring”
  • 70% is the result of “real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem-solving”

Some might argue the actual percentages, asserting that the last category is more like 80%, with only 10% coming from coaching and mentoring, but the numbers aren’t as important as the general balance of them (or imbalance, maybe).

Associations and professional societies do a great job of hooking our members up to accomplish the first two, so they can exchange what they’ve learned through the third.

So it’s not that we haven’t created an atmosphere for all three environments to be exploited.

It’s that we could be — should be — doing it better. And we could, with ICE. Two concepts about ICE in particular are essential: search (discovery) and distribution (delivery), “while also promoting contextualizing content,” writes Wilson.

Sounds deep. But we’re already doing a lot of that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and here’s a brain dump:

  • We have lots and lots of tacit knowledge in our organizations. our members are experts on topics specific to the industries and professions we serve. (Member benefit: industry-specific resources)
  • We already connect members to each other so they can share best practices, help with problem-solving, advocacy, and in other ways where lots of heads are better than one. (Member benefit: networking)
  • We already provide our members with excellent (if we do say so ourselves) training to help them become even better at what they do. We do this with our face-to-face sessions and online. (Member benefit: professional development and certification)

But we’re missing something. And that something is an engine that makes it all much faster and easier. It’s more than a discussion list with links… more than a Web-accessible library of white papers, articles and research reports… more than an internal social networking space… more than an online marketplace where members can get books, online courses and tutorials, and other materials.

It’s something bigger than all that, something that ties them all together.

Wilson says the processes we use will have to change; we won’t just be designing and offering FTF and online educational sessions. “Processes remain important,” he writes, “but processing is now about content ingestion, aggregation, cataloging, indexing, orchestration, curation, transformation, and transmission.”

He goes on to say, “Success will require an ability to facilitate an organizational-specific model with variable options for content access and use, including end-user abilities for authoring, publishing, and distributing content. You are going to need provision for managing the content generation from virtual communities, social networks, and exchanges outside organizational control (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, industry blogs, and ad hoc media sources.”

In effect, he concludes, we won’t be developers of educational sessions anymore. We’ll be content curators — adding another voice to others who have predicted this same future for us.

I’ll add a few more aspects to this entire conglomerate that is ICE: the system (whatever it will be that will make searching and accessing all of these resources possible) will have to provide for learners to download, link to, and otherwise “extract” the pieces and parts that are of the greatest value to them. Why?

  • Our members will want to design their own personal learning environment (PLE), and we have to make it easy for them to do that. I’ve said it before — if we can provide them with the *ultimate* environment for creating their professional PLE — we’ll have provided a benefit that puts us ahead of our competition. If we are the conduit — if we become their primary feed, for example — for their Twitterfeed, blogroll, and general Web resources filtered by search/category, then we have made it easy for them to access the latest info and data in the fastest possible way.
  • The increasing creation of personal learning networks (PLNs) means more and more of our members will be sharing resources with more and more contacts. As members link up outside our organization (yes, it happens; get your head out of the sand already!), they’ll come across more and more resources that would benefit all of our members to be able to access. Why not be the conduit for that?!?
  • Most importantly, the system must provide a well-publicized opportunity for members to share *their own* expertise. What blogs to they write? What articles have they published? What advice do they have to offer? What problems have they solved? Including the knowledge intrinsic in your association is what will truly set your ICE system apart from even a very good Google search. Encouraging — urging — members to directly contribute content can pull in remote and otherwise inactive members on the one end and provide a platform for those who wish to increase their professional profile on the other. Regardless of your members’ reasons for contributing, everyone benefits.
  • Your ICE system must be more than a news reader. More than a blogroll. More than a wiki. More than a social network. This is a dashboard portal that delivers immediate access to key resources and quality results from any search. It’s a system that allows members to rate entries and comment on them. It’s a system that allows members to add links and participate in updating and managing it. It’s a churning, ever-growing system.

Future members of our associations aren’t officially called the Google generation, but they should be. They’re growing up accustomed to being able to find answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and connect to people worldwide with a few clicks. “Time is the new currency,” someone said.

If we don’t create an ICE system for our members, somebody else will. Then you’ll really have something to worry about when it comes to member renewals, don’t you think?

Do such systems exist? Yes. Wilson’s article describes one in place at a large corporation¬† — but with annual maintenance costs of over $1 million, it’s prohibitively expensive for most associations.

Even so, we should advocate for the development of such systems at lower cost and structured for our needs.

Who’s with me on this?!?

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

Oh, No!! It’s Back!!

Posted by Ellen on April 28, 2011

What’s back? The soaring cost of oil… which means increased travel costs… which could also mean fewer members having the funds to get to your face-to-face (FTF) learning events.

I’m trying not to say “I told you so… I warned you to get your elearning act in gear… I cautioned you about ignoring the lessons we were supposed to learn back in 2008….”

Okay, maybe your association wasn’t affected then and isn’t seeing an effect now.

But you probably will at some point, even if airline prices don’t go through the roof; even if direct, hassle-free flights get easier to find; even if hotels are willing to give you more than ever to attract your association’s events.

Here’s why.

A recent study by Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines reveals the following:

  • 69% of training hours are being conducted outside of FTF sessions
  • eLearning, blended or virtual methods account for 54% of all training hours; 50% in the government sector.

Here’s the take-away quote from the summary article: “Instructor-led classroom based learning is on the decline in both the enterprise and government sectors…Instructor-led classroom-based learning is falling in popularity among all corporations.”

Why should this matter to you?

  1. Your members are employed somewhere, by someone; these employers are probably corporations or the government.
  2. If those employers are using elearning more and more while cutting back on FTF training, they’ll wonder why their employees have to “go someplace” for their professional development, rather than access those educational sessions online.

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: we need to repurpose our educational offerings.

I won’t just say it. Here are some suggestions:

  • Pursue eLEARNING. Show your members you’re offering cutting edge online sessions. Speak the same learning language. You’ll increase your credibility and earn their continued business (and that’s what it is, really, getting right down to it).
  • Revamp the annual conference. REDUCE the number of on-site educational sessions. Link them to online pre-events and post-events, whether those be asynchronous sessions, Webinars, or other modalities.
  • With fewer educational sessions, you can better manage HOW they’re conducted. Get session leaders to show you how they’ll get the learners to DO something. Ask them, “What skill will they have when they leave the session that they didn’t have when they arrived? How will they PRACTICE that skill during the session?”
  • Incorporate activities, including GAMES. According to the study, “Interest in serious games shows a 111% increase.” Get past the assumption that your members somehow won’t respond to games. Instead of “game” think “competition.” Who doesn’t have a favorite professional team, or play a “friendly” game of golf or poker? At the heart of these activities is competition. Re-think your idea of “games” and get with it!
  • Feed the need to SOLVE PROBLEMS. Yeah, we all know a lot of conference attendees show up to “network.” Ask them why and you’ll discover there are probably two primary reasons: to find a job or solve a problems. With some of the new time you’ve carved out in your conference schedule, provide open-format sessions for solving problems, meeting challenges, and sharing great ideas. What better payback for the time and money spent attending than for someone to be able to go back to their corporate or government boss and say, “We spent $1000 for me to go to this conference, but now I have a solution to our $15,000 problem!”??
  • Plan to SPEND more money. With fewer sessions, you will need fewer rooms, maybe even less F&B. Use the saved money for increasing line items for A/V so you can provide Web access, rented laptops for actvities, and whatever else is needed so your learners can practice new skills rather than sit and listen to speakers.
  • Start EARLIER. To plan how you’ll allocate funds across the sessions, provide the needed guidance to content leaders, and incorporate pre-event actvities, you’ll need extra time. How many times have you said, “We would have done X, if only we’d had more time to prepare”?!?

Stop making excuses — make changes instead.

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