aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘T+D’

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 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 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 »

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 »

Tightening the Connections

Posted by Ellen on February 10, 2010

What’s the Number One reason your members join and renew? Is it because of the connections they make to others? The certification you provide that they need for their profession? The vast libraries of information and expertise within your association?

In some ways, the first two are tied to the last: members want to connect to others because of the expertise their peers can provide. They pursue a certification because of the knowledge they’ll gain from it.

Thanks to our adaption of social networking platforms, or our leveraging of those on the Web, we’re doing a better job of helping our members connect to each other.

But what about connecting our members to us? To those vast libraries of information within our association?

How quickly can they find that article they remember reading in your magazine last year sometime about Topic A?

How easily can they find a copy of the case study they heard about at the annual conference awhile three or four years ago?

On the surface, this sounds like a Knowledge Management issue. Or an Information Architecture challenge.

But it’s learning, too.

The Wall Street Journal gets it. According to an article in the November T+D magazine, Dow Jones Company “realized … that the content was more than just a newspaper or a media outlet but a teaching tool….”

They created the Wall Street Journal Business SmartKit, “an online offering that captures an entire library of Wall Street Journal articles plus special secgtions from best in class industry experts who are devoted to dynamic topics and interviews with business leaders.”

Whoa! Talk about a library of expertise at your fingertips!

The article goes on to describe that the content is organized by subject and “packaged in multiple formats including searchable newspaper articles, white papers, case studies, videos, and podcasts,” so searchers can find what they need.

The premise is that people need to know something right now, find it quickly, and apply it immediately. The SmartKit is “a knowledge resource” rather than a course or curriculum.

Are you providing easy access to your association’s knowledge resources? Or are you spending hours on end, trying to meet a members’ request for a particular article, handout, or copy of a Powerpoint presentation?

Wouldn’t your time be better served by creating an online library of those resources that your members can access independently any time, any where?

Of course it would!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Social Learning | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Learning Team of One

Posted by Ellen on January 18, 2010

So many of the resources available about elearning seem to be directed primarily at organizations (especially for-profits) with a large training staff that it’s hard to implement much of what they do — couldn’t we do so much more with bags of money and rooms full of learning specialists?

So what do organizations serving large numbers of members on the backs of one or two staff members do to accomplish their goals? And how do they do it with a tight budget and high urgency for producing timely training?

This is the learning version of a perfect storm. So much to do, so little time and even less money.

The good news is that we’re not alone in this — others have faced the same challenge and emerged with successful learning offerings.

For example, one of the ASTD 2009 BEST Award winners is VF Asia Limited, a business unit of VF Corporation. Even though VF Corporation is the largest apparel company in the world and owns such brands as Lee, Wrangler, North Face, Jansport, and Nautica, VF Asia is a small unit of fewer than 800 employees and an education staff of two, Tommy Lo and Tom Nelson.

How did they accomplish their goals? Here are a few take-aways from their experience:*

1. They had a clear plan. They recognized early on that they couldn’t reach their goals with a piecemeal approach. They devised a set of four learning areas, then identified learning topics within them that were appropriate to each employee level.
      — What’s your plan? No excuses! No time to develop one, you say? How about setting aside one hour of uninterrupted time each day to devote to it until it’s workable? How about 30 minutes a day? Put all calls through to voice mail, and close your office door. Make this the priority it should be. After all, how can you steer the ship if you don’t know what course you’re on?!? (Looking for help? “aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning” was written just for this purpose — it will walk you step-by-step through the process. Click the blue “Buy Now” button on the left to see more information about it.)

2. They based their curriculum on real business needs. For example, one initiative was launched to reduce staff turnover. By providing training to improve interviewing techniques, the unit saw a significant increase in retention and — as a bonus — shortened the lead time for filling vacancies.
      — What drives your members’ business? How can you help them improve their business performance?
      — What drives your association’s success? What puts that success at risk? Is there a training need that you could address that would alleviate that risk?

3. They leveraged elearning to make topics available at the convenience of the employees. They produced inexpensive, online tutorials to cover a range of general topics.
      — Is your mix of learning modes as efficient as it could be? Are you devoting too much time to live event development when you could be developing elearning that would reach a wider membership group and garner more revenue?
      — Can you identify a group of topics for development outsourcing — making your development dollar per vendor go farther?

4. They partnered with the corporate learning function to benefit from their existing offerings and development expertise.
      — Have you adequately identified the skill sets available among your volunteers and other potential partners to leverage their help in developing face-to-face and elearning offerings? For example, do you have a member with a Web conferencing license and experience using it who’s willing to host or produce your Webinars for you, rather than your hiring an outside vendor and paying them to do so?
     — Have you investigated partnering with a local college or university to develop alearning? Have you sought out Web development and graphic artist students who would be willing to develop tutorials or short elearning to enhance their resume and portfolio?
    — What other partnerships would enable you to hand over some time-consuming but important tasks or to bring in expertise you need?

5. They track and measure all key indicators. They can tell you how many training hours employees in their units devoured in a year, for example. They have even devised a “training effectiveness index.”
     — Have you defined the most important metrics for your learning offerings? What are they? Are you currently measuring them? If not, why not? What needs to be put into place to start?
     — Are you using your LMS (if you have one) to garner the metrics you need? Why not?
     — If you don’t have an LMS, what simple database or spreadsheet could you implement to provide the tracking you need? Who — other than you — could be tasked with keeping the data up-to-date?

The bottom line is this: you need to make the most of what little time you have (and whatever staff you have). Period.

(For more on managing your time, see the post on The Best Resolution You Can Make.)

*For the details, please see the October 2009 issue of T+D.

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