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We are just one week from the start of DevLearn 2019 and I am happy to see I am not the only one getting excited! We are so lucky to have 3 people from our Learning Solutions team attending this year so we can truly divide and conquer! The only time we will probably all be in the same room and session is for the keynotes. Speaking of the keynotes…
As a data science geek, I am especially looking forward to Talitha Williams’ session on “Using Data to Inform Learning and Work”. The next big technological disruption is here and it’s data.
Do we have the right data?
L&D has been gathering data for decades. Smile sheets, course evaluations, surveys, skills assessments and more recently e-learning completion rates, time spent on a screen, website analytics, and the list goes on. But before we do the analytics and try to glean insights about our learners from this data, we need to be sure we are capturing the right data.
We have all been consuming L&D data like candy, but if it isn’t the right data, the information that can tell us about what our learners need and want, then we are just churning out meaningless metrics and measures.
Examples of bad data and insights (and I am just as guilty as the next person):
In order to get to information and insight, we need to gather the right data and we need to get better at it. In the age of xAPI, LXD, AI, Machine Learning and the ability to track nearly every click, search term and user behavior, L&D is still running to catch up. We are trying to use the same measures and data (the “old way”) of measuring learning outcomes and learner performance.
I know I am guilty of using the “old way”: “We have a 56% course completion rate so they must like it. – Success!”
Using the standard data and metrics and asking a different question just isn’t going to work anymore.
Examples of better data and some insights:
“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” – Carly Fiorina
Once we get over ourselves and stop using the “old ways” to collect data and start collecting the right data, we can then start looking for insight in the information. This is the tough part, what does all this data mean and how can we make decisions and get buy-in from this data? We are finally on the brink of Big Data finding its place in L&D but we need to be the catalyst for change. We have to change how we gather and interpret the data and then change how we distribute this information to the broader organization in a way that is actionable.
Here are some examples of good data, insights and action:
Data: Only 30 out of 60 people attended the training course
Insights: Survey of those that didn’t attend showed that the course was too basic and not in the right modality
Action: Create an advanced module in a different modality that can be completed at any time.
Let’s start learning from our learners – it all begins with the right data and insight from information!
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Less than 2 weeks away from the start of DevLearn 2019 and we are finalizing our plans, selecting sessions and getting excited (can you tell?) for everything that our team will learn at the conference.
DevLearn 2019 kicks off with a keynote from Sophia the Robot, an advanced humanoid robot, created by Dr. David Hanson of Hanson Robotics. Sophia will be engaging in a live interview and sharing her perspectives on how robots and AI are changing the nature of work. As I plan my schedule for DevLearn 2019, Emerging tech, AI, Machine Learning and LXP sessions are at the top of my list.
I love technology, it’s at the heart of what we do! But I have questions…..
We're smitten with technology. And we're afraid, like young lovers, that too much talking might spoil the romance. But it's time to talk. – Sherry Turkle
L&D as the end game!
AI and machine learning have already made their mark on nearly every aspect of the modern business and consumer experience, except in Learning & Development. Just like everything in L&D, we are the end game, the last mile and this means we are often the last to adopt and/or benefit from advances in technology. Same is true for AI but not because we don’t want to, it is because we don’t have the time, resources, budget and support to make it a reality. For this reason, we in the L&D field are constantly playing catch-up in a rapidly changing world of work.
How can we embrace AI in Learning?
Personalization and Contextual Learning
AI and Machine Learning already gives us a personalized, contextual, and customized experience; Alexa and Amazon Shopping, Facebook Ads, Google predictive searching, and Customer Service ChatBots to name just a few. But we in L&D are still tied to the “old” ways through audience analysis, customized learning paths and some recommended learning through key words and search terms. Why? Because we don’t have the time, resources, budget or even support at the senior level to invest in the back end of learning technology to make this a reality in the future. We love to talk about technology and how it will change the way we work in the future, but this all takes a lot of work to get the content in a format that is usable for true personalization in learning.
When are we going to have the resources and time to make it a reality?
What wakes me up at night and tickles the back of my brain is, with all of this technology, innovation, emergence of AI and Machine Learning that we have at our fingertips, how do we make it work in L&D when we are still seen as an afterthought?
How do we get the content in there?
In nearly every other part of a business (B2B or B2C) we already have business systems in place for capturing the information which can then be utilized by AI and Machine learning and into ChatBots and digital assistants to provide just-in-time information when you need it. These systems are primarily driven by marketing, customer support, professional services and operations/logistics. These functions are already gathering a wealth of information that can be used to then inform and support the consumer. We don’t have these sophisticated systems in place in L&D.
L&D is still stuck in the tech dark ages because we don’t have a seat at the table, we are not a part of the Digital Transformation conversation in business. When will L&D get a seat at the Digital Transformation table?
The challenge we are facing
Without the resources, time, budget and organizational support, we can’t yet make this a reality. Getting the content from our existing courses, modules and objects into a format that can be consumed and utilized by AI and Machine Learning is a seemingly insurmountable task.
Let’s look at the numbers:
“Hey boss, I think ChatBots are the way to go for better supporting our learners but I need the next year+ to convert our existing content into a usable format? So, I can just ignore all my other projects, right?!”
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By Louise Gaston, Program Manager, Evolve Solutions Group
DevLearn 2018 was a blast, an avalanche of useful and relevant information, and a goldmine of networking with talented and innovative individuals. It was my first year attending DevLearn and my first foray into a conference of this size where people from different industries, companies, and countries all came together for the same reason; to share their knowledge, expertise, and insight. The sheer volume of new information I learned is the reason that this post has taken me so long to write. Well, that and the fact that I wanted to take some time to see how my new-found knowledge would benefit me and my clients in a practical way.
So here it is, the top 3 things I learned at DevLearn ’18:
1. When is MicroLearning appropriate?
MicroLearning was a hot topic this year with many dedicated sessions.
It was helpful to gather the basics (since I am still learning about this topic myself) such as: what it is, the different types, accessibility factors, improving effectiveness, and tracking results.
Sharon Lo, a Learning Experience Designer raised one question in her very entertaining session “Transforming Boring Content” about MicroLearning that I hadn’t fully considered until she asked “When is MicroLearning appropriate?”
The answer is “not always”.
Cutting a longer course into several pieces and calling it MicroLearning doesn’t work nor will that increase engagement and learning retention.
Ms. Lo advised us to ask 5 key questions to determine our design strategy:
What I learned:
Not all content is right for micro-learning.
How I am applying it with my clients:
First, think about the topic and what the learner needs to get from it. Then decide if microlearning can be used. Just because it is the new/hot topic doesn’t mean it is right for everything.
Also, “Purposeful Fun” (a great term that has stuck with me since this session). Although fun should not be the main purpose or the sole intent of microlearning, if a session is educational AND fun, engagement will increase.
2. Creativity for non-creatives Lynda Barry is an author and cartoonist who talked about creativity, and how we are all creative in some way, but we just need to practice or think “creatively” about how to unlock it. This resonated with me personally since I don’t feel like I have a creative bone in my body. I prefer numbers to graphics and colors any day. Lynda told us a story about a doctoral student in education who believed she couldn’t draw, but after being partnered with a four-year-old ‘research assistant’ as part of Lynda’s work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, became the first doctoral student ever to write her thesis in cartoon form. This gives me hope for my future creativity!
What I learned:
Creativity comes in all forms and everyone has the ability to be creative and think creatively, you just have to figure out how to unlock it.
How I am applying it with my clients:
Much of the content and learning that we develop is sometimes “dry”. We work on very technical topics and complex business operations and that is not exactly the most “creative” bunch of Subject Matter Experts. (Literally my favorite thing to do.) But, we need to instill a level of creativity in how we design, develop and implement learning content so that it is engaging and fun. This requires thinking “creatively” during the development process and that “creativity” can be found in how you talk about the content, what stories the SMEs tell and how you then translate that story creatively to the learning.
3. Here we ‘grow’ again - Augmented and Virtual Reality – the teenage years.
AR and VR is not new to L&D but it is still in its “growth” stage where developments and improvements are making these technologies much more accessible.
We were introduced to Trivantis’ Cenario VR which enables organizations to produce 360 degree video based VR experiences for their learners. The prohibitively expensive hardware is becoming more affordable and you can now access the output and content on nearly every smartphone and cardboard viewer attachment.
What I learned:
AR and VR is not right for every learning need. AR and VR as it grows and develops will prove essential for demonstrating otherwise unsafe or hazardous tasks such as: safety, construction, maintenance, or hazardous situations. The opportunity to demonstrate and educate learners virtually and without risk will provide an opportunity to get immersed in the learning experience. It still remains a cost prohibitive venture for most companies and that is why I feel like we are still in the teenage years of AR and VR.
How I am applying it with my clients:
An example was shown that used interactive graphics overlaid on a live camera feed. The demonstration showed diagnosis and repair of plumbing issues without having to physically be present in the space.
A few months after DevLearn, we were presented with a challenge: demonstrate completing an engineering design review to groups located around the world so that when they arrived onsite at the facility, they could immediately get to work instead of trying to sort through how to do the work. In this case AR/VR was the perfect choice, we could take video of the existing facility then overlay the new design and virtually walk through the design review process while instructing the team on individual tasks and activities.
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Even when it is an employee's job market, we cannot forget the art of email communications. The following is a hilarious look at some communication don'ts taken from a real email exchange between myself and a Change Management candidate.
Originally posted May 2011 - Written by Cris Cohen
When applying for a job, it is best to be upfront about any limitations you may have. “Although I am willing to relocate, I am required to alert the authorities whenever I move.” However, if honesty will not help your chances, there are various other creative tactics that you can employ, most of which do not involve firearms or the sale of candid photos.
The company recently posted an opening for a Change Management position at a technology company. One gentleman who contacted [the hiring manager] was not exactly qualified for the job, much in the same way that tropical fish are not exactly qualified for work at NASA. Still, we can learn a lot from the way he pitched himself for the position. And by “we” I mean job seekers, hiring managers, and any law enforcement personnel who might be serving him with an arrest warrant in the future.
Upon receiving the candidate’s resume, [the hiring manager] wrote back with the following note.
“Thank you for your submission. After a brief review of your CV, it appears that a bulk of your experience is in the heavy manufacturing and oil & gas verticals. This project is heavily focused on high-tech software/hardware. Can you help me understand the key Change skills that you would utilize regardless of industry?”
The candidate responded to [the hiring manager] with (and this is a direct quote),
“Are you familiar with Theory of Constraints..... ? ........ It is ‘industry’ neutral.......”
Employers love it when you are coy with them. For one thing, they get really bored reading responses from people that clearly answer the questions they asked. Although they do not admit this publicly, most employers want the kind of vague, evasive emails that are usually only seen from people who are having an adverse reaction to their medications.
“What work have you done in the field of sales operations?”
Remember, you want to do all you can to stand out from the crowd, even if this labels you as a potential security problem.
“Can you tell us about a project you managed in the pharmaceutical sector?”
(Lengthy sentence in Klingon)
You will notice how this candidate also cleverly drives his point home with the use of random batches of ellipses. It is a technique that is usually only seen in correspondence from people who are institutionalized. It forces the employer to really consider not only your previous statement but also the possibility that you passed out midway through the sentence.
[The hiring manager] wrote back, thanking the candidate for his answer. Where most people would have left it at that, this candidate showed the kind of persistence seen in leaders, leaders of angry mobs and domestic terror groups.
He sent an email to [the hiring manager] that said,
“OK..... your welcome..... so what do we do next...? Do you know whqt I am talking about...?”
This email really packs a punch. In addition to having more random batches of ellipses, it also shows his enthusiasm in a challenging, you-might-want-to-consider-a-restraining-order kind of way. And yet, it also shows that he is open-minded via his use of the slightly incorrect version of “your” and his unique use of the letter “q” in the word “what”.
Before [the hiring manager] had a chance to respond with how impressed she was by all of this, the candidate sent [the hiring manager] another email. This one said,
“I went to your website.......... I doubt you even know what TOC is..... too bad for you and your client..... regards.... give me a call if you figure it out..... XXX XXX XXXX”
This brings up another important, yet little known issue. Nothing turns an employer off more than a candidate who is polite and shows respect. Many hiring managers see that as a sign of weakness and a balanced emotional state. If you want to differentiate yourself in this tough job market, you should follow this candidate’s example and fill your cover letters with the kind of condescending disgust normally only seen in rulings against serial murderers.
Yes, this candidate will obviously go far in this world. We can only hope that, wherever he goes, he takes the time to alert the authorities of his whereabouts.
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“What do you want to accomplish?”
That’s the basis of every discussion we have with clients. It doesn’t matter if you are brand new or have been working with us for 10 years, every time we start by asking, “What are you trying to accomplish?”
Once we have that established then we work backwards to determine what it is we need to do to get them there.
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We work closely with our clients to understand specifically what is needed from the learning event, and we think about the learner and the content they need to be successful. They may need a less interactive course designed to act as an instant resource, or alternatively they may need a highly interactive e-learning module designed to foster engagement throughout the program.