The Modern Learner: Are You Meeting Their Needs?

January 30, 2018 18:10 by Dana Peters
Thanks to several factors, five generations make up today’s workforce; each with their own unique aspirations, motivations, and life experiences. It’s quite possible today’s workforce is the most diverse any business leader has experienced. From a training standpoint, the changing workforce and the emergence of new technology has changed the definition of what today’s learner looks like regardless of generation. The modern learner knows no age. It’s imperative that companies and learning development professionals continually grow and adapt their learning culture to meet the expectations of today’s learner. Reaching today’s learner begins with understanding who they are and what they want.   We’ve developed a short list to define today’s modern learner. Knowing and understanding who today’s modern learner is, can help you decide if your company is doing everything it can to reach them effectively.    Today’s modern learner is…   Requires Convenience   Today’s learner is on the go. They want to be able to ‘learn’ everywhere they are. This can mean accessing learning opportunities from their desk computer and phone, but it can also mean accessing it from home, accessing it from a tablet, or from their mobile device, whenever and wherever they want to.   Seeks Instant Gratification Time is valuable for today’s learner. They are often overwhelmed and overworked and almost always distracted by some internal or external force. Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that the average attention span of today’s adult is just 8 seconds. That means in 8 seconds or less, your learner will decide if your session is worth his or her time. Clearly stating the objectives up front, the course agenda, and intended benefits of the session will hold the learners attention for the duration of the session. Mixed media including video, activities, and small group work will also help retain learners’ attention. In addition, today’s learner wants answers now. On demand learning is crucial for today’s learner. That’s why technology like Google, Alexa, and Suri are so popular. It’s important to make sure your company can provide opportunities and resources for in the moment and on demand learning.    Demands Value & Relevance   This too plays into gratification. Today’s modern learner wants it all. Not only do they demand instant gratification and convenience. They want big returns on their investment of time and energy. Time is valuable and today’s learner does not want to spend time away from day-to-day work for something that has little or no relevance to their current responsibilities or doesn’t enhance their potential for that next promotion or career move.   In Control   The modern learner wants to be in control of his or her learning and development. They want options and choices and they want to be in control of their career and development path. Learning choices should vary in content, in length, in availability, and in medium. The modern learner does not need mandatory learning and development requirements to learn. They choose learning, but it must be flexible, convenient, and on their own terms.   Collaborative   Social elements drive today’s society, both on the personal and professional front. Today’s learners rely on Google for answers and they look to peers and colleagues to provide them with the ability to support their learning on the job. In fact, Bersin reports that nearly 80 percent of workforce learning happens via on the job interactions with peers, teammates, and managers. As stated above, the modern learner wants to learn. They want to grow and adapt to be more successful on their job and they want to share their ideas and collaborate with other like-minded professionals.   I want to be clear, the modern learner can be found in all generations. Too often, these discussions take place with a focus on serving a younger, more technology focused generation.  A Baby Boomer, for example, can appreciate the convenience and technology virtual learning provides just as much (or even more) than a millennial.   Now that you know more about what the modern learner looks like, is your company doing everything it can to reach them?   Let us know in the comments below!  

Learning Trends to Watch in 2018

January 9, 2018 15:25 by Dana Peters
  With the New Year upon us, we look ahead towards the opportunities in our field to meet the needs of our clients. Based on our conversations with our clients, the following are the hot topics on their project radars for 2018.   Mobile Learning Mobile devices are everywhere. This is not a new trend. Learning professionals continue to adapt in order to accommodate learners’ mobile lifestyles. Companies have already started moving their content to mobile platforms and applications. Employees rely on mobile devices to access information and training content while on the job. This trend goes beyond the formal training session to meeting the learners where they are, when they need the information. Mobile learning also supports another trend we see gaining in popularity: Microlearning. Microlearning Time is valuable. So is training. Companies are starting to realize that not every training opportunity needs (or can) be a two day training session. Our clients have started to take advantage of microlearning opportunities, short bursts of learning that employees can consume in a short period of time. The trend suggests that as more people continue to do more with less, microlearning techniques are better received and retained by employees. We expect this trend to continue. Content Curation Part of content curation again speaks to the individuals desire to have knowledge at their finger tips. The increase in accessibility of the internet, particularly on mobile devices, puts answers in front of people almost immediately. In a learning atmosphere, we can use that thirst for knowledge by curating relevant and accurate information in one place for employees. We see this happening with unique internal content such as company manuals, policies, procedures etc., but also by leveraging relevant and useful existing content from external sources. This might be content on federal regulations, from law libraries, or targeted general topics such as proper email etiquette, or health and wellness information. Big Data As today’s business world continues to move in a digital direction, data in the business world becomes easier to collect and use. Industries across the board are realizing the value of collecting that information and the learning industry is no different. Again, not a new trend, but we see our clients continuing to capture analytics on learning tool utilization, content access, and knowledge application on the job.  Using the data helps learning and development professionals quantify activity and show value they can directly link to business results. Distributed Workforce This is also a trend we have continued to see grow over the past several years. As more employees desire flexible work schedules and technology continues to improve working from home, larger groups of employees are able to do their jobs remotely. A remote workforce can present new challenges. Managers leading remote teams need different skills to support their teams successfully. Our clients and other learning professionals continue to enhance learning curriculum in support of the skills necessary for both individual contributors and managers to be successful in a remote work environment. Gamification of Learning This is a trend we will explore in more detail later this year, but we do see this trend continuing to gain traction in 2018. New studies indicate that some forms of game based learning have higher retention rates than more traditional methods. We see some clients exploring gamification methods to take the mundane out of mandatory training requirements and encourage employees to engage in the learning process. Some organizations are exploring new ways to ‘gamify’ their existing learning programs for their in house training, compliance courses, information security, and other procedural trainings. As we kick off 2018, we will be on the lookout for these and other trends in the industry, and will continue to share our resources and experiences. Wishing you great success in the year ahead.

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Learning Trends

Success in the Virtual Classroom: Are Your Virtual Facilitators Ready?

October 5, 2017 10:08 by Dana Peters
On rare occasions you might have the opportunity to develop new virtual classroom facilitators one on one. But more commonly, new facilitators need to be brought on board in groups. Often the content they will be teaching is the common denominator, therefore a solid Train the Trainer program is the most efficient option for preparing a group of virtual facilitators. The following are some best practices we see to be common amongst successful Train the Trainer (TTT) programs. Facilitator Pre-workIntroduce facilitators to the course content before the first TTT session takes place. This can be done by asking the facilitators to review a recording of a previously delivered session, or silently observe a live session in real time being taught by an experienced facilitator. This review or observation will allow them to familiarize themselves with the content and how the course is delivered.  Encourage facilitators-in-training to take notes from this review, specifically what the experienced facilitator did well, and how they engaged their learners. The facilitators-in-training should also consider what they might do differently in their own delivery of the content. This review will also give them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technical capabilities and tools of the virtual classroom. Coaching on TechniqueDepending on the experience level of your facilitators, the TTT sessions are also an opportunity to further develop or fine tune facilitation techniques. When TTT sessions are entirely focused on content, timing, and logistics, they fall short of preparing facilitators to their full potential. Successful TTT programs dedicate time to facilitation skill development, specifically the use of different techniques, methods for building a safe learning environment, and encouraging learner participation. Link to Learning ObjectivesFront and center of all TTT programs should be the purpose of the learning programs the facilitators-in-training will be delivering. The well-defined learning goals and learning objectives of each course the facilitators will be delivering should serve as their compass. Their job will be to help their learners meet these learning objectives and walk away equipped to be more effective back on the job.  Facilitators make in the moment judgement calls during live sessions on a regular basis. A successful TTT program gives them a solid foundation of purpose in which they can base their “in the moment” decisions, large or small. Rehearsals Some TTT sessions are conducted as more of a content walk-through session. There certainly is a time and place for content walk-throughs. However, successful TTT programs also have a rehearsal component. This means the facilitators-in-training have the opportunity to practice delivering the content as if it were a live session. Their peers can serve as their learners as discussions are led and activities are conducted. Feedback and coaching from these rehearsals are usually reported to be the most valuable piece of the TTT experience for the facilitators involved.Live Session Observation and FeedbackDevelopment of new facilitators should move beyond the TTT program. It’s important to evaluate a new facilitator’s ability to deliver sessions once they are off and running with live class deliveries. Consider instituting a process of live evaluation and post session coaching that includes written feedback. What experiences have you had with your Train the Trainer programs? What worked for you? What didn’t? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Virtual Learning Programs That Survive and Thrive

September 26, 2017 13:33 by Dana Peters
Adaptability is the name of the game when it comes to the long-term survival of the virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs you design, develop, and deploy. Continuous change is the environment most organizations are operating in, which means we need to move with change as Learning and Development professionals. And certainly we want to do more than just “weather the storm”. We want to thrive as we forge ahead to meet the business needs of the ever changing organizations we serve.Are you prepared to respond quickly when: Leadership changes are made? A merger or acquisition is announced? The vision, mission, and/or goals of the company shift? A swing in your market place occurs, positive or negative? You, your colleagues, and your vILT programs must be nimble and flexible enough to adapt to these changes. But how? We suggest a proactive approach that includes the following five actions. Develop Rough Action Plans. Take time to think about realistic scenarios that you could face in the near future. Develop a rough action plan to give you a leg up if the scenario were to actually occur. Invest Time in Continuous Improvement Processes. Once you’ve designed and implemented your vILT programs, it’s important to maintain lines of communication to make sure your programs continue to align with the company mission and leadership’s goals. Reviewing your vILT courses on a regular basis allows you to refresh portions of the content as changes and updates are needed. Without a continuous review, your course can quickly become obsolete, and without the occasional minor update, you may experience the need for a complete overhaul of your course design. Or it may be seen as bringing no value and be eliminated altogether. Ask for Feedback From Your Learners. In line with continuously reviewing your vILT programs, it’s important to gather feedback from your learners on a regular basis. The collection of learners’ needs over time helps you to understand how job functions are changing and what skill development opportunities would bring the most value to the business. This intel should help you bring the right learning opportunities, to the right people, at the right time. Educate and Inform Leadership. As Learning and Development professionals you probably know your programs inside and out. Your leadership team may not. In order to showcase the value of your programs it’s important to involve leadership in the process. Make sure they are aware of how the vILT programs are performing. Specifically, how they are meeting the needs of the business. For more information on how best to track the value of your vILT program, check out our post: Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off: Measuring Success Back on the Job. Communicate Value and Results. Along the lines of educating your leadership team, vILT programs should be championed at all levels of the company. If the value of your programs have been communicated effectively; when changes occur, you’ll have the advantage of advocates on many fronts. If updates to your programs do need to be made, multiple perspectives can diversify the conversation on how best to do that. These proactive efforts will help to secure your vILT programs long-term success, and the consistent, high quality learning opportunities your learning population needs to be successful on the job. What other actions have you taken to be sure your virtual learning programs can survive and thrive through the changes that may lie ahead?

Are You a Facilitator or a Teacher?

July 12, 2017 11:38 by Dana Peters
  For those of you tasked with the responsibility of delivering courses in the virtual classroom for large corporations, I have a question. Would you label yourself as a facilitator or one of teacher? According to Merriam-Webster… A facilitator is defined as: “someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision”. A teacher is: “one whose occupation is to instruct”. Let’s go back to high school. A teacher stands in front of a class of impressionable young minds. These minds are young, generally lack experience in the subject, and look to the teacher to do just that: teach. These young students go to school to be taught; math, science, chemistry, Spanish etc. Often it is the teacher delivering the information, and students listening and taking notes. Historically, though there are exceptions, it is a passive activity for the students. In corporate learning it’s different, or at least it should be. In the corporate world, your learners are often professionals, sometimes with 5, 10, or even 20 years of real-world experience available to tap into and expand upon. Most will be laser focused on how they spend their time. When attending a required training class they are going to be looking for the benefit to spending their time away from their work. If this is not quickly identified they will probably mentally check out.  The learning experience needs to be personalized, relevant to their work, and clearly advantageous to their success back on the job. The more control they have in the learning process the more committed they will be to the outcomes.  To be effective, we must facilitate learning.  Why is this distinction important? Facilitators encourage discussion and questions related to real-life situations and examples, allowing learners to consider different ways in which the content relates to their jobs.   In a facilitation situation, the learners drive the discussion, moving the conversation in directions that are meaningful to them and their careers. Skilled facilitators will allow this to happen, and guide the discussion to connect to the learning objectives. As a side note, strong facilitators are well prepared. Prepared facilitators know the content and the subject matter so well that conversation can flow freely, diverging several times, and still stay true to the ultimate objectives. Preparation allows the ability to be flexible, nimble, and respond to the needs of each individual. This means that each and every delivery of the content will be different, but accomplish the same objectives. As we said in a previous post, “Proper preparation, planning, and practice allow facilitators to focus on the moment, fully.” By allowing learners to drive discussion, your vILT program will be more applicable to the learners in the classroom at the moment. One class may drive the discussion one way, while another may drive it in the opposite direction. Still, each group of learners’ needs are met. I encourage you to think about your approach and your role in the virtual classroom. Are you a facilitator or a teacher?        

Creating Learning Videos Using VideoScribe

May 24, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all probably participated in a virtual instructor-led training (vILT) session where video clips were utilized. Either in a class-time activity, part of a pre-work assignment, or even embedded into marketing materials to promote the learning event. You might think those videos cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to create and require a team of career videographers to produce. In some cases, you are right, but today, I’d like to share with you a unique and inexpensive tool we’ve used to create whiteboard-style animation videos on a few instructional design projects. The tool is called VideoScribe. VideoScribe provides anybody, from experienced videographers to complete novices, the ability to create high-quality, whiteboard-style animation videos. Our designers have used the product to create learning videos for vILT courses but, for us, this tool has turned into what I call a “two for one”. Not only are we using it on instructional design projects, but we are also using it for our own marketing purposes as a creative way to communicate who we are and what we do. You can learn more about VideoScribe and how it is being used to communicate concepts, share ideas, and create awareness on their website. The client work we have done with the tool is confidential, but you can check out one of the promotional videos we developed to support our own company marketing efforts: The creative possibilities seem endless. What ways do you think you could utilize VideoScribe in your learning programs?  

Three Questions to Size-Up Learning Objectives for the Virtual Classroom

May 10, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
There are so many options when it comes to training delivery methods for your employee learning programs. How do you know when virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is the right fit?To help decide, you need to determine if vILT will meet some of your learning objectives. Notice I said some, not all. This is because usually one delivery method will not get the entire job done. It makes sense that you want your chosen delivery method to meet a healthy portion of your learning objectives, but a blended learning approach is probably going to be the most effective. A strategy that combines a blend of learning opportunities that work together to comprehensively meet all the learning objectives is often the recipe for success.But let’s get back to the question…how do you know if virtual instructor-led training is the right fit for some of your learning objectives?When working on learning design solutions for clients, we ask ourselves the following three questions to confirm whether or not vILT will meet each of the learning objectives. Do the learners need each other for learning to happen? Do the learners need to be in the same place, at the same time, to learn from each other? Will learners be able to demonstrate achievement of the stated learning objective in the virtual classroom? Let’s look at an easy example of these questions in action.Goal StatementBicycles are a popular mode of transportation in our community. The purpose of this course is to reduce accidents involving bikes by promoting the practice of bicycle safety amongst our bike riders.Learning ObjectivesBy the end of this course, participants should be able to: Explain the rules of the road Identify common bicycling hazards Determine ways to reduce the risk of crash, injury, or death Recommend appropriate safety gear Ride a bike safely Now let’s evaluate each of these objectives against our three questions. As you can see by our example: We answered “yes” to 8 out of the 15 questions (more than 50%). Only one of the learning objectives would be completely addressed exclusively through vILT. (#3 - Determine ways to reduce risk of crash, injury, or death.) Considering the learning goal statement, it is an important one. The response to “Will learners be able to demonstrate achievement of the stated learning objective in the virtual classroom?” is a “yes” on four out of the five learning objectives. Two out of the five learning objectives require learners to be in the same place, at the same time. All and all, this is a prime example of the need for a blended learning approach. vILT would be a viable option in combination with other pre-session and post session exercises, readings, knowledge checks, assignments, and partner work on the road. Hopefully, these three questions serve as yet another tool to help you evaluate the role the vILT plays in meeting your organization’s learning needs.

Using Movie Trailers to Prepare Your Participants

November 3, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Successful virtual learning programs engage learners before they even log in the virtual classroom. The purpose of bringing learners together live and online is to allow for the opportunity to collaborate, explore new ideas, and build on each other’s experiences. Time in class together is very precious. The work we ask our learners to invest independently, before class in prework, should set the knowledge base foundation they will need to be an active contributor in class and add value to their learning experience. As instructional designers, specifically for courses that take place in the virtual classroom, we have developed a variety of different types of prework. Recently, we created pre-work for a few clients that also doubled as promotional video clips for virtual training courses we were developing. We called them movie trailers. These short videos are easy to view and not only help inform potential participants about the session to create interest in registering, but quickly educates them on core concepts related to the topic in an entertaining way. I wanted to pass along the tool that we used to create these clips.  Filmora is a video editing software that provides frame-by-frame preview, basic editing capabilities, and simple and advanced effects in an easy-to-use, modern interface. In addition to on screen titles and text, split screen capabilities, and picture in picture, the screen-recording feature allows you to record video directly from your computer. So if you’re doing a promo video for a training session on internal process procedures or software, you can capture video that directly illustrates the process. The video stabilization feature can help steady even an amateur videographer’s shaky hand, or fast-moving images. Overall, we found Filmora to be extremely user friendly. You can utilize a lot of the program’s capabilities with the free version, but may need to upgrade (for a minimal cost) if your plan is to share or post your video on the web. What tools are you using to create video clips?

Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 1)

October 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the virtual classroom provides several advantages over the face-to-face environment for both learners and facilitators. However, the virtual environment also comes with what some may perceive as disadvantages. The most common; not being able to physically “see” your audience and the audience not being able to see you. As more and more platforms begin to add capabilities, including the ability to use web cameras in the virtual classroom, it may be assumed that the virtual session can easily be turned into a comparable face-to-face session by simply turning on your web camera. If you have spent any time communicating through a web camera, you know it is not the same as being in person. There’s a time and a place for the use of web cameras in a virtual session. In this post I’ve laid out a list of potential pros and cons you, as a facilitator, can use to evaluate whether or not your being on camera is a “value-add” or a distraction to your learners. At a glance… Pros Participants being able to see the session facilitator(s) helps put a face to name. It’s especially useful for introductions and the welcome time. Allows for virtual eye contact from the facilitator, potentially a more personal experience, if done well. Helps to establish the connection between the facilitator and the learner. Cons Web camera use can create new distractions: Participants may focus on what’s in the facilitator’s camera shot rather than paying attention to what is being discussed. (What’s that on the wall behind the facilitator?) If the audio doesn’t match up to the lip movements of the facilitator. Paper shuffling/background noises in the facilitator’s environment. Poor camera engagement on the part of the facilitator. Eye shifting from notes to camera to elsewhere. There is an increased opportunity for technical issues: If the video feed is slow/skipping (low bandwidth situations). User error. Little to no control over participant device or network. Time investment for the facilitator to test equipment, develop skills, and prepare. Using your virtual platform to its maximum capabilities can be beneficial to the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your virtual training sessions. The use of web cameras during a session can be a value-add, if done correctly.   Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss in detail why it might not make sense to put your facilitator on camera for an entire virtual session.

Eight Must-Have Resources for Every Virtual Learning Professional

July 27, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
I read, and I read a lot. The virtual training world is fast moving, and ever changing. For me, one way to ensure I’m staying current with virtual learning trends is to learn from the experiences of others. Each spring, I go through a pretty massive spring-cleaning regimen. Clothes that no longer fit, papers I no longer need, and books I’ve already read, but never seem to pick up again…gone. Books take up a lot of space, and even though I’ve read a lot of great books, I don’t keep the majority of them. The following eight books, however, always remain.  While I’m always on the lookout for more, the books below have served me well as my “go to” resources for tips, best practices, and inspiration for the work I do in the virtual learning space. I hope they will do the same for you. •        Visual Design Solutions by Connie Malamed In the virtual space, visual design is critical. If the design falls short, the quality of the learning experience and end results will too. The easy-to-read comprehensive format allows me to hone in on specific design solutions, concepts, and real life applications. I regularly reach for this book while I’m consulting on projects with clients or creating instructional materials for our own professional development workshops. •       The Book of Road-Tested Activities by Elaine Biech This book is an excellent resource for ideas and techniques associated with engaging training activities. As a virtual learning professional I’m always looking for great tried and tested group activities to implement in our virtual learning environments. While many of the activities in this particular book are created for the in-person ILT environment, they still often spark my creativity as I design for the virtual classroom. Not only does author, Elaine Biech, provide several well-tested games and activities, she also segments the activities by content areas such as communication, listening, sales, teamwork, and leadership skills. •        The Successful Virtual Classroom by Darlene Christopher This book is another good resource for effective engagement. As you can imagine, engagement is paramount for a virtual session to be successful, and author Darlene Christopher provides several proven techniques to engage the online audience. I find myself reaching for this book regularly for example case studies, stories of successes and failures, but also great tools, techniques and example checklists. I am also honored to be quoted in this book. (Thanks, Darlene!) •        Interact and Engage! by Kassy Laborie and Tom Stone Did I mention that engagement is paramount? This is another excellent resource for breaking the monotony of the virtual lecture.  The authors do an excellent job of remedying poor online training experiences and utilize several activities and training techniques to not only improve engagement, but also drive retention of information. The book provides numerous example activities and exercises for taking your virtual session to the next level. Plus it’s written in a light and humorous tone, making it an easy read. •        10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations by Wayne Turmel Author, Wayne Turmel, provides a quick, easy-to-read, resource for nearly every kind of virtual presentation in this book. The book coaches virtual presenters on how to appear calm under pressure, and engage as if they were conducting an in-person session, which is no easy feat for most people. He provides general rules, tools and lists to help guide his reader, and I find myself using this book regularly as a resource for my team, my clients and as a reminder for myself. •        Great Webinars: Create Interactive Learning That Is Captivating, Informative, and Fun by  Cynthia Clay Cynthia Clay is the chief executive officer of Net Speed Learning Solutions. She has worked in the online learning space for a number of years, and shares her wisdom and wealth of experience in this book. She too, put together an easy-to-read resource for creating and managing virtual sessions. I find myself regularly referring to her book when I’m working with clients to really zero in on their eLearning strategy. Her focus is on blended learning. The book outlines best practices, and the importance of meaningful content and an engaging delivery approach to maximize learning. •        Live and Online by Jennifer Hofmann This is another design and interaction resource for me. The book walks you through techniques and suggestions for participant involvement, outlines what works and what doesn’t work in the virtual classroom, and helps you to identify whether or not the tools you’re using are helping or hindering collaboration. Hofmann provides sample exercises using familiar tools.  I use this book regularly as I review instructional design plans for a new or repurposed course. •        The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook by Roger Courville Yet another “bible” for the virtual learning professional, with more tips on how to keep remote attendees engaged. This book provides me with guidance to help train all types of facilitators, and help prepare them for working in the virtual environment. As we all know, it’s different than presenting or facilitating in-person. This book includes several “mistakes” facilitators should avoid when transitioning from an in-person presentation to a virtual presentation. What are your “go to” resource books? Share with me in the comments, I’d love to hear.