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  • The Technology Guy 13:33 on April 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , social learning   

    Stop training your staff – or have you already? 

    The Truth- like it or not – measurable income from day-one!

    In times of economic downturn the first budget often to get hit is the training budget.  Of course trainers will say this is short sighted, however the truth is that like it or not, training is a cost. The feeling from the people holding the money strings is, there is no tangible income one can attribute directly to training.


    There have been too many promises, especially with eLearning spanning almost 20 years, which have not really delivered. The board is no longer interested in this magical fix and therefore the capital expenditure willing to be made in years gone past, is no longer available. Your budget has just become a part of someone else’s budget.  Time to turn that around, don’t you think?


    We can fool ourselves and you can think Kirkpatrick, however Kirkpatrick never wrote a single word about ROI.  What is thought of as Kirkpatrick level 5 was written by Jack Phillips of the ROI Institute and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great set of tools to evaluate training already delivered, with 3000 people having spent good money to get accredited in how to calculate it.


    Bob Mosher wrote in CLO Magazine:


    … the journey to true ROI is actually divided into two parts:

    • Mastery, or a learner’s ability to demonstrate gained knowledge.

    • Competency, or a learner’s ability to effectively apply what they’ve learned to their job or work environment.



    I have been pushing the three stages of real learning as ‘Information – Comprehension – Application’ not too dissimilar from my esteemed friend.


    Both of these views however are quite clearly after the event. So promising an ROI to your purse string holder, before you start out on the road to delivery, is as far as they are concerned, a bit of a long shot.


    Further we have seen huge cuts in staffing levels in some industries.  Public Sector in the UK has reduced by a factor of 10 in some departments.  Let’s face the truth; there is just very little money to spend on new training at the moment.


    So how do we convince the stakeholders that there will be a measurable return? That we can offer training that will hit a spot so directly that they will be able to measure the income from day one?


    Measurable Return

    Now my title today may seem somewhat controversial.

    Stop training your staff: or have you already?

    Before I explain, I want to be upfront and say the concept I offer does not work across the board, (this won’t work in system training, but for that I have alternative views) but there are real places where it can be invaluable and can turn an intangible training cost into a measurable return. 


    Shall I say the heading again a little louder so the boss can hear it? Yes I did say ‘measurable return’ on every penny you put into your new-style training budget.


    There will be some pain of course with some not so simple changes, more like sweeping change to be honest. That probably sounds scary, but the time has come that we all need to make big changes and if we are going to do so, then why not just do it once and properly. These changes are easily manageable and should start to show results very quickly.



    Stop training your staff


    Yes you heard me, I am not crazy, why train your staff when you can spend the valuable budget to train your potential clients instead?


    The scenario…


    Consider what would happen if your clients or potential clients had available to them everything they needed to know about your product or services, really understood them and were willing to apply them to their own businesses? You would make a sale! Would you need to provide anything else to your own staff other than the same material and a backchannel for communication?


    For those of you who knee jerked and said, ‘don’t be ridiculous, of course you need to train your staff more fully…’   let me give you a couple of examples of customer training with measurable outcome.


    First let’s take a look at Apple Inc. and namely the recent launch of iPad2.


    • Apple staff had no sight of the product or any more details than the general public until the day of release.
    • Apple started an educational rumour machine some weeks earlier with what became general knowledge on the release date.
    • The papers, magazines, websites all had details of what the pundits and media commentators thought the new product would contain.
    • On release day Steve Jobs stood up in his black shirt with blue jeans and told the world what it already knew.
    • On the day the product hit the shops, they queued from 2am outside most stores.


    Not one of the people in the line was there to ask about the CPU, they all knew it was the A5. (who cared what an A5 was or what it did, but it had one and they knew it)


    None of the people in the line were there to ask about resolution, memory, carrier, Smart  Cover  or anything else about the product.


    They were in the line to purchase a product (or even two) they had never even seen.  Each and every one was so happy when they found out they were to get one of these products, some jumped for joy.  Three weeks later the lines still continued with arguments outside shops on a daily basis.


    Could Apple Inc., measure the success of their client-training program? You bet they could. They did no other form of actual advertising before release.


    Apple Inc., sold 1.7 million iPhone 4’s in the first 3 days and 3 million iPad 2’s in the first month. (They would have sold twice that number if they could have made them)


    Compare this to Motorola’s Xoom Android tablet, hoping to topple iPad’s supremacy, advertised with normal old fashioned techniques, which was outsold some say by 260:1 in the first 3 days.  Not heard of a Xoom?  Think I may have proved a point!


    Second, let’s take a look at Toyota in the USA.


    Their site is very clever. It is based on a good old CMS and some cleverly designed learning material.


    When you go to the ‘build a car’ part of the site, you are first asked for your zip code. Then you choose your course…  sorry car type…


    You then follow through the material and make some choices. Engine type, Colour, Trim, Extras…  The whole time the car is being graphically built, you are given information and explanations of the benefits of each area and the price is being shown.  You learn all about hybrid, and other technical terms and all of this from your armchair at home.


    At the end of the course, sorry sales pitch, you are given a quote for your car, and asked for your personal details. You then choose your nearest dealer and book the experiential test drive at your selection from given times and dates.


    Sounds like a fun interactive site? Yes it is, I learned loads about a Toyota.


    Well there is more to it than you see on the surface. The salesman is ready for you when you arrive.  He knows from the reporting of the CMS, or was it a LMS?, exactly what you looked at, engine type, trim, colour etc..  Bet your bottom dollar that exact vehicle is sitting outside the showroom, engine warmed up ready for your experience. The print out he has from your visit to the LMS shows the dealer everything they already taught you. What you looked at , the decisions you made, how you reduced the cost by taking out the things you may have wanted but could not afford. All he has to do is let you drive it and talk about finance options. While showing you all those lovely extras you already removed for the upsell.


    How did the dealer learn about the car? Using the very same software you did online.  How do I know? I was involved in the building of very similar software for another Japanese carmaker.


    Two different scenarios of learning, and both very measurable in sales, profit to the bottom line of the company. This is what the CFO is after when you want a slice of the budget. Some have forgotten, we go to work – to work, not just to do eLearning and become more efficient!


    So what’s the change? Seven steps to success…


    Time to be a little controversial for some, for others this may be the breath of fresh air you have been waiting for.



    1. Resource Identification. The people in your organisation best suited to creating materials for customers, from which they learn about your products and services, are not the marketing or sales department. It is the training department. This department spends all day creating learning so others are better informed, have comprehension and can apply what they have learned. Typically today the sales and marketing is conducted by people with no knowledge of how to transfer learning in this way. Identify those who will make the best team.
    2. Move your trainers. Move this team from your training department now under the control of HR to be under the control of MarCom. This is the area where customer-facing material is made and they will have a very different input and budget to HR.
    3. Decide your assessment tool. The methods you are going to assess results of your new customer training are very important. Consider at this early stage the methods you will use to prove success of your material. This type of training is measure in real results not numbers completing courses.
    4. New techniques require new methodology. Delivering material to the end user or potential customer requires a slight change in mindset for the trainer. New instructional design techniques and knowledge will be required. Give your team the education they need.
    5. Understand the user. The expectation of the user is going to be different to that of a staff member and you need to understand the user from a sales and marketing place. So spend some time to identify who the user is. Working under MarCom will give you a wealth of information in this area that already exists and was never used by the training department before. However remember, the end user will learn in exactly the same way.
    6. Make your LMS friendly and exciting. Your LMS was probably designed for internal staff, it looks and feels like a learning space. The front end and delivery needs to reflect who is receiving the content. Go look at Toyota’s site, you would never believe you were on the front edge of a LMS.
    7. Don’t forget your staff. Your staff still needs to learn from the same material, they need to know what the client or potential customer is finding out. Use their questions to tailor a backchannel and offer them the social links required to discuss the content and clients methods of using the content, without too much restriction.







    The truth is already out there, however we can continue to bury our heads in the sand or we can become proactive to make change. We are all aware that there is a vast difference between training and learning and not everything can be delivered so the user self learns. We still need to deliver training, many are returning to what I heard referred to as ‘old fashioned’ training. How funny they were considering reusing the classroom. Some of us never stopped!


    We must be willing to accept that we have all made mistakes by trying to cut costs and create cheaper delivery. It has been one of the biggest selling points over the last 10 years.


    We have to accept that lower budgets should not mean poorer content. The statistics available from end users is quite clear as to what they like and what they do not. What they will spend time doing and what they consider is a waste of time. Look at this information and make great decisions for the future.


    Understand how your clever competition will make use of tools you have already in your procession and turn these tools to work for you to create a measurable return on your investment in your business, be it by starting with those who bring the money in or not.


    Have you stopped training your staff? Are you ready to start now?



  • The Technology Guy 15:16 on February 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , social learning   

    Finally fixed my blog… 

    Oh boy, got hacked, lost a couple of posts and then everything redirected to a chinese website.

    I am honoured that they thought my lille ol blog was worth hacking.

    Back to blogging tomorrow….

  • The Technology Guy 08:31 on September 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , social learning   

    Social Learning.. Fad? I think not… 

    Six months ago I may have said yes, but know I know more….

    Can you direct learning on Twitter?  No you can’t

    Can you formalise learning through Facebook? No you can’t

    Can you track what the user has learned in a social environment? No you can’t

    Do you need to track all the learning gleaned socially?  If you answered yes to this then you have been to too many conferences and spoken to too many LMS salesmen. No you should not!

    There is a pattern to Social Environment Learning.  Yes maybe a new term (SEL), passes all the tests, has three letters and not an acronym already in use.  Social Environment Learning? What is he on about I hear you think!

    Social Learning is nothing new, been around since the year dot. It’s what you do when you get together with other people all day long.  Hear something and act on it. You learned.  Heard yourself say “mmm never knew that” while in conversation with either a single person or in a group? You socially learned.  I am a social learner, it’s my best method to learn, far better than the classroom.

    Social Environment Learning (SEL) is NEW!  Only been around since the invention of Facebook, Twitter, Ning and the dreaded, dare I mention it, Web 2.0   It is an environment that has many facets. The knowledge pool of Wikipedia, the madness of short message broadcast – 140 characters in Twitter, the User Discussion Forums – which have always been under utilised,  sites like Ning and of course the message chat rooms of Facebook.  These environments that have been built are different from a chat over a cup of coffee in Starbucks.

    Why different.  Take a good look.. We use different language. Shorten much of what we say. Talk often in single sentences (unless you are me of course).

    But a pattern has emerged and is continuing to emerge. A pattern that from the first 100 conversations I have had on this subject seems to be common to very many users of these sites.  The interesting outcome of the pattern is how we use the information we see, what makes it interesting? and how do WE, yes I said WE, turn what WE see into learning for ourselves?

    Explore the pattern with me.

    This morning I looked at Twitter on my iPhone as I do each morning. Between 6:30 am and 9 am as I write this there were six posts (Tweets) from people I am following. (Not on Twitter? Don’t understand the terminology? On Twitter people post a broadcast of 140 characters, you can choose which of these you see by ‘following’ a person. All the rest are filtered out. How many tweets are there.  When Michael Jackson died there were 1.3 million an hour or 25000 a minute, think you can see it all?  To follow me join Twitter and follow @neillasher)  So to the six tweets this morning. Three were pure nothing, Personnel Today advertising something, two were from Fiona Leteney saying she was in Leeds meeting with a supplier (random?) and the sixth from Barry Sampson informing the world he was updating his Drupal sites to version 6.14.

    All a bit random really, not exactly what you would want your new staff to be using to learn induction? However stay with me here…..

    I followed the common pattern, to start without realising I was doing it. Barry’s post although you may think random told me two things.  One he was not going to be pitching against me this morning at potential client, he is going to be busy upgrading software, but much more interesting to me was that I know Barry is a Drupal expert, and if he is upgrading to 6.14, I may consider upgrading my site too.  The pattern here is that my next move was to open a new tab in the browser and Google Drupal 6.14. I got 287000 results of which the first two would tell me what I needed to know.

    Sparked by a tweet from Barry, I learned that Drupal 6.14 is an easy upgrade from 6.13 (some have not been so easy) and that the new facilities it offers me are quite good. I found a link to a great information site in one of the sites I visited and spent the next 30m minutes understanding something I had been meaning to understand for months.

    Social Environment Learning had pointed me without any plan to what I wanted to know. I followed a path that very many others do every day. This is the Social Learning pattern that is emerging from the electronic environments that so many are using.

    How do we tap into this? How do we use this to our advantage? How can we maybe redirect the user during the search to our own learning snippets and provide information that we have approved, rather than this random trail of information they find on the web?

    These questions were the key to the last 3 months development of the latest release of CSL – Context Sensitive Learning, is about to release this week at the IITT conference with Social Environment Learning connectors.

    Imagine during the pattern the user follows, that you can identify they have searched for something on Google, Bing, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter or any other social environment, and, can match that to an approved learning snippet, or information post, or internal approved blog or Wiki. More, imagine you can inform the user accordingly that there is some approved material available, before they go off and click the links they found in the search engine.

    What I have just described is the new Social Learning Connector designed specifically to join Social Networking Sites to Formal and Informal Learning that your company already has in repository. Let the user follow his thoughts and redirect them to approved information delivered in the same way they are expecting to learn.

    Want to know more?  follow this link and you too will be following the pattern of Social Environment Learning…

    See you at IITT?    No?  Follow me @neillasher

  • The Technology Guy 09:35 on August 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CSL, , , facebook, social learning,   

    Does Social Learning have a future? 

    In the beginning……  Genesis Ch1 VS1…  From that moment evolution began.

    Every so often (may have been thousands of years) there has been an invention that has changed the way life evolves.

    The invention of the wheel was such an invention. Up till now, it is still a mystery as to who invented the wheel and when the wheel was invented. According to archaeologists, it was probably invented in around 8,000 B.C. in Asia. The oldest wheel known however, was discovered in Mesopotamia and probably dates back to 3,500 B.C.E.

    Some number of 1000’s of years later the Internet evolved.  The Internet was invented by the US Department of Defence as a means of communication if they were attacked by Russia. That was in 1969. The WWW on the other hand was invented by an Englishman called Tim Berners-Lee in Switzerland in 1989. The Internet dates back to the 1950s and 60s, although few of us knew of it then as it was part of the American defence system.

    Has the internet been as a significant invention as the wheel?  Well both have touched the lives of every living being today. The Internet probably got known faster than the wheel.

    What has this to do with social learning?  You may well ask, you may not be interested right now, but they do have similarities.  In between these huge inventions there have been very many smaller inventions or advancements.  for every 10 or so advancements, one survives the test of time and makes it to the mainstream.

    Take the wheel…  It has no operational flaws, but many have advanced its manufacture and use. From the smallest cog in your wristwatch fitted with teeth to ensure an engineering fit with another, to a wheel fitted with a tyre that can support many hundreds of tonnes of pressure when a plane lands on it. Or even as a carbon fibre disk fitted to a Formula1 car as a brake disk to heat up to 900 degrees C to slow the car from 200 mph to zero in just a few seconds. All take a very different form from the original invention.

    To the web, and to Web 2.0 to be precise. “Web 2.0” refers to the second generation of web development and web design that facilitates information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. This was exactly how Berners-Lee imagined it from day one, but the technology was not far enough advanced so it became an information system. Some say it is not really far enough advanced now and Web 2.0 is a little on the cutting edge.

    With this information sharing we are seeing vast changes in the way people handle information, specifically learning. eLearning took on the role for quite some time as information delivery housed in ‘page turner’ style learning. Today for some companies it does not matter what it looks like, the stigma attached to eLearning is such that some will continue to complain that it does not do it’s job, no matter What it looks like.  Too technical, too boring, too gaming, too superficial, too long, too short….  for some you just can’t provide the right blend or balance. For others who have embraced the technology to their advantage it has become a huge time and money saver. But do we get the best from what we have?

    Then just when you thought it was safe to get back in the training water as eLearning settled into mainstream, along came Twitter and Facebook and a range of social learning sites all allowing the user to play a part in whatever way they want.

    For some corporate entities this was a step too far. IT blocked Facebook and Twitter, then Ning and any other site that looked a tad like them. This without any real thought to the power that lay behind them.

    To begin, I too thought that Twitter was a gimmick. I stated publicly that Twitter was like driving down the road while yelling out of the car window. I stated Facebook was a place for kids who did not have the social abilities to have a conversation face to face.  OK I admit I was wrong on both counts.

    The problem is not what they stand for or how they work, but how we have been unable to find a successful way to harness what they do. Neither have we been able to direct the user from what they see to what they may like or need if shown it. We are not following the users patterns merely letting them use it, or not.  I am not talking about creating private versions of Facebook or Twitter, but tapping into what exists and everyone is already using.  Not trying to reinvent the wheel.

    There is a fine line however between those who read and those who write using these systems. How many tweets do you need to post a day? or, How many hours a day do you need to be logged into Facebook before it  has become a compulsive disorder?

    Putting the possible compulsion to the back of your mind and educating people to use and not misuse these systems is the key to creating powerful links between the social learning the bandwagoneers (real word? who knows but I like it) are trying to peddle now and the formalised learning we have already in our repositories. The question is, how do we make the link? And how do we get the user to read the formalised content that your company has approved rather than the blog I am posting here or the tweet that one of the many I follow post each day.

    The answer started in a conversation I had with Karyn Romeis, Jane Hart and Jay Cross at the Learning and Skills Group in June. Thank you guys for pointing me in the right direction without even realising you did it.  I accused all three of being compulsive. Jay has posted very little since on Twitter, (sure that’s not my doing)  Karyn continues to publish her well written ‘erratic learning journey’ (last on Friday, thanks Karyn, well worth the read) and Jane, well Jane Hart over the weekend posted many tweets and Facebook entries all about work, and it was the weekend. Compulsion? Maybe not, Jane runs a brilliant site but does post at all hours!

    The conversation started me thinking to what was missing in a tweet or Face-book entry that we, the trainer, could tap into, what could we use to our advantage. Then someone said to me ‘maybe it’s not what it contains but how they use it’. How they use what Facebook or the content?

    I looked into how we (including me) use Google, Facebook and Twitter plus other similar social sites.

    The research began into how people look for and find and then use the information they see in informal posts. There was no plan by the user to search and find, as they ‘fell over’ the information they saw. So without a plan to learn or a design to teach, this informal information could hardly be called learning. Could it?

    What I found is that there is an extraordinary pattern that takes place. I started in Twitter, read a couple of Jane’s posts and then found this from Koreen Olbrish.

    KoreenOlbrishTwitter in the classroom: 10 useful resources – Social Media In Learning http://bit.ly/Frf7a #twine (via @CathyLAnderson)

    The user clicks the link as it looks interesting to them and they are taken to a single blog post on Twine, (I had never heard of Twine, so made a mental note to come back and take a look) and this contained another url to follow.  Do they click this next link? or do they give up and return?  Well the link in this instance caught my interest while writing this blog, it stated :-

    DESCRIPTION Although, according to Gartner’s Hype Cycle , Twitter is about to enter the “Trough of Disillusionment”, …
    So they follow the second link and guess what? I am back at Jane’s site http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/2009/08/twitter-in-the-classroom-10-useful-resources.html

    What was extraordinary? Actually not the Tweet, not the link, not the return to Jane’s site. But the mental note to go back to Twine.  I found myself now entering a search term in Twine for ‘Social Media in Learning’, found 36500 results, clicked the first, a post from George Somebody and found a Toolkit that had been reposted from where? Yes you guessed it, Jane’s site.

    Now frustrated as all points go to the same place, I started to look for other information, posted from third parties that say the same thing. The ‘Theorist’ in me will not believe what I am told by one person or site unless I can back it up.  So off to Google I went, Twine now in the trash and the first page of Google is all….  I will let you guess.

    Wikipedia was next, under Social Learning, I found criminology and:-
    Social learning refers to the acquisition of social competence that happens exclusively or primarily in a social group. Social learning depends on group dynamics. Social learning promotes the development of individual emotional and practical competence as well as the perception of oneself and the acceptance of others with their individual competencies and limitations.

    Thread ended, never really learned much, got frustrated, wasted almost 40 minutes of my morning and I am not in a group, I am here by myself.

    So tracking backwards, Wikipedia, Google, Twine, and Twitter never actually answered any question I had. If I had a question in the first place?

    The answer lies in Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS).  Started life as the help files you get to in a program when you click F1.

    In Electronic Performance Support Systems, published in 1991, Gloria Gery defined EPSS as:

    an integrated electronic environment that is available to and easily accessible by each employee and is structured to provide immediate, individualized on-line access to the full range of information, software, guidance, advice and assistance, data, images, tools, and assessment and monitoring systems to permit job performance with minimal support and intervention by others.

    Also in 1991, Barry Raybould gave a shorter definition:

    a computer-based system that improves worker productivity by providing on-the-job access to integrated information, advice, and learning experiences.

    An electronic performance support system can also be described as any computer software program or component that improves employee performance by

    1. reducing the complexity or number of steps required to perform a task,
    2. providing the performance information an employee needs to perform a task, or
    3. providing a decision support system that enables an employee to identify the action that is appropriate for a particular set of conditions.

    As an author of an EPSS system (CSL, http://tiny.cc/lHF5d ) I began to consider how to alter our EPSS system – which already watches your screen to provide Context Sensitive Learning links from software and content to learning nuggets stored in a repository – and add a simple system of keywords based upon your searches in Google or Wikipedia or Twine and keywords found in sites like Twitter and Facebook.

    The thought process is that if you use a social site, find something of interest, follow your nose and search the ‘term’, then the term becomes the driver and the link to learning. If you have a repository of accepted, approved learning, with a keyword attached that matches the search term, or something in the tweet being read, it is at this moment you need to inform the user and with the minimal support and intervention by others to deliver a nugget of learning. In our EPSS system we now do this with a balloon in the task tray, a single click and the approved information is delivered. Contextual Social Learning.


    To take this further it is better to deliver a link to a blog (an internal blog that has further links to learning nuggets), this fits in with the style the user is using at that time and so it will slot into the path they are already following.

    Informal delivery of this type can start with the social event in an online social site or just a search with a search engine. either way the informal and the formal have been delivered as if they are one.

    My original question was Does Social Learning have a future? Had you asked me three months ago as Jay, Karyn and Jane found out my answer was NO, it’s a fad it will fade away…  Now I am not so sure I was right, maybe a little hasty. But with that said, more people need to be convinced and more need to be posting their own views and thoughts. If everything continues to point only at Jane’s site, convincing the Theorists may prove to be an uphill struggle. I am convinced that it is not something to be driven by just a training department, the user is already driving it themselves. We can only assist and provide the tools (like EPSS) to make it feel a little easier.

    It will remain a mystery as to who invented the wheel and when. It is less of a mystery how we can utilise informal learning. Will Social Learning ever really become an integrated part of our lifestyle? Time will tell.  I think it is just another part of eLearning, which I hope before long looses the ‘e’ and just becomes a part of the wider learning we all do each day.

    For more information on how CSL works, drop me a line. I will be happy to give you a copy to play with. Neil@trainer1.com

    follow me on Twitter @neillasher

    • Mark, eLearning Designer 10:47 on October 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      What a dramatic introduction to a detailed and lengthy post. You have made some interesting points on social learning and it would be interesting to see more of EPSS.

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