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Monday, August 31, 2009

Trends in Learning

Someone was just asking me about the big trends in learning and the implications of those trends on corporate learning and development.  I initially said - "Look at my blog," but when I looked, I realized it might be a bit harder than I thought to pull out the central themes.  So, here's a bit of a compilation of some of the things I've been talking about in my blog which points to some of the major trends in learning.

Environmental Changes

Some of the common trends I discuss in presentations are:

  • Decreased L&D budgets
  • Faster pace
  • Increased workforce mobility
  • Shorter job tenure
  • Increased job fragmentation - fewer numbers in any one role
  • Constant increase in complexity
  • Greater concept work
  • Need for faster proficiency
  • Changing expectations for learning

The bottom line is that Learning and Development needs to do more with less these days or they will be marginalized

And the risk is pretty severe as described in the Business of Learning

Trends in What L&D Organizations are Doing

As a result of these trends, some L&D organizations are looking to social and informal learning.  Training Method Trends suggests that social learning tools are beginning to take off.  This will be a slow evolution.  And surveys such as Web 2.0 Applications in Learning suggest that this will be scattered.

There's considerable discussion throughout my blog around topics that relate to social / informal / learning 2.0:

The whole social / informal / elearning 2.0 discussions implies some very Disruptive Changes in Learning.

In Long Live, I discuss how we are not talking about eliminating instructor-led, but that organizations are looking at alternatives.

The whole problem is Long Tail Learning. There is just way too much stuff that people need to learn that we have to make choices about what we spend our time publishing into formal learning events. The audience has to be large enough. As concept workers, we quickly go past formal learning opportunities. There's no course on what I do every day. And you cannot Separate Knowledge Work from Learning.

One option is to say that limit of training / workplace Learning Responsibility is formal learning. Once you go beyond formal learning, then there's an immediate question of what else you will provide. I know from Data Driven performance improvement solutions that often informal learning can be very effective in driving results. To me, the answer is pretty clear. You've got to look beyond formal.

The Result

When you look at Examples of eLearning 2.0, none of them individually seem all that radical.  Many organizations are using SharePoint to implement these kinds of solutions.

But when you look at the difference in control in Learning 1.0 vs. Learning 2.0, it's a pretty radical change.

There are significant opportunities around Online Coaching.  I'm hearing more on this all the time.

Examples of how social and informal learning is happening in the consumer space:

Approach to learning strategy needs to be different: Learning 2.0 Strategy

You need to think about systems quite different: LMS and Social Learning 

You have to prepare workers for web 2.0

L&D professionals and organizations having changing roles and responsibilities:

Other Thoughts

In Corporate Training, I look at the challenges learning and development organizations face in heading towards these kinds of solutions.
There are lots of possible Objections to making this happen.

Social Learning Measurement is still an issue.

Corporate Policies on Web 2.0 are emerging.

Desired Learning Outcomes may differ based on these changes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Qarbon Camtasia and Adobe Captivate

Question from a reader, hoping you can provide your thoughts:

I am in the process of selecting an elearning tool that is easy to use, quick to create the demos and does not bloat the file size much. I want to create some online videos that will be a total of about 6-7 hours and upload them on my site. These videos would have software demos, screencasts and PowerPoints embedded inside them. Also every screen would have audio (voiceover with my voice) accompanying it. I will want to have a simple menu system to break up the content into chunks. And I may eventually, but not initially, want to be able to track them under an LMS, i.e., have SCORM tracking.

I have been looking into various tools. Here are some pros and cons I found about them.



  • Less File size.
  • Qarbon seems very easy to use.
  • I'm finding it a bit difficult to integrate my voice with my demos and pull everything together.
  • Creates as screenshot. To present a moving demo I need to integrate another product called Viewlet cam.
  • Makes it a bit harder to pull everything together.

Camtasia and Adobe Captivate:


  • Heard lots of good thing about them.


  • Worried about file size for both of them

The more I am researching, the more I am getting confused.


There are quite a few Software Simulation Tools out there. I understand the confusion though because it's a combination of several different kinds of needs that are often addressed by different Rapid eLearning Tools.

What questions would you have? What might you suggest? What would you do to find a good solution?

Would you consider using a solution that integrates several tools that are possibly best of breed?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Models for Learning Questions

We wrapped up our free elearning webinar on Models for Learning in a New World.  My portion was a fast paced look at several important environmental trends such as:

  • Decreased L&D budgets (see Business of Learning)
  • Faster pace
  • Increased workforce mobility
  • Shorter job tenure
  • Increased job fragmentation - fewer numbers in any one role
  • Constant increase in complexity
  • Greater concept work
  • Need for faster proficiency
  • Changing expectations for learning

The bottom line is that Learning and Development needs to do more with less these days or they will be marginalized.  We also have so many more kinds of solutions we can offer.  I described some common eLearning 2.0 patterns that are emerging much along the lines of my previous post Examples of eLearning 2.0.


There were some great questions during the session.  Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to discuss. 

1) Two issues that come up,  at least in the world of training in a government environment, is that of a) security of information, and b) control of the information given to the learner to make sure it is accurate.  Can you comment on those two issues?

Both of these concerns/objections come up quite often even outside of government.  Security of the information is something that hopefully your IT organization is already dealing with.  I recommend adopting their tools and their security mechanisms.  If that's not possible, then start with content that doesn't have the same level of security concerns. 

Control can be similarly avoided as an issue by initially moderating all edits.  Yes that takes work, but it's less work than keeping all the content up-to-date yourself.  Over time you will have some areas where moderation can be removed.

2) How do you sale to the NON-Gen Y's and Millennials who are in upper management who fear things like wiki's?

9) When introducing these new learning methods, I have the impression that the resistance from organisation is lies more in the new role of the training department rather then new technologies. Is this also your experience?

Resistance can come from a lot of places.  I used to find IT very resistant, but now I'm finding more often there are allies with IT who are helping to make this stuff happen.  I gladly jump on their shoulders (and systems).  So, I would agree that new technologies is less the issue.

More often real resistance comes from senior VPs who are not willing to okay something they don't really understand.  Yammer (internal twittering) is almost impossible to explain to someone who has no experience with any social networking (and probably not with anything more than email lists).

My suggestion is that you don't really try to sell Yammer or a Wiki or any other kind of tool.  Instead, you simply say that you want to provide a means of editing the content more easily, or following up on the training to get dialog to happen, or whatever the obviously smart solution is that you are proposing.

As a side note, I think selling Twitter/Yammer is harder than selling social bookmarking and wikis.  Twitter/Yammer is something new.  Social bookmarking and wikis are often a smart replacement with obvious side benefits.

Many of the suggestions in Learning 2.0 Strategy still hold:

1. Start Tactical and Bottom Up
2. Avoid the Culture Question
3. Avoid Highly Regulated Content (and Lawyers)
4. Learning Professionals Must Lead
5. Prepare Workers for Learning 2.0
6. Technology is Tactical not Strategic
7. Avoid the CIO

3) Tony, what is "secondments" that is listed on your last slide?

4) How is "accountability" for learning specific things being handled in 2.0?

5) How do we ensure learning transfer with Learning 2.0 methodologies.

This was discussed a fair bit during the session.  You can certainly still test whether learning objectives were achieved, but … the point is often that "learning transfer", i.e., testing knowledge, is not really the thing you are going after.  Instead, you often don't quite know what content will be covered and accountability is more the end result – for example, a presentation might need to be created.  I might use the analogy of the thesis associated with an advanced degree.  You are not testing for content, rather you are expecting the completion of a process leading to something that is fairly well defined.  You will evaluate using much the same way that we Evaluate Concept Work.

6) Can you comment on the advantages/disadvantages of company-created social sites (private networking sites) vs public sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Not sure I even know how to answer this.  Most of the time, there's pretty clear separation between private and public sites in terms of your goals and use cases.  I will say that sometimes companies get it a bit wrong when it comes to leveraging existing sites to create value that extends beyond the firewall.  For example, having a robust group and network on LinkedIn can be quite valuable when you have employees who should be able to reach outside the firewall for expertise and can leverage LinkedIn to find internal expertise as well.  Similarly having content that flows outside to partners, customers, etc. can be an interesting solution.  I do think there are interesting opportunities here.  However, most L&D are focused much more on the private kinds of solutions at this point.
7) Is there a method to map different models of learning to different types of projects?
Great question. I don't know. There are lots of patterns emerging, but I don't think there's a "method" yet. Is there a method for mapping blended learning to types of projects even taking away some of the newer complexities of learning 2.0? Not sure. Help?
8) We are in the brainstorming sessions of creating a blog and podcast. What tips or advise can you give on the focus and direction of these?

We want to allow users to get to know us and our abilities. One of the challenges we have is that many departments don't understand that we could help them identify and solve many training issues.

We would like to create a "Get to Know Us" site where we discuss what we are working on lately and some of the recent products we have released.

This is interesting.  I personally would be really concerned about making sure that my blog or podcasts were valuable to my target audiences.  Creating an internal newsletter as a blog or podcast that doesn't have compelling information may find few followers.

I think rather than "Get to Know Us" or "What we Offer" – maybe instead focus on "Smart Ways to Solve Your Problems" … Taking a focus on case examples or new methods or ??? that is all around how they can get their work done better would seem to be much more interesting.  How about becoming an aggregator for them of this kind of information?  Show them interesting solutions at other (related) organizations so that they can have a more interesting conversation with you.

In some ways, I would think of this as you taking the lead in learning the kinds of things that they would want to have time to learn about themselves.  How are other organizations using these things?  How are they improving performance?  What are some interesting trends out there?  Bring that together for them.  That's high value for you and them.  I'd think that's a compelling internal blog and/or podcast.

One last note – podcast implies that you have a set of people who have access to iPods / iPhones and time to listen.  I personally, listen sporadically to podcasts.  A blog would be much better to reach me personally.  Maybe you have a good audience for the podcast.  But my guess is that the blog will fit much better.  Heck, you can probably get the blog posts emailed to people. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slow Evolution of Learning Solutions

Great post from Charles Jennings –Down But Not Quite Out: what can we learn from the plights of Learning Tree International and Readers Digest?

Learning Tree reported a decline of 31.2% in earnings compared to 2008. Operating expenses were down from $22 million to $14.6 million ($1.5 million of that contributed by producing less of those damn catalogues). And overall operating profit was down by 40.7% compared to the same period in 2008. Net income was down 44.7%.

This is similar to what I've been discussing in the Business of Learning and we are both citing Learning Tree's woes.  This whole topic has got me thinking about all of the implications and I've been regularly posting on it:

Charles discusses what Learning Tree (and all training providers are up against).  There's free content and the assumption that content should be Free.

Charles talks about the Changing Expectations of CLOs:

Many CLOs in large corporations around the world now subscribe to the view that most organisational learning is informal and even where formal learning is used they expect more than a one-off event from their suppliers. The expectation is that the provider will make on-going support available through some form of online forum and email at least, or make their content available online in an on-demand way such as the excellent Books 24x7 has done. And CLOs want to integrate their provider's learning materials and learning tools with their own internal systems so that they can be made available across the corporation.

This echoes what I've heard from several other CLOs.  At the same time, I would be cautious on the word "many" – yes, there are many, but quite a few CLOs still take a very traditional view of their focus (see Learning Performance Business Talent Focus) and are fairly traditional in their view of solutions.  Many vendors are looking forward to the day when CLOs are willing to pay for more of these things.  The reality is that many vendors offer expertise – but if CLOs are not willing to pay for accessing that expertise outside the classroom, then it's not going to work out from a business model perspective.

Charles discusses the Reuters Institute of Technology which won a CLO Magazine Award for innovation.

The Institute didn't include any courses from suppliers such as Learning Tree, but was rich with resources from Books24x7, TechChek (a web-based technical skills assessment tool), internal company communities and knowledge sharing wikis. A ning site, podcasts, video learning resources, RSS feeds from the large technology providers such as Cisco, Sun and Microsoft, and a number of other facilities including a range short formal modules deep-linked from the corporate LMS that could be pulled on-demand.

A lot to be learned from these kinds of examples.  Thanks for sharing Charles.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Top 99 Workplace eLearning Blogs

I just saw a post by Amit Garg Top 47 eLearning & Workplace Learning Blogs.  His list was very similar to the list of sources that eLearning Learning includes.  It made me wonder how many sources does eLearning Learning include?  Turns out it's exactly 99.

Please let me know if I'm missing any blogs that produce good content on eLearning and more particularly Workplace eLearning that would make sense to include.  eLearning Learning is looking for a bit deeper posts that focus on applied issues.

If you don't want to subscribe to all 99 sources individually, then you can subscribe to either the Full Feed or Best Of feed from eLearning Learning.  The full feed provides snippets from each source.  And the Best Of feed provides a weekly summary with the top content from all of these sources.  The Best Of also includes upcoming free elearning webinars.  Personally I find that this is high value even though I try to stay up on all the latest and best content.

I'll also mention that there's one source that's a bit different than the others.  It's Tony Karrer delicious links.  As I find interesting items that are not part of these sources, I manually mark those.  It's part of the overall social filtering that the technology relies on.  I would definitely welcome involvement of more content collectors.  So …

Wanted: Content Collectors

and heck, might as well mention…

Wanted: Calendar Curators

So here are the 99 sources in no particular order:

I wonder who will be number 100?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Alternative Views of Blog Content

A great comment from Ken Allan on my post Free:

My family listen to NZ Radio a lot. Current affairs progs are now all available, free, as podcasts (bits) on their site. When someone misses a broadcast they wanted to hear, their dismay is ameliorated with, "I can always access the podcast".

Of course, this event rarely actually happens. So not only has bits reduced the value of some things, it also shelves the possibility of their use.

I'd already realised this was happening last century when people would stock up on videoed TV programs that they would never have the time to watch because they were watching the broadcasts - a time debt that was not able to be paid.

The same (actually) applies to reading blogs. As Sue Waters pointed out to me about indexing blogs, "people don't use blogs that way".

I completely agree with Ken that content seems to stream by and if you miss the stream, it somewhat gets lost later as there's the continuous flood.  I believe that things will eventually circle back to it, especially if it is important. 

But it concerns me that Ken may be giving up on our mutual quest to figure out alternative views of blog content.  This is something I discussed in my post - Index Page where I describe the core challenge as:

How do we create resources on our blogs that will help a new reader or a search visitor understand what's on a blog and orient themselves?

Sue Waters responded previously:

Most of the time they are a lot of work for minimal return so you really do need to consider whether the time spent is good R.O.I.

Think about it. How often do you go to another person's blog to find specific information? Guaranteed either never or seldom. And the main people who you would return to are those that you know provide informative posts.

Reality of a blogger is we are only as good as our last post :) .

With good use of search, categories and tags on posts combined with making each post count is probably time better spent than creating index pages (however they can be useful for the blogger themselves).

In terms of the ROI of spending time making other views, I have a slight advantage in that I can get automated views of my blog via eLearning Learning and have it do interesting things.  My goal is still to figure out what the views are of a blog that can help make it more accessible.  Get that into eLearning Learning.  And then make that available to other bloggers.  Thus, the ROI becomes high because the Investment is small (zero).

In looking back at Sue's comments, I actually go quite a bit to blogs as sources of specific information.  That's a big part of the value of eLearning Learning. 

I do think that use of categories/tags is part of the answer, but I'm hopeless when it comes to that.  And I'm not willing to go back and tag older posts.

I'm hoping there's still some interest and thoughts on what should emerge as alternative views of blog content.

Some specific questions:

1. Would it be helpful to have a tag cloud view instead of the long list view of a blog content as shown in my sidebar that is auto-generated by eLearning Learning?

2. Are there a set of views that are combinations of recent, best of, organized by keywords, essentially the information we have via eLearning Learning that would be compelling to first timers, or for going back through a topic, etc.?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Social Media Revolution

Great video similar to Did You Know?

Here are some of the stats from the video:
  • By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers….96% of them have joined a social network
  • Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media
Always love to see this. And I like to add that the marriages that came from eHarmony (roughly 1% in US) will be better than those that came through other means.
  • 2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction
  • 1 in 6 higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum
  • 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices…people update anywhere, anytime…imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?
  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé…In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen
  • 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands
  • 25% of Americans in the past month said they watched a short video…on their phone
  • According to Jeff Bezos 35% of book sales on Amazon are for the Kindle when available
  • 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation because we no longer search for the news, the news finds us.
Pretty amazing stuff.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I've been slowly going through Chris Anderson's book Free: The Future of a Radical Price. There's a lot he gives you to think about and definitely a lot that relates to the Business of Learning.

There's quite a bit in the book that really resonates with me:

We can't help it: We value atoms more than bits.

Bits want to be free.

A common theme throughout the book is that people naturally understand the differences between bits and atoms. We somewhat intuitively understand that near-zero marginal cost is true for bits. Thus, they treat content delivered as bits as having less value than the equivalent atoms version.

Chris tells us:

It's time to stop treating bits like atoms and assuming the same limitations hold.

There's definitely a lot of questions raised by the book that will undoubtedly add to my thoughts around New Learning Solutions:

  • What are the versions of offerings that can have different prices?
  • Because of downward price pressure on anything that is bits and relatively undifferentiated, what are the ways that offerings can include other differentiating aspects?
  • Where can users add value back into the system?
  • What are network effects that we can leverage for greater value?
  • Where do network effects outside a single organization instance help drive value?
  • How do we effectively compete in the Attention Economy? (see Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Economy)

This will be fun to explore. Likely through my Free Blog and Free Webinars.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Social Software Adoption

You can find all sorts of interesting resources via eLearning Learning around Adoption.  Not surprising, the terms most closely associated with Adoption are Adoption of Social Software and Adoption of Enterprise 2.0.  There are some great resources on this such as:

Adoption Pendulum

As I do presentations where I discuss Tools and Methods for Knowledge Work, I find myself wondering about adoption levels of these tools, and the following pendulum definitely describes how my feelings swing back and forth:


Social Software Deployment Levels

Over the past few years, there's definitely been greater deployment of social software in the Enterprise.  Dion Hinchcliffe declared 2009 - The year of the shift to Enterprise 2.0.  Reported numbers vary widely …


Despite the novelty of the technologies (only 3 years old), the percentage penetration is very high, about half of all enterprises globally.

Survey Results: Enterprise 2.0 Adoption:

98% of those surveyed are using Enterprise 2.0 technologies for internal communication and collaboration within their company. The most popular technologies used are instant messaging (74%), wikis and team workspaces (67%), and blogs (51%).

And my personal experience is that it's pretty rare to run into an organization that is not at least planning on adopting some social software solutions.  And I'm certainly seeing a lot of SharePoint.

Deployment vs. Adoption

But it's important to keep in mind that deployment of social software does not mean adoption / use.  A new report by web usability guru Jakob Nielsen tells us:

A main finding from our study's interviews is that most companies are not very far along in a wholesale adoption of Web 2.0 technologies.

But the same report tells us:

Social software is not a trend that can be ignored. It's affecting fundamental change in how people expect to communicate, both with each other and the companies they do business with.

Email Comparison

Often people cite the adoption of email as a technology adoption cycle with the claim that social software will follow a similar path.  Certainly, email went through a bit of a similar early pattern where there was sporadic adoption, lots of debate, executives that had their secretaries (they were not administrative assistants at the time) print their email and put it in their inbox (and I mean an actual inbox). 

Eventual adoption of email was a certainty.  Once enough people in the organization adopted email, it was very hard for any individual to avoid adopting it.  It would just be too inefficient not to adopt it.  You were somewhat forced into learning the skills required.  Typing, basic computer use, email etiquette.  Of course, this was over the course of several years.

Distributed Content Editing

In thinking about various social software, I'm not so sure that I believe that adoption is nearly so neat.  Some technologies seem like they will reach tipping points in organizations where resistance will become hard.  There will be enough people using the technology that it will reach a tipping point where you pretty much have to adopt it.  An example of that is the adoption of Distributed Content Editing via an agreed to technology such as Wiki, Shared SharePoint Documents, Google Docs, etc.

Once a work team agrees that will be how they collaborate on a given piece of content, it becomes very inefficient for an individual within the team to not adopt the same technology.  Sending a Word document in an email when there's a collaboratively editable version of the content somewhere else causes enough pain that the group forces the use of the new technology through peer pressure.  Once enough people in the organization adopt that as the approach, it becomes hard for other forms to exist. 

I personally expect that the days of emailing around documents will be long forgotten.  Instead, the model shown by Google Docs with an email that alerts you to a shared document being the norm and successive alerts coming via email or RSS about changes.   You won't think of things like the location of the document (local, email attachment, network drive, SharePoint) or multiple versions in files at all.

Oh, and real-time editing with multiple authors will be standard.

Discussion Group Software Comparison

While I believe that adoption of tools for distributed content editing is a sure thing, in looking at other tools, I suspect that adoption patterns are going to be quite different.  Many of the tools that we include in the list of social software are things that may be more like discussion group software.  This software has been around for many years.  There is a network effect with the adoption of discussion groups.  If enough people in a group adopt it's use, then it becomes more valuable and progressively harder to remain a part of the group and not adopt the use of the software.

Adoption of discussion group software certainly has followed a very different path than email. 

It's pretty rare where work teams and certainly not organizations have made it the norm to adopt the software.  Instead, it's most often left up to the individual to make a personal choice about adoption and adoption level.  Lurking is considered legitimate peripheral participation.  Not reading everything is often okay.  The adoption pattern is quite different than adoption of email or collaborative content editing.

I'm wondering if there aren't quite a few of the tools that we discuss as social software that will follow this kind of adoption.  A prime example are blogs.  Blogging is somewhat a personal/network version of discussion groups.  I would guess that it will have limited adoption – but that's not to say that even with limited adoption it doesn't bring value.  In fact, part of the comparison is that discussion groups and blogging both bring value with limited adoption.

Social Networks

With this slightly different lens, I'm wondering what this means for the adoption of social networks as a means of expertise location.  If you look at what I've said above, I'm asking:

  • What's the pressure from others in the organization or work team to adopt?
  • What happens if you don't or partially adopt?

In the case of email and collaborative content editing, pressure is high and partial adoption doesn't work.

In the case of discussion groups and blogs, pressure is generally low and partial adoption is generally okay.

With social networks there will be some level of pressure to participate.  If you want to be seen as an expert in the organization, you really need to play along.  However, you can likely get away with only partial adoption.  You may not really use it as a means of finding expertise yourself.  So, while I feel there's tremendous value in social networks as a means of expertise location, I'm currently thinking that adoption is going to be a bit like adoption of LinkedIn.  Widely varying levels of participation, even for those who are registered.

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking has a stronger pressure level when it's adopted by a work team.  If you are tasked with research, and you don't share what you find via a social bookmarking system, the team likely will put pressure on you to do so.  The perceived utility (PU) of social bookmarking is not that high, it's perceived ease of use (PEOU) is high and with the network effect, it would seem that social bookmarking should be something that gains widespread adoption.

However, that's not what I'm seeing out there.  Awareness of these tools is lower than other forms of social software.  IT organizations are adopting these more slowly. 

This seems like a long-term winner.  Am I missing something?


In previous looks at this, I've relied more on the traditional TAM model looking at things like Perceive Utility and Perceived Ease of Use.  What I'm talking about in this post is that we need to take into account work team and organization network effects that bring pressure as an important factor in adoption.  We also need to recognize what adoption might look like (partial).

All that said, a bit of this is crystal ball gazing.

  • What will social software use look like inside organizations in 3-5 years?
  • Where tools should IT be providing and organizations be facilitating and support?
  • Should organizations encourage adoption?

I can't say that I'm not going to swing back and forth on the pendulum a bunch more times.  I certainly am curious what people think around this.

How it Feels Sometimes

I'm sure we can all relate to this:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Case Studies of Informal or Social Learning

I'm looking to find lots of examples of where informal or social learning has been used successfully in the workplace and where it was led by the L&D organization. This can either be already written up, or it can be the name of a person and organization where it was done.

Can you provide me pointers?

If you would be more comfortable, feel free to send me information via an email:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


In the T+D article Learning Gets Social, Tony Bingham paraphrases something I said:

In the May issue of T+D, Tony Karrer, an e-learning technologist and CEO of TechEmpower, encouraged companies to start adapting to the current trend in informal learning because otherwise, they will find themselves marginalized in the business.

I thought it would be good for me to put some context around what I meant by this.  Especially given that there's been some push-back on the term "marginalized."

In the Business of Learning, I pointed out that there were some pretty significant questions facing the training industry.  Budgets have been hammered this year, and there's a question as to what spending levels will look like going forward.  During the Free Online Conference – Future of Learning we heard different perspectives. 

  • Skill Building Still in Demand.  There was definitely the belief that there are continued need for skills development.  If anything, there is increased need.
  • Catalogs / Courses Commoditization.  At the same time, the business of selling a catalog of courses is seen as being tough going forward.  Unless you do something to differentiate yourself in a real way, you will be more and more of a commodity.
  • Many Ways to Differentiate.  We heard several people talking about focus on performance.  We heard about use of assessments.  There was discussion about a lot of the things that need to happen outside the training event.

While there are great content vendors out there, I really didn't hear anyone who was claiming that being a content vendor was a great business right now.  Instead, they talked about other kinds of things that would differentiate them in the marketplace.

I believe the same thing is true for internal learning and development organizations.  If you are seen as being the place you go for training / content production, there will still be need for your work, but it will be under greater pressure, just like external training suppliers.

There are some other big picture trends going on that have impact on this:

  • Faster pace
  • Greater focus and value on high end concept work 
  • Job fragmentation – fewer people in any single job role
  • Shorter job tenure

These pressures suggest that there are greatly increased learning needs within organizations.  However, less of these learning needs will be successfully met by traditional methods.  If you look at what makes a good situation for formal learning:

  • Large Audience
  • Similar Level / Needs
  • Known, Stable Content
  • Few Out of Bounds Cases

Of course, these are almost the opposite of the trends I mentioned.  So, while formal learning solutions will make a portion of how learning will occur, the increased demand for learning will be met through other forms.

This leaves us with the questions:

  • What the role of learning and development relative to all of this?
  • If L&D leadership chooses to focus primarily on traditional methods and less so on informal learning opportunities, will they be marginalized in the business.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Getting Started

During a recent presentation and workshop to eLearning leaders from across a large organization, it dawned on me that we were making Getting Started with eLearning 2.0 a lot harder than it really needed to be.

This organization was not unlike many other large organizations.  It was clear that there was significant opportunity in this organization for getting started with a broader mix of learning solutions.  Their situation sounded incredibly similar to what I have heard in many different organizations.  Some of the specifics that made me think they could make progress:

  • Significant IT support for SharePoint
  • Innovators in Knowledge Management and IT who would be great allies
  • Support of senior L&D leaders
  • Some early adopters of social learning solutions within particular regional learning and development departments

Because I was talking to people with widely varying levels of experience, interest and comfort around web 2.0 tools, it was clear that many of the people would leave the room and not do anything different.  I am hopeful that a few will take on a self-directed learning task around some of the things I talked about in Tool Set to develop their own knowledge and proficiency, but certainly they would not be spearheading any broader learning mix initiatives anytime soon. 

Barrier at the Individual Level

Why is that?  Well, it was expressed pretty well by one of the participants and I think it captures the challenge pretty well that individual L&D practitioners face (paraphrased):

Tony, while I'd like to use some of these approaches, this represents a whole host of new challenges for me in terms of getting agreement within the organization to use this approach (internal clients, L&D leadership, IT, etc.).  I'm already way too busy trying to get my stuff done.  Even if I think this makes a lot of sense, I don't need the headaches.

That's a really great point.  The organization was making it hard and not really supporting individual change agents who wanted to make this stuff happen. 

Role of Senior L&D Leaders

When I say "the organization" was making this hard on individuals - really this rests back on the senior L&D leadership.  They are lucky enough to have some change agents: early adopters who are willing to work to help move this forward.  Their job is to help identify those change agents, identify opportunities, and give support needed to make sure those early adopters can be successful in their project.

I've been finding my advice to L&D leaders almost always turns into the same basic message:

  • Choose a few places where it makes sense
  • Use existing tools as much as possible
  • Give it the support it needs
  • Allow for experimentation (and possible "failure")

Is this really that hard?  It takes work, but I don't believe it's hard.

This is much the same Learning 2.0 Strategy that I discussed a year ago.

Avoiding Two Early Traps

While I'm claiming this isn't hard, there are a few common traps that seems to bog down organizations. 

Trap 1 - Leading with Strategy

Even though the title of the post Learning 2.0 Strategy makes it seem like there will be a big picture social learning strategy, the reality is that the strategy is a bottom up strategy.

You do need to look across the organization to see the kinds of business, performance and learning needs where learning 2.0 will apply.  But, trying to jump too far along Dion Hinchcliffe's adoption curve is a problem.  


Plus, jumping too far leads you right into the next challenge.

Trap 2 - Language

While I use the terms "eLearning 2.0", "social learning", etc. and it's fine to use that amongst ourselves, don't use it in mixed company.  Consider the same message with:

We are going to use eLearning 2.0.

- or -

We are going to set up ways for people to exchange ideas and experiences.

I wouldn't really say the second thing, without a lot more context.  The point is that the terms blog, wiki, social network, etc. will likely raise barriers that are not needed.

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that I believe we often make these things much harder than they need to be.

Yes, there are all sorts of barriers that you have to work through.  And there's work to be done to get through those barriers.  But, I believe the bottom line is that most organizations should be well into the experimentation / ad hoc use of social apps phase.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.