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Monday, March 13, 2006

Do Learning Professionals Make the Worst Learners?

The old adage:

Doctors make the worst patients.

The new adage:

Learning professionals make the worst learners.

Overlapping Events

I was truly struck by several interesting overlaps at the recent Training 2006 conference. Consider the following:

Item 1 - Marc Rosenberg’s Presentation - As experience level of learners grows, we need to provide learning and performance through access to knowledge and collaboration with the learner really owning the learning. See my previous post for more on this.

Item 2 - Saul Carliner’s Presentation surveyed the audience of roughly 200 people:
How many years of experience do you have as a learning professional?

· 1 year or less – 10%
· 2-5 years – 30%
· 6-10 years – 30%
· 11+ years – 30%

Where do you learn about what’s new in learning?

· Publications, e.g., Training Magazine, CLO, etc. – 99%
· Blogs – 2.5% (5
hands went up out of 200)
· Attending conferences – 100% (all of them were
at a conference of course)

I don’t remember if Saul also asked about participating in communities, but I know that participation is dismally low in learning professional communities.

Item 3 – Stephen Johnson’s Presentation - The author of Everything Bad is Good for You made several interesting points, but one that stuck with me were the examples of how people participate heavily in forums around things like the game Civilization IV and the TV Show Lost. See my previous post for more on this.

Item 4 – Many Presentations including My Panel on Blended Learning - The key to successful learning interventions is planning for follow-up. Providing a singular learning event without follow-up is destined to fail.

Not much controversial so far.

Questions for Each of Us

But, then why is it that as a learning professional, we are comfortable going to or sending our people to a conference like Training and treating it as an isolated learning event?

Why are we willing to talk about follow-up and collaboration, but not to do it for ourselves?

Why do we as a community not care about what we do as much as the people care about Lost or Civilization? How many people are going to leave the conference and write something in their blog?

Heck, how many people will even begin to read blogs? Or read threaded discussions? Or in any way really extend the learning experience beyond a few days in lovely Orlando sunshire?

What to Do After Attending a Conference?


Let me turn this around for a minute, and pose this as an opportunity. Let’s assume for a second that we are learning professionals and that we want to help people grow. They are going to be attending a conference.

What types of things would you recommend that they do after attending the conference in order to make the conference become part of a larger personal learning and growth experience?

What sources exist to help us with this?

FYI – I did a quick search and what I found was an article that said:

If your HR staff are less productive after attending a conference, here's why. Workplace stress saps productivity, according to a survey of 600 frequent business travelers commissioned by Kensington Technology Group (San Mateo, Calif.). Business travel makes it worse, with two out of five business travelers reporting headaches, back or neck pain, or sleeplessness while traveling. Nearly three out of five endure "significant fatigue." Travel time itself is unproductive and upon their return, half of travelers need two full days to catch up on work responsibilities and some (12%) say they need three days.

Hardly the glowing praise for attending a conference. :)

Action Items

I have some ideas of what could be done, but I would be curious what other people think? Post your comments here or on your blog and point me to your blog post via comments.

If you are among the 2,000 learning professionals who attended Training 2006, or maybe a different event, am I being unfair about how well you are acting as a learner?

Since you are reading this blog, you are likely in the 2.5% that read blogs, but if this is an isolated occurence, i.e., you don't even have a blog reader set up, then I would say that right now, this very instant go to BlogLines and set yourself up with an account and subscribe to my blog and the list of blogs on the right. At a minimum, that will help you stay in the loop of ideas that will emerge about how we should all improve ourselves as learners.

What other immediate actions do you recommend or are you going to take?

I’m going to try to post these questions a few places to see what kinds of answers, I would welcome your comments.


Christie Mason said...

I read your blog because you posted a link to it on an async discussion forum. I don't subscribe to blogs because, so far, I haven't found that reading any individual's opinion on all topics is worth reading.

I didn't attend that Conference, and no longer attend any "Training" Conferences because it's too much time for too little connections and content. I can get quicker access to more useful information through Google or the asynch discussion forums.

I particularly don't attend eLearning Conferences because they are not a product of the product. No online pre-Conference support, post Conference discussion/connection, etc. I just can't figure out why I should have to carve out travel & attendance time just for the opportunity to sit in a darkened room for hours and listen to a self proclaimed expert spout off when that's the antithesis of online learning support processes.

Admin said...

Back when I was working on my undergrad degree, I had a full time job in a university library. When I tried to make use of the education benefits I was told 'no'. Why? The library director said it was only an undergraduate degree. It would be different if I was going for my masters. This from a PhD. My current employer in higher ed. just bought several high end applications that I'm supposed to master. When I asked about training I was told to 'get some of those dummy books'.

rlubensky said...

In the days (presently, in some circles) when elearning amounted only to online tutorials (CBT, CAL), I often commented on how developers like me rarely used the kinds of solutions we built for our own learning. Now that we promote participatory learning solutions, we have to show some leadership and practise what we preach.

John Cleave said...

I "use" blogs frequently via Google searches, but have never managed to integrate them into my daily practice, because there are only so many hours in a day, and the signal:noise ratio on even the best ones are just too high. From a training standpoint, I suspect this will also be the case. One exception might be special interest blogs (or more likely, newsgroups) attached to courses: while someone is engaged in the course, they'll probably be open to all manner of discussion surrounding the topic, and so take the time to monitor the course's blog. In fact, this is a standard feature of eCollege, Blackboard, and other courseware. Does anyone know if these features are actually utilized?

Christie Mason said...

Now I'm thinking about your comment that trainers make poor learners and it's something I've suspected for a long time. During the past 5 years that suspicion has gone to confirmation during my observations of how most "trainers" still insist on putting PPT on the web (or even worse PPT transformed into Flash, most worst is PPT transformed into Flash wrapped in SCORM)and calling it eLearning. I see very few trainers willing to learn web tools such as HTML, XML, ASP, PHP, etc.

To participate in developing for the web environment, trainers need to learn the tools, best practices and standards of that environment - not some pseudo tools and standards that are focused on creating proprietary formatted sources files for display in a controlled, linear course.

The current crop of authoring, LMS/LCMS, SCORM/AICC standards build more walls between training and the rest of the enterprise. Training will never get its seat at the big table as long as it refuses to learn and apply the same web and enterprise level tools that every other functional area has accepted.

Harold Jarche said...

For those who don't find blogs useful but who are still interested in joining learning communities, I would recommend a live podcast. Ed Tech Talk offers programmed and impromptu gatherings online, with two very capable net radio hosts who interview people in our field.

There is a text chat in parallel to the live session and anyone can be invited into the skype conference. Sessions and chats are recorded so you can listen at a more convenient time. This is a pretty painless way of joining a community, even if you only lurk.