Monthly Archives: July 2015

Corporate Learning & Potty Training!

I can hear you thinking – what on earth has potty training got to do with how we train our people?

I came up with this metaphor during a recent gathering of our Global Academy Team during a discussion on how to better meet the needs of our users. Here are some questions to think about when you are helping your kids in this important task!

 

  • Where is the most likely place they will be needing the training the most?
    - The answer to this is obvious to me – they need this training “on the job”!
  • When will they be needing it?
    - Their need is never going to be set in their calendar and I suspect many a parent wishes they had a crystal ball in those early days of training. Also, “just in time” rather than “just too late”!
  • How often will they need reminders?
    - This training needs to be on demand and in the early stages, they will most likely need a lot of reminders!

Of course, you could teach them all about this in advance of their need – but without a current need, how interested do you think a 2-3 yr old will be? So maybe, the best place to make things available would be on the cloakroom door?:

 

Whilst this is very much “tongue in cheek”, there is much to be learned from this metaphor which can be summed up as “take the learner to the learning, not the learner to the LMS”. Check out my earlier blog on “The Invisible LMS” for my thoughts on how to achieve that.

Here’s a few of the Corporate “cloakroom doors” where users may be more easily found:

  • In customer support portals to seek technical documentation, raise support cases, download software updates/patches
  • In customer or internal communities
  • On your main .com website
  • On your Intranet – if you are very lucky!

As with Potty training, the user experience for our own learners is a vital element of our Learning delivery that we overlook at our peril. Unless you want to spend a lot of time cleaning up the mess after a training need hadn’t been met! 

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APIs, Adaptive Learning & the Invisible LMS: Andy Wooler Interview

I was very lucky this week to catch up with Andy Wooler. Andy is the Academy technology Manager at Hitachi Data Systems and one of the most experienced people I know when it comes to learning management technology. I was keen to get Andy’s take on how learning technology is developing.

Andy is always looking outwards at new technologies and their potential application for learning. What I particularly like about Andy is that he cuts through the hype and has a good sense for what will really work inside large corporates. This is what he had to say about current trends.

Has the death of the LMS been exaggerated?

Despite predictions about its imminent demise the learning management system (LMS) continues to evolve and thrive.

The LMS will continue because it covers all the learning processes we need to manage, particularly in a regulated industry. However, the LMS will become less visible to learners.

The LMS functionality will sit behind the scenes and we will surface the functionality and data at the point of need.

In the old days we had a SCORM compliant LMS (the learning tracking standard developed originally by the US military) and we produced a lot of SCORM based content. These days learning blends have a rich range of content including video and a wide range of resources such as blogs, slides and social networks. You need to be clear what you need to track. There is an increasing body of content we don’t track in the LMS. We use a lot of video based content which we surface on platforms such as Jive where it doesn’t need to be tracked.

What does this mean for learning design?

I think it is a challenge for learning designers. How do you bring in collaborative elements and how do you adapt the learning. In my view the future is adaptive learning. For us this means producing less scorm based content and creating more learning in an adaptive learning tool.

Adaptive learning tools continually assess the skills and competencies of staff and then adapt learning delivery accordingly. I think this is key as it is about making learning and knowledge fit the individual learner. We are using adaptive technology from Area9 to assess how much the learner knows at any given time, and which adapts the learning accordingly. In my view the future of learning design is adaptive and personalised learning.

What will be the impact on tracking and reporting?

Tracking how many people have completed a course can mean very little. What we really want to know is the current competency and skills of our staff.

With our adaptive learning we are continually assessing staff competencies and skills. We use sophisticated assessments, for example we also ask on assessment how confident learners are of the answers they have provided. How sure are you of the answer you have given.

I think xAPI has a huge role to play. The LMS of the future needs a learning record store (LRS) and the ability to integrate data. Learning should be linked to an individual’s competency and skill.

I can see use cases such as for software engineers inserting a Tin Can statement into the executable file of the software they install which will then bring back data from their actual performance such as time taken errors logged etc. Thus using xAPI we may be able to track not simply learning but performance that can be mapped to their learning needs.

On data analysis there has been a lot of talk of big data but in reality it is not about big data but making best use of the data we have. To me it is important to get the data out of the LMS and analyze it in a data warehouse. We can then look at correlations with other data for example learning and sales data, can we see if learning increases sales. By combining data sets in data warehouse we can look for actionable insights to improve our performance.

So the future is APIs and an invisible LMS

Absolutely, I don’t want anyone to see the user interface for the LMS unless they absolutely have to. What we need to do in the future is pull content and data from the LMS using an API which allows us to surface it on different platforms at the point of need. For example, content could be launched from a deep link from a QR code on a piece of machinery. It gets accessed at the point of need.

The learner really doesn’t care if there is an LMS. We care as learning managers as we need to manage a range of processes and track the impact of learning. The key though is delivery of learning at the point of need, using APIs and single sign on. Thus we need to be able to surface content and data on other platforms as required.

Reproduced by kind permission of Steve Rayson.

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Creating the “Invisible LMS”!

Secret LMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a real pleasure recently to be interviewed by my former boss, Steve Rayson, for an “Expert Interview” on the Totara blog.

And this theme of the “Invisible LMS” has been behind a number of conference presentations I have made recently – most recently for a workshop as part of the Learning & Skills Summer Forum at Olympia.

What do I mean by this “Invisible LMS”? Put simply, it is the idea that we should be taking the learning to the learner and not taking the learner to an LMS interface which he often doesn’t understand! The learner really doesn’t care if there is an LMS! We care though as learning managers as we need to manage a range of processes and track the impact of learning. How to achieve this was the topic of the Olympia workshop.

Of course, you can spend a lot of money customising the user interface of your LMS and I have seen some great examples of this. But there are other ways to improve the user experience other than playing around with the LMS interface – just remember, the user often doesn’t want to have to go there in the first place!

I believe 3 things are key:

  • Deeplinks to your learning content
  • Web services to surface LMS functionality wherever users need it
  • Single sign-on to remove the barrier of yet another password

Deeplinks

The major LMS vendors will have the ability to provide links that take you straight to the content. For elearning courses, this should launch the course without the learner having to find it and register for it. In it’s simplest form, this could even be a simple Excel spreadsheet with a list of courses with their hyperlinks! This technique was used very successfully at one of my previous organisations for the roll out of Sales Training Curricula and completion rates were the highest we had seen! (and the idea for this came not from a learning technology guy, rather the manager responsible for sales training!). Another potential use is of course Social Media. If you have seats free on an upcoming course, why not use Twitter to try and drive more course registrations?  Using deeplinks in a tweet!

 

 

 

The applications of this technique are many – think about where the learner goes on a regular basis and the times and places they might need access to your content. QR codes are another good way to surface content – imagine an engineer arriving on site to fix a piece of equipment which he hasn’t seen for a while. He opens the faulty item and finds a QR code taking him straight to some video content from the LMS which guides him through the process on his smartphone. Is this learning or performance support? I can tell you that the engineer will not care if it helps him complete his task!

Right now you might be thinking “how do I create a QR code”? Here’s the answer! How to create a QR code

 

 

 

 

 

Think also about the value this could add to printed course materials – it’s great to show a video in the class but wouldn’t it be great if the learner could access that from the handouts as well? Or perhaps have additional verbal explanation on a  topic using an mp3 file that the learner can access on their mobile device direct from the printed page?

Web services/API’s

So far, I have focussed on accessing specific content. But there are other things we might want learners to find more easily such as:

  • Finding appropriate learning
  • Knowing when they have an upcoming course
  • Are my Certifications up to date?

Let’s first think about where these learners might be in contact with us:

  • In our customer support portal to seek technical documentation, raise support cases, download software updates/patches
  • In our customer or internal communities
  • On our main .com website
  • On our Intranet – if you are very lucky!

These are all places where web services can be used to bring personalised information on current enrolment or Certification status together with access to an easy course finder. All without visiting the LMS UI itself. Of course, we enable LMS notifications on all of these too – but how many get really noticed? In my current organisation, we have already enabled a view of the current enrolment status within our Customer Support portal and plan to extend this to more services soon. We also have a course finder app on our main .com website and display the current most popular courses in our Customer Community. All without the user visiting the LMS.

Single sign-on (SSO)

The final barrier to the LMS! The separate user id and password can be a barrier to getting your users into the LMS and single sign-on is the answer to this. Whilst the use of deeplinks is possible without SSO, removing the intermediate step of logging in totally hides the existence of the LMS interface and completes the move to the “Invisible LMS”!

No LMS Here!

The views expressed here are those of the author and not of any current or previous employer.

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