Category Archives: Corporate Learning

The word "priority" in a red speech bubble

Setting Our Priorities in the Apocalypse

It’s hard not to feel post-apocalyptic in the face of so much tumult. Harvey, Irma, and Maria have proven that Bill Nye is not the only guy who believes in climate change. Stevie Wonder has been flying up and down the east coast playing at global and national unity concerts. Betsy DeVos has turned back the clock on progress made against sexual harassment on college campuses during the Obama years. And 45 spent a weekend on Twitter rather than dealing with the crisis in Puerto Rico.

We are a society living in the middle of one long silent scream that started in the late evening on November 8, 2016.

We know that there is potential for it all to fall apart, and yet, we continue to whittle away at the less incendiary of our problems.

We quite civilly argue for technology in the schools, for STEM, or STEAM, for SEL, for experiential learning, for less testing. We advocate for a new approach to higher education, one that better prepares our young people for a workplace we can’t yet describe. We openly air our concerns about AI, but in an academic, intellectual way.

We seem to be maintaining, even preparing, but can we really move forward under such confounding circumstances? Will progress make any difference when even this civility fades?

Having narrowly escaped being MOOC’d out of existence . . .

“Tomorrow” can be such a relative term when it comes to education.

In the early 2000s, the forecast was momentarily bleak when higher education saw its life pass before its eyes with the advent of Coursera and the MOOC. Coursera was swiftly followed by edX, Udacity, and others. In November, 2012, Laura Pappano provided an early, albeit cynical history in “The Year of the MOOC”. Still, while she and others argued the meaning of success in a course with videotaped lectures, electronically-graded quizzes, and relatively low completion rates, millions of people were signing up, and other Ivy’s and the rest soon followed.

If anything, the MOOC was a wake-up call for higher ed, proving that people were indeed hungry to learn, that they did not necessarily need or want to come in to the classroom to do so, and were not always asking for traditional credit, either.

In many ways, higher ed is still figuring out how to maintain the relevance of a four-year, campus-based degree. Of course, it is more than online learning that challenges higher education these days. It’s the manner in which learning needs to mutate and adapt to the world around us. As the workplace continues to evolve, so must the way we prepare our young people to enter it. With such rapid change, the whole construct, the whole model of education is being questioned.

Education, having gone too long without significant change, is trying to work things out. Teachers are incorporating more technology into their daily practice. Classroom space is being reconfigured. But the very premise on which our children’s day is based, is not necessarily changing. There is very little self-directed learning and very little choice. We treat our kids a certain way for 16 years, and turn them over to college expecting them to emerge in four more years as semi-independent members of society prepared to fend for themselves.

It’s not working.

Meanwhile, back at the “45” yard line . . .

This is a very big problem to be working on while trying to keep our president from getting us all blown away by either seemingly natural or more conspicuous political disasters. And yet, we do continue to refine our models, gather our experts, test our theories, all in the interest of creating a new paradigm for the new world in which we keep finding ourselves.

For example, on November 8, 2016, I was at a higher ed conference on marketing. On the evening of the 8th, I fell asleep thinking Hillary Clinton would be our next president. We all woke up to a very different reality. That day, despite this, and except for a few incredibly discreet comments, we carried on with the business at hand, with sessions on Marking and RecruitingOptimizing Video for Marketing,Personalizing Education’s ROI, etc. As professionals, this is what we are meant to do. Carry on. Ten months later, the vitriol from the White House thickens, battles within Congress escalate, protests mount, and those academic conferences . . . continue.

Are we stuck or are we recycling new naterial?

For the past couple of years, I had the pleasure of attending the annual New York Times “Schools for Tomorrow” conferences. What always struck me about these gatherings, despite the star-studded panels we heard from, were how steeped in the past much of it seemed to be.

For example, among the people we got to hear were Anant Agarwal, Michael Crow, Rahm Emanuel, Daphne Koller, and Nancy Zimpher each one talking about the latest technology, partnerships, and management over vast systems of higher learning. Not too shabby.

In addition, each year there were the requisite panels on diversity, college sports, and sexual assault. At least, they seemed requisite.

What’s old is new again, or is It?

So, each year, as I sit at one academic conference or another and listen to the deans, presidents, and provosts of the most distinguished schools of this nation walk through their approach to diversity, for example, I’ve been thinking, aren’t we passed this? What about the educational stuff? When are we going to get to the discussion on sleek new learning design?

I’ll admit to similar feelings during sessions on sexual assault. Grateful for the added clarity and protections granted under the “Dear Colleague Letter,” I wondered why we were covering this in such detail during a conference on the future of education. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we have been tripping over the complexities of Title IX for some time now, and I believe that the Obama administration had made quite a lot of headway in providing further protections under its letter of guidance.

Now that Betsy is rescinding the 2011 and 2014 guidelines, what should be old is new again.

Now that 45 is fighting with football players protesting for civil rights, what’s old is new again.

And while we should be past all of this, and we should really be focusing on how to improve education, right?

The truth is, we’ve been consistently moving toward this moment for a long time. That long, silent scream that started on November 8, 2016 is just the latest incarnation of it.

It’s a real-life sim, and we need to buck up.

Perhaps one of the best lessons I learned during my early learning design days with Roger Schank and the team at Cognitive Arts, was the concept of “confounding factors”. Working through a needs analysis with a client, you collect examples of what can go wrong in any typical execution of whatever task it is you are simulating. You then take those and through the efforts of some very talented writing and design staff, weave them into the simulation that learners will immerse themselves in before executing the task for real.

It’s not always that easy for people who are familiar with, or even expert at, completing a regular task to deconstruct it and communicate that to someone else. They seemingly do that by rote.

I sometimes wonder if we became too well adjusted to how we have been living and did not notice the flaws all around us. But the truth is that under confounding societal circumstances, we cannot wait to fix anything.

Backward Planning to a Love of Learning

Clearly, learning and development at a corporate level is moving forward. Continuous learning is making huge inroads with CLOs such as John Palmer leading reskilling efforts at AT&T and providing employees with much more input into the future of their own careers. In the UK, companies such as Fuse Universal are re-envisioning learning with a platform that combines access to expert advice, curated content, offline learning content, peer-provided expertise and more. Content curation is another area where huge inroads are being made in terms of how we access and personalize information. Look at Anders Pink for a great example of that.

It’s K-16 that concerns me the most. I see no sense in arguing between STEM and SEL, for example. Kids need skills and the means by which to continually adjust and build on those skills as the workplace continues to evolve. They need to develop and maintain a passion for learning.

To sum up what may appear at first to seem like a bleak September forecast:

  • We have taken an unfortunate step backward in terms of racial discrimination, and we will need to regain and build on any progress made since the 1960s.
  • Rescinding stricter interpretations of Title IX protections is a bad idea. We need to do better with protections against gender bias and sexual assault. So, yes, the conversation will need to continue.
  • Education does not exist in a vacuum. As society falters, we need to carry on with improving teaching and learning to ensure that the next generation does better than we have.
Toddler boy in office at laptop holding his hand up as if saying "stop"

How Kindergarten Can Save Corporate Learning

Continuous learning continues its slow yet steady upward trajectory in the ever-changing L&D universe. New research by Bersin by Deloitte stresses the need “to enable employees to respond effectively to change” by creating a culture of leadership and learning. The benefits to organizations that can pull this off, according to the report?

·      Two times more likely to respond effectively and efficiently to change

·      Two times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets

·      Seven times more likely to manage performance problems

·      Ten times more likely to identify and develop leaders

A couple of weeks ago at the Education Summit, John Palmer spoke about the culture of learning at AT&T, and the value of continuous learning as a response to change. At AT&T, employees can opt to take advantage of upskilling development programs or choose to remain (and then leave) with relatively soon-to-sunset programs.

The two questions we should be asking ourselves about preparing for tremendous changes impacting the workforce:

1.      How agile can organizations be in responding to questions they don’t even know they will be asking in five year?

2.      How can we prepare the workers of tomorrow to be respond to change that we cannot define today?

An Infrastructure for Corporate Agility

The infrastructure on which corporate learning stands, and therefore its ability to adapt effectively to change, must include the mindset as well as the toolset to adapt. This means that learning theory needs to get converted to practice much faster than ever before. And in smaller pieces. And when people really need it. Charles Jennings has been telling us this for years. As machines become more capable of taking away many of our jobs, more people seem to be ready to listen.

If technology is threatening to eat us, we need to leverage technology to keep up, and more importantly, to remain relevant. So, now we are ready for a version of 70:20:10 that speaks more than ever to just-in-time learning, and need the tools to provide it. Just as everyone started to understand what an LMS is, we are now demanding platforms that are more flexible and that will provide access to and credit for learning from multiple sources. For a start, look at what the teams at Fuse UniversalEdCast, and Degreed are doing in terms of providing, curating, and aggregating learning.

What about the Culture of Learning?

The change starts in kindergarten with helping to shape a love of learning that goes beyond mimicry and memorization. The type of mind required to answer questions we don’t will be asked and change that we cannot yet define needs less structure and more open-minded problem solving capability.

Should we be teaching kids to code? Sure! Let’s also teach them to work with their hands as well and break down a problem into its component parts.

Here, too, let’s use the technology at hand to provide personalized learning that not only allows students to follow a path of most interest, but that understands how that student thinks and is designed accordingly.

Partnerships for Lifelong Learning

By default and most frequently by definition, most schools are designed to ensure success measured by graduation and college acceptance rates. And socially, we have been encouraged to measure our own success by these milestones and by the one that logically follows, the landing of a respectable job with a respectable salary. In “Is High School the Mother of All Event-Based Learning?” I questioned the emphasis on these specific goals at the potential loss to those lifelong learning skills such as the ability to identify, organize, plan and allocate resources; work with others, acquire and evaluate information; understand complex interrelationships; and work with a variety of technologies. Clearly, we need to continue preparing young people to enter the workforce with the appropriate level of skills. How can we more effectively provide the competencies that are going to help them through a lifetime of work and learning?

Project-Based Curricula in PK-12

In previous blogs, I’ve shared ideas around incorporating more project-based learning and Maker curriculum that require both individual and team effort to succeed. These projects not only bring teams of kids together with more thematically-driven material, but they may also bring outside expertise into the schools. Think of how flipped classrooms remove the sage from the stage and make the teacher more accessible to groups of learners as well as individuals. These partnerships around project-based learning broaden the range of role-models and potential mentors and also actively model real-life collaborations as part of the learning process. Here are a couple of examples of groups doing some of this great work today.

I’ve mentioned Tools at Schools before as one organization doing great work in this area. They partner with schools and companies and introduce design thinking as a means to problem solving around a specific real-world issue. Tools at Schools and the manufacturing partner then work with the students to develop prototypes of the design solution that is presented at a final “market launch.” The six-month project has teams of students working together steadily building many of the competencies associated with resources, information, relationships and technology.

Another group doing some good work in this area is team at The Future Project. The Future Project brings “Dream Teams” into schools to work with students to create “Future Projects” that may include clubs, websites, companies, etc. Not only do students complete individual projects, but the sense of esprit de corps and cultural changes resulting from the overall effort benefit the entire school community. Working with volunteer entrepreneurs and businesses, students create brands, budgets and project timelines for implementing their business plans. An annual Dream Con event showcases final projects. Here, too, those lifelong learning skills are addressed through the duration of the project.

Apprenticeships for Millennials

Beyond K-12, Enstitute is a very impressive group matching millennials with mentors and apprenticeships that engage them directly with the type of work they want to do. These year-long paid apprenticeships may enhance or provide an alternative to traditional higher education programs. Enstitute develops the relationships with the host companies, selects the candidates, and manages the year-long program.

UnCollege is another group providing a more hands-on alternative to a formal college experience. The group, started by unschooler author Dale Stephens, offers two main programs. The one-year Gap Program is a four-phased program that includes travel abroad, a U.S.-based residency, an internship, and a capstone project. It’s a skills-based program built on the principles of self-directed learning and connects participants with mentors and internships. A more streamlined “Hackademic Camp” provides participants with a three-day workshop drawn from the Gap Year curriculum. Skills development focuses on networking, building social capital, negotiation and more.

Today’s challenges in the educational arena require an extended network to ensure that we are developing capacity for a lifetime of learning rather than moving students from one milestone to the next.

Stay connected to Designs2Learn for more on how learning design today is helping to shape tomorrow’s workforce.

This is a School that Johnny Wants to Attend

school signJohnny is ten years old and has had his share of difficulties in school. He has a hard time sitting still for all of his lessons, and he can’t seem to focus on what the teacher is saying. He sits and stares at his worksheets in class and cries when his parents tell him to do his homework. He’s happier building model airplanes and playing video games. He appears to be disinterested in school, and everyone around him is frustrated and concerned.

I worry about Johnny, so I decided to design an optimal school for him. This school has:

  • More material that is introduced at home for homework. He accesses these lessons on his computer, working through interactive learning modules and videos, responding to online quizzes, all in preparation for a deeper dive in school the following day.
  • Less time in class listening to the teacher talking about a new topic, and more time asking questions of his peers and his teachers about what he reviewed at home.
  • Fewer days spent inside the classroom.
  • Some days at home or at a friend’s house on a designated “e-learning” day completing assignments online doing some individual assignments, and other assignments with a friend or two via Skype.
  • Physical Education programs that incorporate local sports clubs and self-guided activities geared to build confidence and individual accountability for one’s health.
  • Some days at a local business learning how paper is manufactured, cows are raised, food is prepared, architects build models, etc. In each grade, he is introduced to different industries and returns to some from previous years, building a more sophisticated base of knowledge throughout the years.
  • Museum days where he works in small groups on a long-term project lasting several weeks to several months.
  • Days at school, working in groups as his teacher walks around the room providing feedback; or working alone and getting one-on-one time with his teacher.
  • Days at school where different experts come into the classroom and work on coding projects, design projects, building projects, etc.
  • Service days where he volunteers with organizations in the community in activities that match or expand his own skills.

In Johnny’s new school, the responsibility for teaching is extended to a broader community of practicing experts, is enhanced by technology, and is individualized to further support his learning. His classroom teacher plays an ever important role guiding him through these experiences and providing feedback and support to reinforce learning from this wider range of resources. Teaching is as vital a role as ever in this scenario, but responsibility is shared with a wider circle of permanent resources providing more input into the experience than has been true in the past.

Some aspects of this new school are currently being integrated into curriculum across the country as teachers flip their classrooms and blended learning technology assists in the individualization of the learning experience. As partnerships expand with technology providers and practicing experts in a wider range of industries, curriculum design extends into a curatorial role within the PK-12 just as it has with learning and development teams in the corporate sphere. We back into the learning experience starting from the working world, providing over the PK-12 experience what learners need to know sooner and over a broader range of time. Yes, what people need to know changes all the time, but by extending the learning network to the community that includes the current workforce, the curriculum is more likely to refresh as needed over time. There’s less of chance of culture shock when people move on from PK to college and on to work. It’s 70:20:10 for the younger set.

I think Johnny has a better chance of being happier here as the lines between “school” and “life” become further blurred. He was never disinterested in learning, as he was teaching himself all the time. He has more opportunities to participate in and drive his overall learning experience, and more of a chance of making an impact on the world one step at a time.

Visit us at Designs2Learn for more on learning design for social impact.

A (Cautionary) Tale of Two Students

Happy and sad face.This is not a story of wealth and poverty in the traditional sense, but it does address the issue of opportunity, and the decisions made when learning design lacks the context required to motivate individual learners within a system.

The two students at the heart of this story are sisters, raised in moderate circumstances in one of the richest cities in the world. Their education began as it does with so many children in this city, with an anxious parent researching pre-school opportunities at the elder child’s birth, making the round of school visits when that child turned two years old, taking the radical chance of applying to only one of the top contenders, and being lucky enough to get accepted.

It continues with the nail-biting episodes of applying with the second sibling during a re-examination of the school’s sibling policy and the fortune of acceptance despite clear criteria communicated during the whole nail-biting episode.

Fast forward past the elementary and middle school years except to acknowledge the drama therein regarding out-of-catchment campaigns and testing aimed at both parents and children trying to prove their suitability in these new arenas. We land now at the high school years at two of the top public high schools, two of the most difficult to get into but worlds apart in their focus, numbers of students, and, perhaps the only way to articulate this . . . spirit.

In one school, the student shared the hallways with 500 or so other classmates and maintained a high average in what the school proclaimed to be a progressive curriculum, mostly made of core subject areas (college prep), and sought to enhance her studies with electives more in line with her personal interests, creative writing and the visual arts.

In the other school, the student spent her day with over 2000 other students, all pursuing their degrees in a two-pronged, arts and academic focused curriculum that required three periods of study in the arts on top of the traditional academic subject areas.

The student in the first school began to question the validity of her studies early on and became particularly agitated as the college selection process geared up in junior year. The majority of her free time was spent on her own arts projects in somewhat solitary pursuit of accomplishing goals set for herself in areas totally outside the realm of the school curriculum. By the fall of her senior year, she had left school, no longer able to continue within a system that did not map to her own set of core values. She eventually completed her high school diploma working with an accredited online school, where she was able to incorporate her love for the arts into her final requirements, working closely with a set of dedicated faculty who understood, nurtured, and respected the additional effort required to complete projects in this manner.

The student in the second school thrived in an environment designed to nurture both academic and artistic talent. Performance was embedded into the curriculum and continuous improvement measured for both artistic and academic pursuits. Family involvement in the form of concert attendance, studio meetings and regular discussions over new pieces being studied and practiced was a natural byproduct of the school design.

Both students demonstrated highly creative instincts throughout childhood, lovers of literature, storytellers both, and both placed high value on the creation of (albeit different) artistic products. What happened during their final years within the compulsory educational system provides a cautionary tale for all of us, particularly those of us charged with the design of learning experiences across the educational continuum. Context is of vital importance, even and perhaps especially for our youngest of learners. While the context evolves as you move from youth to adulthood, from student to worker, most of us need a reason to be learning something. The more context we can provide, and the earlier we do so, the better.

Is Storytelling a Part of Your Learning Design?

Once Upon a TimeAboard a recent flight from New York to San Francisco, I watched the new United Airlines safety video. Yes, I watched it because it was not only a smooth piece of marketing for the airline, but it was also an improved means of teaching or reminding passengers about airline safety. The video was a well-crafted piece of storytelling and held my interest as I heard each of the characters tell their part of the story. Storytelling has proved its value as a teaching tool time and time again, but just how much of a place does storytelling have in today’s learning culture? How do we define storytelling nowadays? How do we adapt best practices to meet the needs of the millennial learner-employee?

Use of Expert Stories

Expert stories are used in a number of ways in the development of training and performance support content.

  • An expert story might provide the basis for the learning design, as a foundation from which objectives are extrapolated and around which the training content is presented. This is frequently the way most training design begins. Sometimes this is referred to as the “brain dump” in situations where the expert shares what s/he knows and the learning designer “takes it from there,” building a learning design around those objectives in a series of presentational screens or PowerPoint slides. Interactivity may be introduced at varying levels to make the experience more engaging.
  • In other situations, an expert story may become a part of the training itself, either in the form of video clips integrated within the learning design itself, or as the main component of a course or learning module, around which activities such as assessments and discussions may be designed.
  • “The expert clip” (those video clips of varying lengths) can also be included as part of a more extensive knowledge base, tagged and categorized as appropriate for maximum findability to be accessed by learners and employees on an as-needed basis in order to complete training or on-the-job tasks.

Immersive Stories (aka “Scenarios”)

All of the above examples use stories to illustrate effective decisions made and lessons learned. There is a more learner-centric use of stories, and that is the participation of your learners in the story in order to actually practice effective decision-making, perhaps fail, and receive remediation and feedback as part of the skills-building process.

While “illustrative storytelling” can support learners and employees engaged in specific tasks, it’s the “immersive storytelling” that is going to place them within a task for the sole purpose of actually simulating the doing of that task in a safe environment. And while immersed in that practice task, your virtual characters are still going to need the support of an expert to guide them safely to goal.

So it’s not an either-or situation but rather a matter of how safe and appropriate it is to let your learners loose on the specific tasks at hand.

Storytelling in an Organizational Context

Storytelling has immense value across today’s educational continuum, and it can play a role anywhere within the mix of learning appropriate to your specific audience. Stories have their place in PK-12, higher education and the workplace, whether discussing “moral tales” or case studies. In the corporate arena, stories can play a role not only in training and performance support, but also as a leadership tool for multiple purposes. Stephen Denning wrote on this in a great piece called “Telling Tales” in the Harvard Business Review, May 2004. It still has value today. Denning talks about how a carefully chosen story can help the leader of an organization translate an abstract concept into a meaningful mandate for employees and lays out the different types of storytelling for different audiences and purposes. According to Denning, stories can:

  • Spark action
  • Communicate who you are
  • Transmit Values
  • Foster collaboration
  • Tame the grapevine
  • Share Knowledge (intellectual capital)
  • Lead people into the future

Storytelling in a 70:20:10 World

Today everyone can be an expert and contribute their stories to the knowledge base whether as part of small group interactions in the classroom, online discussions as part of a synchronous learning experience, or within the workplace in the form of content shared within a company portal.

The trick here is in the monitoring of the conversations, the curating of the content and the appropriate form of storytelling at the right point in time. The mix is changing on a regular basis. With today’s growing acceptance of blended learning within PK-12, for example, students are getting more opportunities to engage in online learning experiences, including some scenario-based gaming applications rejiggered for the school environment. (Minecraft)

When we consider today’s learners and our audience within the workplace, we know we need to provide learning content in appealing doses and formats.  While a talking head may not be enough to sustain a 10-week college course, it might be just the right thing for a salesperson looking for quick advice on how to meet a specific type of customer objection, for example. And if that salesperson is a new hire, it might just be appropriate to immerse him in a 30-minute scenario where he can practice meeting different objections and fail safely within the confines of the learning experience.

Stories come in many different formats and serve different purposes. What they all have in common is that they can play an integral role in increasing understanding and driving performance across the educational continuum.

Stay tuned for more stories from Designs2Learn. And if you’d like to see more about that new airline safety video, Forbes has a nice piece on it, including the video itself here.

Blended Learning and 70:20:10

This powerful image, called “At School,” first appeared in a series called “France in the Year 2000,” postcards created for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. In this prescient series, artists imagined what life would be like in the year 2000. The series is posted to The Public Domain Review, and I first saw it via a link from the innovative folks at Rise Out.

What is so interesting about the series is how insightful some of the concepts were in envisioning how technology would impact on people’s lives in all aspects ranging from daily chores such as housekeeping to agricultural practices and warfare. What remains so interesting today is how these images can help us reflect on where we are today and where we would like to be in terms of how to use technology to improve our lives.

As we see more and more applications of technology-assisted instruction and the principles of blended learning enter the discussion over best educational practices, we realize that 70:20:10 has already made an appearance in classrooms, although it may not always be referred to as such. It’s only fitting to consider how “the blend” will evolve over time.

Early Iterations of Blended Learning in the Workplace

Early on, there were a number of reasons for blending learning, and many of them had to do with introducing an online component into the mix, oftentimes with a goal in mind of reducing the need for travel and therefore reducing costs. In those days we thought about how to best present the content and tagged the following as “valid” reasons for designing and developing online courses:

  • Content that needed to reach the greatest number of employees.
  • Courses covered infrequently at remote locations.
  • Content considered pre-work to other training activities.
  • Content that changed so frequently that it’s difficult to keep the audience up-to-date.
  • Content that put the learner in harm’s way (use of simulations covered this).
  • Content requiring significant drill and practice to master.
  • Content linked to regulatory compliance or certification.
  • Content requiring consistent delivery.

While some of these still hold true as reasons for determining the nature of delivery, decisions go beyond how to deliver a course, but how to drive performance on a regular basis.

Blended Learning Becomes 70:20:10

As online learning has become more of the standard mix in the corporate environment, conversations have evolved and become more focused on informal learning and how that can best be applied within the workplace. So, the blend” is now less about combining online with face-to-face but more about the degree of formality in the mix. The 10% (or more, percentages do not have to be exact) of formal learning most likely includes both face-to-face instruction and online learning components.

The larger concern is how to best provide the tools and management over the other 90%. How can organizations best provide the informational resources and expertise to increase employee engagement and improve employee performance? Technology in the form of performance management and individualized learning plans can support the formal part of the equation while online coaching and mentoring tools, personalization features and capabilities around user-generated content all contribute to making more robust informal and social learning.

What is Driving Blended Learning in K-12?

In a lot of classrooms nowadays, “blended” in many cases has come to mean a blended modality within the classroom itself. Teachers are utilizing technology-assisted instruction to better enable them to carry out individualized instruction, assigning online activities to individual students and groups while working one-on-one (or in small groups) with others.

It’s no secret that a great deal of blended learning in K-12, and the attendant technology offerings, can be tracked to Common Core and concerns around meeting the standards. We’re not going to enter that debate here, but to see this blend occur in this manner is interesting and has a lot of implications for the future of learning.

Project-based learning, DIY Learning and the Maker Movement are trends that reflect the growing confidence in experiential learning and how we can strengthen the bond between how you learn in school and how you learn on the job.

Our Own Look to the Future

As we’ve discussed previously, we see all manner of learning moving in the direction of a model much like that of 70:20:10. While the percentages may differ, and where the bulk of learning activity along the continuum may reside within a more formal environment for some and less formal for others remains to be seen.

As online learning enters the K-12 environment and teachers are provided tools to address individual learning styles more efficiently and more effectively, students also become better equipped to manage or direct their own learning.

And as these students mature, and utilize more of the tools at their disposal to support their learning, they enter the workplace with even more skills to address the problem solving required of them.

At least that’s how I see the future state. (Don’t forget to look “back to the future” by checking out the other “Year 2000” images at Public Domain Review!)




Time to Check in on Continuous Learning

Time To Learn. Education Concept.As corporations and educational institutions  either exult in or struggle with the evolution of learning, debates continue to rage over the myriad of technologies available to achieving success. According to Bersin by Deloitte, annual spends on learning are back to pre-2008 levels. Brandon Hall is reminding us to connect learning to organizational goals. Watch your KPIs! There is much to sort through. At the end of the day, one change in perspective is going to make all the difference: We simply must stop considering learning to be a one-time event and to approach learner success with a continuous learning strategy in mind. Here are the top five things you need to consider when mapping out a continuous learning plan for your organization.

1. Can you provide a continuous learning environment for your employees?

Despite the non-stop discussions over the appropriate selection of learning management systems, and despite the fact that 42% of organizations are looking for a new LMS, an LMS alone is not the solution. These discussions miss the point. Yes, you need a high quality LMS to track learning, manage learning plans and competencies, and depending on the nature of your business, be able to provide a rich set of data to see how learning is supporting your organization’s business strategy. But in the absence of the easy access to resources, company communications, and access to experts and peers, the LMS itself is not going to get you to where you need to be. Let’s break it down further.

2. What kind of support can you offer for completing everyday tasks?

Learning happens every day on the job, and part of the way to help your employees perform better is access to the resources they need to get the job done. Whether it’s a library of best practices, sales presentations, product specifications, case studies, etc., how easy is it for your teams to find the information they need to meet the needs of your customers?

3. Where are your experts hiding?

How easy is it for employees at any level of the organization to get help when training and resources don’t provide them with what they need to know? What is the mechanism for requesting help? It should not be phone or email. And reverse the roles and ask yourself, how easy is it for experts to keep up with the requests? Mentoring is key to a solid continuous learning strategy, and you should be providing the tools and processes to make this happen.

4. How engaging is the actual training you provide?

None of this is meant to diminish the importance of well-designed and professionally executed training. There’s a YouTube video out there for nearly everything, and we love Khan Academy and the fantastic resources that are out there today that can and should be available to help drive learning and performance. But when you target the 10% of formal learning you need to provide today, don’t forget to bring along your instructional design team and make it worth your learner’s while.

5. How connected are your employees to the successes and failures of your organization?

Another vital component of your continuous learning environment should be regular communications from senior leadership as to how your company is doing. An environment in which your CEO can report by blog, video post, etc. about recent wins and even losses makes for a cohesive ecosystem in which everyone understands the part they play. Lessons learned through this type of communications strategy are no less important than those in a 5-minute video or one-hour training module.

Continuous learning is a key strategy for success in the workplace. Promoting continuous learning is something we should start doing in kindergarten and throughout one’s formal education. And once people get to the workplace, we should have the tools to support continuous learning and company success.

Learning to Fish with the Net

Fisherman of lettersDialoging (a polite term here at best) with my 17-year-old about her approach to one of her summer homework assignments, she turned what was going to be my argument on its heels. Instead, she reinforced much of what I’ve been advocating for professionally, and she illustrated more than ever the need for a more pragmatic approach to learning at all stages across the educational continuum.

My initial query into her approach centered on how closely she had read the assigned material for a particular class. The assignment consisted of reading the assigned book and locating at least five sources to substantiate responses to a number of questions on key points of the book. Some potential resources were recommended for the outside sources but not much else in the way of methodology or support for completing the assignment.

In the process of completing the assignment, she came to me with certain questions about the topics covered and also ran draft responses to certain questions by me for feedback. When I inquired as to how closely she had read the text, she admitted to having skipped certain sections, explaining to me how irrelevant they were to the assignment and bringing on all the teenage indignation appropriate to my questioning her process. On closer examination (and further dialog), she detailed to me the contents of some of these sections, clarified that most were detailed histories and streams of data not appropriate to the main subject matter, and revised her description of her own process from “skipping” to “scanning.”

I then asked her about the outside sources she selected, whether they were ones of her own choosing or ones that had been shared by friends. Some were provided by friends (there is much ad hoc team work that goes on that one wonders why team-based projects still create so much angst) and others she found herself, several simply in the process of trying to understand the content of the assigned source itself.

“You of all people should understand why I work like that,” she declared, and I knew that she was paving her own way through the process of learning, albeit with some peer support and some increasingly adept, self-taught research skills.

Two articles from August’s issue of T&D highlight the need to develop more independent learners from a corporate perspective. In “Teaching Learners to Fish,” Allyce Barron outlines an approach for placing “learners in an active role inside the training room, and out on the job after the training session is over.” In “Partnering to Improve Time to Competency and Efficiency,” Emily Dunn and Adam Krob provide an overview of and case for Knowledge Management and Knowledge-Centered Support in the workplace. Both pieces extol the long-term benefits for companies of teaching employees how to more effectively control their own learning and to become more efficient seekers of knowledge.

This is something we can and should start teaching earlier on. Just as corporations and universities are including the role of “curator” into their learning teams to help learners sift through the noise of available resources, so should K-12 schools support their student performance through the carefully guided acquisition of knowledge management skills and practices.

What’s your take on it?


Learning by Actually Doing

I Learn By Doing vs Reading Man Choosing Education StyleThose of you who have read my previous blogs know that I am a huge proponent of 70:20:10 learning across the educational continuum. We’ve seen this tested in the corporate world through the great work that Charles Jennings, Jay Cross and many others have done and written about. Recently, as I’ve toured the country with a rising high-school senior looking at different college options, we’ve paid close attention to the work study, internship and other experiential opportunities offered on and off the college campus. Depending on the type of program you are enrolling in, many schools offer great options for field-based or on-campus jobs or internships that help college students build skills and networks while still in school. So, should we and how can we apply 70:20:10 in K-12? Yes, now more than ever, and here’s a few ways how.

  1. Make more time for project-based learning where the project involves actually building something. K-12 curricula must include long-term projects that allow students to work through problem-solving activities over a period of time. The ideation and project planning processes, working toward interim goals (aka project milestones) and the concept of final deliverables all provide real-world practice and can incorporate many of the standards required in today’s public school paradigm.
  2. Collaborate with outside experts, mentors, and business partners. Just as in the workplace, we look to those with more experience to support our individual work efforts, so should project-based learning be supported by partners in the business world willing to put in the time to bring these projects to fruition.
  3. Incorporate technology to provide the performance support to build on the interdisciplinary skills required to work on and complete the project. Today, many teachers are using blended learning programs to strengthen individual learning within a classroom setting. DIfferent students working through a team project will need different levels of support. Whether it’s access to Khan Academy videos or support by groups such as Digital Promise or others, there are systems in place to help support the type of activity that can ensure individual success within a team-based project.

This week’s pick for cool K-12 experiential learning is Tools at Schools. They are doing some fantastic work in the schools through fantastic learning design and thoughtful collaborations. Stay tuned for more on making learning more meaningful and accessible across the continuum.