Friday, 31 July 2009

Delivering More For Less

If leaner is supposed to be meaner, then how can more L&D be delivered for less without compromising quality?

Tightening the L&D belt

It is a truism, budgets are being tightened during these financially challenging times. I also keep on reading about how we need to get more for less out of L&D provision. Indeed, I’ve just written an article for Croner’s Training & Development Briefing on this very topic as it seems to be of such current interest.

The current situation is affecting both suppliers and buyers/users of L&D. The conundrum is how to achieve more for less without affecting the quality of what is provided to the end user, i.e. the learner. On the face of it this may appear to be an unanswerable poser but judging from all the advice given the answer is blindingly obvious!

If I were to be given £1 for every time I have read that L&D provision must meet the needs of the organisation, the needs of learners, and use the most appropriate delivery media, I would by now be very well-off! However, it would appear that such practices are far from common place and I’m really finding it hard to believe this. Surely after all this time of preaching the ‘cost-effectiveness’ mantra everyone would know what is required but, alas, it seems not. Perhaps the current financial situation will be the very thing which forces them to realise it? For the life of me I hope so.

Talking about cost-effective delivery media, there’s also an increasing emphasis being placed on using ‘technology enabled learning solutions’ wherever feasible. Laura Overton of Towards Maturity fame has been busy giving some very useful advice on how learning technologies should be used to achieve a positive impact on staff and on business results. Laura cites 6 ‘strands’ or behaviours which successful organisations adopt, like defining the need and improving the relevance of L&D provision and considering the needs of learners, none of which are ‘rocket science’, just simply accepted (by some) as best practice.

So, achieving more for less in the present climate is not the conundrum that it might at first seem – you never know but it might even turn out to be a good use of L&D budgets and give people value for their money!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Trendy Terms Alert (2)

Here is my second L&D ‘Trendy Term’ alert. Each Trendy Term Alert (TTA) will consider whether the term has any mileage or whether it should be consigned to the trash can.

TTA: Web 2.0 – e-Learning 2.0 – Learning 2.0

By now millions of words must have been written about one or more of these ‘Trendy Terms’. It all started with Web 2.0, a clearly defined and meaningful concept, and this was then followed by e-Learning 2.0 and, fairly recently, Learning 2.0.

Web 2.0

According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 refers "to what is perceived as a second generation of web development and web design. It is characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. It has led to the development and evolution of web-based communities, hosted services, and web applications. Examples include social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups and folksonomies.”. However, the WWW inventor, Tim Berners-Lee has called the term “a piece of jargon”!

Notwithstanding this, a lot of people understand what the term Web 2.0 stands for and its use. So, when someone says that they are using a Web 2.0 tool, such as I am here, then it’s quite clear to them what others mean.

e-Learning 2.0

This term was coined by those using e-Learning to specify the use of Web 2.0 tools. For some, including me, e-Learning has always encompassed the use of Web 2.0 tools but as the former is so often seen as re-versioned PowerPoint presentations or a modern day version of a computer-based training programme, then I can see why the term e-Learning 2.0 has come into being.

I don’t have a problem with either the term ‘e-Learning’ or ‘e-Learning 2.0’, just as I don’t with ‘face-to-face learning’, ‘action learning’, ‘distance learning’, etc. because they tell me how the learning provision is being delivered, which can be extremely useful.

Learning 2.0

I’m not at all sure what this term means because for me it means virtually nothing. I suspect that it has been invented by those who don’t like the term ‘e-Learning’ and who want it removed from the L&D vocabulary but why, especially given my previous comments?

If ‘Learning 2.0’ = ‘e-Learning 2.0’, as I suspect it does, then why confuse the issue because it doesn’t make any sense? Neither does it help others to know what the person using the term is talking about! If it going to be used on an on-going basis then what is ‘Learning 1.0’? The latter needs to be defined and quickly in my view, and good luck to anyone who decides to take this particular task on.


Web 2.0 =

e-Learning 2.0 =

Learning 2.0 =

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Jack of ALL Trades?

There is a fast growing and disturbing trend which is becoming apparent in the e-Learning world – no longer is it good enough to be an instructional design specialist, you now have to be a graphic designer and a programer as well!

Jack or Master?

I have spent years (14 to be precise) perfecting my specialism as an instructional designer of blended learning. However, only the other day someone rang me and said “Hi there Judith, I’ve got the perfect job for you. We need an instructional designer for 20 days to get an e-Learning programme produced. I assume that you can program in Articulate?”.

My reply to this was along the lines of “... err, sorry, no, I’m not a programer, I am an instructional designer. I have written scripts which were to be programed in Articulate, so I know how the suite of tools work, but as I have said already, I am not a programer and neither am I a graphic designer. I know and specify what graphics I want but I couldn’t design them to save my life!”.

Now, if this was a one off, then OK, but it wasn’t. I’ve had and seen numerous job opportunities recently for the ‘Jack of all instructional designer trades’, which makes me wonder what on earth is going on and, far more importantly, what effect this trend is going to have on the job which I do and, from what others tell me, do very well.

Becoming a top notch instructional designer takes years of experience and I’m still learning and developing in this role. I haven’t the time, skills or inclination to stop my learning and development to learn how to program, even if the authoring tools to be used are in the ‘Rapid’ category. We need more quality instructional designers and not ‘Jacks of all Trades and Masters of None’! Each to their own, that’s what I say. There are plenty of people out their who are ace at graphic design and others who just love programing – so let them get on with it, that’s what I say.

So, what lies beneath this worry trend? The answer my friend, is ignorance and greed! Ignorance of what instructional design is all about and greed in wanting to get something produced as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible. Just as I thought we were finally turning the corner in the production of quality e-Learning programmes, it would seem that we are now in real danger of turning the clock back by expecting people with real instructional design skills and experience to become something they are not.

My dilemma now is, that in order to earn a living, should I learn how to use authoring tools such as Captivate and Articulate? I hope, most sincerely, that the answer is ‘NO’!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Trendy Terms Alert (1)

From time to time I am going to blog about a current L&D ‘Trendy Term’. Each Trendy Term Alert (TTA) will consider whether the term has any mileage or whether it should be consigned to the trash can.

TTA: Social Learning

I have heard and seen the term ‘Social Learning’ more times than I’ve had hot dinners of late! So why the popularity?

I guess it has everything to do with Web 2.0 or e-Learning 2.0, where technology allows people to learn easily in a social environment by exchanging views, having discussions, using webinars, etc. But hasn’t this always been the case without technology? Think about seminars, tutorials and other face-to-face learning techniques. Apart from the dreaded and so often sterile lecture, learning with the involvement of others has been going on ad infinitum.

However, learning can only be an individual activity. Only I can learn something, you cannot learn it for me. So, in a sense, this particular TTA is an oxymoron. I can, of course, learn something by experience, without the help of or input from others. I can also learn from someone, like a teacher, tutor, trainer, coach or mentor, or even a blog, just as I can from being in a group with a number of people, without or with the assistance of technology.

So why is it important to stress or mention the ‘social learning’ dimension? To be honest, I haven’t a clue, unless it is to hype the use of certain types of technology – surely not!

Conclusion? Well, I think we should consign this particular TTA to the …