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Archive for July, 2009

Can everybody learn how to learn?

July 25th, 2009 Martin Raske No comments

That's a question I was asked in an interview recently. My answer was: Yes. We have all learned how to walk, how to talk, how to eat etc. without a sophisticated instructional design. For me that's proof enough that we are able to learn on our own. Later in our lives we often un-learn these skills, as more and more instructors enter into our lives. But I am convinced that we can re-learn it easily.

Categories: All The Rest Tags: ,

Voluntary versus Mandatory Training

July 16th, 2009 Martin Raske No comments

There are different ways of motivation why someone would learn something. The easiest way to learn is certainly if you have intrinsic motivation. If you are interested in a topic or if you realize that without an effort to learn some new skills you won't be able to do your job or whatever, then most certainly you will be very much engaged to find all kind of material and information that you need and you will start learning.

However, intrinsic motivation is not always a given. Some things you just have to learn. In most jobs there are things that you just need to know, whether you find it interesting or not. Depending on the industry you are in there might even be regulatory requirements that ask for a specific training. This kind of content is more often than not distributed to the audience as a mandatory course. Thanks to all the systems we have in place, tracking is made easy and reports can be generated at any given time. Of course you will learn many things from these mandatory trainings as well. You might even come across topics that you would never have found if they were not mandatory.

The question is: Can there be an answer, which learning has the better quality? Which learning is more sustainable?

Maybe from an economical perspective one could argue that intrinsic learning is less cost intensive: Once the motivation is given, you don't need to chase people to learn. Whereas in mandatory trainings you have to invest a lot of time and money to convince or even force people to take the course.

From a personal perspective I would always tend to avoid mandatory training wherever it is possible and rather convince people to learn whatever is needed because it helps them do their job better or even because it helps the company to be compliant with the given legal requirements. I don't know of any ROI claculations in this respect, but my assumption would be that investing in motivation is less expensive in the long run than investing in repression.

Sichuan Approach

July 15th, 2009 Martin Raske No comments

'spicy, hot, fresh and fragrant' - these are the four words that best describe the Sichuan Cuisine.

The Sichuan Approach for an e-learning initiative is similar.

Instead of just providing a traditional Web Based Training - and maybe even make it a mandatory training for the company - try to speak to the hearts of the learners by spicing the thing up.  An engaging video campaign that tells a story about why this specific topic was so important for a group of people or a single person and why knowing about it or behaving in the same way would be of great benefit for everybody. Spend some money on this video - rather than spending it on making a dull WBT a little bit less dull. Make this video fresh and fragrant so that people start talking about it. With this layer of the mix you will grab the attention of your audience. And they will learn a lot about the motivation of thinking about the topic.

On a second layer you can always have the - mandatory - e-learning to explain the pure basics of the concept or tool or process. Once people are engaged and motivated to know more about the background, they will much easier accept a less engaging WBT - and in the best of all cases you don't need to make it mandatroy because people want to do it anyway.

Categories: My thoughts, eLearning Tags: ,

WissensWert Blog Carnival Nr. 6 - Share your Know-How

July 10th, 2009 Martin Raske No comments

It's an interesting question: Do I share my knowledge on the web? Don't I fear that my ideas will be copied by others and treated as theirs? 

For me as a former teacher and as a person who is still very much driven by the idea of helping people to develop and learn and get better at things it should be the most normal behaviour to share my knowledge. And I guess I do. I have learned in my life so far that also in terms of knowledge sharing you can rely on Pareto: In 80% of the cases your 'generosity' will be valued and people who re-use it will be fair and tell others that it was originaly your idea. In 20% of the cases people act unfairly and don't cite you. Honestly: I can live with that.

Look at the life outside of the web. Isn't it the same in real life situations? It happened just this week: I was discussing an idea of how to make an HR process training more engaging and I came up with the idea of using a two-fold approach: Use an existing Web Based Training - which is a bit dull and dry - as the medium to transport the process and the tools involved. We don't have to pretend that this is fun. But then use a second layer to grab the attention of the audience - targeted to their hearts and souls, grabbing their emotions. And doing so by using a fancy movie that tells the story of a person using this HR process in a virtuoso manner.

A day later I was invited to yet another meeting with different people but with the same topic: They told me very clearly that they didn't like the way the training was designed until now and that they absolutely wanted to change it into a two-fold approach with a WBT as a basis and an engaging video for the emotions. - Clearly what happened: My ideas were transported to this group by my discussion partner from the day before without telling them where the idea came from. Do I care? Not at all: It looks like I had a good idea that will make its way and that will turned into reality. I can be proud of it - even if nobody remembers who first came up with the idea.

In this light: Yes, I try to share as much as possible and I am glad if some of my ideas are realized. In 80% of the cases the world knows that I was the driver behind - in 20% of the cases I know it myself and that's just as good.

Some Thoughts on Rating Learning Content

July 6th, 2009 Martin Raske No comments

David Wilkins writes in his very intersting post on ASTD:

Learners have always discussed and commented on the courses and classes they are taking.  And learners are usually quick to tell other learners what they think of a given class.  If learners are attending an instructor-led event, they may try to network with other learners before, during, and after the event.  Learners also expect updates about changes to a course or training class.  Today, most of these interactions happen through ad hoc, unstructured, unsearchable exchanges between individual learners.

His suggestion for a 'Wrapped Model' means to use new technologies like social networking, rating, tagging, commenting, sharing etc. as a wrapper around traditional formal training. His ideas is that this way the interactions of learners become searchable and re-usable.

David's idea of using web 2.0 technology with traditional learning is fascinating. Especially the idea of rating learning content. We know the phenomenon from many places, one of the best known is probably a famous online bookshop: If you like a book, you can give it a few stars and write a comment on it. Everybody can read your comments and the rating adds up to some kind of a social ranking of this specific book. And of course: The better the rating, the higher the chance of the book to become a bestseller.

What happens if we transfer this idea into the world of learning?

Humans are gregarious animals. We tend to follow the flock. If more than two people are doing the same, it must be right. We trust the wisdom of the crowd - sometimes even if it leads us into desaster. This is probably one of the reasons, why public rating works so well: If I see that a few people have rated a conent as being good, chances are that I will be looking at this content as well. For learning this means: If a group of people has rated a course or a web based training as being helpful, engaging, interesting or even just fun, many others will take the same course as well. For an organization that deals with learning content this approach might help to increase the demand.

Public rating brings transparency into the world of training. These days most of the time training happens behind closed doors - making some of this transparent will definitely change some of the dynamics in this field.

However, like always there are two sides of the same coin: or are public pillories that pretend to rate the quality of teachers and professors but most of the time it is used as an outlet for frustrated students who have not yet learned that learning does not happen by consuming learning content only but by contributing to it, by working on it, by adding time and effort. If I talk about rating learning content, I don't think about these kind of tools.

Rating of learning content will surely add to more transparency for both learners and facilitators if it is done with a standardized qualitative survey. In a first step it will be useful to closely manage these ratings - in terms of deleting spam (like we have to do in our blogs), maybe getting back to users and ask for clarification etc. If we do this, I am convinced that this feature will add to the learning experience.