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In the learning & development context, there are a variety of methods of delivering learning such as e-learning courses, coaching, workshops, conferences, 1:1′s and so on.
What is important is recognising that no one method of delivery is inherently better than the other. What is true is that certain learning delivery methods will be more appropriate depending on the organisation, the individuals within the organisation and the type of learning that is required.
I was out on a couple of client visits with Neil on Friday and it was clear that trying to sell e-learning to one of our clients would be as appropriate as selling ice to an Eskimo. We might have the best e-learning courses in the world, but the culture of the organisation and the kind of people who require the learning prevent e-learning from being a suitable solution to this particular client.
Knowing our client (those to whom we deliver the learning & development, not just those who sit in on the meetings), helps us to make sure we provide the most appropriate learning solution to them. In this case we will be running small workshops which teach basic theory but provide plenty of opportunity for skill drills. That’s what they need and what will provide the best ROI for them. We won’t even attempt to sell ice to Eskimo’s.
“How is it possible to measure soft skills?” was the question that someone recently asked on LinkedIn, and the answer which was chosen as ‘best answer’ was written by yours truly. Here is what I wrote:
Taking the term ‘soft skills’ to be a wide range of skills in interacting with people, there are definitely ways in which one can measure these skills.
As a company we have started to employ Branching Video as a method of testing soft skills.
Let me explain:
We recently trained 1500 sales managers across Europe for a large financial services company. Part of this was to show them on how to run 1:1 meetings.
To evaluate their learning in this case, we used branching video of a one to one meeting in action, and asked the delegates to explore possible outcomes.
In each instance they would see the stem, a piece of video that outlined part of the meeting. They could then explore two or three further video clips showing ways that they could deal with the situation.
Following this they would make a decision and go on to see the consequences of those decisions. A critical part of evaluation is to encourage people to make decisions and evidence those decisions as well as understanding the impacts of those decisions.
This part of the evaluation strategy was very popular and effective and is now being expanded to incorporate other areas of the business.
Of course this method could be used for a variety of soft skills and provide an ability to measure an individual’s learning.
By applying certain key performance indicators to each soft skill, one is therefore able to measure the ROI as well.
This year, we are going to resurrect the Marton House blog. There are numerous reasons why one would want to re-start a blog:
- It’s the ‘cool’ thing to do. Used to be cool. But then again, so did shell suits.
- Everyone else is doing it. But I wouldn’t walk round with my pants on my head even if everyone else was doing it.
- I’ve got nothing better to do. If only that were true.
- We want to share our expertise and experience with you. A bit like James Martin does on Saturday Kitchen, but without the incessant talking, sizzling and ‘I don’t have a clue what you’ve just cooked’.
If you are new to Marton House, we are about people.
We are about helping people add value to themselves and therefore their organisation. We do that through learning and development, which means we are constantly learning and developing ourselves. This blog will be about we have learnt and are learning, as well as what we have done and are doing. It’s not just about being ‘cool’, because as shell suits taught us, ‘cool’ is very temporary.
A quick bit of learning today which could help you not only learn a new language but also give you some immediate help when you are tongue-tied in a foreign country.
Check out this handy translation app for the iPhone – itranslate.
Best of all it’s free.
As you might have guessed I’ve just got myself an iPhone, so expect to see more useful iPhone stuff here as it turns up.
Not strictly true, but slightly true. Check out this link to see what I’m on about. It is a new technology that allows multi-camera streaming so you can cut between 5 clips yourself. The top big window is for the main image. The bottom 5 mini thumbnails are your camera options.
So that is interesting from an IT angle. But it could also be an interesting training opportunity. What kind of training and learning could be told this way? What options does it open up? What interactive learning techniques could be applied?
For instance a coaching piece where one camera is one a sales advisor, one on a customer, one on 2-shot of both and one on the paperwork or product. You explore the scene yourself, just as you would in a real-life coaching session.
This post follows on from the post about Tribes by Shaune. What Seth is saying is that these days the greatest gains are to be achieved by being seen as a leader – to have a tribe as he says it.
Great! What has this to do with training and learning? All too often, if you are in training and learning you follow. You deliver what the client wants, what the company wants. You may even be a leader of a training department / company / devision / organisation. But so what if you are? You are still a follower in the big picture.
Well how about we stop doing that? Just stop working like that. Instead we start delivering what people need. There is a difference between want and need. Identifying the need and fixing the need is what is required during these difficult times.
We are the trainers, the experts, the people who see things from the outside. This is our (new) role. Not to only fulfill briefs, but to do more.
So trainers, now is the time to dig deep, to be seen as a leader. A person with solutions, ideas, new ways of thinking and exciting developments. No one knows who to turn to. So make it you!
The future of learning
A futuristic report was recently launched by professor Lord Robert Winston that gazes into what learning technologies might look like by 2020. And the world of gaming is leading the way according to some sources. You can see the full report at: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=184830.
There seems to be many views out there on the future of learning so we thought we’d join in too. Here’s what our E-Learning Director Julian Stodd has to say on the subject.
The future of learning will lie, as ever, in a balance between learning technology and learning design. On the one hand, technology will make it easier and quicker to create web based materials, but on the other hand we run the risk of diluting the input from the learning designer. Lowering the barriers to entry to the creation of learning materials does not necessarily lead to an improvement in the quality of the learning.
This problem for the future is a problem from the past; in the early days of computer based training, the educators had the ideas, but the technologists had the power. Very few people crossed both disciplines. A result was that the technologists had an adversely large input into the shape of the learning solution, leading to many technologically driven innovations that were driven by what could be done, rather than by what should be done.
The whole raft of drag and drop, multi choice, VR environments flew out of this with very little evidence base for their effectiveness. Coupled with a misplaced belief that interactivity of any sort was intrinsically beneficial, early e-learning often failed to be effective.
As time passed, the increasing availability of templated software that allowed a relative amateur to create standardised pages led to it’s own issues. Certainly it lowered the barriers to entry and the creation of e-learning, but it failed to account for overall quality of learning design. It was a move towards volume rather than quality.
Today the widespread adoption of Flash and the ease of finding developers has led to much more high quality materials. There still remain significant weaknesses around evaluation and the use of interactivity. Blended Learning is the byword of the decade, with organisations recognising that a mix of trainer led and pure e-learning is often a good, solid, cost effective middle ground.
As for the future? Technology is moving on. Even if we ignore the industry driven frenzy and ignorant promises of web.2, there are a range of new tools available that will have an impact. Blogs and wikis are finding their way into the requirements of tender processes already, with few in the corporate world ready for the likely impact of these frontier environments. There is little understanding of how people use and interact within these environments, what learning benefits they can bring, or what social and legal rules apply. We know for sure that people employ different communication rules in texts, email and blogs than they would in face to face conversation, but it seems likely that companies will have to start using moderated environments if they wish to drive out quality of input and avoid difficulties.
A view for five years time would be that we will see far greater use of forums and blogs in training, but probably in a structured way. Perhaps using a moderator to help structure discussions around topics, much as is done on some of the best pioneering postgraduate distance learning programmes today. There will be an increasing recognition that people are not always equipped to ferret out information themselves from online sources – most people will just use Google or another search engine and go with the top result. The fact that most internet writing is not peer reviewed will inevitably lead to increasing amounts of cross linked nonsense that will pass from urban myth into the realms of accepted truth, with no quantifiable proof behind it.
On the plus side, many users are likely to find the increased use of moderated forums both liberating and beneficial. Even if they don’t actively participate, even spectating from the sidelines can glean insights and benefits.
The future is, as ever, elusive, and for every learner who is enfranchised by the technology, we must be aware that some will be excluded. The sheer wealth of materials available makes it increasingly hard to find something relevant. This will likely lead to the emergence of more portal sites which, in effect, offer moderated content whilst shielding you from the wild west of the techno-nerds. It will be interesting to see in the UK if the BBC Trust allows the organisation to develop what is already the most trusted internet source even further, or if anti competitive funding concerns dismantle an excellent resource.
Whichever way we go, one thing is certain; these are exciting times with change happening at an ever increased pace. Best hang on and enjoy the ride.
A conversation with someone you don’t know very well can be extremely difficult. From the beginning it’s a brief slippery slide down the slope of small talk before the conversation runs dry.
There is a simple trick though that everybody can pull off and it doesn’t take a genius to execute it either. It involves 3 little words – “Tell me more”.
The simple fact is this, you can’t just talk at somebody for a conversation to work, in fact if you really want to engage a person you need to dig deeper to find out some common ground.
For example I went to a christening at the weekend and even though I knew a few people there it certainly wasn’t enough to pass for 4 hours of entertaining conversation, so an extra effort had to be made. I got chatting to a guy and during the usual small talk about the weather he let drop that he got caught in a shower out on his bicycle. A-ha, some common ground there as I like cycling too. ”Tell me more.” He cycles to work everyday and then goes off for an extra bit of exercise after that. ”Tell me more.” He finds that cycling is really good for keeping the legs in shape but doesn’t help with the belly at all. ”Wow, I wondered why I wasn’t getting rid of my gut. Tell me more”… and so on. Before you know it you’re gassing like old friends.
This technique also works extremely well in business too. Building a relationship with somebody before you hand out your business cards is really important. Dig deep, find out what your potential customers might be looking for before offering them a solution.
Let them express themselves, discover common ground, share a vision.
Repeat until successful.
Image courtesy of http://www.lhsdrama.com
I’ve just come off a rather interesting project. It was writing, directing and editing a character randomiser.
Oh yeah? What’s that then?
Well it’s a short interview with a character, in this case a salesman. He gives his views in answer to various questions. Except that everytime you watch it his views are different. In fact there are 42,000 various combinations. The task then, for the delegates / viewers who are all managers, is to think about what this characters coaching needs would be. What would you prioritise? How would you raise some issues with him?
Now that takes some writing! And some acting. The clip above shows just one version. In the spirit of the blog here some lessons learnt to share about this project in case others want to take this idea forward.
Writing it: The final viewing experience is made up of 3 sets of questions and answers. 5 different versions of each question. 8 different answers. I created a different script for each question and answer.
Technical stuff: Each question and answer was filmed with 2 cameras. The reason for this was so that during each answer I can keep popping up with ‘noddies’ or follow up questions. If I didn’t do this then the audience would spot the randomiser working. It would be clear that any visual cut would be the randomiser picking a clip. This way you don’t know what is a ‘randomiser cut’ and what is a ‘normal cut’. So each question or answer is then edited up in final cut so I have 39 short clips. These are then selected and played (jukebox style) by the randomiser program which is build using Flash.
Shooting: The black set is just set up in a dark normal office room but with £300 worth of black material everywhere.
How to write it: The characters opinions are mapped on a grid (the skills and commitment grid if you are aware of that model) so as to get a good range of views. From highly skilled to low skilled and high commitment to low commitment. It’s then a case of reading it again and again, in lots of combinations. If they don’t work then rewrite either the question or answer.
Does it work then?: It works okay. I give it 8 out of 10. The writing works perfectly. In fact I think it is the questions that are letting it down. Because they can’t really follow on that makes the performance difficult. It seems sometimes like I haven’t listened. If I did it again I would probably work on that. One solution being a very definite pause and a clearer statement about moving on or drawing a line in the sand.
Here is a snapshot of the script. Or you can download the whole thing here.