What did 100 blog posts bring me?


WordPress pointed out to me that I have published 102 posts in just over 2 years. I decided that this is a good moment to look back and see what it has brought me.

Feedback
When I started my blog in December 2009 I was curious what it would be like to blog and I wanted to improve my English (I’m still working on that). The biggest change is that there are now people who read my posts and who respond to it. My blog now has an average of almost a 100 views per day. That of course is nothing in the greater scheme of things, but it is much more than the average visits that I had in 2010 (7 views per day) and 2011 (37 views per day). The fact that you have an audience makes a big difference, it turns your blog from a diary into a publication and most important: you get feedback. When I started out I just wrote about my learning experiences in my work and at conferences. But that has now shifted. I use my blog to try out ideas. With the responses I can improve my idea or decide to drop the idea.

The first time I used my blog for this purpose was when I became CEO of easygenerator. We were working on our Vision and Mission statement and I decided to publish a first draft of it in my blog. Scary to do on one hand but it paid off. I got a lot of comments on it and some people (like Jay Cross -thanks again!-) took the time for a real in-depth reaction. This enabled me to improve the statement and it gave me a better start at easygenerator.

A highpoint for me was a post on learning metaphors. The post got a thousand views in a matter of days and I got a ton of responses on it. It clearly was a subject of interest to many people. This inspired me to follow up on this with some more posts and I did a well-attended presentation at LSCON in Orlando. As a result the implementation of new learning metaphors has now become the major goal of easygenerator for 2012.

Writing on demand
In 2011 I was asked to contribute to the ASTD’s blog Learning Circuit. A question was posted every month and we (5 ‘thought leaders’) replied on it with a post. The goal was to spark discussion. I found it an interesting experience to write about a given subject and compare my own thoughts with the others. I write posts too for easygenerators company blog. This is quite different. Although we try to keep the blog informal, you have to write mostly about concrete product related things. There is less room for loose ideas and opinions in comparison to this personal blog.

International contacts
I write my blog in WordPress and they recently added ‘Views by country’ to the statistics. It shows that my largest group of readers is from the US and it shows that since February 25 I had people from 98 countries read posts on my blog.

Visits from 98 countries

Visits from 98 countries!

Quit cool! Although the map shows that I have still some work to do in Africa and Asia. Fact is that I gained a lot of international contacts from the blog. This is very helpful in my work.

More feedback
ELearningLearning (an aggregator site on e-Learning related blogs) brings out lists with best e-Learning post of the day/week/month and year. One post I wrote for the Learning Circuit blog made it to the top of that list for 2011. That is a nice form of feedback!

e-Learning shouldn’t be fun #LCBQ


Learning Cirquit Big Question blogBecause it is the holiday season we decided at the LCBQ to take on a light subject for this month: “How do you make e-Learning fun”. Well I think that you shouldn’t. In the eighties I wrote a series of textbooks on bookkeeping (I know that there isn’t much fun in that). After I wrote the first book I sent it to the publisher, they corrected it, illustrated it and I got a printed draft version back. They “brightened” it up with all kinds of silly and funny cartoons. Luckily I was able to convince the publisher to remove them (the other option I gave them was to remove my name and all my text). For e-Learning goes the same. I don’t want it funny. I want e-learning to be engaging, effective, attractive, relevant, challenging, to the point but not funny. This doesn’t mean that e-Learning we must create boring e-Learning. I recently saw some e-Learning courses that used story telling I think that is a great way to make it more attractive and compelling. I love courses that have cases or game like elements that give you a more realistic view on how you can apply what you have learned. But I really don’t want to see a happy face after I answered a question correct, or a sad one when I was wrong. Just give me proper feed back!

Context, Context, Context will make e-Learning work! #LCBQ May


The question at the Learning circuits blog in May is:

How do we need to change in what we do in order to address learning/performance needs that are on-demand?


My answer is context, context, context!

I think that we as e-Learning professionals should change our game drastically. Our innovation lacks behind if we compare it to the development of the internet. Internet 1.0 was about publishing content (online brochures), 2.0 is about interaction (social media), 3.0 will be about context (pushing information to you based on a profile). E-Learning 1.0 was about creating courses (now wrapped in Scorm), 2.0 is collaborative learning (Moodle, Wiki’s, Fora), 3.0 must be about context.

I know that a lot of e-Learning professionals are dedicated to innovation. But the majority of the content is still a PowerPoint like page turner, made more attractive by the use of video, interaction and flash animations. But in fact they are still very 1.0, still a course. I see some 2.0 solutions and hardly any 3.0 initiatives.

It’s not that courses have completely lost their value, but they can only have value as a part of an effective e-Learning solution. We need to create 2.0 and 3.0 solutions where a course might play a role instead of creating just courses. In the Netherlands a lot of e-Learning content companies are going through difficult times and I believe that the focus on courses is the main reason and I believe that context is the solution.

Context when working
A LMS is the electronic counterpart of a class room. As in a class room the worker is locked-in, and so is the content. It’s an artificial environment that in certain cases will serve it’s purpose, but in most cases it won’t. The LMS is our (learning professionals) context, it’s not the context of the learner. The learners context is his workplace. We need to give him the information in that context. Connect to on-line help systems, task support systems, intranet solutions. Plug-in to your internal corporate social media, play an active role in them, seed and harvest information through them. We need to offer the worker a service in his working context, not just courses in a LMS.

Context when publishing
The facilities to deliver information on demand are growing rapidly. By building profiles of your users and monitoring their context (what are they doing and where are they doing that) you will be able to present relevant information on demand (or even push it to them without demand). We need to give context to our e-learning content in order to make it smart so it knows when, how and where to present itself.

Context when creating e-Learning
The context of an e-Learning author when creating e-Learning is often the knowledge or skills he needs to transfer. And that’s wrong. Knowledge and skills are means not goals, the goal is to support the worker and make him more productive. We need to learn the context the workers are operating in and we must ask ourselfs how we can support them, then and there. Not only do we need to involve SME’s in the learning development but also SMN’s (subject matter newbees) to understand what they need. We need to cross the save borders of learning and cross over to other fields like EPSS and even change management. Just as a course might be a part of an e-learning solution, e-Learning is a part of the solution to support the worker. We are part of a bigger context.

I believe that this is the time to grab new opportunities, leave our comfort zone and get out there. We need to make e-Learning more effective and we need to make e-Learning work!

Impact of informal learning: output learning #LCBQ


The question of the month #LCBQ is:

How do you assess whether your informal learning, social learning, continuous learning and performance support initiatives have the desired impact or if they achieve the desired results?

All these terms have one common denominator; they all are non-formal learning activities and processes. And managers (being one myself  for more than a decade) tend to get nervous by these kind of activities. You told that you have to do these kind of things, but the point is that you have to invest time and money into them to make it work. But at the end of the day you don’t have a clue if whether it was worth it. So where is your production improvement and your return on investment. How do you measure it? So this is an excellent question.

With formal learning (classroom and LMS based e-Learning) you usually get an assessment in the end, if you score enough points you get your certificate. You can ask yourself if this is a result that counts; does it affect the workplace in a positive way? It only will be if it has an effect on the learners working skills, making them more effective and productive. 40 employees with a certificate do not guarantee that. So in fact you can ask the same question for formal learning activities. The point is that we got used to this form of learning and measuring.

The what: Output learning

The output of learning is not what you have learned, but how you can apply it in your everyday work. Therefore if we want to measure the impact of learning (formal or informal) we need to measure that impact.

Recently I wrote a blog about ‘output learning‘, based on a management theory called ‘output management’. In a nutshell it works like this. You encounter a problem in the workspace , then you set your learning objectives (that lead to tackling the negative effect of the problem), determine the requirements that set the boundaries  for that solution and then the worker/learner is free to solve his problem anyway he wants, as long as he stays within the boundaries set by the requirements. This concept is more for formal learning activities and here is more to the concept, but we can get two things from it that are relevant to the question.

Learning funnel

If you are able as a manager to apply this model to informal learning you will get more grip on the informal learning processes, while letting the worker free in choosing his own way to the solution of the problem. You could create a list with a certain types of problems that workers can solve with informal learning, or you can set how much time they are allowed to spent. By outlining these requirements like these beforehand you prevent problems and you give your workers clarity on your expectations.

The other thing is that the output of learning is not the learning on itself but the effect it has on the workplace (you want to improve efficiency and productivity). So, did the learning activity solve the problem within the given requirements?

The how

So how do you  measure this impact of informal learning in problem solving at the workplace? This isn’t an easy question and there is no easy answer (or in any case not one answer). Here are some possibilities:

Log. A solution would be having your worker keeping a log, with problem, activities, time spent and the outcome. It would be a great source of information but is not likely that it will be successful; it is to much work. But if someone was active in an informal learning environment you could present him with one or two questions in the end, actively gathering information and feed back from the worker.

Survey is an other way of gathering  information and feed back from your workers, you should do this probably once every quarter.

Measure the use of content and the activity in networks. You can measure the activity in all kind of networks and environments. There are all kinds of tools available like Google analytics that can give you a great insight in which content is used, how often it is used and who uses it. Especially in combination with a survey and an analysis of user generated content this will provide you a with a lot of useful information on the informal learning activities.

User generated input . I believe that this is the most valuable one because the workers actually can benefit from it to. We do this it in Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, Blogs and all other social media, we don’t do it enough in a corporate environment. Enabling this is not that hard:

1. Make it a rule that whenever someone can improve information he has to leave a comment.

2. Give him the possibility to like or dislike certain information or can indicate if the information was useful.

3. If someone has new information (a new FAQ item or best practice) he has to add that to the system.

You will have to moderate this, but it will give you information on what works and what doesn’t work and you will capture the knowledge of your workers and give it back to them.

My E-learning predictions and plans for 2011 #LCBQ


Tony Karrer is the guy behind elearninglearning.com a community where he gathers all kinds of blogs about e-Learning, He also is the blogmeister of the Learning Circuits community. On that community he runs a series of post regarding ‘The big question’. The question of the month is: What are your Predictions and Plans for 2011? He asked me to write a blog with my view, so here it is.

My predictions

I see some important changes developing in the world of e-Learning. I don’t think that 2011 will be a year of great transformations but these changes will slowly gain importance.

2011 Moving from the LMS to the workplace

I believe that in the long-term we will move from formal learning (courses in a LMS or classroom) more and more towards just-in-time workplace learning that supports the informal learning processes. Formal learning will always be there, but now it is the main or only focus of e-Learning. I believe that focus will shift.

Form courses to nuggets and collaboration

In order to make this shift we need to change we our approach to e-Learning. In stead of well designed complete courses with a beginning and a end, you will see more and more smaller ‘nuggets’ of training, best practices and knowledge. These nuggets will often be made by learners and subject matter experts. This will (over time) change the role of the professional e-Learning author. In stead of creating complete courses he will be coaching learners and Sme’s and his writing role will become more an editorial role. The courses that remain will (should) become more and more adaptive.

Disclosure of content: capturing context

A lot of the learning content will no longer be published through a LMS, but through portals, help functions and knowledge systems. Form the context of the work a query will be made into our content database, we have to deliver the appropriate answer to that query. This is a challenge, it means we have to focus on adding keywords in a structural way to pieces of content; we need to get involved in metadata and taxonomies.

Plans

2011 will be a crucial year for easygenerator. We want to make the step from a regional player (The Netherlands, Germany and the UK) to a global player. We will drastically increase our partner network and start selling in as many countries as possible. (Interested? Drop me an email!).

We will focus on facilitating collaboration better, we will make the first step at capturing user-generated content and feed that back to the author and we will create a Publication platform, that can deliver content to the LMS (SCORM) and to all kind of other systems. In order to do that metadata will be an important attention point.

This means a lot of innovative thinking and developing. We do not want to do that on our own and we don’t want to invent the wheel all over again. Therefore I created a LinkedIn group called the ‘e-learning piranhas‘. This group is aimed at collaborating on those ideas to make them more concrete, sharing our knowledge and insights, and creating partnerships that can convert these ideas into tools. Please join, if you want more details, please read my blogpost on this subject or contact me.

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