Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gear Up for Mobile Learning

Mobile is everywhere. We all know this intuitively as we walk down the street or at the mall or at the airport, and observe people looking down at their mobile devices. Mobile stats are staggering. For example, there are six billion (87% of the world’s population) mobile subscribers, 300,000 apps developed over the past three years, and 1.2 billion people access the web using their mobiles. In fact, IDC research shows that by the year 2015 mobile access to the web will be more popular than accessing the web with laptop computers. There are mobile conferences (including one dedicated to mobile learning), heads of mobile job titles at various companies, and a growing number of scholarly research articles on mobile learning.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

E-Learning and Distance Education Trends

I believe there are five learning trends that are underway and will only continue to become more a part of how we deliver learning experiences to our ever changing mobile and remote workforces. I have summarized them below. These five trends are: Learning spaces, Doing Real Work, Video, Virtual Worlds, Peer-to-Peer Learning.

Learning Spaces

  • Allow learners to participate in a number of activities including class discussions, online group workspaces, and simulations or learning games (Moller, Fosher & Huett, 2008).
  • Can be use used with correspondence course, open universities, and through the internet/web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • In such a collaborative environment, robust learning objectives are necessary.
  • Teacher/trainer needs to be a facilitator and learners need to be curious and challenge resources provided and find own resources.

Doing Real Work

  • Learning needs to be brought closer to the work.
  • Can be use used with correspondence course, radio/TV, teleconference, and through the internet/web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • Instructional designers need to design so that real work gets done that helps adult learners solve their current real world work problems and projects.
  • Teacher/trainer becomes a coach. Learner must be willing to bring real projects and work problems into the learning environment.


  • Although research shows that learning outcomes are not different as a result of technology used, Donker (2010) gives us a glimpse of this in a study in which the use of video can have a positive impact on the acquisition of practical skills.
  • Video can be used in all five of the Moore & Kearsley (2012) generations.
  • Sound instructional design applies to developing video more than ever, since video is so time consuming and expensive to create.
  • Teacher/trainer could create videos and learners could take them asynchronously.

Virtual Worlds

  • Like learning spaces, virtual worlds allow learners to participate in a number of activities including class discussions, online group workspaces, and simulations or learning games (Moller, Fosher & Huett, 2008).
  • Can be use used with correspondence course, open universities, employee on-boarding, and through the internet/web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • In such a collaborative environment, robust learning objectives are necessary, so does an in depth understand of the technology.
  • Teacher/trainer needs to be a facilitator and can host live sessions, including office hours.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

  • Peer-to-peer learning occurs in learning spaces and allows learners to participate in a number of activities including class discussions, online group workspaces, and simulations or learning games (Moller, Fosher & Huett, 2008).
  • Peer-to-peer learning works best in open universities, teleconferencing, employee on-boarding, and on the web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • Instructional designers need to be aware of the adult learning principle that adults have experience and are willing to share their experience. Adults can learn from each other.
  • The teacher/trainer is a facilitator. The learner has a responsibility to share their experience and knowledge.


Donker, F. (2010) The comparative instructional effectiveness of print-based and video-based instructional materials for teaching practical skills at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(1), 96-116.

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. ISBN: 9781111520991.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Performance Appraisals and Social Learning

Organizations spend billions of dollars each year on formal training programs, yet research shows that people learn how to do their jobs through social learning methods, including learning from others in peer-to-peer networks (Hunter, 2010), self-taught learning by observing others, and learning on the job (Hashim, 2008).  The costs to develop and deliver formal training programs are staggering, costing up to $70,000 per sales person, causing some companies to move to other learning methods (Blair & Sisakhti, 2007).  In spite of the growing body of evidence that suggests people learn most of what they need to know about their jobs through social learning methods, corporations, non-profits, and governments invest most of their budgets in formal learning, when it is apparent that most learning is informal (Cross, 2006).  As a consequence, organizations may be investing resources where they will do the least amount of good.  One way in which people can learn about their performance and how to improve it, is through the performance appraisal process.

Performance appraisals can be a useful learning tool for improving performance.   However, annual performance appraisals are often the type of learning experience that are too little too late;  and when they are tied to merit pay and annual raise processes, can overshadow their intent for people to learn about and improve their performance.  According to a research report by the Journal of Managerial Psychology (2010) evidence shows that the implementation of merit pay programs can suffer from a number of barriers related to the performance assessment and pay allocation that may impede its intended usefulness.  A key management expectation is measuring and managing performance, and perhaps the most used term in everyday life to reflect the progress of this journey and its results, according to Brudan (2010), is performance.  The problem is that performance is often subjective and viewed differently by different managers.

Both the subjective nature of performance appraisals and the use of those appraisals for administrative purposes (such as pay and promotion) can facilitate different forms of bias in performance appraisals which results in inaccurate ratings (Brudan, 2010).  Therein lies the problem that plagues performance evaluations; the bias and inaccurate ratings could be counterproductive to the learning process which should be a main objective of a performance appraisal.  By implementing social performance appraisal technology, employees can turn the performance appraisal into a tool for proactive learning from others that can be turned into actions for improving performance.

The vision for the social performance appraisal initiative is to create an environment in which people can seek feedback in the moment of need from anyone in the organization and use that feedback to adjust behavior as necessary in order to improve performance.  The mission is to empower individuals to seek the feedback they need, when they need it.  Major stakeholders should be directly involved including the chief executive officer (CEO) and the chief people officer (CPO), both of whom must take a personal stake in implementing a new way to help people in the organization learn, grow, and achieve organizational and individual goals.


Blair, D., & Sisakhti, R. (2007). Sales training: What makes it work? T + D, 61(8), 28-33,4. 

Brudan, A. (2010; 2010). Rediscovering performance management: Systems, learning and integration. Measuring Business Excellence, 14(1), 109-109-123. 

Cross, J.  2006.  Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.  Pfieffer.  San Francisco, CA.  p.  xiii.

Hashim, J. (2008). Competencies acquisition through self-directed learning among malaysian managers. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(4), 259-271. doi:10.1108/13665620810871114

Hunter, C. P. (2010). Ways of learning in the pharmaceutical sales industry. Journal of Workplace Learning, 22(7), 451-462. doi:10.1108/13665621011071118

Perceptions of politics and fairness in merit pay. (2010). Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(3), 229-251. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Improve E-Learning Effectiveness: Track Duration

I cannot tell you how many times I have run reports in a learning management system that have shown learners who took five minutes and twenty seconds to complete an e-learning course that should have taken twenty minutes to complete. Obviously they just clicked “next” over and over until they got to the end. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’ve done it because we were busy, because the content was not relevant, and because it was not interesting or engaging.

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Performance Improvement Through Continuous Feedback Loops

Here is an abstract of a paper I wrote, Performance Improvement Through Continuous Feedback Loops: Implementing Social Performance Management, about how people can learn from continuous feedback loops. The full paper is located here.


Over the past few decades the speed of society and work life has rapidly increased and so has the importance of continuous learning for individuals and organizations (Tynjälä, 2008).  As the speed and demand for people to learn new skills increases formal learning on its own is not sufficient to keep pace (Baert, Witte, & Sterck, 2000).  Employees are choosing to learn, when they need it (Kyndt, Dochy, & Nijs, 2009) and organizations are beginning to discover that informal learning is more agile and less expensive than formal training programs (Boud & Garrick, 1999).  Learning from others at work constitutes a large part of the learning undertaken in organizations and formal systematic learning is becoming less important that informal and social learning methods (Boud & Middleton, 2003).  Enterprise 2.0 technologies provide an effective way to connect people in organizations so that collaboration and learning can occur on an ongoing basis and as part of people work (McNamee, Schoch, Oelschlaeger, Huskey, 2010).  One opportunity in which organizations can capitalize on the need to increase learning and performance is to implement social performance appraisals. A social performance appraisal process, using enterprise 2.0 technologies, can decentralize the appraisal process, enable employees to seek performance feedback when needed, and help employees learn from that feedback and change behaviors in a more real time manner.  This paper describes how a fast growing financial services company will implement an enterprise 2.0 social performance appraisal system to shift from a traditional annual performance appraisal process to one that empowers employees and helps people learn from feedback and improve performance.


Baert, H., De Witte, K. and Sterck, G. (2000), Vorming, training en opleiding. Handboek voor een kwaliteitsvol VTO-beleid in welzijnsvoorzieningen, (Instruction, Training and Education (ITE)). Handbook for a High Quality ITE-policy in Welfare Services), Garant, Leuven.

Boud, D. and Garrick, J. (1999), Understanding Learning at Work, Routledge, London.

Boud, D., & Middleton, H. (2003). Learning from others at work: Communities of practice and informal learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 15(5), 194-202. Retrieved from

Kyndt, E., Dochy, F., & Nijs, H. (2009). Learning conditions for non-formal and informal workplace learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(5), 369-383. doi:10.1108/13665620910966785

McNamee, R. C., Schoch, N., Oelschlaeger, P., & Huskey, L. (2010; 2010). Collaboration continuum: Cultural and technological enablers of knowledge exchange. Research Technology Management, 53(6), 54-54-57. Retrieved from

Tynjälä, P. (2008), Perspectives into learning at the workplace, Educational Research Review, 3(2), 130-54.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Learning Design Models Are Fine: But Are They Practical?

One of the most important things a learning experience (LX) designer can do is apply a sound, repeatable process to one’s designs. The problem I have with design processes is that they are often too vague and do not actually tell you what to do in the moment. For example, take a look at the A in ADDIE. Analyze. The books on ADDIE will generally tell you that before you begin creating a learning experience, you will want to figure out what is needed. Of course this makes sense, but what I really want to know is how to actually determine those needs.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Title of My Dissertation

I am working on my dissertation in pursuit of my PhD in Education. My specialty is training and performance improvement, which is rooted in human performance technology (HPT) and human performance improvement (HPI).

The topic of my dissertation is social learning in the workplace, specifically, I am studying how newly hires sales professionals learn their jobs through a social learning intervention and the relationship between participation in the social learning intervention and sales results. 

In idle moments, I sometimes tinker with the title of my dissertation. Here are a few iterations. I wonder what you think.
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: An Action Research Study of Social Learning and Sales Performance
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: An Action Research Study of Social Learning and Sales Performance in the Workplace
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: A Study of Social Learning in the Workplace
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: Enterprise Social Networks and On-Boarding New Sales Professionals
Well, there are a few more variations. By reading this short list, you can likely tell which part of the title, I am married to. In any case, if you should happen upon this blog post and have read this far, I would love to know what you think of the title. Any other ideas? Comment below, if you do.

How to Address Learning Wants

Like many learning and development professionals, I have received numerous and continuous requests throughout my career for training on topics that, with just a little motivation and creativity, people could learn on their own. Without being too scientific about it, the most popular among these requests seem to be Microsoft Excel, conflict resolution, time management, business writing, and general tips for how to be more efficient on a computer.

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Book Review: Leaving ADDIE for SAM

Many of my recent blog posts have been about learning experience (LX) design and how our designs can be improved through the proper application of action steps that keep the process as simple as possible. Some of my posts have even criticized existing, popular design models, like ADDIE. So, when I saw Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences, by Michael Allen and Richard Sites, I knew I had to read it. I am always looking for ways to improve how I deliver learning experiences to my organization and reading books like this keeps my skills fresh. Here are a few things I took away from the book that I think you will find valuable.

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