Monday, December 30

5 Best Practices of Training and Development Professionals - ASTD

ASTD has created this resource to highlight the five best practices of learning professionals that
enable you to concentrate your efforts, be more strategic, and maximize your impact on your team and organization.
Each of the best practices highlights a specific concept or tool and explains:
  • who would use it
  • why you would use it
  • how you would benefit
  • why your boss would care
  • why your organization would care

 << Download Your Free Copy Now >>

Free E-Book: Understanding Mobile Learning

The audience for mobile devices wants to be able to learn from any device at anytime, anywhere. This creates a challenge, as we have to plan, develop, and deliver tools and content that can be used in all facets of learning, as well as work on the range of devices we use now and will use in the future. This e-book shows the reasons why mobile learning has seen such recent growth and what areas are best suited for this type of learning.
With this 20 page e-book you will be able to answer: 
  • what is mobile learning?
  • how mobile learning differs from e-learning?
  • what are the benefits of mobile learning?
  • why you should consider mobile learning?
  • when is mobile learning appropriate?
  • how to Design successful mobile learning programs?
  • what are the ingredients for a successful mobile learning strategy?
  • what is the future of mobile learning?

    Download your free copy today >>

Wednesday, August 15

The Blog Evolved

This month marks the end of an era. After nearly a decade and 500+ posts, we are shuttering the Learning Circuits Blog and posting exclusively on the ASTD Learning Technologies Blog. It has been a tough decision, especially with the LC Blog getting some of its highest traffic ever—thanks to the amazing group of guest bloggers who have contributed their ideas and expertise over the past 10 months.
So, why are closing it down?

Well, ASTD’s website redesign in April enabled us to publish blogs through our own Communities of Practice—rather than externally house them. For the past few months, we have been dual posting new content in both places, but that was never intended to be a long-term solution. So this month, we’re making the transition to post new content solely to the ASTD Learning Technologies Blog. It will still be the same great content, just on a different—and more dynamic—platform that is searchable from anywhere on the ASTD website, making it easier for users to find technology-related content.

This isn’t the first time ASTD has revamped the LC Blog into a more serviceable offering. Excited about the new communication tool, we actually started our first blog somewhat ambitiously in 2002 as an experiment lead by informal learning guru Jay Cross and Learning Circuits editor Ryann Ellis. After a few years of misfires and restarts, Jay helped us relaunch the blog as we now know it on January 5, 2005, with a post laying down ground rules for a group-generated blog. In short, the rules were, no self-promotional posts, no personal attacks, and keep it brief—all good advice to heed today, no matter the platform.

Indeed, over the years, the blog has seen several incarnations and a parade of learning technology thought leaders contributing content, including Clark Aldrich, Karl Kapp, Donald Clark, Dave Lee, Clark Quinn, Clive Shepherd, Harold Jarche, and most notably Tony Karrer, who was at the helm for nearly four years. We thank them and everyone else who shared their ideas, expertise, and dedication to the field. [And have no fear: For those looking for an older post, the LC Blog will remain live with all its content intact.]

The final post on the LC Blog, Let’s Stop Pretending, is a fitting one. It’s been the most commented on post we’ve had in years. Written by Craig Wiggins, the post is a rally cry to all learning professionals and instructional designers. Thanks for sending us out on a high note, Craig.

For August, our guest blogger is the wonderful Mayra Aixa Villar, who will share her insights on mobile learning.

Wednesday, August 1

Strategies for the Scattered

Part 2 in a 4-part series on what the Human Capital Community of Practice can learn from neuroscience

Neuroscience is a field buzzing with new findings that are indisputably attention-grabbing. But what practical value do these findings offer for those in ASTD’s Human Capital Community of Practice? In part two of this four-part series on what neuroscience can offer to the Human Capital CoP, Dr. Erika Garms examines two related functions critical for our success in the workplace—focus and attention. Readers will learn what supports and challenges focus and attention so they can improve their own performance, and coach or train others in their organizations to improve their performance. We will also explore the facts and fiction surrounding multitasking, which may change the way you allocate your time and energy... continue reading

Monday, July 30

Let's stop pretending

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I work with researchers - people who spend time living in data and coming up for air only when they have actionable insights in tow. In some ways this has been a bracing change of pace for me, and for the most part it has been very interesting to witness. I don't think any of my colleagues in Rosslyn would put it this way, but I like to think that the unspoken refrain in this kind of work is:

look -- really look -- at what is in front of you.
stop pretending that things are otherwise.
act accordingly. 

Rinse. Repeat.

I like this idea a lot. I think I like it so much because we are living in an age of unprecedented access to data and potential analysis. It's flooding into our living rooms, our classrooms, and our conversations, threatening to knock over our television viewing habits and aborting our actor sighting arguments into trips to IMDb. Never has it been easier to elicit the right answer, even taking into account the number of wrong answers that doggedly flank our prey. In the interests of taking stock of the world in which we're working - in light of all of this (and inspired by this unconference update) - let's stop pretending.

  • Let's stop pretending that the answer to 70-20-10 is to double down on formal learning hierarchies.
  • Let's stop pretending that 'social learning' is something new (or something that can only be achieved using social media).
  • Let's stop pretending that what you're collecting with your LMS has a lot to show in terms of learning analytics, ROI, or business intelligence.
  • (While we're at it, let's stop pretending that you need an LMS at all to capture information about meaningful learning experiences.)
  • Let's stop pretending that online learning can only be canned, disembodied public access TV-style instruction with no connection to universities' missions and students' needs.
  • For starters, let's stop pretending that live instructor-led or online education are the only (let alone ranking) games in town.
  • Let's stop pretending that the university will be killed by online education.
  • Let's stop pretending that we don't know (better than most) that the ones most responsive to change will survive.
  • Let's stop pretending that the solution to crafting excellent learning experiences is going to come from Silicon Valley.
  • ...or from a tool.
  • ...or from a tool.
  • ...or from a tool. (it bears repeating.)
  • Let's stop pretending that tools are anything more than tools.
  • Let's stop pretending that elearning and mlearning should exist as terms.
  • Let's stop pretending that we even know how to spell eLearning e-learning e-Learning elearning.
  • Let's stop pretending that any part of our value comes from shrouding our methods and knowledge in mystery.
  • Let's stop pretending that the transparency of a common language for what we do is anything but potential #winning.
  • Let's stop pretending that any of this is about anything other than GTD.
  • Pelo amor de deus, can we please stop pretending that catering to learning styles is something that we should be talking about in 2012?
  • Let's stop pretending that bowing to business pressures from stakeholders is helping anyone, in the long run.
  • At the same time, let's stop pretending that we are not in a business of production.
  • Let's stop pretending that some part of us didn't wish that we could please everyone.
  • Let's stop pretending that we don't have the scars to prove that much of our value is in our spirited, educated opposition.
  • Let's stop pretending that, somewhere along the way, we didn't allow marketers to make us look kind of dumb.
  • Let's stop pretending that we can get away with not knowing how to work with visual and user experience design teams.
  • Let's stop pretending that we have nothing to learn from visual and user experience design teams. (for starters, they tend to be more comfortable with the concept of design thinking than we.)
  • Let's stop pretending that badges = fun.
  • Let's stop pretending that this game from 2006 isn't more engaging than a fair lot of serious/educational gaming.
  • (While we're at it, let's stop to marvel at our breathtaking getting-schooled-ness at the hands of a motivated social change organization and a clever ad firm.)
  • Let's stop pretending that content curation isn't already a core competency.
  • Let's stop giving the impression that we as a people have this social media thing figured out. (This is me, standing on the free soil of Google+land, staring disapprovingly at you all trying to make it work in Facebookistan. Let's get it together, my people.)
  • Let's stop pretending that, at one point or another, we haven't for a moment wondered if we deserve to be marginalized.  (Opinions on learning are never short supply.)
  • Let's stop pretending that what we do is to be relegated to the corner of any business or institution. What we do is central to life -- or at least, living full throttle. Let's make everyone else realize that, too.

Craig Wiggins has been helping people create and manage learning experiences for the last 10 years. He is the eLearning Instructional Design Strategist for the Corporate Executive Board's Corporate Leadership Council, where he manages the creation of meaningful distance learning and performance solutions. Craig holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.Ed. in curriculum development, and spends a lot of time thinking about how to sneak usability, accessibility, and proper task analysis into the mix. In his natural habitat, he is usually storyboarding on wall-sized whiteboards or pontificating on Google+.

Monday, July 23

Think like a product manager

I think it's okay to admit one of the things that attracts us to something like curriculum design and the world of knowledge management is the idea of achieving elusive goals. While we often profess to be striving towards something measurable, 'learning' is still a deliciously vague term for what we are trying to cause or create. I think part of becoming an instructional designer is loving (or learning to love) the craft of creating conditions and designing experiencesI could probably go on for a bit to talk about the virtues of pursuing systems excellence, but I want to spend a bit of time talking about the flip side of that interest - the part where what we create is rightfully situated in the corporate or academic contexts. The part where what you create is considered a component of a product.

Do you think of what you do - what you contribute - as a product? For a long time, I didn't. I thought of myself as exercising a honed skill, and it didn't really matter where I was doing it. I didn't think a lot about how things would be acquired, and the term 'product' seemed a little too crass for what I was trying to do. These days, one of the more challenging and clarifying parts of my job is to focus on the product aspect of what I do. I say product because my design is a functional piece within a larger unit that is sold. Today, I say that thinking about instructional design (in my case, e-learning instructional design) in product terms helps me to create more useful solutions. In a way, I am becoming a product manager. For me, this means three things:

Focusing on the context
In my experience, we instructional designers can at times to look at 'the business' as basically a set of limits on what we can do: not enough funding, not enough freedom, not enough appreciation for what we can really do. (If only I had that really good authoring tool, you all would see something...) There's a bit of comfort in that position, of course -- the best solutions can't be properly leveraged due to limits, so we are cleared to make do with a lesser design -- often a design pushed by those with business concerns but no instructional design experience. 

That is one option. Another is to look past the minor limits and focus on what your business is trying to do. (I learned the term business acumen while working for CEB. It should probably already have been in my vocabulary.) Using the desired business outcome as your north star -- continually asking what the stakeholders want the learner to do, not learn -- means that you can stay rooted in how valuable this whole endeavor (e.g., your project) really is. Maybe your approach will change. Maybe your stakeholders' resolve will founder. Either way, we shouldn't fear this kind of interaction -- we should embrace this kind of practical analysis and strive to be known for it. We are partners in creating, rather than agents of stakeholder notions, and we have to be OK with (advocate for!) destroying in order to create. Thinking about product means thinking about how we want something consumed; focusing on the context means focusing on why you are making something before getting caught up in the how.

Focusing on the positioning
I am not a marketing professional. I do not want to be a marketing professional. Additionally, brief summer jobs selling vacuum cleaners and steak knives taught me that I really, really hate selling things. I just want to help people do what they do better. Most of us are taught that the target audience -- the end user -- is the most important profile is the cavalcade of people who will lay hands on the end result of our work. I still believe that this is true, but thinking about the product as a whole - as something to be sold and consumed - means that sooner or later, I start thinking about who's doing the shopping. In other words: when all is said, done, developed, and set on the shelf, who or what is going to deliver your work to the end user? Maybe you sell your products externally - in this case, you should have marketing working on your behalf. But maybe the product is internally focused (i.e., for your co-workers); in this case, who or what is standing in the way of your target audience consuming your content? Think about that, and you'll open yourself to more than design and development by thinking about production and deployment - the entire system at play in a business solution, rather than simply the part that you directly control.

Focusing on the ecosystem
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the learning ecosystems in my company. This is something that I never expected to say, but here it is: by focusing on the product, I am more aware of other products that are vaguely or acutely related to what I have helped to produce. To make sure that I know how what I've helped to produce is interacting with other products, my business acumen has extended from my business unit to other parts of the company. If my product is to be a star in the night sky, I want it to be part of a guiding constellation of resources.

I don't know if thinking this way will work for everyone, but thinking about creating a consumable resource (i.e., thinking like a product manager) has made me closer to both the people who consume the fruits of my labor and the people who help me create them. I believe that doing so is leading us to create ever more helpful solutions - a goal that suddenly doesn't seem so elusive.


Craig Wiggins has been helping people create and manage learning experiences for the last 10 years. He is the eLearning Instructional Design Strategist for the Corporate Executive Board's Corporate Leadership Council, where he manages the creation of meaningful distance learning and performance solutions. Craig holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.Ed. in curriculum development, and spends a lot of time thinking about how to sneak usability, accessibility, and proper task analysis into the mix. In his natural habitat, he is usually storyboarding on wall-sized whiteboards or pontificating on Google+.

Monday, July 16

Can Higher Education Afford Innovation?

So...this whole week I was pretty excited about the idea of riding the interest from my last two blogposts. I was all set to mount a rousing defense of Google+ as a social media tool worth greater interest from learning folks of all kinds. I really was. Maybe one day you'll get to read that blog post, replete with breathy exhortations and compelling infographics.

...and then, I got distracted by something shiny and buzzy. A colleague of mine who is headed to business school sent me this article, in which Robert F. Bruner, Dean of UVA's Darden School of Business, meditates on the hurdles that online education will have to surmount in higher education. I'm going to admit that my first impulse as an e-learning instructional designer after reading perusing hastily skimming the article was to fall into a bit of defensive confusion, especially with passages like this:
But it’s possible that what iTunes did for music and Netflix did for films will be what online education will do to traditional colleges and universities—not a pretty prospect.
(Is what iTunes and Netflix did for music and movies bad? What was that, again? Are they the same thing? Can media forms like music and movies be equated with institutions? While we're at it, has iTunes U not been a successful venture? I have questions.)

After a re-read, I realized that Bruner isn't so much pooh-poohing the coming digital transformation of the traditional college experience so much as he is scoping out the roadblocks that donors might throw up when called to empty their wallets for their alma maters. Fair enough, but I'm still not convinced that the investments necessary for improving the quality an accessibility of education are getting a fair shake.

Still, as an educator who has never worked in higher education, I think I may be missing something here. To explain my disconnect, I've matched Bruner's five points of potential investor balk with what I hear and think when I read them.

  • I read: Learning platform experimentation will "require ongoing investments through time," and obsolescence is a constant danger.
  • I hear: Educational technology is evolving, and such evolution will be expensive and full of dead ends.
  • I think: Dot matrix printers still print. Haven't seen one in a campus library in ages.

  • I read: While online courses may result in more effective learning experiences for students, they may not result in greater productivity for professors.
  • I hear: Our professors may have to spend more time developing their curricula, not less. If so, what's the point?
  • I think: This kind of thinking seems to fall into the familiar trap of trading cost for quality. It also calls into question what a given university might see as the primary role of professors.

  • I read: Economies of scale may allow one professor to reach thousands of students. While cost effective, this sort of mass dissemination is antithetical to the 'high touch' personal attention that is the hallmark of liberal arts universities.
  • I hear: We're afraid of separating the content and delivery from the institution itself.
  • I think: Is the synchronous, traditional higher education classroom consistently living up to its 'high touch' potential? Is 'high touch' a thing that all higher ed institutions actually value? Also, would not innovations such as the flipped classroom allow for professor time to be further partitioned into virtual office hours? Again, this is more work for the professors, but I believe it might allow for better experiences for the students.

  • I read: A "'star system' of well-known instructors" will "amplify the arms race for talent that already exists among colleges and universities."
  • I hear: We'd like to state again that we're really not comfortable with the idea of separating the content and delivery from the institution itself.
  • I think: The only way that I see online course education exacerbating this 'arms race' (!) is by removing more physical barriers to hosting 'celebrity' professors. Is a university's only argument against dumping their physics professors' sets for a series of live events with Neil de Grasse Tyson that it's hard to get him down to Charlottesville?

  • I read: Traditional university teaching structures require a certain number of people and things, and the need for these things and people might change if we change the way that universities teach.
  • I hear: We have made considerable investments, and are calling on our donors to continue making investments in time-honored methods. Changing our methods threatens both current and future investments.
  • I think: Yes, yes it does.

I obviously think that using technology to mix synchronous and asynchronous sessions can only help universities by increasing the depth of student engagement. Still, Bruner has a point -- someone has to pay for all of this. His meditation brings up a number of other issues that I'm not qualified to answer:

  • How do traditional universities update their methods and structures without breaking the bank and/or alienating nostalgic investors? How can they bring alumni donors around to supporting ways of teaching that are outside of their experience and (possibly) removed from the confines of the campus itself?
  • Even if it proves possible, is such a feat desirable?
  • Is the value of online instruction greater at the undergraduate level than in graduate courses (or vice versa)?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone reading this has had experience with a higher ed institution as a student or as an employee. What do you think? Is this a watershed moment for colleges and universities, or soon to be a minor speed bump in the history of our higher ed institutions? Is it possible for higher ed to wait this movement out and invest in an eventual learning platform 'winner'?


Craig Wiggins has been helping people create and manage learning experiences for the last 10 years. He is the eLearning Instructional Design Strategist for the Corporate Executive Board's Corporate Leadership Council, where he manages the creation of meaningful distance learning and performance solutions. Craig holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.Ed. in curriculum development, and spends a lot of time thinking about how to sneak usability, accessibility, and proper task analysis into the mix. In his natural habitat, he is usually storyboarding on wall-sized whiteboards or pontificating on Google+.

Monday, July 9

Do you brag about your personal learning network?

(The Learning Circuits Blog is moving. Please add this bookmark to keep up-to-date on all of our new posts:

One of the best things about being an instructional designer right now is that now more than ever we feel that our field is in the zeitgeist of what's happening in the media and technology worlds. What we do (rather, how we do it) is influenced greatly by technologies that support more flexible means of communication and collaboration. Social media and mobile technologies have turned the spotlight on social learning concepts, which in turn have made more of us think about the large, ill-charted dark matter of culture: informal learning.

Of course, our response to this turn of events should be elation - finally, Charles Jennings can stop talking about 70-20-10! We can explain communities of practice without once using the phrase "well, no, that's not really an example of what i'm talking about..."! (bonus: we can avoid awkward tittering by wholly avoiding the name 'Wenger' in a classroom setting). Everyone in the Internet Time Alliance can retire to tropical islands. Their work here is done, because everyone in your care now understands the value of social and informal learning.

Except maybe they don't. Maybe you're having trouble convincing your boss that her task force is not a community of practice. Maybe your top-down Yammer implementation has yielded more tumbleweeds than users. Perhaps it's because, in fact, no one is making the connection between the breakthroughs in networking that they can plainly see and whatever it is that you do. Maybe you should brag about your personal learning network.

In this new world, those in our care probably find it harder - not easier - to square the existence of this wikiHow entry and your job as conductor of whatever they've been led to think formalized training is. Do you exemplify the benefits of social and informal learning in your own work life? Do you document successes of social learning? Are you watching and listening to the concerns of your co-workers, providing the right nudge when needed, and openly sourcing your information? Are you connecting your peers with relatable thought leadership or community resources that you've found valuable? How about using technology to make spaces for serendipitous learning - loosely organized, de-escalated learning, free from expectations but endowed with purpose?

As I've said before, I love our kind of people, and not just for their unfailingly sparkling personalities. Every day, they are useful to me in my work, and every day I make it known that I am bringing fire to those in my care because of my associations. In design meetings, I nip errant learning styles talk in the bud. I stay up-to-date on the development of Project Tin Can and use what I know to rethink learning management systems. I experiment with Google Hangouts. I make it easy for myself to be a node in the network and I make sure that people know that part of my value is being as connected as I am.

While I probably spend more time talking about #lrnchat than I do participating in it these days, I've been known by more than one boss as 'the Twitter guy.' I'm proud that I eventually stopped being 'the Twitter guy' - that is, I stopped being just a tolerated, quirky evangelist for the platform when I stopped telling people how valuable Twitter is and started using it very publicly to inform my discourse in the workplace. (As Jane Bozarth says, "Google gets you links. Twitter gets you answers.") As a result, the questions that I get around social media are less of the "what good is Twitter?" variety and more about how to use social learning tools to their best effect.

As I rely on  a large, diverse learning network to help me be competent and prescient, I hope to show (not tell) that I am here to solve problems, not simply build courses or teach classes. I can suggest and employ social and informal learning strategies in part because they're already working: social media tools, content curation, collaboration, and networked learning are making me better at what I do.

Craig Wiggins has been helping people create and manage learning experiences for the last 10 years. He is the eLearning Instructional Design Strategist for the Corporate Executive Board's Corporate Leadership Council, where he manages the creation of meaningful distance learning and performance solutions. Craig holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.Ed. in curriculum development, and spends a lot of time thinking about how to sneak usability, accessibility, and proper task analysis into the mix. In his natural habitat, he is usually storyboarding on wall-sized whiteboards or pontificating on Google+.