Tuesday, June 26

Face Up To It: Are You the CBT Lady?

Last winter, I was on a cub scout camping trip with my son.  Me and a bunch of dads.  The inevitable “what do you do for a living conversation” came up over pancakes.  I hadn’t gotten too far into the “I design corporate training programs that people take online” description before one of the dads started hissing at me.  Literally.  He formed his fingers into a cross and said, “You’re the CBT Lady!” 
Visions of a hair-netted lunch lady serving up sloppy joes.  Is that what I am?

He went on to describe the true horrors he had suffered while forced to complete hour after endless hour of boring, locked down elearning programs:   “They make us sit through this long audio and you can’t click next until it’s over and then you get to the end of the quiz and you have to take all twenty questions over again because you got one question wrong!”

I attempted to defend myself and our profession.  “We try to do it better than that! That’s not what we’re about!” I protested.  My words fell on deaf ears.  This man had suffered and would hear nothing more.

Weeks later he introduced me to his wife and I got the exact same treatment. She works in the pharmaceutical industry and had similar tales of woe and suffering at the hands of elearning. “Honey, she’s the CBT Lady!”

The point is, this is what a lot of people think of this profession and the work that elearning designers and developers put out there in the name of training.  Is this what you want your name on? Is this how you want to be known?

So before you go out and spend another minute planning your next learning initiative, go out and find out just how what you’re already doing is being perceived. 

Do you know how the people in your organization currently view your formal learning offerings? Is classroom training seen as punishment for poor performance or a careless slip of the tongue? Or is it a breezy day or two out of the office with free lunch?  What about elearning? Is it a task to be endured while otherwise multitasking?

Conduct surveys or get an informal feet-on-the-street view of what’s really happening.  You may want to walk around and check out the kitchens or break rooms. Are the answers to the latest compliance elearning assessment posted on the fridge for all to share?  The message here is that this elearning is just a box to tick rather than an activity with any actual value—or any connection to improving any one’s performance. 

Ask people what they think.  If they’re really being honest, you might get responses that will take your breath away:  “You’re the CBT Lady!”

While you’re on this fact finding mission, find out what people really value in a learning experience and find out if your organization is providing that. If not, how?

Ask people how they like to learn on their own time.  Ask people what you could offer them to help them do their jobs better.

Find ways to provide support and tools that give people what they need and when they need it.  Can you embed performance support tools and job aids into the work flow? Can you use social business tools to connect people directly to the experts in your organization or provide a platform for asking questions and sharing knowledge, information and best practices?

Look at your data and see what you can uncover.  I heard a story of an organization that developed an award winning elearning program with game-like features and goal-based scenarios.  They got lots of hits and uptake from their European and Asian audiences—an unexpected outcome—while the intended American audience stayed away in droves.  Why was that? And then why was this organization now designing a very similar program for their American audience? Do we ever learn?

I’m raising questions here and not providing a lot of solutions, I realize. But the point is to live the questions first.  Find out what people really think of all of the effort you and your team create.  Then ask the question, “is that the kind of work you want to stand by?” Stop being the CBT Lady, I beg you.  And then let’s all go out and find better ways together.

Monday, June 11

Flavors of eLearning Design (ooh baby, it's a wide world)

I met for coffee this past week with someone who’s looking to break into the elearning industry.  She wanted to know where she should be looking and what the hot topics out there are.  I was giving her my 12,000 foot lay of the land, this is what I see going on kind of a thing.  It was so interesting to step by and take stock of what’s happening. 

Here’s where I see elearning going down these days:

Corporate Training and Performance Improvement
Internal L&D departments and vendors designing and developing online learning programs for use within  corporate organizations.  This is 90% of what I do and I imagine the case for a lot of you people reading this post.

Leadership Training for Corporate:
You look at the ASTD ICE expo list and it’s filled with loads of leadership consulting and training companies. The Franklin Coveys, Ken Blanchards, etc.  This is it’s whole behemoth sector in the market – it includes a lot of classroom training and increasingly elearning programs as part of those solutions.

Lots of elearning happening in the school sector.  Although, I haven’t seen much of great quality.  My son has to do some of his math homework online: really basic games.  He says, “I’m not learning, I’m just getting bored!”  Hopefully there’s a lot more than that going on. 

Higher Ed:
Want a master’s degree or a BA? Chances are these days you can take some, if not all of your degree program, online.  And of course there’s the latest MIT/Harvard online education initiative EdX.  

eLearning design for semester long courses is a different beast than your corporate training elearning design where you’re creating a 30 minute course on the latest policy.  I suspect making a jump from higher ed to the corporate world and vice versa would be a big change -- and quite possibly a completely different skill set.

For Profit:
We’re starting to see the for-profit universities offering their curriculums up to the corporate market.  At Corporate University Week, I heard the story of the Verizon degree program for store managers being offered in partnership with Bellevue University (here’s my blog post on the Verizon/Bellevue story from last November).

The Consumer Market:
Just bought a fancy new camera? Maybe that company has some fancy elearning to help you learn how to use it.  More and more we’ll be seeing companies striving to increase their market share by creating value added programs like online learning to help people use their products better.  Because the better pictures you take with that fancy camera, the greater your loyalty AND the more you’ll get out there and evangelize about that camera. 

Health Care/Mental Health:
I think this is a niche area that’s only going to continue to grow.  It’s getting specific resources, information and strategies out to the general public – either through an insurance company as part of their overall benefits offerings, or as programs individuals can purchase online with a credit card.  I’ve been involved in two such programs in the past two years and I think it’s a really interesting space.  Want to help people and make a difference in the lives of individuals?  Start poking around here.

I just pulled this list out of my head.  I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of big buckets and welcome your additions in the comments.

The bottom line is that elearning/online interactive ‘stuff’ is increasingly accepted.  Who hasn’t searched on YouTube to figure out how to stop a leaking toilet? It’s just what we do.  And while more and more of the content out there is user generated (power to the people!), organizations are paying attention.

Organizations in all sectors are figuring out how to create a valuable presence online that will meet the needs of their audience (consumers, students, employees, human beings).  Elearning is happening everywhere – even if that’s not what it’s called.

If you’re trying to break into “the field” – just remember that it’s a huge field.  Figure out where you want to shine and make your difference.  

Monday, June 4

Accidents Do Happen

Once upon a time, I worked at a small company. Because I knew the business and had helped design our software package, and because I was pretty good in front of a crowd, I ended up doing the training. 

One thing led to another and a couple of years later, I got hired at a small multi-media production company that developed corporate training programs delivered on CD ROMs. 

My new job title: “instructional designer.”  I’d never even heard the term, but here I was—off to the races—in what’s turned into a rather healthy career in elearning.  16 years later I’m still at it, designing elearning programs for the (mostly) corporate market.  It’s what I do – and, hopefully, what I do well. 

But I got here pretty much by accident.

What about you? How did you find your way into this role? How did you end up designing elearning programs?  Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Me? I had visions of becoming a high school English teacher or a writer of fine American novels. And while elearning design isn’t all that, it’s sometimes a whole lot more.  In my role, I teach, I write, I schmooze, I share, I design, I create, and I learn.

Because although I’m here completely by accident, I’ve tried to invest myself in this business with passion and spirit.  I walked into this field not knowing how to spell instructional design. And while I’ve never taken a formal class or gotten a fancy graduate degree in instructional design, I have spent a LOT of time learning the basics and honing my craft.  Maybe it’s some deep rooted inferiority complex, but my desire is to do my job to the best of my abilities.

Here are three things I regularly do to learn more about this profession and keep my passion for what I do at a gentle boil:

Read, read, read
I get geeky and read instructional design textbooks.  I learn about learning. I read up on visual design and design in general.  I read books about business and consulting.  And I also read novels and poetry and non-industry stuff to make sure I’m continuing to fill my creative cup.  Over the years I’ve created a reading list for Instructional Designers.

What about you? Are you reading about this stuff in your spare time? What books or resources have you learned the most from?

I speak at a lot of conferences. As a speaker, I need to know my stuff, otherwise the crowd starts throwing tomatoes at me.  Speaking keeps me on my game.  And while I’m at these conferences, I get to go learn myself.  Good stuff.  And not just at sessions, but while connecting with peers and colleagues over coffee or late night karaoke.  Elearning people tend to be pretty passionate. Find your people and learn from them!

ASTD’s TechKnowledge (coming up January 30-February 1, 2013 in San Jose) is a great place to learn more about elearning and connect with other learning geeks.  Are you going? If it’s not in your plan yet, make it happen!  Speaking proposals are being accepted until June 10.  Make this be your inaugural year!  http://old.astd.org/content/conferences/techknowledge/RFPtk/

Speaking of people, there’s a lot to learn from each other even when we’re not in the same room together.  When I was first getting my ID passion on, it was all about the blogging community and man-oh-man did I connect to a lot of great people through blogging.  It’s been a great place to document and process my own learning journey, and a fabulous way to connect with other elearning professionals.

These days, a lot of the community activity is on Twitter, where you can be up close and personal with great learning minds like Jane Bozarth (@janebozarth), Clark Quinn (@quinnovator) and Karl Kapp (@kkapp). 

For blogs of interest, be sure to check out the eLearning Learning blog feed aggregator (http://www.eLearninglearning.com/). Jane Hart’s lists tweeters in the learning and development space. (http://c4lpt.co.uk/social-learning-handbook/workplace-learning-professionals-who-blog-andor-tweet/).

Who do you learn from? Do you have a mentor you can bounce ideas off of or who can gently steer you into new areas of learning? Who are you connecting with and learning from online?

What’s in your personal learning plan?
So what’s your game plan for getting better at what you do?  Do you take classes? Go to free online webinars? Write books? Look at lots and lots of elearning programs for inspiration? What helps you create and sustain passion for this work?  Would love to hear your ideas and inspirations in the comments here—and/or find me on Twitter! @cammybean.

Cammy Bean is the VP of Learning Design for Kineo US (www.kineo.com) and has been accidentally doing elearning since the mid-90s. A frequent conference speaker and active blogger, Cammy served as the ASTD TK12 Planning Committee Chairperson and will be a featured speaker at this year’s ASTD LearnNow conferences in Boston (July 25-26).  You can find Cammy’s blog at http://cammybean.kineo.com/.

Friday, June 1

This Week's Gamification Blog Book Tour Stop


I am speaking on the topic of Getting Lost in a 3D Virtual World: Selecting and Evaluating Appropriate Virtual Worlds for Learning.

Here is a brief description of the presentation.

This presentation details the trials and tribulations of selecting, implementing evaluating and teaching within a 3D virtual World. The presentation is based on the experience of DAU as the organization journeyed down the road of 3D virtual world implementation. From cataloging hundreds of virtual worlds to working with a vendor to create a browser-based virtual world solution to preparing learners to enter a virtual world, you'll gain an understanding of the entire process from start to finish. Join your tour guides who will describe the process undertaken to choose a vendor, work out technical details, prepare instructors and conduct a pilot program learning within a 3D virtual environment. This engaging, exciting session highlights lessons learned from a real live implementation. You will be provided with tips and techniques for selecting your own 3D virtual world for learning, advice on conducting a pilot and a few pointers about what to avoid during the process.
 If you are there at the conference, please stop by and say "Hello." I am speaking at 10:00 AM ET.