Friday, March 24

I need your advice on learning profiles

full disclosure - As some of you may know, I joined Thomson NETg in January to run one of their strategic business units called Collaboration (essentially what was KnowledgeNet whom they acquired in late 2004).

Very exciting (at least to me) but what I need is your feedback on a tool that Thomson NETg developed which I think is a hidden gem. By answering 25 online questions it builds a high-level personalized learning profile (for overall learning not just eLearning). I took it and found it to be very useful plus there is little marketing or promotional BS.

A sample question is:
When you get to work on Monday morning, you discover that, over the weekend, a new phone system was installed in your company. The first thing you need to do is to set up your voice mail for the first time. All employees have been given a short manual about the new system.What do you think you would do?
• I would read the manual, then attempt to set up my voice mail.
• I would start setting up my voice mail and never refer to the manual.
• I would start setting up my voice mail and refer to the manual only if necessary.
• I would ask someone else for help before attempting to set up my voice mail.

Knowing that many of you are experts in this field I would really appreciate it if you could look at it and post your feedback in the comments below. Is this useful or just cleverly cloaked marketing?

There is also a good document that goes into the educational theory behind the tool but is more self-promotional:


If you get prompted for some reason to login to see this stuff just use my email address ben[dot]watson[at]thomson[dot]com


Richard said...

I think it's a good thing. Self-tests such as this are used to help people understand if they're ready for distance learning.

The overall NETg profile looks good, though I have some hesitations about self-reported measured (people don't always have the insight to answer these accurately).

Dave Lee said...

Hey Ben. Congrats on the new job. I'm a bit jealous of you. You get to work for Joe Dougherty!

The instrument looks pretty standard for simple learning style inventories. I agree with Richard that self-reported measures can less than accurate unless your population is know to be highly self-reflective.

finally, in regards to the particular question you quoted in your post, you forgot another possible answer. Having just started a new job myself and dealing with a new office phone I:

began to read the manual, found it far too confusing, so I've been giving everyone my cell phone number!

Best of luck at Thomson!


steven rix said...

It looks awesome. I've been working on a similar project to measure employee performances and their learning retention. The engine is useful for companies but most of employers do not understand the ROI from a marketing point of view.

Peter Isackson said...

You've highlighted the folly of multiple choice questions. I've always maintained that their interest is to open up a debate about reality (a door into informal learning?), not to provide answers or reliable data. Taking the results seriously leads us to erroneous conclusions.


Harold Jarche said...

I agree with Peter. There is an entire field of study in learning styles, and no real consensus. I haven't looked at the test, but can think of a few reasons not to rely heavily on it - what is the person's mood; are they pressed for time; are they gaming the system; what do they think you expect as an answer; what is their experience and background; can they relate to the scenario being presented; etc.

Jay Cross had a good conversation on learning styles recently.

Jane said...

Thanks for the link to Jay's conversation, Harold. I have just skim read the gist of the conversation and will return to reflect later.

Whilst I would tend to support the concept of a socioculturally influenced tendency to aquire a preferred means of learning, I would suggest that development of identity comes with extension or balancing of that/those preference(s). Thus from a design perspective there needs to be compromise between having an awareness of the potentially varying styles of learners and the need to provide the medium and motivation to support the learner's extension of their own learnming tools.

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