Saturday, December 30

The Only Training Metric that Matters

There is only one training metric that matters: the person responsible for the training program gets promoted.

Any other metric, be it smilesheets or increased organizational productivity, or stock price, is only ammunition.

Now, clearly we need to tap into pure research. We need to pilot. But there are at least three reasons why this is the critical metric.

1. You can't do any good if you are fired.

2. Your clients, be they sales teams or management, live in a world of results. That is the language they speak, and you are too removed from them if you are not speaking this language.

3. Getting yourself promoted is the ultimate form of accountability. I have known too many people who called themselves "purists" or "in it for the good of other people" or "researchers" or "visionaries" or "business partners" or who like to shake their fists at the gods, saying of everyone else that "they just don't get it" or "they are part of the old model," who really just soft-talked themselves out of sweating out the details, worrying about the repeated, incrementally improved implementations and delivering real value.

Finally, selfishly, I wear two hats, one as consultant, and one as simulation vendor. In either case, I don't want the email from someone who says, "You get it. I get it. Simulations are cool." I want the email from someone says, "I think you can help me become a senior vice president."

Friday, December 29

The Ultimate MMORPG?

(MMORPG = Massively multi-player online role-playing game)

Clark Aldrich got quite a reaction a while back when he posted Second Life is not a Teaching Tool to LCB. While I generally agreed with those who rose in opposition to his declaration, something still just didn't fit for me. Even when his call for evidence of learning in SL with his post Second Life Redux got a lot of responses, something still gnawed at me like a young child who's newest linguistic trick is "but why? but why? but why?"

The nagging sense that there was more to the answer came to me the other day. If you look at formalized teaching as the only means of learning, then Clark is close to right. But if you simply broaden to say the arena Jay Cross advocates with informal learning, it's hard not to see SL as being a place where people, or at least their avatars, can be taught something - i.e. those flaming boulders can really smart.

But it dawned on me, this blog, Second Life, all those podcasts, all the experiments with mash-ups and AJAX and JSON, are all part of an environment where we are working together to create, learn, and share with each other so that we can all move forward. So doesn't that make all of this, including Second Life, part of the ultimate massive multi-player online role-playing game? Better known by it's old name as eLearning?

Tuesday, December 19


Relax, relax. It's definitely open blog and you can look onto your neighbor's screen anytime you want. This month you get two chances to voice your opinion. What I've done is summarized all the answers provided to date by our participating bloggers to the "challenges" question and the "prediction" question.

I grouped similar or related answers together to help narrow down the number of possible answers for you to choose from. Some of the answer catagories were obvious (war for talent/scarce talent/talent mgmt). While others were a bit more of a stretch (Learners will create content teach us and convert reluctant educators aims to unite 7 predictions of learner centrality.)

Don't get too hung up on the details. You have a tough enough task picking out one challenge and one prediction from all of these choices. don't worry, there are no right answers. this is a collaborative quiz. Those who talk about their answers or the overall results in the comments to this post will get extra credit from the blogmeister.

Thursday, December 14

Tidying up around Here

You may have noticed some changes here at Learning Circuits Blog. I just wanted to take few moments to point out the enhancements, in case you missed one or two.

Wider is Better

Based on the fact that 96% of our readership is using screen resolutions of 1000 pixels wide or greater, we took the opportunity to widen LCB from the standard 680 pixels to 1000 pixels. This move allows for more content on the screen, a wider sidebar, and easier integration of graphics.

Feed Me

Our RSS/Atom feeds had been a bit messed up for a while. You should find it much easier to grab the feed in a number of formats now. We had a Bloglet feed as our primary feed, but unfortunately, as a one-man shop, Bloglet is nearly defunct and their services have been on again, off again at best. Feedblitz has stepped in with Bloglet's blessing and set up a migration tool, which we have utilized to transfer nearly 2000 email subscription to LCB over to Feedblitz. If you were one of these subscribers, you should have alread received a couple Feedblitz mailings.

As an alternate to Feedblitz, I've set up feeds (both email and RSS/Atom) with Feedwhip. There is also the Feedburner feed which can be saved to any number of social bookmarking sites using the button provided in the sidebar.

A Matter of Good Forms
As a part of The Big Question, I've been trying out a few of the new database/forms tools. I took a look at all the free tools available and landed on Zoho Creator as the best blend of ease-of-use and powerful functionality. One weekend when Zoho took Creator offline to upgrade their servers, I swapped in a Wufoo entry form. Wufoo's easier to use than Zoho Creator, but it's data analysis capabilities are not as strong and you can't embed a live report into your blog.

I've also used Zoho Creator to create a form for submission of possible future The Big Question
questions and a contact form to drop me a Dear Blogmeister message (thus wiping out the massive email spam attacks that came with having a mailto: address on LCB).

Peekaboo FAQ
The here today, gone tomorrow FAQ is back yet again. No more ads, no more services going belly up, and no more Comcast accidentally wiping out my FTP content. If you have a question that isn't answered in the FAQ, please fill out the Dear Blogmeister form that's conveniently located on the same page as the FAQ.

Take this post and .......
I've added a few of the Feedburner Feedflares at the end of each post. If there's a particular Feed Flare (ie, Save to Spurl) that you'd find beneficial if it were included, please drop me a note and i'll to accomodate your request.

That's it for now. Have a Happy Holidays!

your humble blogmeister

Sunday, December 10

Convergence Learning

I came upon an interesting term -- Convergence Journalism: from the convergence of technologies that has taken place with digitization, to economic convergence in media ownership, through to the journalistic convergence that is seeing both a combination of media forms into one 'multimedia' form, and a multiplication of delivery systems.

Wondering if the learning profession has such a term, I Googled it and came across this interesting definition from KERIS - the Convergence Learning Model is founded upon cognitive sciences and operates on three impetuses: the psychology of learning, pedagogical change, and technological advancement. From a psychological view, the model addresses intrinsic motivation based on Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory. From a pedagogical view, the model provides a link between formal and informal learning to the benefit of each. Finally, the model is implemented using ubiquitous computing technologies.


Flows are not just one element of social organization, they are the expression of the processes dominating our economic, social and symbolic life - Manual Castells in The Rise of Network Society.

Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." Thus the development of learning spaces is far more than developing content, rather it is staging experiences that allows the learners to gain a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation known as "flow." And rather than seeing learning as a chore, "learning flow" challenges the learner to want to learn.

Formal & Informal Learning
"The learning zone" is the convergence of formal and informal learning within a social context where the interests of the enterprise and individual meet. The role of social networks is essential to successful learning in enterprises. - Window into Talent and Learning

Thus, rather than learning being organized around an event, it becomes a network of both planned and spontaneous situations. Some business processes are just too important to be left to chance. For example, manufacturing a product to specifications or safety procedures normally require that some type of formalized learning be given. Yet, it does not require strictly formalized learning methods. Competencies require the mastery of the 5 Cs: Content, Conversation, Connectivity, Collaboration, and Context:

  • While we all enjoy a good speaker, literature, or video that a well prepared lesson can provide, we also need to create and search for our own content in order to provide meaning to the new information.

  • While corporate classrooms have been moving away from lectures and more towards the interactive, it is often only after the learners have left the classroom and have had a chance to digest and reflect on their new knowledge and skills that they are able to engage in meaningful conversations with others to make their learning deeper.

  • People are social creatures, thus many of them look forward to the social aspects that a well prepared class can provide, yet once they leave the classroom, technologies such as the web, blogs, discussion groups, mobile phones, and email allows them to connect not only with the people they met in class, but also with others who share the same interests.

  • This social aspect carries over to working and learning with others in new projects that allows them further gain insight into their recently acquired knowledge and skills.

  • And finally, it is the experiences provided by the other four Cs that give the learners a more well rounded picture or context -- information only becomes relevant when it is related to something the learner is already familiar with.


Technology is meaningless except in how it can assist you, and then it should disappear and be invisible. It allows you to think of things you couldn't think of, it doesn't think of them itself. - Richard Saul Wurman

When most of us hear the word "technology," we tend to think of hardware, yet it is far more than computers and electronics. It is the application of tools, machines, materials and processes that help to solve problems and extend human capabilities. It has a circular effect on us in that we use technology to learn other technologies; use the newly learned technologies to create new technologies, and then use the newly created technologies to learn other technologies.Thus learning has sometimes been described as the meeting of people and technology. Since technology extends our capabilities, it can help to provide that needed flow that fully engages us in the task we are focusing on.

What to do during the holidays to understand the New Knowledge Order

Between Web 2.0 (including Blogs), Computer Games and Simulations, Digital Cameras, Podcasts, Widgets and other Ubiquitous/Ambient Information, and Cell Phones (just to name a few), it is hard to argue that we are all not in the midst of a New Knowledge Order.

The upcoming winter holidays gives some of us an opportunity to spend hours of low-tension time to experiment. My question to you is, how should that time be spent? What are your suggestions (as specifically as possible), for learning by playing and experimenting?

For one, I would suggest that everyone (who has not already) to download the free iTunes and find a few podcasts to subscribe to and listen to. If you like movies, I would suggest the wonderful Filmspotting podcast. If you like politics, try either Slate's Political Gabfest or Left, Right, and Center. You can burn the podcasts onto a CD for your car. The files are all MP3's, so you can copy them onto non-iPod mp3 players, or, of course, synch them with your iPod. Finally, if you are crazily motivated, download the free, open-source Audacity software and try recording your own voice. Many organizations could (and do) easily have a weekly podcast to align and inform groups of employees, customers, and suppliers.

What else?

Friday, December 8

How would you want your pilot, your doctor, and your lawyer to learn?

You and your family are boarding an airplane, and are about to fly across country. How would you want that pilot to have learned how to fly? P.S. It is stormy.

Your daughter is going in for an operation. How would you want that doctor to have learned how to operate?

You are the defendent a big intellectual property lawsuit. How do you want your lawyer to have learned her craft?

Now, is it fair or unfair to talk about project management, leadership, relationship management, and innovation (or other big skills) using those same standards? Is it as important for your boss, or your CEO, or your employee to have the same level of mastery? Is it even possible?

Thursday, December 7

Federation of American Scientists Bland Report on Harnessing the power of video games for learning

The Federation of American Scientists wrote a paper on Harnessing the power of video games for learning. It is available here:

Predictably, it is filled with stirring quotes of intellectual criticisms of the current system, detailed modeling of the problems, and vague inspirational quotes of the future opportunity, all by comfortable people. Blah, blah, blah.

My first reaction is, does anyone have any sense of irony that this document has no sense of humor, interactivity, or fun? The form of this document argues for traditional material. I am not saying this document should be a graphic novel, but throw me a friggin' bone here.

I also think of my friend and colleague Graham Courtney who has deployed simulations both nationally and internationally, and to groups from academics to corporate to military. If I were interested in a pep-rally for simulations, I wouldn't let him anywhere near the room, but if I was interested in advancing the art, and the lessons learned from first generation deployments, I wouldn't think of a conversation without him.

But finally comes the real question: how do you actually, really, as-if-your-life-depended-on-it, make change?

a) Where is the pain? Who is bleeding? Who is the poster child of why the current educational monopoly is unacceptable?

The Quality movement, a great milestone of formal learning, happened because of economic pain. But if corporations and competitiveness are the issue, as some speakers seem to think, then why aren't more corporations using games and simulations, as they did with Quality?

What is the emotional resonance, such as the glaciers eroding in An Inconvenient Truth, for this?

b) Wouldn't it be great if the Federation of American Scientists adopted one simulation that they thought had the best shot of role-modeling this new model, and put their resources behind it. Instead of funding reports and conferences and grabbing some sound bites of smart people, what if they measured the before, implemented it in 10 different environments for three years, and then got an after? What if they invested in taking the simulation from version X to version X+1? (This last point is critical - educational simulation require new genres; new genres require a few generations to get right.)

c) What if instead of having traditional lectures, the theme and the structure was: let's produce something to convince people to use games and simulations!

There is safety in writing reports and having conferences. There is comfort in evaluating. There is comfort in asking someone else to change while you do not. But until someone says, "failure is not an option" then failure is inevitable.

P.S. Having said all of that, thanks, report, for the Virtual Leader plug!

Wednesday, December 6

Imagine a course that "just" got students to get the quiet people talking

Imagine a course that "just" got employees to get the quiet people talking at the right time.

(And I mean really applying the skill on a near daily business. Imagine that an employee is increasingly uncomfortable in a conversation until everyone has chimed in.)

I would imagine that students would hate the program. ("Oh, it's so obvious. I already know I should do it, even if I don't." "I can't believe I spent a few hours learning this..." )

Management would have a hard time selling it, measuring it, or funding it. (Straetgic Goal #1: Getting People to Do Something that We All Already Know How to Do, and that can be summed up in a tag line in an email).

Yet I would imagine that the results from the application of the content would improve employee satisfaction ("My boss heard my great idea today"), innovation ("Let's try things differently"), and have a tremendous ROI.

I believe the real use of simple skills at the right time is so much more valuable than the intellectual acknowledgement of complicated processes, yet is almost impossible, due to our structures, egos, and value system, to actually implement.

Monday, December 4

Past Experiences. Present Challenges. Future Predictions.

It's the beginning of another month!
Time for another The Big Question.
November's Question got passions raging and great conversation with real substance whose embers are still glowing as more comments still are flowing in. While we had fewer participating posts this month (21 registered and 10+ thus far found that didn't register with us), the level and depth of the conversations were much more involved and intense.
We heard Mark Oehlert's whining about the first two The Big Questions being tough, so here's a softball, or should I say SNOWBALL, for you.

The Big Question for December is:

What will you remember most about 2006?
What are the biggest challenges for you/us as head into 2007?
What are your predictions for 2007?

Please post your responses to these 3 questions on your blog.

You can post about you and your life as a workplace learning professional or you may prefer to post about our field, current events that impact learning, or any other interpretation of these questions that makes sense for you. Reflection on the past, acceptance of where we are today, and putting our hopes for the future out there are very much a part of this time of year for many of us who grew up in Western traditions. Tony and I are hoping these three questions will be come an LCB tradition over the coming years.

The Big Question Process

You can find more details over in the sidebar, but simply answer these questions by posting your response on your own blog. When you have it ready, come back here to Learning Circuits Blog and fill out the form below regarding your post. We'd appreciate it if you would give a link to this post from your post. Adding The Big Question logo to your post would be a perfect early Christmas present for Tony and I. Once you've entered your post in the form, check out some of the other posts and get involved. Be sure to comment on other participants blogs. or if you should feel a stronger need to write post another post to your own blog and repeat the process again.

To those of you who will be celebrating, have a safe and happy holidays! Enjoy the conversations! - Tony and Dave

Tony Karrer eLearning Technology LCB Question for December - Past Year, Present Challenges, Future Predictions 04-Dec-2006 15:19:07 Dave Lee eelearning past experiences.....More to come... 05-Dec-2006 00:00:00 Karl Kapp Kapp Notes Thoughts about 2006 and Predictions for 2007 05-Dec-2006 19:18:42 Geetha Krishnan Simply Speaking LCB Question for December: 2006 - 2007 05-Dec-2006 22:49:03 Dave Lee e e learning let's continue...present challenges. future predictions 06-Dec-2006 00:00:00 Aradhana Ravindra My Learning Blog What will I remember most about 2006? 06-Dec-2006 07:22:10 Jay Cross Internet Time Here comes tomorrow... 06-Dec-2006 18:58:34 Clive Shepherd Clive on Learning The big question 07-Dec-2006 03:53:27 Brent Schlenker Corporate eLearning Development December's BIG QUESION! Part I 07-Dec-2006 20:16:26 Clark Quinn Learnlets December's BIG Question(s) 08-Dec-2006 13:30:58 Tom Haskins growing changing learning creating Version 3 in 2007 09-Dec-2006 09:28:31 Steve Kaufmann The Big Question 11-Dec-2006 10:45:25 Wendy in-the-middle-of-the-curve Big Question - Dec 2007 11-Dec-2006 15:17:56 Paul Fender Paul Speaks The Big Question 11-Dec-2006 16:33:46 Anil Mammen Discursive Learning Reflections, Challenges, Predictions 13-Dec-2006 10:48:28 Geeta Bose Learnability Matters The year that was! And, the year ahead… 14-Dec-2006 04:23:29 Mark Oehlert e-Clippings The LCB BIG Question (December 2006) 14-Dec-2006 06:52:03 Jim Blehsaw Managing the Professional Services Firm Past Experiences. Present Challenges. Future Predictions. 16-Dec-2006 17:42:32 Brent Schlenker Corporate eLearning Development December's Big Question Part 3 18-Dec-2006 00:00:00 Brent Schlenker Corporate eLearning Development December's Big Question Part 2 18-Dec-2006 17:29:10 TATA Interactive Systems TIS Corporate Blog LCB Question of the month: December 2006 18-Dec-2006 23:20:00 Stephanie Sandifer Change Agency Looking Back on 2006 and Ahead to 2007 20-Dec-2006 00:00:00

Sunday, December 3

Is it self-defeating to write a book advocating Informal Learning over Formal?

I am happily reading Jay Cross' new book, Informal Learning. As one would expect, Jay writes well and I can easily recommend the book to anyone interested in organizational learning.

While I will chew on this book more intelligently in weeks to come, I am struck by a basic paradox. Can one criticize formal learning models in a book? Isn't a book the epitome of what one is suggesting is the wrong model?

I write this in part because when I attend any of Jay's events, he is the anti-presenter and runs anti-workshop workshops.

I write this also because I have the same issue in writing about simulations.

The answer to the paradox is non-trivial, and fairly important for our industry. In my mind, even though a formal learning experience is not the complete answer, it can be a really productive first step. Reading Jay's Informal Learning is a great first step towards the work of developing a better learning culture. Hopefully reading one of my books is a great first step towards the same goal, just along a parallel path.

In fact, the justification for all formal learning experiences has to be no more and no less than being great first steps. Honestly accepting this truism, in fact embracing it, at all levels of the design, funding, and measuring stages, seems necessary for success.