Wednesday, January 24

If we could ask the schools in the U.S. to do just one thing different, what would it be?

Let me ask you all this one question, which I was asked recently by a well-known governor. If we could change just one thing in the U.S. school system, what would it be?

Is there any chance that we can break the Bryan Chapman critique that we as a community of education and training professionals:
  • all agree on our dislike on the current system and
  • disagree on what to do better.

Could we work together with our various degrees of clout and make things better in the school system? Stage one is brainstorming, so let's air all of the ideas.

Friday, January 19

A Tale of Two Program Pilots

I just got results back from two pilots with the goal of evaluating the same, 15 hour training program.

In one pilot, the program sponsor cajoled a bunch of colleagues into doing the program. He oversold the fun aspects of it, and undersold the real work and time requirement required. Literally less than 20% into the program, the coach had to (appropriately) push on the participants for not doing any of the self-paced work, the participants revolted, the pilot failed, and the program sponsor lost credibility with peers.

In another pilot done during the same period, the program sponsor found real people who would really benefit from the program, and most matched the profiles of future students. The sponsor did a pre 360 on all of the participants, did the 15 hour program, and then did a post 360's to evaluate the program. What they found was incredible. The participants who went through the program went from a pre-test of a "3" to a post-test of "4". That was an entire standard deviation increase, and relatively unheard of for such a program. The participants ranked it as one of their most important growth experience in their professional life. The sponsor gained incredible credibility with his managers, and the program is roaring ahead.

I would say that all of our competencies, learning how to pilot may be the most important, and most lacking.

Friday, January 12

Don't hire me! Evaluate your own training budget in three simple steps

I love doing a good training audit as much as anyone. But you can do a lot yourself. When I review training budgets for clients, one tool I use is to break spending into three categories:

1. The money spent to to fulfill obligations.

These are the funds that are spent doing what the training group had committed to doing in the past. These might include ethics and sexual harassment training, new employee training, HIPPA compliance, and so on.

2. The money spent to reduce the cost of fulfilling the current obligation in the future

These are the funds used to automate processes wherever possible, consolidate vendors, or renegotiate, or find cheaper sources.

3. The money spend to deliver new (hopefully strategic) value.

This is the money spent to do something new. These are the new programs, the new infrastructure, and the new tools. Funnily enough, if companies are doing (1) well, these (3) activities are the only things that get noticed.

So many groups are trapped in (1). The best groups are constantly engaged in (2) and then (3). One "aha," and I think I will get plenty of grief here as well for bringing this up, is that often putting resources in making incremental improvements in increasing the end-user satisfaction of (1) training (way different from customer satisfaction in corporate environments), comes out of category (3).

Thursday, January 11

Big Question Follow-up

Some great posts are already out there around the Big Question for January: Quality vs. Speed. You can find them listed in the post. One thing that is definitely clear from the posts so far is that there seems to be a really difference of opinion around:

  • While you may be able to reduce development time via rapid tools, can you speed up analysis and design and still maintain quality?

  • Does iteration work? When?

  • If we didn't have constraints on time/cost, would we really be our own worst enemy?

  • Is quality, speed, cost and learning really like sliders that as you push one up others must go down?

There also are quite a few questions that the responses raise in my mind that I'm still grappling with...

  • What do you do when you are in an organization that only wants low-quality, rapid - even if it only checks the box? In other words, do you fight What the Client Wants? (see also Wendy's comments)

  • When is SME (or end-user) produced content with rapid tools the right answer?

I plan to do another couple of posts on this topic and related topics, but this has been pretty interesting already.

Investing in Informal Learning

According to Training in America by Garnevale, Gainer, and Villet (1990), two out of three workers say that everything they need to know was learned on the job, rather than through the classrooms. Thus the workplace is the most frequently traveled avenue to education and training for most employed persons. The authors further go on to state that estimates of employer investments in workplace training hover around $210 billion annually. Of that, about $30 billion is spent on formal training, while the rest, $180 billion is spent on informal, or on-the-job training.

The estimates that I have seen for informal vs. formal learning in a work environment normally runs about 70 to 80 percent for informal learning. Thus I estimate that on the average, workers learn 75% of their job informally and 25% formally. This means informal/on-the-job learning gets 86% of all learning investments, which leaves 14% for formal learning programs. Note that the authors indicate that formal learning is designed, developed, and delivered training; while informal/on-the-job training may be structured, such as apprenticeship programs, or unstructured, such as coaching or showing another the best way to perform a task.

I see two interesting aspects of this. This is the first time I have a seen training investment cost that tried to show the estimates for both formal and informal learning, however, the authors might have had more resources than others as this study was underwritten by the U.S. Department of Labour and conducted by ASTD. Of course it did include on-the-job training in informal learning, but on the other hand, is this where it should be included?

Secondly, as Jay and others bring the auspice of informal learning to the attention of trainers, it seems to me that trainers will try to formalize even more informal learning. As this shift grows from formalizing the informal, will we see the percentage of investment in formal learning programs grow and the investment of informal learning shrink?

Wednesday, January 10

How to be a Cutting Edge Education Theory Expert using Computer Games

Do you want to be a cutting edge educational expert on computer games? Here are the two, key principles.

Point #1: There is Value in "Doing Something With Feedback"

Argue that computer games are fabulous because players do things, and learn from their mistakes.

"But what if someone argues back," you are thinking, "that people also learn from gardening, changing a light bulb, running a lemonade stand, driving from one place to another, making dinner for friends, and doing just about any hobby, or really, anything."

That's easy. Just bring up scalability, in terms of big numbers (computer games now make more money than box office receipts -or- the average person plays 24.3 hours of computer games a day) or zoom into concepts, taking advantage of big words (they are utilizing advanced task analysis or cognitive anything). These will help.

Point #2: There is Value in "Getting People Together."

Argue that multiplayer environments are incredible because the get people together. And once people get together, they share ideas, they network, they pass concepts to and from each other, they are involved in unstructured learning. Information is fresh, current, real.

Again, I know what you are worried about. People already get together all of the time. They get together in car pools, subways, cafeterias, and water coolers. When people get together, they tend to talk about their families and television shows.

So again, use big numbers (YouTube sold for 1.6 billion dollars -or- one quarter of all Internet users use facebook and myspace) or big words (social networking and points economy).

Paydirt! "Getting People Together" in order to "Do Something with Feedback"

The first two arguments work well by themselves. You can become a well respected thinker just on those two alone.

But if you want to be a real-thought leader, an intellectual giant among ants, put the two together. Now you are in World of Warcraft territory. The only limitation to your success is how big and academic you can make the adjectives. Now you can use phrases like "social cues" or "orchestrating strategy."

You are now ready to usher in a new paradigm of education. You are cutting edge. This will change everything. (And, best of all, if you are too lazy to actually come up with new ideas, just look up "group challenges" or "ropes course" or "little league" or "chess club" or "corporate outing" and cut and paste from there.)

P.S. If you want some proof, use the "volume" logic. It goes something like:

One: generically, games and web sites involve some form of learning and/or at least information.
Two: some games/sites generate a lot of traffic. Let's call one "site x."
Three: Most likely, there are big name corporations that spend advertising dollars to expose themselves to this "site x" traffic and eyeballs. Let's call one "corporation y."
Four: educational theorists just connect the statements and say: "corporate y" gets this new model of learning and education. See, they have a big presence in "site x".

Monday, January 8

Quality vs. Speed

Out of 24 participating posts and nearly 40 comments on those posts, not a single person predicted that they would answer all 12 of The Big Questions in 2007 - how disappointing.

Well your first chance to redeem yourself comes in the form of January’s The Big Question:

What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?

Please answer this question by posting to your own blog.

(For further help in how to participate via blog posts, see the side bar.)

Points to consider:

  • Quality learning experiences involve having fun, better interactivity in e-Learning or interacting with fellow learners, possible use of games or simulations, richer blends, but designing and developing higher quality programs cost more and take longer.
  • Rapid e-Learning often involves paring back training to the minimum amount and minimal treatment, quickly building those training elements, and providing the remainder of content as reference. This reduces time and cost and may improve scalability because the skills required for development can be easily spread.
  • Most every learning project involves deciding what to treat in what way. So, what ends up on the design room floor by the time of implementation? What are the potential risks of these decisions? Has there been fat that could be cut without risking quality?

The Big Question Response
Tom Haskins
growing changing learning creating
The politics of quality
Tony Karrer
eLearning Tech
Big Question for January - Quality vs. Speed
Matthew Nehrling
The Tao of Design
In The Middle of the Curve
Trading Off
Clive Shepherd
Clive on Learning
The big question for January: quality v speed
Howard Cronin
e-Training in the Trenches
Big Question - January 2007
Karyn Romeis
Karyn's Blog
The big question for January: speed v quality
Clark Quinn
January's 'big' Question
Karl Kapp
Kapp Notes
Rapid E-Learning Trade-Offs
Donald Clark
Big Dog, Little Dog
Knowledge & Learning in the News
David Wilson
Learning Reflections
The Big Question - Rapid or Quality
Adele Lim
learning & development
Jan Big Question
Tom Haskins
growing changing learning creating
High performance netwroks solve the problems
Anil Mammen
Discursive Learning
Speed is not the antithesis of quality
Geetha Krishnan
Simply Speaking
Time for Quality
Dave Lee
e e learning
quality vs. speed - we've created a monster!
Shilpa Patwardhan
Closed World
Motivate to Learn
TATA Interactive Systems
TATA Interactive Systems Corporate Blog
Quality Vs. Speed
patrick dunn
occasional rants
The Big Question is how dumb this Big Question is
Tony Karrer
Learning Circuits Blog
Big Question Follow-up
Tony Karrer
eLearning Technology
Are There Trade-Offs?
Michael Hotrum
Choice Learning
learning development: fast, good or cheap?
Brent Schlenker
Corporate eLearning Strategies and Development
January Big Question...a little late
Valerie Bock
Collaborative Learning
High-Quality Rapid eLearning?
KN Master
Knowledge Narratives
Speed vs. Quality - Still Relevant?
Jacob McNulty
January's Big Question: Speed or Quality?

Wednesday, January 3

20% of most groups of students are mentally dropped out

The more I study formal learning programs (I will leave the study of informal learning programs to Jay), the more I hit the same number. Of any class, real or virtual, lecture or simulation, self-paced or chaperoned, academic or corporate, about 20% of the students have mentally dropped out.

This is not the period "fuzzing out" that we all experience. These people are gone. When asked a question, they don't know what is going on. When asked to perform in a simulation, they can't.

Some of these mental dropouts later give the class great marks. Others trash it.

Some of these mental dropouts are fabulous performers in the organization. Others are looking for new jobs. Some are surly; some are charming.

Most sit in the back of the room if they can. Many cluster together during breaks.

Is this rock-solid research on my part? Absolutely not. Am I sounding like Rumsfeld? A little.

I have just been stunned by the absolute constant of this number. And how the training people always look at this number as their own failure. They are reluctant to talk about it. When I bring it up, the training people always try and justify why the 20% dropped out (oh, 10% had previous engagements...). But across situations, across rationales, the number is almost always the same.

What are the implications of this? I have no idea.

Monday, January 1

Big Question Meet the EDGE Question

I thought that in honor of the success of the Big Question series, I would introduce my other favorite question and answer series; the question of the year from the World Question Center. This series is populated by the members of the Edge Foundation:
"The mandate of Edge Foundation is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual,philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society."

You think we're asking big questions, try some of the Edge's past entries like What Now? or What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Can't Prove It? or my personal favorite What's Your Law?

This year, the entry is What Are You Optimistic About? Why? While all the entries are thought-provoking, I thought some of the ones most relevant to us here on LCB might be:

Early Detection of Learning Disabilities or Difficulties
Understanding What Really Happens To Humans In Groups
A Knowledge Driven Economy Allows Individuals to Lead Millions Out of Poverty In a Single Generation
Humans Will Learn to Learn From Diversity
The End of the Commoditization of Knowledge
A Breakthrough in Understanding Intelligence is around the Corner
The Globalization Of Higher Education
Technology in Education