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Learning Technologies - 2011

Learning Technologies - 2011

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Published by: Josué Oliveira Silva on Jun 18, 2011
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What do you do when
management doesn’t get it?
Leadership development
from scratch
Digital learning
content: time for
some clear thinking
A framework for
social learning in
the enterprise
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 1
5 Learning and development at the crossroads
13 What do you do when management doesn’t
get it?
19 Leadership development from scratch
27 Digital learning content: time for some clear
35 A framework for social learning in the enterprise
43 Making the business case for social media
49 Delivering major change with e-learning
55 Do you control your Outlook mailbox or does
it control you?
ore for less’ is a phrase that we’ve heard a
lot of recently. That’s understandable. Unlike
the previous recession of 2002-2003, this time the
downturn has not led to learning and development
departments being axed wholesale. Instead, while some
individuals have sadly lost their jobs and budgets have
been reduced, at the same time the requirements for
skills development have been maintained or increased.
The result has been inevitable. We’re all busy. Very busy.
Everyone I speak to seems to be doing at least part of
someone else’s job as well as their own. In places this is
creating some tremendously creative learning solutions
for the organisations we work for. Generally, though, it
generates a lot of activity as L&D teams struggle to get
this day’s work done before tomorrow’s starts.
But amid all this furious action, it may be that we are
missing something vital – looking after our own skills.
The learning and development field is moving fast right
now and we need to maintain our skills in order to
deliver. Josh Bersin has pointed out the key steps to a
high-impact learning culture (Principal Analyst David
Mallon presents this at January’s Learning Technologies
conference) and an essential component of this is the
new roles and skills L&D professionals require. They
include, as you might expect, the need for the L&D
teams to build and maintain social learning networks,
but also some requirements that you might not expect,
such as the need for strong learning leadership and a
culture of trust.
Meanwhile, while some organisations are doing a great
job of broadening their L&D skills base, some individuals
are, too. I have been honoured over the past few
months by the number of people who have approached
me in person or via e-mail to say how valuable they
find the free Learning and Skills Group online
community in enhancing their skills. I believe that
increasingly in the future we will expect to be members
of communities like the LSG in order to stay abreast of
developments in our fields – they will simply be part of
our professional infrastructure, whatever our field.
If you are not a member of the LSG online
community and would like to be, please mail me at
donaldt@learningandskillsgroup.com. We’d love you to
join the conversation online and of course see you in
person at Learning Technologies 2011 and Learning and
Skills 2011 at Olympia on the 26-27 January.
In the meantime, the community will continue to do
what we can to support all those L&D professionals
who begin each week faced with having to do more
with less.
Donald H Taylor

2 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
61 Still seeking the perfect blend
67 A new era of workplace learning
73 Post training performance support with
mobile apps
79 Technology enhanced learning - the good, the
bad, and the ugly
87 Rocket science online
93 Riding to success on the back of the recession
99 How mature is your learning culture? Part 2
105 Let’s kill the Babel fish!
111 Learning in extreme conditions
117 Supporting organisational change with e-learning
123 The real value of learning
129 Minding your own business: why learning is
best when it’s local
135 How to use social learning to induct new starters
139 It’s a jungle out there for learners
143 Skill-based games improve productivity at work

CloserStill L&D (Principal Media Ltd)
19 Hurst Park, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 0BP
T 01730 817600
F 01730 817602
E info@learningtechnologies.co.uk
© CloserStill L&D. All rights reserved. Whilst every
effort is made to ensure accuracy, the publisher
cannot accept responsibility for errors, inaccuracy or
for any opinions expressed by the contributors. All
trademarks are acknowledged.
Inside Learning Technologies & Skills is the official
publication of Learning Technologies 2011 and
Learning and Skills 2011, Olympia 2 London,
January 26th - 27th 2011 and the Learning and
Skills Group.
his is a crucial time for Learning
and Development.
That word ‘crucial’ might sound
over blown, and if you’re sceptical reading
it, I sympathise. I’ve chaired the UK
Learning Technologies Conference for the
past 11 years, and over that period I’ve
learned how much people like to claim that
right now is a crucial time for something –
anything. Every year is going to be the year
of virtual this, or e-that, or something 2.0 –
and it never quite seems to happen.
But if I’ve been chairing the conference for
11 years, I’ve been in L&D for longer – for
almost all my adult working life. And
contrasting the position between now and
the mid ‘80s – when I started work as a
trainer– I can state unequivocally that this
is indeed a crucial time. We’re at a
The choice facing L&D is stark: change, or
face irrelevance.
Back in the ‘80s things were different – very
different. We didn’t have L&D. We had
training. We had one major delivery
mechanism, the classroom, which we used
along with books and a few media such as
video and audio cassettes. Mostly, though,
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 5
Donald H Taylor looks at the
world of L&D and suggests
that we have some tough
decisions to make.
we got people into classrooms and we
delivered information (or made it available
for discovery) then we checked to see
whether the delegates had learned that
It was all about knowledge transfer. It was
– on a good day – very satisfying. And at
the end of the day you could go home
knowing that you had done just what the
job needed and maybe a little more.
A lot has changed.
There are three drivers which have placed
L&D at this dramatic crossroads since those
heady days, they are:
1. how we learn for work has changed,
2. technology has changed,
3. and executives have changed.
Once upon a time a graduate would learn
plenty of what they needed at university or
college, some more during induction, and
then top it up with a week or two of
annual classroom training. he pace of
change was slower and the learning far
more predictable.
It is no longer that way, and it hasn’t been
that way for some time. The pace of
change and the volume of new information
in our daily working lives have accelerated
too much.
Now we still need people to learn plenty at
college and during induction, but in
addition they need to be able to find
information and to learn quickly while on
the job – and much more frequently than
once a year.
Some people are very good at this. They
use modern technology to find information
(typically using search engines) or people
with expertise (through social networks).
Others will need to be shown how to best
use such tools.
But technology plays a far great role in all
this than just being a useful side kick in
daily work. It has transformed workplace
learning – and threatens to completely
outflank the L&D department.
There’s a subtle change here in learning.
Not only is technology used, frequently
and in an ad hoc manner, but it’s used
differently to the centralised, push
mechanism of the traditional training of
the ‘80s. This is personalised, individually
driven, ‘pull’ learning. And often this sort of
informal learning is used not – as we use
traditional training – for long-term
capability building. It is used for short-term
performance support.
In L&D we know this in our heads, but we
don’t always accept it in our hearts. For
example US company Ruder Finn has what
it calls an internet Intent Index. They ask
people what their intention was at the
moment they went onto the internet to
browse. Here are the seven choices they
give people:
• Advocacy
• Learning
• Socialise
• Shopping
• Have fun
• Express yourself
• Do business
Ranked in terms of popularity, where do
you think learning comes on that list?
Where do you think shopping lies? Almost
universally, L&D folk say shopping will be
number one, and learning come at the
Learning is number one – more popular
than socialising and having fun – while
shopping lies at the bottom of the list.
Now we still need people to learn plenty at college and during
induction, but in addition they need to be able to find
information and to learn quickly while on the job – and much
more frequently than once a year.
6 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Strangely, if you show this ranking to
L&D professionals – and I have, often –
the reaction is always the same: “Yes, but
they don’t really mean Learning, do they?
They just mean finding things out.” Yes,
they do. And that’s a type of learning, too
– an increasingly important part, yet it
seems that L&D sometimes has difficulty
accepting that anything which takes place
without its intervention can be real
Do these personal learning tools such as
internet search and social networking
mean the death of the classroom? No –
it’s simply that workplace learning has
expanded beyond the traditional training
remit of knowledge transfer. The problem
is that the L&D department hasn’t fully
expanded with it.
The L&D function needs a broader role to
be effective. The capability building that
we always did in the classroom is just one
of at least four things that we need to be
1. Capability building – building individual
employees' long-term knowledge and
skills, usually through centrally-controlled
'push' learning. What we’ve always done.
2. Performance support – personally-
driven ‘pull’ learning that answers specific
short-term performance issues. We’re
familiar with this as what’s often called
the ‘Googlization’ of learning. Actually, this
term trivialises an increasingly significant
part of L&D’s role.
3. Personal learning support – we need to
ensure that organisations select social and
other learning tools wisely, instigate and
maintain a positive learning culture and
stimulate quality user-generated content.
At the same time, we need to support
employees in their meta-cognitive
A graduate now is very unlikely to have all
the learning skills they’ll need for the next
40 years of work. They will need explicit
help in developing themselves as learners
and also as good communicators to other
employees, because that’s a crucial part of
organisational learning, too.
4. Skills management – we need to
provide both a long-term view of how we
grow organisational skills both for the
corporate vision of 3 years’ time, and to
meet managers’ needs for their projects in
3-12 months’ time.
It's all a long way from the comfortable
world of the 1980s and delivering learning
through the classroom. Do we need to be
doing all this things? Well, executives
seem to think we do. And that’s the real
game changer.
Back in January 2009 I predicted in this
magazine – along with many others – that
L&D departments in the UK would be hard
hit by the recession and that lay offs
would be plentiful. While some people
unfortunately did lose their jobs, this last
recession was notable for the fact that,
unlike in 2002 and in previous recessions,
organisational executives explicitly said
they were going to retain employees and
training departments because they
believed that skills would be essential to
come out recession strongly. In some
cases companies reduced wages across the
board rather than cut staff.
This anecdotal evidence of executives’
understanding of the importance of skills
was given quantitative support with the
release in July 2010 of Coleman Parkes’
survey of CEOs for UK-based company
Capita, Learning to Change. 70% of those
surveyed said that inadequate staff skills
were the greatest single threat to their firms’
ability to capitalise on economic recovery.
Very good. So executives now understand
that skills are important. However, a
shocking 46% of all those surveyed also
said they did not believe that the L&D
department was providing those skills.
Only a paltry 18% believed that L&D’s
activities were actually aligned with
business goals.
Why, with the executive spotlight so
firmly on skills, is L&D not delivering?
There is a variety of possible answers.
Perhaps we are doing the job the
executives want, but not letting them
know about it. Perhaps we’re doing the job
that needs to be done, but which the
executives are unaware of, because they’re
too far removed from training and skills.
But perhaps there’s another, less
comfortable, explanation.
Perhaps we’re a little too comfortable
where we are, doing what we’ve always
done. Perhaps we stick to the role of
information provider – whether in the
classroom or online – because we like it
too much. It’s our zone of expertise, and
we do it very well. We’re generally less
comfortable with business conversations
with management where we might not be
so expert.
An example: earlier this year I was running
a Learning and Skills Group (LSG) webinar
with Laura Overton of Towards Maturity
and about 150 members of the LSG
community. Laura has 7 years of data
from 1,200 companies on how to make a
strategic success of implementing
technologies in your organisation.
While she was very clearly laying out the
steps to ensure a successful e-learning
implementation, I noticed a vibrant
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 9
Ten years ago you wouldn’t have found skills on the financial
pages of the newspaper. You wouldn’t have found them in the
newspaper at all.
discussion taking place in the text chat
area that runs alongside the presentation
slides. What was the topic? Nothing to do
with the strategy of e-learning. It was this:
‘Which tool is better for creating my
e-learning course – Articulate or Captivate?’.
As always we seem happier in the detail of
knowledge transfer than the strategy. We’d
rather focus on ‘how’ than ‘why’.
So these three drivers have brought us to
the crossroads: workplace learning,
technology and executives.
In this new environment, L&D needs to be
doing at least these four things:
1. Capability building
2. Performance support
3. Personal learning support
4. Skills management
We’re probably doing only one of these
well, and almost half of all CEOs believe
that we can’t deliver the rest.
And you know what?
I’m delighted.
This is where we’ve wanted to be for a
long time. It is finally understood that skills
Ten years ago you wouldn’t have found
skills on the financial pages of the
newspaper. You wouldn’t have found them
in the newspaper at all. Now they are an
essential business issue and we have the
tools and the understanding to do
something about it.
Of course the stakes are high. And that’s
great – when executives want something,
it will happen. The downside: if L&D can’t
deliver these skills, someone else will be
tasked with it. It might be HR but I believe
it’s more likely to be Operations or an
external consultancy. In either case, L&D
will be relegated to an internal training
fulfilment house, a rump of what it could
be, delivering only part of the bigger skills
agenda. We will be – more or less – an
But don’t we want the stakes to be high?
We cannot say that skills are important
and then flinch from having to make tough
decisions about providing them. We can’t
duck the issue of expanding our own
understanding of the business we work in
and of L&D in wider terms than our own
delegates and courses.
From the conversations that I’ve had with
L&D professionals over this year, I’m
confident that we have the skills,
understanding and will power to establish
L&D where it deserves to be. Not as an
ancillary fulfilment house, but an integral,
essential part of the organisation.
We don’t have a road map yet of how to
do this, but the conversations around
establishing L&D in its proper role have
already begun.
For all the risk involved, this is a great time
to be involved in learning.
This article was originally published on
www.TrainingZone.co.uk in three parts as
‘Learning and development at the
10 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
FuI: Ihe expe(I nexI Ic ycu.
Donald H Taylor is Chairman of the
Learning Technologies Conference and
the LSG and can be contacted at
donaldt@learningtechnologies.co.uk, or
via twitter.com/donaldhtaylor
s learning professionals gather for
another Learning Technologies
Conference we are prepared for
innovative ways of thinking
about, and delivering, learning using
technology. New developments on how this
learning is created, delivered and evaluated
will be eagerly absorbed. On our return to
the office we will leap into action and apply
this mine of useful information and within
months we will all be receiving pats on the
back for transforming the business.
Or will we?
Many organisations still look suspiciously at
e-learning and have yet to see any real
benefit from it. Some senior managers are
yet to be convinced that it is better than
conventional instructor-led methods and
where regulatory compliance is required a
signature on a piece of paper proving course
attendance is deemed more reliable than
any report from a learning management
system. There is still resistance from line
managers who see that time spent listening
to a webinar is not time spent working.
There is resistance, too, from the many
people who have had the unfortunate
experience of e-learning where interactivity
is restricted to clicking the ‘next’ button on
a series of screens.
You may be in the lucky position where all
this is history: your latest mobile learning is
now in use; your social learning
environment is in melt-down through over
use; your new business game is winning
plaudits and your budget has just been
increased for the fourth year in a row. But
to many others that is all just a dream. How
do you get learning technology past the
recidivists, the doubters and the just plain
I wish there was an easy answer which was
tried and tested with a guarantee of success
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 13
Vaughan Waller reveals five
things you can change, and
five that you can’t.
but there isn’t. Overturning negativity is a
slow, incremental process which will
inevitably have many setbacks and
Recidivists believe that a training
department should do that alone – train – in
the sure and certain conviction that four
days in a classroom listening to PowerPoint
presentations will be just what the doctor
ordered for skills development.
To these unenlightened souls e-learning is
still a poor man’s training, ‘training lite’, not
real hard training and not likely to make the
difference required. This attitude may seldom
be vocalised but it manifests itself in other
ways such as making it commonly known
that learning is not working and is best done
outside work time. I could suggest that this
sort of person is from the old school and that
sooner or later they will all go the way of
the dinosaur but there are still plenty of them
around. The tragedy is that there are none so
deaf as those who do not want to hear.
Given this, the best approach is a work
around. Accept that these doubters are
there and are unlikely to disappear anytime
soon but that with the courage of your
convictions learning must prevail and not be
subjugated to the diktats of the misguided.
What follows are five things you must
accept cannot be changed and five things
that you can do despite them. Things you
must accept:
You cannot change their minds so
don’t try
We all know that in some situations even a
brilliant business plan showing real positive
gains to accrue from using technology in
learning may not gain support. My
experience shows that it is not that doubters
don’t think it will work; it is that they simply
don’t understand how it ever could.
Persistent cajoling and lecturing on our part
is never going to make the difference. All that
you can do is to remain permanently positive
about all types of learning however it is
delivered. In other words, never show that
their negativity has rubbed off on you and
that you are still going for it come what may.
It won’t last for ever but it may take
longer than you think
It may be wishful thinking on my part but
the majority of doubters are those that are
yet to have a good experience of e-learning.
In the future they might have a road to
Damascus moment that will change their
minds but you cannot guarantee that,
regardless of how good the e-learning is.
Also, they may be in the Autumn of their
careers and being dyed-in-the-wool digital
immigrants, are negative towards
technology in general. If this is the case then
they might be retiring soon and they will
then take their influence home with them.
But don’t think for a moment that this will
result in everyone else suddenly hammering
on your door. This will be a slow and steady
process with no apparent end in sight.
You may not be able to win the war
but you can still win some battles
There are plenty of battles that you can win
along the way. In particular, seek out those
projects which have little impact on
instructor-led programmes. Never suggest
e-learning should replace courses that:
a. are really popular with delegates;
b. are run by the doubters, or
c. are not really suited to e-learning
in the first place.
Instead, select those situations where positive
gains can be achieved without any effect on
the existing programme by creating
electronic resources that enable users to do
their jobs with greater efficiency. If you think
‘resource’ rather than ‘course’ then the
doubters have nothing to complain about.
E-learning means everything electronic
To the recidivist, e-learning means web 2.0,
live online learning, webinars, social learning
environments – just about everything in
fact. This can be especially dispiriting
especially when all sorts of excuses are
brought up as to why they cannot be used
(for example because of business risk or
compliance). This case cannot be argued
unless you are an expert in the relevant
field and so that is a battle that cannot
normally be won.
But there will be situations in whatever field
you work where some form of electronic
delivery cannot be gainsaid by anyone.
Providing electronic performance support at
the point of need, for instance – particularly
in IT applications – will save time and
money and almost certainly improve
efficiency. If you use a software tool that is
proprietary to your organisation then that is
an area just begging for electronic support.
You will have to put up with some
bad PR
It’s not that the doubters are all-powerful
and in control but they do appear to have
the habit of telling everyone else what they
think about using technology to deliver
learning. And usually, because they are who
they are, this mud sticks. It is often a seed
in the mind of those who are disillusioned
by the existing training programme and
who will gladly pick up any bad PR about
new initiatives. This is just an unfortunate
part of life in an organisation and your
marketing will have to compensate.
But it won’t always be like this and your
tenacity should ultimately win the day. Just
don’t give these doubters any ammunition
to work with by providing badly designed
ineffective modules or events.
That is the doom and gloom over with. So,
what can you do to get past those who
always say no?
Training is good for a lot of things
so keep that going
When designed and delivered effectively,
instructor-led training is excellent and can
succeed in areas where all else fails. In any
organisation there will be people who hate
role play and group exercises, just as there
will be those that love them. This is just as
it is with any other form of learning. This is
not the place to discuss the pros and cons
of each approach but stories abound of
14 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
where instructor-led training (ILT) has been
ditched in favour of e-learning with
disastrous results. No amount of
technological ingenuity can replace every
training need. In my experience blending
learning platforms is not the automatic
answer. Sometimes this appears forced and
patronising as if we are desperately trying
to please all the people all the time. But
maintaining some ILT courses in a
programme using whatever platform works
best is the strategy most likely to succeed.
Create e-learning options wherever
possible and at least get a hit count
To save money, many organisations delete
the ILT option and provide a generic
e-learning alternative. This is fatal. Always
provide people with training options
wherever possible. If there is a good ILT
option then also provide a short electronic
aide memoire based on the course. In some
cases this 10 minute module will be enough
to keep people on peak performance
because it should remind them of
techniques learnt before. If all you are
providing is a half day course then you are
missing an opportunity to help those who
just need their memory jogged. But instead
of using complex software for delivery, just
arrange a hit counter. This eliminates the
tedious logging on barrier to e-learning but
still gives you the most important measure
for the doubters – the numbers of users.
Always plug the technology-based
alternative when people book on ILT
Whenever someone enquires about training
make sure that both (or all) platforms are
discussed. I am not talking about a long list
of options but at least try to accommodate
a variety of needs on the same subject. Of
course this will not always be possible but if
for instance the ‘course’ is a presentation with
some exercises, make it all available later by
recording the speaker and then editing it
down to a podcast with extra materials.
Develop feedback channels on all media
to find out what works and what doesn’t
The doubters love nothing more than to
make data on usage act in their favour so
counter this by seeking out and
documenting real qualitative feedback
rather than cold figures alone. Don’t expect
learners to fill in questionnaires all the time,
because that’s possibly going to take longer
than the learning. Instead, talk to them
informally and then you will have something
to throw back in the faces of the doubters.
Have a plan
This doesn’t need to be a full blown strategy
beloved of the command and control freaks.
Indeed, it has to be at a more human level
than that. You can still have your high-level
organisation wide L&D strategy tying in with
the HR strategy and the business strategy but
you also need a plan at the individual level to
show that L&D is as much about people as it
is about the bottom line.
What does learning feel like to you as a
learning professional? Is it all about
extracting another 3% performance out of
the workforce in order to secure bonuses for
someone at the top? I doubt it, because
learning is basically about everyone
reaching their potential and the thrill of
seeing that achieved both for the
organisation and the individuals themselves.
The doubters and the recidivists will be around
for a while but knowing that they are there
and knowing how to nullify their opinions
will arm you in a battle that can be won.
Vaughan Waller is Senior Instructional
Designer at Moore Stephens LLP and
he can be contacted at
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 17
ake no mistake, leadership
development is one of the
most important activities that
a learning leader can get
involved in. Firstly because it can make a
massive difference to the way an
organisation is run, and secondly it has
profile. No leader can fail to notice
leadership development, so its progress is
tracked more acutely than other forms of
The irony is that this high profile scares
some learning leaders off. They think that
this is a hugely specialist area, so they
hand over development and delivery
responsibility to a third party and accept
everything they are told by the ‘expert’
third party. Third parties brand, design and
deliver the programme. It is almost as if its
high profile requires some insurance: if
anything goes wrong, it is their fault! It
doesn’t have to be like that. This aim
behind this article is simple: if you are
thinking about leadership development, if
you want to get more involved in what
has already started, if you are making the
case for investment, then read on.
Let us start with competences. If there is
one phrase designed to send shivers down
my spine, it is ‘competence framework’. I
have never seen so much rubbish written
about competences or such complex
frameworks devised for any other area. If
you feel that you need a framework to
hang your leadership programme on, then
leadership competence is as good as any.
But remember the leadership skills in
most places are generic and can be boiled
down to four or five core competences. If
you have not got them, then borrow
someone else’s.
That is not meant to sound frivolous. I am
sure that four good, core competences
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 19
Leadership development is
too important, says Nigel
Paine, to be left to outsiders.
will give you a better and more
comprehensive framework to build upon
than commissioning a complex list of 25
or 30 that are cut and diced depending on
function or level or something else. Guess
which model a CEO will grasp in seconds?
And don’t forget that competence is a
way of making explicit the things that you
would like a leader to do.
They are a means to an end rather than
an end in themselves. Do not spend too
much time on this. If you start with four
and you need to add another one, so be it.
It really isn’t the end of the world! Peter
Cappelli the Wharton Academic who is a
world expert on talent management said
recently: 'Judging people on their
competences not their performance is
insane!' But plenty do it!
The second thing not to get too hung up
about is face-to-face learning. This is
expensive on every dimension. So use it
sparingly; make every minute count. Do
not use such an expensive medium to
deliver content. Make it an interactive,
team building, sharing experience that
would be very hard to deliver in any other
mode. So make sure that you wrap the
face-to-face around online or small group
in situ learning.
You might use the dumbbell model: a
face-to-face session to kick off and finish
and then a connecting stream of coaching,
self-development tasks and online
learning. This has the advantage of setting
clear deadlines (the end of one face-to-
face session and the beginning of the
other), and offering some shape. It may be
difficult to negotiate that amount of face-
to-face time; if you can’t get it, that is not
the end of leadership development.
You just have to go back to the drawing
board and work out a new model. I have
seen programmes run off a Blackberry
work better than a lavish face-to-face
programme, largely because one was
focussed on what the leader needed to
know and do and the other drowned the
participant in alternative models that may
or may not work in any given situation.
The direct consequence of all this is that
you cannot afford to outsource
everything! Not because a or b won’t do a
wonderful job but because you lose
control and won’t be able to change
things if you need to. So do not make this
a hands-off outsourced project however
tempting this maybe.
My advice would be to stay in charge and
manage the components and cover some
of the programme in-house however small
your resources. And there are elements
you can deliver even if you have a team of
one or two. For example, recruiting a team
of mentors or coaches from the business
to support the learners is powerful,
effective and spreads the right message.
And what this group loses in sophistication,
they gain in credibility and knowledge.
Plenty of external organisations will offer
to take this off your hands at a price. I
would caution leaping to accept this too
quickly. Be clear about what resources you
can draw upon before you make that
decision. The CEO or any ‘C’ suite member
sitting in a room, with a leadership cohort,
honestly answering questions from the
participants, can be enormously powerful
and empowering. Cost: zero or close to
zero, and more effective than yet another
external presentation on strategy.
This looks like joined up leadership with a
great hidden message: if the CEO thinks
that this is important, then I should think
it is important, too! And you as the
learning leader have just doubled your
credibility at a stroke.
Never forget impact. In fact, you should
write that word on a piece of paper and
put it in a place where you see it most
hours of the day because sooner rather
than later, someone like a Chief Executive
will turn to you and say: ‘what would you
say the overall impact of this programme
has been?’ And a blank look followed by a
garbled mention of the happy sheet status
pertaining at that moment is a seriously
career limiting moment that you will not
20 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Peter Cappelli the Wharton Academic who is a world expert
on talent management said recently: 'Judging people on
their competences not their performance is insane!' But
plenty do it!
wish to repeat. So how can you measure
impact? The only answer is by gathering
data. That can be evidence that the
participants share with you or the
evidence that their bosses share in terms
of the teams’ improving performance. You
must gather qualitative evidence and then
try to collect some quantative evidence:
for example, tribunals going down, formal
grievances going down, staff job
satisfaction going up. All of this is fabulous
evidence that cannot be taken as 100%
causal but is a strong indicator.
Do not try to assemble this data quickly in
the two hours between the boss’s call and
the actual meeting itself. And don’t make
it all up. That will never stand the test of
time. If you set out from the beginning
with the aim of gathering as much data as
possible, you will do just that and turning
data into an analysis is much more
straightforward than starting from scratch.
All this means that you will be able to
make a substantial case for a programme
like this, in this company at this time. You
will rarely get away without some form of
proof of impact so make it count and
don’t attempt to rely on platitudes. But
don’t spend a huge proportion of your
budget on this either. Keep it in
perspective; extrapolate from the specific
and be reasonable how you define impact.
No one is impressed by huge claims based
on thin evidence, but neither is anyone
impressed by the absence of any attempt
to evaluate.
Assemble an advisory board for the
programme. If you do it well, it will have a
very high level chair (CEO perhaps?) and
the membership will be drawn from
throughout the business. This Board is
critical but supportive and its credibility is
directly proportional to the credibility of
the programme as a whole.
So the key message is to build the Board
slowly and carefully; do not let them get
involved in trivia, but allow them to steer
the Leadership Programme to a successful
outcome. Take their advice, build their
commitment and they will act as a
massive shield from day-to-day petty
comments as the programme launches.
Part of your role is to bring to the Board
some ‘real’ experience of the programme
so you must sit in on practically every
aspect of the course. Be at the face-to-
face sessions, join online debates and ask
to be totally informed.
At the Board you are the eyes and ears
going forward. If you say you have ‘no
direct experience’, it will sound like you
don’t care enough about the programme.
Gain the Board’s support and
endorsement, do not ask the Board to
work it all out on your behalf and make
sure when the good news goes round that
the Board gets some credit; if an award is
handed out, get the Chairman of the
Board along to accept the prize. It all helps
build the best possible relationship with
the Board.
In all of this activity do not forget to work
on the programme. It is impossible to get
everything precisely right first time so
make changes, and acknowledge the
source of any suggestion. You want the
learning cohort to feel that they are being
listened to and their ideas/suggestions
acted upon. But do not initiate change for
change’s sake, it will drive everyone mad.
Instead, get the reputation of being
responsive and flexible.
An open-ended programme is dangerous.
There should be a point for a total rethink
and that may be after two years or after
five. It is hard to offer any firm advice
apart from this: announce the duration, let
everyone know what you hope to achieve
over that time and then check at the end
to see what was actually accomplished.
This means a bigger, more comprehensive
review that might be best compiled by an
independent source (either internally or
externally) with some recommendations
on what to do next. Leadership
development is never finished but it does
evolve as the organisation evolves and the
demands on leadership change.
If you want to survive until this end date
you have to make the programme both
challenging as well as fun. Both these
words require some explanation.
‘Challenging’ does not mean difficult. It
means confronting some hard truths
about leadership styles and habits and
putting people on the spot to modify
what they do and the way they do it.
‘Challenging’ gives participants the
opportunity to see leadership in action
and to practice their own skills in a safe
environment, and it means encouraging
peers groups to support and be open and
honest with each other. ‘Fun’ does not
mean building in humour, ‘fun’ means
entertaining and gripping to the point
where participants feel that they may
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 23
So the key message is to build the Board slowly and carefully;
do not let them get involved in trivia, but allow them to
steer the Leadership Programme to a successful outcome.
have been through the wringer, but they
have enjoyed practically every minute. This
means dialogue, constant debate and lots
of group encounters; it means lots of
examples or case studies from the
organisation itself and it means action
not theory.
I have left, however, the most important
aspect until last, in the hope it will
linger. A leadership programme that begins
on day one and ends on day 10 or 20 or
at some end point you stipulate is going
to fail. And that is because you have
already got the wrong model in your head.
The programme begins long before it
You need the line managers to support the
programme and you need the executives
to endorse and sponsor it. This means
talking to every line manager involved and
asking them to prepare the member of
staff for the experience.
Help the participant identify the target
areas he or she may wish to focus on, so
that they can prepare. And support has to
be extended for the duration of the
programme, perhaps offering some time
off to consolidate the learning.
But the real deal happens at the end of
the formal programme when the informal
learning begins. Has the leader a coach or
mentor to help him or her to turn learning
into action? Has the line manager been
briefed so that he or she can help the
learner function at a higher level, and put
the learning into use as fast as possible?
Have you set up action learning sets so
that peers can meet and trouble shoot
All of these before, during and after
activities are not add-ons but critical
components for the success of the
programme as a whole. See it as a
continuum with the actual formal
programme somewhere in the middle.
Setting up a leadership programme need
not be specialist or daunting and it can
have dramatic results! According to
Wharton’s Peter Cappelli, the Ford Motor
Company cut staff turnover from 320% a
year to less than 50% in just 3 months by
investing in specialist HR staff and setting
up the rudiments of a leadership process
back in 1913.
Maybe in 50 years we will look back on
the lack of leadership development in so
many of our companies and feel like this
was the equivalent of Ford in 1912! Even
if you don't have quite such a dramatic
effect, you will be making progress.
24 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Nigel Paine is Managing Director of
NigelPaine.com and former Head of
Learning at the BBC. Nigel can be
contacted at nigel@nigelpaine.com
A leadership programme that begins on day one and ends on
day 10 or 20 or at some end point you stipulate is going to
fail. And that is because you have already got the wrong
model in your head.
hoever came up with the
saying ‘more haste, less
speed’ knew what they were
talking about. To avoid the
pitfall of your rapid e-learning becoming
vapid e-forgetting, you're going to have to
take advantage of that unique human
ability – to contemplate, to reflect. Chew
over the options a little. Clarify what you're
trying to achieve. Consider how best to
communicate with your audience. Ten
minutes later you may have more scribbles
on a piece of paper than you do characters
on the screen, but you'll be much better
placed to do a good job.
The first stage in just about any activity –
and the design of learning materials is no
exception – is to establish what you are
trying to achieve.
So start off by being absolutely clear about
the goals of your learning content. Here are
some examples:
• To ensure call centre staff feel confident
using a new call handling system.
• To support engineers in the field who will
be responsible for maintaining a new range
of products.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 27
Following on from last
month’s seminal article on
digital learning content,
Clive Shepherd turns his
attention to the issues that
content designers must
consider before hitting the
• To provide new hires with an overview of
the organisation they will be joining, its
history, structure, business activities and
corporate values.
• To ensure every employee knows exactly
what to do in the event of a fire.
• To update software engineers on new
thinking in software design.
• To ensure all employees understand and
are committed to a new corporate strategy.
• To ensure sales assistants are fully
familiar with the features and benefits of a
new product range.
Bear in mind that digital learning content
may only play a part in achieving your
goal; there may well be other elements
required to form a complete solution. For
this reason, and because it will help you
enormously later as you get down to the
detailed design of your content, it pays at
this stage to spell out precisely what you
want to achieve with every piece of
content produced. These are your
objectives. How you format them will
depend to some extent on the strategies
you are following: instructional, influential
or informational.
If your materials are instructional, then
you should define exactly what you want
your target population to be able to do
once they’ve completed your materials.
Express these objectives in the form of
specific behaviours that you will be able to
reliably and validly assess within the
content itself.
If you wish your materials to have an
emotional impact, perhaps in order to
influence attitudes or register the
importance of a particular idea, then try
and articulate what reaction you intend to
If your materials are more informational,
then you clearly have to define what needs
to be covered and at what level of detail.
Although it depends a lot on the
complexity of the topic and how
thoroughly you need the material to be
learned, try to keep the number of
objectives for a single module down to a
manageable level, say five or fewer. Be
realistic about what you can achieve with
your materials, in terms of both breadth
and depth. Don't forget that you can
always break your content up into a
number of shorter modules or supplement
what you produce with other materials
and activities, such as practice on-the-job,
quick reference guides, one-to-one
coaching or the use of discussion forums.
If you’re a subject matter expert, then it
can be hard to empathise with learners
who are completely new to your subject.
You’ll be tempted to try and pass over
everything you know, because to you it’s
all interesting and all important. If you’re
passing on knowledge to other experts,
you’ll have no difficulty, but novices will
swiftly become overwhelmed. Take some
time to think about the people who will be
using your materials. What prior knowledge
are they likely to have? How interested are
they likely to be? How much structure and
hand-holding will be required?
Newbies need a lot of care, but so do
those who are using your content under
sufferance, perhaps because they’ve been
forced to use it and simply don’t get why
it’s relevant to them. If this is not an issue
you’re in luck, because you can get straight
on with providing the information. But if
interest is low, then you’re wasting your
time until you’ve engaged them in the
topic and secured their attention. If
possible, make sure you're on the right
track by checking your ideas out early on
with one or two people who are typical of
your target audience – they’ll soon tell you
if you’re making the wrong assumptions.
When you've gathered all your material,
review it piece by piece to make sure that
it all directly contributes to your objectives
set previously. Be ruthless in removing
anything that won't directly help learners
achieve these objectives. Be equally careful
to make sure that you're providing enough
support, in terms of explanations, visual
aids, examples and practical exercises to
ensure novices and less independent
learners get the structure and support they
require. More on this later.
Many of your design decisions will be
constrained by time and money, or the
subject expertise, design and technical
skills you have available to you. It’s very
easy to get frustrated when you haven’t
got all the resources you’d like, but
remember that all design and development
takes place within constraints and these
can help to concentrate your thoughts.
Whether or not you stand any chance of
achieving your goals with the resources
available depends as much as anything on
where your project sits within the pyramid
of learning interventions (my gratitude
goes here to Nick Shackleton-Jones for
sharing this model):
Formal responses: The top tier consists of
digital learning content that delivers
something special, something that can't be
achieved easily other ways. This tier is
reserved for projects with complex and/or
high impact objectives, sensible lead times
and appropriately generous budgets. These
projects require the care and attention of
professionals, typically working as teams of
You would expect e-learning content at
this higher level to include at least some of
the following: a degree of intelligence or
personalisation; challenging scenarios using
rich media; simulations with a high degree
of functional realism; elements of game
play; 3D models of interesting objects that
can be manipulated and explored; virtual
worlds with high physical realism.
At the very least, you should expect high-
end content to be professionally crafted to
28 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Rapid responses
User-generated responses

Formal responses
be clear, engaging and memorable, whether
or not it employs leading-edge techniques.
Because of its cost, high end content is
almost always going to be a top-down
learning intervention, created at the
initiative of an organisation's management.
Rapid responses: The second tier consists
of 'good enough' digital content, designed
to communicate simple information or
provide basic knowledge without fuss. The
format may be a simple interactive
tutorial, a short video, a podcast, a
screencast, a PowerPoint or a PDF. This
content may be designed and developed
in-house, by subject experts or generalist
trainers, or outside by a new breed of rapid
developers. The turnaround time could be
anything from a few hours to a few weeks,
and the cost is likely to be under less than
20% of the formal content, perhaps much
Rapid development of this sort could result
from a top-down management initiative,
but it could also be created from the
bottom-up, on the initiative of subject
experts who are empowered with the tools,
the time, the skills and the authority.
User-generated responses: However hard
you try and however much money you
throw at it, you’ll never be able to satisfy
every learning need from the top down –
there are too many things that need to be
learned and they change far too rapidly. In
the absence of a formal course or resource
people have always relied on informal help
from their colleagues, typically face-to-
face, but now we have so many more ways
of getting assistance when we need it,
wherever we are.
Content created and shared using social
learning technologies such as wikis, forums,
blogs and the like, is an entirely bottom-up
initiative. It occurs because managers are
not the only ones with an interest in
learning and performance improvement. It
is to every individual's advantage to have
the knowledge and skills to carry out their
current jobs effectively, to take advantage
of opportunities for advancement and to
remain competitive in the jobs marketplace.
High end, rapid and user-generated content
are not in competition with each other,
any more than Hollywood movies are
competing with corporate videos or with
YouTube movies shot with a mobile phone
or webcam. They all serve different
purposes and, as a result, adopt different
production values. Professional designers
should not feel threatened by this
proliferation of content created by
enthusiastic amateurs – the more
experience people have with creating
content for themselves, the more they will
appreciate the skills of the professionals.
It can be hard knowing where to direct your
efforts as you set out designing your
learning content. There are at least three
key factors all competing for your attention
and it's typically very difficult to
concentrate on them all.
The first major consideration is the subject
matter itself. How relevant is this to the
target population? How timely is the
information provided in the content? Is it
accurate, clear, concise? If you are
commissioning the content, or you are a
subject expert capable of determining
accuracy, then this consideration is
paramount. It doesn't matter how well the
content is designed and developed, if it's
saying the wrong things to the wrong
people at the wrong time then it's a
complete waste of effort. It may even be
doing more harm than good.
The second consideration is the production
values. How professionally should the
content be presented? How novel and eye
catching should it be? How rich should be
the media mix? Production values are
tricky, because it's hard to be sure of the
value they add in terms of learning outcomes.
There's probably a minimum expectation
from the learner's perspective when it
comes to the professionalism of the media
they consume, but this is highly variable
depending on the level you are working at
in the content pyramid we discussed
previously. Just as a consumer is happy to
move freely between Hollywood
blockbusters, TV game shows and home
movies, judging each on its own merits in
the context of its competitors and
predecessors, so the employee will happily
digest the product of corporate
communications, their local training
specialist and the person who sits next to
them, without ever comparing these like-
Assuming minimum expectations are met,
it's doubtful whether going further yields
any benefits at all. It’s likely that employees
cannot be wowed by any production
feature (video, animation, effects) of any
learning or communications content
because they've seen it all before, executed
far more extravagantly and expensively by
the mass media.
After all, they don't go to work to be
entertained; they want work-based
communications media to help them in
what they do – work. Nevertheless, the
dynamics of the customer-supplier
relationship, whether that supplier sits
within the organisation or outside, mean
that rational thinking of this kind rarely
enters the frame. That's because the
High end, rapid and user-generated content are not in
competition with each other, any more than Hollywood
movies are competing with corporate videos or with YouTube
movies shot with a mobile phone or webcam.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 31
32 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
production value is one of the only ways
content developers can distinguish
themselves from their competitors: ‘Look
at my content, it looks great. Spend your
money with me and bathe in the reflected
glory, perhaps even win an award.’
The final consideration is the design for
learning: what learning strategy should be
employed? How can interactivity be used
to support this strategy? How can the
subject matter best be communicated
using examples, stories, cases and demos?
Now, it's very hard to argue that this
shouldn't be a focus of attention, second
only to the subject matter itself. Once
you've established what you need to teach,
the learning design is the major factor in
pulling it off, certainly of much greater
importance than the production values.
Yet the stakeholder that has most to gain
from the learning design – the learner –
does not have a major voice in the
decision-making. It's sometimes said that
selling training is like selling dog food – you
sell to the owner not the dog. You sell
training to the manager, not the learner.
Nevertheless dogs and learners cannot be
ignored, because if they don't like what
you’ve dished up, they'll certainly let
you know!
It’s a sad situation that, many years after
the software industry discovered user-
centred design, it is still rare for any learner
to be consulted at any stage in the design
and development process. As a result,
learning design is often relegated to an
afterthought, as attention focuses on the
subject matter and how the content looks.
Perhaps this might explain why, however
pleased with themselves the subject experts
(and their lawyers) might be with how
faithfully they’ve conveyed every item of
information that could possibly be conveyed,
and how smug your average developer
might look as they show off their Flash
animations and green-screen avatars, their
consumers are quietly confiding in each
other that this stuff simply doesn't work.
Clive Shepherd is a consultant specialising
in the application of technology to
workplace learning.
It’s a sad situation that, many years after the software
industry discovered user-centred design, it is still rare for any
learner to be consulted at any stage in the design and
development process.
hy is social learning important
for today’s enterprise?
George Siemens has succinctly
explained the importance of social learning
in the context of today’s workplace:
There is a growing demand for the ability to
connect to others. It is with each other that
we can make sense, and this is social.
Organisations, in order to function, need to
encourage social exchanges and social learning
due to faster rates of business and technological
changes. Social experience is adaptive by nature
and a social learning mindset enables better
feedback on environmental changes back to the
The internet has fundamentally changed
how we communicate on a scale as large as
the printing press or the advent of written
language. Charles Jennings explains why we
need to move away from a focus on
knowledge transfer and acquisition, an
approach rooted in Plato’s academy:
We are moving to the world of the sons of
Socrates, where dialogue and guidance are
key competencies. It is a world where the
capability to find information and turn it
into knowledge at the point-of-need
provides the key competitive advantage,
where knowing the right people to ask the
right questions of is more likely to lead to
success than any amount of internally-held
knowledge and skill.
Our relationship with knowledge is
changing as our work becomes more
intangible and complex. Notice how most
value in today’s marketplace is intangible,
with Google’s multi-billion dollar valuation
an example of value in non-tangible
processes that could be deflated with the
development of a better search algorithm.
Non-physical assets comprise about 80
percent of the value of Standard & Poor’s
500 US companies in leading industries.
The manner in which we prepare people for
work is based on the Taylorist perspective
that there is only one way to do a job and
that the person doing the work needs to
conform to job requirements (F.W. Taylor,
The Principles of Scientific Management,
1911). Individual training, the core of
corporate learning and development, is
based on the premise that jobs are
constant and those who fill them are
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 35
Making social learning
work at work is not trivial,
but quite possible if you
understand the bigger
picture. Harold Jarche
However, when you look at the modern
organisation, it is moving to a model of
constant change, whether through mergers
and acquisitions or as quick-start web-
enabled networks. For the human resources
department, the question becomes one of
preparing people for jobs that don’t even
exist. For example, the role of online community
manager, a fast-growing field today, barely
existed five years ago. Individual training for
job preparation requires a stable work
environment, a luxury no one has any more.
A collective, social learning approach, on
the other hand, takes the perspective that
learning and work happen as groups and
how the group is connected (the network)
is more important than any individual node
within it.
MIT’s Peter Senge has made some
important clarifications on terms we often
use in looking at work, job classifications
and training to support them.
Knowledge: the capacity for effective
action. ‘Know how’ is the only aspect of
knowledge that really matters in life.
Practitioner: someone who is accountable
for producing results.
Learning may be an individual activity but
if it remains within the individual it is of no
value whatsoever to the organisation. Acting
on knowledge, as a practitioner (work
performance) is all that matters. So why are
organisations in the individual learning
(training) business anyway? Individuals
should be directing their own learning.
Organisations should focus on results.
Individual learning in organisations is
basically irrelevant because work is almost
never done by one person. All
organisational value is created by teams
and networks. Furthermore, learning may
be generated in teams but even this type
of knowledge comes and goes. Learning
really spreads through social networks.
Social networks are the primary conduit for
effective organisational performance.
Blocking, or circumventing, social networks
slows learning, reduces effectiveness and
may in the end kill the organisation.
Social learning is how groups work and
share knowledge to become better
practitioners. Organisations should focus on
enabling practitioners to produce results by
supporting learning through social
networks. The rest is just window dressing.
Over a century ago, Charles Darwin helped
us understand the importance of adaptation
and the concept that those who survive are
the ones who most accurately perceive
their environment and successfully adapt
to it. Cooperating in networks can increase
our ability to perceive what is happening.
Jon Husband’s working definition of
‘Wirearchy‘ is ‘a dynamic two-way flow of
power and authority, based on knowledge,
trust, credibility and a focus on results,
enabled by interconnected people and
technology’. We are seeing increasing
examples of this on the edges of the
modern enterprise. World Blu’s annual
listing of our most democratic workplaces
continues to grow and gain attention.
Google’s dedicated time-off for private
projects, given to its engineers, promotes
non-directed learning and collaboration.
Zappos directly engages with its customers
on Twitter, fostering higher levels of two-way
trust. As customers, suppliers and competitors
become more networked, being more
wirearchical will be a business imperative.
Wirearchies inherently require trust, and
trusted relationships are powerful allies in
getting things done in organisations. Trust
is also an essential component of social
learning. Just because we have the
technical networks does not mean that
learning will automatically happen.
Communications without trust are just
noise, not accepted and never internalised
by the recipients. Here are some ways to
make social learning work in the enterprise:
• Think and act at a macro level (what to
do) and leave the micro (how to do it) to
each worker or team. The little stuff is
changing too fast.
• Engage with web media and understand
how they work. The web is too important
to be left to the information technology
department, communications staff or
outside vendors.
• Use social media to make work easier or
more effective. Use them to solve problems
for work teams and groups.
• Make traditional management obsolete.
Teach people how to fish and move on to
the next challenge. If the organisation is
maintaining a steady state then it has
failed to evolve with the environment.
Most 20th century workplaces had two
types of learning: formal learning through
training and informal learning (about 80%
according to research) which just happened
by accident or the result of observation,
conversation and time in the job.
This focus on formal training, for skills and
knowledge, missed out on our social
nature. Business has always been social,
especially at the higher levels of
management and with ubiquitous access
to networks; this is once again part of
everyone’s work. In the global village, we
are all interconnected.
In The Working Smarter Fieldbook, Jane
Hart has shown how social media can be
used for workplace learning and that
instead of just training there are five types
of learning that should be supported by the
Traditional training (FSL) is only one of the
five types. Three of these (IOL, GDL, PDF)
require self-direction, and that is the
essence of social learning: becoming self-
directed learners and workers, all within a
two-way flow of power and authority.
Social and informal learning are not just
feel-good notions, but have a real impact
on an increasingly intangible business
Jay Cross has looked at the ways that social
learning is becoming real and developed
this table to highlight some of the
workplace changes he is observing:
The changes in becoming a networked
workplace can be further analysed using Jane
Hart’s five ways of using social media for
learning in the organisation.
ASL – Accidental & Serendipitous Learning:
from Stocks to Flow
Learning is conversation and online
conversations are an essential component of
online learning. Online communication can be
divided into Stocks (information that is
archived and organised for reference and
36 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Past Future
Subject matter experts Subject matter networks
Need to know Need to share
Curriculum Competency
Clockwork, predictable Complexity, surprising
Stocks Flow
Clock time Time-to-accomplishment
Worker-centric Team-centric
Jay Cross November 2009
retrieval) and Flows (timely and engaging
conversations between people, including voice
or written communications). Blogs allow flow
and micro-blogs, like Twitter, enable great flow
due to the constraint of 140 characters.
The web enables connections, or constant
flow, as well as instant access to information,
or infinite stock. Stock on the internet is
everywhere and the challenge is to make
sense of it through flows of conversation. It is
no longer enough to have the book, manual
or information, but one must be able to use
it in changing contexts. Because of this
connectivity, the web is an environment
more suited to just-in-time learning than the
outdated course model.
ASL is shifting from looking at knowledge as
the collection of bits and engaging in the
learning flows around us, without any
conscious plan. We are working and learning
in networks and the only thing a network can
do is share.
PDL – Personal Directed Learning: from
Predictable to Surprising
Complexity, or maybe our appreciation of it,
has rendered the world unpredictable, so the
orientation of learning is shifting from past
(efficiency, best practice) to future (creative
response, innovation). Organising our own
learning is necessary for creative work.
Workplace learning is morphing from blocks
of training followed by working to a merger
of work and learning: they are becoming the
same thing. Change is continuous, so learning
must be continuous. Developing emergent
practices, a necessity when there are no best
practices in our changing work environments,
requires constant personal directed learning.
In complex environments it no longer works
to sit back and see what will happen. By the
time we realise what’s happening, it will be
too late to take action. Accepting surprise is
similar to the delight an artist may have on
completion of a work and only then see an
emergent quality not consciously understood
during the process of its creation.
GDL – Group Directed Learning: from
Worker Centric to Team Centric
As mentioned earlier, the real work in
organisations is done by groups. This means
that sending individuals on a training course
and then re-integrating to their work group is
relatively useless. With work and learning
merging in the network, groups need to find
ways that support each member’s learning,
while engaged in tasks and projects. Tools
that can capture activities and keep group
members focused should be used to reinforce
group learning.
Social learning requires a certain amount of
effort to maintain regular contact and
association with our colleagues. Developing
social learning practices, like keeping a work
journal, may be an effort at first but later it’s
just part of the work process. Bloggers have
learned how powerful a learning medium they
have only after blogging for an extended
period. With the increased use of distributed
work groups, it is even more important to
foster social learning and web media are the
current tools at hand.
IOL – Intra-Organisational Learning: from
Subject Matter Experts to Subject Matter
Mark Oehlert recently coined the term
Subject Matter Networks as a new way of
finding organisational knowledge. Instead of
looking for subject matter experts from
which to design training, we should extend
knowledge gathering to the entire network of
subject-matter expertise. Once again, the
emphasis is no longer on the individual node
but on the network. Good networks make for
effective organisations.
Networked communities are better structures
in dealing with complexity, when emerging
practices need to be continuously developed
and loose ties can help facilitate fast feedback
loops without hierarchical intervention.
Collaborative groups are better at making
decisions and getting things done. The constraints
of the group help to achieve defined goals.
Building capabilities from serendipitous to
personally-directed and then group-directed
learning help to create strong networks for
intra-organisational learning. This is
exceptionally important because the
emerging knowledge-intensive and creative
workplace has these attributes:
• Simple work will be automated.
• Complicated work will go to the lowest
bidder, as processes & procedures become
more defined and job aids more powerful (eg
mortgage applications).
• Complex work requires creativity and is
where the value of the post-industrial
organisation lies.
• Dealing with chaos sometimes has be
confronted and this requires creativity as well
as a sense of adventure to try novel approaches.
FSL – Formal Structured Learning: from
Curriculum to Competency
There remains a need for training in the
networked workplace but it must move away
from a content delivery approach. The
content will be out of date before the
training is ‘delivered’ (another outdated
Work competencies will still need to be
developed through practice and appropriate
feedback (what training does well) but that
practice will have to be directly relevant to
the individual or group (group training is an
area of immense potential growth).
Jointly defining work competence with input
from individuals, groups and subject matter
networks should become the new analysis
process, enabled by social media. Think of it
as social ADDIE (analysis, design,
development, implementation, evaluation) for
the complex workplace.
Our workplaces are becoming
interconnected because technology has
enabled communication networks on a
worldwide scale. This means that systemic
changes are sensed almost immediately.
Reaction times and feedback loops have to
get faster and more effective. We need to
know who to ask for advice right now but
that requires a level of trust and trusted
relationships take time to nurture.
Our default action is to turn to our friends
and trusted colleagues: those people with
whom we’ve shared experiences. Therefore,
we need to share more of our work
experiences in order to grow those trusted
networks. This is social learning and it is
critical for networked organisational
Our current models for managing people,
training and knowledge-sharing are
insufficient for a workplace that demands
emergent practices just to keep up. Formal
training has only ever addressed 20% of
workplace learning and this was acceptable
when the work environment was merely
complicated. Knowledge workers today need
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 39
Networked communities are better structures in dealing with
complexity, when emerging practices need to be continuously
developed and loose ties can help facilitate fast feedback loops
without hierarchical intervention.
directed Directed
Implementing social learning:
to connect with others to co-solve problems.
Sharing tacit knowledge through
conversations is an essential component of
knowledge work. Social media enable
adaptation, and the development of
emergent practices, through conversations.
• After the January 2010 Learning
Technologies conference, it was reported
that many attendees are only just starting
to shift to delivering some e-Learning.
Social and informal learning are not on
their radar.
• Lots of training directors have yet to
grasp the concepts of learning through
collaboration, the power of social
networks, and less is more. Those who
attend Learning Technologies are the
leading edge. If they are just beginning the
journey away from the classroom, imagine
what things are like for those who don’t
• Northern America is not necessarily any
different. ‘New data on e-learning usage
do not signal the death of the classroom.
And despite some of the buzz, the
direction of e-learning has not shifted
much over the past several years,’ report
Allison Rossett and James Marshall in an
article in T+D magazine.
• Reading between the lines, I suspect
that many organisations are accustomed
to progressing one step at a time. They
expect gradual, comfortable change. One
step a year seems a break-neck pace.
• Incrementalism is the worst enemy of
innovation. We’re playing a new game now
and it’s fruitless to follow yesterday’s rules.
Business is dancing to an ever-faster
beat. Cycle times for product design,
manufacturing, and deployment are
shorter and shorter. The pace of change
itself is picking up. The future is
unpredictable. Our old models of training
can no longer keep up. They’re racing
along so fast that the wheels are
falling off.
As the environment becomes more
complex, linear approaches are giving way
to emergent behaviour. People take
different paths to learn what they need to
do. Our task is to prepare them for things
we don’t even see coming!
The fundamental shift toward informal
learning is taking place on internet time.
Instead of plodding along step by step,
Internet Time Alliance is encouraging
organisations to leap over the intervening
steps and adopt social and informal
learning patterns immediately.
Our model looks like this (Figure 2):
Our proposal is analogous to
implementing telephone service in
developing countries. In much of the
developing world, fixed telephone
infrastructure is poor.
In 2008, India had only 3.3 fixed
telephone lines per 100 and Nigeria 0.9
lines per 100 inhabitants. Rather than
planting telephone poles and stringing
copper wire, developing countries are
going straight to mobile.
Fixed telephone infrastructure is costly to
set up, while wireless technology is cheap
to deploy.
Courses, delivered in-person or online, are
the phone poles and copper wires of
learning technology.
Are you laying land lines or going directly
to wireless?
40 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
This is an extract from The Working
Smarter Fieldbook by Jay Cross, Jane Hart,
Jon Husband, Harold Jarche, Charles
Jennings & Clark Quinn. Learn more about
the authors and the book at
Some eLearning
course delivery
Social learning
e-collaboration and
support of informal
tip-toe into
ecosystem thinking
Some eLearning
course delivery
Social learning
e-collaboration and
support of informal
tip-toe into
ecosystem thinking
Figure 1
Current perception
Progress = progression through steps
Our vision
Progress= leapfrog to end-state
Figure 2
ess than ten years ago, organisations
would happily spend large amounts
of money on face-to-face training,
rarely questioning the value of that
investment. E-learning on the other hand,
being perceived as the new and untested
option, was subject to all manner of scrutiny
and anyone trying to introduce it was
expected to provide a much more robust
business case than for more traditional
Fast forward to today, and e-learning has
joined face-to-face training in being accepted
as something that just works, while social
media has taken its place as the new
technology that is subject to extra scrutiny.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. An
accusation often levelled at social media is
that it's a fad and that people only want to
use it because it's the current buzz topic. I
don't agree with that, but I do think it's true
that some people feel they should be using
social media without really knowing why, or
what benefits they can expect to see. If you
start out with no clear focus or expectation,
you will more than likely end up
disappointed. Of course the same could be
said of e-learning or training in general, with
far too much often being invested with no
clear idea of the expected or achievable
results. We should expect to present a sound
business case for any project, irrespective of
whether it uses technology or what the
technology is.
For someone working in the field of L&D
there are few things more terrifying than
being told that you need to get 'senior
management buy-in', but with a solid
business case behind you it shouldn't be
that difficult. Irrespective of their level
within the organisation, every manager has
the same two priorities: to see that things
are done on time and on budget. The best
way to address this is by producing a robust
business case that defines exactly what is to
be done, what it will cost and what the
expected benefits are. Managers are far
more likely to buy into the potential results
than the activity necessary to get there.
Think carefully about what you'll offer as a
potential measure of success. There may be
some limited justification for measuring
learner activity and completion rates when
you're dealing with compliance training, but
when using social media keep the focus on
the business results.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 43
In the second of three
articles on the subject of
social media and learning,
Barry Sampson considers
how we go about building a
business case.
Introducing social media is a change
management activity like any other and we
should expect people to have concerns and
objections. We should identify, acknowledge
and address those concerns as soon as we
can. There may be issues specific to each
organisation, but we can pre-empt some of
the more common ones:
• All of our information will become public:
in many people's minds social media is
synonymous with Facebook or Twitter, and
they therefore assume that all activity will
be published across the internet. This of
course, does not have to be the case. If you
are using public social networks for any
activity, then further reassurance may be
• Security, confidentiality and accuracy:
a related concern is that either accidentally
or deliberately, people will post information
that should not be widely circulated, or that
is inaccurate in some way. There is no
evidence to suggest that people behave any
less responsibly when using social media
than they would using any other
communication tool, and the risks should be
managed in the same way, which is usually
through policy.
• Time wasting: some managers have a fear
that people will use the tools to waste time,
chatting to their friends and suchlike,
instead of working. Hopefully this won't
come as too much of a shock, but your
workforce are already using business tools,
such as their phone and email, for personal
or social activity. Some level of social
activity needs to be accepted and if people
are wasting time it's more likely to be a
general performance issue than something
specific to the use of social media.
The difference with social media is that this
social activity is open to public view, and
the concern is usually that management
will see this and conclude that it's just a big
waste of time. Don't be concerned if there
is some degree of social use of these tools,
particularly at the start. People may be
more comfortable using it that way and it
will help them adapt to the new
When Deloitte Australia introduced the
private micro-blogging service Yammer, they
found that this quickly changed. Deloitte
Australia is the world's largest user of Yammer,
with over half of its 4,600 employees using it,
having sent over 24,000 messages. The
pattern of use quickly shifted from social to
business. People are looking to communicate
with each other and the organisation.
There are some big decisions to make right
at the start as you select the right strategy
for launch.
To pilot or not to pilot? Whether you run a
formal pilot or not may largely be decided
by the way things are normally managed
within your organisation. However, if you do
decide to go ahead with a pilot, be cautious
not to launch to too small a group. It's not
impossible for social media initiatives to
work with small groups, but if there are too
few people it may be difficult to get them
started and difficult to get any real benefits.
Remember that this is about connecting
and sharing, and so size matters.
You can use social media to support all
kinds of projects, but you'll need to decide
on the scale of the project you want to
start with.
Do you start with a smaller, low profile
project that will get less attention and
perhaps give you the freedom to do things
and take risks that you couldn't with a
bigger project? Or do you aim for a bigger
project, something that will address key
organisational challenges? One of the
strengths of social media is that it can be
relatively low cost to trial. You can use free
or low cost services for small groups, and
move to a larger solution later if that better
suits your needs.
Ultimately, your project is likely to fall into
one of several categories that will form the
core argument of your business case, such
as one of these:
• A problem that you had previously
identified but had been unable to solve in a
timely or cost-effective manner. Using
social media tools enables you to solve the
problem for the first time.
• A problem that you had been able to
solve in the past, but only in a difficult or
costly way. Using social media provides a
solution that is more cost effective or
• New opportunities that had previously
gone unnoticed or simply didn't exist
before. By using social media you will be
able to realise previously unidentified
Of course, you should be more specific than
to say ‘we will use social media to….’
Instead, focus on specific aspects such as
‘programme participants will use blogs to
reflect upon their learning, share ideas with
other learners and describe how they are
applying the learning in the workplace’.
This is the most important thing – you
greatly increase your chances of success
when you take the time to identify the
problem and then establish a solution that
will address it.
In looking for suitable projects, consider the
core advantages that social media can bring.
It is not bound by place and time but rather
it is accessible at the point of need; it can
be available when someone has the time
rather than them having to make the time
and it can reduce time and cost if you're
willing to recognise that subject matter
expertise lies with the subject matter
experts and they can be given responsibility
for sharing that themselves.
Your approach to choosing technology may
also be set by the norms of your
organisation, but there are many different
ways to source the tools for social media,
and in some cases you may choose a
combination of these, or use different
approaches for different projects based on
the size and needs of that project. Like most
technology today, the fundamental choices
are between buying access to software as a
service (SaaS) or buying a product.
Free services
There are many free tools available, and
while you may not want to discuss
company activity on Facebook or Twitter
you may find that there are some
applications for other free services.
44 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
For example, when using Google's free
Blogger service you can choose to make a
blog private and only accessible to certain
users. This would be a cumbersome way to
manage an organisation wide blogging
platform, but may be perfectly adequate for
running a small scale trial or for a small
cohort of learners.
Not all free services will offer the levels of
privacy you may require, or be scalable
enough for long term use, but they can
offer a low risk, no-obligation opportunity
to try out new ways of working.
Commercial services
There are many commercial services in the
market, some that offer specific niche
services such as micro-blogging and others
that offer 'complete' social media platforms.
Unlike free services, these commercial
options usually provide more support options
and offer secure private communities.
If you need the service levels that a
commercial platform can offer, using a
hosted service can be a good option as they
are usually quick to set up, can often be
contracted on a short term basis and require
no internal IT support. Some offer their
service for free while usage levels are low.
Commercial Products
There are fewer commercial products than
there are services, the difference being that
they follow a more traditional licensing or
purchase model and are usually hosted
internally. There is usually a requirement for
internal IT support.
Free Products
There is a wide range of free and open
source options for most types of social
media tools. These can be hosted internally
or externally and give you complete control
over their management. However, although
the products themselves may be free, you
will need to budget for the hosting and
technical support, whether that's a financial
cost or a time cost.
Enterprise options
Most enterprise software vendors now offer
some form of social collaboration platform,
or a range of social features that can be
layered on top of their existing products. It
may be that your organisation's IT policy
means that this is the only acceptable route.
On the plus side, you are dealing with an
existing, trusted provider and this should
help overcome many concerns about
security etc. However, not all of the
enterprise platforms are as well featured
and flexible as you may like, and it may be
difficult to justify using them for smaller
scale projects. Any solution based on
enterprise software is likely to be the most
expensive option you consider.
Finally, in putting together your business
case, don't forget to budget for some form
of management. You may have the
impression that social media is entirely self
managing, but that is probably not
appropriate within an organisation, where
some supervision is essential. It is perfectly
reasonable and desirable that someone
should be responsible for community
management, but that should always be
done with a light touch and focus on
guidance and support.
In the final article in this series we will
explore ways of adding social media to your
learning blend.
Barry Sampson is Director of Onlignment
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 47
s the leading provider of health
insurance in the UK, Bupa puts
customers and patients at the
heart of its business. It is
essential for the organisation to operate
and innovate efficiently so that it can
continue to offer the best possible service
for customers and patients.
Recently, Bupa embarked on a large scale
rapid e-learning programme to improve
competitiveness, enhance customer
experience and drive product innovation.
Bupa identified an opportunity to
differentiate itself in the UK by providing
its health insurance customers with a
greater choice of products and services to
meet their changing healthcare needs.
However, product innovation and service
improvements were difficult to implement
due to a complex organisational structure,
80 different IT systems and a disparate
network of people.
Bupa decided to create one platform and
one skill set by integrating its people and
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 49
Good e-learning can be more
than a cost saver, says James
Cory-Wright. It can be
50 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
technology infrastructure into a unified
business with a single system called
SWIFT. The move to SWIFT was to be
known as the One Plan programme.
The brief was clear – to replace Bupa's 80
legacy IT systems with a new IT platform
that would enable the business to better
meet the challenges of the future.
To be successful, SWIFT needed to reduce
running costs, provide better support for
front line teams, and improve the way in
which Bupa interacts with and responds to
customer needs. Quite simply, One Plan
represented the biggest change
programme ever at Bupa. Posing a major
cultural shift, it also represented a
significant training challenge.
One of the main issues centred on the
new system itself. Firstly, SWIFT was to be
designed iteratively up until close to the
Go Live date. Secondly, the training
requirements could not be accurately
briefed before the system was ready. And
thirdly, all front line staff, representing 45
different roles, needed to be trained
directly before Go Live.
A window had to be found during the
system development programme to ensure
the training could provide an accurate
simulation of the system so the learning
could be applied effectively in the
This is a classic bind that the training
department finds itself in during roll outs.
However, given the size of the impact of
the programme and the crucial nature of
Bupa’s business – health – there were
further complications.
Crucially, customers and patients could
not, under any circumstances, be affected
by this massive change to the way
knowledge, information and people
transacted with each other. In addition, the
training had to motivate and engage
Bupa’s people as part of systems training
and a cultural change programme. And Go
Live had to take place over a single
weekend. There was no opportunity for
staggered roll out.
An integrated learning plan was called for:
one that would seamlessly transfer new
skills and knowledge for more than 45 job
roles while assuring the buy-in of almost
3,000 staff. The response needed to be
rapid, effective and reach everyone in the
business. As One Plan represented a better
way of working, the associated training
also needed to set the quality bar for all
future e-learning.
Fortunately, e-learning was well-
established within Bupa. Familiar with
e-learning from their induction, around
two thirds of staff said it was their
preferred method of learning. In any case,
rapid development of simulated systems
would be the only logistically sensible way
to give users the knowledge and
confidence they would need prior to the
critical Go Live deadline.
The solution was to create a rapid e-learning
development framework that could
shadow development of the SWIFT system
and create 400 separate modules in fewer
than 12 days per module. All modules
would be delivered via the SWIFT Learning
Centre. Brightwave's Learning Management
System was used to provide access to,
track, and report on the e-learning.
Training on a system which is still under
development can be difficult – to tackle
this, Bupa worked with its supplier to
create a matrix of design options to be
drawn on during the development process.
There were to be ongoing communications
to engage Bupa staff with the changes that
were to come, and interactive tutorials
that introduced users to the information
and skills they would need, as well as to
new ways of working. For the SWIFT
system training, show me/try it/test me
simulations would familiarise learners with
the new system and allow them to
practise using the system in a safe
environment. The simulations would be
supported by role plays using printed
scripts that colleagues could use to 'play' a
typical customer, allowing learners to
rehearse combining their systems and
customer service skills at the same time.
And rigorous assessments gave reassurance
of competency.
This framework for rapid development
rested on three pillars: process
streamlining, modularisation, and the use
of a bespoke set of e-learning tools.
There were several project commandments
that helped to overcome some of the
challenges and mitigate risk.
1. Challenge each stage of the process
and remove if unnecessary
Each stage of the process was challenged
and, if not actively necessary on this
project, it was taken out. For instance,
Bupa did not review learning scripts prior
to development, trusting the quality of
their initial briefs and of the supplier’s
2. Create a renaissance team to fulfil
different roles
There was a deliberate decision to create a
multi-skilled team (script, QA, test, build,
graphics processing) which could handle
90% of tasks. In order to create a pool of
flexible resources, everyone was trained to
be able to fulfil all the roles and tasks.
3. Commit to continuous improvement
in design and process
Throughout the project, each aspect of
course design and process was subject to
continuous improvement with regular
review meetings.
4. Transfer knowledge to Bupa’s
internal team
Other key capability-building activities
were built in to eliminate risk and ensure
the rapid process could run as efficiently
and effectively as possible. These activities
included workshops, dress rehearsals and
5. Continuous use of scenario planning
and risk assessment
To meet the deadline, learning had to
follow the system development cycle so
the only solution was to devise a rapid
process that could meet the strict
timelines and high ambitions for the
The actual design of training could only
begin at User Acceptance Testing stage 3,
when the system was stable enough and
unlikely to change significantly and a task
could be simulated. Earlier than that and
the system would not be stable; later than
that and there would not be enough time
to develop the training.
The level of collaboration and trust
internally across stakeholders in Bupa and
externally between Bupa and their
e-learning specialist was essential to the
project. Ruth Chesmore, head of operations
development at Bupa, explains the
importance of the collaboration. "The way
we worked with Brightwave was key to
delivering the right results across Bupa.
Despite the timescales we had to work to,
we developed a powerful formula to
ensure the success of the project.”
Rapid e-learning development can bring
efficiencies as well as cost savings but the
Bupa One Plan programme is a great
example of how large-scale rapid
development, best practice and
collaboration can achieve more than this.
By also consulting and communicating
with learners throughout this major
initiative, One Plan training helped to
instigate positive organisational change
and demonstrate exceptional business
impact. Indeed, the successful
implementation of the project helped Bupa
to deliver even better value to its
Bupa’s story will be featured at the
Learning Technologies 2011 Conference.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 53
James Cory-Wright is Head of Learning
and Design at Brightwave.
Business impact
Overall delivery targets were achieved
with outstanding take up, reaction and
knowledge gain stats:
• 98% rated the training good or excellent
• 92% found the e-learning simulations
effective as a learning tool
• 99.69% of learners passed the
competency tests first time
Quality of service and customer care
have increased
• 15% increase in customers saying that
they were completely satisfied by the way
their enquiry had been handled by call
centre staff
Business competitiveness and innovation:
• 7% efficiency and cost savings due to
stream-lined operations
• New product development capability
has driven sales to key corporate accounts
amounting to substantial new business.
an you honestly say that you
have control over your mailbox?
Really? I can guarantee that the
majority of those reading this
magazine have a mailbox that controls them!
Are you an email junkie who can’t get
enough of those little electronic messages
popping into your Inbox? You know that you
are an addict when every time that little
‘you’ve got mail’ bubble pops up you just
have to go and read the entire email to see
if your expertise is needed somewhere in
the world. Do you use your Trash Can as a
place to file your emails? Once I was not so
very different.
Here is a little story to help illustrate my
Once upon a time, in a faraway place called
the ‘Service Desk’ my mailbox was created.
It started out as a friendly affair, this
relationship between my mailbox and me. I
would visit it a couple of times in the
morning, then again a couple of times in the
afternoon. I thought this was enough
considering I didn’t get much mail. It wasn’t
long before my mailbox and its friends soon
had other ideas and began sending me more
and more e-mails. I didn’t change my habits
because I thought that visiting the mailbox
a couple of times a day would be adequate.
The mailbox soon became frustrated with
my lack of attention and started to act up.
My email name appeared in many lists that
I had no control over and soon my mailbox
was accepting any mail item as long as it
was addressed to me; it even accepted
emails that were copied to me even though
I had absolutely no interest in them. Then
one day I got a notice (an email!) from the
mailbox administrator in the sky stating
that I was soon to reach my mailbox limit.
The mailbox administrator soon became a
good friend and corresponded with me on a
regular basis. It teased me with notices
about getting close to my limit; then one
day all my emails stopped.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 55
Denise Hudson Lawson
shares the secret of the 4Ds,
and how she used them to
gain control of her
overflowing Outlook inbox.
My first day in Parliament was a wonderful
experience; at the end of the first day I
could honestly say, with hand on heart, that
I had total control over my mailbox.
However, this wonderful feeling didn’t last
very long. If I had put in place some basic
measures to control my mailbox I don’t
think I would have ended up in the mess I
did earlier this year.
I’m sure Parliament is the same as any
other organisation, and that once people
have your name and e-mail address you
end up on every possible distribution list
going, and then some. Every day your inbox
gets fuller and fuller until one day you just
can’t keep up with the volume. Putting
things off doesn’t help, it makes things
worse. So, what do you do?
This is my story of how I managed to re-gain
control over my mailbox using the 4 D’s.
My mailbox got the better of me because I
didn’t use the technology I had at my
fingertips or changed my behaviour. If I had
thought about the future of my mailbox
when I first started my new job it would
have saved me hours of weekly
The first thing I did was to decide on a day
to start my inbox revolution – I decided
Friday afternoon was the best time as it
was the day that I received the fewest
emails. This would give me the time I
needed to invest in creating my new email
working environment. With this done, and
time blocked out in my diary (very
important if you don’t want to be invited to
an ad-hoc meeting) and my phone diverted
to voicemail (very, very important) I took
the plunge.
I created 3 folders: Pending, CC and Done. I
then moved every email from my Inbox to
the newly created Pending folder. I didn’t
realise how wonderful it would feel to see
an empty mailbox, this only normally
happens when you have a new mailbox, or
when you delete everything because you
are leaving your job!
My next step was to use the sort feature in
Outlook to give me a better way of
temporarily organising my emails. The first
one I chose was to sort my emails into
‘Sender’; this allowed me to quickly Delete
(The First D) all of the emails which were
from organisations trying to sell me stuff
(sorry to those who take time to do this) as
well as other senders who were not
business related. This immediately halved
the number of emails in the Pending folder.
By changing the sort to ‘Subject’ I could
then look for trends in content, you know
the ones: ‘Want to do lunch’, ‘Let’s have
coffee’, ‘Weekly Fire Alarm Test Today’, ‘Who
Took My Sandwich’. I deleted all of those.
This left me with about a quarter of the
emails left. I changed the sort to ‘Date’ with
the most recent at the top and the oldest
at the bottom, I then switched on the
‘Viewing Pane’ so I could scan the content
of the remaining emails. Again, many of
them had time limiting action requests so I
could take an action to either move them
to the ‘Done’ folder or to leave them where
they were in the ‘Pending’ folder awaiting a
second review when I had finished
By this time, my Inbox was still empty, my
Pending folder had 10 emails in and my
Done folder had 100. I was feeling
extremely smug with myself by then. It had
taken me about 40 minutes to do this, but I
kept telling myself it would be worth it in
the end.
Now was the time to start to look at how I
could automatically move things from my
Inbox to my CC folder without having to
worry about doing it manually. Rules are an
excellent way of automating tasks in your
email system, but many people either do
not understand how they work, or simply
don’t believe they can reduce your
workload. Believe me, they are a wonderful
tool and I advocate talking to your IT
Trainers, HelpDesk or Service Desk to show
you how to set up a rule. My rule moves
every email that comes into my Inbox
where I am CC’d directly into the CC folder.
That way I can decide when I look at the
email without the pressure of knowing I
have an action.
By the way, do you know what cc means?
CC means Carbon Copy. Not any clearer?
Ah, you may be too young. Let me explain.
Back in the olden days, when typewriters
were the most common way to write
letters, we used to put a piece of carbon
paper between two plain pieces of paper to
get a copy of the original. The original
document was then put in another piece of
paper called an envelope and sent to the
recipient, the Carbon Copy was then kept
on file for, wait for it, Information Only.
Now, when people send me an email and
put my name as a CC, then write an action
for me, then complain when I don’t do that
action I give them this little speech: “CC
means For Your Information. If you want me
to action something, put me in the TO
So, now you have a rule moving all new
emails on which you are copied from your
inbox to your CC folder. Once that has been
done, you can decide when to read them.
It was now four o’clock on a Friday
afternoon (about an hour after I had
started). I had completely changed my
email system, written a basic rule and was
ready to start my second trawl through my
‘Pending’ folder.
Each email was given its due attention; half
of the remaining emails required action by
me, and the other half I could Delegate
(another one of the 4 D’s) to other people.
Those that required delegating, but which I
wanted to keep track of so I could receive
updates on progress I decided to use the
Task feature. Did you know you can drag an
email straight into Tasks and it will auto
populate the content of the Task for you?
By using the Assign Task button I can assign
a Task with the contents of an email and
56 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
track it, an excellent way to delegating work
and keeping track of it.
Any emails remaining, I needed to action
myself. Here I could decide on whether to
‘Do’ (another of the 4 D’s) the action now
or to ‘Defer’ (last of the 4 D’s) the action to
a later date. Careful usage of the inbuilt
Flags and Categories features means I can
assign self reminders to chase or action
these emails.
The whole exercise of the First Time
mailbox clean took all of one and half hours
and believe me it was extremely cathartic. I
was now ready for Monday Morning and
my new regime of processing emails.
To recap on those four Ds, they are: Delete,
Delegate, Defer and Do.
DO: as the email comes in, DO something
with it then move on. If you action it
immediately, but need to keep a copy of
the email then put it in your Archive folder.
DELETE: if you don’t need it then Delete it
immediately. Lose the fear and press that
delete button. You will find that the
majority of emails you don’t need or have
to do anything with, so come on – be brave
and Delete.
DELEGATE: forwarding it to someone to
action (always put a reminder for you to
chase up especially if you are the one who
has overall responsibility for the action and
put it in your Pending folder). Once the
action has been completed, if you need a
copy for record then put it in your Archive
folder, otherwise Delete it.
DEFER: You need to action it, but you need
to do some research or find out more
information. Defer it, flag it, and put it in
your Pending folder. Once completed,
Archive or Delete it.
One main thing to remember is that your
Inbox is somewhere for emails to arrive, it
isn’t somewhere for you to work from. You
need to action that email; you need to do
something with it and move it on.
Remember D, D, D, D. Oh, and while I’m at
it: please empty your trash can. Take the
plunge and switch on the ‘Empty on Exit’.
Now we have set up the folders, and have
impressed the 4D’s mantra into our psyche
we need to decide on how often to check
the Inbox. If you check it every time the
‘You Have Mail’ bubble pops up then just
stop! You are creating more problems than
you are solving. Try to reduce your email
checking to once per hour as a maximum.
This way you will get into a routine that
helps you deal with your mail. You will find
out that by doing this you can keep your
Inbox trim and empty. You will soon find
that you are working super fast without
breaking into a sweat.
One important thing to remember is to
actually archive your archive folder. I do this
every Friday, but it also means that I can
search and recover the important files when
I need them. I have been working with this
regime for the past 4 months now and I can
honestly say I have only slipped once.
It is now up to you to decide whether you
can work with this simple process or not. All
I am really trying to say is that technology
isn’t the only thing you need to think about,
you also need to think about yourself. So,
going back to my original question: ‘Do you
control your Outlook Mailbox or does it
control you?’
Denise Hudson Lawson FIITT, is Head of
Parliamentary ICT Training at the Houses of
Parliament. She is a track chair at the
Learning Technologies 2011 Conference.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies 59
ost learning and development
(L&D) professionals now accept
that a blended learning strategy
is essential to delivering
organisational learning. E-learning, virtual
classrooms and mobile learning have
highlighted the fact that formal learning
need not be confined to the classroom and
indeed can be more closely aligned to the
needs of busy employees in fast-moving
organisations by moving outside it at least
some of the time. Technology has also made
it easier to deliver more cost-effective
methods of training to dispersed teams and
provide access to follow-up, refresher or
extension materials. Moreover, increasing
interest in social learning – facilitated by
web-based technologies – has turned the
spotlight onto the contribution of informal
learning, which is believed to account for up
to 80 percent of all learning.
While L&D professionals are aware of the
range of tools at their disposal, many still
struggle to deliver a successful blended
learning strategy. This is usually because the
right planning, people or systems have not
been put in place.
Designing and delivering an effective
blended learning strategy is only possible
with a well-functioning, integrated L&D
team, yet many Human Resource (HR) and
L&D departments have discrete functional
silos that concentrate on their own specialist
areas. L&D professionals need to break down
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 61
Vincent Belliveau examines the most common mistakes and
details the practical solutions that can help to deliver a
blended success.
any barriers to co-operation, integration and
communication between departments so
they can focus on the learners and agree on
the best combination of learning
interventions and content to deliver the
organisation’s objectives.
Some blended learning programmes fail due
to poor design, typically because they do
not meet the organisation’s actual learning
needs or they fail to take the organisation’s
learning culture into account. A full learning
needs analysis delivers a true appreciation of
what, how, why and when employees need
to learn – and the blended learning
programme can be developed accordingly. It
is important that the L&D team views this
analysis within the context of the organisation’s
learning culture and technological
capabilities. For example, if an organisation
has many field-based employees but there is
no culture of remote or self-service learning,
the L&D team will need to implement a
communications campaign that persuades
those employees to undertake learning
within certain deadlines. Likewise, a weak
learning culture may mean that line
managers have to be persuaded to let
employees complete e-learning, attend
classroom training, undertake additional
reading or participate in social learning
initiatives during the working day.
Ultimately, learners need to have access to
the right, intuitive tools to complete a
blended learning programme, and they must
know how to use those tools. There is no
point, for example, in including mobile
learning in a programme if the target
learners do not have access to the
appropriate type of mobile devices.
Learners fail to complete blended learning
programmes if effective management tools
are not in place. This is more complex than
checking off a name against a attendance
list – the L&D team needs to ensure that
the right learners have been asked to
complete the necessary elements of the
blended learning programme. Then they
need to be able to verify completion of each
of those elements. Separate Learning
Management Systems (LMS) for different
types of training simply don’t provide the
necessary transparency for blended learning.
Instead, organisations need a holistic
learning platform that hosts all types of
learning, as well as one that provides an
online curriculum and booking mechanism,
automated reminders and updates,
automatic recording of learning completions,
accurate and user-friendly reporting
functionality, and online personal
development plans.
Organisations that have shown success in
delivering blended learning link learning
opportunities into a curriculum – so that
once the learner has completed one
element of the programme they are
automatically prompted to undertake the
next element. In addition, there are
prompted options for the learner based
upon their particular needs or
circumstances. For example, if it is not
possible for the learner to attend the
classroom element of the programme, they
may be able to complete an e-learning
course, with additional reading, social
learning and online testing instead.
Automatic recording of learning completions
and automatic reminders make it easy for
L&D professionals and line managers to
ensure full completion of the learning
programme, whichever path the learner has
taken. Automatic assignment of the
curriculum is also important. For instance, a
bank can leverage its LMS to automatically
assign curriculum such as ‘new to bank’,
‘new to teller role’ or ‘new manager’ once an
employee meets that criterion.
A blended learning strategy requires learners
to take much greater responsibility for their
own learning, which in turn has
dependencies in terms of the organisation’s
learning culture and the systems that help
to deliver and manage learning. It also
places a much greater imperative on the
L&D team to deliver learning programmes
that truly engage learners. It is essential to
ensure the quality of the learning
intervention and content, whatever the
method of delivery. Moreover, the learner
needs clarity as to what elements of the
blended learning programme they are
expected to undertake and by when, and
their motivation may be improved by
enabling them to see their progress towards
their learning objectives. If the learner has
their own personal homepage on the LMS,
they should be able to view the learning
they are expected to complete, their
deadlines and a summary of their
achievements to date.
The benefits of a blended learning
programme can be further enhanced if the
learner is also prompted regarding access to
related learning opportunities, such as
additional e-learning programmes, online
reading materials or relevant online bulletin
boards. However, the learner should not be
swamped with information; the layout
should be user-friendly, making it easy for
them to take control of their learning and
understand their obligations. Another driver
to increase adoption is via leveraging an
LMS platform that also incorporates career,
performance and talent management
capabilities, providing staff with a one-stop
shop for their career development.
Whether public or private sector,
organisations need to maximise the talent
of their people to deliver the best
performance. To reach this goal, it is
essential to implement an effective blended
learning strategy, underpinned by good
planning, engaging content and robust, user-
friendly systems. It’s also important for L&D
professionals to keep up to speed with
changes in practices and technology that
can help to improve the provision and
management of blended learning
programmes on an ongoing basis. But most
of all, blended learning requires the learner
to become more engaged and take more
responsibility for their own learning;
enabling that process is absolutely critical
for L&D professionals. Over time, this is
generating a shift from L&D professionals
telling learners what training they will
receive and when, to asking them how they
want to receive their learning and
62 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 65
Case Study
LV= is the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading mutual financial services provider. The company serves 3.8 million members and customers and
manages an estimated £9.5 billion on their behalf. In addition to having a complex business structure and a number of office locations across the UK,
LV= is subject to regulation by the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) and strict data protection regulations. Nearly two-thirds of LV= employees
are client-facing and must be trained to communicate with clients in a way that is compliant, factually correct and delivers outstanding customer
service. LV= decided to implement a new Learning Management System (LMS) in order to improve the quality and timeliness of its management
information and auditing capabilities. In addition, the LMS had to host online, face-to-face and blended learning and support a move towards a culture
of self-service learning. This is particularly important to LV= because it has a geographically dispersed workforce; in addition to its office-based staff,
key account executives are often on the road and other staff are home office based. Stuart Affleck, head of resourcing and development for LV=,
selected Cornerstone OnDemand’s SaaS-based LMS to assign, deliver and track learning and development (L&D) activity for the organisation’s 4,000
employees across 28 UK offices. “Each LV= employee has a complex combination of governance, compliance and job-specific learning needs, so we
needed a flexible and extensible platform for learning which we could use to build a more effective blended learning strategy, reinforce our new
corporate branding and structure, and help the organisation to deliver business performance and outstanding customer service.”
A blended learning strategy has many benefits for LV=. From a regulatory perspective, it is preferable and more effective to have a group-wide
message that is delivered online to all employees in a consistent way. However, there is still a requirement for face-to-face learning, which takes place
at LV=’s main training centre in Bournemouth. In addition, LV= wanted to be able to deliver learning more effectively, with tailored learning schedules
based upon regulatory requirements and learning needs. For example, the individual induction originally adopted a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which did
not take into account individuals’ future roles within the company.
Implementing a new LMS enabled the learning & development team to re-examine the learning content and encourage subject matter experts to focus
on the key messages that learners really need. The blended learning strategy enables individuals to then access more in-depth training and information
to build upon this basic provision as necessary. Each employee has a ‘My Career’ homepage on the LMS, which they can use to search for learning that
suits their needs. The page has clearly defined sections for automatic or assigned learning (particularly for regulatory training), a ‘browse’ function that
suggests related training opportunities, and training related to the individual’s other interests or career development goals. If the individual has undertaken
one element of a blended learning programme, the other elements will automatically be presented for completion. Learning interventions can be face-
to-face training, online testing, e-learning or additional learning content such as documents or books. LV=’s experience is that staff are taking more
ownership of their own learning, because they are being encouraged to do so – and because they can book onto courses quickly and simply.
With a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) approach, LV= knows that the LMS will always offer the latest
functionality at a predictable price and that the company will be part of a customer community that
drives future innovation.
Vincent Belliveau is General Manager
(EMEA) for Cornerstone OnDemand,
n part one of this article we discovered
that this year’s top four key trends are
firstly, the increasing consumerisation
of IT (the increasing use of personal
tools and devices in the workplace),
secondly the merging of learning, working
and personal tools, thirdly the dominance of
social tools, and lastly personal (informal)
learning is under the individual’s control.
Social learning is undoubtedly a hot topic
in L&D. We can see that social media tools
are increasingly being used to engage
learners both in the classroom and online
courses, but what is also very clear is that it
is not only in the area of formal learning
where they are having an impact. Social
media tools are also being used in the
workplace by individuals and teams to
address their own learning and performance.
The term ‘social learning’ therefore has a
much wider meaning than simply social
training - where the focus is on the
creation, delivery and management of
formal learning. Social workflow learning
(as we might call it) is about workers
sharing information and knowledge with
others in networks and communities, as
well as adopting a new collaborative
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 67
In this second part of a two-part article, Jane Hart
examines emerging trends in learning tools and workplace
learning, and considers the implications for Learning and
approach to working. All in order to do
their jobs effectively.
Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham, refer to
this as ‘the new social learning’ (also the
title of their new book) and reinforce its
significance for organisations: ‘At its most
basic level, new social learning can result in
people becoming more informed, gaining a
wider perspective, and being able to make
better decisions by engaging with others. It
acknowledges that learning happens with
and through other people, as a matter of
participating in a community, not just by
acquiring knowledge.’
In The Internet Time Alliance we prefer not
to use the word learning since for many
this still conjures up the image of school ,
so we refer to it as working smarter. Jay
Cross in ‘The Working Smarter Fieldbook’
explains why we believe working smarter is
important: ‘Working smarter is the key to
sustainability and continuous improvement.
Knowledge work and learning to work
smarter are becoming indistinguishable.
‘The accelerating rate of change in business
forces everyone in every organisation to
make a choice: learn while you work or
become obsolete.’
By helping individuals work smarter
organisations can reap huge rewards. For it
is in social (workflow) learning that, some
would say, the real learning takes place.
Social (workflow) learning is also set to
become a significant feature of workplace
learning as more and more individuals
recognise that in social media tools they
now have the power to deal with many of
their own learning and performance
problems more quickly and efficiently than
before - and without the intervention of
the L&D department. So this begs the
question what part can and should L&D
play in this?
It is important to state that it is not a
matter of trying to manage or control
social learning. As Marcia Conner has
pointed out in a recent interview, social
learning isn’t owned by a specific division
or group within an organisation: “The only
people who can own social learning are the
individuals who themselves are learning
each day, from one another, based on their
work and in the flow of work.” So here are
five ways that L&D can become involved.
Encourage and support individuals’
and teams’ self-sufficiency to address
their own learning and performance
This does mean relinquishing control and
trusting people to address their own
learning needs in order to do their jobs.
But autonomy is a powerful motivator, as
Dan Pink has pointed out in his latest book,
‘Drive’: ‘Control leads to compliance;
autonomy leads to engagement … A sense
of autonomy has a powerful effect on
individual performance and attitude.
According to a cluster of recent behavioural
studies, autonomous motivation promotes
greater conceptual understand, better
grades, enhanced persistence at school and
in sporting activities, higher productivity,
less burnout and greater levels of
psychological well-being.’
Self-sufficiency (or self-directedness)
will become an important factor for
organisational competitiveness, as an
article in CLO magazine ‘Agile Learning,
Thriving in the New Economy’, points out:
‘As competitive environments increase in
speed, complexity and volatility,
organisations and individuals are compelled
toward a dynamic learning mindset.
Dynamic learning is defined as rapid,
adaptive, collaborative and self-directed
learning at the moment of need.’ The role
of L&D will therefore be to encourage
autonomy and self-sufficiency, rather than
to control and monitor learning activity.
Help develop autonomous workers
Although it is clear that many people are
naturally autonomous, self-directed
learners/workers who are already making
good use of social media tools, it is true
that others will need help to become
independent and competent enough to
address their own business and
performance problems. L&D will have a big
part to play in helping some workers
acquire a new set of literacies, in order to
make responsible, safe and effective use of
the new social tools.
Provide performance consulting
services, where individuals and teams
need help in addressing their own learning
and performance problems
Performance consulting is very different
from training consulting. Rather than
applying the traditional approach of
developing training to address the
symptoms of a problem, it involves getting
to the root of a problem and working with
the individuals concerned to devise and
implement an appropriate solution.
As Harold Jarche has written in his blog
post: ‘Compliance of an industry’: ‘Only
when there is a genuine lack of skills and
knowledge, is training required (repeat as
necessary). Training should only be done in
cases where the other barriers to
performance have been addressed. A
trained worker, without the right resources
and with unclear expectations, will still not
perform up to the desired standard.’
Hence problems which might be due to a
lack of communication in a team, inadequate
resources or even an issue with the work
process itself, could be addressed in very
different non-training ways, eg by
communities of practice, new collaborative
approaches to working, etc.
L&D will have a big part to play in helping some workers
acquire a new set of literacies, in order to make responsible,
safe and effective use of the new social tools.
68 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 71
Rethink the use of learning tools and
Although traditional command and control
learning systems will still have a place to
track and monitor learning in formal
learning, particularly compliance and
regulatory training, they won’t be
appropriate for social (workflow) learning,
here learning should be integrated into the
workflow and not vice versa.
Some organisations may undoubtedly wish
to implement their own, behind the firewall,
social platforms to power enterprise
communities and collaborative practices in a
private and secure way, but these should not
be the only tools available to workers. Many
individuals will still need to have access to
the Social Web, eg for connecting with
others outside the organisation, and some
may wish to use their own tools.
Despite the concern that some organisations
have about consumer tools, a recent GigaOm
article, ‘Are consumer collaboration tools
good enough for the enterprise’ stated that
many are becoming more enterprise-friendly,
but furthermore ... ‘businesses cannot ignore
the benefits such tools undoubtedly bring to
the workplace, and trying to block their use
will likely be a futile exercise that will only
lead to disgruntled employees.’
Help to develop an open, enabling
culture for working and learning
All the above is clearly part of a bigger
picture, which implies the need for a wider
change in terms of management style.
Michael Lascette, in a posting ‘The Social
Employee Manifesto’ writes: ‘Old approaches
to managing employees, with their roots in
the industrial society are not adequate for
hyper-connected, socially aware employees.
We need a new paradigm for getting things
done and for empowering a new breed of
employee that does not function well in a
hierarchal, top down, highly controlled
environment.’ L&D will therefore have an
important role to play in influencing this
type of organisational change.
It is clear that formal training will not
disappear overnight, but it is also apparent
we are at the beginning of a fundamental
shift in the way that both learning and
working is happening in organisations. This
should not be seen as a threat to the L&D
profession but as an opportunity to evolve
the profession to take on the new challenges
it offers. The first step on the path will be to
become immersed in the new social media
tools that are underpinning this change.
Social Learning is not something you just
talk or read about, it is something you do!
‘State of Learning in the Workplace Today’, is
Jane Hart’s resource which includes links to
all the references in this article and can be
found at http://bit.ly/workplacelearning
Jane Hart is a social learning consultant
and founder of the Centre for Learning
and Performance Technologies.
It is clear that formal training will not disappear overnight, but it is
also apparent we are at the beginning of a fundamental shift in the
way that both learning and working is happening in organisations.
ecently I led two significant
purchases for our household. The
first was the quest for a super thin
60-inch flat TV screen. The second
expedition resulted in an overcrowded
driveway and my sixteen-year-old
daughter behind the wheel of a shiny new
Compelling advertising gave us a short list
of preferred brands to start with. We made
our way to several retailers and engaged
with sales reps to help us with our final
decisions. During this, however, something
significant happened, quite unlike our
previous family shopping expeditions.
My sixteen-year-old began leading our
decision-making by constantly accessing
product information from a variety of
product applications and from sites such
as myproductadvisor.com and Edmonds, all
via her iPhone. This unexpectedly put us in
control as we rapidly grew more
knowledgeable about the products we
were shopping for than the reps with
whom we consulted. In the end we walked
away from a number of original
possibilities and made an independent
purchase despite the efforts of the sales
reps we met.
It did not have to end that way. According
to McKinsey & Company, ‘Research
indicates that 40 percent of customers
remain open to persuasion once they
enter the store. Retailers who fail to have
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 73
Ara Ohanian outlines how
mobile devices are changing
how we learn at work.
knowledgeable staff on hand to help are
losing sale after potential sale.’
What happened in those stores?
The sales reps had been trained. They had
the sales skills they needed; they also had
a great range of product knowledge learnt
both formally and on-the-job. They were
professionals dealing with highly-priced
items. Many of them had years of
experience. Yet still they were unable to
close the deal.
The reason is simple. They were not – as
sales reps were in the past – our only
source of information. Sure, they had a
much broader range of knowledge than we
did about the store’s products, but on the
few items we were concerned with, we
knew more. A lot more.
And this is not an isolated event.
My personal experience using mobile
shopping applications – or apps – while
shopping is not unique. Many global
brands are rushing to develop mobile
apps as the habit of leveraging smart
phones while shopping is becoming
increasingly common among consumers.
Today, it’s hard to imagine standing at a
street corner or in an airport without
seeing hundreds of people hunched over
their iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone
surfing the web or texting away.
On September 29, 2010 Google CEO Eric
Schmidt said that he believes mobile
search activity and revenue will eventually
be bigger than desktop search. Forrester
Research estimates that over 2 billion
smart phones will be in circulation by
2012 world-wide. Samsung estimates that
its smart phone sales will double every 8
to 12 months.
The age of mobility is surely in full bloom.
This all has profound implications for
organizations’ sales and marketing
departments and for the learning and
development (L&D) profession supporting
Put simply, L&D need something extra in
their arsenal. Buyers know a huge amount
not only about a store’s products, but
about competitive products, too. It is
impossible to use conventional training
methods to ensure sales reps know
everything they might need in these
The obvious response might be to say that
sales people can use the same
informational tools that are in the hands
of consumers – and certainly leading
brands are waking up to the era of the
mobile app. Marketing departments and
their digital agencies are beginning to
utilize mobile product apps as a new form
of interactive advertising designed to
reach ‘on-the-go’ consumers. Mobile apps
are destined to become an integral
element of the marketing mix.
Global brands such as Toyota, Gucci, Nike,
Honda are early adopters and deploy
mobile apps to support product launches.
Presently, most mobile product apps are
fundamentally an extension of brand
advertising combined with some elements
of the brand’s web site positioned as
shopping tools. These apps are great
enablers for consumers who wish to make
informed decisions when they choose one
product over another.
There is a flip side to this coin, however.
Mobile intelligence in the hands of
consumers will further exacerbate the
knowledge gap that already exists
between buyer and seller. Not so long ago,
the world-wide web fundamentally altered
the dynamics between buyers and sellers.
Buyers, empowered by the internet,
decisively tilted the sales/purchase dance
in their favor.
How much more difficult will it be to lead
the buyer in this dance now that they can
constantly learn new moves from their
smart phones right from the retail dance
floor? As in my recent shopping
experience, buyers will know more and
make independent assessments, which
may often result in walking away from
products originally considered for
Corporations will be well advised to equip
their sales talent with equally effective
mobile knowledge tools, without which
the encounter with the buyer could feel
like showing up to a job interview
The issue is clear. The traditional approach
of filling employees’ heads with knowledge
Today, it’s hard to imagine standing at a street corner or in
an airport without seeing hundreds of people hunched over
their iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone surfing the web or
texting away.
74 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
is no longer enough. It simply is not
possible for staff to retain in their heads
everything they need in their daily work.
And although this is most acutely seen in
the world of sales, the issue exists
throughout the workforce.
This is not to say that training is useless.
Formal instruction has its value, but
organizations also need post-training
performance support. Importantly, the
employee may not see what they are
doing as ‘learning’, but simply as
interacting with fellow workers, or doing
what they need to carry out their job.
And technology has a role to play here.
For the sales reps, it’s pretty clear. They
need a mobile app to act as a sales aid in
the palm of their hands. They need
something more substantive than the
emotional appeal of consumer apps. The
sales app must help the sales professional
persuade prospects to buy. Its content
must always be up-to-date and offer
relevant product information to the right
person at the right time. It must allow a
sales rep to canvass peers, call on experts,
send out alerts, access up-to-date content,
and adapt quickly to trends and changes
in the market.
None of this is what the employee would
call ‘learning’, although that is exactly
what they are doing. Nor is it all
necessarily ‘social learning’, although that
plays its part. The mobile sales app I
describe here is something that simply
helps people do their job better by
combining interaction, information and
performance support.
This approach gives instant access at the
point of need for learning that directly
supports performance with the
information employees need, on the go.
And all this is with just one thing in mind:
the main aim is not to learn, but to
perform. The learning is only ever a route
to high performance.
Although its need is acutely felt there, and
although I have concentrated on it in this
article, the need for post-training
performance support is not confined to
sales. All employees now face the issue of
being unable to carry everything they
need in their heads.
In the future we can expect organizational
learning to change dramatically as mobile
apps are developed to support the
learning of all staff. And they will not be
developed piecemeal, but as part of the
routine of working life and integrated into
other activities, from marketing to
The age of mobile learning has arrived.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 77
Ara Ohanian is CEO of CERTPOINT
Systems. This is an extract from a
CERTPOINT white paper available at
It simply is not possible for staff to retain in their heads
everything they need in their daily work. And although this is
most acutely seen in the world of sales, the issue exists
throughout the workforce.
n the first part of this article I pointed
out that technology enhanced learning
(TEL) can only play a supporting role in
learning, and that the key factor is
always the human mind. In this second
part, I explore the key factors in making
such support successful.
When considering learners, we need to
note that when the learning material is
simply presented to them, they are passive
and so learning is minimal. In contrast,
when learners are active and motivated,
when they are involved, participating,
engaged, and interacting with the material,
then learning is maximised. It is
maximised because it activates and
correctly taps the cognitive mechanisms of
learning, such as attention, depth of
processing, and other cognitive processes.
Given the great importance of achieving
the active participation of the learners, can
TEL help accomplish this? The answer
depends on utilising technology to
promote what I call the three C’s of
learning: Control, Challenge, and
Commitment. Each of these is not easily
achieved, but if technology can support
them, then it can offer great gains and
benefits that make TEL worthwhile.
The shift from merely exposing the
learners to the material to utilising the
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 79
In the second of two articles,
Dr Itiel Dror considers the
three Cs of learning.
three C’s transforms the learning, leading it
to a higher level and quality. This new level
of learning is more sophisticated, superior,
and can achieve short and long term
objectives that otherwise are not possible.
In what follows, I discuss each of the three
C’s, not only pointing out why they are
crucial, but also elaborating on how
technology can be constructed to
incorporate them.
The learners’ control can take many forms
and can be viewed as a continuum. At one
extreme, control is totally surrendered to
the learners, giving them full freedom to do
(or not do) as they please. At the other
extreme of the continuum, the learners
have no control at all; they blindly (and
passively) follow what is determined and
dictated by the learning programme. Since
giving the learners control supports and
promotes learning, it follows that TEL
should maximise the learners’ control.
However, giving them control can also be
detrimental to learning. Thus, it is important
to understand why and how it fits (or not)
your learning programme. Before explicating
practical ways in which technologies can
help shift control from the learning
developers to the learners, I want to draw
attention to some potential problems in
giving the learners more control.
If the learners control the learning (or even
part of it), this adds another cognitive task
to their system. In addition to actually
acquiring the learning material and encoding
it properly so it is easily retained and used,
the learners will need to exercise control over
the learning itself. This control may involve
understanding and considering alternatives,
making decisions (and sometimes needing
to remember them), taking actions, and so
forth. These processes are an additional
burden on the cognitive system, which is
(should be) involved and focused on the
actual learning material; the result is an
increase of the overall cognitive load.
Furthermore, the learning material may
have an inner structure, a logical way and
flow in which it can be best learned.
Therefore giving the learners control
may also interfere and even conflict
with the optimum way of delivering
the learning. Nevertheless, shifting
control to the learners is an
excellent way to enhance learning
and should always be maximised,
whenever possible.
However, as discussed above, one
must achieve the correct balance,
and consider when, where, and
how it can have the greatest
benefit, and how technologies can
play a role. This brings me to
examine some of the practical
ways in which control can be given
to the learners via technologies.
The ultimate way of giving the
learners control is letting them determine if
and what they need to learn via technology
such as an LMS (learning management
system). This enables them to decide which
learning modules will be learned from a
variety of available programmes, or to
decide within a single module which
elements will be covered. Such freedom
may result in material not being studied
and hence not learned at all; however, the
learning that is chosen will be learned more
Furthermore, if the learners are forced to
‘learn’ things that they do not need (or that
they think they do not need), then they
may ‘shut down’ and disengage, thereby not
learning any of the material well. If control
is given to such a major extent, it is
important to provide the learners with help
so that they will be able to use this
freedom wisely.
This entails a clear understanding of the
options and what is offered within each
alternative. More important and critical is
helping the learners ‘know what they know’
and ‘know what they need to know’. Such
knowledge about knowledge falls within the
area of meta-cognition, and is an inherent
part of learning.
80 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
The ultimate way of giving the learners control is letting them
determine if and what they need to learn via technology such
as an LMS (learning management system).
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At a more basic level, rather than giving
learners control of what they learn,
technology can more easily give the
learners control over the order in which
topics are covered. Sometimes this order is
rigid because of inter-dependencies
whereby one concept/content must be
covered before the other.
However, many times there are degrees of
freedom that allow different sequences of
learning. This flexibility can be used to
increase the scope of control that is
provided to the learners. The learners can
also receive more control, via technology,
over the presentation format of the material.
Because learners have different experiences,
cognitive styles, etc., they may have
preferences for the way the material is
delivered (for example, visual vs. auditory,
text vs. diagrams, etc.). Giving them control
over the format of presentation not only
gives them control but also optimises and
tailors the learning to the individual learner.
Finally, at the most basic level, learners can
control the pace of learning (eg, when to
move on to the next item/page, and
whether to repeat a section before moving
on to the next).
Even the more basic levels of control give
the learners some ownership of the
learning process. This significantly improves
learning, both in terms of achieving the
learning objectives and in terms of the
learners’ positive affect. Even the mere
illusion of control (ie, giving the learners a
feeling that they control the learning when
in fact they do not) can be a step in
improving the learning outcomes. TEL can
be an aid in this area.
For the learners to be further motivated,
engaged, involved, participating, and
interacting, the learning must be
challenging. If the learning is deemed
boring, as simply going through the
motions, then learning is minimised.
Learning is drastically enhanced when the
learners find it challenging. Challenging
does not mean making it unduly
complicated and complex. Learning can be
made challenging in a number of ways and
on different fronts.
First, regarding the learning material itself,
the learning material can be made
challenging if it is presented in an
interesting way that requires the learners
to think about it, to reflect and figure
things out. If the learning feels more like a
puzzle, a mystery that the learners solve,
then it is challenging. If the learners feel
that they have accomplished something, if
they feel good about themselves, if they
are proud, then the learning is challenging.
Can technology enhance all this? Yes, of
course, but only if used properly. For
example, using gaming technology can
really make the learning fun, challenging,
and interactive. Many times, getting people
to take formal learning courses is like
‘beating a dead horse’; however, when you
introduce a computer game the ‘dead
horse’ transforms itself to a ‘racing horse’.
TEL can present learning via a gaming
framework, which offers a wide range of
benefits. For instance, learning can be made
challenging not only by modifying how the
material is presented and the role of the
learners, but also by providing clear signs,
measurements, and feedback about the
learners’ advancement and progression.
These should be clearly laid out throughout
the learning game so the learners can see
how well they are doing.
As they advance and progress, they should
be provided with a clear measurement of
their success and receive positive self-
enhancing feedback. The learners should
not merely be provided with a progression
measurement (eg, how much they have
gone through or/and how much they still
need to do), but they should be given
challenges to achieve certain levels of
performance, or they should be encouraged
to generate their own goals.
These types of challenges can be further
encouraged and supported by external
recognition and awards. Furthermore,
depending on the context and the
organisational culture, this type of
challenge can also be extended across
learners whereby different learners
compete for the best performance
If the learners are not committed to the
learning, then it is an uphill struggle (or a
lost battle…). Commitment to the learning
underpins many aspects of learning;
however, getting the learners to commit is
not easy. As discussed, control and
challenge contribute to commitment, but
commitment is elusive and difficult to
achieve. Some learners come committed,
others are only loosely committed, if at all.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 83
Technology can enhance learning by helping to promote and
achieve them. The three C’s are not independent or exclusive,
they affect one another and there are additional ways to
support active learning.
Although commitment is a personal trait to
some extent, it can be enhanced by using
TEL. Our example of gaming is one way to
help achieve this.
The three C’s of learning: Control,
Challenge, and Commitment, help to
establish active and motivated learners.
They bring about engagement, involvement,
participation, and interaction. These are all
critical ingredients for achieving effective
and efficient learning because they
maximise many cognitive mechanisms.
Otherwise, passively exposing the learners
to the material undermines the very
objectives of learning.
Technology can enhance learning by
helping to promote and achieve them. The
three C’s are not independent or exclusive,
they affect one another and there are
additional ways to support active learning.
The three C’s are an illustration of a way of
thinking, of an approach to how
technologies can be utilised to enhance
learning. Having active and motivated
learners will better achieve learning
objectives and learning technologies should
be constructed to incorporate them as
much as possible.
As I have tried to illustrate, the issues
surrounding the use of technology for
learning are complex. They are intertwined
with human cognition, how people learn,
store information and use it. We must
consider TEL in light of, and subservient to,
the human cognitive system. Only then can
we construct effective TEL and start to
consider the effects it has on the cognitive
system itself. It is a broad issue, but one of
significant practical, as well as
psychological and cognitive importance.
The title of this paper is TEL: the good, the
bad, and the ugly. I have provided material
and thoughts for the readers themselves to
determine what the good, bad, and ugly
aspects of TEL are. It should be clear that
technologies offer a great and powerful
tool which can enhance learning. This good
aspect needs to be considered and
understood in light of the limitations of
TEL, and the potential bad outcomes that
are possible by incorrectly using this tool.
Using technologies just for the sake of using
them, and thus transcribing the learning
material from one medium to another, is
not a matter of bad vs. good use, but an
inappropriate, and if you want, an ugly, use
or misuse of learning technologies. New
horizons and opportunities are now
presented by learning technologies, but let
us use them wisely, based on scientific
knowledge. Otherwise, these technologies
are doomed to failure, taking with them
those who use them.
84 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
01603 762772 info@realprojects.co.uk www.realprojects.co.uk
come and fnd us - stand 75
Dr Itiel Dror is Principal Consultant &
Researcher, Cognitive Consultants
International, and can be reached via
The title of this paper is TEL: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I
have provided material and thoughts for the readers
themselves to determine what the good, bad, and ugly aspects
of TEL are.
lmost every organisation
depends on some specialist
procedures. NASA
notwithstanding, it isn’t rocket
science, but these processes still impose a
need for specialist training.
A traditional view might be that this kind
of information-heavy complex material is
best delivered through technical manuals,
classroom-based learning and on-the-job
training. But the potential for e-learning to
enhance the learning mix should not be
underestimated. The user-involvement and
interactivity of e-learning makes it ideally
suited to helping a learner work through
complicated information. Familiar benefits,
such as allowing learners to dictate their
own pace and level of engagement, are
especially relevant when the subject
matter imposes a heavy cognitive demand.
The pharmaceutical industry also depends
on highly specialist information and
complex processes are enhanced by adding
e-learning to the training blend. One
example is the sales process. A new drug
launch creates an urgent need to train
sales teams on the drug’s complete profile.
In a sales call, the field-based rep is
expected to hold their own with a
purchaser who is likely to have extensive
clinical and scientific knowledge. So rep
training has to be comprehensive, accurate
and effective – and e-learning helps
A typical pharmaceutical product
knowledge programme for sales reps
comprises a blend of distance and
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 87
NASA now delivers e-learning to the world from the International Space Station and it’s
pleasing to see that learning technologies are at the cutting edge. E-learning is a powerful
tool for communicating complex or specialist material and Dr Owen Rose explains how the
pharmaceutical industry has overcome the challenges to getting it right.
classroom learning materials. Trusty printed
manuals are the bedrock of knowledge
acquisition – flexible, portable and
thoroughly referenced to meet stringent
regulatory requirements. These are
complemented by classroom training
sessions in which core knowledge is
extended in to the sales context – and
where reps can display their instinctively
extrovert characters!
Increasingly these days, we seek to extend,
enhance and reinforce this core learning
with a range of online learning formats.
Structured modules use the layering and
interactivity of e-learning to help clarify
particularly complex concepts or processes.
Interactive case studies and scenarios
place specialist clinical content in the
context of patients or doctors. And in a
highly regulated industry, the power of
e-learning to deliver quick and robust
assessment helps sales managers validate
the training and ensure accurate
Online simulations help reps learn how to
deploy their specialist knowledge in the
sales situation. Scenario-based learning is
used to check recall of key product, clinical
or market data under challenge from the
customer. In some cases these exercises
are made competitive, with learners pitted
against the clock and each other. This
simulates the pressure of a sales visit and
suits the naturally competitive instincts of
sales reps.
In the example of pharmaceutical product
training the primary audience – sales reps
– is often non-specialists. But there is also
a need to communicate new product
information directly to the customer – i.e.,
highly trained clinicians. E-learning can be
very effective here too.
An invaluable tool, such as an online
portal for clinical professionals, helps
deepen their understanding of the
potential of an innovative new drug
therapy. The emphasis is on just-in-time
information for busy professionals. An
array of bite-sized learning chunks is
complemented by video sound-bites from
key opinion leaders, as well as a host of
other learning and reference resources.
These examples demonstrate some of the
ways in which e-learning can enhance the
effectiveness of specialist training. But
there are challenges. As the complexity of
subject matter increases, so inevitably
must the involvement of subject matter
experts (SMEs), in both content creation
and content review. SMEs are usually very
busy people, with demanding day jobs. So
how do you engage and involve them in
the e-learning development process?
KPMG has undertaken just such a
challenge. The organisation’s UK audit
staff works in an environment of
continually evolving professional and
technical expertise. Regular updates to
audit procedures call for a rolling
programme of specialist training. KPMG
decided to develop and deliver this
training through e-learning.
Two models of collaborative working were
followed, depending on the client resource
available. Some of the content was
created from source materials provided by
the relevant SME using Information
Transfer’s seminar authoring system and
uploaded to an online reviewing facility.
This allows SMEs to evaluate feedback
whenever possible from wherever they
happen to be. This makes the process
faster and more efficient.
The use of a rapid authoring tool gave
KPMG a second option for involving its
own specialists in the e-learning
development process. When SMEs do have
time available, they are able to use the
authoring tool to create their own
e-learning content, following the styles and
formats developed by external consultants.
Close collaboration between content
authors from Information Transfer and
KPMG subject matter experts has enabled
the firm to rollout quarterly e-learning
updates that support a range of highly
specialist professional competencies.
Richard Bennison, former Head of Audit at
KPMG UK, summed up the benefits of
delivering specialist training online: “It
allows us to act responsively to emerging
technical issues whilst ensuring our audit
professionals receive key messages in a
clear, cost-effective and timely manner.”
Empowering subject matter experts to
create their own e-learning content can
create a powerful connection between the
learner and the expert. But it may not
always be achievable. As already stated,
88 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Online simulations help reps learn how to deploy their
specialist knowledge in the sales situation. Scenario-based
learning is used to check recall of key product, clinical or
market data under challenge from the customer.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 91
SMEs are busy people who may well not
have time to create learning materials.
And in some cases they may not be the
best people for the job anyway. Great
familiarity with a subject does not always
make for great sensitivity to the needs of
So how else can you translate the
complexity of your organisation’s specialist
knowledge into effective e-learning? Well,
you can use an e-learning developer,
provided that they are able to rapidly
assimilate complex source material and
translate it into effective online learning
content. The challenge is to capitalise on
the engagement and interactivity that
e-learning can provide, without losing
clarity or quality, and without dumbing
down critical information.
When it comes to complexity of
processes, the nuclear industry is more
challenging than most. Magnox South
holds the contract to defuel and
decommission five nuclear reactors on
behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority. Their existing specialist
induction training had included a
demanding 450-slide presentation on key
operational aspects.
Seeking greater consistency and efficiency,
the enterprise wanted an e-learning
solution to deliver this essential training
to new project managers and operational
staff with no prior knowledge of nuclear
A modular e-learning course, jointly
developed by external consultants and
Magnox SMEs, allows new joiners to
thoroughly explore the finer points of
defueling and decommissioning at their
own pace. Various content formats are
used to suit a range of learning styles.
Complex project management and
operational processes are brought to life
by multimedia and interactivity. The firm
is confident that their specialist knowledge
has been accurately disseminated and is
now reaping the benefits of e-learning.
The modules enhance performance, reduce
overheads and improve efficiency in
Dr Owen Rose is Managing Partner at
Information Transfer LLP.
Empowering subject matter experts to create their own
e-learning content can create a powerful connection between
the learner and the expert.
92 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
n the surface, the recession
seems to have done the world
of learning technologies a power
of good! Cuts in budget have
encouraged more organisations to review
how they are delivering learning and what
efficiencies can be made in the process. As a
result, interest in e-learning in general is
certainly soaring – the CIPD’s 2010 learning
and talent survey flagged e-learning as the
L&D practice showing the biggest growth
this year – but to be honest, we’ve been
there before. The bubbles of enthusiasm
that accompanied previous recessions
quickly burst as soon as conditions returned
to normal. So what have we learned from
the last 18 months that can help drive
sustained change in our organisations?
As the banking crisis hit the globe and we
entered into recession in
October 2008, Towards
Maturity was taking the
e-learning temperature of
the industry in our ‘08
benchmark. 18 months later,
a new parliament had just
been voted in, the public
sector was in disarray and we
were there again recording views
for our 2010 benchmark. A record
400 organisations took part in the research
this year across the private, public and not-
for-profit sectors, giving a unique insight
into how the recession has influenced our
plans and actions.
In the last edition of this magazine, we
discussed that whilst there are benefits in
benchmarking and investigating trends, the
real value of the research is when it
stimulates us to take the actions that make
a lasting impact on performance. In this
article, I look at the influence of the
recession on L&D that our research has
uncovered. More importantly, I look at the
actions we need to take to take advantage of
the opportunity that this influence affords us
– and I will also reveal one pitfall to avoid.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 93
Laura Overton identifies
three actions to take
advantage of in the current
economic climate – and one
pitfall to avoid.
Our appetite for learning technologies has
increased significantly in last 18 months.
21% of respondents said that there has
now been an increased focus on the
business benefits afforded by technology as
a result of the recession. Both L&D teams
and the departments that they support are
suddenly more interested! As a result, we
have seen that more drivers behind learning
technology investment have been cited by
more organisations in 2010 than in the
previous benchmark. Table 1 highlights the
clear increased demand for more for less.
The demand is there but we need to act!
Despite the wide range of drivers now cited
by most organisations, we still find that
when it comes to implementing learning
technologies, we are not lining up our
solutions with the business needs we are
trying to support. There is clearly a gap in
what we are delivering and what we, and
the business, are expecting to achieve. Here
are just a couple of examples of that gap:
• Only 50% of respondents agree that
e-learning supports the skills the business
needs – despite identifying a wide range of
business drivers for implementing e-learning.
• 76% of respondents hope that
technologies will deliver a more qualified
workforce yet only 24% agree that their
technology enabled solutions deliver
business qualifications (vs 25% in 2008).
We need to review what we are currently
offering against what the business needs
us to deliver if we are to take advantage
of the opportunity the recession is
handing us.
This is even more important when we
consider that in the last 18 months the
increased interest in learning technologies
isn’t just rhetoric.
In 2008, over 60% of participants expected
that the percentage of their overall learning
budget allocated to technology would
increase, and this seems to be happening –
figure 2 highlights the shift in budget
allocation over the last 18 months. One in
four organisations is now allocating 30%
or more of its learning budget to
technology compared to just over one in
10 18 months ago.
However many budgets have dropped over
that time so real spend may not have
increased accordingly and certainly many
plans for technology have been thwarted as
a result. But the influence of the recession is
clear – the money is following the demand
and if we are to make sure that the flow
doesn’t stop all together, now is the time to
really start to demonstrate the value of
every penny invested in this area.
And yet our research shows that over this
recession we seem to have taken our eye
off the ball when it comes to identifying
the value we are adding:
• Only 19% of respondents in 2010 are
confident that they know the different
opportunity costs of the various ways our
learners learn (compared to 26% in 2008).
• Only 13% measure specific business
related metrics when evaluating our
solutions (even though 33% of us work
with senior managers to identify them!) In
2008, 26% were measuring in this way!
Demonstrating value is one of the
workstreams of good practice identified in
the TM Model that really influences success.
The recession has put money in our
pockets; we have to demonstrate that it is
delivering if we want to keep it flowing!
94 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Driver Important for %
participants in
2010 (n=377)
Important for %
participants in
2008 (n=261)
Ability to demonstrate
Improved implementation
of new products/processes
More qualified workforce
Improved IT systems
Organisational change
Staff Benefits Increasing access
Increase flexibility
Improved induction
Improving quality
Improve administration
Extending reach
Reduce training costs
Reduce time away from
the job


















2008 (n=217)
2010 (n=244)
Table 1 (above): Shifts in drivers for Learning
Technology investment.
Figure 2 (right): % of training budget
allocated to technology.
Back in 2008, we were all predicting
significant growth in tools to support
business agility (eg rapid tools, virtual
classrooms), tools to enable collaboration
and peer-to-peer learning and much more.
Whilst there has been some growth in new
tools over the last 18 months, no technology
grew to the level that was expected. Table 2
provides some examples of technologies that
have remained steady in usage and
highlights those with good growth and some
of those with reduced use.
The recession is stimulating demand for so
much more but we are slow to act, often
falling back on the tools that we know,
mainly delivering ‘formal’ e-learning. In 2010
more of us are confident that we know what
technologies can do for us (53% vs 47% in
2009) but our confidence in our own skills to
implement technologies successfully has
dropped (from 61% to 51%). This may have
influenced the fact that we have not pushed
through our plans, particularly in those areas
where the technologies are low or zero cost.
It is ironic that those technologies that have
reduced in use (or not grown as expected)
are often those that are used to push
learning opportunities from the formal into
the informal. Technologies to support
workplace learning through research and
sharing have even dropped.
Looking forward, many of us are still
planning to widen our range of supporting
technologies but talk is cheap. We have to
build the skills and confidence to follow
through on our intentions. Our research
highlights that following through will pay
off – the more mature organisations (those
in the top quartile of the TM index) are
adopting a wider range of tools, applying
those tools to both formal and informal
learning interventions and delivering more
results back to the business.
It’s time to act on our intentions. Innovation
is expected in a recession – it’s time to
experiment a little and raise the bar!
Don’t raise barriers in the way of progress!
34% of our participants said that they had
seen an increased use – or faster adoption –
of e-learning as a result of the recession and
certainly in 2010 organisations overall are
reporting fewer barriers overall than in 2008.
However, the top barriers to success are still
linked to people and culture, with ‘staff
reluctance to learn in new ways’ cited as
number one barrier and ‘lack of knowledge
about its potential and use’ at number 2.
It also seems that we are not learning from
mistakes of the past. ‘Poor past experience’ as
a barrier has been growing by 1 or 2% per
annum consistently over the years and is now
amongst the top barriers for over a quarter of
the sample. Relying on what ‘worked’ in the
past can often cause more barriers in the
future and we have to keep a careful eye on
our own practices and beliefs if we are to
leverage the opportunity to deliver
sustainable innovation. There is a choice – we
have found that when good implementation
practices are followed, barriers come down
and positive results increase.
Previous Towards Maturity studies have
highlighted six worksteams of e-learning
implementation practice that influence
results - see http://tinyurl.com/TMModel for
more. This year, for the first time, we have
developed a new TM index to help
organisations compare their implementation
practices with others and to support
improvement. Those in the top quartile of the
TM indicator report twice the audience take
up of e-learning than those in the bottom
quartile and are three times as likely to e-
enable their formal learning offering. They are
reporting 25% more cost savings and 33%
additional time saved. They are also two-and-
a-half times more likely to say that they are
able to deliver learning to the business faster
and report improvements in speed to
competency six times greater than those in
the bottom quartile.
These implementation practices are not reliant
on budget or technology – our future success
is in our own hands. The danger in difficult
times is that we may fall back on what we
know and are familiar with rather than risk the
innovation that we need to succeed.
The recession has created a wide reaching
appetite for innovative approaches to
learning. Let us do what research and
experience show are effective to take
permanent advantage of its temporary
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 97
Laura Overton is Managing Director of
Towards Maturity and can be contacted at
The Towards Maturity industry
• The 2010 TM Benchmark Accelerating
Performance can be downloaded at
• The first benchmark took place in 2003
(with e.learning age Magazine)
• 1,200 organisations have been through
the TM benchmark since it began
• 400 participants took part in 2010
• The 2010 benchmark was commissioned
by Becta as part of their legacy to support
effective use of learning technologies in
the workplace
• The 2010 benchmark represents a
unique industry collaboration across 15
organisations who support the L&D
• Previous benchmarks can be downloaded
for free at http://tinyurl.com/TMbenchmark
• Visit Towards Maturity at the Learning
Technologies 2011 Exhibition.
Technologies remaining
steady (but less than
Technologies & tools with
good growth (but less
than predicted)
Technologies & tools that
have reduced in use
Surveys and questionnaires
– 91% (up from 82%)
Mobile devices – 36% (up
from 7%)
Online books (down from
63% to 43%)
Electronic-based learning
materials 89% (up from
Content management
systems at 50% (up from
Electronic performance
support (down from 26%
to 16%)
Podcasting 37% (was 35%) LMS – 78% average (up
from 65%)
Wikis (down from 28% to
Rapid application
development tools (46%
both years)
Online assessment – 81%
(up from 67%)
Blogs (down from 26% to
Virtual worlds (8% both
Virtual classroom (down
from 47% to 45%)
Communities of practice
(down from 38% to 30%)
Table 2: Examples of tools and technologies
98 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
n this series of articles, I’m looking at
learning maturity under three headings:
learning structure, learning technology
and learning culture.
This time it’s the turn of technology.
The first generation of e-learning adoption
was all about transferring existing training
activities to the computer, finding online
equivalents for physical-world processes.
For instance, instead of training courses
delivered by trainers, we had self-paced
online courses delivered to the computer
This model of straight offline/online
equivalents produced an evolving suite of
systems and tools to cover every aspect of
training development, delivery and
management, but in practice it proved
limiting. Chief among its shortcomings was
that it tended to replicate an anachronistic,
top-down, command-and-control training
culture out of kilter not only with the
prevalent culture of the web, but also with
the changing face of workplace learning.
E-learning, it was realised, should not be a
matter of connecting people umbilically to
machines – with the e-learning system at
the centre – but about using technology
appropriately to connect people to a range
of information sources – and to each other
– in a flexible way.
Perhaps the first feature of the traditional
training landscape to come under pressure
with growing maturity in the use of
learning technologies is the idea of the
‘course’. The notion that any training
requirement should automatically result in
provision of a course breaks down – or
where it persists, at least ceases to be a
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 99
In the second of three articles,
Steve Barden asks what your
use of technology says about
your organisation’s learning
There are good reasons for this, and ones
that were not necessarily obvious to the
first generation of e-learning pioneers.
In picking apart the constituent pieces of
traditional training delivery, technology
forces recognition that there is a spectrum
in training interventions.
Not all of these training interventions
involve instruction. Some, though carried
out under the banner of training, are really
more about effective communication: you
get a bunch of people in a room, tell them
details of a new procedure they have to
follow, answer their questions and perhaps
test retention afterwards. There is very
little instructional depth in such an
exercise – and very little rationale, in an
age of networked communications media,
for taking those people away from the
workplace in order to carry it out.
Towards the other end of the spectrum is a
host of activities that certainly do require
a space for reflection, role-play and human
mediation. The problem is that activities at
both ends of the continuum are often
bound up within a single course, a fact
that becomes very clear when you try to
take the course online. The best answer to
this conundrum, especially when designing
learning programmes at scale, has proved
to be designing sophisticated blends of
offline and online delivery methods –
selecting each resource to do the job it
does best and most efficiently.
As a result, expensive people time is not
wasted (so long as the technology is used
appropriately and effectively!).
Further pressure on the course comes from
the realisation that having the ability to
deliver learning into the working situation
means that it should be delivered in
smaller chunks, for use as and when
Where discreet tasks can be handled in
this way – a five minutes nugget accessed
directly before an important meeting, for
instance – there is less need to take people
out of the workplace. The division between
learning time and work time becomes
blurred, and the whole culture of learning
delivery changes in the organisation as a
Administrative functions around learning
also change. From the corporate university
model of first generation learning we move
to a more granular, learner-focused model,
with the opportunity for a greater level of
personalisation. Instead of the learning
management systems (LMS) being a
destination, personalised information is
increasingly pushed to the user as needed
or required.
Typically, as organisations mature, they
take more of their learning content
production in-house, or look for ways to
rationalise the production of online
learning content.
Rapid tools have grown up to fulfil this
need, and at the premium end of the
market, the Learning Content Management
System (LCMS) provides a way of
managing the complete content workflow,
allowing reuse or re-channelling of media
assets to deliver onto more than one
A good LCMS also helps with repurposing
of learning content for the more diverse
online delivery environment that emerges
with second generation learning.
Smartphones, MP3 players, touchscreen
tablets and even games platforms such as
the Nintendo DS become learning delivery
Mature users tend to become good at
leveraging free or low-cost tools. The web
2.0 phenomenon of open source software
has made many learning technologies
accessible to a far wider audience (witness
the huge popularity of Moodle throughout
education) and enables canny L&D
departments to do far more within their
existing budgets.
Mature users also do more with existing
enterprise tools. Virtual classroom
technology is no longer used just to
100 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
From instruction to information: The Learning Continuum
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 101
102 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
replicate the standard training session, but
can also scale to encompass anything from
one-to-one meetings to a whole-company
webinar. Here, as earlier, we see a
dissolving of the boundary between
learning and communications.
What I have described above represents
the state of the art as it is practiced
today within many forward-looking teams
and initiatives, but already we are
beginning to see the first tremors of a
further paradigm shift for learning and
One thing is clear: learning 3.0 will be
more about helping learners with tasks in
real time, less about helping them store up
knowledge for later use. Orientation and
concept building will probably still be done
in something like the traditional way but
over all there will be less dependence on
Informal learning will be given its proper
place and prominence, but in the process
will be scaled up and its effectiveness
And as for technology … well, writing a
detailed technological specification for
learning 3.0 is too hazardous to undertake
against such a fast-changing backdrop, but
here are some important technologies to
A thing of conference papers and guru
hype to date, perhaps, the Semantic Web is
becoming increasingly real with Google,
Facebook and Twitter all introducing
semantic technologies.
Augmented Reality (AR), for which new
smart phone apps appear every day, has
the potential to change the learning model
substantially, combining stored or
computer-generated data with real-time
images and actions.
With the growing influence of
Geolocation, learning can not only be
shaped to who the learner is, and what
they need to know at that moment, but
also to where they are. Add in Radio
Frequency ID (RFID) technology, which
allows users to interact with a huge variety
of objects in the physical world, and the
possibilities are huge.
HTML 5, the next generation of web code,
already in the early stages of introduction,
will simplifying cross-platform development,
making learning more accessible and
cheaper to deliver.
The LCMS also has a role in supporting the
ability to deliver cross-platform and to
multiple channels, and can be the heart of
a right-time/right-place delivery system
that leverages an organisation’s
information and data resources efficiently
to empower and support its workforce.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 103
Informal learning will be given its proper place and
prominence, but in the process will be scaled up and its
effectiveness turbo-charged.
Steve Barden is Lead Consultant at LINE
Communications. He can be reached via
104 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
n a 2004 landmark article by Kevin
Oakes, entitled ‘A seat at the table’,
Kevin – the president of SumTotal –
pointed out that speaking the language
of executives is one of the biggest skill gaps
in the L&D profession. I totally agree. In
2006 I wrote an article for Inside Learning
Technologies entitled ‘Talking the Talk of
Business’. Maybe I don’t have the gravitas
of Kevin or maybe the industry doesn’t
want to listen, but it didn’t seem to have
much impact. I’m convinced that it’s the
latter; the industry just doesn’t want to
make the change to the language of
business – or maybe it’s incapable of
making the change – for now.
So, here I am again, trying to drum into the
L&D fraternity the fact that they need not
only to understand business but to talk the
language of business and to offer their
products and services to businesses in a
way that the business understands and can
consume them.
In my last Inside Learning Technologies
article I talked about the need for L&D to
align itself with the business. Part of this
alignment is to talk the language of
business. This doesn’t mean running about
saying “Let’s enhance EBITDA” or “Let’s
rationalise our inbound call technologies.”
It’s about facing up to business leaders and
talking to them as human beings – the
people who run businesses and need you to
sort out problems for them.
This lack of business language is something
that’s endemic throughout the industry,
from major training organisations to
internal L&D departments. I spent a little
while Googling the top 5 IT training
companies of 2010 as defined by the Pardo
Fox survey. This survey, now in its 11th year,
is well respected within the industry and so
a great place to start. Without naming
names, this is what showed up in the Google
search results (I’ve replaced company names
with the word ‘We’ to protect the innocent):
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 105
It's time to stop talking
jargon and start talking the
language of business, says
Jonathan Kettleborough.
We are the UK's leading training company,
offering over 1500 training courses from 25
locations – with a training portfolio that
includes technical IT . . .
Maximise the return on your IT investment.
We offer a comprehensive portfolio of
technical training and education . . .
Hands-on IT and Management training for
Technology and Management professionals
specialising in PRINCE2 and ITIL certification
We have the expertise and flexibility to
deliver training programmes tailored to our
customers` needs. We have Partners and
Consultants . . .
We are a leader in e-Learning courseware for
business skills, leadership skills training,
project management skills training, and IT
certification . . .
Blah, blah, blah; yada, yada, yada. Courses,
IT, portfolio, technical, locations and so the
list goes on. And these are the top 5
companies in the UK for IT training! Their
combined income in 2010 was in excess of
£158 million and what do they talk about
when they position themselves on the
web? Courses! To be fair, I also Googled
companies from places 11 through to 50 in
the same Pardo Fox survey. Guess what?
Yep, the same old ‘we do courses and we
do IT training and e-learning and stuff’ was
evident in every company.
Now perhaps I’m being very unfair (and to
be honest I think I am) but I’m doing it to
make a point. If major IT training
companies don’t talk the language of
business and align themselves to business,
is this because they don’t get it? (which to
be honest I’m sure they do), or is it that
their customers (L&D departments) don’t
get it and so they have to offer ‘courses’ as
this is what their customers want to buy?
And perhaps this gives us a Catch-22;
training companies won’t talk the language
of business unless their customers talk the
language of business. And this is maybe the
truth; the customers don’t understand and
speak the language of business and
therefore the training companies don’t
respond in a similar manner. Perhaps we
are doomed to a life of ‘courses’. I for one,
certainly hope not.
Returning to Kevin’s article, he wrote about
one memorable experience saying:
“Pedagogy? He kept talking about
pedagogy,” one senior executive recently
scoffed to me, describing his dinner with a
career learning and development
professional. “I mean, I have my MBA from
one of the top schools in the country, and I’d
never heard the word pedagogy. I had no
idea what the heck he was talking about the
entire evening.” Now this really did make
me smile – and wince!
All too often when I talk to L&D
professionals about their achievements and
challenges they spend a vast amount of
time telling me about their approaches,
methodologies and tools.
They will, for example, tell me about their
classrooms, their e-learning programmes
(especially about the really technical bits),
about the handouts they give learners,
about iPad learning, m-learning, e-learning,
social media, synchronous learning, media
assisted learning... and the list goes on.
Coupled with the “let me tell you about my
blended learning” stories I hear countless
moans that “my business doesn’t commit
to training” or “I’m not sure the business
understands the value we deliver.” As
Homer Simpson would say: Doh!
What I don’t hear very often from L&D
professionals is “Hey, let me tell you about
the issues we fixed for our organisation –
they just love us!” But you know, I do hear
some positive stories. For many years I
have judged the IITT awards and this is
where I will hear great stories of wonderful
business benefits, however such stories are
rare. More often than not when judging the
IITT Awards I’m faced with the classic
presentation which describes success as:
“last year we delivered 23% more courses
to 18% more people.” So what?
When judging the Awards I always ask
about the business benefits and the shame
is that so few people know what they are.
Hardly a wonder then that businesses don’t
always understand the value being
delivered, perhaps because there isn’t that
much value in the first place!
But let me stop ranting and let’s start
looking at ways to change communications
about L&D. The key issues here are about
needs and communication, and I’ll focus on
this for the remainder of this article.
Knowing the needs of your audience and
communicating effectively to meet these
needs are critical for success in today’s
business environment.
A PR Week survey focussing on CEO
communication found that over 24% of
CEOs said that they should spend
between 21% and 30% of their time
communicating with employees face-to-
face. In the same survey, 55% of CEOs said
they spend more time communicating
than they did two years ago. And with this
focus on communication, especially face-
to-face, you can be sure that at some
point you’ll have the opportunity of
making your mark; just be sure you are
well prepared!
Let’s try a little exercise. Let’s suppose that
you’re meeting an L&D professional from
another organisation for lunch and you
really wanted to impress them.
Take a few moments to think about the key
messages that you’d like to get across and
make a short list of them.
It’s quite likely that you may have listed
one or more of the following:
And if you did write down a few of the
above it’s hardly surprising, after all, you
are trying to impress one of your peers
who will naturally already speak the
language of training.
Now think about how your Chief Executive
Officer (CEO)communicates. If he was
meeting the CEO of another company for
lunch and really wanted to impress them,
what might be the key messages he’d be
sure to try and get across? As before, make
a short list of these.
Again, while I’m not clairvoyant, it’s highly
likely that you may have listed one or more
of the rather different terms listed in the
table below:
106 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
• size of budget and projects
• training facilities
• number of staff
• development methodologies
• blended learning
• e-learning
• Learning Management Systems
• evaluation
• awards and prizes
• value of training
• revenues and profit
• increase in profits
• increase in revenues
• profit per person
• profit per unit of production
• value added
• share price
• profit per customer
• new markets
• strategy
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 107
108 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
But let us just stop for a moment and
consider the underlying communication
issue. If you were presenting information
to your CEO, what would you focus on?
The truth is that you’d almost certainly
stick to what you know (the operational
and delivery issues) and deliver it with a
smile and your fingers crossed! But what
does the CEO want to hear? Clearly as
they are focussed on revenues, profits,
value added etc. they’ll want to know how
your L&D is assisting them in meeting
their goals. And this is one of the most
critical issues of all; in order to
communicate effectively it is essential that
you use the same focus, words and
terminology as your CEO. Anything less
and your message will not have the impact
it deserves.
As individuals we are subject to an immense
range of stimuli each day. However,
consciously we can handle 7 +/-2 'chunks'
of information at a time. In order to deal
with the infinite number of stimuli that we
are subjected to daily we need a system to
handle it. In fact we have two systems, we
filter and we chunk.
In order to process more data we simply
make the chunks bigger. How we chunk,
and what we pay attention to, has a lot to
do with our focus. This is what creates our
map of the world. And if a CEO’s map is
about profit, revenues etc., then invariably
information which falls outside of these
focus points could be lost, which means
that your chance to get across critical
information will also have been lost. If you
want to see an example of this in sharp
relief then simply watch an episode of
Dragons’ Den.
The ‘Dragons’ have a number of things in
common; they want to know the facts (and
fast), they want to know the opportunity
and they want to know how much money
they’re going to make. Outside of these
parameters they have a very limited
attention span! Those who are successful
focus on the needs of the Dragons.
Let’s now go back to the original key
messages used by the training professional
and re-work them to fit the 7 +/-2
information 'chunks' for a CEO. Naturally
your CEO may focus on different issues,
but I’m sure you’ll get the overall idea.
So go and take the time to find out just
what your CEO and senior managers are
focussed on and use this information to
define and refine the information you
provide them with. You’ll be amazed at the
reaction and the concentration they show
when messages are tailored for their needs.
In addition, not only are your messages
more likely to get across, but you’re also
more likely to come away with the results
you desire and will have created a solid
business-focussed view of L&D at the
same time.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 109
Jonathan Kettleborough is Managing
Director of Corollis and can be
contacted at jonathan@corollis.com
• increase in effectiveness per employee
• reduced downtime per employee
• reduction in operational costs
• support for new market entry
• value added
• cost effectiveness
110 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
or any company with dispersed
operations, the fiscal benefits of
delivering training via electronic
media are easy to quantify. By
negating the need to physically bring
trainees together, the associated costs –
travel, room hire, trainer fees,
accommodation, loss of productivity due
to time out of the office etc – are
eliminated. But the story goes beyond cost
Technology enabled learning solutions are
developed by taking strategically aligned
course objectives and high quality course
materials, and delivering them through the
medium that best suits the target
This can include, but is not limited to,
video, virtual classrooms, interactive
discussion boards, blogs, mobile learning
and even gaming applications.
Consequently this method of training is
perfectly suited to large, dispersed
organisations as it accommodates multiple
trainees with a wide range of learning
styles, preferences, and needs.
This principle applies to the harshest of
environments. Lack of dedicated training
rooms, limited computer access and
unremitting shift patterns are just some
factors that make on-demand training
access an absolute business necessity.
Solutions such as e-learning empower
employees to complete training at a time
and location convenient to them, and to
dip in and out of the course at any time –
all without jeopardising the quality of their
learning experience.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 111
As e-learning becomes more flexible and cost effective, can the increased demand be
explained entirely in terms of economics? Eddie Kilkelly explains why technology enabled
learning lends itself to harsh working environments and identifies invaluable lessons for
all organisations.
Such solutions allow large organisations to
gain visibility – and control – of global
training activities and to implement
common systems and procedures.
Organisations can assess individual
training needs, regardless of the size of the
work force, and address those specific
needs with targeted training courses,
regardless of geography, time zones or
language. The online nature of the content
also means that materials can be changed
instantaneously to reflect changing
regulations or market conditions.
Yet as none of these benefits are
particularly new, can they explain the
current rise in popularity of technology
enabled training solutions? Certainly,
reduced budgets are a huge push factor,
but this doesn’t explain why organisations
are investing in completely new training
programmes. For example, KCA DEUTAG
Drilling Group, a global drilling and
engineering contractor, has created a
project management training solution for
its global workforce (see boxout). There are
two elements at play – both of which act
as pull factors for technology enabled
learning solutions.
Firstly, companies with international
operations are by their nature attuned to
the global economic climate, and are
preparing for the global upturn. While cost
efficiency is still front of mind, they are
beginning to focus on increasing market
share, and not simply minimising losses.
Key to this preparation is renewed
investment in training, not only to ensure
consistency, standards and best practice
across the board, but also to prepare the –
perhaps reduced – workforce for the
challenges and opportunities ahead. These
organisations recognise that electronic
media can deliver this training quickly,
efficiently and cost effectively.
The second factor is the greatly improved
quality of these solutions. This evolution is
a welcome surprise to organisations that
have not been involved with technology
since the earlier days of e-learning. The
best of today’s courses are media rich,
interactive and engaging and not just
electronic page-turners. A good analogy for
this rapid evolution is Ceefax. Pre-internet,
it was often the first to report breaking
stories, but advances in technology have
transformed our perceptions of news ‘on-
demand’. Similarly, global organisations
find that technology has transformed
training. No longer simply a cheap way to
deliver courses, implemented correctly,
technology enabled learning provides an
agile and valuable learning infrastructure
that is tailored to meet the day-to-day
needs of the most demanding of
The ability to accommodate large numbers
of trainees with different learning styles,
preferences and abilities has been key to
the success of technology enabled learning
in organisations of all sizes. Consider the
similarities of training needs in harsh
environments to those in normal organisations:
1. Location and environment
In global companies operating in extreme
conditions, training has to be available
on-demand, and employee-paced. While
locations may not be as demanding, all
organisations can benefit from offering 24/7
access to training. Quite apart from the
associated cost, there is never a good time
to take people away from their desks to
train. Enabling employees to access training
at their convenience – during business hours,
on the train or at the weekend – and to
learn at their own pace, is paying dividends.
Employees report increased satisfaction with
training and organisations are seeing
improved training outcomes.
2. Small workforce or few specialists
need to be trained
Global organisations have to train
specialists dispersed across global
operations. For smaller companies, the
issue may be that it has very few, perhaps
only one, specialist that needs to be
trained. Using the latest training
technology these isolated employees can
collaborate with other trainees, while
receiving full support from experienced
tutors all day, every day.
3. Bringing the benefits of the classroom
to the web browser
One of the criticisms levelled against
earlier e-learning solutions was that they
removed the interactive element of
learning. However, state of the art learning
technologies now make it possible to
deliver the benefits of the classroom
directly to the web browser through virtual
For example, trainees can access a calendar
of scheduled live instructor-led video
broadcasts and post-session interactive
activities and quizzes to reinforce what
they have learned online. Virtual classroom
sessions are modular so that they can be
delivered in one hour blocks.
Technology enabled learning has come a
long way since the early e-learning
solutions. While maintaining original
benefits of speed, flexibility and cost
effectiveness, it has broken new ground by
harnessing the latest technologies and
applying them to learning. Organisations
can now expect technology to help them
deliver everything from on-site training to
live web courses, blended and mobile
This evolution has transformed solutions
that provide real business benefits through
the delivery of high quality training to the
right people, at the right time, regardless
of geography or language barriers. A
testament to the excellence of technology
enabled learning can be seen in its
continued success with some of the
world’s largest organisations, working in
punishing environments. Yet the benefits –
24/7 access, reduced costs, measurability,
better learning outcomes etc. – are
relevant to organisations of all sizes. And
even better news is that there is no one
size fits all resolution. Every solution is
tailored to fit the needs of the individual
112 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 113
114 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 115
Case Study
KCA DEUTAG Drilling Group
KCA DEUTAG is one of the world’s most successful onshore and offshore drilling and engineering contractors with turnover in excess of $1.7
billion. It operates in more than twenty countries, employing over eight thousand people. A multinational, multicultural employer with a diverse
workforce, its operations are based in some of the most demanding, extreme and isolated environments on the planet, ranging from the deserts
of Africa to the arctic conditions of Siberia. In order to support ambitious growth plans, KCA DEUTAG identified the need for comprehensive,
standardised project management training across its global operations. However, the company had encountered problems with implementing
large scale, formal training in the past. Its dispersed workforce ruled out traditional classroom teaching, a problem further exacerbated by shift
patterns, language barriers and a highly peripatetic workforce. Although e-learning was therefore the only practical solution, the company had to
tackle negative perceptions which had resulted from connectivity problems with earlier e-learning solutions.
The organisation revisited e-learning, discovered the quality training products now available and created a training solution tailored to its needs.
Launched in April 2010, the KCA DEUTAG Drilling Group best practice e-learning portal now delivers a new, media rich, online Project
Management training course to 350 senior and supervisory managers based across twenty two countries. The rollout was within budget with no
technical problems reported by any of the global operations. ILX’s APM Introductory Certificate in Project Management, PRINCE2® Foundation
and PRINCE2® Practitioner courses are currently available via the portal. It has been extremely well received: over 78% of the target audience
signed up immediately and within two months of rollout, trainees have completed the APM courses and begun PRINCE2® training. KCA
DEUTAG credits the interactive and highly collaborative course content for the portal’s unqualified success with employees.
A range of learning media includes the written word, animations and interactive diagrams suiting different learning styles, and supporting non-native
English speakers. The portal’s ease of use and innovations have kept employees enthusiastic and engaged. These include: a Snakes and Ladders
game (which reinforces key elements of the training by testing users with prompted questions within a familiar gaming environment), an exam
simulator, a revision pad (to plan remedial activity if scores are low) and a strength and weakness analysis tool (to help employees gauge
readiness for the exam). The courses are supported by comprehensive back-end reporting which allows line managers and training support staff
to monitor progress and exam scores etc. This data is used for progress reports and guidance on future study. Ian MacKenzie, director of projects,
Technical Services and Business Excellence: “We believe that by deploying ILX’s world class training courses to our remote workforce in a flexible
and cost-efficient manner we will ensure consistency in our quality of work and ensure that all members undertake best practice methods in
whatever they do. We are committed to investing in our greatest asset – namely our employees –
and we are confident this approach will help us meet our ambitious business objectives."
Eddie Kilkelly is Chief Operating
Officer, ILX Group. www.ilxgroup.com
116 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
he case for e-learning often hangs
on cost. But while any money-
saving proposition packs a
powerful punch at the moment,
focusing solely on budgetary benefits can
detract from some of e-learning’s other key
advantages. One potentially huge benefit of
e-learning: its power to help large
organisations cope with rapid, complex
Many NHS trusts and agencies, for example,
introduced e-learning courses in the past for
the sake of expediency. In many cases these
were never widely promoted and as a result
were underused and did not become part of
mainstream learning programmes.
In the meantime, however, the whole
concept of online learning has moved on –
new features, new methods of delivery and
new high quality content make it a far more
valuable asset. As a result, it has grown out
of its ‘poor relation’ image and become a
method of choice for management and staff
alike. Now large NHS trusts have dusted off
their old ideas and have invested in new
programmes as part of the Agenda for
Change or their own individual change
management programmes.
Of course it’s not just e-learning that has
evolved. For the past decade, the NHS has
become increasingly geared around
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 117
Cost is not the only reason
that large organisations such
as NHS Trusts should
consider e-learning says
Kevin Young.
technology. Diagnostic imaging, the
digitisation of medical records and
e-procurement have all appeared on the
health scene. The idea of doing anything
electronically is no longer alien.
In addition, the need for learning
programmes has intensified – new IT
implementations, increasingly complex
equipment, restructuring of job
specifications, the redeployment of staff
across an organisation and the growing
need for leaders with the right skills to
manage all this change have created an
urgent need for a diverse mix of technical,
business and leadership training.
To address this – plus the wider business
challenge – e-learning has upped its game.
Developers and vendors have recognised
that they must offer the right content and
that they also need to present this in a way
that encourages employees to learn. This
includes making full use of video
technology and providing live learning and
interactive options. It means offering
leadership master classes with teaching
directly from well-known business gurus. It
also means providing complementary
access to entire libraries, plus ways to
search this information to produce relevant,
timely results – and then easily share it as
appropriate. In other words, e-learning
needs to include both formal content plus
resources for efficient just-in-time learning.
E-learning programmes also need to offer
this training in a form that fits around the
hectic 21st century working environment –
that is, in manageable chunks, and with
ways of testing the absorption of
information at regular intervals.
The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
(NHSGGC) first introduced e-learning into
its training programmes 15 years ago but it
was used only by a small group and was
never part of a central learning strategy.
More recently, however, NHSGGC has
renewed its commitment, investing in a
SkillSoft platform alongside Books24x7
which provides instant access to the
complete text of tens of thousands of
relevant books and reports.
The sheer size and demands of NHSGGC
put most commercial operations in the
shade. It employs over 44,000 staff and
includes 35 hospitals, 50 health centres,
over 300 pharmacies of more than 300 GP
practices. Alex Mowat, e-learning manager
says: “The sheer economics of everybody
going on a face-to-face course would be
Now e-learning plays a pivotal role in the
Trust’s learning programme, whether
standing on its own or blended within a
tutor-led course. Personal choice runs
throughout the entire project and
employees are given the option to learn at
their desks, in one of the numerous NHS
learning centres, or even in their own
homes. This flexibility really appeals and is
partly responsible for the shift in culture.
E-learning is also reaching employees who
have traditionally resisted any formal
training. “We have a sizeable group you
would not automatically expect to take up
this kind of learning, but are doing precisely
that. People who are not professionally
qualified, those from support services, for
example, would probably not have taken an
interest in training before. Now, they start
by making a casual enquiry and end up
taking it forward.
“Also, night shift staff and weekend
workers can be offered identical learning
opportunities to everyone else,” says Mowat.
Perhaps the most telling indication of the
success of e-learning is the way employees
are actually making time to do the courses.
“People will come in early in the morning to
do their training or stay an hour later in the
evening. It’s completely their choice, but
their conscientiousness and their willingness
is certainly minimising disruption during
normal working hours,” says Mowat.
At the other end of the UK, Heather-wood
and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS
Foundation Trust is following in NHSGGC’s
footsteps. As part of a three year efficiency
programme, known as Trust Turnaround, the
Trust has committed to embrace new
technologies to produce a blended approach
to learning and development and to re-skill
and redeploy its staff in the fastest and
most cost-effective manner.
The Trust’s organisational development lead,
John Newell, has been impatient to
implement this programme and believes the
solution can support the turnaround on a
number of different levels.
“First, it will provide ready access to the
managerial and change management skills
we need – and do so affordably. Second, as
part of our turnaround, a lot of staff will have
to redeploy across the organisation which
means they will need to reskill. They can tap
into the online and other learning
programmes to sharpen existing skills, retrain
through acquiring new skills and improving
knowledge in relevant areas,” he says.
“During this period of change, e-learning
needs to form part of our overall learning
strategy – whether it’s for induction,
reskilling or management and leadership
training for our senior staff. Eventually
everyone should have access because
everyone can benefit.”
118 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
E-learning programmes also need to offer this training in a
form that fits around the hectic 21st century working
environment – that is, in manageable chunks, and with ways of
testing the absorption of information at regular intervals.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 119
120 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
In both these cases, e-learning is part of a
blended programme, complementing and
consolidating more traditional training. Yet
still it manages to reach those parts not
served by formal learning – through, for
example, flexible and manageable bites of
learning which fit around the working day
and access to information round the clock to
solve real, on-the-job problems. It even
sometimes provides a lifeline for those who
may not feel confident enough to take part
in classroom lessons and may need to go
over lessons several times as well as an
opportunity for shift workers and others
working unsocial hours to learn too. In short,
it fills the gaps left by other types of learning.
No doubt the NHS and other public sector
operations have a tough time ahead with
further change and restructuring inevitable
in the years to come. But the flexibility and
comprehensive nature of e-learning can
help transform attitudes and renew the
appetite for learning – helping create the
workers needed for a new style of public
sector workplace.
Kevin Young is General Manager, SkillSoft
and can be reached via www.skillsoft.com
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 121
No doubt the NHS and other public sector operations have a
tough time ahead with further change and restructuring
inevitable in the years to come.
122 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
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ecently I was in a workshop with
hundreds of learning professionals
from major institutions from
around the world discussing new
technology for learning. One stood up and
confidently said “These days if you don’t
have a learning, knowledge, social and
mobile strategy, you’re behind the curve.” I
sat, listened and watched.
Most people around the room nodded their
heads in agreement and then jotted down
the various strategies on their notepads.
I’m sure so they could go back into their
office and ask their teams if they have
these strategies formalised. I didn’t say
anything through all this, nor should I have.
But I left the workshop with a nagging
feeling – were we too obsessed with
trends in technology? Had we perhaps lost
sight of the reason for organisational
learning at all?
For most professionals, learning is about as
exciting and engaging a process as going to
the dentist. It represents something we
have to do so that HR doesn’t track us
down or put us on the naughty list in a
company-wide email. Managers mostly
support learning only as far as encouraging
it so that they can be seen as good
corporate citizens in their organisation.
Executives act pretty much the same: they
nod their heads; they say all the right
things, but do they really engage with, or
champion, training? And really, should
they? After all, they’re busy running a
business. They have top and bottom lines
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 123
What really makes workplace learning valuable and what
Jason Saba:Layout 1 2/12/10 12:56 Page 123
role does technology play? Jason Stutt investigates.
to focus on. Learning is something they
trust is being handled unless they hear
Is this overstating things? No. There are
some who see the value in learning, but
from my experience they are few and far
So where does that leave learning
professionals? We talk about new training
programmes and new and cool
technologies. So why don’t we make
headway? Why doesn’t learning take a
front seat or an equal seat as other
departments in most organisations?
I believe the answer is simple. It stems
from the fact that we are talking two
different languages. Learning professionals
talk about mobile learning or how we have
to ‘get social’. Business heads and
managers talk about productivity,
achieving their targets or differentiating
themselves from their competition. In his
book, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are
from Venus’ John Gray essentially says that
men and women speak different
languages. I believe most learning
professionals speak a different language to
their business counterparts.
For example: when I last had my car
serviced, my mechanic walked out and said
to me “Hey, your alternator pulley is
spinning abnormally slower than the
crankshaft….” He should have known
better. He lost me at “Hey”. Not being a
car guy, I’m hard pressed to understand
anything beyond the language of a
standard oil change. The first thing I did
was asked him to break it down in basic
terms, in my own language. How severe is
this? What are my options? How much is
this going to cost me? He was speaking a
different language to me and I needed to
hear it in my terms.
So why do we really train? I’m not asking
why we have to train. I’m asking why we
should want to invest in the talent which
surrounds our organisation.
Several years ago I was in charge of a
relatively small learning team at a
Canadian telecommunications firm. We
were chugging along okay, doing what was
asked of us and making what I would refer
to now as small contributions. One
afternoon, I wrote what I thought was a
simple email to my employees (copying
my boss and his boss). In the email I talked
about how the key to really achieving
success was to find the ‘wow’ in what they
did. In other words to find the extra 15%
that people did not expect and deliver it as
if they did. I outlined recent behaviours
from my staff that best exemplified this
‘wow’ factor. At the end of each behaviour
I put the word ‘wow!’ It was a simple
email, or so I thought.
In the coming days and weeks I started to
see some radical changes from my team.
They launched into a frenzy of inspired
work. They brought forward new ideas and
approaches. They were constantly thinking
outside the box. The team came to me
with one idea to start ‘for profit training’
which lead to a new revenue stream
grossing $7M in our first year. The positive
feedback I received about my team sky-
rocketed. Before I knew it, we were seen as
one of the highest accomplishing groups in
the organisation. We were even invited to
meet our CEO so we could outline how we
tapped into this newly found success. He
asked my team the simplest, yet best
question: “what changed?” Their answer
was simple. They said they had all learned
what success looked like and felt
empowered to go out there and achieve it.
He loved it. He encouraged us to keep this
simplistic approach and take it viral.
We took his advice. We approached our
various stakeholders in a very simple
manner. For example, we approached our
head of Retail Sales and asked him what
he saw as the value of training. Having not
really benefitted too much from our
training in the past he provided us with a
polite but rather empty response. We
asked him if we could test something out.
We wanted to go out and train just one
retail store on every piece of equipment it
sold and measure any change in sales. He
agreed. It was a simple, low cost approach.
We created simple and to-the-point
training on each device specifically focused
at helping the store sell our products
The result: their sales increased over 400%
and we were all delighted! He immediately
wanted us to replicate this training across
all stores.
I alluded at the beginning of this article to
the need not to focus on technology. I
124 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
So why do we really train? I’m not asking why we have to
train. I’m asking why we should want to invest in the talent
which surrounds our organisation.
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December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 125
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126 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Jason Saba:Layout 1 2/12/10 12:56 Page 126
stand by that. Our focus should be on
business results. I’ll say that again: our focus
should be on business results.
When our Business Unit head wanted us to
roll the sales training out to every store
nationwide, doing so with live training – as
with our initial store – would have been
inefficient, costly and inconsistent. He didn’t
care how we did it. He just wanted to see
results. We were his new best friend. We
immediately became one of the most
strategic elements to his business.
At this point, whether we chose to use
mobile learning or social components, a
global Learning Management System or a
content distribution network made no
difference. As long as it was linked to a
tangible business value result, the
technology used should never be
When used correctly, technology can enable
a business to do things it could not
otherwise do – or at least not with the
same efficiency, quality, cost controls and
message as we could otherwise. I believe
social learning will change how we do
business today; I believe our future desktop
sits on the smart phones in our hands and I
believe business results should drive the use
of these technologies.
This all started with my workshop where
various businesses adamantly agreed that
today, having a learning, knowledge, social
and mobile strategy is a given.
I would submit that the right strategy is to
have a talent strategy which addresses how
you plan to support your business
objectives. It has to be fully aligned to
driving business results – not to delivering
I believe that when you speak the same
language as your business, real results, real
innovation and real empowerment can
occur, generating real value for your training
and learning department.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 127
Product Strategy, Saba Software Inc. He
When used correctly, technology can enable a business to do
things it could not otherwise do – or at least not with the same
efficiency, quality, cost controls and message as we could
Jason Saba:Layout 1 6/12/10 12:17 Page 127
can be reached via www.saba.com
Jason Stutt is Senior Product Manager,
128 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
f you read a lot of proposal documents
from learning suppliers, you’ll probably
be familiar with the idea of the
‘discovery phase’.
The ‘discovery phase’ is the initial part of a
learning project, where the supplier
acquaints themselves with your company
culture, your brand, infrastructure and your
business sector. Even if they don’t use this
exact phrase, any developer of bespoke
learning worth their salt go through a
discovery phase when working with you. If
they omit it, you can be sure that what
you’re going to get at the end of the day
will be fairly broad-brush and probably
won’t deliver on its objectives.
The problem is, the economics of our
industry being as they are, and with
delivery deadlines often being tight, the
discovery phase too often tends to get
And yet the discovery phase is vital – as
every new supplier will tell you.
Buyers of bespoke e-learning like to shop
around to get the best deal, naturally
enough. However, a more long-term
relationship with a particular supplier often
ends up being a more attractive and
productive relationship – in no small part
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 129
Alistair Marshall explains the
benefits of using a sector
specialist to develop learning
because repeating the discovery phase each
time a new supplier is engaged can become
expensive and time-consuming.
But while such long-term relationships can
make everybody’s lives easier, they don’t
necessarily yield the best results for the
learner. It’s often a case of ‘the devil you
know’, with best value giving way to the
path of least resistance.
Midway between these two poles –
between the over-cosy incumbent and the
risky newcomer – lies a small but growing
portion of the map populated by sector
specialists and domain experts; learning
providers who specialise in particular
training types and vertical business
Technology tools such as authoring suites
or LMSs work as well within one sector as
another. However the tendency up to now
has been for content development
companies also to be generalists, touting
their instructional design expertise as a
broadly applicable expertise, and drawing
on the client’s own SMEs for sector-specific
and domain knowledge as needed.
While the e-learning industry remained
small and relatively niche, this approach
was essential for survival: no particular
sector spent enough to support a supplier
community of its own, at the scale
production of e-learning content requires.
Broad, balanced client portfolios, therefore,
tended to be the order of the day.
As the use of learning technologies has
grown to be more mainstream, however,
specialisation has once again emerged.
What are the advantages of using someone
with specialist knowledge of your sector
and of particular types of training?
Clearly such a provider will have an
advantage in the discovery phase. Someone
with an existing store of knowledge and
expertise directly relevant to your needs
will have to spend less time orientating
themselves. It’s not just about saving time
in project setup, however. The benefits of
using a specialist go far deeper than that.
Think about what the discovery phase
entails. It’s in this all-important period that
the developer gets a real sense of what
makes your organisation tick. What turns
the people in your organisation on – and
what turns them off. Organisational culture
is a highly diverse and specific thing and
not everything that makes a company
unique can be written down and made
explicit. It has to be sensed and felt.
The developer has to stand on the shop
floor, meet the people, hear how they speak
to each other – and dig below the surface
to get a true and deep understanding of
what it is really like to work in that
organisation – before she can really begin to
communicate with the learners.
Organisations have their own language, for
example. “That’s not a (insert company
name) word” is a common sentence one
hears when clients are critiquing the
writing used in learning materials. All of
this has to be learned by the developer.
And it is in the discovery phase that the
designer gets to do the job usually done by
face-to-face trainers in the training room.
She has to look the learners in their eyes,
and work out how to make a real human
connection between the learners and what
they have to learn. This is no mean task. A
good deal of intuition, as well as normal
research skills, is required to get it right.
The specialist has an inbuilt advantage here
because organisations in the same sector
often have more similarities between them
than differences.
Retail companies, for instance, are more like
each other than they are like other
130 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Someone with an existing store of knowledge and expertise directly
relevant to your needs will have to spend less time orientating
themselves. It’s not just about saving time in project setup, however.
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 131
132 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
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the company offers a wide range of language solutions
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December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 133
companies. Retailers tend to share common
issues around staff turnover, speed to
market, infrastructure (eg there are not an
awful lot of PCs in the average store), and
often a very similar audience profile.
Sectoral factors will have a big influence on
how you design for a particular group of
learners. Sticking with the retail example,
these companies need bodies on the shop
floor, and staff don’t have long periods of
time to spare: you can’t produce long
modules for such a group that lock them
away for hours at a time. The learning has
to be appropriately chunked.
A different vertical like the pharmaceutical
sector, however, will have other distinctive
factors that are well known to the
specialist learning developer. Again, the
factor of time comes into play with
pharmaceuticals: the high level of legal
scrutiny required of any writing used
means that extra review time needs to be
built into production schedules. Changes
must be tracked and auditable, and
techniques such as storyboarding and PDF
mock ups of modules are very useful.
And when it comes to audience, those
within pharmaceuticals could not be more
different to retail – clinicians and
academics as opposed to shelf-stackers. All
these factors influence language, design
and treatment, and the sector specialist will
have a wealth of accumulated knowledge
in how to design effective learning for
these very specific groups.
The sector specialist can provide a deeper
understanding of the client’s brand and
culture and get to a more effective result
faster, saving clients from getting locked
into a single supplier who has just done a
discovery phase.
Alistair Marshall is Production Director at
Intellego Group Limited,
134 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
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ecuring a job is difficult enough
without the added pressure of being
the new kid on the block. You don’t
get a second change to make a first
impression, and one of the biggest concerns
of new starters is making the wrong
impression on the first day.
Many formal induction programmes fall
short as they only begin once a new
employee arrives in the workplace. Typically
they focus on health and safety, and the
responsibilities of the new role. The social
and cultural expectations often aren’t
covered. Yet it seems that these more
elusive aspects of a new role are precisely
what most learners are keen to find out
about. Getting to know the team,
establishing a support network and seeing
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 135
Joining a new company can be intimidating enough without
having to read a hefty manual on the first day. Catherine
Blanchard explains how social media creates a better
environment for new joiners to learn all about the new
company and their roles within it.
how everyone interacts, is often the key to
learning about the company’s culture. So,
what can a learner do to become familiar
with the workings of a new company
between accepting a job offer and showing
up on the first day?
Social learning solutions are increasingly
incorporated into induction programmes.
Formal induction training can also be
incorporated into a custom enterprise
Moodle, making it obligatory for learners
to interact socially with prospective
To be successful, an effective social
learning solution must benefit the
company. There is some debate around the
effectiveness of social learning strategies,
so let’s consider the necessary criteria for a
social learning approach to be effective as
part of an induction. Firstly, the learner
must be motivated. New-job nerves and
the desire to be accepted can motivate a
new starter to learn about their new
company. Input from current employees is
also key, particularly in cases where new
joiners begin a traditional induction
programme having only interacted with a
prospective manager. Surely peers giving
advice, sharing information and playing a
role in the induction, is just as important?
Official induction documents and
company culture statements will have
been internally debated and vetted. A
social networking site can be an effective
informal portal for information about a
company and can be used to communicate
the style and culture to the successful
applicant prior to their first day. This
results in a new starter who has already
been immersed in the company culture
informally. They arrive knowing about the
company’s style and how employees
communicate with each other.
Inductions and training are time
consuming and expensive. Any way of
speeding up the process, by encouraging
new starters to learn before they join,
benefits the business. Social learning
platforms are increasingly important as a
means to communicate the subtleties of a
company’s culture. They can emphasise a
side to the company that can’t be
explained in interviews or on the first day.
Social learning theory pioneer Albert
Bandura*, writes about the different ways
in which we learn socially: by observing,
imitating and modelling. This is borne out
by behaviour on specific social learning
platforms such as a corporate YouTube
channel, forum or networking site. New
starters can observe how employees
interact with each other. Once they start
contributing or asking questions they are
likely to imitate the style of the existing
employees. Then when they head into the
office on their first day, they’re more likely
to embody the company’s culture and to
communicate confidently with their peers,
modelling their style of communication on
what they’ve already observed.
Creating your own social networking site is
a great way to incorporate social learning
into an induction. Make a start by talking
to current employees and find out what
they think would work well. After all, you
need their buy-in to make this a success.
Social learning platforms are also great for
discussing and publicising office events and
company achievements. If you save useful
resources and add links to other sites and
blogs, the social platform will be an
essential go-to for new starters.
A forum, wiki or YouTube channel can be
added later, with all social learning portals
accessed from one homepage or hub. By
introducing one solution with a view to
expansion you will avoid having too many
different portals, none of which is
effectively maintained or monitored.
That’s not to say that a social learning
platform or even an informal addition to
an existing induction programme is always
a good idea. Adjust the current programme
to add the most value. If you’re workforce
is fewer than ten people a social
networking site would probably not work.
Instead, each colleague could prepare a
biography, accessed from a shared space,
for new starters to read on their first day.
The induction could then be adjusted to
include informal one-to-one sessions with
each new colleague.
If you have a larger workforce, you will
struggle if you suddenly attempt to
introduce a large scale solution. it is best
to start small. By making small changes to
a current induction your new starters will
have a solid foundation.
Such improvements will ensure your new
starters’ induction is shorter and easier,
and they will approach their new roles
with more confidence.
136 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Catherine Blanchard is Senior
Instructional Designer at Saffron
Interactive. www.saffroninteractive.com
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 137
138 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
oday’s learners have greater
access to learning resources than
ever before. Online learning,
social and collaborative tools,
video’s, blogs, wiki, whitepapers,
presentations and good old-fashioned
classroom based learning are all just a click
away. Learners have never had it so easy as
organisations invest in self-learning tools to
allow employees to manage their own
development. But with on-demand access
to an unlimited jungle of content both
internally and externally, how do today's
learners identify their own knowledge gaps
and training needs?
Online assessment is not just the post-
training proof of learning, or even the pre-
course training needs analysis. It also
provides what's needed to enable
employees to engage with learning. How?
By allowing them to identify their own
needs and by clearing an individual pathway
to the resources to remedy their personal
areas of weakness - increased engagement
in learning through learner testing.
Assessments are increasing the adoption of
e-learning tools, by pinpointing the right
resources for each individual. One of the
hardest things for learners to embrace is
their own weaknesses. No one likes
admitting knowledge gaps, particularly if
they are not linked to career progression, or
if they’re pertinent to the current role. This
is a key reason why self-learning can be
even more effective for developing new
skills, than for addressing knowledge gaps
that already exist. People don’t know what
they don’t know. How can an individual
benchmark their knowledge against peers
or measure themselves against the
requirements of the role?
The continual drive to improve standards,
procedures and consistency, provide
increasingly complex solutions, embrace
change and ensure compliance with
changing legislation, means that the
requirement for employee knowledge
continues to grow. This knowledge is not
just important at the point of learning – it
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 139
With on-demand access to a plethora of learning resources, how can learners possibly
identify their own knowledge gaps and fulfil their own training needs? Kevin Beales
explains how online assessment clears a path through the learning jungle.
is critical to the continued performance
and development of an individual.
Online tests have always been used to
verify training and ensure its success. The
management information provided allows
individual performance to be analysed,
training groups or teams to be compared
and the success of the training to be
measured. This may often be followed by
periodic tests to ensure retention and
provide refresher training (where required).
But today, online assessments from an
organisation’s own content is key to
engaging employees to take responsibility
for the own learning and development. In
addition, they recognise areas for
improvement and are guided towards
The ability for assessment to create
personalised learning plans allows
individuals to measure their knowledge
against benchmarks and highlight the
relevant resources that will result in
personal improvement and development.
Highlighting strengths also results in a
confidence-boost in other areas.
Employees receive personalised feedback
and text. Feedback can be about
performance on a specific topic, individual
questions that are answered incorrectly,
triggering text and links based around
remedying the specific gap.
Tests, with personalised learning, can be
used organisation wide, and can include
personalised learning plans, inductions,
graduate and management programmes,
product knowledge tests and industry
compliance, each tailored to an employee’s
role, department and country. All you need
is content and a brief. The benefits are not
restricted to L&D and often spread right
across the business.
Microsoft has implemented just such a
personalised learning plan, delivered by The
Test Factory, to meet the challenge for IT
professionals to gain the appropriate
knowledge to deploy Windows 7 within the
With huge amounts of resources available
on the topic, the challenge was one of
directing the IT pros towards the right
information for them, and to remedy any
skills gaps quickly and effectively.
A ‘Windows 7 Deployment Portal’ tested
knowledge across 11 modules, providing
personalised feedback on recognised gaps
and detailing relevant resources. IT
professionals were guided to appropriate
resources and undertook re-takes of tests in
areas of weakness. A record of achievement
demonstrated the knowledge gained.
This programme once launched successfully
in the UK, was extended into eleven
languages including Chinese, Japanese and
Korean. This allowed Microsoft to review
performance across regions and to identify
the areas that were most frequently
marked as incorrect.
The increased ease of assessment creation
has led to widespread adoption in the
corporate environment with custom-built
tests based on industry and organisational
content and requirements. Simple
authoring tools are used to create and
manage questions and tests. Branded
programmes are integrated within an LMS
or e-learning platform.
The use of such programmes has enabled
organisations to reduce costs or wasted
resources - by increasing e-learning
adoption and self-learning and by
eliminating wasted classroom or online
learning – where pre-assessment
demonstrates the appropriate knowledge
already exists.
Perhaps surprisingly, online assessment has
led to an increase in classroom training. So
it’s not all about online resources.
As well as the compelling business benefits,
scientific research has highlighted the
benefits to knowledge retention that
testing can provide. A recent study at
Washington University has showed that
test-enhanced learning, without adding to
student participation time, can dramatically
increase retention. One set of students
studied a topic twice whilst the other set
studied it once prior to a test, within the
same time period. Whilst immediate results
of retention were almost identical, the
retention of knowledge over time was
much higher by those who had been tested.
Generation Y has been brought up on
online assessment. Within many
environments, it brings out competitiveness
in learners and provides others with the
chance to demonstrate their knowledge
and be recognised for it. For example,
contact centres experience this competitive
edge, as individuals and teams strive to
outperform peers.
However, for most organisations, the
management information provided by
assessment provides the greatest benefits.
Reviewing, analysing and benchmarking the
performance of individuals, groups and
teams, and of the whole business, provides
invaluable business intelligence. This real-
time, available on-demand data, helps
businesses make decisions that improve
performance and eliminate costs.
Kevin Beales is Managing Director at The
Test Factory, www.thetestfactory.com.
The ability for assessment to create personalised learning plans
allows individuals to measure their knowledge against
benchmarks and highlight the relevant resources that will result
in personal improvement and development.
140 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills 141
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142 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
December 2010 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills143
Game playing is gaining
acceptance and is now a
serious business due to its
proven success in delivering
results. Chandra Shekhar
Ghildiyal offers some
practical steps to L&D
professionals interested in
trying something new.
ecoming an efficient organisation is
a key outcome of evolved and
modern management thinking. It is
no longer sufficient to just develop
skills, but imperative to promote higher,
demonstrable abilities that convert into
higher efficiencies in business operations.
To meet these business goals, training
managers require a more involved and
rounded approach towards making
efficiency a way of life their organisation.
‘Play is an important part of the learning
experience. When we enjoy learning, we
learn better’ according to Rose and Nicholl
in Accelerated Leaning for the 21st Century.
Skill-based games can be described as
games in which the outcome of the game
is determined by the player’s physical
and/or mental abilities, and not by chance.
Chess is a great example of a pure skill-
based game, as there is no element of luck
impacting the outcome of a game.
Extending this definition into the learning
domain, skill-based serious games are
games in which the outcome is determined
by the player’s ability to demonstrate a
specific set of business critical skills. It can
therefore be inferred that such games can
be directed at building and improving skills
at a tactical level within the organisation.
L&D professionals who wish to embark on
this journey of exploring this new and
exciting format of training, can convert an
existing business need into a practical and
engaging skill-based serious game by the
following process. The following framework
defines a five-step process that helps
training managers develop and deliver a
successful skill-based programme.
STEP 1: Define a business need/outcome
Before commissioning any activity, it is
absolutely critical to identify and link the
skill to be captured in the game, to a
specific business need. The business
outcome of the game must be clearly
understood and articulated before
commencing the project. This outcome will
impact the final design, size and scope of
the project.
For example, if your organisation is looking
at efficiency in the workplace, you can
work with any operations manager to
identify where and what needs to improve.
They are your best sources of information
because they manage organisational
competencies and processes. They will also
be your best customers as they are directly
impacted by the organisational mandate
on efficiency and will therefore be the
biggest beneficiaries of any improvement
in the performance of the trainees.
STEP 2: Define learning objectives
Once the business outcome has been
defined, it is time to identify the skills that
are required to accomplish it. This can get
tricky, as operations managers sometimes
want the entire process to be packaged
within the game. It is up to the designers,
sponsors and stakeholders to determine
how the business outcomes are best met
by looking at measures like frequency and
criticality of errors to guide their decision.
Operations managers in your organisation
will be able to help you identify the skills
required for doing the job well. Some may
be explicitly documented while others are
tacit and based entirely on people’s
experiences. While defining the learning
objectives, it will be useful to capture both
STEP 3: Define Business Rules
A skill-based serious game is designed
around the skills that need to be
demonstrated in real-life. This core of the
game is modelled for high-fidelity to the
business systems, process and/or rules.
Therefore, it is imperative that the business
systems and skills related to the process
are captured and integrated into the game
STEP 4: Design and develop
While the previous steps are clearly in the
training and instructional domain, this
step requires a game designer to define
rules and mechanics that will provide the
challenge and excitement in the game. A
well-designed game must offer its player
tremendous intrinsic motivation to engage
in repeated attempts to master the game
The TATA framework for example,
recommends following a simple, four-
component design approach comprising:
1. Business rules,
2. Game rules,
3. Game mechanics and
4. Game skin.
With the Business Rules falling into place,
we are now ready to design the wrappers
that would make the game challenging
and exciting enough for the learners to
play again and again. Motivational theory
researchers, Leper and Malone in Making
Learning Fun: A Taxonomy of Intrinsic
Motivations for Learning, proposed that
fantasy, control, curiosity, challenge,
competition, cooperation and recognition
promote intrinsic motivation in a player. A
good balance between controls and
mechanics will ensure that the game is not
too easy (boredom) or too difficult
STEP 5: Deliver and measure
It is always preferable to define the
business outcome in terms of specific
measures that are already being used in
the organisation to evaluate the success of
the project.
One example is a game about an
application form validation of a new credit
card customer, developed by bank in the
Middle East. The business goal was to
reduce rate of rejection due to incorrect
validation, from a high of fifty per cent
down to an acceptable twenty per cent in
the first six months! The game was one of
the tools used to accomplish this
ambitious goal.
Even in the absence of specific measures, it
is important to articulate secondary
measures or construct new measures that
can be used to evaluate the project’s
success. For example, the number of times
a user plays the game itself is an indicator
of the level of interest the game offers.
Hence a count of discrete game-plays is a
good first-level indicator. A secondary
measure to this indicator is the time that
the player spent in the learning content.
Another measure could be based on the
improvement in the score over multiple
sessions. Since the score is intricately tied
to the player’s performance in the game,
this improvement can be argued as a
demonstrable measure of success.
Prevviously confined to academic circles,
games are now rapidly finding their way
into corporate training programmes. This is
probably because companies realise that
they are currently recruiting a bunch of
people who have no patience with the
traditional approaches to training. Most of
these recruits would have been playing
games all their lives and are as
comfortable with this form of
entertainment, as their parents were with
the television. Even decision makers in
these companies have grown up on a
healthy diet of games. They don’t look at
games with the same scepticism that their
predecessors did, probably due to a lack of
The extensive media coverage of games
like Brain Age (a game that is supposed to
improve your brain activity that sold over
11 million copies worldwide on the
Nintendo DS), America’s Army (a training
programme spin-off used as a promotional
game by the US Army) and Second Life
(social networking in a 3D virtual space)
has helped establish serious games as a
legitimate training methodology.
144 Inside Learning Technologies & Skills December 2010
Skill-based serious game helps
grow customer base
When ‘growing the customer base’ was
identified as a key organisational
initiative at a leading bank in India,
operations managers involved in
opening new accounts discovered that
a large number of applications were
being rejected because of insufficient
or incorrect customer information.
Every rejection resulted in a waste of
time and effort for both the bank and
its customer. Against this background,
the ‘Advance Outbreak Force’ game was
designed to improve the skills required
to validate the eight-page application
In the game, players have to disinfect
a series of application forms (skill
challenge) in order to control the
spread of an epidemic (time challenge).
They do so by systematically
eliminating all potential violations until
they arrive at the correct diagnosis.
They score points for every error
caught and lose points for every error
missed. The final score in the game is a
reflection of their ability to do this
efficiently and accurately.
Skill-based games are those in which the outcome is
determined by the player’s ability to demonstrate a specific set
of business-critical skills.
Chandra Shekhar Ghildiyal is Practice
Head – Serious Games at Tata Interactive
Systems. For more information visit

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