Archive for April 2012
Adobe commissioned a global study on creativity and released it this week. It’s an interesting and light read, since it’s mostly charts and graphs. It’s nice to see that around the world, (or at least in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan) we agree that people are inherently creative, irrespective of age and opportunity to share our creative products online. A minority of the respondents believed themselves to be creative, but most figure they are not living up to their creative potential. We all tend to value that creative spark in ourselves. Most of us do most of our creating outside of work hours, but spend 20-30% of work time in creative pursuits, as well.
Adobe, of course, is very interested in selling tools for creativity, and training on these tools, so their questions, and interpretations of the answers to them, might be just a touch self-serving. But I do find it interesting that 23-38% of respondents expressed interest in training on how to use creative tools. Whether it’s lessons in oils and watercolors, or the latest photoshop, many of us recognize that upskilling is part of the process in becoming more effective creators.
Of course, upskilling in our not-so-creative work might be another road to creativity. Becoming more efficient and effective in ourwork would help us address the major barriers people see to creativity – lack of time and money!
I remember the first demonstration I ever saw of mobile learning some years back at one of Elliott Masie’s conferences. A person from IBM had a beautiful slide show that took us through a scenario where a sales person on a commuter train had to prepare for a Big Sales Meeting. From his phone, he accessed information about the account. He then looked up potential sales objections, and reviewed his sales binder for ways to address each. He found professional information about the key players, and reached out for a quick help question to members of his team. At the time, it seemed quite magical and the value-add was obvious to all of us.
A second early slideshow dealt with mobile learning via wearable computers. A technician was repairing something inside an access panel on the tail of a Boeing 747. Using his wearable arm-piece, he looked at the instruction manual for the electronic widget he was fixing. It was pointed out that not only was he on a scaffold a couple stories high, but the nearest kiosk was a hundred yards away – he was learning at the point of need.
Both of these were – and are – powerful examples of mobile learning, but we need to use a broader view of learning as we think of them. We could perhaps more accurately refer to them as mobile performance support, understanding that performance support is a type of just-in-time, just-enough informal, self-directed learning.
As we have thought about how to support our customers on the go, we’ve been thinking more and more about what types of learning are best optimized for the “m-experience.”
Turning Training on its Head
A couple years ago, we introduced our knowledge management module to the eCampus. It is a process mapping tool that allows our customers to map the workflow of a job such as project management, claim adjusting, or even an instructional design model like ADDIE.
The process is displayed in a collapsible menu on the left, made of steps and sub-steps. When you get to a step, you don’t just see a bunch of files you have to fish through; you see a concise description of the essential parts of that step, presented in a template. For example you might see who is responsible, required inputs, step by step procedure, outputs, and who they are provided to. On the right you see resources appropriate to that step – worksheets, supporting documents, etc. You also see links to relevant experts, help forums, wikis.
You also see – for each step – any relevant eLearning modules. Our customers make quick 3-5 minute “knowledge nuggets” designed to teach one thing, and fit into the support system. This is the secret sauce that can turn training on its head. Rather than going to something called an LMS and browsing through catalogues to take something called a course, the knowledge base becomes the persistent performance support system from which learning is launched as needed.
What’s your Mobile Learning Strategy?
As you think about your organization supporting mobile, how do you visualize it? For informal, social learning, is anything needed other than apps for Yammer, Chatter, or whatever your social platform is?
Do you think about people taking traditional eLearning courses, except published in HTML5 to be IOS compatible? Peering at little screens at social simulations, taking training games, or simply reading page after page of death-by-PowerPoint-called-eLearning?
Or do you think more of people learning by googling information they need? Cause honestly that’s what’s happening.
For myself, I tend to think that knowledge management and performance support are going to really come into their own as organizations start converting their intellectual property, best practices, and P&Ps for electronic consumption. This is wildly different than making horrible PDFs out of horrible Word documents. It’s a matter of thinking carefully about what information workers need to answer 80% of their questions, and organizing that information so it can be easily browsed and searched in a performance support system, and making that system accessible to mobile users.
That’s my thinking on a foggy spring day in 2012, anyway.
What I think mobile learning means to LEARNERS is pretty clear. It is the ability to access learning experiences on a phone or tablet, something you can take with you, rather than being glued to a desktop or laptop computer. As somebody who routinely works from my laptop while my husband drives the car, I had always included laptop-based things as mobile, but my 23-year-old medical student son regards the laptop as much too clunky to pull out on his morning bus ride – he moves stuff to his Nook so he can review it there. Apparently, laptop-on-the-go is totally last century, so for the purposes of this post, I shall treat as m-learning those learning activities which can be accessed from a tablet or smartphone.
Mobile standing still with connectivity? Or mobile on-the-move?
If you’re moving to m-learning to reach people who have phones/tablets but not laptops, who need access to reference tools, or who will be taking formal courses while in their offices or in other places where there is a stable internet connection, you have fewer limitations than if you are moving to m-learning to reach people who are literally moving in space while participating in interactive group learning activities. Most of the excitement in m-learning seems to be around the ability to reach people-on-the-move, but I see some serious issues there.
The thing that’s great about having the Internet in your pocket is that you can, at a moment’s notice, decide to google up the answer to a question you have, or download that document or video you’ve been meaning to review – IF you happen to have Internet connectivity at that moment. So if you have performers who need to reference stuff when they are not in front of their computers, it’s not hard to make the case that it would be a good idea to have performance support tools that are accessible via the computer in the pocket.
The state of connectivity, though, is such that it’s not possible to assume that an on-the-move learner will have uninterrupted Internet access for the duration of a learning activity. So it seems that for now, anyway, interactive learning activities (as distinguished from reference tools) for mobile-on-the-move folks need to be asynchronous and down-and-uploadable, so that they can run “untethered” from the Internet. In service of this need, there are now ways to author and serve SCORM-compatible e-learning modules which permit the learner to download the module and later upload her results.
Just as connectivity and noise issues make it problematic to schedule a conference call for a time when several participants will be in transit, scheduling a class via web meeting, or even a simple group voice discussion isn’t really a viable option with on-the-move users, for now.
There are some human elements which also need to be considered. Older learners (and people on bumpy rides!) may have difficulty, visually, with the small format required by phone-based activities. Transit time is usually PERSONAL time for our learners. Many commuters have that pesky task of driving to attend to during their travel to and from work and clients. Others commute in noisy trains or busses which are not exactly conducive to strong attention or reflection.
As with most new initiatives, getting a sense of the needs of the audience is the very first step. Are you trying to reach people who use mobile hardware while sitting in a quiet place? Or people who have mobile hardware and are moving through various spaces? Is this use a quick lookup of reference material? Or a more involved learning activity requiring reflection and feedback?