Archive for June 2012



Get the Boss Involved!

Q.  In the corporate world, what is the #1 determining factor whether learning transfer takes place?
A.  How involved the boss is in the process!

Because our xPERT eCampus social learning platform is uniquely suited to supporting robust training to proficiency learning solutions, I end up having lots of conversations with workplace learning professionals who are concerned about learning transfer.  As you can imagine, the question: “What’s the #1 factor impacting learning transfer?” is a hot topic of discussion and debate.  The answers cover the waterfront – everything from quality content to scheduled mini-content reminders to SME coaching to self-directed communities of practice and on and on.  Don’t get me wrong, I think all of these activities can and do make a real contribution to learning transfer.  However, in my far too many years of experience in the work world the number one determining factor of whether learning transfer consistently take place is whether or not the learner’s manager is actively involved in the learning process.

You will notice that I didn’t use the words “management support.”  Management support typically means the leadership is behind any corporate effort in spirit and they say all the right words we ask them to say.  Active involvement means at a minimum that the learner’s boss:

  1. Has a conversation with the learner before the person attends training to clarify the reason the boss sees the training as a good thing and to discuss mutual expectations for what the learner is to do with what they learn from the training when they get back on the job.
  2. Is required to verify that their subordinate is applying what they learned on the job.

Ideally the boss would be held accountable for much more in terms of coaching & mentoring their people in the use of they’re being taught.  The two steps above are, in our experience, the minimum effort required if the organization expects to get any real results.

The reason boss active involvement is critical is for a very simple reason:  Employees tend to pay attention to what the boss pays attention to. Paying attention to that which engages our bosses is part of our natural pre-disposition to follow the leader, and to do what the leader/boss asks us to do.  (Especially if the boss is checking up to see if we’re doing it.)
Invariably, I get a lot of wringing of hands and serious push back when I get strident about these two points.  The push back takes the form of the following kinds of comments:

1.  Our managers are too busy. We can’t ask them to spend two 15-30 minute meetings with their direct reports to calibrate on expectations and monitor application.

My response: If they are too busy to have a conversation with the learner before training to calibrate expectations and afterwards to check on application then the training must not be that important.  Save your money and everybody’s time.

2.      We trust our learners. We don’t want to be perceived as looking over our people’s shoulders and making them think we don’t trust them.

My response:  It has nothing to do with trust.  Monitoring and reinforcing the learner’s acquisition of any new knowledge and skill (present company included) is part of what is required for most everyone to master something new.  So, get over it.

3.  To tell you the truth, our managers are crummy coaches.  They would more than likely just screw it up.  It would be better to leave them out of it.

My response:  Maybe if training to proficiency is important to your organization you might want to consider adding a component of the learning solution to train your managers on how to coach. (We’ve been doing this for years.)

4.  We can’t monitor & track whether all those boss/learner conversations take place.  Our LMS can’t do it and I don’t have enough resources to manually track it.

My response:  I just so happen to know of a learning system that can solve that problem for you — Q2 Learning’s xPERT eCampus!  Give us a call, we’d be pleased to show you how!

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Is it time to “flip” your courses?

The educational world is abuzz with the concept of flipping. I initially saw it in response to the K-12 modules made available at Kahn Academy.   Teachers have been sufficiently impressed with the quality of the content presentation available at Kahn, that they have started “outsourcing” lecture to Kahn, and now spend class time helping their students work out the problems assigned to develop skill with using the concepts.   This “flips” the traditional use of time.  “Homework” is watching the Kahn lecture, class time is spent working the problems.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who, having met a complete roadblock in trying to solve a problem set, threw up her hands in despair.  How GREAT it would have been to have the teacher at my side, asking me the right coaching questions to help me find my way!

To some extent, this was part of the early promise of elearning – being able to move the consumption of the content presentation out of the shared classroom enabled learners to choose a convenient time to get the basic information.  Unfortunately, we haven’t been that great about structuring coached opportunities to question and apply that learning, and as a result, the behavior change we see from these module-only ‘training’ opportunities is sub par.

Even our premier universities have decided that simply moving the lectures online isn’t enough – and they don’t have to demonstrate behavior change as an outcome for their efforts!   Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, realizing that social media like forums are especially effective for supporting the human-to-human interaction around material which is essential to support the integration of material into learners’ mindsets, have started to integrate these elements into their learning platforms
We’ve been doing the same for over a decade.  If you’re ready to “flip” or perhaps add a new online social element to your courses,  we can help you design and deliver an effective learning experience, give us a call.

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Blended Learning Design: Key Practice 2






We believe there are five key practices in designing blended learning programs that map against the levels of competency and learning timeline. The second of these is Questioning. After adult learners hear, see, or experience new content, they need to assimilate it into their current cognitive structures. The first way they usually do this is by testing it against their own experience, which often leads to questions.

It’s important to note that, in this sense, questions aren’t FAQs – the five most common questions people ask. Those can and should be answered in the presentation of content. These are questions about how new concepts can be applied in what the learner considers her unique situation, or questions about how new concepts relate to previously learned ones.

These questions required adaptive answers from a living human being, not cute pictures of “the coach” that talks you through a canned response to an elementary question.

We see designing for questions as part of the basic knowledge level of competency, and can and should be taught during the instructional phase of the blended learning program.

Depending on the content, questions can be taken in instructor-led training, same time web meetings or conference calls, or asynchronously (but publicly) with forum posts or similar social media.

Key take aways are that:

  • Adult learners question content
  • These questions require adaptive answers from living human beings
  • This is all part of the instruction phase.

Future posts in this series will address other key practices.

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