Learning BQ How do you support learner’s on demand needs?

How do you support learner’s on demand needs? How do you make best use of subject matter experts? How do you make something from nothing? For all three questions the answer is the same. I Moodle.

Moodle Open Source LMS
Moodle, a free open source customizable Learning Management System (LMS), offers distinct advantages for companies, businesses, and universities alike. With Moodle, there are no licensing fees and no proprietary ownership. As an open source LMS, anyone can download and install Moodle for free. Moodle, Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, is based on a social constructivist pedagogy developed by Martin Dougiamas in 2001. Today, with over 1,000,000 teachers in over 200 countries and 4 and a half million courses online, Moodle offers a stable and robust learning platform with Web 2.0 capabilities for wikis, forums, blogs, chats, online assignments, and assessment. With content delivery and tracking, communication and collaborations tools, online assessment and marking, and integration with PayPal, LDAP, and HRIS, Moodle makes sense for lean operations large and small.

Moodle offers great flexibility, because you can readily add, move, and modify course material. With more than 10% of all universities worldwide using Moodle, it is the Linux of the LMS. In keeping with its open source philosophy, Moodle accepts a wide variety of plug-ins ranging from smart academic calendars, social network capabilities, grade management, virtual classrooms, VOIP, e-commerce and a wide array of other possibilities. With Moodle, you can develop instructional materials, while allowing 24/7 course access to faculty, instructors, trainers, SMEs, and students. Moodle provides the infrastructure to deliver and manage content, identify and assess performance, track progress, collect data, and report on an organization, its courses, and individuals.

Constructivist Pedagogy & Platform
Moodle encourages constructivism by providing avenues for students to collaborative in learning activities. It consists of a valuable learning environment where learners build upon the collective knowledge of each other. The best part about the Moodle platform is it ensures learners receive help from instructors, tutors, peers, and SMEs in a timely fashion. With most LMS platforms, students are essentially isolated from instructors, tutors and each other. Learners who take a course through such a LMS do not experience a sense of attending a class. Instead, they may feel lost, alienated, and left on their own, because the system does not provide a built-in way to encourage, motivate, and coach one another. With a rich toolset of activities and resources, Moodle’s activities help to raise awareness and motivate learners by allowing an instructor to establish context and students to share their experiences. With constructivism, learning is viewed as a social activity, where knowledge is actively constructed through problem solving.

Knowledge, Benefits, & Value
The general benefits of using Moodle for teachers, trainers, and facilitators include the ease with which you can incorporate a variety of activities and communication strategies. A Moodle course can be designed to support a full spectrum of instructional roles from a traditional expository lecturer to an egalitarian facilitator. Yet the most powerful tools in Moodle require participants to interact with one another and collaborate while they construct knowledge in wikis, forms, labs, and assignments. For companies of all sizes, a Moodle install or cloud service is a no brainer when compared to software service providers like Saba, SumTotal, and Cornerstone OnDemand. I began working with Moodle in 2006 and I’m an advocate of its use in companies as well as schools.

Moodle, moodleMethods, and Moodle in the Cloud
See http://www.skilledge.net/moodle.html.

What is agile or eXtreme training development?

When do you use agile development?
Agile development is more than a trend

April 30, 2011

I took time to respond to the April BQ, because I am currently working for an overzealous high octane client who does not know what they want and they want it now! Does this sound familiar? Moreover, I was laughing so much from Jay’s comment that I did not want to spoil the levity.

To answer the question in a world of constant interrupt, instant demand, and I want it the day before yesterday even though it’s undefined today, as a consultant you have the following options:

  • Sleep less and work more.
  • Hire help and earn less.
  • Compromise quality.
  • Some or all of the above.

Although, I never want to be accused of discouraging anyone from poking fun at Tony, I do want to stand to his defense because the question does have merit in the context of the right scenario. With this in mind, let’s begin by repainting the scenario before seriously responding to the question.
Your CIO, CTO, or most likely the CFO calls you into the office to discuss an upcoming enterprise application under development. In the discussion, you learn the company is upgrading their CRM, financials, back office, front office, audit, HR, or a highly used, extremely strategic, and most importantly critical to operations system. During the discussion, you learn that the development team is using an “agile” or “eXtreme” application development approach which differs from the conventional gather customer requirements, write specifications, develop to milestones, and release approach, which typically applies to enterprise application development.

Agile Characteristics
In the “agile” or “eXtreme” model, releases occur rapidly, like every four to six weeks, requirements are fulfilled based on how quickly the work can be done as opposed to the customer priority, and the robustness of the application increments over time with each release. (Also don’t forgot, requirements are simultaneously collected post release in the form of complaints about poor performance, lack of functionality, and bugs.)

As you may gather, the challenges to training with an “agile” or “eXtreme” development team are formidable and include the following:

  • Legacy systems never truly go away.
  • Change management occurs throughout the duration of development and more.
  • System performance generally is slower than a legacy system because load and heap management are not attended to until later in development.
  • Users’ perceptions of the system are generally negative until a couple of months after the ‘final’ release when application support is considered “maintenance”.
  • Training development occurs during a period when the application functionality often does not exist or fails to function properly until a few days before release.

In this scenario, when the CFO says, “I want new and updated training every four to six weeks to parallel agile releases,” what strategy do you execute?
Agile Drivers
As you probably surmise agile application development requires agile and eXtreme training development. This über approach requires a rethinking, retooling, and redirection of the conventional ADDIE methodology, because it redefines the role, activities, and deliverables of a training developer. This past year I read an article by Elliott Masie and a recent post by Kasper Spiro, who introduce agile development, yet neglect to provide the context for its use, which makes the concept appear more ID trendy than in concert with a larger development effort.

I began engaging in agile development efforts in 2005 at Wells Fargo during the release of a PeopleSoft CRM for their Private Client Services. In 2006 I co-wrote a white paper with Rosendo Gonzalez, and presented the article, eXtreme Application Development, Learning Models and Risk Management, at the International Conference on Distance Education (ICDE) in Rio de Janeiro. Internationally, my article and presentation were highly attended mostly by people from outside of North America except for the Canadians, because agile application development was already an ongoing course of action. The primary reason and driver indubitably relates to cost management considerations and operations, because agile development can provide a means to more effectively manage costs over time. For this reason in the scenario, you speak to the CFO.

Since 2005, four out of five of my consults are in concert with an agile application development effort. To learn the nomenclature, context, and expectations influencing the role and execution of agile and eXtreme training development, please see eXtreme Application Development, Learning Models and Risk Management.


How do you measure the value of informal learning?

March 13, 2011
For this month’s BQ, this post speaks addresses the needs of instructional designers, media developers, trainers, and anyone who seeks to incorporate social networks, free infrastructure, and open source applications to improve human performance and operational effectiveness.

To answer this month’s BQ, I will:
•    Reveal the meaning of informal learning
•    Identify free immediately available informal learning applications
•    Tell you how to measure informal learning
•    Demonstrate how to measure informal learning
•    Show you the results and relate what I learned

To begin before you can ask how to measure informal learning, you must first answer what do I measure? To do so, you must be clear on the meaning of informal learning.


What is informal learning? What do you measure?
You cannot answer the ‘how’ to measure question without determining ‘what’ to measure first. Many times I am asked by peers, educators, and people interested in the transfer of knowledge and skills the question, what is ‘informal learning’. For the ‘how’ question, most often responses do not point to actual examples. Instead, you hear informal learning relates to social media, its potential value, and users prefer it. Oddly, no one can provide a real instance.

To state it simply, informal learning is anything you use, any means you take, and anyway anyone helps you to acquire knowledge, develop skills, and learn. For the over 50 crowd, you maybe asking yourself, ‘do you mean informal learning relates to things like books, phone conversations, and a co-worker showing me how to do my job?’ While texters and tweeters are likely texting and tweeting, ‘u mean informal lrnin is like TW, txt, IM, n Facebook?’
Well, the answer to both questions is an affirmative ‘Yes’ with conviction. To state clearly the meaning, informal learning relates to any means, technology, and technique used to learn outside of a classroom or formal learning event. In essence any means you use to teach yourself, develop, and problem solve through human intervention and media constitute an informal learning experience.

What makes informal learning different from formal learning is the following distinction: informal learning is not driven by a company led initiative, educational institution, sponsored training event, formal coaching, courseware provider, learning management systems, SaaS, etc. These are the instruments and infrastructure of formal learning. However, this is also where the definition between formal and informal learning become blurry, because in an unstructured way, informal learning leverages and consists of formal learning instruments, infrastructure, and people too.
What are informal learning examples?

To provide examples, I will now identify some common and immediately available free ways to introduce informal learning into a company, educational institution, and non-profit organization.
•    IM particularly among remote and field professionals
•    Twitter real time availability, product changes, needs, and events
•    Integrate Uudutu with Facebook or Linked In as an ad-hoc LMS and authoring tool
•    Release animation, video, and presentations to YouTube
•    Share files and collaborate through Google Docs

By following my suggestions, you can immediately make the sharing and restricting of knowledge available to everyone or specific groups for free. For those of you who are involved in training, professional development, teaching, and coaching as a bonus, I am now going to identify a few free formal learning tools you can use to deliver informal learning.
•    Model courses with chat, wikis, and blogs
•    Dimdim virtual classes with voice over IP
•    Skype coaching and mentoring relationships

Through these methods, you reduce the cost of your infrastructure and operational platform to free and you are likely to begin to see the value of informal learning.

When leveraging free and open source technologies, applications, and platforms, the question how do you measure the value of free is a question best answered by the companies who provide the services.

For measuring the ‘learning’ of informal learning, I would like to share a story before I show you how. In the 1990’s I had the distinct privilege to work with Jakob Nielsen at Sun on the usability for the initial sun dot com website. During the study, Jakob would say after three studies you are splitting hairs of standard deviation.
I find this an enlightening perspective and key for making real time decisions in the field. By applying his guideline when you ask a question to three subjects, you gain sufficient information to spot a trend and take action. To take more time to observe, record, and measure, fails to add value, when you could take corrective action instead.
To answer how to measure informal learning the answer is to ask a few top performers.
What do you ask? Who do you ask?

As an easy example, let’s look at a specific case study. To provide background, suppose you observe a high performing team use a free and immediately available instant messaging application throughout the day. From your observation, you wonder perhaps by making IM standard on company equipment people might informally learn, thereby, becoming more effective on the job.
To assess your hypothesis, you decide to ask those engaging in the activity as opposed to asking the whole company. Please consider, why would you ask those who do not use it? What could they tell you about the value? In this case, does more input help you to see the trend and benefits? Next before you ask the team, inform them of the intent so they can think about the topic beforehand. In other words, ask them for quality thinking rather than impulse responses. Finally, conduct a qualitative discussion and include a short survey to help summarize findings and set a course of action.


What questions do you ask?

For your questions, make them behavior based. In this case, how someone ‘feels’ about their experience is meaningless. Focus on behaviors. Using this approach, I asked five operational professionals about their use of IM at work and how it specifically relates to learning on the job. The remainder of this post provides the questions, responses, and corrective actions.

Survey Questions

How important is IM to performing your daily work?
1) Not Important; 2) A little important; 3) Somewhat important; 4) Important; 5) Critically important

How much do you use IM in a day?
1) One to two times a day; 2) Four to five times a day; 3) One to two times an hour 4) More than eight to ten times a day; 5) Too many to count)

Related to learning, how many new or critical items do you learn in a day through IM?
1) One to two a day; 2) Three to four a day; 3) Five to eight a day; 4) More than eight a day; 5) Too many to count)

In terms of learning and acquiring information you need to perform your work on a daily basis, what tool is most important? Pick one. 1) eMail; 2) IM 3) Phone; 4) Intranet homepage; 5) Training

How would you describe the receipt of IMs throughout the day?
1) Highly Disruptive; 2) Disruptive; 3) A little disruptive; 4) Not disruptive; 5) Part of daily workflow.

As you see from the analysis, focus on the mode. The average is meaningless.


What do you learn and what actions do you take?

As you can see from the data and analysis, IM is a critical frequently used tool by staff to learn on the job. The big ‘ahah’ moment for me was the revelation the need for training organically drives informal learning and professionals value formal learning.

As a trainer and performance consultant, I could not be happier nor have a better instrument to discuss with decision makers how to make best use of people, technology, resources, time, and training.
As a final point by adding two subjects after three studies did I learn something new or did the additional information reinforce an already established trend? In the case described like many, your course of action remains the same while the collection of more information takes you away from the critical corrective actions to take. In conjunction with this approach, I am generally perplexed by learning professionals who indicate a level 3 transfer of training evaluation is too time consuming to perform. IMHO, I do not believe this to be true while it missing the true indicator of training and developments value to an organization.
Read the actual survey responses and assessment of the data.

I Get the First Post!

Welcome. I’m just gloating over getting the first post. Now Thomas has to think of something to say. Enjoy, and thank you for your contributions in advance.