The Future of the Training Department
I'll start off with the most provocative item in this roundup, a blog posting from Harold Jarche titled "The Future of the Training Department." Jarche begins with a whirlwind tour of the history of training, why it developed as it did, why it made sense and worked well enough, and so on. But then along lines similar to columns and postings written by his colleague Jay Cross over the past year, Jarche notes that the world has changed and that people in organization's "training departments" had better change too, or potentially face extinction as such. Jarche's thoughts on this subject, like those of Cross and others, are provocative to say the least, and should be a wake-up call to any learning leaders who are changing very slowly or continuing to do basically the same things they have always done. While you're at Harold's blog, see also his many other excellent posts from this past month, especially his "Increased Complexity Needs Simplified Design," which makes several valuable points about informal learning.
Low-Costs LMSs Do Exist
The August/September issue of Elearning! magazine included an article by Jerry Roche titled "LMSs for Less Than $20,000." In these tough economic times, where everyone is being asked to do more with less (or in some cases making the tough decisions to do less with less), understanding how to maximize value from your Learning Management System is critical for learning leaders. The article starts by noting the absolutely critical point: The trick is finding an LMS that meets your needs, while not buying more LMS than you need. In other words, hitting the sweet spot while spending as little as possible. With this as the context, the good news is that in some cases, a low price tag no longer equates to less functionality than you need. Some low-cost LMSs now include not only basic tracking of e-Learning, but also features such as ILT classroom management, advanced reporting, and even collaborative Web 2.0 features such as forums, blogs, wikis, and more. Element K's KnowledgeHub LMS is one such platform that provides all of these and more. While many in the industry know of Element K for our award-winning e-Learning and print ILT courseware content, in recent years we have spent a lot of effort into building out our KnowledgeHub LMS platform, so we are pleased to be included in this article's listing of low-cost LMSs you should be considering.
If you are in the market for an LMS, another good recent resource to share with you is Clive Shepherd's posting on "The 21st Century LMS," which includes a PDF of the results of a recent gathering of the eLearning Network, and in particular their activity to "identify what was required in an LMS that was fit for the 21st Century."
Don't be Scared to Evaluate
In the August/September issue of Elearning! magazine, Diane Valenti wrote on the importance of evaluation in "Scared to Evaluate? Return on Learning Is Your Lifeline." After introducing the subject and posing the normal difficult questions regarding training ROI, Valenti describes a good example of the role that accountability can play in driving ROI: it can be the extra push users need to apply what they learn from training to their actual jobs. She notes that ROI doesn't always need to be calculated, but does when training "is the solution, in whole or in part, to a specific business challenge. Such challenges could include an increase in customer complaints or employee turnover, a drop in sales or profit margin, or even a lack of leadership bench strength." She then walks the reader through the three high-level steps of determining ROI: determining the benefits of training, determining the costs of training, and finally calculating the value of the training. For each, step she gives useful examples to help anyone new to this process. A recommended read for both novices and veterans alike: you definitely don't need to be scared to evaluate!
Big Question: New Presenter and Learner Methods and Skills?
The latest "big question" at ASTD's Learning Circuits blog is "New Presenter and Learner Methods and Skills?" The list of more focused questions can be pretty well summed up with two concerns: multitasking and backchannel. That is, how can trainers and presenters best handle the inevitable multitasking and backchannel chatter that occurs during their classes and sessions? And what are the best practices for us on the other side, as learners and audience members? As a conference speaker myself, I've certainly been thinking about this a lot lately, especially as the phenomenon that is Twitter has made live-backchannel discussions a reality at almost every presentation at every conference. The response postings to this "big question" come from great industry bloggers including Tony Karrer, Clark Quinn, Clive Shepherd, and others. See also Karrer's additional posting highlighting some of the salient points raised by everyone else.
A Corporate Social Media Use Example: SabreTown
The September 2009 issue of T+D Magazine, in an article titled "Letting Go" (ASTD membership required), provided another good example of using social media technologies in a corporation, this time from Sabre Holdings. The center of their application, SabreTown, revolves around employee-completed profiles, complete with areas of expertise, and online discussion boards. When people ask questions, the system notifies the people it considers to have the most relevant expertise, an innovative way to drive conversation and knowledge exchange. The article details numerous best practices and lessons learned at Sabre, including the following and more:
- Maximize the value of the system by making sure it is used to the greatest extent. In particular, the advice given suggests keeping it simple, making the tool easy to use for all, not worrying about making it perfect technologically, building it to mimic how people already communicate (e.g., Q&A), and not letting it lose its meaning by building it into something larger
- Promote behavior that will increase trust in the system.
- Seed the system with questions and answers for the first month or two by selecting some people to "overuse it."
- In communications about the system, keep returning to its value.
The article notes that SabreTown is credited with substantial savings for the company, including $500,000 in direct savings in the first year. But, based on strong anecdotal evidence, that figure doesn't come close to representing the total savings they are seeing. A truly impressive case study!
New Whitepaper: Social Learning Introduction
Harold Jarche recently announced a new whitepaper, "Social Learning Introduction", from the new "idea lab" group Collaborative Enterprise. A group-authored whitepaper, each writer gave their unique perspective on the question: "How would you describe social learning and why is it important for today's enterprise?" Included are insights from Clark Quinn, Charles Jennings, George Siemens, Jay Cross, and eight others.
22 Power Laws
Dion Hinchcliffe wrote an outstanding article at ZDNet.com titled "Twenty-Two Power Laws of the Emerging Social Economy." Definitely a good read, possibly one of the most thought-provoking things you will read all year. Some of the "laws" he covers will be well-known to you, such as Moore's law, the Long Tail, the Pareto principle, or even Metcalfe's law. But many of the others will be new to you, so I strongly recommend you read this article and consider which of these "power laws" are a major driver for your organization. And for additional reflections, see also Tony Karrer's comments on Dion's article.
Updates from Element K
I'll again end this roundup posting with links to our newsletter service that we launched in June. Each newsletter includes several articles of relevance to the Learning and Development field, as well as updates about Element K events and our latest product releases. You can see the latest newsletters here: June, July, August, September, October, and November.
— Thomas Stone (Tom_Stone@elementk.com)