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eLearning with Social Media: The Perfect Marriage?

“Learning and teaching are not inherently linked. Much learning takes place without teaching, and indeed much teaching takes place without learning.” Jane Bozarth


Two weeks ago, our feature story focused on the pros and cons of eLearning. Linked-In’s HR Group recently ran a survey with 700 members, 59% having taken four or more eLearning courses. While 56% felt ‘increasing amounts of professional training will be through eLearning courses’, a paltry 8.5% felt ‘eLearning courses are usually of a high standard’.


The most important influences on choice of eLearning course are a relevant description (72%), the course supplier’s reputation (60%), attractive price (49%) and certification credits (45%). Some people emphasized the importance of ‘easy access, anytime, anywhere’, stressing the importance of ‘less time out of the office for training because this way I can engage with the content when I am most able to learn & retain the information’. Others wanted courses to take ‘an hour or less to complete’ and one noted they should ‘deliver value commensurate with price: less expensive may not provide good value’.


The influence of social media was clear from many comments, with one respondent suggesting ‘some form of social collaboration & someone who comes in once in a while to facilitate reflection would make eLearning win’. Another noted ‘my biggest issue with eLearning is the limited ability (or total inability) to interact with the session leader & fellow participants’. 64% of respondents agreed with the idea of ‘being able to refer to a professional advisor’, with one asking for ‘real time support, so when a particular concept is not understood there is an alternative learning intervention available’.


This was borne out by 49% suggesting ‘being able to correspond with fellow students’ would add to the appeal of a course, while 53% would value course rankings & 48% would appreciate reviews from previous students. One respondent wanted ‘solid and verifiable references and personal experiences from former participants’, while others sought the facility to ‘take a test run through a course’ or ‘trial samples’. But interactivity with fellow students & the tutor was a key, with respondents seeking friendliness, fun, engagement & encouragement to change their thinking & behavior.


Conclusion: There is a plethora of substandard eLearning courses. Many eLearning students have clear ideas on how to improve them; many of those ideas relate to Social Media principles. Is greater interactivity the route forward for eLearning? It appears so.







Reflections on Independence Day

As we get ready to celebrate the 4th of July, my thoughts shift to the concept of independence. Webster initiates a definition of independence as “not subject to control by others”. Unless you are living self-sufficiently on an island by yourself with no governance, who is not subject to control by others? Virtually all humankind is subject to laws, regulations, the actions of others, and social constraints, some justified, some not. 


The Founding Fathers of this country didn't like being controlled, they believed in liberty and freedom. The foundation we call the Declaration of Independence and Constitution was established to protect rights, and freedom from government overreach. While they are praiseworthy documents, a document cannot guarantee true independence any more than a drive on the freeway can guarantee safety. Independence is really a myth, and the reality is that we are interdependent. We depend on others to generate electricity, supply us with goods, support us with our projects, and for human comfort, among other things.


Perhaps this time is better spent over the weekend acknowledging our interdependence, and reflecting on the strength of our business and personal connections. It may be cause for celebration, or inspiration for change.















Anyone Got A Problem With E-LEARNING?

Not many – judging by some stats. The amount spent on eLearning has grown by around 60 percent over the last three years. Within five years it is forecast around half of all college classes will be based on eLearning. More than 40 percent of global Fortune 500 companies already use educational technology to instruct employees.


According to a report from IBM, companies utilizing eLearning tools have the potential to boost productivity by up to 50 percent. The analysts say return on investment in terms of added productivity is as much as 30 to 1. What else does eLearning do? It boosts staff retention rates, increases revenue per employee and helps companies to remain competitive. What’s more, eLearning is more convenient, less costly and better suited to flexible modern working patterns.


So why does anyone use any other form of training? Is it simple inertia? Do employers have cozy contracts with traditional instructors they do not want to break? Or is it about quality? Are there too many concerns about certification standards applied to eLearning courses?


Maybe it’s about interaction. Pupils in HR and every other profession need to build relationships with tutors and fellow students. Is that a weakness of eLearning? What is it that eLearning does NOT get right?


According to the Business Briefing “Learning and Analytics,” it could be about the inability of companies to establish robust statistics that clearly demonstrate direct links between eLearning and business improvement. “Without analytics,” it suggests, “you are at risk of driving your learning strategy blind, and never realizing the results you expect to gain.” By combining traditional training reporting with business data from other systems (such as CRM and ERP) through use of an integrated HR management system, it is possible to quantify the commercial benefits of any eLearning activity in real time.


A different perspective is offered by another report which suggests the problem is ‘content chaos’. Too many people want too many eLearning courses. The result? “Learning departments everywhere are straining under the burden of ever-increasing eLearning courses, online simulations, videos, manuals and podcasts.” So companies cannot keep up with changing levels of demand.


Or maybe it’s because eLearning has yet to take full account of the social media revolution. Could eLearning’s shortcomings such as interaction, course content feedback and quality standards be overcome by skillful use of social media techniques?


What do you think? (Reprinted from Linked-In HR Group)




Is there value to e-learning? Certainly. Is it the best training format for every person, situation, or course of study? Not. Does it depend on the nature of the training content? Definitely. Would e-learning be a better fit for mechanical engineering theory than acquiring good communication skills? Obviously, though online courses can serve as a primer for later hands-on learning of communication skills. Far more learning ground could be covered by e-learning for engineering.


Online learning can be an effective way to introduce theory and cover reference materials. Still, I believe that live person demonstrations, training, and coaching should complement and support most forms of online learning by relating theory to practical applications. The student learns via application of theory in real life situations, and learning is realized through experiencing the lesson. Professionally-guided delivery of content that is live, participatory, informative, and entertaining is what facilitates learning the best. This is providing that trainers and educators are continuously improving their knowledge and skills. Optimal transfer of knowledge and skills is the objective, and innately a real-life process. The old adage, “learning by doing,” still reigns supreme today.







Power & Sainthood

"If power corrupts, does feeling powerless make you a saint?" - Terry Braverman


Helplessness and depression never did much for my spirits. Although at times it has served as a learning prop, suffering doesn’t need to be a prerequisite for sainthood. Feeling powerful makes me feel alive and saint-like, because real power is incorruptible. For me, real power is not about my economic position, relationship status, control over others, how many are reading this publication, or any kind of circumstances. It’s about being focused, using my talents, and loving the moment wherever I am, whomever I’m with. It’s about swimming in the adventurous, unpredictable ocean of life, sometimes without a life preserver, even when the shoreline looks to be far away, yet knowing that I’m fulfilling a mission.


When I feel like I’m struggling spiritually to stay afloat, I remind myself of the love of my vision, and appreciation of the simple pleasures of life, such as laughter, nature, dogs, and children. Power cannot come from a place of impotence. We owe it to ourselves and our world to bring our real power to fruition.











Four Key Factors To Innovation Success

Product Innovation Strategy


It all starts at the top. If there is not a clear and crisp product innovation strategy that supports the business strategy, problems begin. Some key challenges are: Do we have one? Is it clear? Is it the right strategy? Is everyone aligned? Are people walking the talk? Are there realistic expectations on new product revenues?


Lack of a product innovation strategy tailored to support the strategy of the business is often cited as a most common problem.


Portfolio Management


This is the strategic allocation of resources that ensures innovation efforts advance the product innovation strategy.  This is also the prioritization of projects in the pipeline to ensure that resources are being tactically deployed on the right projects for the right reasons.


Some key challenges are: too many projects and not enough resources to get everything done, difficulty in deciding which projects to select (when evaluating multiple projects that are competing for the same resources), difficulty in optimizing the portfolio of projects (i.e. short-term versus long-term, high-risk versus low-risk), poor alignment on priorities, and resources that are simply stretched too thinly.


Idea-to-Launch Process


This is the road map or playbook that takes each project from idea to launch including all of the activities and decisions that must occur in order to be successful.


Some key challenges are: not enough high-quality ideas; not having a standard playbook that can be used repeatedly for projects; leadership that cannot articulate the importance of their idea-to-launch process; employees who have not received training or have not developed a knowledge foundational base on and around innovation best practices; not tailoring the development process to support the business strategy and project needs; being unable to say no to projects and/or the need to be realistic with actual time and resource expectations that otherwise lead to unrealistic speed-to-market pressures; expectations for resource commitments to work on projects that are not in the official process; too many minor projects that negatively impact the resources available for innovation projects; and the inability to yield effective decisions in a timely manner (i.e. everything is a high priority thus creating ‘gridlock’ which in turn results in significant delays).


It is no wonder given the above why achieving and then sustaining success is so difficult for many companies.


Climate and Culture


This is the way the organization works: the typical behavior, norms, values and leadership style that enables or hinders product innovation performance. Some key challenges: difficulty in striking a healthy balance between ‘discipline and focus’ and ‘flexibility and judgment’, driving projects to successful completion while managing cross-functional teams (i.e. shortage of trained project leaders, staff turnover, gaps in necessary skills, lack of training and/or experience), management of failure, and poor support from other parts of the organization. In other words, creating and supporting a climate and culture that supports innovation company-wide.


How is your organization performing at product innovation and how does it compare to other companies? Without clear metrics and a way to compare them it can be difficult to know whether you are doing good or bad at product innovation; whether your investment in R&D is producing the desired results, and what areas of your performance might need to be improved or strengthened. The good news is, organizations can change, the question is do they want to?


Reprinted from article by Dr. Scott Edgett and Michael Phillips















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