Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) iTunesU, and Learning via YouTube

Does Online Learning Equal Competency?

I love Learning; lets get that one out of the way right from the word go.  I love to be able to look for a solution to something by searching google, then reading and article or watching a YouTube video on whatever I need to know.  I have iTunesU on my IPad, I watch Khan Academy video’s, in essence I tend to devour learning and information from whatever source I can get it.  Do I learn things by doing this – Yes I think I do.  Does this kind of Learning make me competent – I am far less sure of this one, and I guess this is where my headspace is with these kinds of courses and programs.  In most cases there is no real assessment of outcomes for the participants and where there, will they, or do they fit what employers etc might consider to be relevant outcomes.

Consider two applicants for a position one who has done a degree via traditional delivery and assessment and one who has done and equal amount of ‘online’, ‘free’ programs.  All other things being equal, (even without them being equal in my opinion) who are you going to give the job to.  I would think hands down the person with the degree and would challenge anyone to justify to me, why they would choose the other candidate.

What about recognition of prior learning, some which is a core component of the Australian VET system, do these freely available online courses count as acceptable evidence of competence or is there still further work that needs to be done, perhaps independant assessment of competence, before they are recognised?

I have a deeper issue though with this kind of learning which is one of transfer and application of skills.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  A number of years ago I was in a training role, where after the courses had ended, clients would often contact me with a range of technical questions around some of the software that was use as part of the course (even though the course itself was not a technical course).  I quickly learnt that it was simpler for me in most cases to Google their question and give them the answer there and then, rather than  say I wasn’t sure and try and get back to them at a later date.  It kept them happy, value added to what we did, and positioned me a technical expert in a piece of software, that I actually knew technically very little about.  Was I competent; I dont think so, I never had any background knowledge about how the system worked or why some of the things worked the way they did.  I was just following the instructions of someone else.  This is not to say that I did not learn things I certainly did, but learning things does not in my opinion equate necessarily to competence, and if I am being compeltely honest most of the solutions went straight out of my head after I had given them to the client, simply because I did not need to know.  If a got multiple clients who wanted the same or very similar information I would bookmark the site or video so that I could simply go back to it when needed and pass the instructions on. The other thing that I could never understand about this situation (and this is a bit of an aside) is why clients rang me in first place, when they could have simply searched the web themselves and found the answer just as quickly as I had.

The other and final issue Ihave with all of these programs is how do we integrate them into the range of informal learning with our organisations and more importantly for me at least, how to we evaluate the learning that comes from them for both or staff and the organisation as a whole.

I would be really excited to hear any ideas that you have around this subject.


Creating a Learning Culture that works

We all talk about Learning Cultures, we all talk about embedding the process of learning within our organisations or those that we work with, we  all talk about valuing informal learning, creating opportunities for staff to learn and grow.  Some of us are lucky and work with organisations for which Learning is a Value, linked to the mission statement and strategic plans, so of us work with organisations were learning is less valued, either overall, or in significant parts of the business. We all know the theory and how it is all supposed to work,  but I wonder when the rubber hits the road what actually works.

The reason I ask this is I was having a conversation where we discussing the involvement of supervisors, team leaders etc in the learning process.  Specifically in this case reporting on whether or not staff that had attended training had changed behaviours, learnt something, had become competent or satisfactory at particular tasks, essentially whether or not the classroom learning had been transferred back to the workplace.  We were also talking specifically about 3rd party reporting under the Australian VET system, where supervisors are called upon to indicate whether they have observed a staff member successfully and satisfactorily undertake specific tasks related to their assessment as competent in particular units of competency.

I wrote a little while ago about some ideas on engaging managers and supervisors in the learning process but again I am talking about some thing more concrete, I am talking about how we get managers to take responsiblity for deciding if their staff have actually transferred their learnings from the classroom to the office or factory floor, which is a far more active involvement than I was talking about previously.  I guess I am looking at ways to stop the process being a tick and flick, they’ve attended so they must have learnt it, I don’t want to spend anymore time or money on them getting it so I will just say they have learnt something kind of process.

The problem is that the best tactic, the one that gets the best results is to use the stick of, well if you sign them off and something goes wrong then it your issue and your responsibility.  There is something deeply unsatisfying about that though, in fact there is something deeply unsatisfying about having to have a strategy in the first place to deal with this.

So there it is;  how do you create this concrete level of engagement, this concrete learning culture, effectively and efficiently, without having to resort to what seems to me like the stick end of the carrot and stick equation.

Why do we do Training ( A great post from Chief Learning Officer Magazine)

David Vance is a real thought leader in the Learning Arena and his recent blog post on Why do we do Training is definately worth a read.


Training the Untrainable (The E-learning vs Face-to-face Dilemma)

I have been thinking a lot recently about the delivery of some of our more challenging training and professional development programs, particularly given that almost everyone these days seems to be an e-learning evangelist of some description (just Kidding) and our large and quite dispersed, regional and remote workforce.

I am not talking here about the delivery of Workplace Health and Safety compliance training, or basic computer skills, or even management and communications skills, I am talking about the hard edge training programs we run;

  • Suicide Prevention and Awareness
  • Domestic Violence awareness and intervention
  • Mental Health and Depression and
  • Psychological First Aid

to name a spectrum of them.  These are programs where there is a strong chance that at least some of the people who are attending the training will have been effected by theses kinds of trauma in one way or another, and often significant issues and reactions arise during the training.  This means that all of these programs are run on a face to face basis usually with 2 facilitators in the room, so that issues can be dealt with, without compromising the integrity of the training.

So the dilemma is, is it possible and also is it ethical and safe to utilise new technologies (e-learning) to training people in these skills, when we know that there is a certain proportion of people who are going to have adverse reactions to the materials for one reason or another.

My questions then are relatively simple does anyone know of any instances where these sorts of programs have been delivered through e-learning options successfully and how where the issues related to participant reactions handled in this environment.

The Future of L&D

I read this piece this morning in my wanderings around the internet and thought that I would share it with everyone as I think David makes some really valid observations.

People Performance Potential

Last Friday, thanks to @DebbieCarter20, I was lucky enough to attend the Training Journal L&D2020 event on “The new L&D skill set – building relationships with the business”. Run by John Baker from Capita and Andy Holmes from Ernst & Young, the focus was on the changing role and skill set of L&D to meet the business challenges of the future.

I don’t want to repeat the training content here though I must say the use of Steps Drama was very effective and engaging.  Instead I’d like to share some lasting thoughts and observations.

The L&D Opportunity

The opportunity is for the L&D function to engage more consultatively with the business.  I think this need has existed in many organisations for some time. However, there are perhaps good reasons why it’s not happened to date…

  • Focus on the transactional delivery of learning & training can create a sense…

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Who wants to be a trainer? (Is L&D the HR Sweet Spot)


I was chatting to some friends over the weekend and some interesting comments came up that seemed to circulate around another conversation I had been involved in about the transience of trainers and how it seemed hard to keep them.  So I thought I would look at the questions that came up, offer my perspective and then see if we can’t see why in the long run transience might be an issue.

The first question was ‘How did you get into L&D’ – My answer was simple, I want to make a real difference in people’s lives, I want to help them to grow, become more skillful , build their capacity and capabilities.   I was good at presenting and training people how to do and understand things and what some times seems a very long time ago I fell into sales training when a friend needed some help with his sales staff.  So in reality I didn’t initially choose to be in L&D, I was in the right place at the right time and I was good at over, but it fitted, it fitted with my idea of wanting to make a difference.

The next question caught me a bit off guard, it was ‘So where do you go from where you are?’  This one was a bit harder I guess for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, I like my current role and I work for a very large organisation, in a very senior role, where I am given an enormous amount of autonomy and responsiblity, in fact probably more than most HR director’s in a lot of organisations. (I am incredibly lucky and very thankful for the opportunity by the way).  But it points to a conversation I had with an L&D friend around this time last year where he said that  he had to move from the organisation he was in because his only career progression within it was to take on a senior generalist HR position and he hated the idea of doing that.  Another friend and colleague of mine who moved from a senior L&D role to a senior HR Director role, clearly articulated that L&D was his preference, but if he want to advance his career he had to make the move back into HR.  So is that what we are destined for if we truly want to advance our careers past where we are?

The rise, particularly in the US of the Chief Learning Officer, I think provides some light at the end of the tunnel around this as well, but probably only bigger organisations will ever really embrace the idea.  It is a role that I think is incredibly important and one that is long over due in terms of giving Learning its own place at the Big Table.

So is L&D the HR sweet spot, but is it a HR sweet spot that we almost by necessity have to leave in order to advance our careers.

Sometimes it is the Feedback that makes it all worthwhile

Today I just wanted to share with everyone some feedback that I got recently from a staff member that has just completed their Diploma of Management.  Getting something like this, completely unsolicited, reinforces in me why what we do is so important, not just to the organisation but to the individuals with in it.

I would just like to tell you how appreciative I am that I had the opportunity to gain my diploma of management.  Not only was our trainer fantastic, but the content has already helped me improve my practise, not only with the way I converse with staff but also clients .  I only wish that more staff, particularly managers put their hand up to do this training as it really reminds us all of so many basic concepts that we can tend to forget about once in a position.

I think this course also really upheld each the organisations shared values, reminding us to:

  • have compassion towards others as they are different to ourselves and therefore may have different personalities and learning styles.
  • show respect  to our colleagues and how to do this through having those open and honest conversations, and being compassionate
  • to ensure justice is upheld in our centres by enforcing our policies and procedures especially in relation with harm and justice
  • to work together even if you are a manager, it takes a team to get things done and each of us have a place within that team, but this doesn’t mean we can’t step up and help with jobs that may be considered “not our job”
  • and of course leading through learning – this is self-explanatory but the course really emphasised how by withholding information from staff it can be detrimental to the organisation so by having a sharing supportive environment  that fosters sharing knowledge not withholding it (this is especially important for staff members that may feel by withholding information their positions are more stable, we were given tools to ensure that these staff members did not feel the need to withhold that information as they feel valued in their positions

I think it is a credit to this organisation that it values its staff as much as it does to enable us to do these training courses that in turn will only better the organisations staff.

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