Monthly Archives: February 2012

An Olympic Online Opportunity

 

 

 

 

At 12:49 on Wednesday 6 July 2005, I was travelling in Staffordshire to a training venue listening for the imminent announcement of who was going to ‘win’ the Olympic Games for 2012.  Now, I’m not a big sports fanatic but I couldn’t help but join in very excitedly with a big ‘WHOOP WHOOP!’ as Jacque Rogge made the announcement ….. LONDON.

Seven years later and it’s nearly here and Olympic fever has begun.  But along with the kudos comes chaos.  Now we’re hearing about all the disruption the Games are going to create.  It’s already started with Olympic organisers creating an Olympic route network meaning roadworks.

With the disruption to day to day business with journeys to work affected, higher than usual annual leave requests, pressures on transport systems and road networks, the advice given in the ‘preparing your business for the games‘ LOC publication to businesses is:

Millions of additional trips are expected on public transport and the road network in London and the UK … This could potentially disrupt your employees’ journeys, business travel, deliveries/collections, and the operations of suppliers, other contractors and freight.  To keep your businesses running, you should aim to reduce the need to travel and make essential journeys at less busy times or by using different modes or routes.

Over the past few months several delegates on my courses have talked about their organisations being encouraged to allow staff to work from home where they’re not needed to be in the office/building.

Of course, this doesn’t just mean problems for day to day working but also day to day training/learning.  Fortunately, if key people in these organisations are on the ball, they will see there is a way around some of this disruption.  Where live conversations are needed to take place, whether it’s to discuss on ongoing project or as part of a planned training course, we have the technology.  We’ve been communicating via e-mail for years.  The concept of collaborating remotely is not new but we’ve yet to embrace the live online environment.  Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown.  Perhaps it’s bad experiences of them in the past.  But now – and I mean now and not in a few months time as an afterthought – is the time to make the most of the technology at our fingertips and start working (and learning) smarter.  If we start investigating as soon as possible how best to engage our live online participants (audience is too passive a word), we’ll be on the winning team by a long shot.

We certainly do have an Olympic opportunity.

Field of Dreams!

I’m sitting here in my hotel room catching up with some much neglected research via my Twitter network with half an ear on the TV (who said I couldn’t multi-task – oh yes, that was me!). The programme is Alex Polizzi’s ‘The Fixer’ where she advises waning businesses on how to improve. This week it’s the turn of The Chough Bakery in Padstow; a family business baking fresh and quality breads.

What actually pricked up my ears was a statement along the lines of “it doesn’t matter how good your product is, you have to be able to sell it”. The family had a great range of products. However, the person tasked with sales and marketing the range didn’t have the detailed product knowledge, nor the drive to proactively market them.

We can often forget how important marketing is to our eLearning programme. Or, indeed any learning programmes. But it’s especially important we know how to ‘sell’ any new product well.

Just imagine….. you and your instructional design team have spent weeks designing and developing the perfect learning solution to meet the detailed analysis which also took blood, sweat and tears to complete. You’ve meticulously project managed the development and run a very successful pilot. The solution is good to go and has been opened up to the masses. So there it sits – in your course booking system like a forgotten toy waiting for someone to remember it and take it out off the box.

Without a robust marketing strategy all that hard work, time and resources will go to waste. Unlike Kevin Kostner’s Field of Dreams, just because you built it, your learners won’t necessarily come.

If selling to external customers, it goes without saying that your sales team should be fully conversant in what your eLearning or blended solution entails; identifying the unique selling point for different customers. A sheep dip approach has the same pitfalls in sales and marketing as it has for learning. One excellent way of helping your sales staff fully explain and sell the solution to different needs is for them to experience the learning first hand. Perhaps they could take part in the pilot?

But it’s not just down to our sales team. In L&D we are all ‘Ad-men’ selling the benefits to our learners, motivating and engaging. So remember, if all that hard work is going to pay off, your project plan has to include a good marketing strategy too.

The price of perfection

I recently read this excellent post by Clark Quinn (@Quinnovator) despairing about the continued dire examples of eLearning continually being created. Sometimes I wonder whether eLearning designers take their profession seriously enough to continually research, read and improve. It isn’t particularly hard to keep up with best practice especially given the ease with which we can now collaborate, share and network with peers and experts in the field. With the likes of Cathy Moore, Connie Malamad, Ruth Clark, Tom Khulman to name only a fraction who feel so strongly about improving the quality of eLearning tutorials that they give advice freely, I certainly share Clark Quinn’s frustrations. I’d like to think I play my own little part in the revolution.

However, I then have to take a step back and climb down from my high horse (mixing my metaphors). When discussing what is good eLearning (referring to the self-paced interactive tutorials) it often becomes very clear that even when people have the knowledge, skills and drive to produce quality their hands are quite tightly tied by time and resource constraints. People gasp with disbelief when I give them an indication of how many hours of development time to hours of learning it can take. Then their gasps turn to nervous laughter when contemplating what their bosses/sponsors would say if they asked for enough time to develop this level of excellence let alone get to grips with their new skills.

So I can equally empathise with Rob Stephen’s comment to Clark Quinn’s post. The problem is, in today’s climate where time and resources are scarce, something’s got to give – all too often that something is quality. So instead, perhaps we should ask ourselves “what’s the alternative” and take a more agile approach to make sure quality is maintained. After all there is more to eLearning than the self-paced (so called) interactive tutorials we often think of when faced with the term.

There is little excuse, however, if such poor examples to which Clark Quinn refers are still being produced. As ‘expert’ instructional designers they should know what good learning involves. Although, there may be various reasons why this might be so. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it may be that the sponsor, knowing little about what great eLearning looks and feels like, insists on info-dumps testing knowledge not application to tick those compliance boxes.

The culprit may be the sponsor’s limited budget and of course more complex the eLearning the longer it will take and therefore will cost more but that doesn’t mean that simple interactions needn’t be performance based, relevant and contextual. In which case the experts in instructional design surely would act as consultants to those with less knowledge in learning design. But it shouldn’t just be laid at their door. We all have a duty to work together, to make sure learning is effective no matter how it’s delivered. Are we willing to pay the price of perfection or will persuit of efficiency be the cost of quality?