Evaluation: uncool but worth it

smile sheet

Evaluation is a gift. This is the rationale a fellow training consultant usually gives to trainees at the end of her sessions. Compared to e-learning, designing training programs and delivering training, evaluation is the least exciting and “sexy” in the training world. However, it is a very valuable exercise. Evaluation is needed on both sides of the training scale – trainees need to provide feedback on the session to indicate whether their needs were met. The trainer also needs to assess whether the session was effective and prepare to implement changes if needed.

The evaluation card given to trainees is often called a “smile sheet” which presupposes all favourable responses. Often favourable responses are not the case.  Did you like the trainer’s delivery style?  Did you like the content?  Was the presentation useful?  These are examples of questions that a trainer would like to know after a session. Some trainees though take the feedback to a whole other level. They complain about the food or lack of food, the coffee, the length of time in the training etc. As annoying as it can be to read some of the unnecessary gripes, I think having them also sheds some light into the kind of participants you had at the session. Maybe they were hostages meaning they were forced to attend due to compliance issues or a manager’s request. You can never please “hostages” in any given session.

On the flip side, I don’t know a single trainer who gets up in the morning and attends a training session with the intention of boring trainees to death or delivering content that is not useful or effective. Yes, sometimes we attend sessions that are boring, ineffective and useless but I don’t think it was on purpose. I can be challenged on this!

In this age, data is big business and data analytics has picked up steam in the buzz words department. Data mining and analysis is worth its weight in gold in this business climate. Companies can use the data to see trends, market to target populations, increase products and service offerings etc. Very valuable. The evaluation exercise is in the same vein. Trainers need the data to adjust training sessions – determine what to start, stop or continue doing with the learners’ needs in mind. A training session is only effective if the expected outcome is realized.

So, yes, I agree with my colleague that evaluation is a gift. You cannot change what you do not measure.

 

Learning and development in the age of disruptive technology

VR

The taxi industry was left reeling with the advent of Uber and similarly, AirBnB wreaked havoc on the hotel industry. Welcome to the age of disruptive technologies! I attended a webinar recently on Blended Learning 2.0 – Media and Methods. This webinar focused on the next generation of blended learning which included media and methods such as mobile learning, interactive PDF’s, gamification and social media. This got me thinking, what’s the next disruptive thing in the world of learning and development? What will the “Uber” be in learning and development?

Technology changes at a rapid pace and we keep pushing the envelope on the next great thing that will supposedly improve our lives and that we will not be able to do without. Think augmented reality, virtual reality or artificial intelligence or the rising of the various “BOTS” – not just your mere robots. Industries that question the status quo, take giant leaps in innovation and development and push the boundaries continue to lead and be at the forefront of change.

As learning and development professionals, we are always on the hunt for new and fresh ideas that will motivate, engage and delight our learners. Although the idea or the tool may be cutting edge, it is important that it fits the needs of the learner and the desired outcome. Simply put, the application must be right for you i.e. the organization, the budget, the learner, the right solution.

I don’t know if we’ve reached the threshold of innovation and disruptive technologies within L&D. We’ve come a long way from using transparencies and flipcharts with markers.  We’ve now evolved to m-learning, e-learning, asynchronous and synchronous methods within e-learning, blended learning, social media and numerous applications within new forms of media. Whatever that new “thing” is going to be, one thing is certain, there is no one size fits all within L&D.

 

Why you learn the way you do

 

learning style

We all have our own sense of style – fashion, décor, hairstyles. Our sense of style sets us apart from the masses – makes us unique in our own way. For the avant-garde, the sense of style is even more heightened and dramatic.

When it comes to how we learn, it is no different in terms of our style. Your learning style is the method by which you take in and retain knowledge.  There are many variations of learning styles but for purposes of this blog, I’ll use the acronym VARK – Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, Kinesthetic.

learning styles

 

As Training/Learning and Development Specialists, when we design and deliver programs, we have to appeal to a broad range within our audience base. We need to take the various learning styles into account.

Visual (V): Do you find that you remember information if presented as a graphic e.g. maps, graphs, flow charts? You are a visual learner.

Aural/Auditory (A): Do you have a preference for information that is spoken or heard e.g. podcasts, webchat, lectures? You are an auditory learner.

Read/Write (R): Do you prefer information that is displayed as words e.g. text-based materials, dictionaries? If you prefer reading and writing in all forms, you are a read/write learner.

Kinesthetic (K): Do you have a preference for doing things e.g. demonstrations, simulations, practicing, applications? You are a kinesthetic learner.

Of course, many of us, have multiple intelligences and we do not fall neatly in any one category. Personally, I am a visual and kinesthetic learner – I retain knowledge by pictures and hands on exercises.

What kind of learner are you?

Learning retention

I hear and I forget

                I see and I remember

                                I do and I understand

-Confucius

 

We retain:

10% of what we read  reading

20% of what we hear hear

30% of what we see see

50% of what we hear and seeeareye

70% of what we say say

90% of what we say and do mouthhands

Robert Kornikau and Frank McElroy

 

Empower yourself

“Knowledge is power”. Now I don’t know exactly who first coined this famous quote. There are varying opinions from Sir Francis Bacon in the 1500’s to Thomas Jefferson, but one thing is certain, it is a true statement.

I have utilized this quote both in my personal and professional life. In my personal sphere, I use the 5 W’s – who, what, where, why, when and for extra good measure – how. I am conscious about who I share my personal information with, what kinds of information I share, where I am when I’m sharing, why I am sharing, when do I choose to share and how I do the sharing. Remember, knowledge is power.

In my professional sphere, I am always looking for opportunities to learn and grow and I encourage others to do the same. I am so passionate about training and learning that I pursued training and development as a career choice. It is a fulfilling experience when you can impart knowledge and witness the transformation. In the corporate world, I use training and learning as an empowerment strategy. The more you know, the more training you have, the more knowledge and experience you have – the more control you have over your path which leads to being empowered.

empower

 

In this age of social media, it seems prolific sharing and oversharing of our personal lives has become the norm. But, I believe on that front, there is such a thing as too much information (TMI). However, when it comes to professional development, you can never have enough knowledge.

I was introduced to Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In the book, Daniel outlines the three elements of true motivation – autonomy, mastery and purpose. I will take this concept a step further and say that when you have autonomy over your path, when you can master your work and when you have a set course of action – a purpose – then the overarching behaviour is empowerment.

How does one have autonomy, mastery and purpose? First you need to be motivated to pursue new ideas, new concepts and different ways of thinking and doing.  There is no reward without work. One sure way to take control and ownership of your development is to increase your knowledge, skills and abilities. Remember, knowledge is power.

 

 

 

Learning on demand

The days of going to a classroom to take a course to upgrade knowledge and skills are long gone. Welcome to the age of learning on demand! Anytime, anywhere, any which way – you can increase your knowledge using a myriad of mediums.

As adult educators, this is a welcome pace thanks to the advancement of technology. One of the many drawbacks that adult learners usually cite as a hindrance to learning, is the time to do it. As adults, we juggle a balance of personal time with other commitments and responsibilities. The hockey practice, the dance lessons, the shopping, etc. – it’s always a balancing act. Learning on demand offers a solution.

pic

The learning marketplace has introduced platforms such as Lynda, Coursera, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), even You Tube. These options promote learning in your pajamas and at your fingertips. Log on – choose an interest and presto –  start learning!

I have certainly benefitted from this learning on demand phenomenon. I have always wanted to delve into the fascinating, fun world of e-learning.  First, I needed to get a handle on some of the e-learning authoring software currently on the market such as Articulate Storyline. Well, lucky for me, I saved a ton of dough and still got the knowledge and skill I needed, without putting one foot in a traditional classroom. Thanks to the Articulate E-learning Community. This online forum provided e-books, training videos and practice files. I was able to learn at my own pace, on my own time and in the comfort of my own home. Now that’s progress.

Using memes in learning

Videos can go viral in a matter of seconds – the more outlandish the better to create buzz and the fleeting 15 minutes of fame. With the phenomena of the internet and social media in particular, memes have gained popularity and notoriety as entertainment and distraction from the hum drum of daily life.

The concept of memes has been around for a while but exploded on the scene with the increasing popularity of social networking sites. So, what is a meme exactly? Basically, it is a behaviour or cultural system that is passed around by individuals usually via imitation. Think of a video, an image or text that goes viral on the internet because it is forwarded to many people who then create variations of the original.

Why not replicate the success of memes in the learning discipline? They share the same factors as some of the elements needed to deliver a successful learning program. Factors such as repetition, imitation and engagement comes to mind. A learning program is only as good as its design and delivery. Instructional Designers and Facilitators are tasked with the ability to dazzle, while delivering the practical aspects such as relevance, interest, and retention. Of course, as in any design, the audience and the need will be the driving force.

My most memorable teachers, while in school, were those who “coloured outside of the lines”. They were able to convey information in exciting and memorable ways. I have heard of high school teachers who have used the musical genre of rap to teach math, for example. The brain has a way of gravitating towards the unusual.

Pop culture has given us many tools and ideas that we can use to jazz up our learning programs. I think memes just might be the ticket.