learndirect Policy Exchange Session – July 2016

Last week around 50 learning professionals braved the hotest day of the year and a room with no air con to listen to an update on apprenticeships, mostly from Sue Husband from the Department of Education (recently moved over from BIS).

The overwhelming message was really “we’re not quite there yet, there will be more soon” – the latest raft of levy information unsurprisingly being held up by the changes resulting from the referendum result.  Therefore, I wont include everything from the day here as a lot was what we already knew.

There were positives though – rough notes below [with some of my comments included]:

  • There is clearly a belief that it will work (although the CBI is still pushing for a delay/rethink).  [Hence the apparent lack of contingency planning.]
  • Focus is on apprenticeship quality [although you suspect that will be under challenge from the ‘claim back’ employers – no doubt a test for the new Institute for Apprenticeships].
  • NI contributions abolished for under 25 apprentices.
  • 2.3% of workforce target now in place for government to encourage them to support the policy.  Recommended that people look up the 5% Club.
  • Post code of person will be determining factor on which pot money goes to – so good for English people working in Scotland/Wales, not so much the other way around [so employers may be forced into decisions that go against equal opportunities].
  • Funds will expire after 18 months – system is clever enough to know how ‘old’ a pound is and move into general pot at correct time.
  • Levy online tool is available for people to pilot [still awaiting my access after requesting last week following the event].  April 2017 will only be available to levy payers – smaller orgs later [makes sense and should help with stability].
  • Pooling funds and granting to supply chain are on road-map [potentially] but issues with potential for misuse of funds [payments for favours, etc].
  • They expect employers running own apprenticeships to grow [good that not just about supporting a market for the FE and skills sector].
  • The current advertising [which is all over my train route in South London at least] is young person orientated – the next raft will highlight that it is about all ages and current employees too.
  • Graduations now underway for people coming through apprenticeships designed to new standards [presumably a good thing but no doubt some questions over quality versus the old frameworks in some areas].
  • Acknowledged higher qualification [degree] cap does not make sense, as funding going from government to employers now looking at it from different perspective. More in next publications. [Might be a real game changer if this removes the blocker on graduates training into a career via an apprenticeship].
  • About half of all standards in development are at degree level [watch out HE!].
  • ‘Use levy wisely’ was the response to the question from the room about why the levy is being forced on those who already do good people development.  [Guess the challenge might be that the room was clearly people engaged with the agenda – no doubt the % of employers who currently under invest in L&D will be the more vocal in complaining about the levy].  20,ooo firms will be paying in; 5,000 of those will be new to apprenticeships.
  • Definitely don’t have to have ‘apprentice’ or similar in your job title [but good for your apprenticeship brand if people realise that is what they are doing – plus they do have to know they are an apprentice as part of the rules].
  • 20% off work can be blended, do not think about as 20% in classroom.  They recognise that continuous learning makes the best programmes [yay!].
  • Will be information coming for employers looking to do some of the training and back charging to provider.
  • Brexit may be good for apprenticeships [if cuts on immigration].
  • May encourage permanent employment [this is me extrapolating from the amount of people in the room unhappy that their temporary staff will be included in the levy tax but not in those who can be apprentices – presumably also the likes of SportDirect wont be happy with that one].
  • Digital Apprenticeship Service screenshots [It’s Alive!!  Will comment more on this when I get access].

Game elements often ignored by learning pros

Gamification has been a buzzword for a few years now but the success of Pokemon Go has, inevitably, led to a raft of ‘what can L&D learn from Pokemon’ articles whilst the even more inevitable backlash has already begun (Should employers clamp down on Pokemon Go?).

1 – Reflections on elements ignored

Electronic gaming has been a huge part of my life (at least if we use ‘time spent’ as a measure) since my brother got his C64 many years ago.  Having, therefore, played games for 30 or so years it is with interest to see a few points missed by many:

  1. Gamers are not one-size-fits all.  Like with other media, gamers are not a universal group.  There have been long running cultural differences between, for example, some Japanese-focused releases versus the American/Europe market based on real (and presumed) preference.  Opera and pop fans are not normally lumped together as ‘music fans’ but even though there are differences, for example those who primarily aim for quick fixes versus being happy to play the long game, gamers often are.  Where there is a more widespread group, such as mobile phone playing commuters they’ve been seen as the exception “casual gamers” rather than what they actually are, the majority (in terms of everyday use as Pokemon has highlighted).  What this means for learning is what we already know – we need to personalise and tailor to the audience.
  2. Games are not one-size-fits all.  Yes, there are some standard elements of games (see “What is a Game”) and there is a science behind gamification (check out Yu-Kai Chou) based on a number of neurological and psychological elements.  However, sports games versus grand-strategy games, for example, represents a decision between, say, a 10 minute commitment versus 100s of hours.  What this means for learning is again what we already know but often fail to implement – activities need to be correct for the desired outcomes, not just fitting into a set time limit based on what regulators, room booking systems, technology or other limiter puts upon us.
  3. Ultimately it is an industry, not just a game.  Games even have a CrashCourse series on the evolution of the market and related topics.  Too often learning is a breed apart from the business and ‘gamifying’ to make things more interactive/addictive is likely to just make this even more obvious.  ‘Serious games’ should be able to avoid this, others need to be used appropriately for your culture.
  4. Effectively game entertainment relies on neurology/psychology.  Gaming can become a very real addiction.  It is not some kind of magic Greek fire that the learning department needs to discover the recipe for for our own means, instead it is about making things compelling which learning pros have traditionally had mixed success with.
  5. Gaming is often to ‘zone out’.  Yes there are engagement design decisions but often a game is taking the place of a book, TV, exercise, etc. as a way to unwind and relax.  The game playing becomes almost subconscious.  The challenge here is to take a new decision when thinking about learning – when is non-engagement okay?  This shouldn’t be a lack of engagement in the way that, say, repeated ‘next’ clicking in an e-learning module creates but instead something where people are able to learn even if they are not necessarily making notes, discussing with peers, etc.  Podcasts are an obvious route to support this, for example by allowing people to pick up key corporate messages whilst on their commute.

2 – Key things to take from gaming

So what else would I say learning can learn from games?  Well there are obviously plenty of people who have written and researched on this topic.  I would particularly highlight:

  1. Be entertaining.  Tackle Netflix, Pokemon and the rest via edutainment.  Podcasts and some other educational media have achieved relative success in this.  In comparison workplace learning remains, too often, a chore.  Narrative, where appropriate, can be key in tackling boredom…remember even a mega budget Hollywood blockbuster can flop if people do not engage with the characters, story and/or special effects.
  2. Be non-linear.  Allow the learner choices, for example, I can lead my medieval kingdom in Crusader Kings down unlimited paths whilst my eLearning is too often a locked down exercise.
  3. Design for “one more go”.  We want deep learning experiences to be addictive or raise a challenge that people want to tackle.  Here we need to balance carrot and stick and this aligns with the Stella Collins’ presentation at the CIPD exhibition last year.
  4. Support around the experience.  Many games do not expect you to become a pro via game-time alone; magazines, user guides and websites have been used to provide tips, cheats and walkthroughs.  Use all the communication and information management tools at your disposal, think beyond ‘learning’ solutions for your blend.
  5. Don’t be cheesy.  Fixing learning into a model such as a car racing visualisation isn’t engaging – you are almost certainly using animation without emotion, chance, risk, etc.  You can of course be ironic in this but it would depend on your culture if people would would like that, for example, I’m trialling putting funny Easter eggs into my e-Learning and seeing what the reaction is – inevitably some people like them whilst others think I’ve lost the plot, ultimately we’re all different…see point 1.1!

The future of the Learning Management System? The LMS move from destination to distribution

I have mentioned many a time on this site that the use of an LMS has got to make sense within the ecosystem of tools that an organisation makes use of.  However, having recently taken over day-to-day responsibility for one in my new role, I have been thinking again about how they can be used.

The VLE/LMS is dead debate has, in my opinion, long become a bit boring.

My experiences so far, in my first months in my role, has reinforced my views.  Overall, your LMS may well be dead but it does not mean that is best for everyone.  This largely comes down to the platforms and communication channels you have available to you.

There is much talk currently about platforms, the school of thought being you need to control the platforms that people use so that the social (conversational) and push (advertising, etc) can be monetized, as well as the users and their data.  Facebook is the platform in this chain of thought – especially with Oculus and Live making their moves into the real world.  Now, of course, part of the VLE is dead debate was that we could distribute to users via Facebook and elsewhere that meant the platform was no longer needed.  This ignore the fact that for many organisations, at least education companies/suppliers/institutions, the organisation is the LMS.  It is the face of the company to the users/clients/students and often the authoring and collaboration place for staff.

For many non-education/learning focused organisations the LMS is, of course, not high on the lists of priorities for any staff.  Therefore, it is then a case of understanding how it can help.  Distribution by geolocation, time, etc. is surely then the future, no longer relying on ‘time out’ to go away and do learning in a training room where productivity is impacted rather than enhanced.

This stub has been in my drafts for a while so I thought I would post it.

Learning Tech Summer Forum 2016

Learning Tech Summer Forum


I attended the morning of this year’s summer forum, making my way around the exhibition and attending a few of the freebie sessions.

It’s always an interesting exhibition space, containing a number of big players (Kineo, Brightwave, Cornerstone, etc.) squeezed into smaller stands and a few of the smaller players from the main winter event too. Quite how firms decide to be here or not doesn’t always seem particularly obvious but there’s certainly a less manic feel than the ‘big’ event.


Anyway, my takeaway feeling was that we’ve perhaps, finally, broken the paradigm that has dominated the online learning environment. Whilst the LMS is not dead, as mandatory reporting and off-the-shelf mandatory content were still out in force, what was more obvious was that the web is finally changing what people think of as a learning department’s responsibilities.

Whilst my rather short review of the winter show was that organisations were still moving too slowly, I’d say this show (or at least the parts I attended) made me feel that, at last…

Corporate learning is moving to the web and the corporate web is moving towards learning.

If the LMS was born to track the delivery of existing content (session scheduling, reading material, online versions of what was effectively CD-ROM-esque Flash material, etc.) then we are starting to see ecosystems where learning is more embedded throughout an organisation thanks to the technology. This is less technology enhanced/enabled learning and more performance supported by technology. This is largely down to the combinations of HTML5, TinCan/Xperience API and other technology that means there is less need for a controlled ‘management system’ whilst maintaining elements of the management through reporting.

The presentation from gomo (http://www.gomolearning.com/) was focused on the ‘future of offline learning’ and really amounted to an update on their product. Gomo has been impressive for a while but the new additions are native iOS and Android apps for running content offline. This in itself is an interesting ‘development’, effectively the industry recognising the challenges that come from needing consistent Internet connectivity. Of course some LMS systems have had their own solutions for this, for example I remember NetDimensions presenting on their offline access a while back. As Microsoft discovered with the Xbox One – you may have a user trying to access on a submarine and it’s interesting that if you publish out of the Gomo infrastructure to your LMS you then lose the opportunity to download and run offline using the ‘Gomo Central’ apps. Whilst things change the option still seems to be go “all in” on one solution or another.

With the acquisition of Rustici, into the parent Learning Technologies Group, you suspect gomo are going to be able to really drive the way forward with combining the Xperience API and their ecosystem of collaborative authoring and publishing, adaptively, once to all platforms. The most interesting piece for many orgs, I’d suspect, is the micro file option for LMS – where content runs like SCORM but always picks up latest version of content from Gomo.

Now the collaborative and HTML5 web page style output of Gomo is where the tool gets even more interesting, effectively it could become THE authoring tool for an organisation. Just as Xyleme has promised for some time, you could have a single source of truth for all content. With Xyleme this includes publishing to PPT, PDF, etc. with Gomo we are perhaps recognising that all corporate learning could be delivered via HTML5 pages and that all corporate content and web communications could be delivered via the simple authoring tool. Indeed the presentation included examples of taking Gomo content for your public facing .com website. This is where I feel the platform is now the web, and your organisation could work almost entirely in this ecosystem, even if it was just originally designed for learning. Similarly Learning Pool’s version of Adapt is being adopted for easy-to-build HTML5 content beyond learning departments. In many ways the LMS offered the educational organisation a way to move online (a ‘course’ to web model) the new HTML5 based tools are allowing the corporate world to move online (an individual/department to page model). Potentially this offers all staff in an organisation a way to build ‘nice looking’ (I’ll avoid ‘quality’) web content via WYSIWYG type interfaces in the way that blogging and other ‘web 2.0’ tools did for enthusiasts of those platforms.

Of course the challenge is in trying to get people to move away from the familiarity of Office tools and Office 365 and other products may well supersede anything that comes out of these learning industry players.

How suitable this is for you also comes back to where you are the evolution curve. When I attended the Adobe event last year it was similarly clear you could use tools originally purposed for web designers and marketers but now easily useable for corporate workers and learning professionals. A little like with Apple vs Microsoft vs Google, it feels like organisations are increasingly adopting a route to digital transformation and running with it.


Simpleshow’s presentation made the point that ‘explainer’ videos can achieve a lot. I like the Simpleshow concept, not least as they think in terms of ‘reducing’ online learning – a view I always approve of, i.e. reducing a world of content into something useful, rather than ‘producing’ yet another presentation, course or huge manual. The presentation effectively digged into a question akin to “if the word of the year can be a pictograph then why are corporations so tied to lengthy documents and spread sheets”? Hear, hear!!

Fosway (looking to get feedback on the industry to build out more of their independent reports: http://www.fosway.com/research/ ) were first up as you came out of Olympia’s crowded lifts. They now have gomo as the leading core challenger in the authoring tool market, sneaking into the Strategic Leader quadrant. I came away from the conference thinking they are the tool that makes a lot of sense, with Learning Pool’s Adapt tool a simpler, leaner, solution (including a new freemium option I have expressed an interest in).

The Cornerstone session I attended (Love Learning Love Sharing) picking up the idea of the talent system supplying the social and engagement (for the ‘New Work Environment’) around the content. This includes exposing people’s capabilities inhouse with profile type tools that many people are used to from Facebook, etc. Again this feels like a “which ecosystem are we going to buy into” type issue – made even more clear by Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn and undoubted ability to leverage such data into Office.

2017 information here: http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/learning-and-skills-group/

CIPD L&D Show May 2016

I attended the second day of this year’s CIPD L&D Exhibition. There didn’t appear to be too much new on the exhibition floor and there remained a strong showing from CIPD qualification training providers, somewhat surprisingly considering the availability of the experience assessment and the rise of apprenticeships.

Included below are some rough notes from the free learning sessions I attended. [My comments in square brackets]

Management and Leadership Development: what does the future look like?

The presenter argued that MLD is all about return on investment and performance improvement. How you will measure impact should be essential part of your scoping and considerations [obviously, although it is probably a fair assumption that people have historically had lots of away days, and the like, with no real reasoning – I also suspect he was using RoI in a loose sense].

Recommended that bespoke is best as you can tailor to your needs and requirements.

Example of an IT company that used the presenter for the delivery of full sessions. These were recorded and then delivered to other audiences in 2 hour chunks due to large numbers being trained. [There were quite a few mentions for ‘bitesize’ solutions – interestingly this was later described as 2 hour chunks, not what most people would could call ‘bitesize’].

Connecting people key, including Skype and ongoing networks after events. Managers want bitesize and the opportunity to talk to each other.

Negative numbers from TM Embracing Change were mention, L&D is failing to meet challenge of seeing productivity increase. Treat management seriously and have people move toward chartered management and ongoing development if that is focus of their role to help.

If looking at providers need detailed review, including asking to speak to other clients. Too many bad purchasing decisions in this space.

Would you say people are still using tools you introduce in interventions? Need reinforcement [not least to tackle forgetting curve].

5 identified options: can be appropriate to do in-house. [He ran through these different blends and approaches they have used with clients inc. Level 5/7 ILM].

Would say 5% of people on leadership programs are really leaders, rather than managers. ILM7 can drive change.

Slide on recommended programme [largely aligned with what we’re trying to do with talent framework].

Remember is about fun and energy, metabolic management about creating higher energy levels. Open air can have big impact.

Embedding a Growth Mindset – Raising courage for maximum performance

[Presenters’ company focuses on helping people develop a “courageous growth mindset” – I’ve won a personal free session with them so will be able to comment more in a few weeks].

The UK has major issues with engagement and job satisfaction – 24% in CIPD survey looking to move on from current employer.

Priorities coming from the (lack of) satisfaction include well-being programmes, cracking management development issues, etc.

Pennsylvania researchers developed the GRIT score based on Duckworth 12 item questionnaire. When tested with students at Penn the GRIT outweighed pure academic scores as indicator of performance.

So what we can do to up GRIT scores?

[Their solution is a reflective activity and workshop. They ran through part of this development piece with the group attending the session].

[Some of the points from the session:]

  • You can’t be too conformist to achieve this
  • Mind tactics page – things that block you from behaving the way you would [would you say you hold yourself back? Would consider I am fairly self reflective and aware. However would agree that subconsciously complacent]
  • [I liked the point that you need to think about how you act when engaged and what that means and looks like]
  • Don’t pigeon yourself. Celebrate your successes. [Their] iAM tool develops who you are at heart.
  • Have free events where you can experience it further. 4 a year.

Adding Business Value: proving the impact of L&D through evaluation

Proving value through evaluation (Trainingevaluation.com).

Need to be thinking of business value [obviously].

Need to stand up for ourselves [i.e. L&D] with evidence, unlikely anyone else will.

Yet innovation in learning not being matched with innovation in evaluation, LMS often adds to problem.

[Ran through a list of things from 1954] Same year as Kirkpatrick. How many other industries still using something from 50s? Not into kicking Kirkpatrick, as some presenters do, but there are clearly issues. [I’d agree but most industries build upon existing historic theories and to be fair Kirkpatrick is not in the same form, or at least expectations of use are not, as in 50s]

Really about behaviors and evaluation.

Evaluation thinkers have built upon KP or used alternatives [my point above], they make use of forecasting and other items from other fields.

One major issue with KP is that it is summative.

Instead decide what want and be strategic (four things can really look at):


[Fine but I would have thought most people realise they need to roll Kirkpatrick up to beyond a ‘course’ or ‘session’ to show real evaluation]

Decide target / what measure to say achieved / by when [yes, I like this as a simplification – effectively though is just saying L&D need SMART targets?].

Where appropriate, weigh input values (i.e. how much your element is impacting an organizational KPI) compared to other things. There are not too many valuables – banking, and other industries don’t claim that. They make forecasts, etc. so why can’t L&D?

Competencies [presenter’s] favorite area [from the above four quadrant wheel] to target as quick and easy with clearer returns.

Kirkpatrick can be simple and easy solution. Not likely what should actually be doing though.

Focus via points of value. Don’t rate in traditional ways, instead focus on specifics – instead of just asking if someone liked a session ask for measure of the presenter’s presentation skills and where could improve. Forget reaction, focus on intention.

Shifting focus:


Evaluation revolution book coming soon.

A practical framework for modern technology-based (L&D)

[Might have been my tiredness but this one felt a little all over the place with minimal reward]

Core skills for learning and Development – the ICS Learn Learner Support Model.

Response to changing shape of business, including technology, needs to include various factors, including creating self directed learners.

Generation Y/C analysis [not all of which id agree with – not specific to young people]. [Baisc argument was that] children can use technology and are using it at schools, with implications for workplace.

There will be a more fluid workplace, including career matching and a skills marketplace.

Need empowered culture, including feedback.

DNA of what goes in to be effective:


Learner support model for technology-enhanced-learning requires systems/tools and content but only works if all underpinned by support. [Anyone really not expect this to be part of it? Fair point though that tech alone isn’t enough – albeit one we’ve surely moved beyond having to make].

Example given of company where everyone holds responsibility for learning and development, yet L&D department is one person, you don’t have to have huge L&D staff or costs if doing well.

Effective online combines tech etc with capture/connect/communicate [i.e. social learning?].

Transferring L&D key skills:


25th May running live stream on Facebook, their first. Live Q&A on online learning experiences. 12pm on their Facebook page.

Virtual Employee Management: achieving business success using digital resources

Tribal historically focused on apprenticeships. Have taken apprenticeship ‘standards’ logic and tracking into a different focus of tracking operating standards and tracking objectives (e-track tool) – inc for remote staff. [Basically point of presentation was showing how their tool helps] Manage learning programmes overtime via tech, using portfolio and MIS.

Talked through approach: First map job role to competencies.

Example shown on e-track tool. [Basically a competency database with self assessment/certification – with attachments of evidence, etc]

What found was very granular models, so did additional piece focused on tasks. Simplify standards into tasks, if can perform then competent. Showed this mapped to standards but employee themselves sees as more practical as task based.

Different options for tracking, including self-certification versus supervisory roles doing it. Feedback throughout.

All based on fine level details for reporting to regulators that people can do jobs.

Showed some of interface for reporting, for example, managers being able to see progress. [quite nice interface, colours, etc]

Can develop a Learning and Development plan off back of it [effectively here you are taking a roles > competencies > learning approach but, of course, many orgs are at different stages in terms of their maturity in those three areas].

Communities functionality within the tools to have discussions, can pick up eLearning and other content from here – all ticking off competencies in background [effectively performing LMS functionality but in a competencies-first world?]

Interactive data and charts looked quite good, can drill down live within the browser. Can bring in information from other sources, such as payroll, to evaluate worth.

[Basically argue that providing the tracking needed in many industries, clients including nuclear and oil & gas, technology] easing their way.

Bringing the Appraisal Conversation to Life to Tackle Underperformance

Michael West NHS appraisal research – good appraisal correlates to mortality rates in hospital.

How make people love them? Needs to be whole organisation, not just managers – people need to own their performance. Manager only manages it.

Engage everyone, [their favourite approach is forum theatre, went on to demo this with couple of actors. Audience acting as director, stopping action and making recommendations, etc.]

[Quite a nice approach to showing the way to have the conversation].