Some recent reading

I recently realized that I had made various rough notes from a number of different things I have read over the last year or so.  Below is an attempt to aggregate these, all very rough.

How HR Technology Bolsters Learning

I would consider that we are now seeing the end of workplace technology’s focus being on replacing paper processes to areas where the value is more ephemeral and informal.  This includes the explosion of ‘social’ tools and their ability to amplify work, especially in cultures where working out loud is encouraged.  This article (How HR Technology Bolsters Learning) highlighting that HR technology is beginning to focus on both  “employee’s self interest as well as that of the organization” – see my previous post mentioning my professional interest in supporting people and therefore their organizations.  However, I would fundamentally disagree with the article for stating that the more “radical” improvements in HR tech for learning are “because millennials demand it”.  This contradicts the articles own chain of thought – there are many reasons for improving the use of tech for learning not least that “retention was frequently low” with “historic…online training”.  It is not a generational thing, sorry, lets just stop that already.

Stop With “The Future Of Learning” Already

A nice article in both encouraging an end to TFOL talk but also recognizing that there are different types of workplace learning – compliance, professional development and capability acquisition – needing to be recognized and often approached differently.

Digital Curation: A Collection of Dusty Old Curiosities?

I’m always interested in the idea of curation as a competency for L&D professionals, having come into learning from the ‘dusty’ world of libraries.  Indeed many of my concerns over the need for learning professionals to see themselves as part of a bigger support structure comes from my experience of seeing what has happened to the information professionals’ world.  There is one line in the article that will be particularly familiar to information professionals: “when learners/employees are more skilled in searching and sharing, they don’t need L&D to curate for them. Experts emerge and take over from L&D, and rightly so”.  This sounds very familiar to the ‘why do we need information professionals when we have online resources’ mantra of many an information service/library cutback.

The learning professional is no alien to such logic of course, with e-learning business cases too often focused on the cost savings (including headcounts) compared to face-to-face, rather than anything about quality.  We can see this across the board for support professionals though, for example, individual reputation management (via LinkedIn, etc.) is supposed to be replacing marketing in many industries.  Indeed when at a previous organization, working as a learning technologist, I rewrote my job description to be a two year contract to try and encourage a move to self-sufficient maturity by the wider organization.  This was not accepted, as I expected, as there is always scope for an expert pushing the boundaries and trying something new, updating policy as appropriate whilst maintaining standards.  However, the key thing that cuts across all of the questioning of support roles is time, support staff tend to earn less than those they support and thus the likelihood of, for example, teachers taking on responsibility for classroom technology over technicians/IT/learning technologies or lawyers handling their own research will always come down to cost.

As the article actually says, people will curate when “they value it” but, as we know – not least from the ‘The Future of Learning’ article above – there are types of learning people value more than others.  Therefore, I would argue, there will be areas where the organizational experts, SMEs and the individual will play a different part of the mix.  The learning professional, in my opinion, can curate to feed into a professional’s personal network as there will be mutual trust.  The learner will trust the organizations they are a member of (professional bodies, employer, etc.) to feed into their PLN whilst those same organizations will entrust their learners to appropriately develop their expertise.

Information service cutbacks have often based on the false idea that “everything is googleable”, as called out by another article on Curation, and value can certainly be gained from a learning team acting as the gatekeeper to quality hidden web/subscription resources.  It is certainly no surprise to hear presentations on the LSG Webinars, for example, espousing the value of HBR and other content for learning blends.

I would say curation has to be seen as a social activity, thus it will be hugely influenced by organizational culture.  Do you have a global, regional or local culture?  ESNs and the scope of curation and sharing will undoubtedly help you identify this.

The feeling remains though, when talking about things like weekly news round ups, how the information world has too often lived in isolation whereas curation as part of curriculum, capability frameworks or looser support of lifelong learning can play a more valuable role for our clients/colleagues.  However, whilst there is undoubted value in curation, I would be fearful of ‘learning’ departments looking too closely at the world of information for survival techniques.

Lost in translation: re-imagining L&D

I love the core concept here – that what we think about as ‘learning technology’ can be far more pervasive than L&D teams manage to see/implement.  Fundamentally it is about the productivity of the workforce and understanding of where things can work well.  As the article states the  “focus on implementing learning innovation at this granular level [the course] rather than at the macro organizational level…[means] practitioners are in danger of viewing organizational learning in the narrowest of senses”.

The idea, set out in the article, to move “upstream” to “design learning ecosystems” are inline with my personal views that to create a learning organization/culture we must establish the opportunities for people to learn and reflect via technology, policy and some formal training.  Even if, for example, only 10% of employees use a social learning tool, that is going to be a % increase on local learning that would not have happened with the possibilities for wider audience/amplification via such a tool.  Let’s not suppose we can do everything, but we can establish where there is room for improvement and tackle those issues and provide opportunities for people to learn from the appropriate people.

Office Mix: To Mix, Or Not To Mix, That Is The Question

I have asked if people are using OM on both workplace and HE-centric learning tech forums in the past with little or no response, so it was interesting to to see this article pop up.  I’m still to try OM in anger, due to the need to have the latest PPT version, but it sounds like a real opportunity for encouraging digital content production with a low tech skill entry point.

The “dramatic introduction” in the article will sound familiar, just updated, to anyone working in learning tech – the decades old battle of inconsistent behavior on browsers and the failure of browsers/standards to offer users/learners a standard experience.  My view on this would be, generally speaking, to avoid large scale ‘packaging’ and instead chunk content into formats we know should work, such as video, PDF, etc. including finally moving away from SCORM*.  Of course nothing is going to be perfect but by leveraging the delivery platform we make learning more like the platforms/networks we use outside of work.

As the article states, Microsoft are after the education pie; OM was one part of their products on show at BETT.  In many ways it offers the easiest route yet from Office/standalone learnign to digital multimedia content, here’s hoping it is worth the wait when I really get a chance!

* Can’t we just skip SCORM-packaging and go straight to HTML5?

I totally agree with the sentiment in this thread.  However, I would say HTML5 is not necessarily the answer.

Fundamentally I think there remains a lot from the historical legacy.  We can perhaps simplify the situation to see the evolution to eLearning v1.0 (SCORM packages) as being about taking slide/CD-ROM style corporate learning online.
This is quite different to other sectors, for example Higher Education.  HE effectively looked to LMS systems for file sharing and communication from the start – Blackboard managed huge market share even though their SCORM player did not work for years!  This was partly as the LMS itself did lots of the tracking – resources could be chunked appropriately rather than lumped into one tracked package.  When Web2.0 came then wikis and other tools could be integrated to mix-up the learning activity offering.
Most organizations have probably moved on to some extent from v.1 but the need to support legacy requirements means scrapping the old and starting afresh is always going to be difficult.  However, one solution would be to use online systems as platforms for a variety of content formats (in the same way social media platforms can be used to distribute) rather than authoring/packaging into html5 and having ‘courses’ that are single items.

The L&D world is splitting in two

I perhaps wouldn’t go as far to see the world as split in two.  I’d consider a blend of elements from the past, but with a clear drive to move on and improve, as the way forward.  Nonetheless this is an excellent article and has led to plenty of discussion since.  That said, the conversation is really a continuation of L&D’s professionals tendency to, in my opinion, be overly reflective (yes I know I’m reflecting and blogging to make that point) and not acting on where we know things can be improved.  Why?  Well that will vary by organization  but it will often be about a lack of time of course.

Overall we should be agreed that productivity, performance and engagement can be impacted by learning professionals and will play their part in avoiding another major economic meltdown.

Probably enough for now – I have some more notes I will be in their own post.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader ( and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

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