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.