Another reading catchup

Another in the occasional series looking at some of the reading I’ve stockpiled with reflections for anyone who might be interested in the topics covered:

It’s never too late to learn [Journal of Workplace Learning; Vol. 27 Iss 6; Russell Paul Warhurst and Kate Emma Black; 2015]

An attention-worthy approach (from Newcastle Business School) to the empirical study of workplace learning – as the articles puts it:

The informal, incidental, tacit and social nature of much workplace learning poses methodological challenges in ascertaining from respondents exactly what they have learnt and particularly, how their learning has occurred (Fuller and Unwin, 2005; McNair, 2013). Therefore, visual elicitation techniques were deployed in advance of interviews to assist participants in exploring such tacit learning accomplishments and implicit learning processes. Three visual techniques were used:

(1)  Timelines: Participants were requested to depict their work over the preceding ve years as a horizontal line showing the degree of change, and learning, as gradients on that line against a vertical axis scaled from “set backs” through “stability” to “rapid”.

(2)  Sociograms: Participants were requested to indicate whom they interacted with over a typical month, the nature of this interaction (e.g. face-to-face or electronically) and how signi cant they felt these interactions were for them.

(3)  Pictors: Participants were asked to produce a visual representation of how they viewed themselves in their social worlds, in response to the question “How do I see myself as a later-career manager?”

I thought the three approaches above were interesting ones considering the challenge in getting professionals to reflect and think how they have developed.  Indeed they could also be used to visually represent impact of programmes to, in part, tackle the evaluation challenge.

I have recently been running a series of workshops at my organisation on career development opportunities – in part around the advantages that the May changes to apprenticeships will bring.  The ability to retrain, even if you have a degree or other qualification, via an apprenticeship is a key message.  Thus I liked the idea that “ageing populations need to be seen as a key, growing, natural asset rather than, as typically construed today, a liability”.  The article itself focuses on informal learning but realistically there will be opportunities to think again about skills development via multiple routes.  “Later-career workers need to be alerted to the learning potential within their jobs and the capabilities to leverage this potential” – yep!

How to enhance the impact of training on service quality?: Evidence from Malaysian public sector context [Journal of Workplace Learning; Vol. 27 Iss 7; Abdul Rahim Zumrah; 2015]

Whilst it is common sense to presume training needs to be reinforced/transferred to actually have an impact on quality this article argues for a positive relationship via a measurement approach.  Overall it is useful in reinforcing that training alone will not impact on performance:

The finding of this study is an important outcome that has not been empirically determined previously in the literature, which highlight the significance of transfer of training as a mechanism to enhance the impact of training on employees’ performance (service quality). This finding provides support for the social exchange approach, suggesting that where employees perceive the support from their organization (they have been sponsored to attend training programs by organization), then feel an obligation to engage in behaviors that benefit the organization (transfer the training outcomes to the workplace) and are also willing to expend more effort to fulfill their organizational goals (delivering quality service to organization’s customers). The finding of this study also responds to calls for research to investigate the mediating factor between HRM practices and employees’ performance (Tremblay et al., 2010). The finding also helps to clarify the ambiguity in the literature in regard to the relationship between training and service quality (Beigi and Shirmohammadi, 2011; Chand and Katou, 2007; Cook and Verma, 2002; Hung, 2006; Schneider and Bowen, 1993; Zerbe et al., 1998). Specifically, this study extends the literature by providing empirical evidence that transfer of training has a mediating effect on the relationship between training and employee service quality in the context of the Malaysian public sector.

How to Solve the Content Discovery Problem [Brandon Hall Group, Presentation Deck]

A topic of interest to me with my library/content/information route into the world of learning.  Unsurprisingly it identified the challenge of content:

94% of companies say that managing the expanding content library is a challenge presented by today’s learning environment

It also picked up on a point I regularly make and have previously tried to argue should be increasingly irrelevant through decent organizational design:

content overload is only getting worse with siloed organizations using their own tools

In other words, departments such as KM, marketing and L&D should be working together but instead buy their own solutions and thus overwhelm internal and external clients.

One of the solutions for the learner experience is federated search – which was the hot topic 10ish years ago when I did my library/information MA (especially for HE orgs) but corporates seem to have failed with this.  Indeed, in some ways such as looking at experts and peer based collaboration, the corporate world is still catching up with academia.

The filtering is then the challenge.  However, whilst the presentation suggests a “personalized feed” integrated with other business applications I wonder if this ignores the UX of some tools.  Content, generally speaking, will have some level or motivation/gamification built in to their platform.  So is the solution, instead, a combination of apps by audience/need?  The presentation instead suggesting Edcast as the aggregating “knowledge cloud”.  The traditional model probably being the topic/course centric LMS.

The takeaways are fair though and the kind of issues I have tackled in the last 15ish years:

  • Traditional content models cannot keep up with modern business needs
  • Keeping content current and fresh can be a challenge
  • Legacy content can also become unusable
  • The modern learner wants choices, personalization and a familiar interface
  • Subject matter expertise exists farther and wider than most organizations can reach

12th annual Keeping Pace report [Evergreen; 2015]

Very late catching up with this one but another document on a topic of interest – online “K-12” education – and this report helps highlight how the US (in this area at least) are considering a variety of approaches to improve outcomes and meet demand.  IMO a form of UK online free school is surely needed.  Indeed the report identifies the kind of needs, from the American online ‘charter’ school equivalents, that the UK could tackle:

In the case of elementary and middle school students, many attend an online school due to temporary reasons (illness, injury, behavioral issues, allergies). In high schools, many students move to an online school because they are behind and at risk of dropping out of school altogether.

Thus dispelling some of the myths such as the US demand coming from geography and there would not be the demand in the UK.  Indeed there are some positive messages on impact too – such as in Florida where “students outperform state average in end-of-course exams”.

The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned [Josh Bersin]

A newer piece, as it was published this week, with a lot of good stuff summarizing the state of play for those of us who like to say we work in online/digital learning.  It is a little US centric and knowledge-worker focused in places (which to be fair it acknowledges) but it is one of the better things I’ve seen from Bersin for quite a while:

Overall, it really drives home that the myriad of tools now available means the boundaries between home/work/learning have effectively gone.  Indeed I’d challenge the point about people spending so much time on email always being a negative – yes, a lot will be junk keeping people away from “specific” work but how many of those emails are learning experiences?  Even if the learning is just related to clandestine organizational cultures or rabbit holes of bureaucracy?

I especially like that Microsoft Teams got a mention having had a first look this week.  MT does an awful lot of what your traditional LMS would – discussion groups for communities of practice, VOIP/video for tutoring, task lists for activities/assessments, content sharing for reading/watching/reflecting, wikis for collab authoring, etc etc.  SCORM, I guess, would be the elephant in the room for most LMS deployment but there you’d be looking at if that content is really what you want going forward.  How we might combine MT and xAPI is very much on my “to do” list.

There are things to criticize – for example a lot of this isn’t new just being delivered differently (e.g. microlearning) but as mentioned earlier a lot to like too.

I’ve got a whole ‘reading’ folder on my desktop going back many months so expect some more of these posts soon…

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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