My name is Ian Gardner and this site houses my blog – used for personal reflection as well as examples of my work and links to other media. The views expressed on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of my employers or any other organisation/person/body.

I blog about various topics that can be seen as at the intersection of education/learning, information and technology. I tend to refer to the intersection of these three items as ‘educational informatics’ (as introduced to me at university and mentioned on posts including here).

Whose Education Is It Anyway?

This blog is primarily for me to reflect on events, articles, tweets and other development activities. One fascinating issue for education, at the time of the blog’s launch in July 2012, was the discussion around ‘ownership’ of education and I presume many posts will consider who should be making the big decisions related to developing our global future. Thus the title for the site seemed appropriate, and it harks back to the theme of my first ever SlideShare upload (the questionable slides are here).

To view background information on my work and educational experience please visit my LinkedIn profile. Please feel free to contact me on this site.

Editing of posts is limited (hence lots of typos), however, I am more than happy to correct inaccuracies identified.

My approach to supporting learning is multifaceted but this page attempts to aggregate a clearer picture of what I believe many organizations need to pursue. If any of the below is of interest to you please do reach out and let me know.

This site has been updated a few times since late 2015. The primary focus is on workplace learning but elements extend to formal education. It has also housed my ideas around launching a “Novice Media” brand.

Some of my professional views

My work in learning is based on my professional experience – again this strides the areas of learning/education, information (science/services) and technology. I tend to have different views to many people I have come across in the ‘learning industry’ – I have tried to summarise some of this in my idea of being a “Learning Reducer“.

When it comes to what this means in practice there are some core elements of my personal ‘culture’:

  1. Work is learning and learning is the work.
    • I am an advocate of much of what Harold Jarche publishes and this phrase (follow the link above for more) is key.
    • Although I came into Learning and Development (L&D) from a learning/eLearning content angle I am happy to argue that content should not be the initial focus. Instead you need to think about how people are working. If your Intranets, shared file systems and other collaboration platforms are working well and driving efficiency and productivity then a ‘learning system’ may not be needed. If online communication and collaboration are failing then you need to think more holistically about how people work and learn. For example, when I worked in higher education we enabled the staff body to use the student-facing virtual learning environment (VLE aka LMS) to support collaboration among the team via, for example, file sharing and remote meetings via ‘classroom’ tools. Today, this would unlikely be the correct approach thanks to the proliferation of tools such as Microsoft Teams.
    • If we are talking about organisations that operate with a largely digital workplace then we need to consider digital learning, I see this as going beyond eLearning (largely synonymous with SCORM packages) and online learning (the wider picture beyond SCORM into LMS, Virtual Classroom, etc) to support the sharing and development of information, knowledge and skills within the workforce (digital being a holistic view of information flows and developments) including collaboration, mobile, apps, AR, VR and more.
  2. Another aspect of this is that learning is not L&D’s responsibility (alone).
    • A lot of the time, in many organisations, improvements can be made via consideration of knowledge, information, skills and behaviours (all of which can be impacted by knowledge and learning solutions but not just L&D).
    • Learning will happen with or without a learning function but we need to aim for that efficiency/proficiency and amplification of outcomes (such as actual impact on performance and sharing across silos). However, whilst this can be sought, the whole organisation has to take responsibility for reaching the desired goal. An example would be that if you want cultural change then you have to foster it from the top (managers act as they preach) with other areas, such as recruitment/induction, enforcing expectations – going on a training course will not be enough.
    • In many ways I am a learning reducer (see here for some logic from the music industry) – keeping learning lean, agile and focused whilst part of a supportive scaffold. Learning should help us on the way – not be the destination.
  3. Learning as a support service.
    • Many learning-focused folks have taken on 70:20:10 as a mantra for what they should be doing. The argument being that many organisations positioned their learning department to only be supporting the 10% and are now playing catch-up. Quite how 10%-focused teams got into such a predicament is always a little beyond me, for example, they surely had not ignored reflection, especially considering it has been fundamental to the often maligned Higher Education and school learning patterns. My take on 70:20:10 is that the ratios will vary and the 90 will happen with or without L&D, our real value is in supporting the structures that amplify tacit ability and make it available to all who may need it – including community management for social learning.
    • Support for learning can also extend beyond the workplace, supporting the personal learning networks of colleagues, for example, exposing your learning to the ‘extended enterprise’, prospective staff, pre-induction new joiners via on-boarding, working with membership organisations, etc. Therefore learning professionals, in my opinion, are all about supporting the right networks and opportunities as well as designing great learning opportunities where there remains a need.
  4. Open-web first (people use Google before they use you).
    • If your company thinks it has expertise in a specific area it should come up in a “I want to…” search for that topic on YouTube. If not, why not? Google identify this use related to domestic issues but, just as there has been massive growth in home and beauty queries, there will be ever expanding use in the workplace and for professional topics. This is an example of where previous internal silos between marketing, learning and communications need to get much less defined – promoting expertise internally and externally is the role of the wider support structure. Unfortunately we are instead seeing experts contribute to further expanding silos elsewhere, such as LinkedIn Learning.
    • I would argue that the MOOCs which will succeed, if any, will be those that expose their materials to Google through, for example, hosting video on YouTube and not on a closed LMS. These resources can then advertise the value that comes from active engagement in the ‘walled gardens’ of MOOC platforms and where the SME-student and peer interaction leads to real learning.
    • If you have propitiatory IP used in internal courses/resources then host that internally, however, be honest about how much you actually have that adds value by being bespoke and not open. Communicate this value in the way you curate resources, and foster communication around them.
    • I do not believe in grouping people by generational or other categories, as everyone is different, however, the “67%…[of people who] agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn” (see above link to Google piece) will only increase and internal learning should be making sure their companies are recognised as the experts by being the people learners find on the open-web.
    • The challenge for me in showing a ‘portfolio’ of work is that too many organisations still work with the closed LMS model.
  5. Motivation and engagement.
    • Many of your people may not think there is much value in an open-first approach. However, I would argue, that in a learning/knowledge-centric organisation your people are your brand. The social media and public web profiles of your company and the individuals who make it up will create the perfect storm of branding and learning culture. If people are driven by a salary they should see business improve, if they are driven by prestige they should see conference presentations and the like increase, etc.
    • The alternative motivation would be to argue that if you do not do this you will not survive. Higher Education institutions, for example, need to think how technology enables cross-institutional working to break silos.
  6. Professional learning is personalised learning.
    • The professional learning iceberg is a nice way to articulate if people are really acting in a way to develop deep technical expertise. Where people are in terms of the deepness of their development will obviously be very personal. Therefore, we need to stop a lack of engagement with career development by avoiding numbing our colleagues’ senses with locked-down and non-personalised resources.
    • One way to better personalise learning is to make better use of assessment, especially short form assessments, that can help keep people up-to-speed with a topic as well as assessing what development activities they may actually need. Filtered is an example of a company that has taken this on with tailored learning experiences via initial assessments of understanding. Testing seems to be increasingly synonymous with bad compliance training. This does not have to be the case.

There are many other points that are in mind and impact my work – I’m more than happy to discuss!

SO what might learning look like?

Within the scaffold of support, advocated for above, there remain use cases for formal learning and other L&D activity. Some of what I have done in the past (which will influence the blog on this site):

Synchronous Development Opportunities

  1. Virtual classroom and face-to-face
    1. Work has included developing workshops, lectures, seminar materials and more. Such work has varied from long form development programmes to short sessions.
    2. Have supported others in their designs as well as shifts towards virtual delivery in Higher Education and workplace learning.
    3. Mapped existing materials to external standards, for example aligning development programmes with apprenticeship standards and existing training materials to new operational processes.

Asynchronous Development Opportunities

  1. Generally speaking I have used learning platforms to combine different elements as appropriate for the topic or requirements of the organisation, qualification or other restriction. Sometimes resulting in quite long LMS/VLE pages – but this remains my preference over hiding away in SCORMs (when there is no logic for combining in a single package).
  2. Development of resources, including short video, checklists and user guides.
  3. Recordings of sessions, either from face-to-face sessions, from virtual sessions or purpose recorded via screen capture tools such as Camtasia and Screencastify.
  4. ‘Traditional’ eLearning modules. Often considered in a three level model:
    1. Bronze: generally PPT to eLearning conversion. Tools used have included iSpring, Articulate, etc. There is the risk of numbing our colleagues’ senses with locked-down and non-personalised resources if there is too much of this.
    2. Silver: some level of instructional/learning design input as well as creating/sourcing appropriate visual representations, such as adding in some humour, interactive images, visual themes, use of visual reminders, interactive maps, etc. Have experimented with most of the HTML5 authoring tools now available (basic menu example, basic content).
    3. Gold: in-depth analysis and design. Final products in the past have often made use of external vendors and/or licenced image libraries. Might include things like interactive video.
  5. Community management and social learning via discussion boards, Enterprise Social Networks (ESN), etc. This form of informal learning (and ‘community management’) is hugely important in my eyes and too often overlooked in ‘eLearning’ skill sets.

“Learning Systems”

Creating the scaffolds to support learning, including established learning related policies, procedures and systems. Examples include:

  1. Building out a full offering to develop excellence in leadership and management, working with experts in my team, external vendors and colleagues.
  2. Development opportunity frameworks aligned to role profiles and competency/capability models to create transparency for colleagues (on development opportunities) and organizations (on skill-mix).
  3. Developing a learning culture through technology, such as ESNs but also coaching and other techniques (inc. use of Strengthscope accreditation).
  4. Benchmarking my work and demonstrating value (inc. via use of Kirkpatrick accreditation).
  5. Have managed various systems, including a Blackboard implementation project, ePortfolio, Moodle, Totara, Campus Pack and Questionmark.
  6. Process development, including supporting the redesign of course development.
  7. Project management, task management and more around improving organizational performance and individuals’ empowerment.

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