The old L&D measures are not just wrong: they should now be seen as negatives

Following on from my post about ‘greening L&D’ I’ve just listened to the recent L&D podcast from David James (with guest Kevin Yates).

I’ve heard Kevin speak before and it is difficult to disagree with his focus on metrics.  Indeed I fear I’ve even scared some recruiters off in the past when talking about what the organisational goals/metrics are when being interviewed by the learning department, when they would rather talk about preconceived ideas about what the best ‘learning solution’ may be.

Kevin mentions the business/organisational problem with the traditionally captured L&D metrics – like smiley sheet feedback and attendance numbers – i.e. that they are not business/organisation measures but L&D management measures.  However, I would take this further and say many of these measures are now active negatives in a world where we need to ‘green’ our ways of working.  I would argue we have to take the Learning Reducer mindset to be brutal with our activity – not just for the money spent on the activity but anything involving travel (face-to-face training, instructional design meetings, etc), printing, digital tool use (electricity), etc in terms of their contribution to our organisations’ carbon footprint.

I’m happy to support training if it actively builds networks in the company, increases confidence (especially considering the mounting mental health crisis) and other measures which may not be directly company related metrics (i.e. not hard ROI or ‘bottom line’) BUT the expectations need to be clear and measurable up front.  Indeed Kevin does mentions that for difficult things like putting metrics to tricky areas like behaviour change – ‘metrication’ (if I use that phrase) – we should still aim to do it (when appropriate).

10 years of Twitter

I recently received my “10th #twitterversary” email from Twitter and it made me reflect on my use of the platform.

I’ve never been a big tweeter, tending to use it share at events and also retweet/like things that I would later blog about from those same events.  Otherwise my use has been fairly limited.

Going back through my old tweets, tweet number one was:

That tweet is pretty indicative of my focus at the time – working with the Blackboard LMS/VLE and supporting users with/via free tech (like Screenr was).  In my early tweets, as with Screenr, there are a notable volume of dead-links – basically showing how Twitter is indicative of the web’s tendency for large amounts of redundant data.  The Blackboard focus includes plenty of early tweets from ongoing events such as #LondonBUG as well as historic date stamped hashtags like #BbTLC11.

More recently I have tried to shift from the work-only focus with an update to my profile (to include other interests like dog, football and gaming) to show more of my ‘personal’ side.  I’ve also written about being sucked into politics and tweeting about that – which obviously was not the intention ten years ago when tweeting new Blackboard resources!  Yet politics ‘sells’, considering my last tweet got 75 likes more than any other I think.

Why I tweeted this week about eLearning tools

This week I reach out on Twitter and LinkedIn for help finding a free authoring tool. 

This was spurred on by a bit of research and the realization that most tools on lists such as:

are either no longer available, very limited when offering a ‘free’/lite version (often just PowerPoint conversion which has been superseded by Office itself) or, well, just a bit rubbish. 

So I decided to reach out on Twitter and LinkedIn to see if any free tools are out there.  Even if not free, I was hoping that they may be free for K-12/school use, in the way Tableau, The Financial Times and many other organizations make their tools/content available to hook people in at school/university level.

Tools used in the past still available?

Now, I was aware of Xerte and LAMS but wanted to avoid a desktop install tool, the same going for things like Microsoft LCDS which I’d also played around with in the past (although LCDS probably does not exist any more?). 

I reregistered for h5p.org but that is a public only platform when using the free version. 

I was also steering clear of anything built mobile app first – instead I needed something browser-based for PC/Mac. 

I had also previously used tools like iSpring and Easy Generator, however, the Easy Generator free version is longer available. 

So why am I looking at this anyway? 

Well, to be honest, content creation for consumption.  In many ways going against my own preferred practice, such as that stated in this tweet:

https://twitter.com/iangardnergb/status/1169550514410917888

Indeed I commented elsewhere on LinkedIn this week (in a conversation about SCORM based eLearning) that surely SCORM was first and foremost about interoperability, then tracking and learners actually learning way down the list.  In other words, SCORM (like many learning management systems) were designed for the learning managers not the learners.

Authoring combined with hosting

There are some free authoring platforms out there still but, from what I could tell, they are like https://eliademy.com/ and linked to the hosting of the finished product on the same platform – effectively handing your IP over for the reward of having an online experience. 

A sign SCORM is finally going?

There are also a lot of shades of grey as we move away from SCORM being the defacto standard towards tools with an AR, eBook or other focus. 

One interesting platform seems to be https://derbyware.com/ where you can publish quizzes, these can be embedded on your own site and password protected if you were to want to use them in your own sessions.  You could potentially combine this with Office365 elements to build an LMS without an LMS – unless you want to host trackable SCORM files of course!

Live ‘eLearning’

This differs to some of the live presentation software which, perhaps spooked by MS Teams and other things, do offer fairly comprehensive free options (such as Hypersay) or free licenses for education (such as Zeetings).

Just as an aside to finish, at least GoMo, Articulate, eLAT and others do provide free trials.

First thoughts on the “UK EdTech Strategy”

I’ve seen quite a lot of comments on Twitter about the lack of ‘learning’ focus in the UK’s announced EdTech Strategy.

Well, I finally got chance to look at the announcement today, some thoughts below:

  1. Productivity. One of my drivers in work is a dislike for waste and inefficiency. Therefore, I’m glad to see the focus on cutting teacher workloads. I’ve long argued that schools and (other public-purse funded) education institutions fail to drive enough efficiency in areas such as the below (all of which it would be nice to think are ‘in scope’):
    1. Shared resources – why does every teacher either build their own resources or buy from 3rd parties? If curriculum are comparable to exam standards then why not better sharing (and I do not mean for an individual teacher’s profit on sites like TES)?
    2. Manual marking – rather than switching to using automatic marking, question banks, adaptive content, etc.
    3. Expensive and wasteful school by school arrangements – for things like library licences, online learning environments, IT support, etc. The Teacher Vacancy Service has recognised the costs in recruitment, why not in other areas?
  2. 10million? Obviously this is a pretty minuscule drop in the ocean, especially given cuts to school budgets overall. Therefore, you suspect the approach needs to be to leverage existing tech better and spread practice from the likes of Microsoft education communities more widely. School funding cuts have gone too far but at the same time schools have not used tech for financial efficiency (as well as the kind of organisational productivity in point 1).
  3. Training/CPD for teachers. I recently commented on a popular education site saying the school sector desperately needs to move away from CPD=inset days to more continuous improvement. The problem is that teachers are timetabled to be in a set place at a set time teaching, with less flexibility for learning at work than many other professions. Sharing outcomes from the multitude of excellent informal learning that teachers undertake (Facebook groups, etc) that is not recognised widely currently would be a start. Sharing learning with other public sector bodies, such as the NHS and local councils would be even better. School’s are too often isolated in their communities as standalone institutions, failing to recognise that CPD and other areas is available via other companies’s CSR and other means.
  4. Tackling essay mills is obviously a worthy cause. Even better still would be better forms of assessment which were less reliant on essays in the first place.
  5. SEN supporting technology – this bit feels particularly where more cash might have been needed to make a real difference. That said, again, better sharing of practice would be a start – the promised ‘demonstrator schools and colleges’ might work as an approach to this in terms of developing communities and evidence based practice.
  6. The problem is too much tech? Anyone who goes to BETT (or is otherwise aware of the EdTech market) will probably wonder if we really need need more solutions in the identified areas such as “essay marking, formative assessment, parental engagement and timetabling technology”. What is really needed is the support in selection and implementation that JISC offers some of the target audience but BECTA used to for schools. BESA and LendED are mentioned in the statement for this kind of purpose but, of course, BESA and BECTA are quite different beasts.

Overall, no lack of good intent but a lot of work to do with little money. Consider, for scale, that assigned £10m versus the £146.2m JISC spent in 17/18.

Some reflections on learning from recent weeks in a new role

Not working directly in a workplace L&D team for a little while has been nice in some ways.

It has allowed me to reflect once more on the nature of learning and what we are trying to achieve via investments in ‘workplace learning’ teams and initiatives.

This time has only reinforced in mind the reality that everyone at work is learning, all the time.  Those of us who might consider ourselves as ‘learning pros’ are really only able to support this through appropriate infrastructures/scaffolds, interventions, etc.  At the same time trying to ensure, from an employee engagement perspective, that people feel valued and supported.

As I am working in formal education again (albeit now in the 2-18 age range which is mostly new to me) I’ve also gained new insights into what we really mean by ‘learning’, ‘performance improvement’, etc.  It is also clearer to me than ever that the idea school teachers are educators stuck in didactic formal learning (sage on stage/chalk n talk type stuff stymied from change) couldn’t be further from the truth.  This, in part, reinforces my old view about how stuck-up/presumptive a lot of the L&D industry’s focus is.  It also makes the case for more interaction between schools, colleges/universities and workplaces to better leverage technology and better understand what we are all trying to achieve (or “business needs to stop complaining about talent and do more with schools and apprenticeships” as I’ve put it in the past).

More thoughts will no doubt come out of these experiences in coming weeks – first up is a feeling…

Corporate change and the hamster wheel

…A feeling that workplace learning conversations, continue to be stuck like a hamster on a wheel.  This has been triggered by seeing some of the old workplace learning arguments coming up once again on social media in recent weeks and also from a quick flick through of “Beyond Knowledge Management: Dialogue, creativity and the corporate curriculum” which I’ve recently picked up (Bob Garvey and Bill Williamson, 2002 – BKM from here on).

BKM’s forward (by Rosemary Harrison) suggests the book is a “response to…turbulent competitive conditions” and considers/suggests how to tackle this via “the competencies and ethical issues involved in working in a continuous learning environment”.  Here we effectively see the L&D staple of VUCA vs the need for learning organisations to tackle such uncertainty and continuous change.  The point though is that this is from 2002, before VUCA became the standard descriptor.  Consider that with another recent excerpt I got from a book:

href=”https://twitter.com/iangardnergb/status/1092430958437883904″

The answer to the question in the tweet is 1975

The Hawleys were talking about the growing volume of media in the ’70s (TV, magazines, newspapers, etc.) but I thought the quote clearly felt contemporary in the ‘information overload due to the Internet’ era. 

Overall these examples show that, for decades, we’ve been talking about the same issues and really wasting effort in tackling them.  Another recent-ish tweet of mine considered how Mad Men picked up on this in showing that whilst some things have clearly changed, although in areas like racism perhaps not as much as we’d like to think, there are other aspects where the same conversations are happening ad nauseam.  The specific example in my tweet being the rise of the machines:

https://twitter.com/iangardnergb/status/1089955996607434752

That issue being particularly appropriate given that AI, automation and associated technologies are very much the vogue topics in 2019.

The difference in BKM’s title to the more modern conversations would perhaps be that the “corporate curriculum” has come and gone in preference to learning ‘in the workflow’ via increasingly bitesize and flexible provision.  That said, I can consider my own personal experiences in the interim years with global curriculum management (2012-2015) and redefining a UK learning curriculum from local practice to national and accredited (2016-2018).  Compare those six years to someone delivering a traditional curriculum, for example, a traditional ‘trainer’ doing the rounds and you hit the classic of “doing the same thing for six years is one year’s experience versus doing different things for six years is six years’ experience”.  Thus, we hit another L&D trap – an assumption that ‘in workflow’ is the way to go rather than more formalized approaches.  This is in part the snobbery I mentioned previously where white-collar knowledge work is all anyone does (to be fair, BKM is specifically considering issues stemming from the rise of knowledge workers).

Working in a school I’ve already made the point multiple times to pupils that time is the commodity they do not realize is most important.  They will come to realise this in the workplace, of course, but supporting the international baccalaureate is an eyeopener in the specific focus on what we mean by knowledge/learning and what the profile of a learner looks like.  I’d be tempted to say every L&D professional should familiarize themselves with this as, if you are hiring IB graduates, you should have a very different breed of new-hire than if not.  Certainly different than I was at 18 and probably still so after the extra academic skills and instruction of university to 21 and travel/reflection to 22.

So what about dealing with that VUCA world?  Well it was interesting to see the 20th anniversary comments on Office Space (http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20190205-office-space-turns-20-how-the-film-changed-work) and the “Is this good for the company?” culture of the 90s versus the employee wellbeing and engagement culture that is increasing the case today.

One thing where we can be happy to stay on the wheel is in agreeing that learning is continuous, good for the organisation and good for the organisation’s people.