Viva la viva

I’m a bit slow on this but been catching up today with last week’s Microsoft Viva announcements. It seems I partly missed this as the posts, that I saw at least, had instead picked up more on Microsoft making a bold prediction that Black Mirror-esque creepiness is going to be mainstream employee experience in the future:

Anyway, away from that slightly odd video, here is a good introduction video to Viva:

Donald Taylor picked up on Josh Bersin’s good summary here:

Personally, my initial thought was – “oh, great, ANOTHER platform”. With a bit more digging, Viva is clearly a lot more interesting than I thought. MS are looking to put a layer over Teams, SharePoint, etc and surface (pardon the pun) to the user a more personalised work experience. Rather than building Teams out to do this, as I had previously presumed, we have a different model here. Huge potential for us to finally “put learning in the flow of work” and facilitate knowledge/information sharing in new ways. However, like with Teams, it will take organisational approaches to drive people to work in ways that make the data, information sharing, etc actually helpful.

No doubt there will be a considerable consultancy market here – especially considering the knots people seem to be able to get themselves into even with the existing stack of tools like the classic issue: “do I save this file in email, Teams, shared drive, Onedrive….?”.

It is particularly interesting that by charging extra for this, Microsoft are acknowledging this has considerable value add (or at least they think it does). This isn’t just another tweak to M365 based on new AI, an aquisition or other tech. This is something where they have pulled together different things into a clear new, priced, product.

For learning/HR pros this could be a major market shakeup – see the Bersin post for more on that. The partnerships with LMS/LXP companies, for example, threatens to create an API monopoly, i.e. there is a risk that traditional L&D vendors will only be able to sell to companies if they are in the Viva network. One suspects the monopoly and merger authorities on both sides of the Atlantic will be keeping an eye on this – as should all HR/L&D pros.

The often ignored realities of talent management (#7): It is the little things that count (in the office)

Having returned to an office environment for the first time in a while I have realised that a number of things I used to be quite dismissive of actually matter quite a lot, this might be my “reality” rather than a wider set of rules but here goes:

  1. Fresh air – it makes a huge difference if you can get it, i.e. if your windows actually open rather than being in a glass box.
  2. Open plan vs smaller offices – I have often been critical of open plan in the past but starting in a new environment of (nearly) one-to-one offices (many people having their own and others sharing in small groups) has made me think again. It is very tricky to know how best to interact in a small office environment if you are used to open plan. What is too much noise? Is it okay just to interrupt people to say hi? These are “organisational culture” type issues I have been generally dismissive of in the past but my experience has made it clear – you need to be clear to new joiners what the expectations are. I would say my best past experiences are of small office (approx. 6-8) layouts where an immediate team can be based together, discuss as appropriate, avoid bothering others too much and be a clear “unit” for those coming from elsewhere.
  3. Screen glare is really bad – sun onto screens does not work. I used to involuntary cry when leaving the office at one of my old jobs and I am now wondering if it was artificial light glare on the screens.
  4. Intranets, Office 365 profiles and social tools – okay so I am an advocate for these anyway but if your organisation has them then you should HAVE to use them, to be transparent and help with working out loud yes but simply so newbies know who people are.

There are other things I have noticed too from shifting from a work from home routine:

  • Shoes hurt.
  • I talk to myself. A LOT.
  • Daily faff of commute, desk setup, etc. really is a waste of time and money.
  • Face-to-face meetings are useful but Zoom is fine. Face-to-face social activities are far more useful.
  • I am very very unfit and really need to do something about it! 🙂

10 years on: the end of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in England (and “Creative” approaches to the job market)

This post is a little early, as applications were no longer available from Jan 2011 but we are now basically at the 10 year point for the EMA closing in England.

It is still available elsewhere in the UK.

First the bad, I worked in Further Education (16 year olds +) when the EMA existed and it created problems. The college I worked at had a very “them and us” divide within the student body between students who wanted to be there to learn and students who were (at least seen by their peers) only there to claim the (small) allowance. The insinuation was that some of these “just turning up” people had other sources of income (for example drugs) or simply were attending for something to do, a small amount of cash and/or to keep their parents happy (to the point where there were accusations that tutors were intimidated to report attendance even when learners were late or absent).

@TheIFS report from 2010 reviewed the impact of the EMA and if closure was a good move: https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/5370

Even with my concerns over the previous experiment (see above) where might an EMA style system fit in the future? I would argue that an EMA would be more effective in the 18+ age range as a form of Universal Basic Income. As a guaranteed income, it could allow adults of all ages to continue their personal development and formal accreditation whilst potentially not having to take as huge a pay cut to try a new career route via apprenticeships, etc. In such a scenario we would ideally “top up” salaries to some previous level, meaning mortgages remain affordable whilst people take time to “reset” their income generation, or at least can sell a house with slightly less pressure that what redundancy or other enforced change of career normally brings. This “top up” would be similar to how some unemployment schemes work worldwide, i.e. you do not just baseline everyone to a minimal level of income, and encourage more mid-career reskilling and moves to sectors needing people.

Yes, this would be hugely expensive but given that state finances have gone out of the window in 2020 (even more than in 2008-2019) perhaps not in a bad way. This is of course timely given the current state of the job market and the need to think of “creative” solutions for the future:

Valid learning eXperiences

Following on from my designing “valid learning experiences” being instructional design, and vice versa, summary in the below post:

https://whoseeducationisitanyway.me/2020/05/27/8-years-on-reflecting-on-my-msc-dissertation/

It was interesting to read through Learning Pool’s eXperience white paper:

First things first, it is probably worth saying that there is a lot in this paper.

Also, it is written somewhat differently to many white papers. It is quite conversational in terms of style and that is, in part, due to the fact it has been influenced by the author’s podcast and other research, with some of the podcast commentators mentioned on the title page as sources. Leonard Houx being one of those:

So, as mentioned, there is a lot to think about in the paper. Not least discussion around the idea of event, programme or organization level experiences. Personally I am on the critic/cynic side of this thinking it is nothing new – rather that we have a long history of different types of learning event/type, taking different periods of time and at different levels of focus (individual/team/organisation). This three level approach to a typology feels lacking.

Necessary difficulties (Bjork, etc) gets a mention and is in part where I was coming from with my “tell people it is going to be hard” line of thought:

https://whoseeducationisitanyway.me/2020/08/19/more-on-the-instructional-text-tweet/

On content curation, which I have worried about as a form of redundancy cul-de-sac in the past:

https://whoseeducationisitanyway.me/2013/11/30/more-on-content-curation-for-learning/

we get a three-step checklist which is, I guess, kind of helpful:

  1. Re-use
  2. Revamp/reframe
  3. Create

All in all I feel the paper is somewhat searching for an answer to a situation not needing an answer. What courses/events/experiences will mean to a professional is more likely influenced by their industry, sector, etc. The need for agreeing a panacea for those working in learning roles feels like the learning industry and vendors seeking to push ideas/products rather than learning. For some, the idea of shifting from a face-to-face course still feels revolutionary, for others (like me) the type of resource-based learning identified in the guide is nothing new. That “resources not courses” is brought in to the argument a few times is something of a busted flush – yes, L&D focus may have been on courses in the past but resource based learning is nothing new. The combination into one platform (the Learning Pool LXP) of various types of experience feels somewhat like what has always been possible in an LMS – just with better tracking of, say, coaching outcomes thanks to xAPI.

Thus in many ways I feel more on the side of the fence with Craig Weiss, slightly oddly described as making a “slightly bad-tempered assault” (bold in the original whitepaper not mine), than that this is something particularly “new”.

More on the “instructional text” tweet

So a bit of explanation on what I was going on about here:

Basically I was looking to discuss this topic as I have been seeing a lot of content publicly available (branded as eLearning of some type) which can be difficult to use as its unclear what to do from a learning perspective.  Whilst as learning designers we have tended to move away from boring instructions and learning objectives it feels like there is still work to be done.

I guess that I am ultimately thinking is we need to move from:

“This eLearning is made up of x modules and take xx minutes to complete”

type stuff to better prompts for action, something like:

“This activity is designed with moments for you to reflect throughout, therefore you need to pay attention and potentially take notes to help with your recollection”.

Why? Well we hear a lot about difficulties around concentration and focus.  Personally I fall into the trap of treating “learning content” online like I would treat other material.  Am I alone in feeling a need to be actively prompted to pay attention? Would we just ignore such advice if it did exist?

When looking for any formal research on this I did stumble across the below article which is quite good on instructional design more generally but I could not find anything too specific on the topic my tweet introduced…

Instructional Design and eLearning: A Discussion of
Pedagogical Content Knowledge as a Missing Construct

Click to access EJ846720.pdf