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no longer available, very limited when offering a ‘free’/lite version (often just PowerPoint conversion which has been superseded by Office itself) or, well, just a bit rubbish.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

National Retraining Scheme: The government calling out L&D departments as failures?

I think I’d somehow missed the news regarding the National Retraining Scheme (NRS) until today.

Some further info links and my own initial thoughts quickly thrown together below:

There’s a lot to like in this, not least that a Conservative government is working with Trade Unions on such a thing.  However, previous cuts to funding are obviously part of the issue but this scheme, as an investigation of alternative models, feels like it deserves to be given a chance.  Indeed Labour’s plans for a “National Education Service” would presumably supersede this if the government changes but shares some common ideology.

A worry would be that government agendas risk further muddying the waters by making personal improvement akin to getting your bins emptied and other services, i.e. “the government should do it” rather than encouraging people to consider this themselves.  Of course, this has always been a problem and the decline of traditional manufacturing left many areas of the country with skilled labour that needed to move, re-skill or face unemployment.  Similarly this article in the FE press states an issue that has effectively existed ever since schools were created, my view here would be to advocate for apprenticeships and on-the-job learning (ironically apprentice adoption currently being damaged by the 20% off-the-job rules):

what really is a first world problem is the number of people who have been completely put off any type of learning by the time they leave school.

However, the whole scheme also poses more ‘noise’ along with T-levels, apprenticeships and the rest.  Therefore, careers and personal development advice becomes increasingly important, and messy, in this environment – the simplification of polytechnics in 1992 being rolled back somewhat into more complex ‘streams’ of people.

Considering the domination of the universities, especially since ’92, it is nice to see something being done specifically for those without a degree.  However, this counters the logic in the apprenticeship reforms, namely that those with a degree can now reskill via apprenticeships but not via the NRS.

The TES article points out “that [perceptions the] learning isn’t relevant” will be a barrier.  As most L&D departments will attest learning will only stick if the learner has opportunity to put the material into practice – therefore there is a real risk of NRS supporting people for roles that should be available but are quite possibly not.  As the article says, “employer engagement is key” – or, in other words, the employers really ought to be on top of this but the government are aware of potential rising unemployment, decreasing disposable incomes and a general failure of organisations to train and retain.

The often ignored realities of talent management (#5): Succession planning is *actually* important (aka – lessons from the Conservatives)

Like a lot of people I suspect, I’m finding myself tweeting and blogging more about political topics than I ever suspected I would. My tweet this morning:

was less about Boris or the Conservative Party or even the ridiculous idea of ‘family values’ and more about how, in less than a decade, we have seen the media totally shift from a values based approach when it comes to the suitability of a politician to be UK Prime Minister.

Concepts such as those tied up in the attacks on Miliband (values, personality, etc) will be all too familiar to those who work in organisations – especially for those who work directly in organisational design, talent and learning roles.

The argument I’d like to make here is that since 2016 we have seen, through the office of Prime Minister but particularity from the Conservative and Unionist Party (as the pipeline for PMs), a total failure of organisational design. Now, in many ways, Labour has of course been suffering the same problems, with failed bids to change the leader. Therefore, this can be seen as an example of how dysfunctional organisations (in this case political parties) can be without clear talent management.

Those who are anti-Cameron, anti-Johnson, anti-May, anti-Corbyn, etc. would of course like to shine the light on leadership and say (from a classical business studies perspective) that none of these people have sufficiently engaged their organisations, they did (or have) not bring people along through change management, etc. There have been some very good articles written on what this means for leadership in Britain, for example see this 2016 article from the New Yorker that almost entirely still applies. However, rather than leadership, I’d say the ultimate issue here is succession planning. These organisations have been allowed to lurch between extremes (such as between the left v right of parties or between different personality types). At the same time both Labour and the Conservatives have grown in terms of membership, albeit after massive drops in the 90s and 00s (as a % of voting population anyway). In effect we’ve seen the classic industry issue, a dilution of values and behaviours as organisations have changed, grown and splintered.

Look back at the 2016 leadership ‘campaign’ and it is bizarre that Boris Johnson seems to have got support from basically quitting and refusing to work with PM May. In other words, he’s now the best candidate because they’ve gone down the route of isolating any ‘remain’ elements in the party and positioning himself as internal opposition. His behaviour in an organisational context would be seen as toxic. Yet he is now supported by the same MPs who in 2016 “wouldn’t back Johnson without Gove alongside him” and who “suddenly…weren’t answering their phones or had turned them off” when Gove ‘switched’. Now Boris is seen as the ‘best of a bad bunch’ by many, if only because he is entertaining. Indeed Michael Gove really needs reminding that in 2016 he kept saying that he didn’t want to be PM, so why does he keep going for it?.

In the quarrels between Blair and Brown, the abandonment of high office by Cameron and Osborne and now the ‘internal opposition’ of Boris taking over from May we’ve seen these organisations fail with transitions. Whatever happens in the next few weeks there is a desperate need for parties to groom potential leaders better but also to cast the net beyond the ‘Westminster bubble’ so increasingly distrusted by voters. While Cameron had a long ‘apprenticeship’, serving under leaders such as Michael Howard, you suspect the two main political parties need to be much smarter if they are to survive.

So, the next time you think ‘succession planning’ is boring, too hard or just impossible (because, for example, the market changes too often or people move in and out too much to manage) just think how much of a mess your organisation could be in with no talent pipeline and no retention of organisational knowledge. Then invest in talent and knowledge management and rejoice!

Training Magazine Webinar: Secret New PowerPoint Stuff in Office 365

The constant updating of applications is great but it does make it very difficult to keep up-to-date with the latest options.

This webinar made me aware of some really powerful options for visualisations and presentations, noteworthy bits below:

‘Learning Reducer’ style concepts in the news

A couple of L&D pros have recently touched on some of the concepts I’ve tried to articulate in my ‘Reducer’ mindset. Links and recommendations for listening/reading below:

  • Krystyna Gadd on How Not to Waste Your Money on Training (Training Journal Podcast)
    • http://podplayer.net/?id=69264956
    • An interview on the TJ Podcast talking about Krystyna’s new book (which sounds like a more articulate version of some of my blog posts and ideas!)
  • BRUTALLY EFFICIENT: EXPLORING THE LEARNER SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH LORI NILES-HOFMANN (Totara Learning)
    • Full disclosure, I used to work with Lori so I’m always keen to read her latest thinking and the brutal efficiency focus does not disappoint. The piece is a really strong argument with parallels to the ‘reducer’ concept and some of the ideas in the podcast above.
    • I’d strongly recommend anyone who can go to the event to hear more from Lori does so.

Where I’d disagree a little with how Totara (on the second link) have analysed the issues would be that they continue to use ‘learner’ and consider things through an employer/employee contract position. I think we must try and shift this more to a realistic position where learning is owned by everyone, just facilitated by L&D teams – with organisations recognising learning needs as human (not learner/employee) needs. Yes, L&D teams should be upskilling their people, as in the Totara article. However, I would say L&D teams should be making opportunities available to all their audience(s) and then those individuals have a responsibility themselves to take those opportunities. We need to end the ‘arm twist to get you to do this’ culture of mandatory training whilst also encouraging people to contribute via social learning, coaching or other initiatives – even if they have no interest in career progression.