This week in #OCTEL, it was all about the learners – but I wasn’t so sure.
With a background in learning and development, understanding learner needs is not new to me. I’ve done many needs analyses in my life so it comes part and parcel when designing any course but my thinking was focussed on the designer and the community manager instead. Let me explain.
Firstly, we were asked to complete one or two of various questionnaires and instruments that universities and online providers use to predict whether someone is ready for online learning.
I have to clarify that in my experience, in the corporate world, when you say, “online learning”, people think of the boring e-learn page turners that are developed in house by one of many rapid authorware tools or by external courseware providers. Much of the mandatory and compliance training in organisations is developed in this format.
However, I’ve noticed that universities and other educational institutions classify “online learning” as the delivery platform that includes the content (that may be in any format) and the other parts such as the discussion boards, wikis and others in an online environment.
I work with a team who provide e-learning and virtual learning support services to the business. Technically, we should just call ourselves ‘Online Learning’ because we provide design and development services (in Lectora), film, edit and upload podcasts, co-ordinate and train the business on virtual classrooms and also create Sharepoint learning spaces for internal clients who want to create ‘portals’ for their learning programs because they have pages that look like this and then they wonder why their learners aren’t using it…
So in effect, we provide support and training of the tools for online learning.
But if I tell the business we do that, they immediately think of the boring online compliance training – I have to explain that it’s part of the bigger picture of online training where we provide them the support and coaching around the various tools and help them put it altogether to create a blended learning program.
Back to the questionnaires.
I did a couple of them and if you want to have a go, here are a couple of them:
- Penn State University: Online Readiness Assessment
- San Diego Community College: Online Learning Readiness Assessment
These took me back to 1998 when we were first implementing e-learning (the boring type – Powerpoint page turners) and I recall the boss telling us that we had to come up with some kind of guide that would tell our learners if they were “ready for online learning”. Since then, I had created a few of these questionnaires with other clients in particularly around “e-learning readiness audits” for their organisations.
I conducted my last e-learning readiness audit back in 2004 with a major brewer in Australia. I believe it’s because e-learning has well and truly been implemented in many Australian organisations by now and frankly, learners (especially in corporates) are used to online learning (of the boring type).
What they aren’t used to is the online learning around an online community and that’s where I was thinking this guide would be the perfect solution to reinvigorate into the workplace to set the context of what to expect in the new social learning environment.
You only have to look at what some bloggers are writing about being overwhelmed when they do a MOOC. If we introduced this into the corporate environment, some learners would get a shock initially.
Let’s be frank. In my experience, some learners expect to be spoon fed. These type of learners will find learning and contributing in online learning difficult. They may not see the sense or value in it. They may not be able to self direct their learning – and it’s likely that it will be these learners who will make the most noise about it.
If we had a checklist or guide of some sort that set their expectations upfront about their online program, they may be in a better position to be able to control whether the course is relevant for them at this point in time.
So after I completed the questionnaires, it got me thinking that we not only need to design one for our learners completing blended learning programs but ALSO for our clients who come to us asking us to build them online learning spaces and who will act as community managers for these portals.
Some of these portals are thriving little online communities but many of them are wastelands or glorified file drives with empty discussion boards that just push information out to participants – but no interaction going on at all. I believe we could do more with coaching these community managers to be aware of their role and responsibility in ensuring the community around that learning program remains active for the duration of the course – and if it cannot be done in Sharepoint – then to move it into Yammer.
But we’re not there just yet.
So my take away for this week is that I will need to develop a checklist for the community managers first to make them aware of their role and responsibility for online learning with their groups.
Activity 2.1 Learner Expectations
We had to find a colleague or someone who had limited experience of online learning and TEL and discuss the following topics with them:
- How ready were they for online learning?
- What expectations did they have about using TEL?
- Do these expectations resonate with your experience of this course?
This was a difficult activity simply because everyone I know has done some form of online training somewhere somehow.
I have met a few L&D people who adamantly refuse online learning and virtual learning of any kind. In the beginning, I couldn’t understand why they could be so belligerent about it but then I realised it was fear. Fear of not knowing their way around technology. It’s easier to disagree with something if you fear it. So I’ve learned to steer away from these discussions and focus on talking about the weather instead.
Also, I could have asked my parents or friends who are my parents age who are now found enjoying retirement life on the golf course but once again, I wasn’t prepared to listen to stories that started with “I’ll tell you about how we learned in my day…..”
So I then decided that there was a very small percentage of people in this world who had little or no experience with online learning in my life so the activity was irrelevant for me. However, the challenge now was to focus on how this online learning had changed in the corporate world – the days of boring e-learning content where you sit there reading pages onscreen and clicking on arrows to reveal bits of information or swirl some graphic will soon be gone.
People will actually need to contribute, share, write, create, collaborate…online – and we need to let them know.
Activity 2.2 Researching Themes in Learner Needs
We had to consider one of the following themes:
- The nature of adult learning and implications for practice
- Studies of online expectations and readiness
- Implications of digital literacy
- Implications for your teaching approach/delivery
I decided to pick ‘Implications of Digital Literacy‘ as I believe this is a gap in current corporate learners. We have many programs under the streams of ‘Leadership’, ‘Operational Management’, ‘Sales and Service’, ‘People Management’ but we have nothing on ‘Digital Literacy’ and I believe that this is going to be a core critical skill set for any connected worker in the workplace.
However, no one at work is talking about this. It’s simply not on their radar.
I will need to do more research on this but I do likeHoward Rheingold’s 5 competencies which are relevant as these are gaps in the corporate world:
- Critical consumption
- Network Awareness
I’m going to propose to the Head of L&D at my workplace that this is an opportunity for our department to include this into the Capability Framework. It’s going to take a while as these things don’t happen overnight…