Saturday, March 27, 2010

And ADDIE wasn't even there to see it...

There's been lot of talk in Twitterland lately about the usefulness of the ADDIE process model often used in instructional design (much on the theme of whether ADDIE is dead), and the validity/existence of "informal" learning. I saw it all hit overlap this week in 2 separate encounters with service employees.

In the first, I was purchasing a prepaid gift card at a drug store. The transaction brought the place to a halt, with the register giving off that dull 'thunk' sound as unhappy computers will. The cashier fumbled with the register, pressed a number of keys to no avail, said she "wasn't sure" if the card was activated, and finally called for a manager, who quickly took care the problem. As I left -- after a one-item cash transaction that took maybe 5 minutes -- the cashier said, "They told me that in training but I hadn't done it before. Sorry, but I forgot."

In this first instance, performance support could have supplemented, or likely replaced, training simply by programming help screens and prompts. Training for future use of a skill is pretty much pointless. It would be like not training at all, but for adding the maddening "I think I heard something about this" factor to an already frustrating situation. The solution here is not based in designing-implementing-evaluating instruction, but in identifying places for, and deploying resources toward, good performance support.

In the second instance, last night, my husband and I were at a restaurant. A new server appeared in the company of the more experienced server charged with training him. The training pretty much took the form of job shadowing, with the experienced guy modeling good (in fact, breathtaking, exemplary) performance. Occasionally he would ask the new guy something like, "What do we always ask when someone orders coffee?" (Answer: "Would you like cream?"). They stayed together most of the time we were there, merging into what my husband called The Waiter with Four Arms, and appeared to be having both a good and successful time. We enjoyed them, and had no complaints with the service. By the time we left the new server was taking his first steps at working on his own, and as far as we could tell he was doing just fine.

In this second scenario, we see something on the learning continuum between formal (in the sense of an intentional,planned event, either live or online) and informal (in the sense of an employee at the point of need accessing help)learning. Basically:

--the 'trainer' (more experienced server) was the performance support
--as a peer,actually doing the same job, the trainer was able to provide real-world suggestions
--the learning experience appeared to be a successful one
--as a side effect, the experience appeared to be forcing better performance from the trainer
--and I'm afraid ADDIE wasn't anywhere to be found. There was no deliberate process, no 'steps'. The new guy followed the more experienced guy around, and the more experienced guy demonstrated and explained. And it worked.

I'm not interested in the dead/undead discussion of ADDIE so much as concerned about the desire on the part of many to apply it to every situation. As L & D professionals we need to have many items in our toolkits. ADDIE is one. What others do you use?

Monday, March 01, 2010

How the Snake Got Its Oil

There's been a flurry of activity this week on the topic of snake oil: First Harold Jarche said: "“As soon as the software vendors and marketers get hold of a good idea, they pretty well destroy it." Jane Hart weighed in with “social learning is being picked up by software vendors and marketers as the next solution-in-a-box, when it’s more of an approach and a cultural mind-set”. And today Jay Cross added to the discussion, using the word "hijack" in terms of both what happened to elearning and, now, what we're seeing with the concept of "informal learning".

I agree with my colleagues but would like to twist the conversation to why the hijacking keeps taking place. Time and time again I see Training/L & D allowing this to happen. When "learning" started happening online, Training/L & D resisted and let elearning be co-opted by vendors and IT departments. Now that "learning" is finally recognized as something that often happens informally and via social connections, Training/L&D is letting "social media" decisions be made by everyone but Training/L & D. Learning is happening everywhere in organizations, but unless it looks like "training", then Training/L &D stands aside and lets it belong to someone else.

Mark Rosenberg has used the metaphor of the railroads: They saw their business taken over by the trucking industry because they defined themselves as being in the railroad business, not the transportation business. And the training department is going to go the way of the railroads if it doesn't start seeing itself as being in the learning business, not the classroom business.

So: I really can't begrudge the vendors for acting when they see a chance, even if they end up peddling a snake-oil version of a better concept. As my work email account signature says: "Opportunities are not lost. They are just taken by others."