Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Social Media for Trainers" Blog Book Tour Starts Thursday!

The Social Media for Trainers blog book tour begins this Thursday, September 2, with a kickoff post from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies' Jane Hart. This will be followed by a constellation of blogging stars from the training and eLearning fields.

Is the book right for you? The publisher asked specifically for activities and ideas to help trainers and instructional designers develop an understanding of social media tools at "eye level": What are they, how are they best used, and how can we use them to extend and enhance current practice?  The book is available from booksellers in North America now, with UK and EU releases due in the next few weeks. Check out the "look inside" feature on Amazon.com to get a peek.

Take a look at the blog book tour schedule  and watch for the posts from my colleagues. Many thanks to them for their help with this project!

More? Follow "Social Media for Trainers" on the book's Facebook page and on on Twitter @SoMe4Trainers  (use #SoMe4Trainers).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Microblogging in the Enterprise: Tips

Twitter not quite right for your organization? This came up in #lrnchat last week, and in a Twitter discussion yesterday. Here are tips mostly from Aaron Silvers (Twitter: @mrch0mp3rs) on using microblogging in the enterprise:

-Remember, the practice is more important than the tool. This gives flexibility to change tools later on.

-Having said that: Choose the right tool in the first place.

-Make sure someone is a registered admin. Don't do this with no one in charge.

-If you're using a free account, do your org a favor and link to digital files in these microsharing tools instead of uploading into them.

-There ARE reasons why email works. Use the right tool for the task.

-You want leaders to contribute consistently -- even if it's just once a day, a reply to an employee.

- Write up the "rules" or expectations for your boss person to distribute. Fear is often not knowing what to say.

-Give examples of the kinds of things to use it for to get people acclimated/started.

-With any new communications medium, patience and consistency are keys to adoption. Modeling how to use is important.

-Start w/ a core group, and make sure at least one big manager is involved and posting daily.

And from @ldennison: if you're bringing it into the organization, you're the person responsible for it.

See also: Comparison of Microblogging Tools

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's Your Objective?

[Note: This originally ran on Training Magazine’s former “Training Day” blog on 2/12/2010]

Discussion of objectives in training could be a topic for a book all by itself, but lately I’ve run across 2 excellent examples of problems with learning/performance objectives. They provide a good basis for looking at just a couple of common problems.

Example 1: One summer afternoon my friend Jo left her son, 5-year-old Max, in the care of his grandmother. While Max was napping Grandma found a dead rattlesnake in the yard and thought to herself, “This is a good time to teach Max about snakes.”

Her objective: “Max will understand about snakes.”

So when Max awoke from his nap Grandma took him outside and said:
“See, Max, this is a rattlesnake. Some snakes are very dangerous so you must be careful if you are ever near one. They can be hard to see.” Using a hoe, grandma moved the snake into high grass, then onto a bed of pine straw, to show Max how the snake’s colors tended to blend with the setting. Grandma talked about being careful when running around outside barefoot, not bothering or teasing snakes, and taking care when playing near places snakes might be found, like fallen logs or warm rocks.

At the end of Grandma’s lesson she said, “So, Max, do you understand about snakes?”

And Max looked up at her and said,

“Oh, yes, Grandma. I love snakes.”

In the example with Grandma and Max, the problem was an objective too vague: “He will understand “ can be interpreted in more than one way, which is exactly what happened, and Max did not understand in the way Grandma meant him to. This is a common problem in compliance and policy training, where it’s more usual than not to see objectives like, “Learner will know the policy”, “Learner will understand the rules regarding unlawful harassment”. And regarding Grandma, well, as we say here in the American South, bless her heart. She did intend to help Max “understand” (learning) but she didn't specify actual performance. She tried to make the snake training meaningful and engaging. She did not read PowerPoint slides to Max. She included important information (they are hard to see in the ground cover) and offered some helpful tips (don’t tease). But the training did not accomplish what she’d intended.

I’ve seen the opposite problem as well: Objectives (and performance this time, not just "learning") so detailed and specific that the real point of the thing is lost. Which brings us to Example 2: A contractor charged with developing online tutorials on the new employee timekeeping system listed the desired performance objectives (below).

At the end of the training, the employee will be able to:

Log on and navigate to the employee section of the portal

Record and review time

View time statements

Display leave quota overview

Generate leave requests

Access system help resources

Assign charge object numbers

Report premium pay hours

The objectives were certainly detailed and specific. The contractor had thoroughly delineated desired performance. After weeks of tedious wordsmithing, next-level management finally signed off on the objectives. Senior management likewise approved of the plan. Everyone involved agreed that, yes, these are the outcomes we’re after.

Several million dollars later the training was launched, and several weeks after that the new time sheet software “went live” to 30,000 workers. And the critical problem with the tutorials quickly, and loudly, and in a most dramatic way, became evident. The list of objectives had not included:

At the end of this training, the employee will be able to
complete his or her
time sheet.

[This is not to oversimplify the other problems here, including the evidence that no one ever thought to ask even one potential learner to try the material out, or that much of the training content, like charge object hours, was relevant only to a fraction of the target audience.]

So: Before developing the instruction don’t just write objectives. Write the right objectives. What is this person really supposed to do back on the job? What does “understand” mean, and what evidence will show you that understanding has occurred? Devotees of Bloom’s taxonomy will argue that learner performance like “listing” and “describing” can constitute what he called ”enabling” objectives. That may valid, but they should not be the only objectives: Employees are rarely asked to “list” or “describe” anything, so it’s critical to move on to behaviors closer to desired performance, not just knowledge. And: Enabling objectives are easy to write, and to develop bullet points for, and to develop training around, and to write a quiz to assess. If you feel the training really must address these, fine, but be sure to push past them on to things that more closely resemble real performance. In my train-the-trainer course I don’t want my learners to describe strategies for engaging learners, I want them to deliver a piece of instruction in which they demonstrate the ability to apply those strategies. It’s more work for both learner and me, and much more time consuming, but it moves us far closer to the actual desired performance. And it makes the training worth doing.

Think Goldilocks. Not too little, not too much. And remember in developing objectives to keep an eye on the rock-bottom performance goal: Don’t get eaten by bears.

Other problems with training objectives? I asked Twitter training/elearning/ID folks and here are some of their answers. Perhaps we’ll expand on some of these in a future column.

  • Gina Minks @gminks, EMC: “When objectives relate to what someone wishes the performance was, even though that may be a fantasy.”
  • Jeffery Goldman @minutebio, Johns Hopkins Healthcare LLC: “Not setting them at all, not measuring whether they are met in the final assessment, and not providing content to meet objectives.”
  • Guy Wallace @guywwallace, EPPIC, Inc: “Objectives are not systematically ‘derived’ from solid analysis of ideal performance/gaps & are best guesses.”
  • Kevin Bruny @row4it, Chesterfield County VA Government: “Once used for design and communicated in training, we tend to forget about them and never return to validate.”
  • Kara DeFrias @californiakara, Intuit: “People get so wrapped up in objectives they forget to take time to make the actual learning meaningful & engaging.”


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Updates to "Social Media for Trainers"

Many thanks to those who have preordered Social Media for Trainers or purchased it for Kindle. A challenge with writing a book about technologies—particularly those that are continually morphing and evolving – is keeping content as up-to-date as possible. Since the book went to press several things have changed:

1. Correction to p. 59: While Facebook terms of service have always been clear that having fictitious accounts was a terms of service violation, it is now clearer that having multiple accounts is forbidden, too. Those wishing to maintain “private” space on Facebook (for instance, to have one’s personal account but also to use Facebook for hosting a course) can do this via the use of groups and fan pages. For instance, I have a main account but a "Jane Bozarth Bozarthzone" page. I post training/learning related information there; my "fans" don't have to friend me or vice-versa. Facebook offers many options for setting limits on who can see what: Be sure to learn about using lists and other privacy settings. (July 30, 2010)
2. Google has just announced that it will no longer support development of Google Wave and plans to support the service only through the end of 2010. Be on the lookout for new tools from Google. (July 30, 2010). Update to an update! September 4, 2010: Google has now announced that it WILL continue to support Wave. See details .
3. A new tool, HootCourse, has recently emerged in beta testing and is so far proving a useful, friendly space for aggregating conversations. Hootcourse assigns a unique URL. Learners can access Hootcourse via either Twitter or Facebook. Conversations can be kept private if so desired. See http://hootcourse.com/ . For an example, visit a bookchat I recently led at http://hootcourse.com/course/523/ (August 8, 2010). I've also used this as an introduction to Twitter for new users. We spend half an hour or so working privately in HootCourse, practicing using @replies, RTs and #s, then move into the bigger Twitter feed. Think "training wheels".

4. Tweetie2, a Twitter iPhone app discussed in the book, was purchased by Twitter and is now the Twitter-branded iPhone app Twitter, available from the iTunes app store. (June 2010)

5. Enterprise social networking is rapidly expanding and evolving. Here's a comparison of 7 enterprise products, including Sharepoint and Jive. Also, Yammer (previously regarded as a microblogging tool) is moving toward becoming a full-fledged networking tool. (September 5, 2010)
Keep up with more frequent updates by following me on http://twitter.com/SoMe4Trainers or on the book's Facebook page