Archive for the 'Learning' Category

07
Apr
15

Social butterflies may learn the most

social_mediaMaybe one of the reasons I love Pinterest so much is that I’ve learned how to use basic household substances to remove stains; how to make cute Thanksgiving pinecone turkeys; how to make pasta from squash; and the list goes on and on.

In other words, I’ve admittedly expanded my horizons with social media.

By now, you know I’m an avid user of Facebook and Twitter, partly because I realize the potential of social media to educate. Yep, I said it: It’s possible to learn from social media.

In fact, the term is “social learning,” and associations are slowly embracing it as part of their learning efforts.

Last April, consulting firm Tagoras conducted an informal survey about associations’ use of social technologies for learning products and/or services, and shortly thereafter released a whitepaper on the topic.

Social technologies are defined as any technology that allows users to communicate with each other via the Internet or cellular networks to share videos, graphics, etc. Examples: blogs, discussion boards, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), YouTube and podcasts.

Of the 102 respondents, more than half reported they use social technologies for learning, with 25 percent indicating plans to do so within the year. Not surprisingly, YouTube ranked No. 1, followed by discussion forums and Twitter. Facebook and LinkedIn, thanks to their discussion capabilities, were also popular.

In addition, a placed-based annual meeting of members was the No. 1 type of learning product associated with social technologies.

So why should associations adopt social learning, according to Tagoras?

  • It’s a natural fit. Associations are social in nature, striving to connect people with similar wants and needs. So social tools – for which there are groups, pages and forums to bring together passions – simply make sense.
  • Social learning boosts retention. Discussion forums allow users to learn from each other by asking questions, sharing ideas and reinforcing concepts from classes, while also fostering the building of networks.
  • It’s ongoing. Often, learners attend a class and after it’s over never revisit the knowledge they gained. But by using a blog or WiKi, users can revisit archived topics anytime.
  • Social learning is motivational. It’s exciting to see classmates, colleagues and peers succeed and social media and social technologies make it easy to share such news.

social-learning_smallThe Tagoras whitepaper cites several examples of associations that have successfully used social learning. But in short: Twitter chats; Facebook discussions in which people answer a question or respond to a comment and to each other; and live-tweeting during a conference.

If participation is a concern, associations can require members to participate in weekly discussion forums, contribute blog posts and participate in Twitter chats or Google hangouts.

All this said, the Tagoras survey found most associations don’t have a social learning strategy in place. At the same time, respondents indicated lack of resources and budget as top barriers for dabbling in social media. And some associations fear their staff isn’t skilled enough to successfully engage in social learning.

Nevertheless, efforts don’t have to be expensive or complicated, Tagoras says.

“Given that social learning is effective, why not try it, if you’re not already?” it wrote. “To our minds, the case for social learning is made, and the question at hand is not whether to make use of it but how to incorporate it as effectively, as strategically as possible.”

24
Mar
15

Time for a MOOC-like makeover

moocMassive Open Online Courses. The public seems to embrace them, while higher education remains skeptical of their educational value.

But either way, MOOCs probably aren’t going anywhere, so it’s wise to take some tips from their success.

So what’s a MOOC? Essentially, it’s a teaching format that’s open and accessible to learners around the globe, provided they have Internet access. A MOOC is a social, networked learning experience that blends a subject matter expert (instructor), technology and convenience. In other words: a hybrid-learning format that appeals to today’s 24-7 learners.

In the background, a successful learning management system is key to operating a successful MOOC. Many associations already employ a LMS, and since they retain experts in niche and trendy areas, they’re prime to offer their members a MOOC-like learning opportunity.

That’s according to Web Courseworks, a learning technologies and consulting company. It recently released a whitepaper with 10 tips for instructional designers and LMS administrators, inspired by the success of MOOCs.

There are MOOC-like things associations can do to entice learners. Since associations are nimble and can respond quickly to industry trends (much more quickly than higher education institutions can), associations are prime MOOC providers, the whitepaper says.

Associations need three things: people (SMEs, instructional designers, LMS administrators), processes (course development, marketing) and technology (video, left-navigation layout).

“Professional and industry associations … don’t have obligations to a tenured faculty, so they can recruit faculty based on what content is in high demand; and their members are applying new knowledge and techniques in the field, giving them the ability to provide valuable job-related training,” the authors wrote. “Learners should be turning to your association to fill gaps in academic training and address evolving standards and techniques within a community of practice. Use the promotional power of a MOOC to ‘claim’ a hot topic and gain recognition as the go-to source for related educational material. A timely MOOC is a great way to connect educational and marketing goals.”

Word of caution: A MOOC isn’t a webinar and it’s not a regurgitation of a PowerPoint presentation.

Yes, put your SME on screen, but involve your instructional designer. Rather than overloading learners’ brains with a massive amount of information, Web Courseworks suggests chunking up information – in short segments – based on learning objectives.

mooc.org_And it’s important to check in with your learners to make sure they “get” it. The whitepaper suggests offering two- to five-minute video segments, with a check-in wedged between segments. Simple multiple-choice questions, or weekly quizzes with unlimited attempts and feedback, work well. Of course, this means LMS administrators need to ensure systems are capable of importing and exporting questions and managing social learning elements.

Perhaps the biggest draw of a MOOC is its social learning function. It’s impossible for an instructor to answer all questions, so students rely on each other for assistance. Discussion forums, in which peer feedback can occur, are musts for MOOCs, the whitepaper says.

Of course, all of this is moot if learners aren’t motivated. So, try offering digital badges and certificates (shareable on social media) for credit completion or educational advances.

Oh. And MOOCs are generally free, or at least low cost.

“Think of a MOOC as an entry point for members into your educational offerings,” Websource says. “It can be the ‘loss leader’ that grabs the attention of learners and promotes premium items in a course catalog. Advertise related course offerings within a MOOC, or use it to satisfy prerequisites for a larger certification program. Transform ‘free’ into ‘freemium’ by offering a MOOC as a small piece of a larger professional development and certification puzzle.”

What do you think? Does your association offer a MOOC? Or, do you offer webinars that could be transformed into MOOC-like offerings? Share your advice here.

In the meantime, check out a previous blog post on MOOCs.

17
Feb
15

Accelerating the Spread of Knowledge, Learning and Collaboration

Elliott Masie

Elliott Masie, The MASIE Center

On Wednesday, Jan. 14, I had the opportunity to interview Elliott Masie for an ASAE Professional Development Virtual Learning Session titled, “Ask the Expert: Accelerating the Spread of Knowledge, Learning and Collaboration.”

Elliott is a provocative, engaging and entertaining futurist, analyst and speaker – focused on the changing world of the workplace, learning and technology. He is also the editor of Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie, an Internet newsletter read by more than 52,000 business executives worldwide, and a regular columnist in professional publications, including CLO Magazine. Moreover, he is the author of a dozen books, and is the convener of Learning 2015.

Following is an outline of our discussion, a combination of pre-populated and audience-generated questions.

Why do people come to our programs?

  • They come for context and community
  • It’s a rare opportunity where attendees are in a building with people who understand what they do for a living and can connect with people who have similar problems/issues

How do you like to tee up your conferences to get your attendees excited to be there?

  • Do not publish the entire agenda of people, keynotes and topics significantly prior to the conference
    • Announce one keynote or theme a month
      • Ripple effect
      • Get people interested and wanting more
      • Get conversations going about each new release
      • Use each announcement to post videos, announcements and questions
      • Create an environment where attendees can provide input
    • Build up to the full agenda about five to six weeks out

Before the event are there effective ways to engage the learner?

  • Surround the learner with options from which they can choose
  • Provide access to as many materials as possible beforehand
  • Be careful to ensure that any assessments don’t discourage people
  • Don’t do it in a way that takes people back to ninth grade

How much down time should we be scripting to encourage learning? How much of it should we let people use in a way that suits them?

  • Encourage participant choice
  • To some cohorts, empty space scares them
  • Allow people to skip the breakouts to go sit with people and network
  • “Meet up team” – put them in the middle of the pre-conference space to create opportunities for meet-ups and connections that aren’t in the agenda
  • Those who don’t go to breakouts are using the time in their own way (e.g., mingle, network, do other work)
  • Freedom of choice and personalization is key

In thinking about the experienced conference participants, is it about linking them with other experienced conference participants? Is it about finding opportunities for them to mentor new professionals? Or is it something else?

  • They want to be near their colleagues, but not necessarily in the classroom

Do you have any must-have evaluation questions?

  • Observe behavioral data
  • Count those who visit the content afterwards (e.g., read the material, watch the videos)
  • Create focus groups of 10 to 15 people and make the questions about next year’s conference (i.e., what they would like to see during another conference)
  • Have the participants design the next conference
    • You don’t have to use all of their ideas

How do you carry the learning through following the event?

  • Curation
    • Take as much of the content as you legally can and give it back to the people who paid to come to the conference to read again, listen again or watch again
    • Take bits and pieces of the content and send it out to the related industries
    • Most of the time people come for the experience, not the content
    • Don’t curate everything – it’s not all good
    • Part of curation is effective chunking

Have you explored or reached out to participants to assess job transfer? What does that look like?

  • Implement actionables
    • Job aids
    • List of five do’s and don’ts people can reflect on when they return to their workplaces
  • Although you may not be able to follow participants back into their workplaces, set them up for success
  • Sometimes an abundance of information and tools causes participants to do nothing
  • Less is more

What would you advise for a smaller association with a tighter budget?

  • Spend less money on food; people aren’t coming to feast
  • Bring content leaders in by video instead of in person
  • Try moving away from so much technology – encourage conversation
  • Move toward compression (e.g., one day instead of two)

What incentives or attention grabbers have you found successful?

  • Ask people to submit questions they’d like you to ask the speakers
  • Point out where controversy exists in your field
  • It better be fun even if it is deadly serious

How do you suggest learning leaders/planners/producers keep up with changing attendee education and experience needs?

  • Keep your pulse on the hot topics
  • Look at what is driving people in or out of your association/industry
  • Real-time word maps at your conferences

Attendees don’t feel comfortable sharing failure. How do you reveal that?

  • Programming it is almost impossible
  • People will gravitate to it as long as they’re not announced as the leader or the case study
  • Leverage the high and low points
  • Reshape the conversation

Is there a time in which an event should take a sabbatical?

  • This could keep the ideas and the experiences fresh
  • Consider hosting a national conference every other year; on the odd years host regional events

We need to take a fresh look at the trade show/exhibitor/sponsor model.

  • Frustration is growing
  • People are attending as learners and not as buyers
20
Jan
15

Learning plans for the New Year

January has nearly come and gone. It’s hard to believe. Just this week my chiropractor reminded me that 2015 is about 1/12 over. It seems like only yesterday I was gearing up for the hustle and bustle of the holidays: decorations, cards, presents, baking, parties and the like.

10888186_10102314760568285_1634678307_nAnd then New Year’s Eve passed us by in the blink of any eye, too. In fact, my friends and I caught the official countdown on TV just moments before midnight. I suppose that’s a testament to the good food, good conversation and good company.

But the twinkling lights and the glittery decorations are now safely packed away for another year. As I drive down the icy, snow-lined streets, dotted with discarded Christmas trees, it seems that the magic is indeed gone – at least temporarily.

As always, I spent some down time over the holidays contemplating my 2015 resolutions. Getting fit tops my list again this year (though my motivation is challenged by the early sunsets and the freezing temperatures), in addition to reconnecting with friends and family.

Also on my mind is the professional development of both my staff and me. I had the opportunity to participate in ATD’s Master Instructional Designer Program in December and I’ve already gained a new client as a result of that experience.

GoalAreasFor me, the power of intentionally setting goals (both big and small) to advance the success of an individual, team and organization should not be underestimated.

While goal setting often occurs during an annual performance appraisal, the start of a new calendar year also lends itself to reevaluating learning plans for the development of skills, competencies and content expertise. Otherwise, time passes (quickly) and you discover that little has been accomplished or achieved.

At Event Garde, in addition to professional development plans specific to each team member (focused on anything from CMP preparation to enhanced writing skills), we are committed to attending at least one webinar a month focused on the latest industry trends and research.

To determine what should comprise a learning plan for you or your team, consider the following three-step approach:

  1. Organizational Analysis
    1. What do we want to achieve as an organization?
  2. Performance Analysis
    1. How does individual performance tie in?
    2. What are the required performance levels for key tasks and competencies?
    3. What are the required knowledge and skills to be successful?
    4. What performance gaps exist?
  3. Learning Needs and Evaluation
    1. What training and possible alternatives will best support learners?
    2. How will we know if our learning is effective?

Examples of specific activities that might support these learning plans include mentoring, networking, training, education and project exploration. As always, establishing anticipated outcomes and target dates lends credibility and urgency to the process.

Following each learning activity, encourage the staff to identify key takeaways and how it will implement them on the job. Additionally, set aside time during staff meetings for the team to share its experiences for all to benefit. If appropriate, record highlights either digitally or physically for all to see and reference.

No matter where you start, be sure to take a fresh look this month at how both you and your team will learn and grow in the New Year. Don’t let another month pass you by without identifying learning needs and then establishing a plan to tackle them head-on.

11
Nov
14

On screen or in a chair?

webeventMost of us would agree there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. The email inbox is always full. Meetings seem to pop up on the calendar. And deadlines continue to loom.

Then, if you’re a working professional with kids, you have to balance sports, clubs, carpooling and snack schedules.

It’s exhausting.

No wonder so many of us are spending less time away from our offices and our families to attend professional development events or other workplace functions.

It seems associations got the memo as the industry experiences a slow uptick in virtual events.

Last week, consulting firm Tagoras released Association Virtual Events 2014, a survey of associations’ use of virtual conferences, trade shows and other events. Conducted in August, 33 percent of the 112 respondents indicated they have offered a virtual event. And about 21 percent indicated they plan to offer such an event in the next 12 months.

Tagoras found there are three standard technologies for virtual events: webinar or webcast tools for presentations; communication tools to allow for real-time conversations among participants; and document and resource sharing of event materials.

So why the boom? More than 75 percent of respondents said they offer virtual events for members who can’t attend an association’s place-based events. Tied for second place were “to be seen as offering cutting-edge technology for members” and “to support an overall strategy to deliver more services online.” The third most popular reason for offering virtual events? To reduce costs for attendees.

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

“These motivations clearly reflect necessity — organizations see a need to provide more options as travel budgets are trimmed and time becomes an increasingly precious commodity for members — but they also reflect a willingness to experiment,” study authors Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele wrote. “Many association professionals are embracing virtual events even before their members ask for them, and they’re doing so as part of an overall strategy built on online service.”

Obviously, virtual events aren’t for all associations, and several have yet to embrace the growing technological trend. Cost and complexity of technology were the top reasons for not going virtual, while concerns about cost ranked No. 3.

At the same time, most of the respondents indicated a virtual event has to be self-sustaining to be worth the investment, while 50 percent reported a virtual event should drive revenue. And most associations reported they charge both members and nonmembers to participate in a virtual event.

“Over time, we think associations will grow more adept at estimating realistic costs and determining a plan for covering those costs, whether through registration fees, sponsorships or both,” Cobb and Steele said. “That said, there’s skepticism on the sponsorship front.”

And then there’s fear of the unknown. Will virtual events cause a decline in attendance at an association’s traditional event? Tagoras doesn’t think so.

Is it possible to learn as much remotely as it is sitting in a room with colleagues, listening first hand to an expert? Data seem to swing both ways, but nevertheless, convenience sometimes wins.

(An editorial sidebar: Multitasking and distraction are justifiable concerns. But attendees will likely check email, text and tweet regardless of where they are. Just my two cents.)

LearnwithMouseTake a look at the stats Tagoras compiled about its survey. It seems virtual equals value.

  • While 58 percent of those who haven’t undertaken a virtual event cite technology concerns as a perceived barrier, 90 percent of respondents who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the ease of use of the technology.
  • Some 58 percent of those who haven’t held a virtual event cite concerns about costs, but 74 percent of those who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the cost of the technology. And 60 percent characterize themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the revenue generated by the virtual event.
  • Some 46 percent of those who haven’t held a virtual event cite concerns about attendance, but 76 percent of those who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with attendance.

“We are still in the early days of virtual events as a trend, but the use of this format across a diverse range of organizations — and its continued use by most who have tried it — suggests that virtual events will become a mainstay of association education and events going forward,” Cobb and Steele said.

So what do you think? Does your association offer a virtual event? Tell us about it.

07
Oct
14

Don’t let your speakers get schooled by a 4 year old

preschool_blocksMy oldest niece began preschool this fall in North Carolina. As you might expect of any proud uncle, I check-in with my sister frequently for updates on the latest developments in class. What have they discussed? Where have they gone? Is she making friends? Is she a confirmed genius yet? What’s her teacher like? Any funny stories I should know about (secretly hoping that there are)?

Apparently, she’s the golden child. The only trouble she’s committed since the start of the school year is actually attributable to her mother. You see, my sister’s a bit of a diva. She sends my niece to school in perfectly coordinating accessories. This sometimes includes sandals that don’t actually comply with the school’s closed-toed shoe policy, which has apparently been instituted to keep the clumsy children from hurting themselves during recess.

So, I know what you’re thinking: How big a problem could this really be? As a kid, I often remember getting only one opportunity to correct undesirable behavior – or else. My sister, on the other hand, thinks there are exceptions for cute shoes. Needless to say, there’s been more than one reminder sent home. Add to that my niece’s fondness for dresses and you can just imagine what getting ready in the morning must look like in that household.

But I digress. As a learning professional, I’m also curious about what my niece is learning. Lately, it’s all about the show and tell. And why wouldn’t it? Getting kids up in front of their classmates at a young age is a terrific way to build their confidence for future speeches and group presentations. And to ensure their success, simply ask them to talk about things they love – their family, their toys, their summer vacations and the like.

This isn’t so dissimilar from how I often begin learning labs and workshops of my own. Introducing simple attendee primers (e.g., What is your favorite fall tradition or pastime?) during sessions I facilitate encourages low-risk introductions among participants, breaks the ice and ultimately sets the tone for deeper, more meaningful conversation about the topic at hand.

Recently, my niece was asked to bring something in to her class for red show and tell day. Ultimately, she settled on a red stuffed animal named Clifford. You may be familiar with him. Leading up to the big day, my sister asked my niece what she was planning to say about Clifford. And, believe it or not, my niece had prepared a speech – one she had come up with all on her own and would repeat time and time again with little variation.

Of course, you can only imagine how disappointed I was to learn there was no video evidence of this very first class “speech.” My sister did, however, take a follow-on video of my niece giving a similar presentation about her stuffed animal, Foxy. While the quality of the video wasn’t share-worthy, I’d like to provide here a transcription of what she said.

What-Does-The-Fox-Say2Hello, ladies and gentlemen.
This is Foxy, my fox.
He likes to play with me and I like to snuggle.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.
Bye!

At first blush, I bet you’re wondering where she came up with that ingenious opening and closing. I do, too. I promise I’ve not been coaching her. My friends think she’s itching to go on the road with me. But let’s dig beyond the cute rhetoric for the implications this speech has on our own association speakers.

  1. Do you know what your speakers are going to say before they say it? You wouldn’t put my niece, however smart, in front of your board of directors without a trial run. Why would you allow your speakers to “educate” your attendees without first understanding their qualifications and, more importantly, what they intend to say.
  2. Do you coach speakers beforehand to ensure accurate/engaging content? Whether this is one-on-one, in a small group setting or via webinar, industry speakers often don’t have training in professional development. They’re content experts. So gather and share your best PowerPoint slide recommendations and hands-on exercises for optimal outcomes.
  3. Do you take good care of your speakers to ensure they have an enjoyable experience before, during and after your program? Pre-program, clear and succinct communication is key. Let the who, what, where, when and why guide you. During the program, think creature comforts such as water at the podium and/or a nice room amenity.
  4. Do you provide your speakers with feedback in a meaningful and positive way? We often collect it. But when it comes to compiling it and summarizing it into something useful, we usually fall short. Take the time to organize session feedback and compare it to the overall conference evaluations. Share this information with your speakers and elaborate wherever possible with suggestions for future improvements.
  5. Do you encourage speakers to go off script to assess and meet the needs of your audience? Most anyone can get up in front of a group of people and deliver a scripted presentation. But it’s the more seasoned and experienced content leader who can dump the script to meet the learners where they are, even if this means a little improv.

I believe we’re at a crossroads. The content our associations offer must be topnotch if we intend to compete with the countless other continuing education providers that are fast on our heels. There are just too many learning and networking opportunities available today for ours to miss the mark and remain sustainable. Our speakers and their messages are simply too important to leave to chance.

It’s up to all of us – staff members, volunteer leaders and consultants – to institute best practices when it comes to the development of our education content. “We’re too busy” and “we’re just planners” are not valid excuses. We must utilize tried and true instructional design strategies, as well as lessons learned from both neuroscience and biology, to create experiences that promote knowledge acquisition, retrieval and, ultimately, learning.

What are you committed to doing differently this month?




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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