Learning – Just in Time & Just Enough

Ken Blanchard and Rich George

Ken Blanchard and Rich George

It is the final day of the Training 2014 conference in San Diego, and I thought I would take a few minutes to encapsulate my thoughts from the last 7 days.  I get the wonderful opportunity to attend dozens of professional conferences every year as a speaker and this conference is my annual opportunity to improve myself and every year this conference never fails to deliver.  Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend an advanced certification 2-day course led by Kevin Thorn of Nuggetheadz Studios. It was focused on the advanced features of one of the eLearning authoring tools that we use at SkillbuilderOnline.com and it was a great program that further crystalized that some of the techniques and processes that we use are on the leading edge of instructional design.

Then on Monday the conference began.  We had 4 packed days with many of the thought leaders throughout the world of Training and Development.  If I had to encapsulate the one overriding thing that I learned it is that the world of employee development is migrating towards increased retention techniques and recognition of the need to place training into the workplace, not to displace worker from where they work when they are learning.  These thoughts play right into the vision and plan that we have adopted at SkillbuilderOnline.com.  We have focused on the old adage of “Just in Time” training and have appended it to coin the phrase of “Just in Time & Just Enough” training.  By moving all of our training offerings into shorter form courses we are trying to make learning accessible to learners at the point of use.  We have always known that experiential based learning leads to the highest level of retention, we also know that this is the foundation of behavior change.

As a society and as business leaders we have to stop spoon feeding learning to our workforce and we have to take advantage of guided informal learning.  By playing to the short attention span of today’s society, we have to insure that learners encounter learning opportunities where they live.  I grew up in a time when we would bring groups of people into a formal learning system and simply dump knowledge on them and not allow for them to see the connection between knowledge and the situations of where to apply the knowledge.

I have been thinking a lot lately of how I personally access learning opportunities.  When I need to learn how to manipulate a piece of software, compare products that I am considering purchasing, understand how to fix something in my home or simply how to boil an egg so that it will peel easily and the yolk doesn’t turn green, I turn to Google which often times leads me to YouTube.  This is the world of informal learning, this is not learning that was prescribed to me, it wasn’t prepared for me, and I get to pick and choose what information that I partake in and adopt.  As training and learning professionals we need to be able to harness the power of informal learning and put it in plain sight where our learners will find it when they need it.  But more importantly how do we as business leaders capture, record, quantify and qualify all of this learning that is taking place outside of our formal classrooms (physical or online)?

The “Y Generation” currently makes up 24% of our workforce and by the year 2016 that percentage will exceed 60%.  This means that a generation that grew up with the internet and Google will be driving our economy.  We need to harness their native skill set and that is the internet.  I am currently neck deep in a project of rolling out an upgrade to our Experience Learning Management System (LMS) as we adopt what is referred to as the Experience API (a.k.a Tin Can API).  This new foundation for our LMS will enable us to track any and all informal learning experiences whether they take place digitally or in our real world.  It is leading to a world where the learner and the learning tracking system is tightly integrated but loosely coupled. At the conference I was able to spend some time with the lead developer, Mike Rustici, of the Experience API and we were able to share some “use cases” that I have written for how the API will be used in our LMS.

I am so excited about some of the technology we are building.  Imagine if right now as you are reading this blog post there is a button in your browser that simply says “I learned this”.  Now when you are finished reading this blog post, you are able to click that button and it will send all of the Meta data to your Learning Management System.  Now behind the scenes, it is adding to your own personal learning transcript that you have read this information, tracking the amount of time that you spent on this site, passing the URL and giving you an opportunity to summarize the contents.  Beyond that it is adding to a collaborative Facebook style feed within your LMS to tell other learners within your organization about your activity and creating a social thirst for them to follow suit.  Our current workforce is mobile, social, well educated, highly diverse, and most importantly content creators as well as content consumers.  We must be moving to a world of “tribal knowledge” and adding a social element to our learning helps us achieve this goal.   At SkillbuilderOnline.com, we are now putting the finishing touches on this technology.

The next project that we are working on will enable us to track the real world. This application would come to us in the form of a smart phone app.  At the Training 2014 conference, I attended 21 different training sessions and a trade show.  Each of these sessions had a title, a course description, and multiple learning outcomes.  One of them was a certification program in which I received a certificate but the others were simply workshops.  The certificate program now becomes part of my resume but is only part of what I experienced.  This app would allow for conference organizers, meeting planners, associations, workshop providers and many others to add a QR code to the entrance of the room where learners snap the QR code and it is tied to all of the course description and speaker information to add it to the learner’s record within their LMS in real time.  I would love to have all of my effort reflected into my learning transcript.  How about you?

Layer onto that an Augmented Reality (AR) piece where I now have digital access in my own personal data locker any information that would complement my learning.  The next thing is that through this learning tracking enables education providers to use the third “use case” that we are planning to develop and that is to automate “learning boosters” to participants.  This will enable us as education providers to overcome that statistic that 70% of all learning is forgotten within 24 hours.  We are able to send attendees follow up messages, challenges, and to track any action planning that took place in the classroom.  This again is what will ultimately lead to not only data dumping but true behavior changes in the workplace.

Learning needs to be interesting, short and relevant.  By breaking learning down into its bits and pieces, we can start to define the domains and competencies that lead to success.  Competencies are the simple components that when combined, lead to success.  A competency is what one can do and performance is what one actually does.  By elevating competencies and illustrating the “why” of that same competency, we can change behavior and thus, change performance.  Competencies are a capability and skills are ability.  Through mentoring and coaching we can increase the ability of our workforce by increasing their capabilities.

I am so excited about what the future holds for true employee development, and I am even more excited to be a part of the creation of what I believe will be the future of education not only in the workplace but also in primary and secondary education.  Once we arm our learners with the knowledge of how and where to find the answer we will no longer have to be standing over them like they are in a high chair waiting to be spoon fed.  As we look at our workforce and look to succession planning, we will soon have a new arsenal in the war of transferring knowledge from one generation to the next that is intentional and not accidental.  We will be able to look at our workforce and separate the people that are truly engaged in becoming better at what they do and those that are simply marking time.

It is my sincere desire that by reading this post, your mind is starting to open up to what the new definition of employee development will be in the not so distant future.  I hope that in the next few years when I read this article I will be looking back and saying how much more we were able to accomplish than these three use cases.  Until then, I will keep dreaming while I keep building.


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