Archive for category Innovation
Technology has enabled us to work, live and play in dramatically different ways. We can now easily and instantly communicate with others around the globe and gain access to a wealth of knowledge and information anywhere and at any time. This allows us to deliver training in dramatically new ways. No longer do we have to hold our learners hostage in a physical classroom. Instead, we can deliver training to them over the web anywhere and at any time. However, most people find that it is almost next to impossible to engage a learner in a live virtual classroom when they have so many distractions, demands on their time and nobody physically present to “motivate” them to stay with the program. In some instances they try to spice up their webinars with techniques and approaches to gain some level of interaction. Even then, many still find that the virtual classroom is a poor and distant cousin to the traditional physical classroom. As a result, many organizations have decided that virtual training really won’t work. There are, however, two very significant faults in this conclusion.
First, the physical classroom is rarely a highly effective environment for learning. Ironically, the biggest benefit to the classroom is its ability to hold the learner physically hostage as the mind can still wander just as quickly as when the learner is participating in a virtual class. More importantly, people have become highly tolerant of poor training, whether physical or virtual, as the benchmark is so low. They may sit for an hour or more listening to information that is only marginally relevant to them. They may be asked to participate in an exercise that is not really applicable to their own roles or needs. How often have your heard someone share that from a day in a training class the best they could hope for would be to pick up one or two good ideas? Finally, consider how quickly the content of a training program decays, and the extent that a participant ends up actually changing their behavior and/or applying new knowledge or approaches due to a training course. The bar is indeed set very low.
Second, the seemingly logical conclusion that you can’t gain someone’s attention when you are remote and they can so easily become distracted is totally flawed. The broadcast media has been doing this for years. It is quite easy to flip channels or walk away from the television set, a purely one-way media, yet we stay glued in front of the television happily watching anything from historical documentaries to the most inane of reality shows.
When faced with the opportunity to provide training in new ways, (perhaps moving a program that was previously delivered in a physical classroom to the live virtual classroom), it is not a simple case of doing what we have always done. It is not a case of moving content from the physical to the virtual classroom and using flashier PowerPoint with some polls and questions. Technology has enabled us to do what we haven’t done before so why do we continue to use technology to do what we have always done?
We must rethink, redesign and rearchitect our training programs like never before. Previously, when designing training for the physical classroom we had massive constraints. Constraints that were so obvious we now take them for granted, such as:
- The fixed number of participants in the class
- The duration of the program
- The very high costs and time constraints of including multiple facilitators and subject matter experts
- The necessity of delivering all that was required in one shot
- The inability to observe and work with participants as they apply new knowledge and skills in the workplace
When designing training for the virtual world these are no longer constraints, and indeed become opportunities. For example, we can now work with participants over a matter of weeks as they now not only learn, but apply and then share their own real-world experiences.
The rearchitecting of our approaches to training in the virtual world has very little to do with flashing up our PowerPoint and introducing some polls. We need to rethink how we will achieve our learning objectives with many, many more approaches that we ever had when constrained by the physical classroom. At the same time we can learn a great deal from the broadcast media and start making our learning programs far more relevant and engaging to our learners. We should also be using the time we do have with learners to engage them in ways that spawn collaboration and truly do move from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” Our live virtual classroom should be an environment where there is a high degree of collaboration, sharing of ideas between learners and experts, and discussion about what the learners are finding as they implement new ideas and approaches in the real world. This is a very long way from an individual presenting PowerPoint over the web.
If your L&D organization is still asking, “How do we engage learners in a webinar?” they may be asking the wrong question. The question should be, “How do we architect learning programs that create results?” By using technology, we have the ability to architect programs that are continuous in nature versus bounded by the time we have people captive in a classroom. Learning should be blended in terms of delivery modalities and integrate new knowledge, application, coaching and reflection. We should also consider the aspects of change management that will enable our learners to move through their learning experiences in a motivated and supportive fashion. If we are simply focusing on how to deliver a better webinar we are missing the big picture and the real opportunity to do something truly impactful for the learner and for the organization.
A recent edition of The Economist reported on the fact that computer-based simulation is now being used to train the military. The trend of training military personnel by immersion in a simulation of life-threatening situations, battles and maneuvers did not necessarily come as a surprise to me. The part that did surprise me was the fact that in these training exercises, circuits are attached to trainees, giving them electrical shocks when they make a wrong move. Such shocks represent being hit, or even killed, by enemy fire. That’s one heck of a way to motivate an individual and truly engage them in the learning experience!
It led me down a path of thinking: what if we did the same thing. What if there was a clear and painful consequence of not staying engaged in the training, missing something of importance or failing to implement what was learned. We too could offer training as if the learner’s life depended on it. It wasn’t long though before the somewhat happy state of thinking about gaining participant’s attention in this way reversed back around, leaving me to wonder just how prepared we are, as learning professionals, to construct training in such a way that we could be sure we are “shocking” the right individual at the right time and for the right reason. The Economist article on military training simulations talked about the dramatic lengths the program designers must go to in order to ensure the training is relevant, up-to-date and realistic and that it truly factors in all of the variables that may impact performance on the job. Isn’t this what separates most simulations from real-life experiences?
Consider this: how often have we facilitated role plays, case studies or exercises in our training programs that may offer some degree of learning benefit but fail to capture the complexity of real-world situations? It is my belief that this is yet another reason why so many training courses being offered today are questioned both by the learner and by the sponsor as to their real return. Do they simply offer a few tips and tricks, or do they offer real learning experiences?
I suggest, therefore, before we start hooking up our own learners to electric shocks, we need to look to ourselves first. How relevant is our training and how does it truly model what happens in the real-world? How do we break out of the tendency to drown people with new information in a physical classroom and how do we start coaching and supporting our learners—over time—as they implement and apply new skills and knowledge within the complexity of the real world in which we are asking them to perform. It’s time to rethink how we design and deliver training for today’s workforce!
On this note, 3GS recently presented at the CLO Spring 2012 Symposium, where we attended various sessions and met with senior leaders in learning. Throughout the many conversations we had, we noted a clear focus on the future of learning and on the virtual classroom. While there were many presentations on how to embrace social/mobile and virtual learning, there was a notable lack of thought leadership on how to put all of these great tools together in a way that would offer a more strategic approach to creating a continuous and blended learning environment.
As leaders in learning we have not only the opportunity, but the obligation, to rethink how we design and deliver learning but the key to success is not a simple case of doing what we have always done. It is not a case of simply moving content from the physical to the virtual classroom or offering training on a tablet or micro learning on a PDA. These tools give us more choices than ever but to truly engage learners and to deliver information and training to the right people at the right time our approach to design must be reconsidered.
With an eye toward laying out a vision of what truly effective virtual training can and should look like, Nicki Bouton of 3GS delivered a session at last week’s CLO Spring Symposium that focused on designing effective learning experiences. If you didn’t attend the conference I would invite you to download a copy of her presentation here or to register for a live recording click here.
Nicki’s session explored the following aspects of creating a blended and continuous approach to learning:
- The model for live virtual training vs. physical classroom training
- The critical difference between live and asynchronous virtual training, and how the chosen modality impacts effectiveness
- The optimal architecture of a total, continuous learning environment
- The top five traps that inhibit virtual training impact—and how to overcome them
3GS’s dynamic approach to live, instructor-led virtual training equips learning and development decision-makers with a convenient, cost-effective training approach that outperforms both the physical classroom and basic webinar-style virtual training in the areas of learner engagement, training results and business impact.
Having just returned from presenting at the Training 2012 Conference, it’s a good time to reflect on the emerging trends for the year, using this major event as a litmus test for the industry. Hours spent walking the expo floor, talking to numerous delegates, listening to the keynotes and participating in many break out sessions, I’m left with the impression that our world has changed in the last year or two. My own observations would lead me to believe that we have shifted from being caught up in many futuristic technologies to the more pragmatic development and delivery of effective training.
Here’s my top 3 “What’s In and What’s Out” list.
#1 A Results Orientation
This top trend was not just apparent in the conversations regarding measurement and business impact, but there was also a prevailing theme of the importance of how we deliver training. There was a much stronger emphasis on the training method as being vital to achieving the desired impact upon the learner and the organization.
#2 Blended Learning
There is a continual and understandable focus on delivering training, or better still enabling training, in multiple and different ways. I was at the conference to deliver a session on best practices for live virtual training as part of the very extensive and well-attended conference stream on the live virtual classroom. Although I haven’t counted, I would estimate that at least 30% of all the breakout sessions focused on what we could call a non-traditional way of delivering training. There is clearly a plethora of ways to enable training other than putting people into a physical classroom and yet there is some sort of notable fear of change that leads people to cling to the tradition of the physical classroom setting where learners are held hostage for several days while information is fire-hosed at them. Seriously, is that the best we can do? Wake up and look around you, that isn’t the way we work, play or learn anymore! Let’s step up as learning leaders and focus on the new methods that translate into more effective ways in which to develop and deliver training experiences.
#3 Sales Training
It has been a few years since I saw the emphasis on training sales teams that there was at this event. A number of the breakout sessions were focused purely on training sales people. Connecting this observation with my #1 above, I also saw that just about every session or conversation on sales training revolved around how to deliver sales training that directly impacts sales results.
The focus we saw just a few years ago that would have led us to believe that the future of training would see us all immersed in virtual reality and learning through the use of an avatar has all but disappeared. Not to say I didn’t see some very effective ways in which to learn using the online word and simulation, but the total simulated “second life” style of learning seems to have lost its gloss. Perhaps this is a direct result of the undeniable trend of cost cutting. To create effective immersive virtual reality is anything but cheap.
#2 Technology for Technology’s Sake
No doubt many participants had iPads and various tablets with them, and many of the exhibitors may have been using these devices too, but the focus we saw a year ago on mobility and technology seems to have diminished. Once again, I would suggest that this is the result of tightening budgets and a focus on what we can do today to impact results. It is no longer about the technology itself–it’s about how we enable effective learning.
#3 Motivation Masquerading as Learning
For far too many years we have seen what I would call motivational events, games or speakers being used in the training landscape. While there is nothing wrong with a good motivational event to “pump up” the crowd, these can’t be mistaken for training that delivers new learning. Perhaps as a result of my #1 observation of What’s In, I see the focus moving away from motivation masquerading as learning. Don’t get me wrong, I love the motivational speaker at an event as much as anyone else, but as was noted at several times throughout the conference, enabling effective learning and delivering results does not come down to a motivational event.
As ever, I enjoyed the ability to mix and mingle with so many leaders in the world of training, and perhaps pick up on a few of the trends that will drive us and the industry during the course of 2012.
It’s easy to get lost these days in all of the choices that exist around learning options and technology. This can be especially true at a conference like the one we just attended, ASTD’s Techknowledge 2012, where the choices were abundant and almost overwhelming. Mobile learning, just-in-time, social media, blogging and micro blogging just to name a few. Furthermore, as learning and development professionals we have to ensure that we are embracing the different learning styles and expectations of the new workforce. It is clear we can’t stand still or continue to do things the way we have always done them.
Today’s learning leaders are increasingly tasked to find new, better and less expensive ways to train and to accommodate the growing number of new, mobile and remote workforce learners. Given our experiences with customers around the globe, we have seen that for many organizations the move to virtual has been overwhelmingly driven by the obvious cost and time savings of this modality. At the same time virtual training is often viewed as inferior or not being able to offer the type of results associated with more traditional training approaches. This is not because web-based training is an inferior training modality; it is because it has not been widely-used in an effective and compelling manner. As leaders responsible for the results of their training initiatives, is this the ROI that we are willing to live with OR is there a better way?
Top concerns that emerged during the recent were:
- What does it take to deliver a virtual classroom experience so that it is more than a traditional webinar?
- How can we create engagement in virtual classroom experiences?
- How to create a blended experience and leverage assets that companies have already invested in?
- Change management: what is needed in terms of an overall program to gain adoption, apply learning and change behavior?
To gain the true impact of any training program the answer to a strong ROI lies in the overall organizational learning strategy and in the architectural footprint of the learning environment and NOT in tactical implementation, training technology or clever instructional design. Of course, these elements do matter but they are secondary to strategy and architectural design. The strategy must consider the business impact that is required and then map the change management, skills, and behavior requirements necessary to enable the organization to deliver those results. The architectural design must then accommodate who needs training and the most effective modes in which to deliver, or enable, the requisite learning to occur.
So where does live virtual training fit in? With the learning strategy and architecture serving as the foundation, learning and development leaders can ensure that the most effective modalities are employed to support the organizational learning needs by providing the right training to the right people at the right time. With an emphasis on supporting the workforce in the way in which we now live and work, live virtual is worth a strong hard look for how this modality can truly transform the modern-day learning experience.
Come join us at Training 2012 and hear more about a Best-In-Practice Design to Live Virtual Training. Find out more about the event on our website.
The Art and Science of Virtual Training
In a world where attention rarely extends to more than 30 seconds, where multitasking has become a survival skill, and where the plethora of distractions compete for personal attention, it’s a challenge to engage the minds of distant participants in an online training program. Many think this is an impossible task because of the nature of the Internet: people can easily wander away from a training session to surf the web, chat with friends, or conduct email.
Against this backdrop, however, there is one communication medium that has succeeded in capturing our hearts and minds for more than half a century: television. We are “glued” to our televisions as we sit and watch sit-coms, reality shows, movies, or even cooking shows, with limited, if any interaction. But behind each program are teams of highly skilled writers, editors, animators, videographers, sound engineers, graphic artists, editors, presenters, directors, hosts, and producers. These kinds of professionals have been focusing their skills on how to communicate and engage with a remote audience for over 100 years! You could even say that they have raised their skills to a high art form; it is our goal to do the same for training.
To achieve this goal, 3g Selling brought together a team of over 40 experts from the broadcast media, and then invested in months of research and testing. We engineered a totally new model for the design, development and delivery of live virtual learning experiences that merges a variety of talent from diverse fields – including television newscasters and radio talk show hosts, web producers, and award-winning graphic artists.
During the past year, we’ve used this model to conduct over 600 live virtual training programs for our clients in a variety of topics. From this experience, we have drawn upon the science and the art of our team of 40 experts in these fields:
- Program architects to determine learning objectives and to design the most creative and expedient delivery methods
- Writers and editors to shape communication
- Graphic artists to develop meaningful and relevant supporting materials
- Producers who can manage the technology and keep the program flawlessly flowing
- Subject matter experts to bring the knowledge required for the training programs
- Video and audio experts to develop supporting audio and video materials
- Broadcast media hosts who are comfortable with managing a live spontaneous flow of conversation but also with meeting time lines and hitting on major objectives
- Communication experts to train, support, and coach the delivery teams
Recently, 3g Selling demonstrated a truly innovative approach to hosting and conducting a meeting in virtual space. Bringing together a dynamic group of senior learning leaders, the inaugural session of the Learning Leaders Virtual Roundtable emphasized active participation, networking and building knowledge as a group of individuals through collaboration. From healthcare to financial services, from higher education to retail, over 20 organizations located across the U.S. shared their visions, challenges, thoughts and best practices with each other and a team of panelists that included experts in social media, technology-based learning, live virtual training, mobility, change management and other hot topics.
The Roundtable—also dubbed the “WebiKnow” by 3g Selling to underscore how radically different the experience is from the usual sit-back-and-listen webinar—focused on the timely topic of technology-enabled learning. Two years ago, mobility, social learning and peer-to-peer collaboration weren’t the hot buttons they are today. But as the way people live and work continues to change, these areas will drive the rapid growth of virtual learning, informal learning and better integration of just-in-time learning. These developments have dramatically changed the role of learning leaders who must lead the organizational charge to adapt to the new technology-enabled learning world we now find ourselves in.
10 Steps Toward the Vision of Technology-Enabled Learning
At the end of the Roundtable—whose agenda was shaped entirely by input gathered from participants prior to the event—our four expert panelists summarized the key takeaways from the event.
- Embrace the dramatically changed role of the learning leader.
- Learning leaders must lead the charge to adapt to the world we are now living in.
- New mind sets must be created through carefully planned change management.
- Continually demonstrate the value that the learning organization brings to the business.
- Ensure that learning is driven by an organizational vision and goals and not by technology itself.
- Align and manage the learning outcomes for your organization’s learning investments.
- There must be an overall learning architecture that frames what learning should be enabled in what way for which people across the organization. This is the construct for the continuous and blended learning environment. It is not a catalog of courses, but rather the “architecture” for the provision of learning across the organization.
- Understand the instructional design approaches and skills sets that must be adapted for different learning vehicles.
- Increase program success through communication and change management.
- Provide solutions that account for varying learning styles and generational learning differences, that are reflective of the localized needs of the learner and that drive clear business value.
The discussion around these issues was so lively and engaging that the participants and panelists stayed in the virtual meeting room networking and sharing ideas long after the Roundtable concluded. As a result of the enthusiasm and ideas we received during the Roundtable, we’ve decided to continue the discussion in October. The next WebiKnow will take a deeper dive into the topic of social learning. The participants and panelists will examine topics such as:
- Networking and communication
- Which behaviors learning leaders need to encourage across the organization
- How to identify the generational differences that influence organizational culture
- How best to incorporate those differences into the organization’s overall training vision and goals
If you’re a senior-level learning leader and are interested in joining us at a future Virtual Roundtable, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at email@example.com, or give us a call at 888.243.0461.
Technology-Enabled Learning and Collaboration Demonstrated in 3g Selling’s “WebiKnow” Learning Leaders Virtual Roundtable
- Not a single participant clicked off prior to the end of the program?
- Every participant could see the list of other participants and interact directly with them?
- Every participant used both voice and chat to provide real-time comments and questions, and to network with peers?
- The participants guided the conversation rather than deferring to the panelists?
- The host crowd-sourced to tackle a number of topics, drawing not only on the expertise of the panelists but also of the participants?
- The conversation and networking went through the breaks and even for some time after the end of the event?
- As a participant, you were not a spectator but were a player on the field?
Webinars have essentially become one-way monologues that require us to sit through an hour-long presentation in the hope of discovering just a few good ideas. They’ve failed to replace the lively conversation that’s found in face-to-face meetings or the networking that happens at conferences. 3g Selling’s innovative approach to virtual learning has changed all of that.
Last week, 3g Selling demonstrated a different way of hosting and conducting a collaborative meeting in a virtual space. Referred to as the “WebiKnow,” the Learning Leaders Virtual Roundtable emphasized active participation, networking and building knowledge as a group of peers through collaboration. Focusing in on the topic of technology-enabled learning, the inaugural Roundtable brought together senior leaders in corporate training and education from a broad range of industries. From healthcare to financial services, from higher education to retail, over 20 organizations across the U.S. shared their visions, challenges, thoughts and best practices with each other and a team of panelists that included experts in social media, technology-based learning, live virtual training, mobility, change management and other hot topics.
As a respected leader in the area of live virtual training and having delivered over 600 sessions in the last year alone, 3g Selling leveraged their innovative approach to web-based learning to create the highly collaborative Roundtable. Drawing on techniques used in broadcast media, the expertise of a host with a background in television and live talk shows and a technical producer, they delivered the two-hour WebiKnow on a series of topics that the participant learning leaders had identified in a pre-session questionnaire.
While the Roundtable featured a panel of four subject experts, the host orchestrated a lively discussion that featured sharing of best practices. Participants not only guided the conversation but also contributed their own thoughts and experiences. By crowd sourcing solutions to common challenges, the host tapped into each individual’s expertise so that these senior-level leaders could benefit from the wisdom of the group. The participants reported leaving the WebiKnow with much more than a few good ideas—they came away with practical solutions to the challenges they had identified prior to the event.
According to one participant, “Management and facilitation of the program were outstanding! One of the best virtual events I have ever attended in terms of facilitation, organization, and time management. (And I have attended many.)”
To learn more about how 3g Selling is revolutionizing virtual learning experiences give us a call at 888.243.0461 or visit us at www.3gselling.com
Business survival in the 21st century requires effective ways to transfer knowledge and train a new generation of the professional workforce. This means we need to make the most of new technologies—not just port 20th and even 19th century learning techniques from the physical classroom onto the web. But adopting new technologies does not mean we should discard the best of time-proven communications techniques.
For more than a decade, I ran a successful sales and marketing consulting company. One night, while I was in a hotel room after a long day attending a conference, I decided to watch a TV documentary about 19th century firearms in the hopes that it would put me to sleep. Instead, a few minutes into the program, I was hooked and watched the entire program with complete attentiveness.
Here’s the epiphany that came of that experience: If a documentary of no intrinsic interest could engage me so completely, why not apply these same broadcast techniques to virtual training? After months of researching broadcast media studios, visiting media departments at academic institutions, and meeting with other media specialists, we built live virtual training programs that integrate broadcast media techniques with the best practices of training. We chose the live versus the asynchronous approach because of the highly interactive and collaborative possibilities that can come only from live discussion.
In the past year, more than 600 live virtual training sessions have been produced in our studios. Topics range from management and coaching to sales, leadership, and communications training. Each 75-minute session is anchored by a host, who is professionally trained in broadcast media. The host is paired with an expert in a particular subject matter. The set also includes a producer, who facilitates live chat and audio input by the 22 or fewer participants. Most training requires 5 to 10 sessions, spread out over a period of a few weeks or months.
The limited time and number of participants keeps things lively. In one session, we’ve had participants from three different continents—all in different time zones and with different native languages—conversing by phone and live chat with our host, our subject expert, and with each other. By keeping the content of each session fresh and varied, participants stay engaged and alert. We include multimedia elements, including video, animations, and graphics, and comment on completed work assignments, which are assigned at the end of each session.
The trick to building a successful live virtual training program is to be creative. And who is more creative than the entertainment industry?
Here are six lessons we learned in improving live virtual training:
- Delivery is the key to success. If you can truly engage your participants, you’re more than halfway there.
- Adopting techniques from the entertainment industry, such as broadcast media, is a powerful way to engage your audience while avoiding the drudgery of PowerPoint presentations and top-down lectures.
- Scripting is important, but so is spontaneity. Surprise and variety are definitely the spice and seasoning of any training experience.
- Pairing trainers with broadcast media professionals experienced in engaging participants is a highly effective way to engage the audience.
- Collaboration on work assignments creates greater accountability among participants.
- Instead of using case studies, integrate real-life work projects into your training.
Recognizing our best-in-class use of the Adobe Connect platform, Adobe recently launched a Customer Success Story about us and how we’re pushing the platform to offer our customers a richer online learning experience.
Check out the writeup on the Adobe Connect Blog, where you can also download the Success Story.