17 November 2008

What I Learned On My Vacation Away from the Office (DevLearn 2008 #3)

I left DevLearn 2008 on Friday and managed to take the weekend to spend with friends and family instead of working, which I usually do. The advantage to removing myself from work and work focussed topics is that I had time to reflect on the workshop and sessions I attended, as well as reflect on my experiences at DemoFest, which provided an enormous amount of food for thought. DemoFest was an incredible experience. I have not participated in anything like it before. The hall contained easily 20 tables maybe more, I'm not certain. On each table were computers with various kinds of online training samples that were created by elearning professionals, many of whom were employed by companies that wanted the content for compliance or skill development or technical training purposes.

One of the most sophisticated uses of elearning that I observed was designed to train salespeople in the pharma industry about compliance issues. The simulation had the learner "travel through" a week in the life of a pharmaceutical sales representative. It included typical received e-mails, conversations with physicians, managers, and co-workers. The level of detail and complexity of this training was impressive. It was very easy to gain a sense of the subtle and complicated ethical challenges that occur daily in this field of work. In addition, the learner was given the opportunity to experience the consequences of good and poor decision making.
What became apparent to me as I watched this and other demonstrations and training samples at DemoFest was that enterprise software training as it is currently delivered through online channels IS BORING and nearly mind numbing.

I thought back to the classroom training I had observed over the years with enterprise software. One trainer, I recall, staged "Family Feud" contests to help students remember what they had learned during the sessions. Another trainer sang Mr. Rogers' "Welcome to the Neighborhood" with special lyrics talking about the enterprise software. I remember still another trainer letting her students make "wrong" decisions and choices with exercises and lab sessions in the classroom and use the consequences to teach them how to fix errors in the software system. Bottom line these gifted trainers had the ability to make learning about enterprise software - FUN!

Aside from one very savvy client, I haven't heard anyone in the enterprise software arena use the words "training" and "fun" together. The expectation is that a company's users are supposed to understand that this mission critical software is vital to the organization's existence, and that should be motivation enough to get them online or in the classroom to learn the new business processes and application mechanics. This is serious business and we are supposed to be serious about it, right?

The challenge is to find a means for creating online asynchronous training sessions that engage learners in a similar fashion as those gifted trainers without "breaking the project budget" for the implementation or upgrade.

If a plant manager could "take a walk through his day" with the new business processes and applications to get a better understanding of what he will be doing when the new enterprise software is "live," how well would he appreciate the changes? How well would he retain the information? How motivated might he be to change his behavior?

13 November 2008

DevLearn 2008 #2

There is nothing like attending a conference and wishing that you could clone yourself!

Yesterday at DevLearn 2008 was like that for me and today's sessions look to be just as compelling. In the afternoon, I attended a session where the presenter discussed his view of training's purpose - to teach and embed behavior change. In addition, he discussed training in terms of a business function and a process. Then he continued his presentation by talking about why and how training efforts failed so miserably in fulfilling the promise of creating business value. He certainly started me thinking about all the times I've watched enterprise software implementations address the business process transformation and automation issues without the consideration that the education and training around that effort is also a process that must deliver business value.

Another presentation I attended was more a demonstration of various learning technology tools and how they are being used, very creatively, by the Department of Defense. I saw a field treatment guide for a non-medical soldier on an iPod. Literally all the soldier had to do was look at the image of a clothed body on the screen and touch the portion were an injury occurred. The iPod application launched a series of questions that, when answered, guided the soldier to a solution for addressing the problem in the field until medical assistance could be found, simply amazing!

Finally, some of you who read this blog know that I wrote a white paper earlier this year about rapid elearning development tools and their appropriate use in enterprise software implementations and upgrades. Many of the tools that I covered in the white paper have users and representatives here at DevLearn. Needless to say, I have been collecting feedback and stories from users and product direction information from the company representatives so that a new, updated edition of the white paper should be ready in January 2009.

12 November 2008

DevLearn 2008

I have taken a small break from chapter writing to rediscover what is happening in the world, especially as it pertains to training and performance issues. So here I am in San Jose at DevLearn 2008. The entire conference is focussed on Web 2.0 applications and their usefulness for performance support and learning.

All of yesterday was spent in a seminar about using Second Life (an "open" virtual world - anyone can join) as a tool for engaging learners in change, performance support, and training.

I know, I heard those stories too about 2nd Life being used for all sorts of nefarious endeavors, and such. Did you know, however, that Princeton, Stanford, Elon, and San Jose State have sizable presences in 2nd Life? In addition you will find Coldwell Banker, Sun Microsystems, and Intel. What are they doing there? Yesterday I found out.

They are using Second Life to have classes, interview applicants, onboard new employees, conduct meetings, deliver training, and that is just the beginning. I even found a hospital that is experimenting with 2nd Life as a communication channel.

OK why does this matter?

Virtual worlds offer the possibility of a richer and more retentive learning experience than what we have today. Imagine having the ability to take a new employee on a tour of your company's facility or learning about steel production (and visiting a blast furnace) without OSHA concerns or learning about how your organization will function in the future due to business process transformation. All of these scenarios are feasible in a virtual world.

I am excited about how virtual worlds could change our thinking about organizational change, business process transformation, and training. What about you? What do you think of virtual worlds?

Second Life

DevLearn 2008

Stay tuned for discoveries that I make during today's sessions!