Jeff’s Top 10 List Learning Tools 2019

Reading time: approx 10m

Another year, another top 10 list of learning tools survey by Jane Hart. It’s funny how these lists slowly adapt, yet stay the same. This year I notice some new tools creeping into my list only to realize they are just the next step or replacement from a tool or way of working I had before.

Let’s get started!

Feedly,

The newest addition to the list and one I felt should be on top. I’ve always been a ‘social learner’, pulling knowledge from a wide range of (online) sources. When I started out over a decade ago I found most of my information on Twitter. I used Tweetdeck as my content curation tool to help me bring information to me, following people, hashtags etc. I committed time every day to browse through tweetdeck and discover valuable things. Somewhere along the line, my findings in Tweetdeck took more time and the fine balance was lost. I had identified various valuable sources and just started to visit those regularly. The past couple of years ‘my manual system’ sank away to the background and although I still tried to find the information it was much more unstructured. In comes Feedly. I had heard about Feedly before but had never taken the time to figure out how to set it up and start using it. This year I met Mike Taylor at Learningtechday in Gent and he shared his curation process using Feedly. I had heard many podcasts and seen several webinars where Mike shared his process but seeing it in real life and talking to him about it made me realize I was missing out on ‘a system’ to collect content in a single place, making it easy to keep learning without the effort of ‘going out’ to find stuff.

After the conference I setup up Feedly and am now curating some great resources getting back in the daily learning habit.

LinkedIn, Twitter, 

As mentioned before I get a lot of valuable information from social sources. LinkedIn and Twitter are two great resources for finding peers and forward-thinking folks. It is also the place where I share my own curated content. Those articles, tools, webinars, podcasts etc that helped me grow. It’s also the place where I share my own original content with the world. Yes, I’ve got a personal WordPress blog but when writing I always post on LinkedIn first and then to my own blog. LinkedIn has matured a lot and it is a great platform to share expertise and insight in a professional setting.

Youtube,

I love YouTube. I have had my own channel for ages and love creating how-to videos to help others but also as a job-aid to myself. If there is a thing I don’t do to often that requires a lot of steps you can hope that resource explaining how to do something remains online and findable the next time you need it or you can simply create your own support resource. I love how YouTube democratizes learning and that you can find almost anything you would want to learn. Right now I am learning about prototyping in Invision, how to use Glideapps and for my entertainment watching Playstation Access.

Buffer,

Finding and creating valuable content is one thing but sharing effectively is another. Several years ago I found Buffer and it has enabled me to efficiently share any content I found or created. When you, like me, plan time in your day to read up on your social content sharing these findings in a way other people might find them easily can be tricky. Sharing all my finds in a matter of minutes after each other chances are maybe one or two items shared get noticed. Buffer helps me by creating a list of items that get published on my LinkedIn and Twitter feed at set intervals. This way there is not a single moment in the day I am publishing my finds but push out content 3-4 times a day. Buffer truly is one of my favorite apps to share!

Loom (screencasting)

Back in the day, there was this screencast revolution in the elearning community. So many people were recording how-to’s of their work in their favorite elearning authoring tools. When Screenr (the tool we used in the Articulate community) stopped there was a massive gap. About a year and a half ago I found Loom. It is an amazing web-based screen recorder that just shines in ease-of-use and, very important, stability. Now when I need to explain something within my own team at work I quickly record a video and share it via Loom. When I’m creating content for my YouTube channel I use Loom as well and download the video from Loom and upload it to YouTube. I just love the simplicity and basic editing capabilities of Loom (note: I rarely edit my videos. I usually record in one or two takes and decide it is good enough). If you haven’t tried Loom yet you should definately give it a go.

Google suite / Office 365

Content creation requires certain tools. Whether you are using the Google suite or Microsoft office writing, collecting and structuring content usually gets done in Word or Docs, PowerPoint or Slides and I couldn’t do without. PowerPoint especially has been my multimedia design tool of choice over the years. It is so versatile. I can create basic icons and other design elements. I used it for wireframing and mockups and is so shareable and editable by all. You’ve probably guessed it but this post started out as an outline in Google docs as well.

Invision Studio: Wireframing/Prototyping

As I just mentioned I am using Powerpoint to do a lot of basic wireframing and prototyping. As a learning designer, I feel my role is shifting more and more into learning and performance solution concepts, not developing them per se. Being able to create good wireframes and prototypes are becoming more and more important and not something I always want to outsource to suppliers. There is a lot I can do myself and I am currently trying to expand into more professional tools like Adobe XD and Invision Studio. Right now I am focusing on Invision Studio and building my capabilities in prototyping hopefully coming to a level where I can take that up to the next level.

Articulate 360 suite

Ah! The ultimate suite of elearning authoring tools, if you ask me. The 360 suite contains market-leading authoring tool Articulate Storyline for your slide-based elearning projects which is the strongest in the market today. If you can think of it, you can probably develop it in Storyline. The suite also contains Articulate Rise, the web-based responsive authoring tool, which is just one of the best and easiest tools I know that will create responsive elearning that will work on any device. For those into screencasting there is also Articulate Replay and Peek, a desktop and a web-based screen recorder. Replay is great as it adds a level of editing in its basic two-track video editor that is intuitive and effective. Last but not least there is Articulate Studio which ‘plugs in’ to PowerPoint and comes with a quiz builder and interaction tool that merge into each other when publish your elearning package. It often gets overlooked but it is the tool I started out with 15 years ago and still is one of the most hands-on and pragmatic authoring tools on the market. 

Communities of practice

Not a real software tool but a tool in my mind nonetheless. Sharing is caring and a lot of sharing goes on in communities of practice. I’ve learned so much by the generosity of people in communities and I must admit I would not be where I am today if I had not invested in them the way I did. I started out in the best community in the world for elearning designers and developers, the Articulate community, and can recommend it to anyone in the field of online learning. There are more communities though. Some open like Twitter chats and Linkedin groups which can hold a certain value (although I am yet to find an actual active LinkedIn Group in my area of interest). Taking time to be present in communities takes planning and commitment and like much of my social learning I’ve yet to find a way to leverage the new communities I am looking into and committing to a larger contribution. Any tips are welcome :).

Webinars & podcasts

I feel like I am cheating a little bit with this last entry but as mentioned I’m learning a lot from these informal ‘specialist’ talks in our field. I am still exploring which podcasts are worth connecting with and when is the best time to take time to listen in. For webinars I tend to sign up to stuff, even if I know I’m not going to make the time. Getting the recording is often even better as it allows me to scrub through it at a higher speed when I need and, obviously, watch when it is most convenient.

Getting started with Virtual Classrooms (Podcasts)

Earlier this year I did a podcast with Jo Cook from Lightbulb Moments. I shared my insights on getting started with virtual classrooms. We had a great chat and actually created two podcasts of around 25 minutes of that conversation. At the end of the podcasts, Jo and Mike from Lightbulb Moments share their key takeaways from the podcast.

You can check out both podcasts below. If you have any questions and thoughts just add them in the comments below.

Getting started with virtual classrooms – Part 1

Getting started with virtual classrooms – Part 2

How to set-up a reflection question in Articulate Rise

Think and reflect! A very powerful learning interaction and one I use often in my online learning solutions.

In this quick example video, I show you how I use them in Articulate Rise and how you can set them up.

Like this example? Got any ideas on how to do it in a different way? Let me know in the comments below!

Is your corporate academy still relevant for your employees?

Reading time: 4 minutes

I’ve been thinking about corporate learning and with that, corporate academies (or universities) a lot the past couple of years. Last year when I got invited to speak at the 8th annual Corporate learning and Corporate Academies event in Berlin I even raised the question: “Should a Corporate Academy still exist?”. That question came from my own experience looking at all the Corporate Academies and Universities I have seen over the years. Most struggle to go beyond the first maturity level and create a massive budget consuming behemoth, which does little more than manage a training catalog, do some basic vendor management, implements and maintains an expensive old-school Learning Management System and hosts and tracks a myriad of face-2-face and e-learning training solutions. All this is a lot of work but is it the right work? Does it help your employees and your organization?

Every time I see survey results or industry research about Corporate Academies, I read how they fail to be relevant and accessible for the organizations employees. Often such surveys and research follow up with improvement plans which seem to shoot for the stars yet find little success.

We need to start talking to what it is our employees need. What helps them to be better at their job? What do they need to prepare for their next job? We need to take a close look at what relevant and accessible means to them, not to the corporate HQ! If you fail to do, and prove that your Corporate Academy will always be seen as a cost and not as the critical value-adding enabler it can and needs to be.

What does relevant mean?

I love the obvious questions “Does it help me to be better at my job?” and “Does it prepare me for my next job?”. I truly believe that if the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’ then you are providing, facilitating and/or developing the right solutions. Mind you, the people answering these questions should be your employees, not stakeholders, not subject matter experts… your employees. They know what they need. They know what they will use and what they will ignore. Just look at your LMS reports :).

This means we need to get a whole lot better at doing a business needs analysis.

  • We need to know what changes and problems there are that need addressing.
  • We need to know what success looks like and how we can measure it.
  • We need to know the reality of our target audience.
  • We need to stop making excuses! If there is no clear business case then we should stop projects before they start.

This does not have to be rocket science. Context is king. Without context we’re just creating and maintaining content that has yet to prove its relevance.

We need to embrace the 70:20:10 framework and the 5 Moments of Need model as proven models for value based Learning and development. Only this way can we offer solutions that embed in our employee’s workflow and truly support them at being better at their jobs! Only then can we setup Corporate Academies that are truly relevant.

What does accessible mean?

Accessibility is key. It does not mean making it available via your LMS and expecting people to magically find it. In most organizations a small percentage uses the LMS on a regular basis to look at the offer and actively engages with it. Another group might visit the LMS during development talk time however finding what they need might prove to be an issue thus leaving the LMS behind the next time. There is also that other, fairly large group that haven’t even heard of your LMS or have but have forgotten about it completely.

Accessibility is having your solutions available when and where you’re employees need it. The 5 Moments of need model refers to ‘two clicks, 10 seconds’. For me this translates in ‘as easy and as fast as possible’. If you have to go find a computer somewhere and search for a link to the LMS, figure out your login details, start searching the course catalog, making sense of the search results trying to launch the solution, perhaps going through an approval workflow… you see where this is going right?

How can we make solutions available where employees are without them having to jump through a dozen burning hoops? For many employees finding the right content in their moment of need is like solving a rubics cube. It takes too much time and is too complex to hang on to ‘get it’.

Making the right content available in the right context in the right format is the essence of accessibility.

When taking people out of their work for formal training make sure you train them in where to find and how to use any training and support resources you’ve developed to support them outside the training. Do this right and people will use it and you will see the positive effect in your organization. Targets that will actually be met, changes will be embedded.

Building an email campaign as a training solution … in your LMS

Reading time: 4 minutes

Thanks to Bersin by Deloitte’s research we know that employees these days have but 1% of a typical workweek to focus on training and development. That’s 24 minutes per week if you’re working a 40 hour contract. I’m on 32 hour contract so that’s 5 minutes less.

How can we deliver training to employees that meets that reality? There are some important things we can do as Mark D’aquin states in his article ‘5 ways to meet the need of the modern learner’.

He states that we should…

  • prioritize the learner
  • complete a proper analysis and design process
  • simplify the experience – limit the content and make it bite-sized
  • design for usability (mobile accessible and available)
  • choose the right tool(s) for development

Delivering an email campaign

With that in mind, I recently delivered my first training solution in an email campaign format. It’s a format I’ve encountered over a decade ago when I signed up to an instructional design course by Connie Malamed but have not seen it as a regular delivery model, especially not within organizations. 

The format has a lot of benefits. It’s delivered over time, it requires short engaging pieces of content, it can be used to focus on relevant topics in each email, it gets delivered to your inbox, whether that’s on your phone, tablet or laptop and because there’s mainly text in email it has to be really simple.

I did my research and looked at what was happening in the field when it comes to using email as a training delivery method. I signed up for various courses I found to get a feel for how others are treating the format. In the end I liked the 10-day courses from Highbrow bes.

The format was really good as was the length. I wasn’t so sure about the daily delivery but figured that I could be flexible with that. A weekly email felt like a more appropriate to leave space for reflection and possible on-the-job practice activities.

A prototype says more than a 1000 meetings

I quickly prototyped an email in Outlook making sure it had a good structure so people would understand why this could work as a training solution.

I basically setup a structure like this:

  • What is [topic] in my context?
  • Why is [topic] in my context important?
  • How do I apply [topic] in my context?
    • reflective question(s)
    • on-the-job practice activity
  • Learn more (external content)

I opted to add the use of explainer video in the what/why section linking out to video content that could be short and engaging. The How section had to be a clear call to action and really had to stand out. The learn more section was to link to additional existing content that would deepen the experience but wasn’t required to understand the what, why and how of the topic.

Explaining the concept of a 8/10 week training program where a single email a week is delivered to your inbox and showing the prototype got me a lot of feedback. People were very interested and positive to try it out.

Doing more with less

When figuring out how to deliver this I started looking at common email marketing tools. I found MailChimp to be a leader in its industry and started investigating if this would work in our organization while considering alternatives for if it wouldn’t.

After extensive testing, and well on our way putting the developed content in MailChimp, we found that we were not able to make it work all across the globe and had to switch to plan B.I knew our LMS was able to send HTML emails as reminders but how would I be able to trigger them? I was not building a standard elearning package right? In the end that was actually how I managed to make it work.

The way I set-up the training was by creating a one-page SCORM package in Articulate Storyline. The one page module basically thanked participants for signing up to the course and explained that they’ll be receiving a weekly email for 8 weeks and that they should head over to their inbox as the first email might drop in any time now.

After we had set that up in the LMS we added a 10 reminder emails, each separated by 7 days. Each email was a nicely designed HTML email, using an engaging header image, an image that linked to our internal video platform for the topic specific explainer animation video and a brightly colored ‘call-to-action’ section that contained the reflection and practice activities.

The last email asks the participant to go back to the SCORM package and click the ‘complete’ button so the LMS registers the training as completed. At first I had a big obvious complete button but we noticed that participants don’t read instructions very well and immediately clicked the complete button which actually stopped the reminders from being send. After all, the training is marked compete…

Luckily this was easily solved by updating the layout of the SCORM package and removing focus from that complete button. After that it was smooth sailing. People in the organisation were finding our training in the LMS and leaving very positive feedback!

I’m super happy with how the training and its delivery turned out and love the simplicity of it. This is definitely something I’ll use again.

Questions, thoughts? Leave me a comment below.

Jeff.

Update and collecting external blog posts

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for the site. Tonight I finally started cleaning up spam comments and with that updating the theme.

I’ve mostly posted on Linkedin the past year and am now pulling back my content to this blog. Firstly I’ll start adding external posts here before starting to write new content.

I hope you’ll find the new colorful look pleasing and look forward to reconnect with you all!

Jeff

20 questions to ask before talking about learning objectives!

Reading time: 2,5 minutes
This post appeared first on LinkedIn.

I’ve been in Learning and Development for over 12 years now. It has been quite the learning journey for me, as I went from starting out in the role to being, well…, more experienced. One of the things that have continuously evolved over the years are the questions I’m asking my clients. Asking the right questions makes all the difference.

When I started out as an e-learning specialist my questions were focused on building the best possible e-learning module. Over the years I’ve learned that even though my job title might constrict me to ‘learning and development’, focusing on the product of a training request isn’t the best way to help my clients nor my organization.

I should be asking questions about the problem or change that we are trying to address and that address the desired outcome. I should not be jumping into learning objectives and solutions from the go. …and neither should you!

So what are the right questions to ask?

Good question! As I mentioned, my list of questions is an ever-evolving one.

The questions below have helped me, and my clients tremendously in painting a clear picture of where we are, where we want to be and how to prove what we are doing is actually working!

I am sharing these with you because we, as Learning and Development professionals need to better. We need to stop being a course factory and start building learning and performance solutions that actually work in the long term.

These questions, rooted in performance consulting, might just help you get started!

20 Questions to ask before talking about learning objectives!

  1. What is the problem/challenge you are trying to address?
  2. What is the business reason for this request?
  3. Do you have an idea for a solution in mind already?
  4. Who are the stakeholders and what are their roles (RACI)? What is their stake in this?
  5. Have you done a root cause analysis for the problem/challenge? What is the result?
  6. What will happen if we do nothing? What is the impact to the organization?
  7. What changes will we see in the organization when we implement this solution (What does success look like)?
  8. How can we measure the impact of the solution (with existing means)?
  9. Are there existing/immediate issues and/or behaviors that need addressing?
  10. What areas affect the desired outcome (Ability, Motivation, Organisational barriers …)?
  11. What are risks/challenges we need to consider?
  12. What is the desired timeline? Why this timeline?
  13. Is there a budget (range) known?
  14. What does the Target audience look like? How many people? Different roles? New starters? Existing? Access to digital? Mandatory? Language requirements? When will they take this training? Where would they look for information/support? …?
  15. Which others are affected by this problem/challenge?
  16. Which employees (5) can we talk to that experience/are impacted by the problem/challenge?
  17. What materials are available already and where? Is it being used? What works, what does not (proven)? Reusable? Scalable?
  18. Which technical requirements and limitations do we need to take into account?
  19. Which means are available for implementation?
  20. Is there anything relevant to this project I should know that I haven’t asked about?

So what are your thoughts? Questions, remarks? Drop me a comment below!

My favorite Learning & Development books!

Reading time: 2.5 minutes
This post appeared first on LinkedIn.

I often get asked what my favorite learning and development books are. I love books, especially those written by thought leaders in our industry. There’s such a wealth of information in them and they can be a great resource on the go. Here are a few books (in random order) I’d recommend to any L&D/HRD Professional.

702010 towards 100% performance [link]

This book really helped me understand the 702010 framework. It is an amazingly well-designed book that is very thorough. Jos, Charles and Vivian describe how the three pieces of the puzzle come together via a distinct set of roles that should exist within a modern L&D department.

Innovative Performance Support: Strategies and Practices for Learning in the Workflow [link]

This is probably the oldest book on my list as I had the honor to proofread it some years ago. Any organization that is moving from the traditional ‘training mindset’ to a modern ‘performance mindset’ will find this book extremely useful as it focuses on Performance Support in the workplace. To me, this methodology is the most pragmatic way to start the 702010 journey.

Learning in the Modern Workplace [link]

Honestly, I love Jane Hart and everything she does for our industry. Her book(s) and blog should be mandatory for anyone that is involved in an L&D or HRD role. Jane’s book is absolutely one of my favorites. An absolute must-have!

Show your work [link]

Jane Bozarth put together a great book that truly shows the value of ‘working out loud’. By showing your work you support productivity, improve performance, encourage reflective practice, and so much more.

Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age [link]

Okay, I’ve only read a GetAbstract book summary but I still want to put this one on this list. I think Clark Quinn really sends a clear message with his book and understands the need and urgency for L&D to change like no other! I’ll add this book to my bookshelf as soon as I’ve completed the books on my nightstand.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days [link]

I’ve only recently come across Design thinking and Sprints for learning but I find it an amazing process that really helps you step away from the solution and helps you find out what really works before spending a lot of time and money on a solution that won’t get the results you’re looking for. There’s also a great explanatory video playlist right [here].

Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations [link]

Training and workplace supporting materials are often slide-based. Nancy Duarte is the queen of presentations and her book is a great addition to anyone that creates learning materials.

All Articulate e-books [link]

As an Articulate Super Hero, it might be obvious to add this to the list. The team at Articulate has really put together a great set of compact e-learning design related e-books that will help any starting professional creating better e-learning.

Steal like an Artist [link]

I love this little book! Austin Kleon tells a great story. Get inspired by him and by the work of others to get better yourself. I’ve learned so much from other people’s work, deconstructing, recreating examples with the tools I have at my disposal.

These books are currently on my nightstand

I truly believe these books will help you grow as a professional and in turn, you will help grow our profession from course factory to strategic business partner!

Thoughts, insights? Any books you would like to recommend? Leave me a note in the comments below. And if you like this post please share it with your network.

How L&D can (and should) impact your organization!

Reading time: 2 minutes
This post appeared first on LinkedIn.

Have you ever wondered what it is that makes you ‘happy’ at work? Do you know the answer? I think I do…

High performance… That’s it. And if you reflect on it you know it is true. Think about all those times that you finished your day and drove home with that intense feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. You know you’ve done an amazing job that day or perhaps finished a project in a way you hadn’t imagined possible. You were able to perform at your highest level and there’s just nothing like that feeling!

And it doesn’t stop there. The next day you arrive at work you’ve still got that buzz. That feeling of happiness you get from being able to operate at the top of your ability has increased your engagement as an employee. Today you will look at the challenges you and your organization faces in a different way. Your brain is in a ‘can-do, getting-things-done’ state. You’ll be more productive and, bringing that attitude into work you’ll affect the people you work with and the projects you work on. When you are able to impact those people and projects it’s quite likely that that positive attitude will lead to more engaging conversations which lead to more innovative solutions that benefit the company and its customers.

This is exactly what happens in high performing teams. They create a self-sustaining high performance loop.

That means that if we, as Learning and Development and HR professionals, want to contribute to our business impact we need to improve employee happiness. That means supporting them in any way possible to create the circumstances that will allow them to perform at the top of their ability. For the past decade I’ve been hearing senior leaders as well as L&D and HR professionals talk about creating a ‘learning culture’ in their company when what they really need is a ‘performance culture’.

“People don’t come to work to learn. They come to work to work, to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Laura Overton from Towards Maturity states that one thing is clear from their latest report ‘Unlocking potential’; “People want to be able to do their jobs better and faster!”. To me that clearly signifies a big change for L&D. We need to refocus from the traditional creation of courses and programs to more performance based solutions that have a direct impact in the workplace. How can we support our employees to maximize their day-to-day performance? How do we help managers identify top performers and learn from what it is they do different from the ones with average performance so they can increase the performance of their entire team? How do we start building a culture of high-performance?

Now I don’t pretend to have all the answers (sorry about that) but I do believe it starts with moving from Content to Context. Learning solutions (and HR Infrastructure) should support employees with the right content in their moment of need, which is mostly while they are doing their jobs. No more ‘one size fits all’ training programs but contextualized and role specific support to ensure people can keep performing critical tasks and don’t get bogged down getting trained in trivial meaningless tasks that add little value.

Support your employees in achieving their maximum performance and you’ll impact their happiness, engagement and ultimately their productivity and innovation!

This obviously doesn’t happen overnight but ask yourself:”What change can I make today that will have an impact tomorrow?”.

Why quick-wins are killing your organization!

Reading time: 1 minute
This post appeared first on LinkedIn.

Quick-wins or low-hanging fruit as some people call them are the scourge of your organization. Why? Because, in organizations with high work pressure and little resources, they’re the first point of action while they’ve got the least impact.

What is it with quick-wins that gives us a sense of accomplishment? Does it look good on a status report to see that you’ve completed various actions? Or do we really think we are making progress?

If you’re honest with yourself, as a senior professional, do you truly believe those quick-wins made a real difference? Did they impact your organization in a way that increased employee performance? Did they have a lasting effect on desired business outcomes? No? I didn’t think so.

I believe, especially for companies with high work pressure and little resources, focusing on the big project that has a clear business impact is a smarter way to apply your scarce resources. Especially for more senior professionals as such projects are more challenging and rewarding, both on a professional as a personal level.

So does that mean we should drop quick-wins all together? Not per se. Some of these projects can be valuable to address, simply don’t use senior staff to pick them up. Junior employees can learn a lot from such quick win projects. You can trust to address them as they see fit and have a senior employee coach them where they require support. This way you’ll keep your high performers engaged working on challenging projects that impact the business and you are growing your junior professionals with the trust given in running projects on their own.

So next time when you’re assigning people to projects, or a project is assigned to you, think about if this is the best use of their/your capabilities and if the results of the project truly impact business outcomes where they matter most!