Regardless of the learning technologies that have become available and the ability to access them, we still find the biggest barrier to success is business buy in.

This year, I will be co-ordinating a session on Learning Technologies in the real world with contributions from 2 great organisations - Toyota and NCALT - who were both honoured in last Novembers e-learning awards for widespread adoption. *

We want this interactive session to be really practical - now more than ever we need our solutions to be used and acted upon & every intervention has to count in 2009 - so tell us how we can help.

What have your biggest challenges been in engaging learners, managers and training staff in your organisation?
What tips can you pass on?

we'd love to hear from you!

* - ( see http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/conference/session_detail.cfm...) for more detail on our session.

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Start by stopping
Last year I saw a brilliant presentation from the folks at Norwich Union (now called Aviva or something like that). It was a double act and their implementation message was beautiful in its simplicity. They started by stopping. Bravely deciding that much of tehir training spend was on ineffective events, they simply stopped as many as they could. When the complanits started coming in and real requests for business crtiical training, they implemented their e-learning. In short, they turned a supply-led model into a demand-lead model.

Share
I also liked LearningPool. a content, authoring exchange and content service across the public sector. Of the £540 m spent in training in Local Authorities identified by the Audit Commission, a huge proportion is duplicated (the real figure is much, much more). Learning Pool tackles this head-on - they create and share content. You become one of a community of sharers.
Hi Donald,

Both of those are great ideas! I'm interested in how you think they might work well together... ie. take a local authority and stop all training. Do you think it would be possible to go down that route in that context? I can think of a lot of barriers to making it work ;-)

Mark
Not sure in the current climate that i would volunteer to stop all learning! however the this experience has worked during the last recession, learning budgets were hit right across sectors & a lot of training was cut completely.

Personally, i found that this had a knock on effect on the perception of e-learning when it was introduced as staff preferred it to nothing.

this time around i hope that we can be a bit more proactive - in the recession a few years back we did not have the tools available to really create a collaborative & connected learning world for staff .I hope that we will start to see some innovation happening ( like the sharing of resources at learningpool) in response to some of the pressures that L&D are facing
Thanks for leading this session, Laura. Engagement is an absolutely crucial part of any technology-supported learning programme. I'm looking forward to this session generating some great material for the Learning and Skills Group as whole.

One thing is clear from my conversations with NCALT and Toyota, and from your own research: Engagement doesn't start after learning delivery begins. On the contrary, it's the natural result of working closely with the business while developing a learning programme.
Hi all
Just a point of clarification - how would you define engagement? I have come across so many variations in how learner engagement is perceived.
Hi Nahid

One of the things that we have been looking at in our research programme are barriers to implementing learning technologies - and the number 1 barrier is reluctance of staff to adopt new learning technology. What we are looking for from engagement is the opportunity to counter this barrier.


Course completions alone are not a good indicator of engagement - easily measured , the don't represent the full picture. From a very specific research perspective, we look at engagment from a 2 angles - staff impact and take- up. Within these 2 areas indicators that we consider that look at engagement include:

- The extent to which staff get involved with e-learning without prompting/ compulsion
- The extent to which staff recommend e-learning to their colleagues
- Number of programmes that are e-enabled in some way & the number of roles within the business with access to relevant e-enabled programmes
- The perceived impact on staff satisfaction
- not forgetting - course completions & participation rates as well

how do others define engagement?
Hello Laura
Thank you for your feedback. Your definition is really good & specific to learning. Some of the definitions that I have come across talk about employee engagement in a different and perhaps much wider context. For example CIPD view employee engagement as: a “combination of commitment to the organisation and its values plus a willingness to help out colleagues (organisational citizenship). It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is seen as something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract.” http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/empreltns/general/empengmt.htm


What this definition highlights for me is the importance of learning technologies enabling and ensuring adequate facility/opportunity for feedback, collaboration & information sharing, plus the social elements in engaging the learner. From my experience, some of the barriers to this, in addition to the ones you mentioned, include confidence & skills in using some of the technology and the absence of a learning culture within the organisations. In addition, there is also a lot of interest in learning technologies impact on employee performance. Not to mention the return on investment!

These present lots difficult variables to measure and ascertain metrics. I am really interested in your proposed method and methodology, data collection tools, models for this study.
Laura said - "One of the things that we have been looking at in our research programme are barriers to implementing learning technologies - and the number 1 barrier is reluctance of staff to adopt new learning technology."

I maintain that the biggest barrier to adoption is the attempted implementation of things that learners wouldn't otherwise be using - elearning content, LMS, e-assessment. If we were being smart, we would be using the tools, technologies and channels that they are already using;

Web apps - People are comfortable banking and shopping online. Give them useful web based tools and they'll learn online too.

Blogging - Even if they're not blogging, people are familiar with the concept of diaries and journals, and it's not that big a leap to blogs.

Social networking sites - Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Orkut, this site! People are connecting online all the time. Find out where and how your audience are doing that, and take part - but remember, unless you're providing a social networking tool behind your firewall, you are a guest in their world.

Games and gaming consoles - This isn't just for teenagers in hoodies. Nintendo in particular have turned gaming into a family activity - look at the succes of the Wii and the DS. These things are fun as well as informative. As children, we spent our early years learning through play. Take a moment to compare the rate at which you learnt and developed between the ages of 1 and 10, with your learning and development in the last 10 years.

On demand video - Yes, I'm talking Youtube and Google Video, but I'm also talking about TV. Think about Sky+ (or Tivo for the Americans), your phone company offering on demand TV etc. Video is a wonderfully rich media, that is unbelievably cheap to produce. Be bold in using it the right way; there are times a highly polished production is appropriate (the on demand TV option), but think of the power of putting video cameras in the hands of people that really know how to do the job... The revolution will be televised, but we'll watch it when it suits us.
I agree with Barry's comment "I maintain that the biggest barrier to adoption is the attempted implementation of things that learners wouldn't otherwise be using".

History has shown us that hundreds of great patents and ideas have simply disappeared because either a) People do not want it or more importantly in the current economic climate b) People will not pay for it.

If the target market will not adopt a product then it is the product that is usually wrong, rather than the target market being mis-informed.

I also feel that to the average person views eLearning rightly or wrongly as something that has been oversold and over promosed on the benefits...also a lot of the content is still PowerPoint or Tell and test in a different form rather than pushing the new media mediums (again outlined by Barry) to create an engaging experience.

In my experience of delivering and receiving training I certainly feel that many of the old methods of Presentations, Breakout Groups, Roleplays, Workbooks, Reference texts, etc do not seem to cut it with the new generation of commercial learners.
The MTBGO (Mean Time Before Glazing Over) is much shorter!

I do think that blended learning will become more increasingly important as will the personalization of learning material to match an individuals whim for information at a particular moment.

I also believe very firmly in Game Based Learning for the corporate,professional and government sectors but then again I am biased as I am staking my future pension and retirement on it!
"MTBGO (Mean Time Before Glazing Over)"

I like this. It should be a compulsory measure for all learning technolgies!
Getting the business engaged in 2009! Well last year, in the run-up to Learning Technologies, I spoke of a change management strategy to support new ways of learning. It is in our human nature to resist changes, including those which are patently good for us. Much thought and effort is devoted to The Management of Change in organisations. You can immediately lead a horse to water, but getting it to drink may take rather longer.

I offered a model to describe the different emotions, opinions and expectations of people at various stages as they meet a new way of doing something. Anyone who champions learning, (be it Trainer, Manager or Co-worker) must adopt a variety of roles at different stages of this change process in order to recognise and satisfy needs and so reduce resistance. An when I think of whose "needs" need to be satisfied, I'm not just thinking about "The Learner". Proper systemic analysis will reveal all the stakeholders who might become champions or blockers.

Stage 1 Ignorance:
At first people don't know what they don't know. They are indifferent to the use of alternatives to classroom learning because they have no knowledge of them. The Learning Champion takes on the role of advertiser. This is no time for impassioned or logical persuasion. The toolkit of the advertising professional contains all you need - intriguing messages, slogans, impressive statistics and anecdotes. Brief, punchy and positive messages about new methods of learning need to strike a chord in the interests of those who read them.

Stage 2 Anxiety:
Raising awareness at Stage 1 won't cause people to beat a trail to your door. They are most likely to dwell upon their self-interest. They may feel nervous about how "new learning" will affect them personally. Will they have difficulty and spend time dealing with problems? Will the computer crash? Will they look foolish in front of their colleagues or managers? Will they learn all they need to learn and meet the standard? Will they miss out if there is no trainer on hand to answer their queries?
Learning Champions take up the role of counsellor, to reassure participants with honest and true facts. They respond to these real fears in a sympathetic tone, or pre-empt them with a set of positive benefits of the planned training. An open exchange of concerns is healthy. Through focus groups, road shows or FAQs on a website you can gather questions, concerns and misapprehensions and then deal with them at future stages in this model for change.

Stage 3 Curiosity:
As long as you remain patient, calm and communicative, questions shift from what does this mean for me? to show me what it's like. This is an important transition. It shows a person has moved from self-protecting resistance to acceptance that there is some serious intent to change the methods of learning.

The Learning Champion must explain the process, features and benefits of the new methods in some detail. This may use case material such as video talking heads or a brains trust of recognisable colleagues who have piloted the change. As soon as it becomes available good use can be made of qualitative data about the results of learning in this new way. The Learning Champion can demonstrate how e-learning (for example) can get closer to individuals' needs; how it can be more flexible, modular, accessible and effective and how participants would need the chance to try it out for themselves.

Stage 4 Readiness:
Once people are ready to take part, they may still be doubtful about how colleagues or managers will react to what they are doing. At this stage, the Champion slips into the role of trainer, teaching people how to take part and extract the most benefit from what is on offer. Primed to learn from one another, participants will then act as advocates for the new approach. They are armed with strategies for dealing with destructive scepticism. They are inspired to recognise positive shifts in attitude based upon emerging and measurable results.

Stage 5 Acceptance:
Ready, willing and able to use the new approach, participants are beginning to experience personal benefits. They might be asking technical or procedural questions, or offering suggestions for improvements. At this point, the Champion switches role to implementer, as people relax, introducing more challenging or more ambitious activities that use the new methodology.

A continuous performance improvement approach permeates the project. The Champion will listen for and act upon ideas for modifying materials and procedures. Defects are fixed and the project gets ever closer to the personalities and preferences of users.

Stage 6 Fatigue:
As people become regular and practised users, they may experience a sense of boredom or dissatisfaction. The sense of novelty and innovation has faded and they want greater colour, challenge, variety or speed. It is here that the Champion's ultimate role is reached - maintenance. It is crucial to keep materials, content and equipment, as well as success stories fresh and up to date, otherwise disillusionment will set in. Participants should be encouraged to make their own suggestions and know that they will be considered in good time.

Above all, each link must be reinforced between the newly-adopted methods of learning and the goals of the organisation. No-one should stop striving for other, even more effective and innovative ways of reaching those goals.

These ideas are drawn from Diane Dormant's brilliantly simple 6-stage Adoption Strategy and adapted. My ILT article is still open to view at http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/magazine/article_full.cfm?art...
Dormant, D. (1986). The ABCD's of managing change. In M. Smith (ed.), Introduction to performance technology. Washington, DC.: The National Society for Performance and Instruction.

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