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Learning Insights 2019: The power of MicroPersonalNetworks

05

Aug 2019

Learning Insights 2019: The power of MicroPersonalNetworks

Podcast and audio recordings

John, Stu and Cammy discuss the key trends found in he 2019 Learning insights report, with a particular focus on MicroPersonalNetworks - what are they, and why do learners want them?
 

Transcript

Stuart Chadwick
Welcome to Kineo's stream of thought, a monthly podcast that features informal chat from the Kineo team about all things learning. I'm Stuart Chadwick, Managing Director of Kineo in the UK Europe and Africa. Today we're going to be exploring some of the findings from our recent Learning Insights research and upcoming report. 

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Stuart Chadwick
And today I'm joined by: 

Mark Harrison
Mark Harrison, Consultant. 

John Williams
John Williams, Global Marketing Director. 

Cammy Bean
Cammy Bean, Senior Solutions Consultant. 

Stuart Chadwick
So I just thought i'd start by setting the scene around what Learning Insights is all about. Some of you might be familiar with it already, it's reports we've been producing for a number of years now which was really based on the premise that we wanted to understand better what was actually happening out there in L&D and learning technology rather than what might be perceived to be happening. So we've done various research over the years and produced an annual report which has helped set some of the scene of what's going to be coming up the next year and what people are focussed on. So this year what we did is we've beefed up the reports. We've done a lot more research, we've done that through surveys and interviews with some of our clients also others involved in businesses and L&D and we've distilled all that down into a number of reports. The first one of those reports is coming up shortly probably around mid to late August and this podcast is really to discuss the themes within that report. So based on the research that we've done we've noticed a few sorts of emerging themes that are coming through which aren't necessarily wholly new to us. So we see a lot of appetite towards social engagement, social learning. We see the need for resource based lending or micro learning as well coming through here. So part of what we're trying to explore is well, 'what does that mean?' These topics have come up over the last couple of years and they're very popular ones. And is it that these things are now becoming better embraced or indeed are there still barriers to businesses really getting hold of these things and doing something with them? To help sort of encapsulate that we've come out with the term micro personal network learning which is a bit of a mouthful but really tries to encapsulate that these three areas of micro learning, personalization of the learning experience and networking through social learning are all interconnected and we wanted to propose that might be a way of thinking about those areas but also what we're here to discuss a little bit about is how engagement with those things are working. So I guess really just to get the ball rolling with the people with us today is to throw that question out there. These aren't new topics but we've seen them come up time and time again. What does that mean? 

Cammy Bean
Yeah. So I think when we are talking about micro learning everyone has an idea of that, right? It's shorter chunks, smaller pieces. I think there's a few barriers we can dig into that as we start talking. We're talking about means to personalize the learning experience through either tools like AI or learners being able to find what they need when they need it on their own terms rather than being dictated that this is required training and then that final piece network is really about social learning. And we've been talking about that for years too, right? So how do we make the learning experience more social, more connected, more networked so that we're learning from our peers learning through experience. As Stuart said these these aren't new terms, so why are we talking about them now in the learning Insights report? And I think a big thing is adoption is often slow with all of this stuff and so there are some barriers to some of this. 

Mark Harrison
To me when I look at it is that I think we always borrow things from the world outside and there are strong drivers in the commercial world often that get ahead of the game because the numbers are bigger and the impact is bigger on organisations. So social learning is mirroring what's happening in social media or would like to be mirroring it. I think the biggest barrier in that area and it has been around, as you say Cammy, is the fact that organisations are uncomfortable with people sharing things that are uncontrolled whereas the internet doesn't worry at all. So you can get mass communication really quickly and you get great connections when there's conflict when everyone's saying 'Oh, I agree with you that's a nice idea. That's brilliant', no one joins in. People want conflict and organisations, it's the one thing they don't want, is for anyone to get up publicly and criticise something that management has done or something a colleague has done. And so it's almost the antithesis of what makes the internet work is how organisations try and talk with each other internally. So I think there is always this dilemma. Everyone says we should have social learning, but in the end maybe the more likely areas of this three tripartite equation is the micro and the personalisation. I think we're much more comfortable and we have the tools and everything to make those happen. And because they have been around and personalisation is getting as you said cleverer and cleverer because of A.I. it's how to bring in the network is the magic element. But organisations I don't think are well geared up to let that loose. 

John Williams
I think there are lessons here and I can only agree with you there in terms of what you can take as you say from the commercial world. So if I take the world that I work on which is marketing actually we have been doing personalisation. We have been then tracking people through. And we have been trying to combine social in terms of that engagement as well and looking at that as an environment. I think the problem that you might then encounter, one of the barriers perhaps in organisations is they're not prepared to resource the nudge mentality the constant sort of engagements that you need to maintain in running one of these programs out because if you think about it it's more difficult to track the cash in the till at the end of it whereas if you're investing in marketing or in sales you can demonstrate the impact that's having on your organisation much quicker and in cash terms. And so I think there are lessons from that environment that you can apply to learning and in terms of the methods you might adopt which would then help in terms of driving some of those behaviours within organisations. 

Stuart Chadwick
So does it become necessary for organisations to be able to measure this? Do you think that the end goal of still evidencing that the learning is connected to business objectives is necessary in the Social Learning World? 

Mark Harrison
Well, if there was a business case in the first place for the time that John's just been saying needs to be put in someone is going to suddenly say 'you had x man person days, by the end of whatever 12 months what have we got for it?' We're back to the age old problem about managing informal learning. I mean everyone agrees that you need to evaluate any act you do just in case you didn't do the right thing then you learn from it. If you're doing it to justify your existence like an ROI it changes completely the behaviour patterns that people are doing. So I think you have to know why you're doing that evaluation. This isn't a numbers game very easily. 

Cammy Bean
And ROI is still something I hear clients talk about. They have to prove our ROI, they're talking to their CEO. That's not going to go away. Even though not everyone's comfortable with that term. And so with these kind of less tangible things how do you track ROI? How do you prove your value as an L&D organisation?

Mark Harrison
I think that I think that going back to what you're saying John I think that's an interesting point about what drives conversations because there was a period of time on the web the conversations were driven by people who were genuinely interested in what was going on and the flow of communication was happening, maybe there was conflict, maybe this was going around. Then suddenly this extraordinary monetisation of the Internet turned likes and connections into money and then suddenly it became incredibly commercial and it blew through the roof. And can you reignite a similar sort of kudos internally in an organisation. So in other words if you're someone who's sparking off lots of ideas, lots of people want to find your internal blog, the ideas you sharing, is there some way in which that has some kudos and organisation and you're not just down as some kind of little nerd out there who's spent way too much time on that and they should be doing their proper job? So I think there has to be some way in which you incentivise the people who make social learning work. 

John Williams
Because I think that the interesting thing as well is that half the people now who are in the workplace; has their own human operating system actually been impacted and changed forever by the Internet and by the way that they interact digitally and through social, for example? So if you think about you know 18 to 24 year olds over 90 percent of them will be using YouTube. They're used to that bite sized pieces of information and having that interface and almost that immediacy of being able to show their reaction to stuff or sharing stuff. And I think the way that people interact with content with information with each other in the digital space has changed and therefore have organisations moved at the same pace? And are they now delivering the experiences that people expect from a digital interaction within the workplace? I'm not sure they are. And I think it's identifying what's stopping them from moving into something that would be much more meaning full and much more impactful for the learner.

Mark Harrison
Here's a thought. These ideas are driven by the people who want to share their information. They're not driven by an L&D department necessarily. This is a problem about control. So when you get people on the ground who have an idea and then run with it you have to just let them go and let them do stuff. I remember many years ago a client who had a fantastic story. They basically used to go around the whole of the world advising people left, right and centre on risks and issues and things like that. And when they suddenly decided what they'd actually do is they'd share the risks and issues from a visit and they would literally share it with all the other countries and get a discussion going. And as a result the person cut out 80, 90 percent of the world travel because in the end everyone got involved in sharing that information and there wasn't a single L&D person involved in any of it whatsoever. So it's a challenge to us to say 'what is the role of people in L&D?' Because that people will have these ideas but they don't quite know how and where they should be implementing them. So maybe we should be creating environments that are so open that people could just do these initiatives and they don't have to ask the question 'Am I allowed to do this?' Maybe that is when it would be truly unlocked. 

Stuart Chadwick
Good point. Talking about the idea of rationalising what you were doing. I heard a good example from one of the providers of a technology that we use to help curate learning and they were making the point so they have customers now who rather than spending money on bespoke content or even library content that they're using in the organisation they're sourcing from stuff which is just out there available anyway and actually their spend, therefore, they're shifting towards platforms which could curate content better. And in doing so we're they're providing better more personalized and in some cases sort of AI driven access whilst at the same time reducing their overall spend but enhancing the range of what people can access too and making it more relevant. So that was quite a nice example of putting this into practice. 

Mark Harrison
Are we talking mutiple platforms? I suppose that begs that question. If I've got something I'd like to do that seems to be incredibly sensible. Who'd I talk to, what do I do? Probably the least person you want to talk to is the person who's running the corporate Intranet. So essentially where is this? Maybe our job is to communicate all of these things. With the curation side obviously we do a lot of curation work and I'm sure Cammy, you've got quite a bit to say about that as well. But I think the curation side if when if we kind of not careful is it locks things down the A.I. takes over and suddenly that guy who was sharing this idea and stopping travelling around the world doesn't have any door open at all because it's locked behind a kind of automated curation system. What do you think Cammy?

Cammy Bean
Well if you think about micro learning, and I'm probably not going to answer your curation question first because I'm still stuck on micro learning in my head. I mean a couple of things. I think John you talked about it. It's this this age group thing that I would argue that all of us want smaller pieces of content, right? That's just the nature. You know we're all stuck on YouTube and three minute videos and all of that. So it's it's an attention span or a focussed thing for everybody, it's not age specific. But I do think some of the challenges with going in with the micro approach, I mean yes if organisations are curating kind of external content but a lot of organisations and I see this with the clients who come talking to us they still want to take their custom content and create micro tracks out of it, right? So lots of little bits and lots of little pieces and maybe it's a retail environment where people are just on the store and they're just need to access product knowledge right now right before this customer who looks like she wants to buy paint or you know whatever it is, I've got to figure out what I need to sell to that person right now in this moment. And one of the challenges I think one of the barriers to adopting that approach though is a bit of the maintenance issue, right? Like there's now there's all these pieces and it may feel overwhelming to people. And in fact maybe that's actually what makes it easier right now. These things aren't all locked into these big courses and they're much more accessible therefore they should be more maintainable. But it's a really different kind of a skill and it's a different way of designing content than people are used to. So you know you think about your classic, thirty minute, used to be an hour long course, right and we've all built them and now we're talking about building two minute little experiences and that's a very different design lens I think. So you know a lot of this is capability building and sort of shifting internally of some of these skills. And that's changed and it's scary, so I see that as a barrier. 

Stuart Chadwick
That's a good point Cammy. What would you have for advice for people in that situation or trying to sort of navigate that change as learning designers? Is there support out there? 

Cammy Bean
Well, I think certainly in the kinds of content that we're trying to design for our clients  it's modelling that sort of behaviour, right? And I think some of this is in our report. When you're designing a micro learning piece it's focussed on one learning objective. You can't swim in the ocean anymore and you have to keep it really short and sharp in the words of Mark Harrison. 

Mark Harrison
I mean I think there's an interesting area and it's something that fascinates me at the moment is that there were two worlds in the past one world was about interactive learning strategies and you and I, Cammy, grew up with all of those over the years. And part of that part of the skill in some ways was to understand there was this interactive dialogue between you and the user as you go along. And then you get YouTube where there's no dialogue at all. And yet it is 99 percent of the learning that anyone does is through YouTube. And none of our lovely interactive programs that we've produced over the years. And you look at what happens on YouTube is you have authentic people who are quickly trying to get over what needs to be done and the titles are really clear and you get in there and you do it. And what's fascinating is that we still overproduce I think inside the Corporate Learning World. We should just have a simple titles as 'How do I do this?'. We don't get commissioned to produce 'How do I create a spreadsheet that really works?'. Maybe in the US there's more chance, we're a little less good at that in the UK. But I think in the end we will learn from the fantastic stuff that's going on outside. And so YouTube have an academy for how you make youtube videos. And they are excellent professionally presented and done. They're not great directly for learning of course because they are all about marketing, how you do hair products or whatever and things like that. But the same skills are absolutely what should be applied to these micro objects, it's about animations. It's about videos it's about short, sharp stories and messages. And we should be much more open to what's happening out there in the vibrant and very professional world of the Internet. So I think it's just people opening up their eyes. You know I worry when I look at think of internal elearning production teams and seven or eight of them struggling to work through internal content that they've got to produce in six months' time. And I'm thinking no should be looking out there and going well we could do something like this or something like that. That doesn't happen inside corporates I don't think. 

John Williams
The question I've been pondering actually is within L&D now are we in the entertainment business? 

Mark Harrison
No, we're in the engaging business! 

John Williams
I was thinking in terms of if you go on a flight now you get really clever funny videos to relay some really serious information because people were not paying attention to the safety demonstrations so now you have films or you have animations sort of bring that to life a little bit. But you could always argue as opposed as well that you know teaching or even classroom was always about entertainment in terms of engaging somebody in what you had to say and to get them to react or to to interact with you. 

Mark Harrison
I think we've always I think we've always done entertainment. There's always been the odd client who said I want to make this fun. This is the 17th Data Protection Program these guys will produce this has got to be funny and they will go to an organisation like Kineo to do that. So we do get our fair share of 'do it fun' and they're often the ones that win awards if you get it right and sometimes are the ones are an absolute disaster if you've got the tone wrong. I think engagement is 'I want to know this and give it to me'. And if you do it in a slightly entertaining and quick way that's brilliant. And engagement is not entertainment. Engagement is 'I need to do something, wow that's interesting' and you learn an extra layer. It's interesting I've been studying documentary for the last year as an M.A. and it's about storytelling and it's about saying 'here is a dilemma. Here's something. Put that right at the front. How do you BLANK?'. And then you unravel it. As time goes on it's a journey you must take. Even if it's two minutes you still got to ask the question at the beginning and there isn't a learning objective in sight of course. 

Cammy Bean
But what there is, is that element of rich media and I think the John that's kind of what you're talking about. I think for a lot of L&D teams we're used to assembling PowerPoints and turning those into interactive elearning using an off-the-shelf authoring tool. Rich media has kind of taken it up a whole notch. And so a lot of our courses and solutions that we're designing here in the U.S. market show a lot more animation than we used to do because people want that hook they want a rich media element and that's a different skill set and it's a slightly different price point to be honest. And so you may not have a strong internal team to do animation within your L&D organisation and now you have to start looking to outsource some of this stuff. But there are ways to keep those costs down and Mark you've talked about the YouTube style. People doing things on their iPhones. It doesn't have to be hard and you can keep that level of authenticity, credibility, engagement as long as it's designed right. And a key piece of that is really understanding from a learning design standpoint who's our audience what's the business objective. What are the outcomes and the results we are trying to achieve so that we're giving that message super focussed and so that it is engaging, it is relevant, it is going to help you do what you need to do better to do your job, ultimately. 

Mark Harrison
I think if there was a message to send out to people about this at the moment is take a risk because it isn't as much a risk as you think. That's the point. People are ready to handle anything that's challenging and different. But unfortunately they have an expectation as soon as they've seen some kind of corporate training program that it isn't going to be. And I think we're all a little too cautious. I think subject matter experts are too cautious about how their content is treated. The organisations are cautious about keeping their standards and what they're doing. And I think designers are just slightly worried they might not get it right. And I think everyone should just loosen up. 

Stuart Chadwick
That's nice advice Mark. I just have a final point I wanted to make around how this balance is met between we've got an appetite here from learners to be getting more access to training and learning and be more self led in that, we've got an L&D community who's trying to help support and embrace that but recognising that they also need structured learning in here and how these two things meet and I think seem to remember actually in our last year's report one of the things that came through is that whilst people wanted this social aspect to their learning and a personal experience they also did feel that they needed some structure here too so could it be completely unstructured all the time. I just wondered if there was any more thoughts on that that conundrum? 

Mark Harrison
An analogy that I've used in the past has always been about you can have two different environments, you can have the museum browser type environment, where you don't really want to force people through one door or the next door or you have the airport where fundamentally you don't jump on the plane before you've checked in. So there are some situations where a structure is what everybody wants. No one says in the airport 'Oh my God why can't I just go straight on the plane?' because they know that there needs to be some building blocks. I think micro learning really should be the jump off points from a core personally and that would be ideal from a learning point of view. So in other words you get that core element of learning and then you go I want more. And that's where the micro comes. You don't want more if it means it's two hour other program. So I think you go into more depth as you go along because two minutes is nothing. It might be great, what the learners want, but no one learns anything in two minutes. That's the issue. Something worth knowing takes a thousand years but no one wants to do a thousand years so how much do we pander to someone saying 'I want two minutes'. I think we have to say is here's the two minutes. But you know nothing yet. There's another two minutes and you still don't know anything yet. That's what you want them to do to grab the two minutes and the two minutes and the two minutes we must never give the impression that that two minutes means and that's all you need to know on this topic.

Stuart Chadwick
That's a good answer, are there any final points for anyone before we wrap up. 

Cammy Bean
Yeah I just I think adding one point to, you know, micro personal network or whatever we are calling this. It is and it always has been having multiple channels available to people. We've been talking about this for years too. You don't have just one channel for learning that's the 30 minute storyline course, it's giving people choices. We're adults. It's giving people those choices within this context so to Mark's point about having the museum versus the airport. And that might be overwhelming for organisations too because now you're kind of having to design and build it all. So how do you do that in a smart way so that you can reuse these objects? I mean that was the promise of SCORM right? The shareable content object that we could swap in and out. You know  that dream has never died. And ultimately we want to reuse things in smart ways so that we're not building it twice. But you know from the end perspective of the learner, the employee, the person who's got to access this we want to give them a lot of choices. 

Mark Harrison
Yeah, the best learning structure I've ever come across in my whole life was a core of a process. So you had the core was this is what you do to do your job. These are the prerequisites. These are the outputs at each stage of the process. It was like its task analysis. And then at each point you then had the jump off points to go in more depth. So if you didn't know how to create that output suddenly there was the learning that you could access from it. And in effect the organisation concerned actually basically put out what was the core of the way they operated. And then from it they spin it off and a lot of organisations that we work with, some energy companies, have core operating procedures and all of the learning is based on that, on the central operating procedures. And that makes it relevant. It's no longer about learning. This is how I do my job. And then when I'm trying to work out how to do my job you give me these learning objects. And it's been an idea that's floating around for some time maybe we shouldn't be having learning management systems we should just say this is what you need to do your job. And then the learning just spins off from that. It is still a learning management system but you frame it and brand it differently. 

Stuart Chadwick 
Great, thanks Cammy and Mark for those final points. Well, we hope you've enjoyed this podcast. We've raised a few questions and discussed a few things possibly given a few answers, possibly more questions. These are all based on the items you're going to find in this upcoming report from us, and as I said at the beginning this is the first of three reports which we're generating and we'll be building out on these themes and discussing some of these points through Twitter and other channels that we use. So we're very, very keen to hear your views and this stuff too. How do you get a copy of the reports? Well, beneath this podcast you'll find a link where you can sign up for a copy in the mentioned resources section. And if you want any more general information about any of these themes that we've discussed today to get support on these things or just to discuss them with us, you can find us at kineo.com, follow us on Twitter which is @kineo. And we've also got a general inquiries email info@kineo.com Thank you for listening. And we look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Speakers

    Cammy Bean

    Cammy has been collaborating with organizations to design online learning programs since 1996. An active speaker and blogger, Cammy gets fired up about instructional design, avoiding the trap of clicky-clicky bling-bling, and ways to use technology to create real behavior change.

    John Williams

    Having worked for over 20 years in marketing within blue chip and education organisations, John is Marketing Director for Corporate Learning at the City & Guilds Group and leads on the Group’s insight activity.

    Mark Harrison

    One of Kineo's founders, and the Director responsible for our consultancy services, Mark also looks after our growing network of international offices. With 30 years of experience in the elearning design and development world, he often provides strategic and design consultancy and support to our customers across the globe.

    Stuart Chadwick

    Stuart has been developing engaging learning technology solutions since the late 90s. He is an experienced learning and systems design consultant and has worked on multiple award winning projects for the likes of the MOD, Compass and Nikon. As Global Solutions Director, Stuart has responsibility for coordinating Kineo’s UK and global solutions teams to support our clients worldwide.

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