Lessons Learned from Learning 2018

This week, I attended Elliott Masie’s Learning 2018 in Orlando, FL. It was my first time attending the event and to top it off I was apart of the 30 under 30 group. Overall, it was a great experience. For those that haven’t attended Elliott Masie’s Learning conference before, it is 2.5 days long and jammed packed with all things learning. I was definitely nervous to travel over 1,200 miles with my knee scooter (I’m still recovering from my fractured ankle!). Looking back, i’m so happy I decided to get over my fear and make the trek to Florida. It was a great opportunity to connect with others in the industry and hear about some of their experiences. Below are some highlights from the trip:

30 under 30 

The day before the official start to the conference was an entire day dedicated to professional development for the 30 under 30 group. We heard insights from some industry greats including: Elliott Masie, Bob Mosher, Richard Culatta, Bruce Wilkinson, Nigel Eyre, and Jayzen Patria. We even had a CLO panel including Tara Deakin (TD Bank), Rob Lauber (McDonalds), and Martha Soehren (Comcast).

Two things really resonated with me during these sessions, focused on career transitions and continuous learning. At one point Elliott actually said, “Really good people leave Learning and Development for sales or other departments because they’re so good at what they do”. Meanwhile, during the CLO Panel, each learning executive mentioned the importance of continuously challenging yourself when you meet your goals. It is not enough to set a goal and then settle, you much keep stretching yourself outside the box to see how far you can push yourself. Each of them also detailed a major change they made in their career by jumping either industries, roles, or locations.

These are EXACTLY the things that have been ruminating over in my mind when deciding to make the leap to Product Management. Hearing about the importance of challenge and career transitions really made me more confident and happy about all of the changes I’ve been making over the past few months.

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Learning 2018 – 30 under 30 

Industry Trends

I was able to attend over 8 sessions during the conference and noticed some trends occurring in the industry:

Frustration about being order takers

This is definitely nothing new but a common theme I noticed was the frustration among L+D Practitioners had about being order takers from stakeholders within their businesses. Many described hearing things such as “We need a 5 day course in X”, “We need 3 e-learning modules in Y”. I think this really emphasizes the importance of needs assessment by practitioners. It is our duty to partner not only with our stakeholders but learners and really dig down and identify the problems that are taking place so that we can create the best solutions possible to truly impact performance. We need to educate our partners and let them know that training is only one piece of the puzzle and there are many different tools at our disposal. At the end of the day, as learning practitioners we are responsible for helping our learners and ensuring that they’re performing.

 

Analytics aren’t whats coming soon – they’re already here

I attended 2 sessions on learning analytics, metrics, and measurement. I found these sessions particularly interesting because I just released a beta feature for my product which included an analytics dashboard for companies to track metrics on their employees skills assessments. It seemed that many at the conference had no idea where to start with data or were completely overwhelmed with the amount of data they had to shift through.

It really emphasized the importance of being thoughtful about the type of data that we’re collecting to improve performance improvement. Through identifying the KPIs and metrics from the outset of a project, we can make ensure that were continuously tracking progress and determining whether were meeting the goals of our learners and organization. I mean, how else are we going to be able to prove we’re having an impact? I really encourage all practitioners to add metrics as another tool in their toolbox.

 

The Importance of Adopting a Business Mindset

What truly terrified me was the lack of alignment among practitioners whether they consider their learning solutions to be an actual product. I might be biased because of my recent move to product management. However, during the CLO panel I actually posed the question to the executives if they considered the solutions their organizations are creating as being learning products. Each one of them, one by one said no. I couldn’t believe it!  Just sessions earlier, Elliott Masie mentioned the importance of adopting a business mindset within the learning industry.

A product can be considered something that helps a user fulfill a need. As Practitioners, we’re creating learning products whether it’s in the form of elearning, instructor led training, performance support, or something else. We’re trying to help our learners perform better or have some type of performance improvement outcome. I truly cannot stress enough the importance of adopting this mindset. As practitioners, if we consider ourselves as delivering products I think we will think more holistically about the solutions we’re providing. It will also change the way that were creating solutions at a very foundational level.

Overall, Learning 2018 was such a wonderful experience. As always the best part was being able to connect with like minds in the industry. I am so grateful for the connections and conversations that I made over the past few days and I look forward for continuing them for years to come!

Moving from Instructional Design to Learning Experience Design

Last week I was fortunate to participate in the Transitioning from ID to Learning Experience Design session that was part of the Training, Learning, and Development Community Playlist. Matt Sustatia and I spoke about the growing use of the term Learning Experience Design and how Instructional Designers can make the jump to LXD.

The session was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t wait to share some of the insights learned throughout the session!

 

What is Learning Experience Design?

I would define Learning Experience Design as the practice of creating learning experiences that enables learners to achieve a desired performance outcome. Learning Experience Design uses an iterative approach that focuses on understanding the users challenges and experiences to design iterative solutions to help solve their needs.

This doesn’t mean limiting learning experiences to formal learning that take place in a school or classroom. Quite the opposite, learning experiences can take place anywhere; at home, while working, or on the go.

Learning Experience Designers focus on the holistic learning experience and what the learner is going through. This means that rather than simply focusing on designing curriculum or instruction, the learning experience designer will consider the learner and everything they’re experiencing. They’ll then use that information to create solutions such as:

  • content (what does the learner need to do in order to perform a task)
  • the look and feel of the learning experience
  • materials
  • communication about the content
  • how the learner interacts with the content

 

What skills can IDers grow to move into LXD?

With any job, the actual responsibilities that someone carries out can truly vary from company to company. Learning Experience Design is no different!

I made the jump to Learning Experience Design roughly a year ago after moving to the User Experience team within my organization. The move made me responsible for designing in-product learning experiences for users of our software platform. With the transition, I’ve been able to work on some pretty exciting projects like designing in-software user onboarding for our beta software, designing wireframes, and user flows for new features, low fidelity prototypes of product features, and UX Content.

I’ve talked to many other learning experience designers who design all different types of learning experiences including elearning and instructor led training. Regardless of your background, I’ve noticed a few skills that can come in handy with making the transition to learning experience.

 

Practice Design Thinking

Most instructional Designers are very familiar with using the traditional ADDIE model to create learning experiences. Design Thinking is actually an almost identical process – you can see this by simply comparing the ADDIE and Design Thinking graphics below.

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Instructional Design ADDIE Model

 

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Traditional UX Model: Design Thinking (Source)

 

Popularized by Tim Brown, David M Kelly, and Roger Martin; design thinking focuses on using a human-centered approach to solving problems. It’s helpful to take the holistic view of a problem to truly understand all the different aspects that a learner is going through and then determine a solution. Since moving I’ve started using design thinking to craft learning experiences, I’ve been able to iterate quicker and have started developing things like user personas, empathy maps, and journey maps.

 

Brush up on those design skills

I definitely see e-learning design as a huge jumping point into learning experience design. Brushing up on graphic design skills like how to incorporate color, typography, layout into designs will make a huge impact on your work. Interaction design will also have a huge impact on your work. I challenge those looking to make the transition to LXD to begin by thinking about the types of elearning interactions you want to provide your learners with. You may want to consider questions such as:

  • Whats the overall goal of this learning interaction?
  • How is the learner going to move through these screens in my lesson?
  • What happens if they click this button?
  • How will they see the results of this interaction?
  • What types of graphics should I include in this interaction?

 

Change is hard

Everyone knows that change is hard! I can tell you first hand that my transition to our UX team did not come easy. My way of thinking and working completely shifted. It taught me how to incorporate design thinking, user centered design, prototyping and iteration to my approach. I was forced to think more strategically about getting to the root of a users problem and identify their pain points. But with the change also came tons of insecurities, battling perfectionism, and cognitive load. I was fortunate enough to reach out to others in the industry, have supportive coworkers, and read tons of books that helped ease the transition. If you’re feeling hesitant about making the move to learning experience design, don’t be! Feel free to reach out for any tips and tricks as you embark on your journey.

 

Sources

Design Thinking 101. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/design-thinking/

Dombrowski, R. (2018, April 15). Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences. Retrieved from https://robertamedia.com/2018/04/14/using-design-thinking-to-craft-learning-experiences/

The Training Learning and Development Community (2018, August). Instructional Design Playlist. Retrieved from https://www.crowdcast.io/e/id-playlist/4

Lost without a paddle: My journey into the uncharted waters of learning experience design

Anyone looking for L&D jobs over the past few years may have noticed a growing trend – the move away from the label Instructional Designer and move towards Learning Experience Designer.

I experienced this shift first hand after being promoted to Learning Experience Designer within my organization 9 months ago. The move uprooted me from our learning team and placed me right in the middle of our small but mighty cross-functional user experience team.

To say the transition was a challenge is a complete understatement! I very quickly had to begin applying concepts I never encountered before like design thinking, prototyping, and iteration within my content creation process. Despite the initial growing pains, I have now settled firmly into my role in Learning Experience Designer and understand the need for instructional designers to shift to a learning experience design mindset.

What is learning experience design?

I would define Learning Experience Design as the practice of creating learning experiences that enables learners to achieve a desired performance outcome. Learning Experience Design uses an iterative approach that focuses on understanding the users challenges and experiences to design iterative solutions to help solve their needs.

This doesn’t mean limiting learning experiences to formal learning that take place in a school or classroom. Quite the opposite, learning experiences can take place anywhere; at home, while working, or on the go.

Learning Experience Designers focus on the holistic learning experience and what the learner is going through. This means that rather than simply focusing on designing curriculum or instruction, the learning experience designer will consider the learner and everything they’re experiencing. They’ll then use that information to create solutions such as:

  • content (what does the learner need to do in order to perform a task)
  • the look and feel of the learning experience
  • materials
  • communication about the content
  • how the learner interacts with the content

Incorporating learning experience into digital products

If you’re like me, you may not immediately think about learning experience when thinking of the design of digital products. Digital products actually offer a number of learning experiences to customers, ranging from:

  • onboarding
  • learning the interface
  • learning how to interact with the product
  • help & support

Before my jump to LXD, I spent nearly 3 years creating software support content for clients. This ranged from creating help videos, how to articles, getting started guides, and more. During this time, I was often brought in after the software was built to explain to users how to use the system.

My move into learning experience actually transplanted me to the beginning of the design process. Now i’m working on our UX team where we handle designing product concepts that could potentially go within our software platform. This means establishing empathy with our users, gaining an understanding of their problems, and designing solutions to help solve the challenge. My deliverables usually range from creating wireframes, user flows, low fidelity prototypes of product features, and UX content.

I’m very fortunate that my organization is a test bed for new ideas. Since the transition, I’ve been able to work on some pretty exciting projects like designing in-software user onboarding for our beta software, designing wireframes and user flows for new features, and creating support materials for a new beta product.

Overall, the past 9 months have been quite the learning experience. The change taught me how to incorporate design-thinking, user centered design, prototyping, and iteration to my approach. I’ve been forced to think more strategically about getting to the root of a users problem and identify their pain points. This has improved the speed of my design  and allowed me solve our users problems quicker. In a world that is moving faster at every moment, a more strategic and agile design process will be what sets learning design apart from the pack.

Interested in learning more about learning experience? Check out these helpful resources:

Lessons Learned from Learning Solutions 2018

This week I attended The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, FL and as expected it was a fantastic event! For those who haven’t attended a Learning Solutions conference before, it is usually a 3 day event where practitioners in the industry gather to discuss industry trends, best practices, and tips and tricks. On top of all of that, the guild also offers 2 days of pre-conference workshops for those looking to expand their skills even more.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the guild events – its a great opportunity to connect with others in the industry and see what others are working on. Whenever I attend one of their events, I always come back with a flash of insight that i’m not the only one struggling with the problems I’m encountering and I’m doing a lot better off than I think I am. This trip was no exception! Below are some of the highlights from my trip:

 

Design Thinking Workshop with Connie Malamad

After fangirling about Connie’s blog for about 6 years or so now, I was so excited to attend her workshop Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences. It was the perfect workshop to attend given my recent transition into a learning experience role.

Throughout the workshop, she introduced the Standford’s d.school process for design thinking (Empathy, Define, Ideation, Prototype, Test) and gave each group a case study on how to move through the process. Overall, I left the workshop feeling much more confident about all the work I’ve been doing over the past few months and excited about how learning practitioners can incorporate design thinking into their process.

Connie was amazing – she has such a great presence that allows her to quickly connect to everyone and she’s absolutely hilarious!  I cant wait to catch up with her at a future event. I definitely recommend one of her sessions for anyone who is able to attend!

 

Adopting the Performance Support Mindset 

One of my personal goals for the year was to get out of my introvert cave and on Tuesday I got to step into the teacher role and share my love for performance support with a group of about 50+ attendees.

The session was an absolute blast! The group had a ton of great questions about how to get started with performance support in their organizations and I was able to share some of the examples we’ve been crafting over the past 2.5 at The Predictive Index.

My slides are available on Slideshare to anyone who missed out on the session.

 

Industry Trends

Overall, I attended about 15+ sessions over a span of 3 days and noticed some trends occurring in the industry:

Learning Practitioners are starting to use design thinking in their practice

There was a lot of talk about using design thinking in learning practices. I am seeing design thinking being used as a tool to become empathetic with learners and gain a greater understanding of their pain points. Once we have this, we’ll be able to design  better learning solutions that truly meet their needs. I also am seeing a rise of practitioners using design thinking to create some rapid prototypes so they’re able to easily iterate on their solutions. It’s no longer about getting something out the door as quickly as possible, but revisiting and updating solutions to make solutions are continuing to meet learners needs.

 

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There is a rise of simpler learning platforms

It should come as no surprise that everyone hates their LMS. This Learning Solutions, I  heard a lot of talk from practitioners about using simpler technology to get their content out to learners in a more user friendly way.  I’ve heard people using everything from WordPress to emailing courses to learners in a “marketing drip campaign” fashion.

 

Performance support can help learners continue their learning

I also saw a number of sessions and received questions from practitioners curious about how they can ensure learners continue learning once they’ve left the classroom. It’s definitely apparent that people are becoming more aware of the benefits of performance support and how solutions such as job-aids, knowledge bases, checklists, how to’s, etc. can help reinforce learning after the fact.

 

Overall, Learning Solutions was such a great experience. I am so grateful for the experiences and new friends that I’ve made over the past week. I can also say from the bottom of my heart that I’m very much looking forward to returning back to my introvert cave and cuddling with my cat. Until next time my friends!

 

 

 

 

 

Adopting a Performance Support Mindset: Defining your PS Strategy

In my first article of the Performance Support series, I suggested that the way that people are learning has changed. Gone are the days of learners having the ability to take off of work to attend multi-day training sessions. We’re now in an era of instant gratification where learners are finding content in a quick video or 160 character tweet. This means as learning practitioners we have to move towards a more performance support based mindset that emphasizes giving learners the right amount of support, complexity, and detail right at the time when they need it most.

Adopting Performance Support is not going to happen overnight, its a long journey that can take years to implement within your organization.

 

Creating a Performance Support Strategy

After attending the eLearning Guild’s Performance Support Symposium in 2015, I was all fired up and ready to start implementing it within my organization. I learned very quickly that this would not be an easy feat.

I knew that I had to start somewhere so I started to break things down into smaller steps. Before I knew it I had developed an entire strategy around Performance Support.

Below are just a few items to consider when starting to implement performance support:

Creating a PS Strategy

Business Objectives

Its very likely that performance support is a new concept that you will be introducing to your organization. In any case, you will need to relate it to your businesses overall objectives and goals.

Some questions to consider might include:

  • What problem is the organization trying to solve?
  • Whats the overall goal?
  • How does PS help you reach that goal?

 

Audience

Performing an audience or learner analysis is one of the most important steps a learning practitioner can take. It will give you a better idea of your learner’s background (education, demographics, skills, etc) and allow you to shape your message in a way that resonates with them.

Some questions to consider might include:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What are their needs?
  • What do they know?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What tasks do they have to do to perform?

 

Stakeholders

Getting stakeholder buy-in within organizations is a gift! I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mentor at The Predictive Index who could truly get anyone behind her ideas.

Some items to identify include:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • How involved will they be?
  • How do you plan to get their buy-in?

 

SMEs

Next, you will need to think about who your subject matter experts are and how you’ll be working with them.

Consider:

  • Who are the SMEs?
  • How often will you be interacting with them?
  • How will you be meeting with them?
  • Will they be reviewing content?

 

Content

We all know that content is king! You should begin to think not only about the content you will be creating but also any historic content that you may be using.

Think about:

  • What type of historic content will you be dealing with?
  • What type of content will you be creating?
  • How will learners get access to the content?
  • How will you keep track of your learning content?

 

Workflow

Now that you have a better idea of the content you will be creating, it’s time to think about the design and development process you may be using.

Review:

  • What is your workflow for creating content?
  • Will you have reviews?
  • How will you deal with change management?

 

Technology

Technology not only impacts your development process but it can also impact how your learners as well.

Examine:

  • What type of technology will your learners have?
  • What type of expertise do your learners have with technology?
  • What type of tools will you be using?
  • Do you have to purchase any new tools?

 

Success

I know many training programs that have failed because they never identified what success looks like. This will vary across organizations based on the businesses larger goals and objectives. Be sure to identify success at the beginning of your project, this will help to prove it’s worth over time:

  • What does success look like?
  • What types of evaluation will you use to measure your performance support?
  • What type of metrics will you gather?

Again, the above list are recommendations on how to get started with performance support within your organization. Remember, every company is different! You may have a variety of things you might have to consider that I haven’t mentioned. But this list should help you hit the ground running!

Ready to learn more?

Check out my Adopting the Performance Support Mindset session this month at Learning Solutions.

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