Introducing Learn Mindfully

We are witnessing a workplace revolution

It’s no secret that technology has had an impact on today’s workforce. It has changed everything from the way we work, how we work, and where we work; inevitability impacting how we learn and perform on the job.

For years, companies have tried to keep up with the pace of change by spending significantly on workplace learning with little evidence on its impact on employee performance.

In the Learning In The Flow of Work 2018 report, Josh Bersin estimated that the corporate learning market is over $200 billion around the world. As recently as July, Amazon announced it was planning to spend $700 million to retrain 1/3 of its entire workforce to do more high-tech tasks. The writing is on the wall; the trend of workplace learning isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

Organizations must focus on workplace experiences

Gone are the days that learning takes place in the form of a single training event. The paradigm has shifted to supporting employees during the flow of work. Employees want the most relevant, engaging, and personalized content delivered right at their moment of need. With an increase in their demand for time and growing responsibilities on the job who can blame them?

With so much change happening, our traditional approach to learning is no longer going to cut it. The question now is, what are we going to do about it?

For organizations to be effective, we must focus on providing employees with holistic experiences at their moment of need.

Vision for the future

I believe that learning is the basis for growth and change. By approaching every experience with fresh eyes, we can transform and grow. “Failure” is not seen as something negative but rather an opportunity for improvement.

I believe in a world where employees are at the forefront of everything we do. If we truly understand employees motivations, experiences, and challenges, we can design solutions that meet their needs.

I believe that learning is continuous and can happen anywhere; at home, while working, on the go, or in person. In a world that’s moving faster than ever before this means balancing the demand for employees time with delivering them relevant content at their moment of need.

Introducing Learn Mindfully

Something needs to change with the way that we’re designing and delivering workplace experiences. Learn Mindfully is my attempt to do just that.

Learn Mindfully is a consulting firm dedicated to designing products and experiences for the way people learn and work.

Learn Mindfully helps companies’ take a holistic approach to their workplace performance problems so that they can deliver solutions that meet the needs of today’s workforce.

Learn Mindfully provides three core services:

  • Consulting: Need advice on your learning strategy or project? I’ll collaborate with you to improve your company’s experiences by identifying workplace performance challenges, determining opportunity areas, and making recommendations for improvement.
  • Custom learning design and development: Already have a learning experience in mind and need help to bring it to life? I’ll work with you to create solutions that balance the needs of your employees and organization. 
  • Workshops and Coaching: Need help to upskill your team on a learning experience topic or competency? I offer coaching sessions, workshops, and webinars to help individuals and organizations upskill on learning experience topics and skills.

Let’s work together to design solutions that reach your audience at their moment of need!

Master level, unlocked

I am so excited to share that after 4 years, I have completed my Masters of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning  (OPWL) from Boise State University!

Over the past weekend, I was fortunate enough to give myself the graduation gift of traveling to Boise to mark the milestone. The trip allowed me to meet some of my professors and classmates in person after working with them for the past 4 years. 

While winding down my time in the program, I took some time to reflect on my journey in learning over the past 10 years (yes you read that right, 10 YEARS!).

 

A Look Back

When I was growing up, my father always told me how much he regretted not going to college. He always said that his greatest wish for me and my sister was for us to follow through on our potential and continue our education. In his eyes, education equals opportunity and it is something that no one could ever take away from you.  I always remember how much I enjoyed our conversations how they’ve stayed with me through the years.

Looking back, I never was a good student in school. I struggled through math along with a ton of other subjects. Throughout my K-12 education, I actually failed classes along the way  (math and spanish). Studying for me was so hard! I always thought something was wrong with me that made learning more difficult for me than others. I often had to lock myself away in my room growing up. I would sit in complete silence with flash cards, repeating things out loud in order to get the information in my head. It wasn’t until my first year of college that I learned that I was undiagnosed with ADHD throughout my entire childhood. The diagnosis was a huge sigh of relief as it made me realize that all of the techniques I’ve been teaching myself over the years to get myself to focus had actually helped me without me even realizing it.

 

Finding her passion

If i’m being honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I arrived at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for undergrad. I just knew that I wanted to give it all that I could. During my second year, Wendy Gilmore gave me a life changing opportunity when she hired me as Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for freshman photography students during my sophomore year. The experience allowed me to share some of the study techniques that I’ve been teaching myself over the years to a group of students. During that same time, I was spending my time working as a student employee at RIT’s Disability Services Office, in addition to being a Resident Advisor (RA) to freshman students.

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The  Supplemental Instruction (SI) Advisory Board at RIT in 2010

These experiences, allowed me to see first hand how education and technology can have such a tremendous impact on peoples lives. At that time (now 9.5 years ago), a switch went off in my brain, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to making education more accessible to others.

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I started in the industry as an Instructional Design Production Assistant where I designed print training materials for instructor led training classes. At the time, it was a good fit for me because of my undergraduate degree in publishing and print media, but in the back of my head, I knew that I wanted to do more. With some major encouragement from my second mom and manager at the time, Dottie LaMark, I decided to apply for my masters and certificate program at Boise State University.

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Showing off training materials with Karen for The Predictive Index’s Instructor Led Training Classes (2016)

It took me 4 years to complete my masters program along with my graduate certificate. I worked full time throughout the length of the program, taking only one class per semester. Over my time in the program, I’ve missed countless nights with friends and family, I spent weekends and evenings doing homework and on calls with classmates. During my most difficult time in the program, I juggled school on top of starting a new job at Pluralsight and recovering from a fractured ankle.  This sometimes meant spending 12 hours a day in front of a computer doing work (At that time, I felt like my soul was going directly into the computer screen). Despite all of the difficulties along the way, I kept pushing through because I believed in the higher mission of making education more accessible.

 

Master Level, Unlocked

To say that i’m most proud of this degree is an understatement. I am now the first person in my family to receive my masters degree. To top it off, I have no additional student debt because of how I took one class per semester and work at such amazing companies.

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Pure joy on graduation day

Overall, my time spent in the program was invaluable. I found something that I never expected to gain, my voice. I’ve come such a long way over the past 4 years. I went from designing print based training materials to now owning a product line at a learning company. I started my blog, spoken at countless conferences and web events, won a 30 under 30 award in learning, and even mentor others in the industry.

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2019 Spring OPWL Graduates with our professors

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My teammate Sabrina & I at graduation (I’ve spent countless hours with her working on projects over the years)

To this day, the words of my father this still echo in my head, that education equals opportunity. To my very core, I believe that education is a fundamental human right and that every person should have access to education and learning opportunities. You should not be bound by mental or physical ability, income level, social status or anything else.

Moving forward, I hope to continue my mission in my current role at Pluralsight. I also hope to spend some much needed down time with friends and family! I’ve made learning my life’s mission and I truly cannot wait to see where I go from here.

 

Authors Note: I owe all of this to my parents, Andrea and Robert Dombrowski who snagged me off the mean streets of Bogota during ’91. My grandparents, Andy, Linda, Marjorie, and Robert. My sister Nicole and my life partner, Scott Edwards.

I also have to thank the countless mentors who have helped me over the past 10 years. They took time out of busy schedules to have mentoring and coaching sessions that have impacted me to my very core. Specifically, Wendy Gilmore, Dottie LaMark, Matt Poepsel, Brian Madge, Maribel Olvera, Lisa Giacumo, Cheryl Lockett Zubak, Krishna Kannan, Sarah Bedrick Neverly, and Michael Riordan.

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

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: The 5 Moments of Learning Need

It should come as no surprise that the way that people are choosing to learn has changed.

Gone are the days of attending multiple days of training to learn a new skill or software program. Instead, learners are looking up content when they need it most.

If I think about all the ways that I learned something over the past few months, I could rattle off a list of answers ranging from articles, books, and videos. Just a few weeks ago when I was putting together a new bookcase for my home office, I quickly flipped through the instructions and put it together in less than 30 minutes. Does this mean I’m doing to become Rhode Island’s Next Top Carpenter? Not a chance! But I did learn just enough to get the task done.

Performance Support Defined

The eLearning Guild defines performance support as “a tool or other resource ranging from print to technology- supported, which provides just the right amount of task guidance, support and productivity benefits to the user, precisely at the moment of need”.

In other words, performance support is a resource available at the moment of need that makes it easier for people to perform. Performance Support is not about teaching someone EVERYTHING there is to know about something; rather it’s about giving them the right amount of support, complexity, or detail right at the time they need it.

This might seem like a new framework to some, but performance support has actually been around for decades in the form of checklists, job-aids, help articles, process diagrams, recipes, you name it.

How to get into the Performance Support Mindset

Two years ago, I read Bob Mosher’s and Con Gottfredson’s book Innovative Performance Support.  The book provides a framework based on the 5 moments of learning need.

The 5 moments of learning need

  1. NEW: When learning something for the first time.
  2. MORE: When you’re seeking to learn more about something.
  3. APPLY: When trying to apply or remember something or adapt performance to a unique situation.
  4. SOLVE: When attempting to solve a problem or deal with something that has gone wrong.
  5. CHANGE: When something changes that requires a change in how work gets done.

The first 2 moments focus on the learner’s knowledge acquisition, whether this means training people on processes, procedures, or concepts for the first time or expanding upon their existing knowledge. The remaining moments of need shift to learners applying their knowledge, solving issues, or adapting to change. It’s helpful to keep in mind, that you would provide a learner with different content and information based on their moment of need. For example, if the learner is trying to solve a problem with a software program they might contact a service desk or read a help article. On the other hand, if they’re learning about an updated sales procedure, the learner may watch a video about the changed process.

Now, think about the 5 moments of learning need and where you may encounter them within your own lives. As you begin to think about the framework, I have a feeling you’ll be amazed with how frequently the moments come up within your day to day tasks.

In my next article, I’ll cover considerations about developing performance support and how to get buy in within your organization.

Ready to learn more?

Check out my Adopting the Performance Support Mindset session at Learning Solutions in March.

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2018 Speaking Engagements

I am very excited to announce that I have 2 upcoming speaking engagements slated for Spring 2018!

  • Adopting a Performance Support Mindset @ Learning Solutions in Orlando, FL. Learning Solutions is a great conference put on by the eLearning Guild every year. I truly cannot recommend the Guild highly enough!
  • Designing eLearning for Cross-Cultural Global Workplace Needs @ the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) Annual Conference in Seattle, WA. This will be my first year attending and I will be co-presenting with my one of my professors for the OPWL program, Lisa Giacumo.

I hope to see you there!

 

Lessons Learned from FocusOn17

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to go to The eLearning Guild’s FocusOn 2017 Conference in San Diego, CA. It was my third conference with the Guild and once again I was able to I walk away with some great insights! Each year the FocusOn conference centers around 3 technologies within the learning industry. This year the focuses were mobile, games, and video.

As always, many of my best conversations came from speaking with others in the field. The eLearning Guild conferences provide a great opportunity for practitioners to get together to share their expertise and lessons learned.

I attended a number of sessions about up and coming technologies within the industry. Many of these sessions focused on incorporating the use of virtual reality, personalized learning, and curated content. One thing that jumped out to me with the rise of personalized and curated content is the importance of content management systems. Often times, learning organizations are producing mounds of content and in order to provide better recommendations for our learners we need to make sure that the content we are creating and pushing out is appropriately findable, keyed, and tagged.

I also attended a number of sessions about gamification and scenario based learning. These sessions seemed like a great reinforcement to much of the content that I am learning in my coursework this semester. I was able to see some real world examples of branched scenarios and interactive videos.

Finally, this trip was very eye opening for me personally! I am a little over 1/3 of the way through my masters program with Boise State, while simultaneously working full time with The Predictive Index. This means that I am often heads down with work and classes. This trip allowed me to reach my head above water and see how far I’ve come within the industry. My masters program has allowed me to speak intelligently about theories and concepts, while my full time position allows me to begin applying new lessons learned immediately.

Overall, it was a great conference and I cannot wait to begin applying what I’ve learned within my organization!