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!

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!

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:

My Love Affair with Task Analysis

My name is Roberta and I have a confession to make. I LOVE doing task analyses. I’m not even sure exactly when this love affair started. It makes sense when I really stop to think about it.  I’ve always loved processes, procedures, and organizing things. What better way to get my perfectionist tendencies out by writing laundry lists of instructions?

In fact, if you stop by my desk at any given time of the day, you’ll be sure to find a giant note to-do list written in order of how I plan to get things done. Now, I’m not advocating for my Type A tendencies by any means. My perfectionism can get me into a lot of trouble – it slows me down and makes me hyper focus on things that don’t matter. It’s also one of the many reasons why I’ve gained such an expertise with task analysis that have proven to be pivotal in my role as an instructional designer and now as a user experience designer.

What exactly is a task analysis?

A task analysis is exactly what it sounds like! It’s when you analyze a task in order to document step by step how it’s completed.

It might seem straight forward but even the simplest of things are very complex. I find that as soon as I start breaking things down into steps, there’s way more involved in a process or procedure than I originally thought.

A Multipurpose Tool

Task Analysis have become a mainstay in the instructional designers toolbox. Why? Instructional designers create training on how to do something and task analysis tell you the steps to do it.

I created a ton of task analysis when I was writing help articles for The Predictive Index help center a few years ago. Since I’ve moved into user experience, I’ve noticed task analysis popping up again but in a slightly different way.

User Experience Design is all about creating products. UX Designers will perform task analysis to gain an understanding of how users are performing tasks within their products, websites, or apps. This then enables a UX Designer to figure out where help might be needed or allow them to improve an existing feature or functionality. Since becoming a Learning Experience Designer, I find myself doing task analysis the most during requirements gathering. I’ll also use them when creating prototypes, wireframes, and performing usability tests.

A Simple Equation

Writing task analysis are super simple! Let’s look at some easy steps to help get you started.

Identify the task – The first thing you’ll want to do is identify the task you want to analyze. Tasks could include a process or procedure that someone does in order to perform. This could be anything from sending an email to tying your shoes. When picking a task to analyze you’ll want to be sure you describe it with an action verb.

Break down the task into subtasks – Next you’ll want to break your main task down into smaller chunks of the main task. These should be short, and again start with an action verb.

Identify steps in the subtasks – Finally, you’ll want to identify and list the steps for each of your subtasks. You can do this by breaking down the actions of the subtasks and placing them in chronological order. You’ll want to find a balance between providing users with just the right amount of information – not too much and not too little. Again, begin each subtask step with an action verb.

Below is an example of a task analysis from the University of Strathclyde. The analysis walks through the process of warming up a furnace. As you can see, when you begin to write out the steps you can see that there is more involved than one might think. It’s important to note that the university also did their task analysis in a flow diagram format. This format can be helpful to visually display a users flow to the audience.

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University of Strathclyde, Management Science Dept., Wikimedia. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Overall, task analysis are one of the most powerful tools in a learning and user experience designers toolbox.  Keep in mind when creating a task analysis, they should always be performed from the users perspective. It’s so easy to get started using a task analysis in your practice and once you do, you might find yourself in a love affair of your own!

Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences

Last month I was fortunate to attend a Design Thinking workshop with the eLearning guru Connie Malamed. After reading Connie’s blog for over 8 years  I was beyond psyched for the opportunity to meet her in person!

The workshop was absolutely wonderful (as expected) and really helped cement many of the ideas I have been implementing over the past 6 months in my new learning experience role. It opened my eyes to how important design thinking is and where some of the crossovers between Learning Experience and User Experience are as a whole.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a strategy that became popularized by Tim Brown, David M Kelly, and Roger Martin. It focuses on using a structured human-centered approach to solving problems. It’s gained popularity over the years as businesses began adopting it to respond to growing trends, gain a better understanding of consumers and try to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Using Design Thinking in your Learning Practice

Over the years many variations of Design Thinking that have emerged. This became even more apparent when looking for a graphic to represent the framework. If you simply do a quick google search of Design Thinking you’ll find thousands of graphics showing different steps and processes.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on the variation of Design Thinking that Connie emphasized in her workshop. I think it’s a great fit for anyone who is looking to use design thinking in their learning practice.

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EMPATHY

The design process should always start with empathy. This means trying to gain insight and perspective of your target audience. For learning practitioners, this might mean the learners who attend your instructor led training courses, virtual trainings, or watching your eLearning videos. This stage is similar to your traditional audience analysis. Whoever your audience is, try to gain a deeper understanding of their world by putting yourself in their shoes. The best way to gain empathy is to connect with learners directly. You can do this by performing user research in the form of interviews, observations, creating user personas or empathy maps.

 

DEFINE

The next step in the design thinking process is to define the problem your learner is having. You’ll want to look at your findings from your research and see if any patterns begin to emerge. For example, are all of your learners encountering the same problem? Are they feeling a specific way about something?

Once you’ve identified common trends you’ll want to distill all of your findings down into a problem statement or performance goal. You’ll use this to focus on when designing an effective solution.

 

IDEATE

Once you’ve defined the learners problem is when the fun starts to happen! Ideation is when you start to generate possible solutions for your learners performance problem. As an introvert, I tend to do some some of my best thinking alone first then i’ll gather a group of my coworkers and guide a brainstorm session.

While brainstorming, I’ll usually ask others to write their ideas down on post it notes and put them on a white board. Once everyones done writing their ideas we’ll create an affinity diagram and group solutions with common themes together. From there we’ll discuss all of the ideas and pick one or two to create a prototype from.

 

PROTOTYPE

Next, you’ll want to take your the final ideas that you generated with your team and create a prototype. A prototype is a simple and inexpensive model of the ideas you selected.  Prototypes are awesome for testing out your ideas with your users without investing tons of money and resources before you’ve determined whether the solution is successful or not! In other words, it’s a great way to fail quickly.

Depending upon your solution, your prototype could be a paper sketch, exercise, case study, storyboard, wireframe, or interaction concept.

 

TEST

Once you have a prototype, you’ll want to return to your users to solicit feedback. Test out your prototypes and observe how they respond, interact, and their overall experience with it. Be sure to test your prototypes on more than one person.

Don’t worry if your prototype absolutely failed – you’re not meant to get it right on the first try! It’s highly likely that you’ll have to do a few cycles of iterating your prototype and refining your ideas. Once you’ve refined the prototype and you’re confident with how your users are responding to it is when you’ll want to start bringing it to life!

 

Putting it Together

Since leaving the workshop – I realized that I’ve been using Design Thinking in my new role without even realizing it. I feel more confident than ever applying the new methodology to my projects. I actually think i’m actually going through ideation and prototyping faster because of attending the workshop.

For those in the world of learning incorporating Design Thinking into your practice can help eliminate costly development efforts and increase the likelihood that your learning solutions will meet the needs of your users. I definitely recommend trying it out when working on your next project.