Monday, June 3, 2019

Importance of Collaboration in the Workplace - Tip #215

Importance of Collaboration in the Workplace

In a recent article by Josh Bersin, he acknowledged that we are indeed living in a skills-based community in which people, especially workers, want to learn everything quickly. The volume of online content is huge, and companies are spending more than $200 billion on different types of workplace training programs, including workflow learning. Most of the content is targeted towards the workplace to allow employees to learn new things whenever they get time.

But we need to understand that the most effective and memorable learning happens through communication and collaboration while in the workplace. In Jane Hart’s 2018 survey, a glaring 94% of the respondents think that learning from daily work experiences is very important, followed by knowledge sharing with the team. Learning in the workplace has moved away from the traditional methods.

Collaborative Learning

The best way to study collaboration among employees is to examine how they behave and what they say while at work. We can easily evaluate the type and depth of collaboration by listening to conversations of employees while they are working on a task. Employees commonly collaborate to complete tasks and improve their work situations. They don’t necessarily formally attend meetings to collaborate. Just as work is not a natural place where we “do” learning. People don’t go to work to learn. We simply do work, but work is a transformative process. According to Joseph Raelin, its purpose is to transform activities and resources into some form of result. It is when workers are faced with work problems to fix, solve or improve, small actions or “nudges” present themselves that lead to peer to peer actions and formation of teams within the company.

These are examples of conversations in the workplace in which collaboration happens:
conversations in the workplace in which collaboration happens
Design new training programs for workplace

No doubt that technology has helped us in various forms, but at the same time, we need to pay attention to the collaborative learning process. It is essential to understand that training programs for employees should be based on collaborative learning, whether they are available online or organized in the meeting room. Group learning activities can also be designed for employees because they help to generate fast and effective results in limited time. It does not mean that traditional learning strategies should be ignored. It is better to maintain a healthy balance between instructional and collaborative learning process for better results.

Conclusion

The challenge in learning through collaboration is that we set a very tall order and tell people how to best collaborate. Instead of recognizing that collaboration already exists, we don’t, and as a result it becomes a foreign concept in the workplace. We must foster the culture of collaboration and make it a native practice by acknowledging that workers, whether shallow or deep, do collaborate in their own ways. How we harness them and actively promote the process is the key.

References

Ray Jimenez, Workflow Learning
Thaler, R. H. & Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.




Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why Keeping Your Language Casual Works in Webinars - Tip 214

Keeping Your Language Casual and Why It Works in Webinars

The 2018 State of Attention [Infographic] by Pezi, shows that 95% of business professionals say they multitask during meetings. Over 4 in 5 business professionals shifted their focus away from the speaker in the most recent presentation they watched. Presentations are what make or break events. How do you keep your learners hooked to what you’re saying?
2018 state of attention report keeping your language casual and why it works

To be able to engage the participants and to get your point across in the most impactful way possible are the ultimate goals of every virtual presenter, trainer or facilitator worth his salt. Unlike in-person or face-to-face presentations where we can employ eye to eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures or body movements to effectively communicate our ideas, we are limited to visual aids and our verbal communication skills. This is exactly why during virtual presentations, we need to be mindful of our tone of voice and most importantly, the type of language we use.

Formal vs. Informal Language

We apply formal and informal language in different situations. The tone of formal language is less personal, rigid, and systematic. Whereas, informal language is casual and more personal. In doing my webinars, I prefer the usage of informal language because it makes it easier for the participants to relate and engage with me on the topics I’m presenting. Can you imagine how awkward or difficult it would be to establish rapport with your audience or show your personality to them when you speak too formally?

Why does casual, informal language work in webinars? Here are my thoughts.

It sparks conversations

As Leech and Svartvik (2002) put it, “informal language (also called colloquial) is the language of ordinary conversation.” The reasons why I advocate the use of interactive stories and thought-provoking questions are the same reasons I encourage keeping the language casual during the virtual presentation - to spark conversations and to initiate virtual engagement through experience sharing. Master virtual trainers and presenters know how to make their audience feel as if they are just having a friendly conversation with friends but at the same time are able to achieve the learning objectives of the session.

Informal language masterful virtual training


It facilitates faster exchange of ideas

Maintaining a casual webinar environment where informal language is encouraged facilitates a faster exchange of ideas. Simplify ideas by using keywords. Bring context by sharing everyday real-life stories. Also, narrate relatable anecdotes. People respond better when you "speak in their language." Formal terminologies and highfalutin words may make you sound clever but will they help in sending your intended message across? Most probably not. It should always be about effectively communicating content and bringing context to your audience. Not them, spending unnecessary time and effort on the correctness of their language.

Conclusion

A master virtual trainer or presenter has to be agile, flexible and relatable. Never mind the small imperfections or the informality in language because most of the time, this informality is the appropriate solution to avoid your audience being “lost in translation.” But of course, too much of anything can have its downside. Therefore, find the right balance between keeping it casual and still having a strong virtual presence so you don’t lose control of your session. Let me know what you think. Share your insights and comments below.

References

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Enhancing Observational Skills Is Crucial in Workflow Learning - Tip #213

Enhancing Observational Skills Is Crucial in Workflow Learning

How many times have we seen workers in situations where they focus too much on following the process we trained them on, instead of using the power of observation and critical thinking?

The Broken Screw Story

A technician, who was having a problem with an equipment, frustratingly scans the manual again to see if she’s doing it correctly.

“I’m using the correct screw, but it won’t fit. What am I doing wrong?”

She tried to insert it again, but to no avail. She checked the supplier’s website for more updated information about the equipment but there was none. Her last resort was to ask a senior technician about it.

He then replied, “I used the other screw, and you have to slightly heat it up because this one, although it’s supposed to be the right one, does not fit.”


According to Roger Schank, one of the places where real-life learning takes place is in the workplace, “on the job.” He suggests that if we want our workers to learn their jobs, the best way to do it is to let them do their jobs. Work situations and issues trigger the worker’s critical thinking and creativity. It is the starting point for their investigation and their need for answers and solutions. In the story above, the senior technician knew how to work the screw because he had gone through the same problems and must have tried and tested several solutions. It even paved the way for him to innovate (heat up the screw, even if it doesn’t say i needed to in the manual). Observation is a key component in the process of diagnosing and fixing work problems.

Also, in a study by Magda Osman, evidence suggests that there is a positive correlation between observation-based learning and problem-solving. People learn better and faster, not through mastery of procedures, but rather by trial and error and observation. Just like what we realized in the Broken Screw Story.

3 Impact Areas Of Observation in the Workplace


1. Discovery of gaps

The modern workplace is full of distractions and it’s easy for workers to lose focus and to just go with the flow in order to complete their tasks. Critical thinking and time for observation are often set aside in favor of deadlines. Observation is crucial in identifying gaps, breaches or inconsistencies in the workflow. It is how workers are able to assess which problem areas to immediately fix, solve, and improve.

2. Forward-looking solutions

Being fully aware and deliberately paying attention to the different elements of work processes, deeply understanding its meaning and recognizing plausible risks, errors, and hazards are essential observational skills in the workplace. It aids the workers to think ahead of solutions to problems before they happen. It trains their mind to be adept at solving both expected and unexpected work issues.

3. Results

Observation is a powerful skill that can be scaled. It can be measured based on the variances of results and on how well workers adjust to changes in their work and its environment. Being diligent, observant workers highly impact their productivity, safety and company costs as it lessens, if not eliminate, the possibility of mistakes, accidents, and errors while doing their assigned tasks.

Conclusion

Without good observational skills, the potential to miss important steps and the risk of repeated errors are high. It affects the quality of workers’ output which can be costly to the organizations they are in. We have to train our workers, not just to be mere followers of procedures and processes, but also to be keen observers, self-reliant thinkers and creative problem-solvers.

Reference

Ray Jimenez, PhD., Workflow Learning




Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

AI Bots Gaining Ground- What Does It Mean for Us As Virtual Trainers? - Tip #212

AI Bots Gaining Ground What Does It Mean for Virtual Trainers?

Last year, China’s Xin Hua news agency introduced Qui Hao, the world’s first AI male news anchor. Just three months after, they unveiled Xin Xiaomeng, the world’s first AI female news presenter. While critics were quick to say that those anchors are not truly AI but just AI-powered, I leave that to the experts. AI has truly arrived and is now making its mark in the business of storytelling and presenting. What does this mean for us, trainers, facilitators, and presenters? Are we to lose our place as master storytellers in the fourth industrial revolution sooner than we think? Are human trainers and storytellers about to be replaced by AI bots? How do we continue to thrive and stay relevant in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment?

While an article by McKinsey and Co. doesn’t think so -- or at least not just yet, their research with MIT's Lab for Social Machines recognizes that a collaboration between humans and AI technology can be a very powerful tool to enhance the video storytelling process and help us continue to flourish in the world of AI.

Humans are innately emotional beings AI is not.

The power of human touch

What makes a fun, engaging and highly interactive virtual training or webinar session? Is it the usage of the latest tools? Perhaps. Is it showing the most visually appealing slides and content? Maybe. Personally, the most significant element of a successful presentation is the humanity of the trainer or presenter. The connection between humans, like how we make conversations, relate with each other’s stories, show warmth, humor and empathy, is still beyond the capabilities of AI. The emotional human traits are what set us apart. But it doesn’t mean that we can and should rest on our laurels.

Let’s challenge ourselves

Developments in AI and technology don’t happen in trickles, but in leaps and bounds. Have you heard about the short film, Sunspring? It’s the first ever screenplay solely written by an AI bot. Can you imagine this being possible ten years ago? Let’s continue to challenge ourselves and strive to be better trainers, facilitators and presenters in the midst of all the technology advancements going on. Be updated with the latest trends and topics. Always consider what is relevant to the changing needs of your learners and participants. Find new and creative ways to engage and evoke their emotions.

Conclusion

AI technology is here to stay. Whether we see it as a threat or an opportunity is a matter of perspective. I continue to see it as a challenge to be better at what we do. Humans are innately emotional beings. Let’s use this to our advantage whenever we do our sessions. In this modern world we live in, it’s always in the best interest of us, as trainers, and our learners to learn to adapt to the rapidly changing technology. This will help cement our place as master trainers and storytellers. Share with me your thoughts. I’d love to read your comments below.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

5 Big Don’ts for Successful Webinar Presentations - Tip #211

successful webinar presentations

Over the years, I have done a lot of seminars, workshops, and talks - both virtually and in-person. The main challenge in virtual presentations is that your audience can’t see you and vice versa. It can be tricky to capture their attention or get them engaged by merely hearing your voice and seeing your slides. How do you turn your presentation into a provocative, engaging, and highly impactful virtual experience for your learners?

In my previous blogs, I’ve shared numerous dos when designing and delivering successful webinars. Now, I give you the big don’ts.

Don’t skip the prep

In any endeavor, be it mountain climbing, joining a triathlon, performing on stage, or doing a virtual presentation, preparation is the key to its success. It was Confucius who said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such effort there is sure to be failure.” Test and prepare your resource materials. Conduct a technical dry-run of your tools in advance. Rehearse your presentation flow. Be prepared with back-up plans for any possible glitches. Have a checklist and follow it religiously. Trust me, your audience don’t need to see you to know if you’ve come unprepared. The instant they realize that, nothing you say would interest them anymore.

Don’t drag with facts

I have learned, from my experience in doing webinars, that you immediately lose your audience’s attention the moment you start your presentation with facts. Nothing is enticing nor motivating about going through a litany of learning objectives, or stating compliance policies, or showing a bunch of technical data. I find using real-life situations and weaving stories into content to be highly effective in engaging the participants.

successful webinar presentations
Don’t force engagement

Connection with your audience has to happen naturally and seamlessly. You can’t force it or overdo it, lest you come off as inauthentic or insincere. Share relatable stories that trigger conversations. Pitch thought-provoking and relevant questions then allow your audience to reflect and share their thoughts and experiences.

Don’t prolong

Information overload is the bane of any audience. Webinars, generally, run an hour. Make it count for your audience by cutting down ideas to the “bare essentials.”  Avoid dumping unnecessary data. Make a personal commitment to NOT lecture in webinars. Capture your audience’s attention by providing ideas that are timely, highly contextual and relevant. Focus on the crucial topic and take control of the flow.

Don’t forget your audience

One key essential to a successful presentation is high audience interaction. As I’ve mentioned earlier, not being able to see each other is a challenge in webinars. How do you ensure that while you’re presenting and showing them your slides, that they are not busy doing something else? Ask your audience reflection questions and throw in intriguing ideas. Encourage them to respond and share their insights to sustain engagement. Veer away from providing definitive answers that do nothing to stimulate their thinking and curiosity.
successful webinar presentations

Conclusion

To be successful at webinar presentations, it takes preparation, dedication, creativity, sincerity, and hard work. Not everyone is born with great presentation skills but it can definitely be learned. Study your topics, practice, and always involve your audience. Reflect on these thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think. Post your comments below.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

7 Reasons Stories Work for the Modern Learner - Tip #210

story-based-main-image-tip-210

Storytelling has been a very effective learning tool since time immemorial. But even with the changing learning landscape, big shifts in work environments and tech disruption, why do stories in eLearning designs still work? Simple. Everybody is a sucker for a good story, in whatever shape, type or form. The beauty of stories transcends all types of learners. Yes, including the distracted, impatient, overwhelmed modern learners.
story-based-meet-the-modern-learner


Modern learners’ behavior, attitude and motivation towards learning have evolved over the years. The rigidness and linear approach of traditional training no longer appeals to them.


Here’s my take on why stories work for the modern learners.

1. Stories are highly contextual.

Today’s learners find more value in content that is relatable and personalized. Using highly contextual stories helps learners better understand how lessons can fit into their needs and be useful to them. Integrating stories in eLearning allows the learners to build their own understanding of the lesson, establish their analyses and come up with solutions to their problems.

2. Stories deliver content faster and easier.

In a typical work week, workers only spend less than 25 minutes on learning. They want fast access to answers and solutions whenever they need them. Instant learning through hyper-stories addresses that need.

3. Stories leave long-lasting impact

Modern learners are easily distracted and have shorter attention spans. Interactive stories aid in easier recall of lessons because it gets them to immerse themselves and share their experiences making learning a personalized, highly impactful experience.



4. Stories make complex ideas simple.

While facts, technical data, and policies are vital information to learners, they tend to ignore them unless there are some personal goals to be achieved. Stories in learning designs make complex ideas simple. It humanizes technical data and analytics and enables learners to fully and quickly grasp the learning points that can impact their performance.

5. Stories make learning meaningful.

Today’s learners may have a myriad of resources and information at their fingertips but they are focused on the ones that fit their purpose. Stories carry with them the real-life and emotional aspects of learning. It draws reactions, insights and reflections even after the story has ended.

6. Stories convert content into relevant ideas.

Millenials are self-reliant learners. They are the Google generation and adept at looking for answers by themselves. What engages them more is not just finding information per se but the relevance of the information to their jobs and their lives. Stories help learners realize the significance of lessons to them, thus, contribute to faster application to real work issues.

7.  Stories add to learners’ experience.

In Jane Hart’s annual survey, learners have shown more preference to learn while doing work and sharing their experiences with peers. Unlike traditional learning where there are only right or wrong answers, story-based eLearning probes deeper into the emotional and intellectual faculties of the learners. Learning becomes a collaborative experience because they get to interact and gain additional insights from others.

Conclusion

Engaging the modern learners is no mean feat. We have to always be on the lookout for newer innovative ways to catch their fleeting attention span. The oldest and one of the best tricks in the book is storytelling. Not your traditional long narratives but short, succinct, and interactive stories capture the learners’ attention and help them remember. Our brains are wired to respond to stories. Let’s use that to our advantage and design Story Lessons that appeal and cater to the changing needs of the modern learners.

References

Bersin by Deloitte. (2014). Meet the Modern Learner.




Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Step Up Your eLearning Game - Go for Hyper-Stories - Tip #209


Can you think of the most recent viral video or story you have seen and shared? What about it caught your attention? Let me guess. It probably made you laugh out loud, or tugged at your heartstrings, or got you so mad, or afraid even. But it surely moved your emotions enough to share it or extend the discussion among your friends. A study by Jan L. Plass et. al., among many others, have reported the significant influence of emotions on human cognitive processes, particularly learning, memory, and problem solving.

However, modern learners are impatient. According to an infographic from Bersin by Deloitte, online trainers now only have 5 to 10 seconds to grab the learners attention before clicking away. Thus, there is a constant need for learning strategies and approaches that facilitate instant learning. One effective method that we, as trainers, L&D designers, facilitators, SMEs can master is the art of using hyper-stories in our learning designs.

Hyper-Stories

Hyper-stories are the shortest and most emotional aspects of the story. By using hyper-stories, we are providing learners with content that is engaging, thought-provoking and purposeful.

4 Elements of an Effective Hyper-Story

Immediate meaning and context

According to Donald Hull’s definition of contextual learning, learning occurs only when learners connect information to their own frame of reference. The hyper-story is about making sure that the short video or idea brings out an experience from the learners. When they are able to understand the content based from their own interpretation, it is only then that lessons are relevant and useful to them.

Heighten involvement

A good hyper-story amplifies learner engagement. It ignites emotions and elicits learner response and reflection on the lesson you are trying to impart. A good tip when using a hyper-story, is to give the learners a good amount of time for reflection. Try the 10-90 rule (10% video or lesson, 90% reflection). Let it sink in. Allow them to internalize their own experiences in relation to the lesson ideas associated with it.

Faster application

Effective hyper-stories allow the learners to quickly connect the lesson to its application in real-life. When we design lessons for training, facilitate seminars or do workshops, always have a desired learning goal in mind - to build content that assists learners in their need for instant answers and solutions.

Instant recall

Hyper-stories in lessons help the learners be instantly reminded of their past experiences related to it. This accelerates the learning process. We all have a plethora of experiences and knowledge. Hyper-stories aid in tapping into this vast resource and reinforce what the learners already know.

Conclusion

The use of hyper-stories in lessons is an ingenious way to promote instant learning and to capture the emotions and attention of the modern learners. The connection between emotions and learning is undeniable. Learners learn faster by drawing from past experiences and reflection. Reflection deepens their own learning.

References

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

STOP, THINK, FOCUS: 4 Ways to Design Time-Saving Lessons - Tip #208


Who hasn’t been stuck in debilitating traffic or spent hours waiting in line? Have you ever taken a very long training course and wished you were someplace else? So much precious time wasted when you could’ve spent it doing other important activities. Everybody hates wasting time, especially the modern learners!



It was a couple of years ago when I was in Santa Monica when I learned of the BIRD scooters. I was so curious about how it worked and why it was such a hit. Well, for starters, it looked cool, fun, and convenient. One fascinating discovery though, was that you could also earn. You just went and picked up any BIRD scooter, recharged it, put it back from where you got it then you got paid through its app. Easy!

This illustration relates back to our training and learning industry. The challenge in creating courses sometimes is, we have a ton of ideas, data and content. We tend to include everything that we think is important. This results in a stretched out, bloated course. In the many years that I’ve worked with instructional designers, the “all content is important” mindset remains prevalent. How do we stop wasting our learner’s time and focus instead on what truly matters to them?

The Abstraction Process

The main concept of the abstraction process is prioritizing the essentials. From a large group of information or observation, try reducing it by finding some level of commonalities or patterns and then come up with a synthesis. We have a lot of these so-called mega time wasters in our training programs. In designing content, we need to make it simple, short, fast and immediately useful at work. We should focus on our learner’s needs and  information that can be helpful to doing their jobs faster and easier. How can you apply the abstraction process to remove time wasters in your training programs?


4 Ways to Design Time-Saving Lessons

1. Instant Needs

The most common challenges to training needs analysis are it’s too costly, takes months to finish, little opportunity to do, and it’s used sparingly, not all the time. It has all the potential to be a mega time waster. But what if we can do the abstraction process and simplify training needs analysis?  We get to have all the important answers we need and save a lot of time not just for the learners but the trainers as well.

Instant Needs Dynamic Assessment

Unlike training needs analysis, Instant Needs Dynamic Assessment has the following attributes:
  1. It is asked regularly or as often as needed.
  2. Only simple key questions are asked.
  3. It prioritizes the needs.
  4. It instantly provides suggestions and answers.


Click here for an enlarged view.

In the above examples, you are able to do the survey more regularly or as often as needed, by limiting the questions to three items. Whenever people answer the survey, the system provides a matching and relevant information. This way, learning is faster, more focused on their needs, personalized. In cases where there are no matching answers in the system, it will prioritize the answers according to levels of importance. This is how you determine which topics are helpful to them. Through their feedback you can refine your courses according to knowledge pertinent to the learners. Finally, the system will make suggestions and comments based on all the answers given. Imagine the amount of time saved by pinpointing the fundamentals. You are able to collapse a huge and problematic training needs analysis into something that is small, dynamic, and immediately useful to your learners.

2. Instant Answers

Why do we make learners go through an entire 3-hour course that can actually be done in 30 minutes? It doesn’t make any sense. We must do away with the “production” mindset and focus on the realities of the workers and learners - their need for easy, fast and useful solutions to actual work issues. Most of the time, simple and direct answers are all they need.

See the illustrations below.

How Do We Keep Hot Items On The Shelves? starts with a one-pager that is focused on 3 simple and very practical questions. If learners want to drill down and learn more, there is a Reference section that leads them to a more detailed lesson page.

Preview the example.
From this lesson page, they can again have access to more in-depth information to learn more. It could be a video, checklist, tip or a guide in the form of inventory reports or management systems. See example reference below.

Reporting Tool for Inventory Management Software - BarCloud
Click here for an enlarged view.

Notice how the lessons are layered and instant answers are drilled down. By designing your lessons this way, you are able to meet your learners’ needs for quick, easy to apply, and useful solutions and answers. Think of how much learners will appreciate that their time was not wasted on a long, boring course.

3. Instant Lessons

Which do you think is more likely to elicit a response from the learners: a long itemized list of do’s and don’ts of kitchen practices or a short lesson like the example below? Instant lessons work because learners can relate to the content very quickly. Cut to the chase. Use very relatable stories that not only allow learners to connect with and reflect on but would also suit your learning objectives. This way, they learn faster, no time wasted.

Preview an example below.

Kitchen Safety Practices
4. Instant Expertise

According to Harold Jarche, “Training as a knowledge delivery is dead.” With today’s ever-evolving work situations, training, in ways that we’ve done so in the past, won’t be as effective in dealing with the learners’ needs for instant solutions and faster decision-making. Today’s learners don’t just rely solely on SMEs anymore. Most of the time they find answers themselves or collaborate with peers simply because it saves a lot of time.
Click here for an enlarged view.

Conclusion

In today’s fast-paced world we live in, everybody has become used to what is fast, cost-saving, convenient, dynamic and can be used immediately. This also applies to the training industry. We have to do away with long, boring, costly, irrelevant courses that frustrates and wastes learner’s time. Try to rethink your learning strategies and be creative. Think out of the box. Wipe out unnecessary processes and aim for the shortest possible solutions. Abstraction process is one way. What other ways can you think of?  Share your thoughts with me.
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