Archive for December, 2011

The Biggest Myths in Learning and Development

December 22, 2011 10 comments

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMSIn the early 1960s, philosopher Abraham Kaplan and psychologist Abraham Maslow independently described the idea that being in possession of  an instrument affects our perception. The idea, now commonly called the Law of the Instrument, is illustrated in the phrase  “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

It’s important to be aware of this law because it gives us a glimpse into how our perception of the world is shaped by our experiences and environments.

So what does all this have to do with learning and development?

My introduction to using computers for learning stems back 25 years to a course I took in university titled “Computers in Music.” I was immediately hooked and began creating simple computer programs to teach music theory. This led to a lifelong career in learning technology as a content developer, entrepreneur, consultant, analyst, and now technology provider. Having worked in the area of learning technology for so long has created certain assumptions. These are the learning and development myths to which I’ve subscribed that are currently being debunked from speaking with organizations daily.

If you’re reading this blog, you may be a learning professional with interests in online learning. You too, may believe the following learning and development myths:

  • MYTH ONE: Most organizations provide some type of training to their workforce

False. A large percentage of organizations I speak with provide no formal training. People join the firm and figure out what needs to be done by shadowing people and asking a lot of questions—likely by e-mail—CC-ing as many people as possible. Consequently, the number one learning tool for new employees is the company staff directory. “I see there’s a guy in the IT department named Mitch. He may know how I should do this task.”

Often, organizations I speak with are trying to address the challenges associated with this approach. It isn’t that they’re anti social or informal learning, it’s just that they’re trying to make the process easier for everyone. They also want to make sure people learn the right stuff instead of old bad habits that have been passed on over the years though we’ve-always-done-it-this-way mentoring.

  • MYTH TWO: Organizations that do provide training have embraced online learning

False. Of the organizations that do provide training to their workforce, a huge number—large and small—are still tackle learning and development the way organizations did decades ago: exclusively by having learners physically participate in face-to-face, classroom-based sessions, either on site or in another location.

If your organization has no formal learning and development initiatives, or if training still takes place exclusively in a classroom with an instructor, you should feel no shame. You’re not alone. Gurus and pundits may have us believing that the biggest challenges facing organizations today is how to migrate online learning to new devices or software platforms. The reality is that most organizations are just looking at how to get started in online learning in a way that produces good outcomes, painlessly.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana Selects Absorb LMS

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to our newest customer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, Inc. (BCBSMT).

BCBSMT is the state’s largest and oldest health insurance company, serving the residents and businesses of Montana. For more than seven decades, the company has provided its customers with the security of knowing they have health care when they need it. Today, as a not-for-profit health insurer, BCBSMT continues to help Montanans lead healthier lives.

Why Your Learning Initiative Needs Before and After Photos

December 15, 2011 1 comment

 Some rights reserved by jgarber Before and after photos are the #1 marketing tool of those selling miracle weight loss and fitness programs. Although we see these images everywhere, they endure as really compelling testimonials to the effectiveness of these solutions.

Learning professionals could learn a thing or two from the fitness industry:

  • It’s important to measure
  • Once you’ve measured improvement, it’s important to clearly communicate those improvements to others (including those who fund your learning initiatives).
  • Your “after” measurements should be ongoing (6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc.)
If you’re considering acquiring your first learning management system (LMS), consider taking some snapshots—figuratively speaking— of your current situation. Here are some of the things you may want to measure while you’re still managing learning manually:
  • Travel and accommodation costs to send learners and instructors to face-to-face training sessions in remote locations
  • Cost in loss of productivity when learners are sent away for training
  • Your current employee turnover rate
  • The administrative cost of maintaining paper records
  • The cost of manually printing and mailing certificates
  • The cost of creating an instructor-led, classroom based course
  • The cost of paper and printing (instructor guide, handouts, etc.) for traditional classroom-based instruction
  • The amount of time it takes to create a course and deliver it to learners in a face-to-face setting
  • Estimated time and cost to provide compliance professionals with training records in the event of an audit
  • Estimated CO2 emissions from the cost of sending learners to remote locations for learning
Can you think of others? Please submit them as comments for others to read.

Breaking Down Silos: Why Your Learning Management System Should `Play Nice’ with Others

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

We live in a world where information flows between applications. Rare are organizations with all their data in discrete silos. Learning data should not be the exception. Here are some of the common ways learning management systems (LMS) can share data with other applications:

Importing data into the LMS from an HR system
Many organizations require employee records from a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) imported into a learning management system (LMS) as learner records. When a new employee is hired, this individual will automatically be registered into the LMS and can begin their learning activities. If an existing employee changes jobs, is promoted, or relocates to a regional office, that information will be reflected within the LMS and the individual’s learning plan adjusted accordingly.

Centralizing learner records within an HR system
Some organizations require learner data exported from the LMS into an HRIS system, thus allowing individuals’ learning history to be attached to their employee data and displayed within the HRIS. For organizations working in regulated industries, for instance, this makes potential audits quick and easy; eliminating the need to look for data in two separate places.

Adding legacy learning records to a LMS
In some organizations, the training history of employees may exist in an HR system, or have been exported from a learning management system no longer in use. To centralize the learning history of employees, their achievements and certifications can be imported into the LMS.

Sharing e-commerce data with accounting applications
In situations where learning content is purchased by individuals, departments, or organizations using the learning management system’s shopping cart, APIs can be created to exchange financial data with accounting software applications. Such integration allows purchase histories to be tracked and can be used to generate financial reports such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, etc.

Want to learn more about data integration? We have a free download on this topic: How Absorb LMS Plays Nice With Others.

Wednesday: Optimizing the Administration of Learning

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Please join Donna Gernhaelder, Dan Medakovic, and Richard Nantel this Wednesday for a free Webinar:

How to Automate the Administration of Learning Within Your Organization

Richard Nantel, Donna Gernhaelder, Dan Medakovic

Space is limited so register early.

REMINDER: Two Upcoming Webinars

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Absorb SMARTLAB: Where Learners Go to Escape Learning Management Systems

  • Date: Thursday, December 8, 2011
  • Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST

Oakley, Virgin Mobile, Logitech LifeSize, and American Medical Systems have selected Absorb SMARTLAB as their learning environments. Find out why.

How to Automate the Administration of Learning Within Your Organization

  • Date: Wednesday, December 14, 2011
  • Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST

It may only take a few minutes for you to administer a learner’s experience within your LMS. But, if you need to repeat the process for every learner,`you`ll quickly be overwhelmed by the effort. Find out how to create a scalable learning initiative.

Doing Things: The Ignored Learning Content Type

December 6, 2011 2 comments

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

You can feel pretty smug and confident in your knowledge of a subject after having completed a course. Attempting to apply your newly-acquired knowledge, however, can be very humbling. Why is that we think we know something and only discover we don’t when we try to apply that knowledge? There’s a significant disconnect between our perception of our abilities and our actual performance.

The famous learning theorist Donald Kirkpatrick was well aware of this gap. That’s why his four-tiered model for learning evaluation placed learning and behavior on two separate levels:

Level 1: Reaction—To what degree participants react favorably to the learning event or content

Level 2: Learning—To what degree participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitudes, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in a learning event

Level 3: Behavior—To what degree participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job

Level 4: Results—To what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the learning event and subsequent reinforcement

The word “course” is used very broadly within the Absorb LMS environment. An online course can consist of lessons, quizzes, exams, tasks, and objects, in any quantity and order. Here’s the definition of these content types:

Here’s the outline of a hypothetical sales course:

Chapter 1: Getting Started

  • Overview of our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application (Video)
  • Quiz
  • Task:  Log into the CRM and create your user profile

Chapter 2: Managing contacts

  • Etc.

The third item in Chapter 1 is a “Task” content type. The learner is required to log into the CRM and create his or her user profile. How will Absorb LMS know if the learner has completed this task? It won’t, of course, but an administrator will be able to check and mark off the task as complete within the LMS. The administrator will also be able to grade the learner on how well the task was completed.

There are a lot of things you could do with the “Task” content type. You can even use tasks for non-learning activities. For example, when a new employee is hired, he or she invariably has documents to complete and return to the HR department. To streamline the onboarding of new employees, you could create a course that looks like this:

Section 1: Welcome!

  • Overview or our company
  • Download the documents attached to this course, complete, and e-mail to
  • Etc.

In the example above, the task to complete and return documents to HR has nothing to do with learning. Afterall, the learner will only complete this paperwork once,. The task is simply inserted to standardize the onboarding process and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Once the employee’s documents are received by HR, a representative of the HR department can log into the LMS and mark off the paperwork as complete. If information is missing, the HR representative can e-mail the employee directly from within the LMS and inform them of what’s required.

Used as illustrated above, the LMS becomes more than a learning environment. The system becomes an integral part of an organization’s workflow.