Social Learning (My Acronym Definition)

You probably (or maybe not) have heard about social learning.  For those of you who have not, here is a quick definition for you:

Social Learning is about creating and sharing information and knowledge with other people using  social media tools that support a collaborative approach to learning.  Social Learning is fast becoming recognised as a valuable way of supporting formal learning and enabling informal learning within an organisation.

I was recently reading an article titled The 8 Truths of Social Learning and it started me thinking about my own view on social learning.  Personally I believe the journey seems to be still in it’s early phase.  And I think sometimes there is a difference of what social is and how to be social.  Sounds weird doesn’t it?  Social learning is not just content.  In my opinion it is, or should be, more than that (such as interactive and wait for it…learning from it).  So, instead of rambling on, why don’t I explain it in an acronym.  Don’t we all love acronym’s?  And look how cute this is…I am going to use the word Social for my definition 🙂

First I will define it what I feel is Social Learning:

Socially sourced and searchable

On my device


Interesting and relevant




Socially Sourced and Searchable
OK, I cheated here and added two things to the “S”.  But, bear with me as they are both important.  First of all, content should be socially sourced.  What I mean is the majority of content should be sourced (created) by the community.  Not content publishers.  Not social media experts.  You or the social circle.  Listen, I am fine with having some content creation to kick off the community, but if that is your main source of content, that is less social and more content.  And I know there is value in having conversations around content, but you want to get to a point that your social circle is publishing the content.  OK, I won’t spend much time on Search here…but basically, in this day and age of Google, content needs to be searchable.  And I mean a competent search…not just a search box.  Enough said.

On my device and On Demand
The learning should be not just accessible, but scaled to my device.  Whether it be a phone, tablet, PC, watch or a 60-inch screen.  Use responsive design.  Don’t make me pinch and zoom.  Make it an enjoyable experience (my two cents – build mobile first).

For goodness sake, don’t write a novel.  Actually, I am pretty guilty in this blog where it is getting pretty wordy.  But if you look, I am chunking the content with a certain amount of whitespace.  This makes it a little easier reading on a screen and gives the viewer an opportunity to scan the content.  And when you chunk, it is easier for people to comment and interact on (specific or targeted) content.

Interesting and relevant
I know this should be self-evident, but if you’re learning content is not interesting, it will be harder to get any social traction.  Yes, it needs to be relevant (if not, what is the point?), but if it is not interesting, don’t expect and social interactions around it. And while I am talking about relevant, make sure when you are surfacing notifications to people, that they can get to the relevant information fast.  For example, if you are sending people e-mail daily digests, make sure you surface relevant information; not just “someone posted to this forum”. Target the content (which means I can learn in my inbox) or I can click right to that relevant information for interaction.

Don’t make it difficult to get to.  If it is a locked community, then make sure the option to have passwords “remember me” option enabled. I have no problem getting e-mail notifications, but make it easy to get to the interaction. Make sure EVERY main web browser (including older versions) can access it.  Make sure you can deep link to it (one link).  Also, see above “on my device”.

Remember, this is a social event.  People do not NEED to be there (unless you are mandating social learning…deep sigh).  Here is an example.  Would you rather be at your Uncle Scot’s 85 birthday event (hey, he is a likable old sort) or be interacting on Facebook?  Both are social events.  One you may “like” a little bit more. Be likeable.  Hey, I might make that a slogan on a T-shirt and make millions ;).

Anyway, there you go.  My Social in Social Learning.


Gamification and Learning

Oh boy, here comes that Gamification thing again…this time for learning.  If you are like me, you have been reading about Gamification for the last 4 years but see little of it in the enterprise.  For me, I always look to see if I can find examples and apply them to my work (learning) and my company.  And, without getting to in deep about Gamification (you can see some articles of Gamification in this little used community), I finally came across one that relates to our company.  But first, a little bit about gamification for those who are not that familiar:

Wikipedia defines it as the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.  If we dive a little deeper, the Gamification of Learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments.[1] The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. 

Ok, now that is out of the way, let me share an example I came across on-line for an insurance company call center.  This is from Vicki Kunkel, CEO/Director of Digital Content & eLearning in her article What are the most effective uses of Gamification in Learning? (bolding is mine)

For example, last year I designed a gamification platform for an insurance call center where the business challenge was customer retention, the goal was one-call resolution, and the desired behavior changes were to have call center agents stop putting customers on hold, stop transferring calls, and strategically question and actively listen to customers. (Surveys showed hold times and transfers were the top hot buttons for customers.) Agents were split into teams, and team members earned points for each time they did not transfer a call or place a customer on hold. Double points were given if a customer complaint was resolved with one call.

The company used data to track the performance of each agent and a leaderboard was automatically updated daily. Teams received “super powers” attached to each level they achieved on the leaderboard. One super power was “Super Speed”, where they could go right to the front of any line (such as the cafeteria line). Another was “Force Field,” where winners could park in the executive-only, temperature-controlled underground garage. (This was a coveted power in both the cold winter months and the hot summer months!) The top super power was “Invisibility” – which was a day off with pay for the ultimate top performers.

For agents who found themselves on the bottom of the leaderboard, the platform would automatically populate short, two-minute “Power Boosters” (video eLearning modules), which gave tips on strategic questioning and listening skills to help agents better identify and solve customer issues on one call.

Three months after the gamification project was implemented, call hold times decreased by 17%; transfers were reduced by 52%, and customer retention increased 31% over pre-gamification levels.

As you can see, the results after three months were impressive…though I would be interested in how this sustained after, say 12 months or more.  I also thought it was an interesting point of having the “bottom agents” take short 2 minute video eLearning modules instead of the traditional classroom refresher.   Anyway, this was a quick blog to talk about Gamification and learning.  Hope to have more in the near future.

The 6 Hottest Training Technologies

OK, just off the top here, I want to apologize for the title.  I am not a fan of click-bait but I was just copying and pasting an article I wanted to comment on in this blog titled:  The 6 Hottest Training Technologies That You Can’t Overlook.  But, to spare you actually clicking on the links, let me list the 6 below:

  1. Mobile learning
  2. Video-based training
  3. Virtual environments and avatars
  4. HTML 5 and responsive design
  5. Automation and adaptive learning
  6. Big Data

There you go.  Now, don’t you agree those are the hottest?    Good, now that is done, I want to talk a bit more about mobile learning.

Mobile learning – it seems like we have been hearing this for years that mobile learning is coming.  But, I think it is still further out then many may expect.  Here is reasoning.  I believe we are repeating history of back when “e-learning” became the new buzzword.  It was going to revolutionize training it was.  But it took a bit of time.  What happened at first is that everyone just picked up their paper manuals and training material and digitized them.  Boom, e-learning delivered!!!  But, the learners were ‘less than thrilled’ with the new revolution.  It took years for the training area to change not only how they delivered the content, but how they thought about developing the content while utilizing new technology.  As the technology matured, so did e-learning with more engaging content and programs.  I feel that we are the early stages with mobile learning. Sometimes the solution is take the current content and make it accessible on mobile.  Wait, the module is too long for mobile.  OK then, let’s take the 30 minute module and chunk it up to 6 five-minute modules.  There you go, mobile learning delivered!!!!


And hey, that is all fine and dandy for now, but I think it is still early.  I think we need to forget about how we do “e-learning” now and think more about the mobile device and how users consume content.  Here is an example using two large social networks, you may have heard of them; called Facebook and Twitter.  Yes, those ones.  Well, it seems like almost everyone in the free world uses one or both of those services. And what do they both have in common from a content consumption point of view?  They both deliver content in a timeline.  Here is a definition of a Twitter timeline and a Facebook timeline.   I also included an image of the Twitter timeline in this blog.  Basically, content is delivered in a stream that views scroll down to see the latest updates on top.  And it seems that users are ‘OK’ with getting content in a timeline.  So, why do we not have mobile learning in a timeline?  Makes sense, doesn’t it.  It is a format that both users and designers are already familiar with and navigation is easy to understand (hint, scroll down on your phone).  So, why aren’t developers using the most common content delivery user experience?  Well, for one Mr Smart Guy, I am not sure if Code of Conduct is going to be too interesting in a timeline (sorry, that was me talking to me…and now I am going to answer me).  Well, maybe, and maybe not.  But if I locked a bunch of e-learning designers in a room for a week, and said they had to deliver a course in a timeline, I think they might come up with something.  And maybe being in that locked room will help people start to think differently.  Of course, it may not be a timeline at all.  Maybe it’s an interface like What’s App or Instagram or Snapchat.  Or maybe no-one has thought about it yet.

Anyway, I believe that mobile learning will continue to continue to grow and evolve (hopefully).

Using TED- Ed: Creating Lessons Worth Sharing

Have you ever had a blog idea only to run out of steam after the first or second paragraph?  Me too. So, to prove (good) ideas don’t die, I found this blog that I started writing in 2014 after I attended Elliott Masie’s Learning conference.  So, I decided to pick it up and finish it in 2016.  Here we go….

“The central mission of Ted-Ed is to capture and to amplify the voice of the world’s greatest teachers”

For this blog, I am going to talk about TED- Ed: Creating Lessons Worth Sharing. First of all, here is the synopsis:

One of the largest shifts in corporate learning has been the use of open content like TED videos. TED-Ed is a unique platform that allows designers, managers, subject matter experts or even workers to rapidly build “lessons” around TED or YouTube video segments by adding content, context, engagement and even a few assessment questions.

What is Ted Ed?

There are two types of TED-Ed lessons. The first, TED-Ed’s award-winning original lessons, represent collaborations between expert educators, screenwriters and animators. Each collaboration aims to capture and amplify a great lesson idea suggested by the TED community.

The second type, which I would like to talk about, are TED-Ed lessons that can be created by any website visitor, and involves adding questions, discussion topics and other supplementary materials to any educational video on YouTube. Both types of TED-Ed lessons are used regularly – in classrooms and homes – to introduce new topics to learners in an exciting, curiosity-inspiring way.

It’s pretty cool and easy to setup.  You can login in to the TED-Ed site, create an account and begin.  Once you pick a video, it sets up helps you create a lesson around the video with 5 stages:
1. Watch: Yep, you watch the video
2. Think:  After participants watch the video, it allows you to create up to 15  multiple choice/open answer questions about the video or topic at hand
3. Did Deeper:  The instructor can have a summary of the video or points of interest they want to call out from the video.
4. Discuss: Invite users to discuss with one another on the video, questions or the instructor summary.  You can even bring in old discussions to this section
5. …And Finally:  Here you can leave your students with closing thoughts

And that’s it.  You can pull any TED video and create a lesson plan around it all in one neat and tidy place.

Microlearning and Blogs

I was planning on writing a new blog about “learning nuggets”, but instead found a new phrase for this:  Microlearning.  OK, so, let’s turn to Wikipedia to get ourselves a definition:

Microlearning deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities. Generally, the term “microlearning” refers to micro-perspectives in the context of learning, education and training.

Great Mark.  Real interesting.  What’s the point?

OK, well, I am speaking with some folks soon to discuss blogging; and when I say blogging, I mean they are starting to blog themselves.  But, blogging is not easy for everyone.  Heck, I have written over 40 blogs here and sometimes I still have a hard time getting my ideas down.  But, let ‘s try to take the pressure away from this process.  First of all, don’t worry about writing the perfect blog (it can’t be done), don’t worry about people liking it (they probably don’t like your shirt your wearing anyway so you can’t please everyone), don’t worry about being perfect – spelling errors are seen as a positive in blogs as it looks like you wrote off the top of your head (see what I did there).

But the biggest worry or struggle I hear from would be bloggers, is “what do I write?”.  A great question which sometimes can feel like quite the dilemma.  But, let’s simplify it with microlearning (blah – it just doesn’t sound as good as learning nuggets).  If you are ever stuck about what to blog, but you want to blog, think of sharing a learning.  But it does not even have to be work related.  Heck, I wrote a blog about finding Mark Doty.).

Listen, it does not need to be an earth shattering blog.  But, we are a large organization with a lot of smart people (but not this guy).  We should be leveraging our intellectual capital every chance we get.

So think about it for second.  What did you learn today?  Yesterday?  Last week that was a microlearning? Maybe a quick tip on e-mail.  An interaction with a vendor?  Feedback from a colleague?  Something your read on the interweb?  And maybe, just maybe, you read an awesome blog and want to agree, disagree or share it with others.

Any hey, I didn’t even touch upon easy other blog topics like praise, questions, ideas and wild and crazy innovations.

So there you go.  I look forward to hearing more about your microlearning.

You have No time to Learn…or do you?

When I speak to people in organizations who have learning resources available, I hear that staff would like to take advantage of some of the resources but they are just too busy and do not have the time.  And you know what?  I agree that they do not have the time.  Almost everyone I speak to usually has a jam-packed day (except for you slackers; yeah, I’m talking to you) and are rushing just to get all of their work in before the end of the day (and night).  And some are not even having a lunch break (unless you call eating at your desk, doing work, a lunch break).  So, for some, the thought of taking a course or watching a video or reading a job-aid is just not feasible.

So there you go.  You are off the hook.


Or you could make the time, even when you are not given the time.  It does not necessarily need to be elearning course or signing up for a workshop.  It could be watching a You tube Video.  Or listening to a podcast.  Or internally, going on the Global Learning Centre and doing a simulation.  Or read a Skill Brief.  Or print a Job Aid.  You could even be reading someone’s blog.  Or maybe externally trying Udacity, Coursera or Lynda.  Whew.  OK, I will pause here to get some past heavyweights thoughts one learning:

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”  – Albert Einstein

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  – Henry Ford

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  W.B. Yeats

There!  Convinced yet?

Listen, I hear you.  There are many days I do not have time to learn also.  But I make time.  It could be 5 minutes here or maybe during my lunch hour or on my smart phone on the way home.   Because really, it is up to you.  And you alone.  I know it would be great if everyone’s manager gave them an hour a day/week/month to do some learning.  But that shouldn’t hold you back.  Imagine looking back in 25 years and say, if only someone gave me time to learn I could have done so much more.  🙂

We have thousands of great resources internally (GLC and other areas) that are free to take for your development.  But no-one can do it but you.

Or not.  It’s up to you.

Mobile Learning: Good, Bad & Ugly

This is my third blog from my experience at the Elliott Masie’s Learning 2014 conference in Orlando this year (the previous blogs were  Rebranding Learning and Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding). For this blog, I am going to talk about the Mobile Learning: The Good, The Bad and of course, The Ugly. First of all, here is the synopsis:

We’ve been discussing the potential of mobile learning for a long time, but few of us are actually moving forward with mobile learning implementations. Ironically, practically everyone uses mobile devices, which are pervasive, intuitive and contextual in ways that few learning modalities can match. So, what’s the best way to maximize their impact for learning? Let’s explore a variety of mobile learning approaches and lessons learned, as well as how you can get started!

Before I begin, I want to add an image here…which I will speak to later.  But, for all of you old people (you know who you are), you might remember this little “desktop computer”:


OK, now back to the session.  The structure of this session was called a 360 degree Panel; where you could learn about a range of approaches to a single learning challenge.  It was an interesting setup as there were 5 learning/mobile experts in the front who were speaking about their experiences and answering questions.  The hosts were from MASIE Center Learning, PwC, Goodwill Industries International and Accenture.  A great session with interesting ideas which I will share below.  But before I do, let me caution you about mobile learning:

No-one has it quite figured out yet.

Which I suppose was comforting and frustrating at the same time.  Anyway, here are some notes:

What kinds of “learning” are best suited for mobile devices?

While there is no clean and simple equation of mobile learning, they spoke about some examples that I will share.  A really good example of was what Planned Parenthood created.  Historically, for young pregnant teens, they had a workshop (over several days) that taught them everything to do during their pregnancy.  But, they were finding the engagement and success (more on that later) was low.  So, what they started doing was sending text messages of the content broken up into little pieces and at the appropriate time.  Of course this is just in time training, but it was also the same training that they were rolling out before in the workshops in the first trimester.  With sending it mobile, it allowed them to “chunk” up the information in digestible pieces and deliver it to the end user when it was valuable/practical.  And how they measure the success was mortality rate of newborns.  And they found with a decrease of 20%.  Quite an impressive number.  And the training content was the same…just the delivery changed.

Corporate Learners?

So, who in the corporate world would be the best targeted audience for mobile learning?  The first thing many people jumped to would be millennials.  Although they would be a good audience a number of experts on the panel actually put forth this group – executives.  Their reasoning was that many executives don’t necessarily lug their laptops around all day from meeting to meeting.  And they hate having to sit in front of it to complete an online learning course.  They tended to like the convenience of having the learning on mobile since they are always with their smartphones and could complete the training when they have gaps in their day
Working examples that drive performance

This discussion around driving performance centred mostly around mobile location awareness training.  For example, every smartphone has GPS to track location.  An example of leveraging this would be for field staff who are out of a service call.  Let’s say they are fixing a photocopier.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, once they got close to it, training/help modules automatically were pushed to their mobile device to help them learn what to do.  Or how about in a power station, an employee would need to complete a quick module before they were able to push a button to ensure they know what they are doing.  Interesting examples indeed.  Unfortunately at this point it delved into marketing and how malls are experimenting with this push location tool to engage shoppers.  For example, when you walk into a mall, you can get a message from ‘the Gap” to say that you can get 20% off all of your purchases if you get to the store in the next 60 seconds.
When is it right to say “no” to mobile?

For those of you “old” learning experts (yeah, I’m talking to you), you will remember years ago the “fad” of moving everything, and I mean everything to elearning.  Although it sounded good, we have come to realize that all training should not be elearning.  And mobile is not different.  So, legacy training and large content modules should not be “picked up and put in mobile”.  Audience, content and value of mobile (vs desktop/classroom) to the user should be take into consideration.  But there is no golden matrix or calculation of when to use mobile or not.  I suppose it really goes back to the needs analysis and really determining what type of training does your audience need to achieve the desired results.

Now, back to that adding machine image I added up top (and to all you young whippersnappers, that is what we called that machine in the picture above).  One of the speakers gave a great analogy on mobile using the adding machine.  They said, take the spool of paper off and pull it out between your hands.  Just imagine publishing a book using this paper.  Your spool of paper would be very, very, very long.  But the spool of paper is about as wide as a phone screen.  So think how much of that spool of paper you could read before getting fed up or your eyes burning.  It is the same thing for your mobile phone.  ** I suppose that is why people post links to article on twitter/facebook rather than links to books.  😉

What’s your take on mobile learning?