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?


Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding

This is my second blog from my experience at the Elliott Masie’s Learning 2014 conference in Orlando this year (you can see my previous blog Rebranding Learning here).  For this blog, I am going to talk about the Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding session I attended. First of all, here is the synopsis:

Although organizations are busy investigating new learning technologies and methodologies, the world of onboarding interventions hasn’t changed much. Now, many companies are seeking new ways to structure new hire experiences and help current employees transition to new roles. This group of diverse learning professionals will share their organizations’ latest onboarding innovations. We’ll explore how they leverage a variety of technologies and holistic approaches to improve and scale the onboarding experience.

Although there were a number of speakers at this session, the representative from Accenture had the program that was the most mature and what I would like to talk about in this blog (they also recently won a 2014 Brandon Hall Gold Award for Best Onboarding Program).  At Accenture, they break the onboarding experience into 3 phases:

  1. Pre-Joiner (before you start)
  2. New Joiner (your first 12 months)
  3. Year one
  4. Pre-Joiner

Once you have signed your offer sheet, you still have a gap of leaving your previous job before you start at Accenture.  To help you start getting up to speed, Accenture has created a site called Countdown to Accenture where you can start learning more about Accenture before you begin.  Not only does it have information about the company history, it also starte the onboardning experience by listing information for new hires such as “getting Ready for Day One” and “Your First Weeks and Months”  Here is a screen shot:


Feel free to take a look at the site above as it is open to the public.

And for those of you who are mobile, well, they have their own mobile app called Accenture Sky Journey where you can learn more about what Accenture does:


They feel very strongly about having new employees coming into the organization with an awareness and comfort of the new employer.

  1. New Joiner

Your first 12 months are what they call 52 weeks of training; though actual in the classroom training is only 1-2 days total.  But, when new employees start, they are immediately assigned a buddy (the buddy can be on your team or someone who has volunteered to the buddy volunteer program – at the local office level).  All of the speakers spoke about the buddy program and the importance of having engagement from leadership.  In this situation, you have employees (buddies) who are dedicating their time that; although taking away from their day to day work, it really helps in securing more talent long term.

They also have a portal for new hire to track their progress and which houses information that they need (such as “who to contact”, “secutiry”, “IT”) so the information they need to navigate in the company is available to them.  It is also a place that both the hiring manager and employee can view together so if the new hire needs to take online courses or attend sessions, they can both track the progress.  This also allows the new hire to see their tasks for their first twelve months in a sefl-study mode.

  1. Year One

After an employee has finished year one, they are encourage to share their stories about their experiences.  A few different methods they use are:

  • Blogs – encourage employees to write a blog or post a guest blog on the onboarding blog page
  • Blog Interviews – for those who might not be comfortable blogging, they can be interviewed by a blogger
  • Interactive conversations – these are videotaped conversations with year one employees that discuss their experiences/stories


To ensure the program is effective and giving value to the organization, the onboarind program is measured.  There are a few ways they measure the program success:

  1. Retention rates – based on employees who go through the program vs those who did not in the past or currently (this is measure at the office, country and organization level)
  2. Engagement survey – Global survey pulls our data for new hires that have been with the organization 1 month, 3 months, 6, months, etc
  3. Site tracking – usage of their internal portal and pre-joiner sites/apps (how many hits, time on site, etc)

So, my last takeaway from the session was that, although it all sounds great, there is a large amount of work that is done to start and maintain a robust onboarding program.  Leadership engagement is extremely important as is buy-in from all levels in the organization (those who are are maintaining content, updating systems, allocating resources such as buddies and even managers allowing new employees to spend time in the program).  But, for those who have been measuring, they are seeing an increase in time employees are staying with the organization and feel that their onboarding programs are playing a part in this result.

Rebranding Learning – Masie’s Learning 2014

I was fortunate enough this year to attend the Elliott Masie’s Learning 2014 conference in Orlando this year (October 26-29).  Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my learnings from the sessions I attended.  Today, I am going to write about Rebranding Learning: NBCUniversal’s Talent Lab.  Below is the synopsis of the session:

Chances are your company has a brand that means something to consumers, but what about your learning programs? At NBCUniversal, our business is driven by our ability to create and
build engaging brands that resonate with viewers. We’ve applied this formula to our learning organization in order to successfully engage our target audience: our employees.

So, branding eh?  As we are all SunLifers, I think we are well versed on branding (if this is new to you, head on over to the Brand site).  But what this session was covering was the rebranding exercise they went through in their learning organization.  During their session, they discussed how they worked with a marketing and branding agency to help them navigate towards their goal.  For those of you who do marketing/branding, this might seem familiar, but this is how they worked through their branding:
First, they started off with their team name which is called Talent Lab.  This was the brand name they wanted to get out there.  From there, they wanted to determine the following:

  • Key Attributes (How people describe us, how can you describe yourself)
  • Brand Foundation (What are we known for, how do you want others to know you)

After determining the above, they do a step call design track; where every touchpoint the business has with the talent lab should match the above.
Over time they were able to determine the following for their learning area:

  • What we believe
  • What we do
  • What we offer
  • What People believe
  • Brand Promise
  • Brand Position

Ultimately this led the training department to create their own Brand Book.

One thing I found interesting was that in their journey, they started to collect common language that described their area/value.  They put together a list of words that they wanted to be associated with, and ones they did not want to be associated with to help them “love the brand.”  One example is from when they were determining their logo, someone on their team said one of the designs looked industrial.  And oddly enough, industrial was one of the the words they did not want associated, and that logo was discarded based on one person saying that.  Although a small example, it showed their committment to begin “living the brand”.

One more item which I thought was great.  To go along with their brand, they had their mission statement which was the following:

Their role was not to fix broken people, rather it was to help great people get even better.

Anyway, I hope I captured some of the session for you and I will be posting more blogs on Learning 2014 sessions in the coming weeks.

What kind of banker are you?

Banking, it seems, like many things these days has multiple ways of doing what you need.  Off the top of my head, I see five types:

  1. Face to face
  2. Phone
  3. Internet site (for PC/Mac)
  4. Mobile
  5. SMS

Myself, I am a (3) and (4) mobile banker.  I do most of my bill payment, e-mail money transfers and check my balance on my phone.  For someone with two youngish kids and a rare 5 minutes to myself, this is helpful to be able to do it in the kitchen/bedroom/hockey arena/bus-stop/subway/etc (I will not comment on the bathroom).

If I want to do more research (like look at monthly statements, history, etc) I tend to use the internet site with my home computer as I like the bigger screen…and my bank mobile app does not yet have all of the same functionality.  And, I even hate to say it, but the odd time I even print out something.  Yikes!

So, what kind of banker are you?


Recently I was reading about learning trends for 2014 and I came across the following article: .  To save you some time, they mentioned that three trends they see shaping learning are:

  1. MOOCs
  2. Digital badges
  3. Competency-based learning

I thought today I would blog about MOOC’s as I recently completed a course on Gamification through the site Coursera.

First of all – what is a MOOC?.  Acorrding to Wikipedia, a Massive Open Online Course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).  I am going to use the course I mentioned above I took through Coursera to explain my experience.

The Gamification course was 10 weeks in length where each week you had to watch a lecture (usually broken into 8-10 pieces) that was about 1-1.5 hours each week.  The grading was as follows:

  • 4 Homework Quizzes (multiple choice) — 35% of final grade
  • 3 Written Assignments (peer assessed) — 5%, 10%, and 20%, for a total of 35% of final grade
  • Final Exam (multiple choice, covering the entire course with emphasis on the second half) — 30% of final grade

During the 10 weeks, there were also discussion forums available for people to ask questions and participate (there were10,953 total discussion board posts), plus some Google + Hangouts with the Professor.  I found it to be a great experience…and slightly odd to be in something so “massive”.  Here are some statistics from the course.

  • 78,000 registered participants
  • 46% said it was their first MOOC
  • Student Demographics:
    • 169 countries represented (US = 24%)
    • 62% male
    • 77% working or otherwise not in school
    • 83% have a university degree; 43% have an advanced degre
  • 51,341(66% of registrants) accessed the course
  • 4,510 (5.8% of registrants) scored 70+ (which is higher than the average for MOOC’s on 4-5%)

Although at the end of the day 5.8% passed, this is a higher score than the average 3-5%.  But this course was free, available to anyone (though the course was only offered in English), and pretty informative.  And really, after 10 weeks, over 4,000 people completed all the lectures, assignments, tests and passed the course.  Pretty impressive looking at it that way.

BTW – in case you were wondering, I was one of the 4,510 that passed the course. 😉

Overall, it was a positive experience for me and I would take another one in the future.

So, anyone else here take a MOOC?  Or want to take one?

Who wants a NanoDegree?

I recently read an article on the site ReadWriteWeb about a partnership between AT&T and Udacity to offer what is called a Nanodegree.  What is a Nanodegree?  Well, as you can probably guess, it is “smaller (nano) than a regular degree.

A better description is the following:

Nanodegrees are designed to be completed in less than a year, at a cost of just $200 a month.

The nanodegrees will be:

  • Efficient – Designed for completion in less than 12 months.
  • Accessible – Anywhere there’s a broadband connection.
  • Affordable – At a cost of approximately $200 per month.

So, what are nanodegrees for and who takes them?  After reading up on the topic, it seems to be focused on people who already have a college degree and are “just looking to expand their skill set and potentially take on a new career path”.  Also, with the rising price of tuition, this could be an affordable choice for many looking to upgrade their skills.   And I know, this is more “tech industry” focused right now.  But, the article goes on to mention this little tidbit:

Udacity plans to take nanodegrees outside the tech industry: Thrun told me the company is talking with a lot of banks about finance nanodegrees

And this of course started me thinking about Nanodegree at Sun Life.  Maybe not waiting for Udacity but having some of our own.  What a great way to learn more about different areas of the company.  And I don’t mean job-shadow or attend a presentation, but delve deeper into the day to day work, understand how the business functions and practice some “real life” tasks.  You could have a more educated and aware workforce and it could assist with internal promotion for those who have completed nanodegrees and are looking in new areas of the business.

Anyway, it seems that the internet is really opening up not only new ways to learn, but new paths to follow.

Coffee, Starbucks and Lean

A few months ago I wrote a blog about buying a Starbucks Latte using Lean and improving the speed of getting a latte.  But with Lean, there is always room for improvement as we seek perfection.  Thus I was looking at my new streamlined Starbucks experience and began to think of ways to improve.  And I think I have one that impacts just the coffee drinkers….but improves the overall customer experience.

So, let’s setup the scenario.  If you recall from the Latte blog, you could open an app (the NoLine app) and order ahead to get your drink.  But let’s add another scenario/player in this process:  the coffee drinker.  One problem I have had in the past is that when I just want a cup of coffee, I need to wait for the barista to make serve all those annoying (zing) latte drinkers which, of course, is a waste of my time.  Or, even in using my NoLine app, my order might be impacted by how many fancy latte drink orders are before me (I am really giving it to the latte drinkers today eh?).  Or, by examining customers, I have not taken the time to look at the impulse drinkers.  You know, the ones that walk by a Starbucks and think, yes, I could go for a coffee before I go to my meeting.  But alas, I need to get in line as I did not order ahead.  Blah, that NoLine app does not help.

But maybe with a few tweaks, we can improve this process.
So, let’s base line the time it is going to take me when I want an impulse coffee:

  1. Waiting in line to get to the cash register (3:30)
    2. Telling someone what I want (0:10)
    3. Paying and waiting to get change and/or a receipt (0:10)
    4. Standing in line again waiting for my drink to be made (0:10) ** this task is less time than the latte so I have removed 25 seconds

The total is 4 minutes (4:00) though if the latte drinkers were ordering online maybe the line would be shorter…but let’s keep the original time. So, I still have my phone.  I still have my Starbucks app.  So, this is all I need with a small tweak to what currently exists I can cut down on the wasted time of waiting in line for a single cup of coffee.

Currently, within the Starbucks app there is a prepaid card with a barcode:


Here is my idea.  How about we automate the coffee carafes and build in bar code readers?  So, when I go into Starbucks, I no longer line-up.  Rather, I walk over to the self-serve coffee section.   I grab an empty Grande cup, place it under a coffee carafe, take out my Starbucks app/pre-paid card and, this here is the new technology, scan my card on the coffee carafe bar code reader (the reader is built right into the coffee carafe).  Boom, my drink gets poured immediately, Starbucks gets paid immediately, and the line-up for those buying food or paying (gasp) cash get shorter/faster.

And, let’s revisit my time to get a coffee now:

  1. Getting a cup and filling it up with coffee (0:15)

Total = 0.15 seconds vs the original 4:00.  Thus, I have saved myself 3:45 per visit.   And remember, if my break is only 15 minutes long, I have just saved myself almost 25% of my break time.
So, in theory, we have now removed both Latte(Cappuccino) and coffee drinkers from our Starbucks line-up and freed up staff to deal with customers who want face to face interaction or other items such as food or bags of coffee.
Anyway, as I mentioned before, I am still pretty new to learning Lean but that is my second idea.