Building Global Virtual Teams and Virtual Learning Capability

A new model of global organization is coming to the fore. Traditional top-down hierarchies have been swept away in favor of agile and responsive ‘networks of teams’. These are virtual teams that are set up and disbanded as needed to create new products and services and meet fresh global challenges from new competitors.

The challenge organizations face is how best to build the skills base of individuals to optimize global virtual team working.

Deloitte has described this trend as ‘the rise of teams’. Many companies have already begun the move away from conventional functional structures – 92% of companies surveyed by Deloitte believe that redesigning the organization is ‘very important’ or ‘important’. Deloitte discovered that only 38% of all companies and 24% of large companies with more than 50,000 employees are organized function by function.

However, key to the success of contemporary, agile ways of working is ensuring that individual employees have the necessary skills for flexible working across borders.

Learning Portals – Transforming the learner’s experience

The term “learning portal” is used liberally in the training industry, but what does it really mean?

By common definition, a portal is described as a gateway, doorway or entrance. Likewise, in computing it generally refers to a website that provides links or gateways to other websites. This idea affords businesses with the opportunity to consolidate relevant learning resources and tools into one location to accomplish a specific business or learning goal.

So, how is a portal different from a Learning Management System (LMS)? It’s a fair question with a fuzzy answer.

LMS’ such as NetDimensions Talent Suite are highly configurable and are capable of providing a portal-like experience using out-of-the-box functionality. However, organizations commonly configure their LMS as a one-size-fits-all solution to provide a superset of content and tools for many people within the organization, and covering many different subject areas.

A custom portal, on the other hand, provides a learning experience that targets a specific business goal, audience or subject area to deliver a focused, holistic learning solution. Today, we see that businesses are developing portals for multiple subject areas, including:

  • New hire onboarding
  • Sales training
  • Service training
  • Manufacturing training
  • Compliance or technical training
  • Extended enterprise and more

 

So what’s the big deal?

Gamification: Putting Play into Learning & Development

Just about every adult has a memory of childhood competition. From the playground to the sports field to the arcade, we enjoyed besting our friends or boasting about our accomplishments.

Now as adults, we are faced with the challenges of our careers, trying to keep pace with an ever changing informational world and completing required training to meet those challenges. We attend seminars, watch webinars, sit in classes, or use online learning portals to take courses. But who says this has to be boring? Why not make the learning process fun?

Introducing gamification to the corporate learning process… just what our inner child needs.

For the uninitiated, gamification is the application of game-design elements to non-game contexts. You’ve probably already seen this all around you. After all, gamification elements work their way into our lives every day, ranging from achieving new levels on your Fitbit to earning Starbucks Stars for free drinks. The goal is to add elements of fun and reward by recognizing achievements and driving engagement and participation.

And that’s where gamification has the potential to make a significant impact on online training – because if we make it fun and offer elements that make learning more interesting, we encourage learners to be more engaged with the course content. And more importantly, the outcome that we can achieve is to meet our organizations’ strategic goals of having a well-trained workforce that meets our compliance requirements.

So, what are some ways that gamification can support your goals? Let’s take a look at a few learning and developing goals and some examples to demonstrate how we can apply gamification elements to them to improve learner engagement:

Goal: Motivate learners to be engaged and complete a curriculum
Gamification Opportunity: Provide rewards, badges or other incentives for completing the curriculum within a specific timeframe.

Goal: Measuring a learner’s understanding of a specific procedure
Gamification Opportunity: Create a mapping activity around the procedure and award points towards completing correctly in a certain timeframe.

Goal: Make content more engaging
Gamification Opportunity: Create gaming elements such as levels or challenges to encourage learners to move through the content to completion.

Goal: Encourage certification and skill qualification
Gamification Opportunity: Tie certifications to rewards, post individual and group results, make the process competitive with leaderboards and visible comparisons.

Goal: Encourage timely course completion
Gamification Opportunity: Award points for completing the course within certain timeline and points for correctly answering timed questions inside the course.

The key is to rethink both the structure and content of your learning and build these elements into your online learning and training programs. Gamification does not have to mean a full overhaul of a course, rather adding gaming elements to existing content to achieve higher levels of engagement. As these examples demonstrate, it can be as simple as adding a time element to a quiz or knowledge check!

And while we may no longer be running around our childhood playgrounds, we will be creating a fun environment that engages learners and helps them achieve their goals.

For more about Gamification and its potential for learning and development, download our white paper “Gamification – Does it have a place in your L&D Content Development.”

Five Lessons in Mobile Learning

Last week I attended mLearnCon 2011 in San Jose, CA.  mLearnCon is a growing and dynamic event by the eLearning Guild that’s focused on Mobile Learning with a mixed audience of technologists, educators, analysts, corporate L&D professionals, training & courseware providers, and technology vendors (typically for authoring tools, mobile delivery platforms, LCMSs, and LMSs).  This year some really good points came up that reinforce what we have learned the hard way via our own (and our clients’) experiences in implementing mobile learning.  I felt it might be worth recapping here.

  1. What is mLearning? It might sound surprising that there is no clear commonly agreed upon definition of Mobile Learning.  Does it include learning on laptops or not?  Does it imply Internet connectivity?  Does it apply if the experience is not mobile per se?  Does it have to involve some level of collaboration among learners?  Personally, I am not surprised there is no single definition for all.  Because what is becoming clear is that Mobile Learning really means different things to different people (depending on objectives, needs, scope, constraints, resources, and more).Now, as a side note, if you ask me about what definition I feel closer to, I will choose something that approaches mobility from the learner’s point of view and not from a technological perspective; for example the definition in the MOBIlearn Guidelines report that considers mobile learning “… any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technology.”
  2. mLearning is not eLearning on a smartphone. Ok, everyone seems to agree that if you take eLearning and squeeze it to fit the dimensions and resolution of a mobile device is probably not the way to go. And we know enough now to avoid the early eLearning mistakes. Yes?  Right, so why are most conversations focusing on how to make Powerpoint flash content run on iPad?  Is this even the right approach?  On the other hand, what about all this eLearning content that has (finally & successfully) been developed?  Can we port it to mobile?  Should we? According to an excellent study by Bryan Chapman, the average cost of creating an hour of interactive eLearning is $18,500 which can rise to $50,000 with more advanced interactivity. So, how do you justify the ROI moving to mobile learning while protecting this eLearning investment? I think there is a real business challenge here.
  3. It’s the learner, stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but I am seeing that most conversation revolve around devices and platforms instead of the learner.  With mobile, we have an opportunity to design technologies and solutions that put the learner in the center of the learning experience.  An experience that includes content, activities, and people, along with the ability to access and administer all these in an intuitive, if not seamless, way.  The simplest way to do this is by meeting the learners where they are, whenever they need it, and with whatever approach is most effective for the particular situation.  We also have the know-how to do all that while addressing key business drivers like supporting an increasingly mobile workforce, improving on-the-job performance, increasing the impact of corporate L&D programs, and developing a new generation of talent.
  4. mLearning is an evolution, not a revolution. This is what our clients have really taught us.  You need to think big about mobile, but start small.  Take an objective, a program, a specific group mobile and work hard to make sure the undertaking is successful.  It’s always worth listening to your own audience to see what their needs and particular situations are, and hence what makes sense to go mobile.  And always link mobile learning to your overall learning and talent strategy, because that’s where the value lies.
  5. There is no silver bullet in mLearning. No matter what vendors say, there is no single solution for all.  We are dealing with such a diverse ecosystem of technologies and business situations that we need to be thinking along the lines of multiple solution approaches.  And, I would suggest let’s not take innovation out of the way we think about mLearning.  I think there are great things to achieve in front of us, so let’s not make the mistakes of the past.