E-learning Professionals in the Learner’s Seat

November 16, 2011

Those of us involved in preparing and providing e-learning opportunities are also pretty happy consumers of learning opportunities, Patti Shank confirms in her latest report for the eLearning Guild (eLearning Degrees and Credentials: Needs of the eLearning Professional, published in August 2011 and available online free of charge to Guild members).

Reporting on responses from more than 500 Guild members, Shank tells us that four out of five respondents recommended the academic and certification programs they have pursued or are pursuing, and “[t]he vast majority of the respondents were happy with their programs” (p. 15).

In the larger context of her topic, Shank leads us through the needs and motivations of e-learning designers and providers; calls our attention to certification programs including ASTD’s Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation and others; and looks at current and desired job responsibilities for those pursuing degrees and certifications.

“One of the major conclusions of this report is that both credentials and skills are important to respondents,” she writes (p. 21), with the additional warning that “If you’re complaining that people are talking about technologies that you think couldn’t possibly be used for learning and don’t know the lingo that others are using, you’re in the danger zone. That’s not a good place to be for eLearning professionals.”

The motivations are clear: nearly a third of the respondents work in instructional design and want to advance their careers in instructional/educational technology, while another third of the respondents listed instructional design as an area of study. A much smaller group works in instruction/teaching/training/coaching (14%), and only 10% of the respondents listed instruction/teaching/training/coaching as a desired job responsibility—less than the 15% who said they “desire to be Independent Consultants or Executive Management” (p. 8).

Shank offers the useful reminder that “you’re unlikely to learn everything in the eLearning field in one degree program. Many people attend multiple programs, such as obtaining a Master’s degree and a Certificate of Skills, for this exact reason” (p. 10). And she warns that “keeping their skills fresh is a moving target” (p. 10).

Which, of course, reinforces for so many of us the idea that we need to see ourselves as trainer-teacher-learners if we want not only to keep up with those who rely on us for continuing education, but also if we want to excel at what we do in a world where those who take a break are liable to find ourselves facing an even steeper learning curve than we would if we simply incorporated all three elements of our work into our day-to-day routines.


Reports from the Field: “Getting Started With e-Learning 2.0”

February 6, 2011

To move beyond the common practice of seeing e-learning as little more than a way to save money in workplace learning and performance (training) programs, we need go no further than Patti Shank’s “Getting Started with e-Learning 2.0,” a first-rate report published by the eLearning Guild in late 2010.

Drawing from survey responses submitted by more than 850 Guild members—professionals working in e-learning—the report provides an intriguing snapshot of how social media tools are—or aren’t—being used in online learning and, more importantly, provides information about the “top five strategies that respondents feel they need for success with e-Learning 2.0 approaches”: “good content, upper management endorsement, user assistance, piloting, and testimonials” (p. 4).

We know from the beginning of this Guild publication that we’re among colleagues interested in learning. In talking about the increasing tendency to incorporate social networking tools including wikis, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and Diigo, and others into online learning opportunities, the writer asks and answers a basic question—“Are these good learning opportunities? You betcha!” (p. 6)—and then delivers a cohesive and easy-to-follow summary of the eLearning Guild survey documentation supporting her conclusion.

The good news for trainers, teachers, and learners is that “social media has become a very big deal” and that its use is continuing to increase rapidly (p. 8). The not-so-good news is that most respondents “don’t feel a great deal of pressure to implement these approaches” (p. 14) and “more than 25% of respondents are making only limited use of e-Learning 2.0 approaches or researching how other organizations are using it” (p. 4).

This is hardly breaking news to those of us who enjoy and are involved in onsite and online education: there are still so many poorly organized and poorly presented workplace learning and performance offerings that it’s not surprising to find skeptical rather than enthusiastic presenters and learners. It also remains true that those trying their first webinar or online course are unlikely to give the medium a second chance if what they face is poorly designed PowerPoint presentations and sessions that lack the levels of engagement that lead to effective learning and the positive change that should follow.

Shank provides concise descriptions and suggested applications for blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, and other aspects of social networking that are becoming part of our online learning toolkit. She also offers useful sections on learning benefits (the fact that learning is socially grounded, so social networking tools are a natural match for the learning process—p. 26), challenges (managers and supervisors who see social networking tools as detracting from rather than adding to the value of their training programs and overall ability to conduct business—pp. 26-30), and results (sharing ideas across departments, improving team collaboration, increasing creativity and problem-solving—p. 31).

Three pages of online references and a two-page glossary round out this useful and learning-centric report, leaving us not only with encouragement about the positive impact e-learning is having, but also with sobering thoughts about how much more there is to accomplish before we have reached our—and its—full potential.

Next: ASTD’s Most Recent “State of the Industry” Report


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