Posts

Today, Ulrich Boser released an updated paperback version of his book, Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School… It is available on Amazon (make sure you get the paperback version).

Ulrich does good work and his book has been hailed by Walter Isaacson as “Alternately humorous, surprising, and profound,” and by Amazon Editors as one of the Best Science Books of the Year.

You can learn more about Ulrich’s work at his website.

 

A huge fiery debate rages in the learning field.

 

What do we call ourselves? Are we instructional designers, learning designers, learning experience designers, learning engineers, etc.? This is an important question, of course, because words matter. But it is also a big freakin’ waste of time, so today, I’m going to end the debate! From now on we will call ourselves by one name. We will never debate this again. We will spend our valuable time on more important matters. You will thank me later! Probably after I am dead.

How do I know the name I propose is the best name? I just know. And you will know it too when you hear the simple brilliance of it.

How do I know the name I propose is the best name? Because Jim Kirkpatrick and I are in almost complete agreement on this, and, well, we have a rocky history.

How do I know the name I propose is the best name? Because it’s NOT the new stylish name everybody’s now printing on their business cards and sharing on LinkedIn. That name is a disaster, as I will explain.

The Most Popular Contenders

I will now list each of the major contenders for what we should call ourselves and then thoroughly eviscerate each one.

Instructional Designer

This is the traditional moniker—used for decades. I have called myself an instructional designer and felt good about it. The term has the benefit of being widely known in our field but it has severe deficiencies. First, if you’re at a party and you tell people you’re an instructional designer, they’re likely to hear “structural designer” or “something-something designer” and think you’re an engineer or a new-age guru who has inhaled too much incense. Second, our job is NOT to create instruction, but to help people learn. Third, our job is NOT ONLY to create instruction to help people learn, but to also create, nurture, or enable contexts that help people learn. Instructional designer is traditional, but not precise. It sends the wrong message. We should discard it.

Learning Designer

This is not bad. It’s my second choice. But it suffers from being too vanilla, too plain, too much lacking in energy. More problematic is that it conveys the notion that we can control learning. We cannot design learning! We can only create or influence situations and materials and messages that enable learning and mathemagenic processes—that is, cognitive processes that give rise to learning. We must discard this label too.

Learning Engineer

This seems reasonable at first glance. We might think our job is to engineer learning—to take the science and technology of learning and use it to blueprint learning interventions. But this is NOT our job. Again, we don’t control learning. We can’t control learning. We can just enable it. Yes! The same argument against “designing learning” can be used against “engineering learning.” We must also reject the learning engineering label because there are a bunch of crazed technology evangelists running around advocating for learning engineering who think that big data and artificial intelligence is going to solve all the problems of the learning profession. While it is true that data will help support learning efforts, we are more likely to make a mess of this by focusing on what is easy to measure and not on what is important and difficult to measure. We must reject this label too!

Learning Experience Designer

This new label is the HOT new label in our field, but it’s a disastrous turn backward! Is that who we are—designers of experiences? Look, I get it. It seems good on the surface. It overcomes the problem of control. If we design experiences, we rightly admit that we are not able to control learning but can only enable it through learning experiences. That’s good as far as it goes. But is that all there is? NO DAMMIT! It’s a freakin’ cop-out, probably generated and supported by learning-technology platform vendors to help sell their wares! What the hell are we thinking? Isn’t it our responsibility to do more than design experiences? We’re supposed to do everything we can to use learning as a tool to create benefits. We want to help people perform better! We want to help organizations get better results! We want to create benefits that ripple through our learners’ lives and through networks of humanity. Is it okay to just create experiences and be happy with that? If you think so, I wish to hell you’d get out of the learning profession and cast your lack of passion and your incompetence into a field that doesn’t matter as much as learning! Yes! This is that serious!

As learning professionals we need to create experiences, but we also need to influence or create the conditions where our learners are motivated and resourced and supported in applying their learning. We need to utilize learning factors that enable remembering. We need to create knowledge repositories and prompting mechanisms like job aids and performance support. We need to work to create organizational cultures and habits of work that enable learning. We need to support creative thinking so people have insights that they otherwise wouldn’t have. We also must create learning-evaluation systems that give us feedback so we can create cycles of continuous improvement. If we’re just creating experiences, we are in the darkest and most dangerous depths of denial. We must reject this label and immediately erase the term “Learning Experience Designer” from our email signatures, business cards, and LinkedIn profiles!

The Best Moniker for us as Learning Professionals

First, let me say that there are many roles for us learning professionals. I’ve been talking about the overarching design/development role, but there are also trainers, instructors, teachers, professors, lecturers, facilitators, graphic designers, elearning developers, evaluators, database managers, technologists, programmers, LMS technicians, supervisors, team leaders, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Acknowledged!!! Now let me continue. Thanks!

A month ago, Mirjam Neelen reached out to me because she is writing a book on how to use the science of learning in our role as learning professionals. She’s doing this with another brilliant research-to-practice advocate, the learning researcher Paul Kirschner, following from their blog, 3-Star Learning. Anyway, Mirjam asked me what recommendation I might have for what we call ourselves. It was a good question, and I gave her my answer.

I gave her THE answer. I’m not sure she agreed and she and Paul and their publisher probably have to negotiate a bit, but regardless, I came away from my discussions with Mirjam convinced that the learning god had spoken to me and asked me to share the good word with you. I will now end this debate. The label we should use instead of the others is Learning Architect. This is who we are! This is who we should be!

Let’s think about what architects do—architects in the traditional sense. They study human nature and human needs, as well as the science and technology of construction, and use that knowledge/wisdom to create buildings that enable us human beings to live well. Architects blueprint the plans—practical plans—for how to build the building and then they support the people who actually construct the buildings to ensure that the building’s features will work as well as possible. After the building is finished, the people in the buildings lead their lives under the influence of the building’s design features. The best architects then assess the outcomes of those design features and suggest modifications and improvements to meet the goals and needs of the inhabitants.

We aspire to be like architects. We don’t control learning, but we’d like to influence it. We’d like to motivate our learners to engage in learning and to apply what they’ve learned. We’d like to support our learners in remembering. We’d like to help them overcome obstacles. We’d like to put structures in place to enable a culture of learning, to give learners support and resources, to keep learners focused on applying what they’ve learned. We’d like to support teams and supervisors in their roles of enabling learning. We’d like to measure learning to get feedback on learning so that we can improve learning and troubleshoot if our learners are having problems using what we’ve created or applying what they’ve learned.

We are learning architects so let’s start calling ourselves by that name!

But Isn’t “Architect” a Protected Name?

Christy Tucker (thanks Christy!) raised an important concern in the comments below, and her concern was echoed by Sean Rea and Brett Christensen. The term “architect” is a protected term, which you can read about on Wikipedia. Architects rightly want to protect their professional reputation and keep their fees high, protected from competition from people with less education, experience, and competence.

But, to my non-legal mind, this is completely irrelevant to our discussion. When we add an adjective, the name is a different name. It’s not legal to call yourself a doctor if you’re not a doctor, but it’s okay to call yourself the computer doctor, the window doctor, the cakemix doctor, the toilet doctor, or the LMS doctor.

While the term “architect” is protected, putting an adjective in front of the name changes everything. A search of LinkedIn for “data architects” lists 57,624 of them. A search of “software architect” finds 172,998. There are 3,110 “performance architects,” 24 “justice architects,” and 178 “sustainability architects.”

Already on LinkedIn, 2,396 people call themselves “learning architects.”

Searching DuckDuckGo, some of the top results were consultants calling themselves learning architects from the UK, New Zealand, Australia. LinkedIn says there are almost 10,000 learning architecture jobs in the United States.

This is a non-issue. First, adding the adjective changes the name legally. Second, even if it didn’t, there is no way that architect credentialing bodies are going to take legal action against the hundreds of thousands of people using the word “architect” with an adjective. I say this, of course, not as a lawyer—and you should not rely on my advice as legal advice.

But still, this has every appearance of being a non-issue and we learning professionals should not be so meek as to shy away from using the term learning architect.

I was listening to a podcast last week that interviewed Jim Kirkpatrick. I like to listen to what Jim and Wendy have to say because many people I speak with in my work doing learning evaluation are influenced by what they say and write. As you probably know, I think the Kirkpatrick-Katzell Four-Level Model causes more harm then good, but I like to listen and learn things from the Kirkpatrick’s even though I never hear them sharing ideas that are critical of their models and teachings. Yes! I’m offering constructive criticism! Anyway, I was listening to the podcast and agreeing with most of what Jim was saying when he mentioned that what we ought to call ourselves is, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it: “Learning-and-Performance Architects!” Did I mention that I just love Jim Kirkpatrick! Jim and I are in complete agreement on this. I’ll quibble in that the name Learning-and-Performance Architect is too long, but I agree with the sentiment that we ought to see performance as part of our responsibility.

So I did some internet searching this week for the term “Learning Architect.” I found a job at IBM with that title, estimated by Glassdoor to pay between $104,000 and $146,000, and I think I’m going to apply for that job as this consulting thing is kind of difficult these days, especially having to write incisive witty profound historic blog posts for no money and no fame.

I also found a podcast by the eLearning Coach Connie Malamed on her excellent podcast where she reviews a book by the brilliant and provocative Clive Shepherd with the title, The New Learning Architect. It was published in 2011 and now has an updated 2016 edition. Interestingly, in a post from just this year in 2019, Clive is much less demonstrative about advocating for the term Learning Architect, and casually mentions that Learning Solutions Designer is a possibility before rejecting it because of the acronym LSD. I will reject it because designing solutions may give some the idea that we are designing things, when we need to design more than tangible objects.

In searching the internet, I also found three consultants or group of consultants calling themselves learning architects. I also searched LinkedIn and found that the amazing Tom Kuhlmann has been Vice President of Community at Articulate for 12 years but added the title of Chief Learning Architect four years and eight months ago. I know Tom’s great because of our personal conversations in London and because he’s always sharing news of my good works to the Articulate community (you are, right? Tom?), but most importantly because on Tom’s LinkedIn page one of the world’s top entrepreneurs offered a testimonial that Tom improved his visual presentations by 12.9472%. You can’t make this stuff up, not even if you’re a learning experience designer high on LSD!

Clearly, this Learning Architect idea is not a new thing! But I have it on good authority that now here today, May 24, 2019, we are all learning architects!

Here are two visual representations I sent to Mirjam to help convey the breadth and depth of what a Learning Architect should do:

 

I offer these to encourage reflection and discussion. They were admittedly a rather quick creation, so certainly, they must have blind spots.

Feel free to discuss below or elsewhere the ideas discussed in this article.

And go out and be the best learning architect you can be!

I have it on good authority that you will be…

 

 

 

I’m trying to develop a taxonomy for types of learning. I’ve been working on this for several years, but I want to get one more round of feedback to see if I’m missing anything. Please provide your feedback below or contact me directly.

Types of Learning (Proposed Taxonomy)

SHORT LEARNING

  • READ AND ACKNOWLEDGE (rules, regulations, or policies)
  • WEBINAR (90 minutes or less)
  • DISCUSSION-BASED LEARNING (not training, but more of a discussion to enable learning)

TRADITIONAL GUIDED LEARNING

  • CLASSROOM LEARNING (where an instructor/facilitator leads classroom activities)
  • LIVE-FACILITATED ELEARNING (eLearning facilitated and/or presented by a live person; more involved than a basic webinar)
  • SEMI-FACILITATED ELEARNING (eLearning periodically facilitated by an instructor or learning leader as learning takes place over time)
  • NON-FACILITATED ELEARNING (where materials are presented/available, but no person is actively guiding the learning)

LEARNING OVER TIME

  • SELF-STUDY LEARNING (learners provided materials that they largely learn from on their own)
  • SUBSCRIPTION LEARNING (short nuggets delivered over a week or more)

PRACTICE-BASED LEARNING

  • SKILL-PRACTICE (where focus is on improving based on practicing, not on learning lots of new information)
  • ACTION LEARNING (involving both training and on-the-job experiences designed to support learning)
  • APPRENTICESHIP (where people learn by working under the close guidance of more-experienced others)
  • MENTORSHIP, INTERNSHIP, COACHING, SUPERVISION (where a person gets periodic feedback and guidance to elicit learning)

MISCELLANEOUS LEARNING

  • ONBOARDING (where people are introduced to a new organization, unit, or job role)
  • TEAM LEARNING (where groups of people plan and organize themselves to intentionally learn from each other)

Dani Johnson at RedThread Research has just released a wonderful synopsis of Learning Evaluation Models. Comprehensive, Thoughtful, Well-Researched! It also has suggestions of articles to read!!!

This work is part of an ongoing effort to research the learning-evaluation space. With research sponsored by the folks at the adroit learning-evaluation company forMetris, RedThread is looking to uncover new insights about the way we do workplace learning evaluation.

Here’s what Dani says in her summary:

“What we hoped to see in the literature were new ideas – different ways of defining impact for the different conditions we find ourselves in. And while we did see some, the majority of what we read can be described as same. Same trends and themes based on the same models with little variation.”

 

“While we do not disparage any of the great work that has been done in the area of learning measurement and evaluation, many of the models and constructs are over 50 years old, and many of the ideas are equally as old.

On the whole, the literature on learning measurement and evaluation failed to take into account that the world has shifted – from the attitudes of our employees to the tools available to develop them to the opportunities we have to measure. Many articles focused on shoe-horning many of the new challenges L&D functions face into old constructs and models.”

 

“Of the literature we reviewed, several pieces stood out to us. Each of the following authors [detailed in the summary] and their work contained information that we found useful and mind-changing. We learned from their perspectives and encourage you to do the same.”

 

I also encourage you to look at this great review! You can see the summary here.

 

 

Donald Taylor, learning-industry visionary, has just come out with his annual Global Sentiment Survey asking practitioners in the field what topics are the most important right now. The thing that struck me is that the results show that data is becoming more and more important to people, especially as represented in adaptive learning through personalization, artificial intelligence, and learning analytics.

Learning analytics was most important category for the opinion leaders represented in social media. This seems right to me as someone who will be focused mostly on learning evaluation in 2019.

As Don said in the GoodPractice podcast with Ross Dickie and Owen Ferguson, “We don’t have to prove. We have to improve through learning analytics.”

What I love about Don Taylor’s work here is that he’s clear as sunshine about the strengths and limitations of this survey—and, most importantly, that he takes the time to explain what things mean without over-hyping and slight-of-hand. It’s a really simple survey, but the results are fascinating—not necessarily about what we should be doing, but what people in our field think we should be paying attention to. This kind of information is critical to all of us who might need to persuade our teams and stakeholders on how we can be most effective in our learning interventions.

Other findings:

  • Businessy-stuff fell in rated importance, for example, “consulting more deeply in the business,” “showing value,” and “developing the L&D function.”
  • Neuroscience/Cognitive Science fell in importance (most likely I think because some folks have been debunking the neuroscience-and-learning connections). And note: These should not be one category really, especially given that people in the know know that cognitive science, or more generally learning research, has shown to have proven value. Neuroscience not so much.
  • Mobile delivery and artificial intelligence were to two biggest gainers in terms of popularity.
  • Very intriguing that people active on social media (perhaps thought leaders, perhaps the opinionated mob) have different views that a more general population of workplace learning professionals. There is an interesting analysis in the book and a nice discussion in the podcast mentioned above.

For those interested in Don Taylor’s work, check out his website.

 

For years, we have used the Kirkpatrick-Katzell Four-Level Model to evaluate workplace learning. With this taxonomy as our guide, we have concluded that the most common form of learning evaluation is learner surveys, that the next most common evaluation is learning, then on-the-job behavior, then organizational results.

The truth is more complicated.

In some recent research I led with the eLearning Guild and Jane Bozarth, we used the LTEM model to look for further differentiation. We found it.

Here’s some of the insights from the graphic above:

  • Learner surveys are NOT the most common form of learning evaluation. Program completion and attendance are more common, being done on most training programs in about 83% of organizations.
  • Learners surveys are still very popular, with 72% of respondents saying that they are used in more than one-third of their learning programs.
  • When we measure learning, we go beyond simple quizzes and knowledge checks.
    • Tier 5 assessments, measuring the ability to make realistic decisions, were reported by 24% of respondents to be used in more than one-third of their learning programs.
    • Tier 6 assessments, measuring realistic task performance (during learning), were reported by about 32% of respondents to be used in more than one-third of their learning programs.
    • Unfortunately, we messed up and forgot to include an option on Tier 4 Knowledge questions. However, previous eLearning Guild research in the 2007, 2008, and 2010 found that the percentage of respondents who reported that they measured memory recall of critical information was 60%, 60%, and 63% respectively.
  • Only about 20% of respondents said their organizations are measuring work performance.
  • Only about 16% of respondents said their organizations are measuring the organizational results from learning.
  • Interestingly, where the Four-Level Model puts all types of Results into one bucket, the LTEM framework encourages us to look at other results besides business results.
    • About 12% said their organizations were looking at the effect of the learning on the learner’s success and well-being.
    • Only about 3% said they were measuring the effects of learning on coworkers/family/friends.
    • Only about 3% said they were measuring the effects of learning on the community or society (as has been recommended by Roger Kaufman for years).
    • Only about 1% reported measuring the effects of learning on the environs.

 

Opportunities

The biggest opportunity—or the juiciest low-hanging fruit—is that we can stop just using Tier-1 attendance and Tier-3 learner-perception measures.

We can also begin to go beyond our 60%-rate in measuring Tier-4 knowledge and do more Tier-5 and Tier-6 assessments. As I’ve advocated for years, Tier-5 assessments using well-constructed scenario-based questions are the perfect balance of power and cost. They are aligned with the research on learning, they have moderate costs in terms of resources, and learners see them as challenging and interesting rather than punitive and unhelpful like they often see knowledge checks.

We can also begin to emphasize more Tier-7 evaluations. Shouldn’t we know whether our learning interventions are actually transferring to the workplace? The same is true for Tier-8 measures. We should look for strategic opportunities here—being mindful to the incredible costs of doing good Tier-8 evaluations. We should also consider looking beyond business results—as these are not the only effects our learning interventions are having.

Finally, we can use LTEM to help guide our learning-development efforts and our learning evaluations. By using LTEM, we are prompted to see things that have been hidden from us for decades.

 

The Original eLearning Guild Report

To get the original eLearning Guild report, click here.

 

The LTEM Model

To get the LTEM Model and the 34-page report that goes with it, click here.

What do our most popular blog posts say about our field—the learning field?

A few months ago (in the last half of 2018), I reached out to bloggers in the learning field to find out. This blog post includes the numbers, wit, and wisdom from these bloggers. In addition to me, there are 18 other bloggers who generously shared their most popular blog posts.

I’m thrilled with the cross section of bloggers who are included here. We’ve got mega-bloggers (people who get over 25,000 people coming to their homepage each year, we’ve got medium bloggers, and we’ve got folks with small but passionate audiences. We’ve got some of the biggest names in the learning field. We’ve got folks focused on workplace learning and folks focused on education. We’ve got about an even split between men and women. Most of all, we have a group of folks bold and generous enough to share the reality of their blogs.

My Observations From the Results

I highly encourage you to peruse the contributions below. Each blogger shares his/her most popular blog post—the post that gets the most yearly visits—and reflects on what makes it so popular. They also share their feelings about why they’re blogging in the first place.

Some of the most popular posts are short. Some are long. Some are personal, even intimate. Some recount research with cold steely precision. Some have a negative slant, raging against poor practices. Some have a positive slant, reveling in the wonder of learning and service to others.

So what makes for a popular blog post in the learning field? Well, we have a relatively small and certainly not-fully representative sample, but the most important thing seems to be providing people with information that is perceived as valuable and/or unique. Some characteristics that seem especially important:

  • Answering important questions—questions that often get asked.
  • Providing definitive or research-based information.
  • Debunking myths or arguing against common traditional practices.
  • Providing a list of information.
  • Providing links where readers can learn more.
  • Introducing a creative or unique concept or idea.
  • Focusing on a topic of current popular interest.
  • There is a visual element to the blog post.
  • The topic is one likely to be assigned by university professors.
  • Timeless topics, because over time they engender lots of links.
  • Topics that help people do their work better.

These are some of the lesson learned from my reflections. You will probably see other things in the list of most popular blog posts. Please add your observations and conclusions in the comments below.

The bloggers are listed in random order below.

What the Blog Posts Say about the Learning Field

Our sample of bloggers offer thoughtful reflections on the practice of learning and development. It seems readers are hungry for useful, validated, and unique information—as long as it is presented in ways that are pithy, straightforward, and powerful.

To me, as a research-to-practice guy, I’m encouraged by the interest in evidence-based information and the number of people searching for information on learning myths. I’m also delighted that none of the most popular blog posts are advocating silly or harmful fads. This could be a result of the kinds of people likely to respond to a call to action from me, someone known for a certain perspective and approach. On the other hand, I did ask people to share the call-to-action widely and we did get quite a broad range of bloggers.

The most popular blog posts also suggest that blog readers in the learning field are looking for information that they can use right away—that add value and help them do their work.

Our readers also want unique perspectives. Not the same old thing. Some of the most popular posts talked about humble leadership, training ghettos, being human on social media, and digital body language—topics so compelling that readers can’t help but engage.

What do you think the list of most popular blog posts say about the learning field? Respond below! I’d love to hear multiple perspectives on this.

I got interested in the popularity of different blog posts because one of my blog posts is ridiculously more popular than my blog itself, regularly getting more than three times more traffic than my home page!! I’ll give you my stats first, and then share each blogger’s responses one at a time—shared in a random order.

Will Thalheimer

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Will’s Blog (formerly Will At Work Learning)

Blog Address:

https://www.worklearning.com/wills-blog/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

My blog is designed to share research-based practical wisdom with the workplace learning field and news and research of importance to those who follow my work. Focuses more and more on learning evaluation.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://www.worklearning.com/2006/05/01/people_remember/

What is the title of this blog post?

People remember 10%, 20%…Oh Really?

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

34,135

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

9,994

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

The post debunks the myth that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, etc. These numbers have often been associated with the learning pyramid and Edgar Dale’s Cone. This was my original blog post from 2006 and has been updated over the years.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

The myth is so widely shared and so many people have taken responsibility to debunk this myth on their own blogs and websites that lots of traffic gets pointed to this post as it was among the first warnings posted on the internet.

Mike Taylor

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Ask. Learn. Share.

Blog Address:

https://mike-taylor.org/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Share useful things from the intersection of learning, design, and technology.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://mike-taylor.org/2011/06/10/21-questions-to-ask-before-designing-any-training-program/

What is the title of this blog post?

21 Questions to ask before Designing Any Training Program

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

2,244

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

7,254

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

This page is just a collection of the most recent posts.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

I think this is a very key foundational idea for how to get started on any learning-related project.

Andrew Jacobs

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Lost and Desperate.

Blog Address:

https://lostanddesperate.com/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Writing about learning in a way which helps me reflect and tries to move the industry forward.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://lostanddesperate.com/2014/03/14/50-big-ideas-to-change-l-and-d/

What is the title of this blog post?

50 BIG IDEAS TO CHANGE L AND D

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

151

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

1,097

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

There are lots of ways you can develop your L&D offer that just need you to think a bit bigger.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

It’s aspirational, it’s practical, it’s a bit evangelical.

Jo Cook

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Lightbulb Moment Blog

Blog Address:

https://lightbulbmoment.info

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Virtual classroom and webinars, but also learning and development more broadly.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://lightbulbmoment.info/2018/04/04/what-is-digital-body-language/

What is the title of this blog post?

What is Digital Body Language?

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

704

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

6,189

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

That there is an online equivalent of body language for when delivering virtual classrooms.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

It’s a new concept on an area where people don’t have much experience or confidence.

Ryan Tracey

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

E-Learning Provocateur

Blog Address:

https://ryan2point0.wordpress.com

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

To provoke deeper thinking about digital learning in the corporate sector.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://ryan2point0.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/taxonomy-of-learning-theories/

What is the title of this blog post?

Taxonomy of Learning Theories

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

1,113

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

8,019

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

A brief overview of, and a proposed taxonomy for, key theories that apply to workplace learning.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

Because practitioners are confused by different theories and are uncertain as to how they apply to their role.

Wilfred Rubens

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

WilfredRubens.com over leren en ICT

Blog Address:

http://www.te-learning.nl/blog/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

I am very interested in how technology can enhance and facilitate learning. I use my blog to share information about technology enhanced learning.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://www.te-learning.nl/blog/voor-en-nadelen-gebruik-sociale-media-door-jongeren/

What is the title of this blog post?

Voor- en nadelen gebruik sociale media door jongeren

Translated into English by Google: Pros and cons of the use social media by young people

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

16,515

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

14,227

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Overview of pro’s and con’s of the use of social media by young people. People who are currently arguing in favour of ‘ban the media’ are gradually putting themselves outside social reality. It is better to focus on sensible use, using the possibilities of social media. That is more effective than fighting against windmills.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

Actual for more than ten years. Content is appealing. Food for thought. Well indexed by search engines.

Julie Drybrough

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

fuchsia blue blog

Blog Address:

https://fuchsiablueblog.wordpress.com

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

I write about organisational learning/ change/ culture as I see them. I write vignettes about my consultancy work and observation pieces about our profession/ field. I try to get folk thinking more deeply or oddly about what they do.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://fuchsiablueblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/the-power-of-humble-leadership/

What is the title of this blog post?

The Power of Humble Leadership

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

208

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

2,852

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Intro to fuchsia blue – about me etc

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

It’s the front-page when you hit the site, generally

Neil Von Heupt

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Divergent Learning

Blog Address:

https://divergentlearning.wordpress.com/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

I try to write things that will add value to those who might read them.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://divergentlearning.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/a-human-social-media-experiment/

What is the title of this blog post?

A human social media experiment

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

99

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

163

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Being human on social media

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

It had two things going for it – a trip down memory lane via childhood books, and a curated list of L&D reading material. And it was quite visual, so I guess that’s three!

Brett Christensen

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Workplace Performance

Blog Address:

https://workplaceperformanceblog.wordpress.com/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Promote the science of performance improvement.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://workplaceperformanceblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/needs-assessment-or-needs-analysis/

What is the title of this blog post?

Needs Assessment or Needs Analysis

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

521

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

3,577

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

There is a difference between needs assessment and needs analysis.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

Because it’s a common question and I hope I am writing in a way that connects with everyone.

Dennis Callahan

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Learnstreaming

Blog Address:

http://learnstreaming.com/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Sharing my thoughts on workplace learning.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://learnstreaming.com/learning-means-believing-in-yourself/

What is the title of this blog post?

Learning Means Believing in Yourself

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

4,440

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

Not Sure

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

To learn, you need to have confidence in yourself, You can do it!

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

With so much change and uncertainty, you are always the constant. Trust and believe in yourself and you can grow.

Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

3-Star Learning Experiences

Blog Address:

https://3starlearningexperiences.wordpress.com/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Our blog aims to present learning professionals with evidence-informed ideas on how to make both the instructional and the learning experience more effective, efficient, and enjoyable. We discuss fads & fallacies, we try to find nuance, and we provide our readers with concrete ideas on how to design 3-star learning experiences based on the evidence out there!

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://3starlearningexperiences.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/no-feedback-no-learning/

What is the title of this blog post?

No Feedback, No Learning

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

5,761

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

13,583

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

This blog discusses why feedback is critical for learning as well as different types of feedback for learning and how they hurt or support learning.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

I think people realize that feedback is one of the most, if not the most important tools for supporting learning. Giving effective feedback has also been found to be one of the most powerful educational interventions to improve learning. Effective feedback positively affects learning outcomes and motivation to learn, and can help build accurate schema.

Christy Tucker

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Experiencing E-Learning

Blog Address:

https://christytucker.wordpress.com

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Mostly instructional design for elearning, especially scenarios for workplace learning.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://christytucker.wordpress.com/2007/05/26/what-does-an-instructional-designer-do/

What is the title of this blog post?

No Feedback, No Learning

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

32,246

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

7,141

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

It’s my explanation of what instructional designers do, as a response to all the times I have had to explain my work to others

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

It answers a question people genuinely have (what is instructional design). It used to rank better in search engine results, but has dropped because the post is now over 10 years old.

Donald H Taylor

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Donald H Taylor

Blog Address:

http://donaldhtaylor.co.uk/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Share my thoughts on learning and performance at work.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://donaldhtaylor.co.uk/are-you-in-the-training-ghetto/

What is the title of this blog post?

Are you in the Training Ghetto?

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

Not Sure

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

Not Sure

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Many L&D departments run the risk of being sidelined as they fail to adapt to change at the same speed as the rest of the business.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

People recognise the issues involved, and can place themselves on the 2×2 grid I provide.

Matt Guyan

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Learn. Show. Repeat.

Blog Address:

http://www.mattguyan.com/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

To share what I’m learning as well as my thoughts about eLearning.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://www.mattguyan.com/letter-to-an-elearning-creator/

What is the title of this blog post?

Letter to an eLearning Creator

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

4,760

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

2,615

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

I was venting my frustration at many of the things that are wrong with eLearning!

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

People seemed to relate to it either as a developer or user.

Guy Wallace

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Pursuing Performance

Blog Address:

https://eppic.biz/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Share on the topics and tasks of performance-based ISD and Performance Improvement, and pay it forward, as my many mentors had done for me.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://eppic.biz/2012/03/26/the-big-5-in-human-personality-assessments-canoe/

What is the title of this blog post?

The Big 5 in Human Personality Assessments: CANOE

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

12,815

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

43,428

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Sharing a valid approach to personality assessments: The Big Five factors are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (common acronyms are OCEAN, NEOAC, or CANOE).

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

Those that become aware of the shortcoming of MBTI, DiSC, etc. in some uses within HR need something valid in its place.

Connie Malamed

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

The eLearning Coach

Blog Address:

http://theelearningcoach.com

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

My focus is on designing learning experiences in the workplace to support adult learners and to help them improve their performance at work. I try to cover topics related to this, such as instructional design, cognitive psychology, visual design and multimedia, technology-based learning, etc.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://theelearningcoach.com/learning/10-definitions-learning/

What is the title of this blog post?

10 Definitions of Learning

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

90,730

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

25,541

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

We all know that the human brain is immensely complex and still somewhat of a mystery. It follows then, that learning—a primary function of the brain—is understood in many different ways. Here are ten ways that learning can be described.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

I think the traffic is coming from any type of learning professional (IDers, teachers, professors, trainers) who are interested in the variety of ways to think about learning. They are trying to figure out what learning is or they have a philosophical interest. It could also be coming from students who need a definition for a paper they are writing.

Christopher Pappas

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

eLearning Industry

Blog Address:

https://elearningindustry.com

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

The best collection of eLearning articles, eLearning concepts, eLearning software, and eLearning resources.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

https://elearningindustry.com/the-20-best-learning-management-systems

What is the title of this blog post?

The 20 Best Learning Management Systems (2018 Update)

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

151,345

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

288,334

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Choosing the right Learning Management System for the deployment of your eLearning courses might seem a daunting task. Care to find out about the best Learning Management Systems the eLearning industry has to offer? In this article, I’ll present a list of the 20 best Learning Management Systems for all needs and budgets.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

There are many organization that are looking to find or replace their Learning Management System. They are interested to read what eLearning Industry has to offer.

Michelle Ockers

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

It doesn’t have a name.

Blog Address:

http://michelleockers.com/blog/

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

(1) Thought leadership – opinions on role and future of L&D. Increasingly targeted at business leaders. (2) Daily dispatches – Narrating my work (term from Austin Kleon) http://michelleockers.com/daily-dispatches/.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://michelleockers.com/mo-blog/how-we-modernised-our-learning-and-development-model-mindset-and-capabilities/

What is the title of this blog post?

How We Modernised our Learning and Development Model, Mindset and Capabilities

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

Not Sure

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

Not Sure

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

Modernisation of L&D practices, mindset and capability.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

Case study. Tips.

Tracy Schiffmann

What is the name of your blog? (NOT YOUR URL)

Brain-Based and Trauma-Informed Teaching

Blog Address:

http://www.tracyschiffmann.com

What do you try to do in your blog? What’s your focus, goal, or slant?

Support teachers and trainers in working more effectively with trauma-impacted adult learners.

What is the URL of your most visited blog post?

http://tracy-schiffmann.squarespace.com/blog/2016/12/17/10-trauma-informed-classroom-strategies-for-navigating-behavior-emergencies

What is the title of this blog post?

10 Trauma-Informed Classroom Strategies for Navigating Classroom Behavior Emergencies

How many page views FOR THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST in the last 12 MONTHS?

429

How many page views FOR YOUR BLOG’S HOME PAGE in the last 12 MONTHS?

66

What is the gist or main message of THIS blog post?

I introduce 10 practical strategies for responding to challenging classroom behavior that may be a result of trauma-impact. I then share a true story from my teaching experience and demonstrate how the strategies were used to respond to the upset adult learner.

Why do you think this post is so popular with your readers?

I have many readers who teach trauma-impacted adult learners in prisons, jails, community-based organizations, and community colleges. They see the impact of trauma on both behavior and on their student’s ability to learn. Institutionalized racism, natural disasters, bullying, childhood abuse, and even the current political climate are traumatizing.

My Year In Review 2018—Engineering the Future of Learning Evaluation

In 2018, I shattered my collarbone and lay wasting for several months, but still, I think I had one of my best years in terms of the contributions I was able to make. This will certainly sound like hubris, and surely it is, but I can’t help but think that 2018 may go down as one of the most important years in learning evaluation’s long history. At the end of this post, I will get to my failures and regrets, but first I’d like to share just how consequential this year was in my thinking and work in learning evaluation.

It started in January when I published a decisive piece of investigative journalism showing that Donald Kirkpatrick was NOT the originator of the four-level model; that another man, Raymond Katzell, has deserved that honor all along. In February, I published a new evaluation model, LTEM (The Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model)—intended to replace the weak and harmful Kirkpatrick-Katzell Four-Level Model. Already, doctoral students are studying LTEM and organizations around the world are using LTEM to build more effective learning-evaluation strategies.

Publishing these two groundbreaking efforts would have made a great year, but because I still have so much to learn about evaluation, I was very active in exploring our practices—looking for their strengths and weaknesses. I led two research efforts (one with the eLearning Guild and one with my own organization, Work-Learning Research). The Guild research surveyed people like you and your learning-professional colleagues on their general evaluation practices. The Work-Learning Research effort focused specifically on our experiences as practitioners in surveying our learners for their feedback.

Also in 2018, I compiled and published a list of 54 common mistakes that get made in learning evaluation. I wrote an article on how to think about our business stakeholders in learning evaluation. I wrote a post on one of the biggest lies in learning evaluation—how we fool ourselves into thinking that learner feedback gives us definitive data on learning transfer and organizational results. It does not! I created a replacement for the problematic Net Promoter Score. I shared my updated smile-sheet questions, improving those originally put forth in my award winning book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets. You can access all these publications below.

In my 2018 keynotes, conference sessions, and workshops, I recounted our decades-long frustrations in learning evaluation. We are clearly not happy with what we’ve been able to do in terms of learning evaluation. There are two reasons for this. First, learning evaluation is very complex and difficult to accomplish—doubly so given our severe resource constraints in terms of both budget and time. Second, our learning-evaluation tools are mostly substandard—enabling us to create vanity metrics but not enabling us to capture data in ways that help us, as learning professionals, make our most important decisions.

In 2019, I will continue my work in learning evaluation. I still have so much to unravel. If you see a bit of wisdom related to learning evaluation, please let me know.

Will’s Top Fifteen Publications for 2018

Let me provide a quick review of the top things I wrote this year:

  1. LTEM (The Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model)
    Although published by me in 2018, the model and accompanying 34-page report originated in work begun in 2016 and through the generous and brilliant feedback I received from Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, Roy Pollock, Adam Neaman, Yvon Dalat, Emma Weber, Scott Weersing, Mark Jenkins, Ingrid Guerra-Lopez, Rob Brinkerhoff, Trudy Mandeville, and Mike Rustici—as well as from attendees in the 2017 ISPI Design-Thinking conference and the 2018 Learning Technologies conference in London. LTEM is designed to replace the Kirkpatrick-Katzell Four-Level Model originally formulated in the 1950s. You can learn about the new model by clicking here.
  2. Raymond Katzell NOT Donald Kirkpatrick
    Raymond Katzell originated the Four-Level Model. Although Donald Kirkpatrick embraced accolades for the Four-Level Model, it turns out that Raymond Katzell was the true originator. I did an exhaustive investigation and offered a balanced interpretation of the facts. You can read the original piece by clicking here. Interestingly, none of our trade associations have reported on this finding. Why is that? LOL
  3. When Training Pollutes. Our Responsibility to Lessen the Environmental Damage of Training
    I wrote an article and placed it on LinkedIn and as far as I can tell, very few of us really want to think about this. But you can get started by reading the article (by clicking here).
  4. Fifty-Four Mistakes in Learning Evaluation
    Of course we as an industry make mistakes in learning evaluation, but who knew we made so many? I began compiling the list because I’d seen a good number of poor practices and false narratives about what is important in learning evaluation, but by the time I’d gotten my full list I was a bit dumbstruck by the magnitude of problem. I’ve come to believe that we are still in the dark ages of learning evaluation and we need a renaissance. This article will give you some targets for improvements. Click here to read it.
  5. New Research on Learning Evaluation — Conducted with The eLearning Guild
    The eLearning Guild and Dr. Jane Bozarth (the Guild’s Director of Research) asked me to lead a research effort to determine what practitioners in the learning/elearning field are thinking and doing in terms of learning evaluation. In a major report released about a month ago, we reveal findings on how people feel about the learning measurement they are able to do, the support they get from their organizations, and their feelings about their current level of evaluation competence. You can read a blog post I wrote highlighting one result from the report—that a full 40% of us are unhappy with what we are able to do in terms of learning evaluation. You can access the full report here (if you’re a Guild member) and an executive summary. Also, stay tuned to my blog or signup for my newsletter to see future posts about our findings.
  6. Current Practices in Gathering Learner Feedback
    We at Work-Learning Research, Inc. conducted a survey focused on gathering learner feedback (i.e., smile sheets, reaction forms, learner surveys) that spanned 2017 and 2018. Since the publication of my book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form, I’ve spent a ton of time helping organizations build more effective learner surveys and gauging common practices in the workplace learning field. This research survey continued that work. To read my exhaustive report, click here.
  7. One of the Biggest Lies in Learning Evaluation — Asking Learners about Level 3 and 4 (LTEM Tiers 7 and 8)
    This is big! One of the biggest lies in learning evaluation. It’s a lie we like to tell ourselves and a lie our learning-evaluation vendors like to tell us. If we ask our learners questions that relate to their job performance or the organizational impact of our learning programs we are NOT measuring at Kirkpatrick-Katzell Level 3 or 4 (or at LTEM Tiers 7 and 8), we are measuring at Level 1 and LTEM Tier 3. You can read this refutation here.
  8. Who Will Rule Our Conferences? Truth or Bad-Faith Vendors?
    What do you want from the trade organizations in the learning field? Probably “accurate information” is high on your list. But what happens when the information you get is biased and untrustworthy? Could. Never. Happen. Right? Read this article to see how bias might creep in.
  9. Snake Oil. The Story of Clark Stanley as Preface to Clark Quinn’s Excellent Book
    This was one of my favorite pieces of writing in 2018. Did I ever mention that I love writing and would consider giving this all up for a career as a writer? You’ve all heard of “snake oil” but if you don’t know where the term originated, you really ought to read this piece.
  10. Dealing with the Emotional Readiness of Our Learners — My Ski Accident Reflections
    I had a bad accident on the ski slopes in February this year and I got thinking about how our learners might not always be emotionally ready to learn. I don’t have answers in this piece, just reflections, which you can read about here.
  11. The Backfire Effect. Not the Big Worry We Thought it was (for Those Who Would Debunk Learning Myths)
    This article is for those interested in debunking and persuasion. The Backfire Effect was the finding that trying to persuade someone to stop believing a falsehood, might actually make them more inclined to believe the falsehood. The good news is that new research showed that this worry might be overblown. You can read more about this here (if you dare to be persuaded).
  12. Updated Smile-Sheet Questions for 2018
    I published a set of learner-survey questions in my 2016 book, and have been working with clients to use these questions and variations on these questions for over two years since then. I’ve learned a thing or two and so I published some improvements early last year. You can see those improvements here. And note, for 2019, I’ll be making additional improvements—so stay tuned! Remember, you can sign up to be notified of my news here.
  13. Replacement for NPS (The Net Promoter Score)
    NPS is all the rage. Still! Unfortunately, it’s a terribly bad question to include on a learner survey. The good news is that now there is an alternative, which you can see here.
  14. Neon Elephant Award for 2018 to Clark Quinn
    Every year, I give an award for a great research-to-practice contribution in the workplace learning field. This year’s winner is Clark Quinn. See why he won and check out his excellent resources here.
  15. New Debunker Club Website
    The Debunker Club is a group of people who have committed to debunking myths in the learning field and/or sharing research-based information. In 2018, working with a great team of volunteers, we revamped the Debunker Club website to help build a community of debunkers. We now have over 800 members from around the world. You can learn more about why The Debunker Club exists by clicking here. Also, feel free to join us!

 

My Final Reflections on 2018

I’m blessed to be supported by smart passionate clients and by some of the smartest friends and colleagues in the learning field. My Work-Learning Research practice turned 20 years old in 2018. Being a consultant—especially one who focuses on research-to-practice in the workplace learning field—is still a challenging yet emotionally rewarding endeavor. In 2018, I turned my attention almost fully to learning evaluation. You can read about my two-path evaluation approach here. One of my research surveys totally flopped this year. It was focused on the interface between us (as learning professionals) and our organizations’ senior leadership. I wanted to know if what we thought senior leadership wanted was what they actually wanted. Unfortunately, neither I nor any of the respondents could entice a senior leader to comment. Not one! If you or your organization has access to senior managers, I’d love to partner with you on this! Let me know. Indeed, this doesn’t even have to be research. If your CEO would be willing to trade his/her time letting me ask a few questions in exchange for my time answering questions about learning, elearning, learning evaluation, etc., I’d be freakin’ delighted! I failed this year in working out a deal with another evaluation-focused organization to merge our efforts. I was bummed about this failure as the synergies would have been great. I also failed in 2018 to cure myself of the tendency to miss important emails. If you ever can’t get in touch with me, try, try again! Thanks and apologies! I had a blast in 2018 speaking and keynoting at conferences—both big and small conferences. From doing variations on the Learning-Research Quiz Show (a rollicking good time) to talking about innovations in learning evaluation to presenting workshops on my learning-evaluation methods and the LTEM model. Good stuff, if a ton of work. Oh! I did fail again in 2018 turning my workshops into online workshops. I hope to do better in 2019. I also failed in 2018 in finishing up a research review of the training transfer research. I’m like 95% done, but still haven’t had a chance to finish.

2018 broke my body, made me unavailable for a couple of months, but overall, it turned out to be a pretty damn good year. 2019 looks promising too as I have plans to continue working on learning evaluation. It’s kind of interesting that we are still in the dark ages of learning evaluation. We as an industry, and me as a person, have a ton more to learn about learning evaluation. I plan to continue the journey. Please feel free to reach out and let me know what I can learn from you and your organization. And of course, because I need to pay the rent, let me say that I’d be delighted if you wanted me to help you or your organization. You can reach me through the Work-Learning Research contact form.

Thanks for reading and being interested in my work!!!

I read a brilliantly clear article today by Karen Hao from the MIT Technology Review. It explains what machine learning is and provides a very clear diagram, which I really like.

Now, I am not a machine learning expert, but I have a hypothesis that has a ton of face validity when I look in the mirror. My hypothesis is this:

Machine learning will return meaningful results to the extent that the data it uses is representative of the domain of interest.

A simple thought experiment will demonstrate my point. If a learning machine is given data about professional baseball in the United States from 1890 to 2000, it would learn all kinds of things, including the benefits of pulling the ball as a batter. Pulling the ball occurs when a right-handed batter hits the ball to left field or a left-handed batter hits the ball to right field. In the long history of baseball, many hitters benefited by trying to pull the ball because it produces a more natural swing and one that generates more power. Starting in the 2000s, with the advent of advanced analytics that show where each player is likely to hit the ball, a maneuver called “the shift” has been used more and more, and pulling the ball consistently has become a disadvantage. In the shift, players in the field migrate to positions where the batter is most likely to hit the ball, thus negating the power benefits of pulling the ball. Our learning machine would not know about the decreased benefits of pulling the ball because it would never have seen that data (the data from 2000 to now).

Machine Learning about Learning

I raise this point because of the creeping danger in the world of learning and education. My concern is relevant to all domains where it is difficult to collect data on the most meaningful factors and outcomes, but where it is easy to collect data on less meaningful factors and outcomes. In such cases, our learning machines will only have access to the data that is easy to collect and will not have access to the data that is difficult or impossible to collect. People using machine learning on inadequate data sets will certainly find some interesting relationships in the data, but they will have no way of knowing what they’re missing. The worst part is that they’ll report out some fanciful finding, we’ll all jump up and down in excitement and then make bad decisions based on the bad learning caused by the incomplete data.

In the learning field—where trainers, instructional designers, elearning developers, and teachers reside—we have learned a great deal about research-based methods of improving learning results, but we don’t know everything. And, many of the factors which we know work are not tracked in most big data sets. Do we track the spacing effect, the number of concepts repeated with attention-grabbing variation, the alignment between context cues present in learning materials compared with the cues that will be present in our learners’ future performance situations? Ha! Our large data sets certainly miss many of these causal factors.

Our large data sets also fail to capture the most important outcomes metrics. Indeed, as I have been regularly recounting for years now, typical learning measurements are often biased by measuring immediately at the end of learning (before memories fade), by measuring in the learning context (where contextual cues offer inauthentic hints or subconscious triggering of recall targets), and by measuring with tests of low-level knowledge (compared to more relevant skill-focused decision-making or task performances). We also overwhelmingly rely on learner feedback surveys, both in workplace learning and in higher education. Learner surveys—at least traditional ones—have been found virtually uncorrelated with learning results. To use these meaningless metrics as a primary dependent variable (or just a variable) in a machine-learning data set is complete malpractice.

So if our machine learning data sets have a poor handle on both the inputs and outputs to learning, how can we see machine learning interpretations of learning data as anything but a shiny new alchemy?

 

Measurement Illuminates Some Things But Leaves Others Hidden

In my learning-evaluation workshops, I often show this image.

The theme expressed in the picture is relevant to all types of evaluation, but it is especially relevant for machine learning.

When we review our smile-sheet data, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we have learned the truth about the success of our learning. When we see a beautiful data-visualized dashboard, we should not deceive ourselves and our organizations that what we see is all there is to see.

So it is with machine learning, especially in domains where the data is not all the data, where the data flawed, and where the boundaries on the full population of domain data are not known.

 

With Apologies to Karen Hao

I don’t know Karen, but I do love her diagram. It’s clear and makes some very cogent points—as does her accompanying article.

Here is her diagram, which you can see in the original at this URL.

Like measurement itself, I think the diagram illuminates some aspects of machine learning but fails to illuminate the danger of incomplete or unrepresentative data sets. So, I made a modification in the flow chart.

And yes, that seven-letter provocation is a new machine-learning term that arises from the data as I see it.

Corrective Feedback Welcome

As I said to start this invective, my hypothesis about machine learning and data is just that—a semi-educated hypothesis that deserves a review from people more knowledgeable than me about machine learning. So, what do you think machine learning gurus?

 

Karen Hao Responds

I’m so delighted! One day after I posted this, Karen Hao responded:

 

 

 

Just today I wrote an article on Training and Climate Change and what, if anything, we workplace learning professionals can do about it.

See and comment on LinkedIn where I published the article. Click to go there now.