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Four Things I Learned at ATD TechKnowledge 2016

Sandra Neal
Learning + Innovation Specialist
EMJ Corporation

Just over a year ago, I shifted into a learning & development role at my company, and jumped in with both feet by attending ATD’s TechKnowledge conference. For three days, I drank from the fire hose as fast as I could, and was exhausted by the time I got home. But it was a good exhausted, the just-completed-a-race kind. (For me the race would be a 10K; for the ambitious athletes among us, perhaps half-marathon or marathon is more appropriate.)

I wasn’t quite as green this year, and was able to dive a little deeper. If you didn’t make the conference, here are a few sessions that impressed me – and what you can do to fold these ideas into your own environment.

Creative Commons Rocks

When searching for images for e-learning, sometimes it seems like we’re trapped between violating copyright law and reinventing the wheel. Michelle Lentz led a fantastic session explaining Creative Commons licenses and how to leverage them in your e-learning.

When you use an image with a Creative Commons license, the minimum requirement is that you give credit to the author (that’s the BY reference in the image here). The author may also have other requirements, such as Non Commercial, Share Alike, or No Derivatives, that limit the ways you can use their images. But this is still a much friendlier alternative to fretting over copyright infringement or paying per-image fees for all of your e-learning assets.

Try This: Instead of using copy-and-paste on images you find on Google, go through to find images that are available for your use. Find the image/video you want to use, and be sure to give the author credit.

You CAN measure ROI (but you might not want to)

Dr. Jack Phillips knows ROI inside and out, which is fitting since he’s the Chairman at ROI Institute. He also wins the Thickest Stack award – I walked out of his session with an in-depth book and two smaller resources that were equally fantastic.

Dr. Phillips pointed out that most executives want to see results at Level 4 of the Kirkpatrick model, which is Impact. (Level 5 – ROI – can be measured, but it’s very costly) These results can be measured by looking at productivity, time, quality, engagement, and other metrics – but the effects of the program must be isolated from other factors if you really want to understand the impact of your learning. And since that process is costly too in terms of time and money, only choose 10% of your programs to measure for business impact.

How do we begin the shift toward the Level 4 metrics that executives crave? It could be as simple as tweaking what we’re already doing. Are your objectives currently aimed at Level 1 (Reaction) and Level 2 (Learning)? Find ways to bump them up to Levels 3 (Application) and 4 (Impact). Do you currently ask employees to do pre-work before the session? Tweak the assignment so that you can better see improvement after learning, or so that learners will see greater value in the session when they arrive.

Try This: Check out ROI Institute’s free tools to see how these ideas – and many more – might apply to your organization.

Shooting for the Edit

Jonathan Halls has been in the media world, especially video, for decades. To provide context for why quality video is important, he shared some stats about how quickly our attention spans dwindle. On a desk top we lose interest or click away in 2 minutes, on phones less than 3 minutes, and 5 minutes on tablets.

Even on TV, producers and editors know that we have short attention spans. Have you ever noticed that the angle of the shot changes about every 6 seconds? If they’ve figured out how to keep TV audiences engaged, maybe we can apply some of the same principles to e-learning. Having a clear story/narrative, great angles for your “A roll” (main characters), and targeted “B roll” footage (images to cut-in during voiceover) are great places to start.

Try this: The details of Mr. Halls’ recommendations can’t be captured in this short space. Check out the articles on his website, especially the section on Web Video.

Augmenting Performance with Performance Support

If I’d heard of Performance Support before, I never looked into its meaning. Turns out, Performance Support is any asset that learners can rely on in their moment of need, like a job aid or perhaps an internal discussion board.

Although the second half of Quincy Conley’s presentation was focused on augmented reality as Performance Support, what really captured my attention was the argument he made during the first half of his session. There are four things you can change in the corporate environment: the work, the workers, the workplace, or the workflow. Since the workers and the workplace are largely out of our scope, we focused on the other two factors.

As instructional designers, we frequently rely on knowledge management (the resources we use) to deliver training about the work or the workflow, then create some performance support tools to supplement the training. But might there be situations where it’s more appropriate to create performance support tools as the primary resource, and supplement with knowledge management as needed?

For example, I’d prefer to provide every new employee with a one-page workflow diagram on completing expense reports instead of hosting a monthly webinar on expense reports and asking new employees to attend. This allows them to reference it in their time of need, and provides contact information for the experts who can answer their questions along the way.

Try this: If you’ve been asked to design training this year, take a look at the topics and think through whether training is the most appropriate first step for your team members. This article may help you determine which method is better for each topic.

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