The e-Learning SIG was honored to host Elliot Masie, the man credited with creating the term, e-learning, on Wednesday, June 13th. Masie is an internationally recognized analyst and researcher whose career has spanned over 35 years and is focused on workforce learning, business collaboration and emerging technologies. He currently heads up The Masie Center, a think tank concentrating on how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce. He is a self proclaimed “alpha boomer” who produces Broadway shows in his spare time.
Masie laid the foundation for the evening’s presentation by defining e-learning. The terms e-learning and e-business did emerged together; however, the letter “e” in e-learning represents “everyone,” “everywhere”, “every time,” and “efficient.” And that while current technology has revolutionized the way in which we conduct business, communicate and learn, it is often easy to confuse the tools we use (mainly an overdependence on PowerPoint), with processes. He then reminded us that we as learning professionals are in the business of delivering knowledge skills and competencies in order to support and enhance employee performance not publishing content.
So where do we need to focus our attention and skills?
He declared design as The Number One challenge and the area we should invest significant resources. He stated that the fastest growing form of e-learning is the webinar with over 45% of global companies using it. Yet, 60 minutes of content yields only 2 ½ minutes of value. Why? His own honest admission of sending an e-mail to a co-worker during his own webinar proved that relying solely on this delivery method tends to serve as an invitation for learners to multi-task rather than acquire knowledge.
Learners are looking for experiences which are non-disruptive to their work day and where they can learn on their own in concise, relevant segments. Masie suggests using technology as a tool itself rather than a platform to connect people to each other. Fostering collaboration will organically build effective and efficient learning environments. He proposed the following: a new employee is asked to join a certain internal online community and contribute to the conversation. A month later he is required to ask someone from the group to go to lunch and discuss the current posts.
“It’s not about the technology- it’s about the methodology.”
He then offered the anecdote of a friend who ordered a new bicycle on-line. When it arrived, he shocked to see that it was in several parts. Rather than take it to a bike shop, he was determined to assemble it himself and visited YouTube, internet sites and called a few cyclist friends. Was he successful? Yes. Did he learn something? Absolutely. Could this serve a proto-type? Definitely.
Masie announced the following trend is currently taking place and will ultimately force us, and quickly, to reinvent how we build learning opportunities. Individuals are systematically reducing the curriculum and “personalizing” their learning. They review the material and categorize the content: what they will never need to know, what is permanently available on the internet, what might be relevant in a few months, etc. They then figure out the delivery methods to gain this knowledge, internet search, texting friends, etc. and employ them at the time they need it. Concurrently, individuals are always figuring out ways to avoid organized training sessions.
Masie announced this trend of self selection of material and methods will compel us to revisit the roots of adult learning theory. To effectively acquire knowledge, learners need to drive their own experience. If they are driving their own experience, they are more likely to get more out of it. Therefore, learners and learning managers need to become our co-pilots. “Personalization” of learning opportunities is an essential element in the design of future activities. To achieve this, Masie boldly challenged us with a few next steps: understand how individuals consume what we deliver; seek innovation and insight from outside our field and give up our rituals. His one caution was to think “technology neutral” as the days of Bring Your Own Device are dwindling and the need to incorporate all the preferences of the multi-generational workforce is imperative.
And innovation is not just for design but also for evaluation. He proudly admits that he does not use a “smile sheet” for reasons which we can all guess. He boldly suggested that putting Kirkpatrick to the side might yield more tangible results in many cases. Engage a focus group and heavily invest time and resources in regular follow up over several months. An activity which he utilizes for his programs is to ask participants at the end of the session, keeping the outcomes the same, to redesign it. He acknowledges that he uses this feedback since a majority of the time it does enhance the next generation of programs. Take the lead from surgeons. After complex procedures, and particularly those which are not successful, surgery teams spend several hours debriefing about methods used, what could have been added/subtracted, what could be done differently next time, etc. Spending the time to perform our own “autopsies” might well ensure more successful outcomes or unexpected ideas. His departing advice was, “swap aspirations, not business cards.”
At the end of the hour, I know that I was not the only one who was inspired and motivated because it was not a presentation but a call to action and a permission slip for L&D professionals to become creative and take some calculated risks. Much of what he said was obvious but perhaps we just needed someone (particularly of his reputation) to vocalize it. His return to the fundamentals, Knowles and adult learning theory, is appropriate on several levels. We should be ready to have an open eye and channel for the learner to tell us not only what they need but how they need it. Motivation and interest of the learner is a key to success for all of us: employees, managers, L&D and partners.
A redesign of learning will also trigger a redesign of how we approach and conduct needs assessments, collect and analyze our metrics and educate and coach our business partners. Secondly, as “instant gratification” categorizes our society due to rapid evolution and integration of technology into our personal and professional lives, there is little time to process what we’re doing. We need to step back and renegotiate that space not only with ourselves but also with our teams. The need to keep up, not to mention prove our worth, is overshadowing the need to let the seeds root, sprout and blossom. Programs are organic and dynamic and need to be nurtured in order to reach their ultimate goal. I am reminded of a conversation with a colleague of mine several months ago. Her mother’s gardening wisdom rang true: “You can’t keep ripping up the plant to see if there’s roots.”
While I realize I am over my word limit, I wanted to provide a lagniappe of additional key phrases, or Masie-isms, from the evening which have power in and of themselves.
- “make an enormous commitment to design”
- “the best learning tool is Google”
- “social learning DOES NOT equal social media”
- “transactive memory”
- “smile sheets are just dessert for the learner”
- “don’t devalue the depth of experience”
- “give up the learning language-we need to be able to speak to general business units”
- “e-books are an emerging segment”
Chrissi Boryk is an aspiring L&D professional with experience in training, e-learning, project management and program design and development in both corporate and non-profit settings. Her most recent experience is in medical education where she conceptualized, implemented and managed an e-learning product line to help physicians meet their board certification requirements. She replanted her East Coast roots after 17 ½ years in Chicago in May 2011. She is a graduate of Tulane University and is currently enrolled in CUNY’s Adult Learning: Program Design and Facilitation Graduate Certificate program. An avid recipe collector, yogi and cyclist, she would consider changing her mantra of “life is one continuous wardrobe change” if Donna Karan created a moisture wicking suit with discreetly hidden bike shorts. email@example.com