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From the Desk of the CLO

Top 5 Benefits of Podcasting as a Learning Solution

 

There’s no disputing the advantages of podcasting as a means to package and disseminate engaging content to a large and receptive audience. Somewhere between an e-book, a talk show and a radio program lies a communication medium hell bent on disrupting the mass media game. Its merits are certainly plentiful, but when it comes to podcasting’s value as a vessel for learning, TCP sees its Top 5 Benefits as follows: '

1. Podcasts are Convenient for the Learner

According to Salesforce, the most popular place for a 2017 Podcast Listener to take in a podcast is at home, followed by in a car, walking, and at work. This means that potential learners have the ability to absorb information when and where it is convenient for them. Unlike reading a book or engaging in an online learning class, a learner can listen to a podcast just about anywhere. That’s a pretty expedient way to learn.

2. Podcasts Cut Costs

Compared to the cost of designing and deploying blended, online, or video versions of instructional content, podcasts are relatively cost-efficient to produce. At bare minimum, a cheap-but-quality microphone and a podcast hosting account like SoundCloud or Libsyn will still get you a well-produced podcast that runs you around $22 for equipment and anywhere from $0 to $15 a month for the hosting account. That’s less than $40 up front and even cheaper in the future. Considering the number of learners you can reach with podcasting, the return on investment is substantial.

3. Podcasts Tell a Story

Podcast Listeners are easier to engage because we’re given the opportunity to tell them a story. There’s a plot, a narrator, various characters, segues and cuts of music and audio that weave rich content in different forms. It offers an introduction, a plotline and a conclusion that leaves the learner with a takeaway.

4. Podcasts Create a Connection

Podcasts offer an opportunity to showcase something - an expert opinion, a problem to be solved, a story to be told, an interview to conduct. It’s a chance to connect with the listener in a way that is different from reading a textbook or watching a subject matter expert on video. The learner can get lost in the content. Read more about TCP’s thoughts on Podcasts that CONNECThere.

5. Podcasts Increase Your Reach

Podcast listening is on the rise for both genders. And, according to a study conducted by SalesForce, Monthly Podcast Listeners are educated: 30% have some grad school or an advanced degree, compared to 22% of the general population. 27% have a four-year college degree, compared to 19% of the general population. If you get in front of this demographic, podcasts increase the odds of creating learning experiences for people who are no stranger to the art of Lifelong Learning.

TCP’s Learning Design Solutions Studio is fully equipped to produce high-quality, cost-effective podcasts for clients who are ready to experience the many benefits that podcasting brings to the desk. We design solutions for the needs of learners, educators, marketers, and anyone with a message to be delivered, or a story that needs to be told.

Podcasting: A Learning Solution

Lifelong learning is the "ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge.” It is the mind’s desire to continuously absorb even more than it has before. In this context, learning is a need for growth. It’s essential. It equips the brain with the authority to solve a problem. It reconciles a person’s ability to excel. Learning is a solution.

And if Learning is a solution, then Podcasting is one of the most efficient ways to tackle a problem. Why? Let’s start with the statistics:

  • 42 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, five times more than go to the movies
  • 85 percent of listeners hear all (or most of) a podcast
  • 1 in 5 Americans prioritize listening to a podcast in their busy schedules. That means no matter where they are- driving in the car, walking down the street or shoveling down their lunch, 1/5th of our population is already equipped to absorb information through this medium
  • 88 percent of podcast subscribers listen to every episode. That means 88% of the people who listen to the very first episode of the podcast will continue to listen to the entire series. That’s a lot of learners who can be reached, engaged and taught

With numbers like these, it’s perplexing that podcasting has not surpassed more traditional methods of learning delivery - such as instructional video, interactive, digital and blended learning. At TCP we strive to remain at the forefront of learning technology, so we’ve made it our latest, greatest initiative to design these podcasting services in house.

TCP’s Learning Solutions Design Studio offers clients the opportunity to brainstorm, design and participate in their own learning podcasts. TCP’s groundbreaking technology and hands-on production capabilities ensure custom-made, dynamic podcasts that can be absorbed by any learner and provide reusable, engaging educational content to an audience of unlimited size.

Our Podcast Design services focus on telling a story. First, by building the framework and then by bringing the learning to life. Who is the hero? What was the goal or event? Was there an obstacle? A mentor? A lesson learned?  A major change? TCP designs and delivers podcasts that leave the learner with a takeaway.

These takeaways are the building blocks of lifelong learning. Now, with podcasting as an innovative vessel for delivery, we can educate the learner in a way they’ve already come to prefer, enjoy, and integrate into their personal routine.

Podcasts that CONNECT: Why You Need Design Help

All too often, we stumble upon the lengthy, confusing, opinionated podcast of a self-proclaimed “expert” who loves the sound of their own voice. A misguided commentary with no clear direction, theme or conclusion unfolds.  It leaves us wondering whether technology is going to be our demise. It forces us to think twice about who should connect with the masses.

These podcasters walk among us. Some of them are us. To save money and time, they recorded a few ramblings, threw them up on iTunes and hoped for the best.

Podcasts offer an opportunity to showcase something - an expert opinion, a problem to be solved, a story to be told, an interview to conduct. With the right production tools, the subject can be highlighted in a way that leaves the audience wanting more. This provides a unique opportunity to become a part of the listener’s daily routine, which creates an ongoing connection. For all these reasons, podcasting is one of today’s most overlooked marketing tools.

Podcasting likely flies under the radar as a game-changing marketing and learning channel because it takes a lot of work to produce one. From strategizing a captivating series to writing concise scripts, conducting behind-the-scenes equipment checks, capturing stimulating commentary, overlaying audio, video and visuals and conveying the kind of flow that keeps the listener engaged-- an ear-worthy podcast doesn’t just happen. Without the right editing and production resources, a podcast can easily lose direction, missing the golden opportunity to connect with the listener.

And, while it might seem like sensible business acumen to cut down costs and editing hours with DIY podcasting, credibility gets axed in the process.

Luckily, TCP’s Learning Designs Solution Studio is fully equipped to produce powerful, engaging, multi-dimensional podcasts both in-house and from afar. Learning Design Technologists work from story-boarding, through recording and into post-production to build a podcast that captures the audience and solidifies its spot in their daily routine. We’re the ones who execute the cuts, edits, musical overlays, visuals and thousand other factors that go into creating a podcast that CONNECTS.

Contact our Learning Designs Solution Studio for your podcasting production needs, so you can put those hours back into running your business.

 

The Use of Universal Design for Learning

 

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution, but flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

As a designer, I recommend the use of UDL as the optimal approach to learning; UDL appears to include valuable methodologies, but it does not require they be applied with the same type of narrow focus we use in the classroom. Making it accessible to every learner. In fact, the inclusion of UDL for technology-supported learning offers the prospect of reaching a broader segment of any group of learners, regardless of whether you group them by a specific learning style.

UDL assumes that there are three networks for learning:

  • Recognition Network or how the learner gathers facts.
  • Strategic Network or how the learner organizes
  • Affective Network or how learners get engaged and motivated.

Today’s blog post is not designed to fully explore UDL, but it is intended to present the key principles (backed by research) that should be applied for inclusion of all learners and efficient execution of Instructional Design.

In light of that and per the graphic above, the application of Universal Design for Learning serves as a key guideline for Instructional Designers in the field:

  • Provide Multiple Means of Representation

The information we are trying to relay to the learner must be represented and displayed in multiple forms – to appeal to numerous senses, offer clarifications where necessary, and guide the processing of information and comprehension in ways that stimulate bigger ideas and critical features.

  • Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

The material should be designed to engage the learner through numerous outlets – from physical action to internal and external dialogue. It should convey multiple communication channels, opportunities for composition and construction and assistive tools and technology. This guideline is key to the effective use of technology-supported learning.

  • Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

It is the job of the Instructional Designer to recruit the interest of the learner.  Material and its delivery should be relevant, valuable and authentic. Collaboration and community should be fostered. Opportunities for feedback are essential. Self-assessment and reflection – the learner’s engagement with the self – are paramount.

When Instructional Designers follow these guidelines for UDL, they are set up to successfully create and deliver customized learning experiences for diverse audiences with unique learning styles.

It is from this framework that TCP Learning approaches every project: discovering the learner’s needs and designing the technology-supported solutions that meet them.

 

Behavioral Learning in the Workplace

Behavioral Learning Theory has no place in the workplace. Or so one would think based on current research. I recently came to this conclusion while conducting said research for a class I am taking in Executive Education.  This conclusion is not based on Behavioral Learning as it pertains to other types of learned behaviors, rather, the use of this theory in adult learning design.

I assessed two gaps where adult learners in the workplace are set up to fail:

  • Gap number 1: The adult learner has no previous experience with the knowledge or skill being studied, and little to no prior learning or instruction of the skill at hand.
  • Gap number 2: The adult learner may not have received reinforcement in their academic history. Thus, their personal learning experience of traditional rewards and punishments might play a role in their motivation and engagement in the behavioral learning environment.

Adult Prior Knowledge

Many traditional assumptions about learning indicate that “learning behavior demonstrates the acquisition of knowledge or skills.”

This outdated mindset has been a consistent roadblock to developing a workplace model that meets both the needs of the employee and the bottom line of the business.

The individual must perceive the learning with its relevance to their role and the overall business strategy. For workplace learning to be successful, the two must go hand in hand.

The acquisition of workplace knowledge or skill is demonstrated by the performance of a function (e.g., sales), a task (e.g. answering customer phone calls in a timely manner) or a skill (e.g. ability to solve a technical problem).

Consider Captain “Sully” who safely landed the plane in the Hudson. While this is a dramatic example of performance skills, he never “learned” how to land a plane in a river. He learned many important functions, tasks and skills which he then applied to a critical situation. I would argue that positive or negative reinforcement played no role in his training. His performance was a result of both learning activities and practical experiences.

Previous “Learning” Experiences and Motivation

There are two important issues that impact the use of this Behavioral Theory in the workplace:

  • The first lies in the employees past educational experiences in K-12 or post-secondary school. As an employee begins their workplace learning experience, they are often burdened by the conditioning of their past. If they were a successful student, this provides positive reinforcement, which may help their motivation for completing the learning experience. But if they have had a truly negative education history full of punishments and negative reinforcement, this could deal a crucial blow to their motivation.
  • The second issue lies in certain research illustrating positive and negative reinforcement as unsuccessful approaches to workplace learning. Gallup found that almost 70% of Americans are actively disengaged in their work, costing the US economy billions of dollars annually (Gallup Poll, 2015). Employee engagement and retention is the second biggest business concern after leadership development.

Still, some of the most successful techniques I have witnessed in workplace learning development have involved incentives, bonuses and goal setting. This approach has been referred to as Management by Objectives (MBO) which became popular in the 1950's. And the newest push for positive reinforcement, particularly as it relates to technology, is the awarding of badges.

Depending on the career learning experience of any given individual, including myself, the jury is still out as to whether or not these motivators and enforcers have a truly positive impact on workplace learning.

Still, from my experience as a Chief Learning Officer and Lifetime Learner, I will always see their merit as it pertains to the learning of my employees, my client’s employees, and myself.

 

 

The Evidence of Learning

To date, my philosophy of learning design and technology has relied heavily on experience and experimentation. But a foundation of evidence has always been the cornerstone of my work.

I would say that much of my career has been a pursuit of wisdom. A search for understanding by chiefly speculative means. Despite my best efforts, a research-based approach to learning design has been, at times, lacking. Not only in my own work, but in the entire field. Bold statement? Maybe. True statement? Yes.

With the help of continuing education, I have engaged in a new phase of my career. Along with it comes the opportunity to engage in the pursuit of evidence. And in evidence, there is truth.

My philosophy focuses on the need to evolve from “chiefly speculative” to quantitative observation. Workplace learning must move from a vendor-motivated environment, rife with urban myths about effective technology and approaches, to one that uses data and analysis to support the design, development and delivery of optimal learning experiences.

Evidence.

Instructional Design Models

One evidence- based approach I have observed and implemented over the course of my instructional design career is the ADDIE Model. According to Wikipedia, the ADDIE Model is the generic process traditionally used by instructional designers and training developers. The five phases—Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation—represent a dynamic, flexible guideline for building effective training and performance support tools.

In my implementation of the ADDIE model with clients and instructional design teams, I have garnered the ability to be flexible and effective in my approach to the project management and execution of learning experiences. If there exists no evidence to prove our trajectory was, is or will be successful...back around the circle we go. This model calls for proof and adaptability at the same time.

And at my company TCP Learning, we even add an extra layer. We operate from the self-coined PADDIE model, adding a crucial Planning stage where we assess our client's’ learning needs before we embark on the design project together.

Philosophers and Theorists

As a lifelong learner, I often look to the greats for guidance on my quest for wisdom. While there are many experts in the field that I may follow, there are three researchers who have truly inspired my instructional design practice. Their theories support the ability to use technology in a way that connects learning to “performance goals.”

These researchers and mentors include Richard Mayer, John Sweller and Ruth Clark.

I have been able to demonstrate the efficacy of these researchers’ theories  in my own professional practice. I have used Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning while designing and developing eLearning assets and screens. Sweller’s theory, which suggests that learning happens best under conditions that are aligned with human cognitive architecture, has served me well in the design and buildout of learning experiences. And Clark’s Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement has only served to enhance my work in the analysis of learning needs.

Vendor Driven Myths

The Debunker Club, a website designed for learning professionals who wish to correct the swarms of misinformation in the learning field, is a forum where professionals like myself can navigate the tricky waters of which research is and isn’t true in this ever-evolving industry. It’s founder, William Thalheimer, is a thought leader in the workplace learning field who often addresses the value of research-based approaches as a requirement for forward momentum in the field.

Another source that has fueled my investigation into the perpetuation of learning myths is the book, Urban Myths in Education by De Bruyckere, Kirschner, & Hulshof, The book addresses 12 different myths, including learning styles which I have personally seen being perpetuated in the workplace. The authors note “we have become saddled with a multiplicity of methods, approaches, and pseudotheories, many of which have been shown by science to be wrong or at best, only partially effective.”

Conclusion

As we come full circle, I would like to  restate my own personal philosophy:

 Workplace learning must move from a vendor-motivated environment, rife with urban myths about effective technology and approaches, to one that uses data and analysis to support the design, development and delivery of optimal learning experiences.

 I am optimistic enough to believe that future professional and academic learning endeavors will provide the kind of empirical support that is fundamental to my philosophy.

The Importance of Cross-Functional Instructional Design Teams

According to the Institute of Employment Studies, organizations are becoming increasingly more team-based. Working groups and task forces are the new methods for getting things done. At a tactical level, organizations are turning their employees’ know-how into a managed asset.

If you were to conduct a Google search with the terms “team-building,” it would reveal over 73 million results. It might include topics ranging from games, activities, the art of team-building, investing in team-building, employee engagement and countless others.

So as I sat and pondered team-building in terms of collaboration and cross-functionality for a recent PhD assignment, Google refined my thought process. It’s been known to optimize a thing or two.

At first (and most relevant to my role as Chief Learning Officer), my search honed in on cross-functional teams used to design and deliver learning. I found countless articles about multidisciplinary skills, breaking free from silos and meeting company milestones.  I even stumbled upon some nifty info graphics:

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After all that Googling, what dawned on me was this: “cross-functional” should really be defined as a person whose role can support the evolving, global needs of an organization. And it caused me to ruminate further on how this concept can be applied to design teams and the execution of learning & development within an organization.

My research identified the use of cross-functional teams in many industries—from telecommunications and technology to government agencies, insurance companies, banks and institutions of healthcare.

Many studies depict cross-functional teams (CFTs) as a highly successful way of delivering patient care. As noted in Cross Functional Team Processes and Patient Functional Improvement, CFTs are associated with more creative solutions, better quality decisions, increased organizational effectiveness, and lower turnover rates among treatment staff.

This article is one of millions that highlight the many benefits of CFTs and how they enhance the organizations they support. And, in keeping true to the learner in me, I decided to investigate further. Somewhere, just beneath the surface, I figured there must be some friction to dig up.

What I unearthed was an article in Harvard Business Review entitled: 75% of Cross-Functional Teams Are Dysfunctional. The article maintains cross-functional teams often fail because of the lack of a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, a shortcoming of accountability, goals that lack specificity, and organizations’ failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects.

I think we’ve all been pulled into a cross-functional project where the directives confused us and the organization didn’t care to clarify.

Lucky for us, the author cited four key conditions that should exist for these CFTs to be successful:

  1. Every project should have an end-to-end leader.
  2. Every project should have clearly established goals, resources, and deadlines.
  3. Teams should have the project’s success as their main objective.
  4. Every project should be constantly evaluated.

When I apply these concepts to instructional design, regardless of the learning environment, I can consistently validate the effectiveness of the cross-functional approach.

TCP is composed of instructional design teams that have an end-to-end leader in the form of our Project Managers.

TCP establishes goals, resources and deadlines in our Project Management Platform, TeamWorks.

TCP has each project’s success as our main objective because, well, what’s the alternative?

And TCP is constantly evaluating each iteration of the project we’re designing through an iterative, AGILE approach.

Bottom line: making cross functional teams function isn’t just a concept or initiative for TCP. It’s what helps us design the ideal learning experience.

 

 

 

 

Designing Technology Supported Solutions for Organizational Learning

 

As an instructional designer and Chief Learning Officer, I know a thing or two about facilitating learning in a corporate environment. And I wouldn’t be able to execute it without the use of technology—both web-based and synchronous. I have developed games, simulations, software demonstrations, built communities of practice and worked with instructional videographers.  I’ve coached and guided subject matter experts through item bank building for certification programs. And I’ve come to realize some of the fundamental issues learning & development professionals (myself included) fail to recognize: the emotional reaction of the learner. 

A related article which recently caught my eye is an op-ed piece by Elliott Masie, Chairman of Chief Learning Officer, titled “Stop Taking Employees Back to School.” The piece outlines some of the issues instructional designers face with the use of technology-supported learning.  Mr. Masie believes our learning brands are often too closely aligned with images from school—from elementary all the way through university. He talks about learning program buzzwords like “Corporate Universities,” “Classrooms” and “Instructional Modules,” which all take the learner too deeply into the world of curriculum design, subliminally asking them to act like students.

“In a nutshell, learners do not really want to ‘return to school’ as often as we want them to be in learning mode at work. Lifelong and continuous learning will be essential as the speed of business accelerates, and as the need for non-stop knowledge/skill acquisition and mastery grows. Our learners rarely turn to their families or friends with excitement about going to ‘class.’ They are, however, excited to master new skills, access new roles, or take part in transformational experiences.”

Mr. Masie believes our employees and leaders can expand their skills and increase their talent without trying on the brand of students in a classroom. And I think it’s crucial to recognize the need for a paradigm shift.  

Creating a Positive Learning Experience

One of the key technologies instructional designers use to support learning is the Learning Management System (e.g. Canvas, Blackboard, Saba, Moodle, etc.). Its fundamental purpose is to deliver learning in a way that mimics a classroom. In a traditional academic environment, (albeit this is changing), you are taught a skill and expected to use it in a future job or your next course. This is how we’ve traditionally built learning. And in corporations, we model the curriculum after behavior we already know.

Yet we find ourselves with online education completion rates at an all-time low. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) report dismal results, with completion rates at about 10%.

Still, these numbers don’t faze me. They merely support my premise that, as an adult learner, I am probably negotiating a MOOC to emphasize the specific skills I need to enhance my career. For example, when I was engaged in a MOOC called Learning xAPI, I demonstrated a 60% completion rate for all the activities. Why? Because I cherry picked areas that interested me and could improve my personal and professional skills. And I left the rest on the branch

For this reason, what could be considered a sub par completion rate was, in actuality, a positive learning experience. This is where the need for learning analytics comes into play.

New Use of Technology

There are several exciting developments in technology-supported learning today, and one that warrants special attention is the use of Experience Academic Performance Index ( xAPI) to measure results.

xAPI is a brand new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline). This API captures data in a consistent format about a person or group’s activities from many technologies. Very different systems are able to securely communicate by capturing and sharing this stream of activities using xAPI’s simple vocabulary. In a traditional LMS technology, we can only measure grades and completion rates.

With the use of xAPI, organizations will be able to measure the effectiveness of learning in three areas: (1) engagement, (2) learning; and, (3) performance. It will also allow an organization to measure informal types of learning.

What a refreshing change of pace.

Learners: wave goodbye to the days of chalk boards and dunce caps. And say hello to a new age of learning. One that embraces the amplification of skills and talent, a positive learning experience and results that can be measured holistically and in the best interest of the individual and, ultimately, the organization.

How Important is Context in Learning?

Over the course of my career and in my current stint as a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology and Technology program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, I’ve identified a few learning models I believe are crucially important to the contextualization of learning. Let’s take a look at how the application of Experiential Learning, Situated Cognition and the Theory of Motivation help customize an overall learning experience to produce significant outcomes for both the learner (i.e. an employee) and the organization.

Experiential Learning

David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle illuminates the process that occurs as part of an organization’s formal and informal learning experiences. It asserts effective learning occurs when a person progresses through a learning cycle of four stages:

(1) having a concrete experience followed by (2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to (3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then (4) used to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.

Albeit unsophisticated, this practical approach directs designers (like me) to plan to the level of our audience’s expertise (i.e. novice, mid-level or expert). It calls for us to build organic curriculum that spurs relevant outcomes. It allows us to contextualize learning experiences. It makes us better designers.

Situated Cognition

According to Merriam & Bierema’s Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice, Situated Cognition is “learning in practice in context.” Learning is perceived as a socio-cultural experience rather than the procurement of general knowledge. Contextualized content creates authentic takeaways for the learner.

While this approach has always been observed in my design process, it was particularly prevalent in an online focus group I conducted for the professional development of K-12 teachers (Integrating Practices CCS- Math and the Next Generation Science Standards).  As we evaluated and discussed the program’s outcomes, the educators repeatedly requested additional genuine, applicable experiences that could be integrated into their own professional learning communities.

Theory of Motivation

In his book Work and Motivation, Dr. Victor H. Vroom explains the three different choices that govern employees’ actions, behavior and ultimately outcomes in the workplace:

Valence refers to an inclination toward one particular outcome or another.

Expectancy relates to the probability that an outcome can be achieved.

Force (motivational) combines the expectancy and the valence.

Vroom’s findings point to some of the basic motivational dynamics I believe drive learners (like me). For example, as an enrollee in the Educational Psychology and Technology program, my motivation to complete an EdD and (ultimately) enhance my career will be driven by my perceived outcomes (why am I doing this?).

I become the force.

While there are an infinite number of dynamics that affect the effectiveness of learning today, I’ve found the fine art of context to be the most valuable as I operate from the lens of a practitioner and, even more importantly, as a learner.

I promise you won’t be quizzed afterward, but study up on these enlightening models if you haven’t already. They provide us with a unique vantage point to the process of learning.

Click below to learn more:

David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

Sharan Merriam & Laura Bierema’s Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice

Dr. Victor H. Vroom’s Theory of Motivation

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