Digital Learning – Friend or Foe

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Digital Learning – Friend or Foe | Alex Tosovic

In this video, Alex Tosovic, Head of Product at AIHR and L&D specialist, speaks at HR Week 2020 about the various options companies have when it comes to digital learning solutions and how to choose the best strategy for your organization.

Alex dives deeper into making E-learning your friend and shares his insights on the transformation of the L&D sector during 2020.

In this video, Alex discusses:

  • How to get learning content?
  • How to make content available?
  • How to “blend” content?
  • How to engage learners?

Transcript: 

Presenter: The second keynote of day four, this one with Alex Tosovic, who, after working in various L&D roles in Avon, Coca Cola HBC and Tris, has decided to implement his expertise and shifted to leading product development at AR HR. Welcome, Alex.

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Alex Tosovic: Thank you. And it’s a pleasure to be here. And especially because I’m speaking here from Rotterdam, to my home country. So Hello, everyone, I’m very happy to be discussing the topic that I’m personally very passionate about and how to actually make e-learning a friend and not a foe. So thank you for a great introduction, you can find more details about me following the QR code on my LinkedIn profile. Something that’s not on my LinkedIn profile is that I’ve contrary to the many didn’t learn to bake throughout the quarantine, but I did learn to paint a little bit. And everything else you can find on my LinkedIn profile as I said, I’ve already gathered around eight years of working experience with training, learning and development in various roles. And also what I’ve encountered is that at times digital can become a very expensive adventure for companies to implement. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. And you can still get your ROI at the end of the day and make sure that the learning is really, really impactful. 

So this year, what we have seen with a pandemic is that our stakeholders have an 80. We have a 2% increase in demand for digital learning from different people in our organisations. That also meant that 94% of L&D professionals had to change their learning and development strategy. So we were already working with digital. However, this shift in 2020 has pushed us to live in a new normal, I’m sure you are all very well aware of that. However, we have also adapted to this virtual setting. So at this stage, this is a great opportunity for learning development professionals to up their game when it comes to elearning. And I’m going to discuss in this keynote, and I’m going to try to try to make it as practical for you as possible. 

So I’m going to discuss four key questions. So how to get learning content in the most effective way and how to make it available for the learners. Once we have the content, how do we blend it in a way that it fits the needs of all learners that is dynamic, that we do have enough methodologies blended in, and also how to engage learners. I know the 25 minutes that I have is quite a short amount of time for this to happen. So if you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me a message on LinkedIn, I’ll be happy to answer and discuss learning topics. I’m personally very passionate about this topic. Hence the role that I have at AIHR. 

So let’s hit it off with the first topic when it comes to learning content, there’s three ways that you can get it you can: build, buy or borrow. For those of you who are working with talent, you might already know about this slide, but I’ve just used it in a bit of a different way here. Building is about, you know, building the content in house. So you might think, you know, I would want to make all the content I want in my from the team that I already have. And here, it’s important to know that this will also cost you money in terms of the headcount. And your people will need to have competencies and skills that are enabling digital learning. This is something that the previous speaker also described when it comes to digital transformation in HR. So this is something to think about when it comes to buying. This is an off shelf solution. So you have probably done this many times buying leadership training, or buying presentation skills training for your team. These solutions typically are one off costs that you have implemented and run within the company. Or you can borrow content from content providers. So we as AIHR are one of those content providers. So what you get typically with borrowing from us or for example, from Pluralsight, from developers or from LinkedIn learning is that you actually get content that gets updated and you have a workforce already working for you. And I know from personal experience that we do invest a lot of time in making sure that the content is there and it’s really impactful. 

So let’s say now that you were working on your own learning strategy, and let’s say for the functional training you have chosen that you want to have an AIHR HRBP certificate programme for 40 hours mainly online with some assignments that people can do. You have also set up workshops for your first time managers and you would like to have an annual blended learning programme and we can assume that you might have built something or borrowed some content from different places but the thing is now you need to make that content available for your learner’s. 

Then we come to the second problem which people often ask about : how do you actually make your content available. And here we come to the management of learning systems or LMS, or learning experience platforms. Now that you have already prepared your content, there’s a second thing you need to do is to understand how you will make this learning accessible to your learners. So I put it here as do it yourself or GoPro. So this will largely depend on the size of your company or on your aspirations. And most importantly, it will depend on your learning maturity at this stage, if you are more of an ad hoc learning culture, and you’re just growing using solutions, such as SharePoint, where you just build ad content or slack where you can build learning channels within slack and just post content that you have either bought from provider like, like we are, or you might have pulled some content from from YouTube. You can also use Trello to simply place different learning paths in Trello. Or you can use Google Classroom. 

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However, if your organisation also needs to take care and this is all important aspects of learning management metadata that you have in the backend and making sure you can also track learner analytics. While also having a different set of possibilities within the platform, you should go pro and go for one of the learning management system providers. Whichever option you choose, make sure that it serves you properly and we’re going to touch on what to actually take into account when choosing. Um, so what we have done and what I would advise you, whichever tool you use, is that you make sure that you can have both formal and informal learning there. When I speak about formal learning, I mean, making it easy for people to learn. In our case, we have video learning, we have an opportunity for people to practice skills through branch scenarios in role plays. And they can also do on the job projects that are just assignments that we add in the academy. For me personally, one of the biggest learning was when I was working formerly in L&D roles, it was always about learning bite size, making gifts tiny and small. 

However, what I’ve seen when we analyse the data from our learners is that learners actually prefer to have longer chunks of videos between 15 and 20 minutes, which was completely contrary to what I’ve been learning before. And I also understand why with other shorter formats, people don’t feel like they have enough time to deep dive into the content, which leaves them feeling like they actually haven’t learned a lot. So this is something also to take into account when you’re thinking of, you know, how do you what is actually effective and fun and what will make people learn. One of the most important aspects in learning is enabling a socialisation aspect to our platform. So regardless of which learning management system you choose, make sure that the learners don’t feel alone in this internet space, you all are really well aware of Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook, and all these other social social media platforms that have grown, and simply because it’s in our nature to want to feel connected and to discuss with others. Therefore, if you’re choosing Slack or another learning management system, make sure that you do have some discussions, opinions, or that learners can ask questions between the below your lessons, and that you can actually take the time and engage with the learners in our, in our case, we try to have discussions that we post. And we also enable our learners to post on their own if they have a question or a thought they would like to share. And also, sometimes we ask for opinions with both. And this is all a part of our learning community. This is also possible with other learning management solutions. 

One of the things that is important here is to understand that learning doesn’t happen in this case only within your lesson. But it also happens outside, let’s say in front of the classroom if, if that’s a term I can use. And therefore you will want to balance how you’re going to go about that it will also depend on what tool you use. But these are the guiding principles you should have in mind.

And then when we look at what is a friend or foe in this case, I think that you want to make sure that your platform has socialisation, you want to make sure that you can integrate different formats if you are going for self paced learning. With an altering tool, your platform should support SCORM. Simpler solutions are sometimes better, because more robust solutions require more manpower that will enable the tools to work and to administrate the platform and so on. Here, your foe is learning that learners have to learn from a variety of different platforms. So if you decide to buy a different thing for everybody, you will want to make sure that learners actually have access to your learning platform or learning solution in one place. Otherwise for you, as someone who is ambassador for learning in your organisation is going to be very difficult to engage with your learners to communicate and, and not to confuse them because you are not the only platform they need to log on to, they also need to log their holiday hours, they need to maybe submit their receipts and take care of the financial costs, and so on and so forth. 

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And second thing is high LMS running costs, make sure that you have if you don’t have the capability in house to run your learning management system, make sure that you have enough budget to take care of the running costs that come with it such as UX design, administration, and so on. And also, my personal favourite was uninviting UX design, you know, is the same as when you walk into a room and you want it to look nice. It’s the same with learning, we want to make it exciting and easy for learners to learn. And this is something that you should also take into account. And the second question is around blending the content. So in this area, we will have all heard of blended learning solutions so far, and how we do that. Typically, what we want to do, sorry, before I start, is we want to have a mix of different methodologies that targets specific learning needs. And then I will show you a few examples here that I’ve used to integrate learning. And this year was a specific challenge for me as well in my previous role to conduct leadership training fully online as well. And however, I’ve learned a lot of things, and I’m going to share with you in the following section. 

So what I’ve used mostly for pre and post learning is that I would ask learners to complete as many tasks as they could in theory before they arrive in class. So they would do an assignment, they would register for the workshop within the learning management system, they would see a video that can be from HR or from YouTube, or a different provider that you have. And then you will also give people assignments and after that you can also conduct your evaluation in the individual space. As I said, this year was quite a challenge to also take care of live virtual sessions, we have spent quite a lot of time and as you can tell this conference is also online, we can spend it on using zoom or teams for different different platforms. So when I had the challenges to shift my complete inkless training programme to a virtual session. So what I’ve done is I’ve used a mentimeter, which is one of the audience interaction tools, and I’ve placed my entire presentation there. And as someone who was running the programme, every question I would have wanted to ask the learners, I would have actually asked him to do an interaction online. So every thought I had was actually planned in this session. 

So as you can see on the example here for a live virtual session, I would give people a task and then ask them to interact with it. Or I would give them a situational leadership axis and test their knowledge and their understanding of what type of leadership they should do in which type of situation. So these are just illustrations. And what also will turn out to be a best practice was a virtual roleplay, where I would split everyone in breakout groups and they would actually rotate for 45 minutes in different roles. So this turned out to be the biggest hit of the programme and what enabled that is very strong preparation. And for facilitators that took part so whenever we would have to break out every room would have a facilitator that is actually supervising the role plays. And this lasted for around four hours. And it’s very difficult for you as a facilitator but very engaging for the learners. So this to me shows that we can actually maximise and make virtual sessions fun and engaging. What we need to take care of is proper planning for that to happen. 

So if I am to summarise what it is that we want when it comes to blended learning, we want to make sure we use audience engagement tools, you can use mentimeter, you can use a slider for questions, you can use Kahoot as well. And there are many other tools you can find online that will make your tools more engaging. For me what works is not to go from different tools to different tools, but learners would immediately know where they are. And I would use one tool throughout the entire presentation. Role plays are great preparation is key for this to work and also when We want to make sure that we don’t have too much strain or talking time, but that you are in it, which is completely contrary to what I’m doing right now, I would love to have a chance to interact with the audience. 

However, this is one of those virtual situations, you don’t want to have also met too many learners in the sessions so that you can manage it. And absolutely don’t go it alone. So try to make sure that you have facilitators that can help you with the groups and to train them on what they need to be doing, because I’m sure that not everyone has a set of five trainers easily disposable just sitting on the shelf waiting for you to bring them to a session. And also, if you need to have a producer or moderator that will help you with setting up technologies for your, for your launches. 

That being said, I’m going to move to my favourite topic here that is actually about engaging learners. And it’s more about using campaign based American marketing to make sure that your learners who want to join our sessions, I’m sure you have all had learning initiatives where you have thought through every detail of the programme, and you have targeted different audiences in your organisation. However, the patience doesn’t pick up and people don’t really go to your platform and learn. So what I’ve learned is that stealing with pride from marketing is a good approach. So here you have a few examples of what I’ve been using before that worked well with engagement from the learners. I will try to use every opportunity with the team as well too, so that we communicate learning in different ways. 

So as you can see, on the left, there was this out of office, that would go to the learner to whoever is actually emailing me or anyone in the team and then definitely engage people to go and learn from different content. In this case, everyone had to take goal setting training. So it was also linked to this QR code that you see floating in the pool. Second thing that worked really well was recognising the learners and making sure that we somehow promote those that are actively taking part in our learning initiatives. As you can see, in this example, I will do a short interview, a fun fact and also a link to a course or two parts of the Academy where this person was taking part. And recognition goes a big, long way. 

When it comes to learning, What I would also advise is using internal ambassadors such as your leadership team, and actually promoting what content they have also been reviewing, so that you make sure that this becomes a part of your culture as well. And then, the last thing is actually building a brand which should maybe be the first thing is thinking of how it is that you guys want to communicate what is going to be your branding, what is going to be your communication style with the learners and to the learners. And that will pretty much drive the way that you communicate. 

And when it comes to summarising this piece, we want to understand that you know, campaign marketing is our friend, make sure that you take the time to plan the communication, this will not, this should not be an afterthought. But more of part of your this you should approach the at&t cell in the same way that you approach building content, and then promote learners. You can also use gamification tools that you have within your platform. If you don’t have gamification, you can always gamify the programme or learning initiatives in your organisation. What is a full learning communication is an afterthought over communicating especially if you have different styles and every programme has its own identity that will pretty much confuse the learners in the same way that it would confuse them if they would have to go to seven different platforms to learn. 

And in summarising what I’ve been sharing with you, so far, all of these elements will help you understand were helped to help you move your organisation through learning maturity. So there are around four levels that you can be at. The first one will be that your organisation is more an ad hoc learning culture where you you learn here and there, then you can have it more structured, where means that you do have some systems in place, then you have it strategic which means that you do rely on your strategy and that you are connected to where the company going and actually learning is helping the company succeed. And the last one is embedded learning culture. 

So if you would properly integrate e learning in following some key guidelines that you have in the front section of the presentation here you would be moving towards embedded learning culture overall. And I know it’s a daunting task and it actually takes a lot of effort, but it really pays off when you see that learners are actually actively engaged with the content that you’re buying. So, today what we have, what we have discussed is different ways you can approach getting content. So you can build, buy or borrow. Then we have discussed once you have done either of the three is where you will put your content, which means whether we’re going to use a do it yourself solution, or you’re going to go for more elaborate elements. Then we talked about how you will be blending the content together. And then about branding and an identity. The key thing here to understand is that you will not be able to do them all at the same time. My advice would be to think of where your organisation is currently when it comes to the learning maturity, especially in the digital aspect. And then just begin, just start slowly. If you haven’t already started, take a step, step back, understand where the organisation is at this very moment and then restart with some of the tips that I’ve shared with you today. I want to thank you very much for the attention

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