April 25, 2014

Technology Options for Developing and Leveraging Staff Knowledge and Skills

Question from a client: Our staff need to be agile in knowledge and skill development to thrive in an environment of ever faster change. What are the technology options for different states in skill and knowledge?

This comment reminded me of my 2005 Learning Technologies and a Learning Continuum which illustrates the application of learning technology (e-learning) based upon staff skill level at a point in time. For each ‘state’ of the learning continuum there is a technology option that is ‘fit for purpose’.

Learning technology choice for skill building

Novice: Prescribed learning – This is the opportunity to develop foundation knowledge or skills. Of course, foundation knowledge or skills should always be couched in learner’s context so that they can understand how the information relates to them. Prescribed learning is not about ‘content dump’. It’s about providing an instructional approach that enables new knowledge and skills to be readily assimilated. It’s about providing the building blocks from which staff can begin to develop judgement and problem-solving skills.

Discoverer: Stimulate & Question – When staff are relatively new to skills or knowledge, they often need to be both reminded of the new skill, and be assured of what they have retained. Guidance through mentoring or self-assessment can help reaffirm to a learner what they know, and make obvious the gaps in skills that require attention.

Explorer: Support curiosity & intrinsic motivation – A sure way to dampen motivation is when we do a poor job providing the tools and support to enable staff to apply their new skills and knowledge into the workplace, through on-demand tools and/or access to experts. Such options help staff feel supported as they begin to develop skills in judgement and problem-solving associated with the ambiguous nature of the workplace (i.e. few workplace situations are ‘cut and dry’). Or, for times when the learnt skills haven’t been used for a while and staff need a refresher before actioning the skill.

Expert: Encourage knowledge sharing and provoke curiosity -  Experts are so often an untapped resource for organisations. And, when they are used to help up skill others, the process is often labour-intensive and unsystemised. Leveraging expert knowledge and skills by recording and disseminating contextual ‘pearls of wisdom’, or by leveraging experts in networks and mentoring programs not only supports organisational knowledge management strategies, but provides experts with additional purpose to their role. Remember, when people of different experiences ‘collide’(e.g. through networks), there is a chance for new ideas and innovation to be generated.

My continuum suggests that, depending upon the learner ‘state’ (whether developing or leveraging staff knowledge and skills), there is a learning strategy that makes better sense. Try using this continuum to examine and get clear about the purpose for your learning intervention. Then, look at the technology (e-learning) options that will support the learning design for that purpose.

For information on video for organisational learning such as performance support and leveraging experts, have a look at my new video series on YouTube Video for Organisational Learning.

Workplace Learning: Do you use SEO for your online content?

Components to Search Engine OptimisationOne of the advantages I have runnning by own websites is the opportunity to experiment with SEO – Search Engine Optomisation. It’s a vital component of a content marketing strategy which I wrote about last blog post.

Search Engine Optimisation is all about maximising website traffic. It’s the strategy used to ensure your content is most easily visible to the right people. The better your SEO strategy, the more easily the right people can find your content. In essence, you need to understand two things to do good SEO:

  1. The keywords or phrases your intended audience uses to locate the content you provide.
  2. The algorithms used by Google and other search engines to prioritise content.

What’s SEO got to do with workplace learning?

Understanding SEO techniques of your organisation’s platforms helps you to maximise the reach of the content that you create. This is particularly important for content designed for workplace learning; simple and accessible content that employees retrieve to solve problems and develop mastery.

Perhaps the most important content management platform in most organisations is the intranet. Before writing and adding content onto the intranet, talk with your intranet master to understand how your intranet search engine works so that you can begin to write content that is optimised for search. Ask your intranet master what phrases and keywords employees are using to search for your content and whether the results they get are satisfying their origional enquiry. This information is usually available through the intranet’s analytics.

 Tips for intranet SEO

  1. Uncover the keywords and phrases that staff typically use to search for your content, and use these terms consistently in all related content. The most important keywords should appear in your heading and several times through the body of the content.
  2. Conversely, don’t use unrelated keywords or you will annoy people when their search results turn up with irrelevent content.
  3. When posting your content, make sure to fill in all the metadata options. The metadata helps the search engine find your content.
  4. Get regular (e.g. monthly) analysis of your content pages and look for trends in relevance of search terms used to locate your content.
  5. Ask for a report of search terms that did not result in the right content being located. This signals to you that content useful to employees is missing from your intranet.
  6. Build a relationshp with the intranet master, and become one of the stakeholders consulted during intranet upgrades. Generally speaking, wikis are a better platform for content searchability than enterprise intranets.
  7. Watch the trends of Google and other search engines. This will help you to predict where the searchability of corporate content management systems is heading.

SEO and Google

For those of us with a website, there are five current trends to the Google algorithm that I keep mindful of when preparing my content:

  • Google’s preference for vidoe
  • Google’s preference for fresh content
  • Google’s preference for contributions by individual
  • Google’s personalisation of the content you see, by location and keyword
  • Google’s use of suggested search terms and phrases

Synergies Between Internet Content Marketing and Workplace Learning

Scanning content with QR code on mobile phoneI was recently listening to another great podcast from Intuitive Websites, this one on Content Marketing. Content marketing is about creating good content that drivespotential buyers to your website. The content should ‘ready’ the buyer to purchase. Glenn and Tom talked about the consumer of content being more discerning than a few years ago, because so much good content is readily available that people are beginning to know what good content is. The way content can be accessed and displayed is evolving rapidly. Think e-books, video, audio, infograms, QR codes, slide shows, animations etc. Key principles of good content include:

  • Ensuring it is of value to your client (read learner) segment. e.g. relevant stories that are contextual to employee daily activities and challenges
  • Ensuing the content is simple and direct
  • Ensuring the content is consistent in format and regularity

I appreciate Internet marketing is about driving business, but there is an obvious synergy between content marketing and our role as learning professionals to develop accessible content that ‘ready’ employees to want to build expertise and know how. After all, don’t we want to drive the business of continuous learning in our organisations? I think a learning technology strategy in 2012 should be less about interactive e-learning courseware and more about good content delivered easily into employee workflow. To remain relevant, learning professionals need to develop new skills in content writing and content preparation.

I highly recommend learning professionals take the time to examine trends in good, accessible internet content, and think about what content marketing can offer a workplace learning strategy. A great place to start is to listen to internet marketing podcasts such as Intuitive Websites. More podcast recommendations can be found on our resources page.

Thinking e-learning strategy? Think video

Every day, 98 years of video is being uploaded onto YouTube (reference). YouTube is now the second most commonly searched platform, after Google. It has 2 billion visitors a day, and handles 10% of all Internet traffic (reference). YouTube is strategically owned by Google. Can you imagine the pipeline of ideas Google has for video? Take Google TV . Not to mention the growing use of video watching on smartphones and tablets (reference). 

Video is permeating the way we have traditionally accessed information. Well scripted video answers the ‘what we need to know’, succinctly and with the multimedia advantage of sound and visual.

If you are embarking on an e-learning strategy to support the way your staff learn and access information, think video.

Three types of video for learning

  1. Expert opinion. These videos help us to glean new perspectives, ideas and approaches. TED Talks is a great example of this, available on internet and App. But it could be your head of department, head of operations or a pivotal staff member about to retire. Storytelling forms part of this video subset.
  2. Briefings. These videos help us to quickly digest what’s new, such as a new product launch or new procedure. These provide high level explanation.
  3. Instruction. These videos provide guidance on how to ‘do’ something. Examples include screen recordings of software applications and video demonstrations of a process.

What do you need to support a video strategy

1. You need a platform to house the videos in one location

This could be your intranet or Sharepoint platform. Be sure to think about the size of video that your platform can manage (both in dimensions and in duration). Think about how well the videos can be easily searched, retrieved and saved as favourites. Finally, think about how well your platform can adapt the video download to meet local PC bandwidth demands. 

If you are looking for a proprietary video platform (software as a service), have a look at:

Video webcasting is also a growing trend for educating staff and clients, such as conferences and product launches. Take a look at:

2. You need video equipment

The quality you are striving for your video strategy will influence the equipment you purchase.

  • For expert opinion and some briefings, I use a Canon HF M52 (great in low light), tall tripod, Audio-technica lapel mic and an iPad teleprompter App – About A$1100 total.
  • For rapidly developed briefings, I use the Camtasia PowerPoint add-in.
  • For instruction screen recordings, I use Camtasia.

3. You need skill

  • For filming experts, consider a professional video producer if the budget allows. And be sure to prepare the script well – succinctness and authenticity is key.
  • For producing screen recordings and briefings in Camtasia, you simply need to practice the Camtasia software.
  • For briefings and instructional videos, you need skills in instructional design and visual design.

 The bottom line..

In today’s busy workplace, getting people across new information simply and easily has never been more important. And, with the rapid redundancy of information, organisations can no longer afford expensive content productions or glorified e-learning courseware for the purposes of briefing staff.

Video has an important future role for any organisation. Before embarking on an expensive e-learning strategy, think about what video can offer your staff development.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss how you might best approach a cost-effective video strategy.