My learning technologies journey: it started earlier than I realised!

Picture of student on laptop.In my last blog I mentioned learning technology and how I was “getting it” but actually I think I was getting something else “social networking and the value this can add to learning”.  The reason I see a difference is that I recently delivered a session to a group of L&D professionals at a symposium event and in preparing this I realised that my journey with learning technologies had started many years earlier pre Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I have been in IT Training for 20 years. The first ten years were spent in a fully resourced team following a predominately face to face classroom approach whilst the past ten years have been about delivering more with less.  In my role as a IT learning & communications manager I have seen my team grow, shrink and shrink some more as the organisation I work for has had to save money.  At the same time as the team reduced in size, parts of the business continued to grow resulting in more IT customers needing IT training and support.

To make the required savings and continue delivering more, with less resource, our journey started by replacing hard copy manuals with electronic how to guides grouped by application and task.  This transition was made possible when the organisation deployed a central document management system similar in function to Sharepoint. All guides are branded and then converted to PDF before being published in a central public area accessible via a couple of clicks.  This reduced our printing costs and gave the learner quick access to relevant, searchable content when they needed it.

Having made the transition to electronic guides we began to develop the central public area so that learners could also access related e-learning content. This included both generic and custom content, the latter being developed by my team.  We learnt how to deep link into the e-learning platform so that following login learners were signposted direct to the content they needed.

It took several years before e-learning was accepted by the majority as a valid way to learn. During it’s implementation we marketed, marketed and marketed, delivering taster sessions to get people started, attending team meetings to encourage a team based approach to learning online, publishing posters, tips and tricks and desk reminders. We also published usage statistics and case studies across the organisation to promote how the content was being used and adding value.

Whilst the electronic guides and e-learning were being used well, we still heard rumbles across the organisation from learners who “missed being in a classroom” “missed having a trainer at hand to ask questions” and “felt isolated learning alone”.

To overcome some of this we looked for other ways to engage learners and trialled the use of virtual classrooms (VCs). We experimented with course sizes, duration and the product functionality before running our first series of VCs which were based around the top five how to calls received by our helpdesk. 

Virtual classrooms provided our learners with something in-between the classroom and e-learning: they can still learn at their PC but are able to communicate with other delegates and ask a trainer.  The most common feedback we get about VCs from learners is that they were anxious before their first experience but once they take the plunge they’re hooked!  This delivery method has been accepted far quicker than e- learning and in our first year of use we moved a third of our classroom based delivery to VCs. In the most recent financial year this figure has increased to over 60%.

So, as you can see, my learning technologies journey has been ongoing for longer than I had even realised and still continues.  The latest technologies we are working with/exploring are Moodle, Wiki’s, video content, interactive electronic user guides and the range of SoMe tools available.

If any readers are on a similar journey I’d love to share and would welcome any tips from those of you that have already taken the plunge into some of the newer areas we are now exploring.

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This learning technologies thing….I am getting it now!

villagers joining in the fun

Dalton Parva Village Street Party, 30 Apr 2011

A Right Royal Doo!

So you would have to be pretty remote and cut off not to have not seen at least some mention of the right royal wedding yesterday!

Following my twitter feeds I could see a mixed bag of those who would be following and those that had no interest whatsoever.  I however, looked forward to the day and the chance to join a couple of friends in a small Rotherham village, Dalton Parva to celebrate the festivities at their street party. 

The majority of villagers came out despite the windy and cold conditions and joined in the fun, bouncy castle, hog roast and bunting galore.  This was my first visit to the village but it wasn’t long before I felt like a local as a result of the villagers being so warm, welcoming and social.

My right royal reflections….

Returning home that evening I began to reflect and considered not only how great the face to face socialising had been but also how great it had been to use technology throughout the day to link in with friends across the world. 

Through Twitter I enjoyed following and participating in the banter between my followers and the people I follow. 

Through YouTube I could access a multitude of video clips posted by people from everywhere capturing the day.

With Facebook I connected with friends across the world whose comments and pictures showed me how they were celebrating the day. I also used it to share a story board of my own pictures and to connect with the new friends I had made.

Later reflections (at the point I was planning to go to sleep!) found me thinking through how I had used technology on this day to capture the event,  how this experience had enriched my own personal learning technologies journey and how I really could start using the technologies more to support my workplace learning.  I recognised how very little I am actively encouraged during learning events to capture the day, reflect on this and share my learning with others.

I thought about the times at the beginning of a face to face event where I had been asked to switch off my phone.  What if I hadn’t been asked to do this and instead encouraged to leave my phone on?  I could capture the day in pictures and video and use twitter/facebook/youtube and/or my blog to share my learning story.  I could connect with the other learners on the course to build up my online network and through this further continue my learning to develop beyond the event. I could build on this to share my ongoing experiences of how I was applying this learning into the workplace and the value this added.

It was a restless night reflecting on this right royal event but before I finally dropped off I thought, “…..you know what….I am getting  it now….the potential of this learning technologies thing!!”  I don’t need to be encouraged by anybody else to capture and share my story – I can take responsibility and do this myself!  I can however, actively encourage the learners in my community and beyond to give these technologies a go; to capture and share their own stories and join in with like-minded friends and colleagues across the world committed to doing the same.

It is still a relatively short time since I started making the effort to use technologies such as facebook, twitter, youtube and wordpress as learning tools but now that I have made them part of my daily life I am learning something new and valuable every single day.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet….DO…it is worth it!