Published on 2012/09/25

Developing, Measuring and Reinvesting in your Chosen Learning Pathway: How Hard Can It Be?

Ongoing research, development, re-assessment and re-investment are important steps to ensuring that a program is meeting the expectations of both the institution and the client, and continuously ensuring that these expectations are being met is a pathway to success.

It’s easy to lay a couple of stones on the ground and call it a path. How often do home improvement projects start out with a grand idea of a quaint stone walkway through the yard or garden with the pure intent of creating a pathway that is usable, and delightful, for all? It’s simply a matter of slapping those slabs on the ground and calling it a day, right? I hear you laugh and I know some of you just sighed. It’s okay. I did, too.

The process of laying a pathway from point A to point B is not quite as simple as it first appears. There are a few factors that have to be taken into account first: ground conditions; traffic on pathway, drainage, materials used, location and ultimately projected strength of longevity. Miss any one of these elements and your pathway will be full of problems. However, address all of these issues prior to beginning the project, and you’re certain to have a path constructed from foresight and with measurable outcomes.

Constructing and measuring the success of a path is similar to building, and measuring, a successful technology based teaching, training and learning program in any organization. It’s all about the preparation, materials, and looped outcome research analysis and reinvestment. Sure, it’s not quick, easy, problem free or for the faint of heart – but it’s necessary and will ultimately result in a stronger, better, more solid and measurable program that would have been obtained by simply buying a technology and “slapping it on the ground.”

An analysis of this multi-tiered process is necessary in order that a working knowledge of the construction design is understood, and workable, from the ground up. While it is one thing to declare the intent of providing eLearning and eTraining to your students and/or workforce, it is quite another to develop a program that is comprehensive, pedagogically sound, and provides for ongoing and measurable results. Using our Organizational Learning Plan [1] as a reference, I have broken down the four components of program development and measurement.

This overview includes four subcategories and discussion platforms. While each subtopic will be addressed according to the individual needs of the organization, it is important to realize that they all have a place at the table and need to be honestly evaluated for actionable relevance.

1. Preparation: At the initial stage of development most organizations are very good about having a solid reason for program development. They are, frankly, passionate about the idea, the concept, and the long term benefits of having such a program. However, oftentimes they are painfully unaware of the components that must be analyzed long before implementation begins.

Analyze: Setting the stage for inquiry.

There are the five pre-development areas that must be addressed prior to program development. The initial analysis of an organization’s eLearning plan must contain a complete understanding of the following subcategories:

  1. LMS
  2. Current Outcomes
  3. Desired Outcomes
  4. Culture
  5. Demographics

By investing the necessary time and monetary resources on these preliminary preparation components a holistic understanding of the current situation, and directional navigations the program must take, will become apparent.

2. Materials: It would seem obviously foolhardy to build a path without the right materials. It would also seem counter-productive to build a path with inadequate, or blatantly wrong, materials. Yet that’s what a lot of organizations do and they are starting to pay the price.

Identify: What’s in your basket? Inventory or shop?

This is where a solid “List” comes in, either for assessment or shopping, be prepared to fill in the blanks (or have the potentially painful discussion) of what you have to work with. The list should include the following:

  1. Gaps
  2. Needs
  3. Resistance
  4. Champions
  5. Learning Styles
  6. Training Needs.

While some may argue that the personality profiles of individuals do not belong in a materials assessment, I offer a counter-opinion based on this thought: You should always know who is at the table with you and who is either patching up your basket or pulling the fibers out one by one.

3. Looped Outcome Research Analysis: I’m a huge advocate of this stage. While it sounds complicated, I’ll break it down a bit and make it ‘user friendly.’ “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” Does that help? I thought so!

Reconfigure: Build it and see if they come!

This is where the work of the analysis and materials assessment really pays off. At each stage of building your program, it is imperative to set a targeted goal (outcome), reassess it (research), analyze it and, as necessary “reloop” and correct as you’re moving along. The components of this stage are identified as:

  1. Realign
  2. Redesign
  3. Edit Current Modules

Much like our initial path in our construction project, every so often—despite our best intentions—we must make corrections on our project in order to increase usability, sustainability, and longevity. Preparing for the inevitable, and having a tangible solution in place, not only provides for a sounder product but also reduces (maybe eliminates) the “Board Room Freak Outs!”

4. Looped Outcome Reinvestment: This stage takes time. While that is not something that any construction manager likes to hear, they are aware that sometimes you just have to let the cement ‘set’, the planks age, and the soil to find its level. The same applies to the development, and now measurement, of a successful (or un) technology facilitated learning program. You’ve done the initial analysis, the materials quantification and the relooping analysis during the reconfiguration stage, and now you’re here. It’s time to distribute your fine-tuned product and make it available to your people.

Train/Teach: Who is going to carry this program forward?

A path alone in the unexplored forest is simply a rock thrown in the dirt. A path is only as good as the people using it. It is important to make sure that the right, and relevant, people are positioned (and trained) to use and distribute the new program that you’ve spent all this time developing. Realizing that the initial users (usually the trainers and surrounding team members) are your front line of distribution, implementation, and success measuring assessors allows for targeted and specialized training of these individuals. The individuals that need to be trained in the new system, and are responsible for all quantitative and qualitative feedback are:

  1. Current Instructor/Trainer
  2. One Position Up
  3. Two Positions Up
  4. One Position Down

It is their feedback that provides the materials for the Looped Outcome Reinvestment process to come full circle.

It’s important to remember that ongoing research, development, re-assessment and re-investment are all part of the process. An effective program is aligned with a purpose and finally grows forward as the goal expands and definitions of success create greater, and more worth challenges. From a simple path to a cobblestone roadway and finally to a streamlined freeway, so goes your program.

Peace and good choices.

– – – –

References

[1] http://carpelearning.com/index.php/programs/program-comparison-table/

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Readers Comments

Vera Matthews 2012/09/25 at 9:31 am

I think it is extremely difficult to assess the success of a corporate training program inside four months of the end of the course. The biggest area where change will occur is in behavior and approaches to problems and tasks, and we can’t observe how well the lessons are being retained and applied by employees until some time has passed.

It’s probably more the responsibility of the corporation (compared to the university) to ensure a program has been a success. And, as such, it’s more the responsibility of the corporation to tell the university how to modify the programming for future iterations.

What do you think, Heidi?

Dr. Heidi L. Maston 2012/09/25 at 10:32 am

I completely, 110% agree, Vera!

Change in design and execution does not, in any way/shape/form mean there is a change in behavior. Ever! Usually it leads to people digging their heals in and revolting because it’s not ‘the way we’ve always done it’ and thus, ‘it’s WRONG!’

Yes, I’ve directed those meetings, too. We all have.

What CarpeLearning does differently is this: In our initial contract, we specifically provide several ‘ongoing re-assessment/re-configuring’ options that a company (corporate or academic) can choose to embrace. We stay with the organization via phone/email on a weekly basis and physically return at 6 and 12 month intervals to do on the ground follow-ups and tweeks.

Dr. Hobgood and I are both intimately familiar with the time it takes to not only change a program at the technical level but the extended time it takes to change the learning/training culture.

So Vera, you hit the nail on the head… a good path requires a good architect, not a weekend do-it-yourself training program.

Peace and good choices,
Dr. Heidi

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