Saba web session

I’m attending a Saba webinar via Placeware (and tollfree phone) by Brook Manville and Grant Ricketts. I have two reasons for investing an hour in this activity. First, Brook and Grant know their stuff and I’m curious about what they see coming up next in eLearning. Second, I’ve become the point person for developing the eLearning Forum’s outreach and resources programs for its remote members, so I’m looking at the process used by some old hands with a lot of practice who are probably as good as it gets.

I’ll make comments about processes in green and record content in brown.

Every one of the fifty “seats” is green; it’s a full house. Audience polls are great: They make sure everyone’s awake; they give you a sense of who else is attending; they are one of the few “interactive” elements of this experience. They also give you a break from the boring format of the rest of my report here.

    Last Sunday, I blogged “the death of a meme, a once-wise thought that had morphed into cliché. The dead meme: First-generation eLearning didn’t work very well. You’ve heard it here, you’ve heard it there; soon we’re hear it everywhere. So enough already. When somebody near you rants about early failures, simply say ‘Dead meme.’ Or “That parrot won’t hunt.” Let’s learn from our mistakes, not repeat them. Instead of grousing about the past, let’s talk how we’re going to make things better.”

    Unfortunately, Brook and Grant spent the first half of their session on the dead meme. It’s the old saw that the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.

First-generation eLearning failed to meet expectations. Why?

    First big mistake was concentrating on the how rather than the why: love of technology, a lack of business focus.

    Second, not enough attention paid to the economics. Lack of understanding where value is created, scale economies, what it all costs.

    Third, definitions were too narrow. It’s a lot more than putting content on the net. Overlooking the overall learner experience.

    Fourth, forgetting about the learner. They don’t come. Forgetting adult learning principles.

    Fifth, automating old ways: the course or training program, little fresh thinking, working from yesterday’s assumptions.

    Sixth, a lack of enterprise-wide vision. Silos. Proprietary solutions. Fragmented approaches. Real value comes from thinking holistically.

    Seventh, transformation without change management. Communications, marketing, stakeholders. (Sounds like Saba has read Lance’s and my book).

    Eighth, wild enthusiasm. “Damn the torpedos!” Or fear and dread: analysis paralysis.

No quarrel. Been there, said that.

Speed up, says the audience.

The Second Generation is here. Who’s doing it well and what does it look like?

    Tell me why. (Caution: I’m improvising as well as reporting here.) Focus on the business issue. Novartis: revenue growth, Cisco: channel productivity, EMC: customer satisfaction, Medtronic: speed to market, P&G: talent retention, Queensland Rail: risk management…

    ROI shifts to Managing ROI. Cut costs of travel, staff, multiple vendors, lost productivity… Hidden inefficiencies such as incompatibilites of format across the organization. On the upside, raise revenue, speed time to performance, increase share, manage risk. (The second generation is looking very much like the first. I’ve been saying these exact words for a number of years, going back to paper-and-pencil training days.)

    Geez, the conclusion is as old as Peter Drucker: Be effective as well as efficient.

    Return on Expectation. ‘course you gotta know what you’re after.

    Holistic approach: content, infrastructure, process work (learning cycle, CMS, continuous improvement).

    Learner experience. Simple, engaging, back to adult learning principles, blended, rediscovery of the importance of people, personalization, more learner-centric approach.

    This is second generation? Here is Saba’s depiction of learner-centric:

    Here is my depiction of learner-centric from 1999. It’s on the eLearning FAQ.

    These days I use an updated version:

    The sandwich blend. Chunking. Learner in the middle. This is playing to the crowd. Real blending will look like someone dropped learning objects into the Bass-o-matic. It’s a lot more complicated than a live workshop with online bookends.

    Also giving managers the tools to address gaps, link learning & business goals.

    Exploring mix-and-match learning objects (using a Wayne Hodgins’ slide).

    Developing enterprise-wide strategy, an overall business map.

We are on slide 32 of 60! With seven minutes to go.

    Value web, not attributed, but it certainly look like Verna Allee’s work.

    Do-it-try it-fix it approach. (In Search of Excellence).


      More focus on business results
      More blending, chunking
      Learning processes becoming increasingly invisible
      Deeper infrastructure

The Third Generation
Shifting the focus from learning to execution

The main thing Brook and Grant see coming in the next generation is a focus on execution. I could not agree more. That’s where training started. How can we prepare enough men to fight the war? In today’s military, there’s still lots of training going on, but there’s also recognition that fighting ability comes from trained people supplemented by smart systems. We’re coming back to where we always should have been: focusing on doing. Execution, execution, execution.

If people can execute without learning, that’s great. If people learn but don’t execute, I question whether they ever learned at all. Execution is the raison d’etre of learning.

    This is one of those models that speak to some people but confuse the daylights out of me. “Customer, supplier, channel, and employee” are the audiences. Each group has organizations, processes and people. Now things begin to break down. What is the arrow trying to tell me? That organizations are more important than people? That customers get formal learning and employees are managed talent? That there’s some sort of scale from formal learning to talent management? I think a couple of text-boxes would have made this more clear for me.

I’m impatient. I want us to focus on execution now. First, last, and always.

Brook and I chatted briefly later in the day. I told him I didn’t find much new in the presentation. That was on purpose. Lots of people have some catching up to do. They’re not ready for new approaches until they’ve mastered what they’ve already got.

Out of time. No questions.

Technically, the session went well. No glitches with the slides. Easy to hear and understand.

Good to have two people presenting although it would have been more engaging had they debated a few issues instead of agreeing with one another all the time.

At eLearning Forum, we should use some remote audience polls. When projected on the big screen, that gives a voice to off-site participants.

Anyone know how much it costs for a toll-free conference call line for 50 people spread across the country for an hour? That’s why I’ve used voice over IP in the past, even though I know it throws in one more thing that can go wrong.

I’m a picky customer, and my information needs differ from most participants’. I applaud Saba in general, and Brook in particular, for helping the eLearning industry learn. Webinars, the great Saba Live! series, and white papers raise the level of understanding for us all.

Posted by Jay Cross at February 26, 2003 09:41 PM | TrackBack

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