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Archive for the ‘learning technologies’ Category


According to analyst Josh Bersin, US companies spent well over $70 Billion for employee training in 2013. Analysts predict that amount is will be significantly greater in 2015.

These are the kinds of statistics one might expect C-suite executives to pay attention to. So it’s odd that they seem not to be paying much attention to the ROI for corporate training.

It’s abysmal.

PHOTO elephant in room

Leading experts have studied the subject at length; the statistics they provide differ. Some say there are too many variables to allow for “one-size-fits-all” statements about how much training is retained, and how quickly it is forgotten. They note the  variety of training goals and audiences receiving the training, as well as differences in training delivery methods.

Having said this, there is general agreement among experts in the field that that corporate training’s success rate is, shall I say, “poor.”

One of these experts is Dr. Art Kohn, who has done a great deal of work on “the forgetting curve” and its effect on training retention. He’s also the recipient of not one but two Fulbright Fellowships for work in Cognitive Psychology and Educational Technology. In a recent article in Learning Solutions, he wrote the following:

It is the dirty secret of corporate training: no matter how much you invest into training and development, nearly everything you teach to your employees will be forgotten…this investment is like pumping gas into a car that has a hole in the tank. All of your hard work simply drains away.

The fact is that this “dirty secret” is really not secret at all.

The research and resulting articles about this have been out there for years. Yet there’s not much evidence that corporae executives are acting upon it, despite its its obvious and critical importance to the bottom line.

Bersin’s research also shows an explosive growth in technology-driven training, including self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs. Worldwide, formal classroom education, now accounts for less than half the total training “hours.”

According to Bersin, mobile devices are now used to deliver as much as 18% of all training among what he calls “highly advanced companies.”

Does this mean that employees are using their iPads to access Udemy courses? If so, is there a significant difference in retention rate for employees who have information presented by a live trainer while sitting in a room with 20 fellow workers… versus those who receive it on mobile phone the subway on the way home at night… compared to someone being trained via  iPad while sitting in the living room after the kids have been put to bed?

We won’t have statistics to provide answers to those questions for some time.

But corporations should be watching closely to see if new methods of delivering training result in a dramatic increase in retention among employees once they’re on the job — because if Kohn is right, even achieving a whopping 400% increase in retention will mean that after just one week, the average employee will still be retaining only about half of what is needed on-the-job.

That’s hardly a stunning success rate.

Research has made it abundantly clear that the basic premise that drives corporate training is fatally flawed.

It’s abundantly clear that the training corporations are currently providing to their employees  is not succeeding in providing them with the information they need to do their jobs properly the first time. So why does corporate America keep throwing good money after bad, trying to find a “patch” or download an “updated version”?

It’s as if a purple elephant with pink toenails is standing next to the coffee table and corporations are only willing to acknowledge that there’s an “unusual scent in the air.”

My next blog will give more compelling facts to show why a major change in corporate training is needed.

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We’d like to share the article below by Steve Wheeler, Assoc. Professor of Learning Technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University in England.  We admire Steve not only for his thinking about the future of learning and education–but also for the clarity and beauty of his writing. His blog can be found at:  Steve Wheeler

I presented a keynote at the Curriculum Enhancement Day for Portsmouth Business School recently, and chose this bright coloured image as one of my opening slides. It is as beautiful as it is intriguing, and it’s known as the Mandelbrot Set. I didn’t choose it solely for its visual impact, although as you can see, it certainly is quite a stunning image, and there are many variations. I chose it because I wanted to use it to make a point about what education is, and what education can become. You see, the image represents a mathematical formula that is recursive. In other words, as you zoom in to the image, which represents data points of a mathematical calculation, it continually reproduces itself towards infinity. Mathematicians will understand the explanation below from Wikipedia, but the rest of us might struggle:

The Mandelbrot set is the set of complex numbers ‘c’ for which the sequence (c, c² + c, (c²+c)² + c, ((c²+c)²+c)² + c, (((c²+c)²+c)²+c)² + c, …) does not approach infinity. The set is closely related to Julia sets (which include similarly complex shapes) and is named after the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who studied and popularized it. Mandelbrot set images are made by sampling complex numbers and determining for each whether the result tends towards infinity when a particular mathematical operation is iterated on it. Treating the real and imaginary parts of each number as image coordinates, pixels are coloured according to how rapidly the sequence diverges, if at all.

Follow that? Me neither. The rest of us simply admire its visual appeal or marvel at its fractal properties and how it is never ending. The point I wanted to make at the conference was that much of our education systems are fractal in nature. Education is delivered recursively, where students are required to reproduce knowledge that is already known.

It’s a safe approach to education, and learning can be easily measured. Those that become teachers continue this tradition, teaching their own students the same knowledge, in more or less the same style they were themselves taught. Assessment of learning also has fractal features. Standardised testing is based on reproducing knowledge. Final examination success is premised on the student’s ability to reiterate what has already been taught in lessons. There is no room for exploration or creativity in summative assessment.

My point was that when education is conducted in fractal mode, it does not obtain its full potential and students are disadvantaged. I asked my audience to consider the difference between recursive and discursive education approaches. In recursive education, we see reproduction of knowledge, and we see students learning content towards a product – memorising facts and then reproducing them for the examiner. In discursive education, students are allowed to digress from the pathway, investigate new and untravelled pathways, and discover for themselves. Instruction is minimised, learning takes centre stage in the process. This kind of learning can be found in project work, problem based learning and personal research and many other progressive approaches.

My question for my audience was this: How can we as educators provide discursive opportunities for our students?

What would it take for us to leave the safe and mundane world of product based, recursive education behind and adopt new pedagogies that promote self discovery, digression from prescribed pathways and learning by a process of serendipity?

It would be a major risk for many institutions, and there would be some personal cost. But if we don’t try, how will we make any progress? This is an initial foray into this area for me and I would interested in your views on these ideas. As ever, I am open to discussion and revision, because I’m wholly committed to discursive enquiry.

Steve can be reached at S.Wheeler [@] plymouth[.ac.uk]

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