Could robots run L&D?

By John Helmer

640px-Actroid-DER_01A recent article by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books addresses the vexed question of how quickly robots might replace all our jobs.
One of the many sources  quoted in this well-researched and entertaining piece is a 2013 study by two Oxford economists, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osbourne (‘The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?’). Using mathematical and statistical techniques, Frey and Osbourne assessed the impact of technological change on a range of 702 occupations. In Lanchester’s words: ‘it ranks them from 1 (you’ll be fine) to 702 (best start shining up the CV)’.

I defy you not to do as I did and download the paper instantly to find out where your own job role sits in this list of death. Chances are though, if you’re an L&D professional you will be agreeably surprised. Training and Development Managers rank fairly high in the list at 30, just below Human Resource Managers at 28. ’Teachers and Instructors, All Others’ sits a bit lower at 48, but still well towards the top of the list, with Training and Development Specialists’, rather puzzlingly, at 64. All of these are less in danger of being replaced by robots than Chief Executives, at 70, however.

So good news then, trebles all round. E-learning is not about to eat all L&Ds jobs. Although disturbingly, for me, ‘Writers and Authors’ seem to be heading towards the danger zone at 123.


Video for learning: how to make it work

By Carole Bower

CB_on_screenOnline video has exploded in recent years. At the last count, YouTube had a billion users, with four billion videos being watched daily. The highest earning YouTuber made a massive $4.9 in 2014 (for unboxing Disney toys, can you believe!)

But as well as watching kittens fall into fish tanks, real people are learning real things on YouTube, making it perhaps the biggest learning platform on the planet. Not surprisingly, our learners in the corporate world want a piece of this. Increasingly, they have come to expect access to similar, regular, fast moving video content.

And L&D is responding to this expectation. The latest Benchmark Survey from Towards Maturity predicts that in 2016 83% of L&D departments will be using video to support learning content.

But this is a different beast to the training videos on VHS tapes and DVDs that have been part of the landscape for so long. Online video is sharper, snappier and shorter. It has to be.

The Bersin report, Meet the Modern Learner (requires subscription), describes learners as ‘overwhelmed, distracted and impatient’ and suggests that we are receptive to just 5-10 seconds of information before our attention switches to something else. Learners have shorter attention spans, and now want a more ‘on-demand’ approach to their learning.

It’s about getting things across really quickly. As L&D professionals, we are competing with a lot of ‘noise’ generated by always-on, mobile-delivered, 24/7 social media: we need to get our point across in a way that is going to have an impact. We want it to enact a change that will have a lasting effect and help people to do their jobs better.

Learning needs to be short, sharp, to the point and it needs to be perceived as incredibly high value by the learner. So how can you achieve this?

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What can you learn in 6.5 seconds? Vines for learning

By John Helmer


I’ll admit I was sceptical. Can you really learn anything useful in just six and a half seconds? But after only a few minutes talking to Steve George, learning solutions consultant at Lumesse, I was sold.

So here’s a quick practical guide to how you can use short-form video like vines for learning.

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Blended learning book features Lumesse work for Vodafone

By John Helmer

We’re always pleased when Clive Shepherd publishes a new book. His is one of the clearest and wisest voices in learning, and he always gives good practical advice. But we’re especially thrilled at the publication of his latest: More Than Blended Learning, because it contains a detailed case study of the award-winning programme Lumesse Learning helped to create for Vodafone.

You can find out more about the book on the dedicated website http://morethanblended.com and also watch a video of Mohsin Ghafoor, Group Commercial Learning Lead at Vodafone, taking about the programme, which was focused on developing the Group’s marketing capability globally.


Our contribution to the blended programme is described in the book as ‘definitely not your standard e-learning … it was fun, engaging, and not your standard “click, click” and “how soon can I get through this?” It has lots of colour, it’s low on text and has video embedded. It’s enriched with tools and templates, so very practically focused …’

But this is more than just a book launch. More Than Blended Learning is also a company formed to promote the ‘More Than’ approach described in the book to blended learning best practices, and support organisations around the world looking to adopt its principles. We wish everyone involved the best of luck – and a big thank-you for saying such nice things about our work!


Why you need to win the war for learner attention

By Steve George

We live in an attention economy. There is too much information out there, and simply not enough neural capacity to filter, organize and make sense of it all. The winners in this economy are those who have cultivated the art of attracting attention to themselves. People like Kim Kardashian – who has made a lucrative business out of attracting attention to herself on behalf of sponsors.

I might be pushing it a bit if I said that as a head of L&D you are in direct competition with Kim Kardashian for learner attention, but it is undoubtedly true that your learners are subject to the same dynamic that is seeing the entire information industry chasing a vanishingly small public attention span: ‘Encouraging adults to pay attention to lectures for more than 15 minutes has always been a challenge … However, now, attention spans and patience are measured in minutes and seconds – especially on laptops, tablets, and smartphones’ (Bersin 2014).

Learners are becoming more impatient, more self-directed in their learning, and have ever greater access to always-on mobile computing. This puts you in competition with sources such as Wikipedia and the major social media platforms. We know from research (including the latest report from Towards Maturity) that learners learn best through social collaboration and actively look for this too. These sources can give quick answers to problems your employees face in their everyday work, but the information might not be correct, or aligned with your organisation’s values and compliance obligations. Make no mistake about it: you are engaged in a war for learner attention. Here are five tips for how to win.

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