Can a Positive Workplace Environment Overcome Poor Output?

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It’s early Monday morning, and statistically you have a better chance of having a heart attack or facing sudden death than at any other time. Many people hate their work, and the dread starts the minute the alarm rings. Their chest tightens in anticipation of the commute to work. Once they arrive at work, they’re ensconced in a cocoon of negativity. Worse, they have five full days before their next reprieve. This is no way to live a life, and it’s no way to run a business.

Down the Productivity Drain

Too many workplaces operate like prisons. Minor infractions carry grave consequences. What used to be considered normal behavior is now deemed aberrant and/or unprofessional. When an employee has a family to feed, the last thing he or she wants to do is “step out of line.” Many employees have long since had the creativity beat out of them, and they more closely resemble potted plants than vibrant human beings. Without a clearly defined path of advancement, employees are little more than worker drones. As high as the toll of a negative work environment is on employees, the cost to companies is even greater when productivity swirls the drain due to employee dissatisfaction.

Diagnose the Problem

A sustained drop in productivity, creativity and employee attitude is likely an environmental problem, and we don’t mean the paint job. Something’s rotten in the workplace, and it’s likely the corporate culture.

Flip the Switch

It’s time for a corporate culture makeover. Forget the cries of the 1980’s MBAs; start putting people first. That’s how to flip the productivity switch almost instantaneously. It’s not about the money—unless employees are grossly underpaid and overworked. People want to feel appreciated, they want to feel they’re making worthwhile contribution, and they want to know that if they do a good job, the ladder to success is within their reach.

Propel Career Advancement with eLearning

Career development is probably the most important and most underutilized area for eLearning. It’s expensive to recruit and train employees, and it’s costly to recruit management from the outside. By offering eLearning modules on technical and soft skills and using career advancement courses as incentives, a business can create loyalty while it creates an educated workforce.

While it might sound counterintuitive, a solid career development eLearning program can also put the soul back into a workplace. Social learning can break down silos, ridding the working of the “we vs. them” mentality that permeates mature companies. An employee can find mentors, set up a Personal Learning Network (PLN), and advance his or her career while helping others to advance theirs. What better way to advance a career than by tapping into the expertise of others. And what better way to reward current employees than by giving them the tools to advance their career.

It’s a clear win/win with a minimal investment. Showing appreciation for employees and making them feel valued by rolling out a career development program can help to put the workplace on a positive path.


Is Social Media an Asset or for eLearning… or a Distraction?

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We love our social media: Keeping in touch with family on Facebook; sharing links on Twitter; even following total strangers on Instagram. But for all of the time we spend on social media (and for all the flack received) there’s something to be said for essentially crowdsourcing your social life. After all, social media helps you keep in touch, but it also keeps you in the loop. In fact, you might be surprised at how much you learn just from checking into your accounts, whether it’s the latest news, industry reports and yes, funny cat videos.

So how can organizations capitalize on their employees’ propensity to be just as addicted to social media as the rest of us? The answer might not be what is shared, but how it’s shared with others. By creating comprehensive boundaries for employees using social media as a learning and collaboration tool, you can score all of the knowledge – without the Candy Crush invitations.

Why Social Media?

While you might be atempted to simplify and cut social media out of the L&D equation altogether, don’t be too hasty: Social media definitely has its purpose in eLearning. Take some of these benefits into consideration before you block Facebook from the company servers.

  • Social eLearning is quick. The average Facebook visit is about 18 minutes, which is a fraction of the time spent in-class or on typical eLearning modules. In the few minutes that it takes to sign in and peruse status messages and links, a learner could find potentially valuable information.
  • Social eLearning is casual. Facebook isn’t exactly a high stakes game for anyone other than Mark Zuckerberg. For everyone else, it’s a laid-back environment that is ripe for sharing and collaboration. Social eLearning, therefore, is more casual and inclusive than other training intitiatives.
  • Social learning is personal. Don’t want to see pictures of your ex? Hide them. Facebook offers a highly personalized environment, where users pick and choose what they’d like to see. Consider the application in a learning environment, where learners are in the driver’s seat of what they do and don’t want to learn. By condensing down to the most important stuff, users are intrinsically motivated to pick up new information that applies to them directly.

Best Practices

If you’re convinced that social eLearning can be a supplement to your current efforts, keep in mind that not all social sharing is good social sharing. By creating boundaries for social media usage at work, you’ll ensure that social eLearning doesn’t become a distraction.

First, create a private or closed group for your organization. The links and information you share shouldn’t be for public consumption and a closed group can give learners a forum to post links, voice their opinions and otherwise encourage microlearning via social media.

You should also create a list of group rules, which includes guidelines for what should be posted. Social media posting should be limited to industry news, helpful videos or organization-specific media. It’s not the place to post pictures of kids, casual announcements or links that might be NSFW.

Finally, ensure that you utilize the right medium for your message. Facebook is ideal for encouraging conversation, but Twitter might be your best bet for posting industry links and helpful sites. Having a corporate account for the main social networking sites means you’ll have more control over how, what and where you post.

While it’s true that social media can be a distraction, it’s possible to harness the power of sharing for eLearning efforts. Allowing learners to access and collaborate through social media simply creates informal learning opportunities that can add up over time.

Fashion Tech: What Intel MICA Means for Wearable Tech in 2015

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mica watch

Intel pulled out all of the stops when debuting their new smartwatch, MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) , displayed like a piece of art in a glass case at IDF 2014. And in a way, MICA is a piece of art, doing away with the overtly digital design offerings available from Samsung and Motorola. Instead, Intel created wearable tech that people actually want to wear; a statement piece for fashionphiles and tech geeks alike.

Intel’s slow takeover might have to do with the hefty price tag of $495, but slow-moving sales notwithstanding, Intel is pushing wearable tech into new territory. What does it mean for eLearning and the mobile tech industry on the whole? You might be surprised.

Right on Target

While technically MICA can be worn by either gender, its high-end styling has a clear target: Women. The snakeskin band and large gemstone practically eclipses the touch screen on the back of the piece, making it a statement piece first and a smart watch second. As a standalone device, it doesn’t act as a companion piece to your smartphone, but rather a messaging, scheduling and reminder machine in and of itself.

Fashion Tech: A New Market

What Intel is hoping to achieve is to capture the previously neglected women’s market. They don’t want to clunky, obviously digital devices offered by other brands. The Intel MICA might be one of the first smartwatches where design meets functionality to create a new brand of “fashion tech.”

Tech Implications

Not in the market for a statement smartwatch? Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the Intel MICA altogether, since its mere existence says a lot about where tech is headed. A changing attitude toward smartwatches and other wearable tech toward being fashion accessories and not just novelty items proves just how mainstream the technology has become.

Not sure how it affects eLearning? Consider this scenario: A company is releasing a new product line. To celebrate the release, clients are given preloaded (and fashionable) smartwatches, which can alert them to announcements, reminders and even short messages about the product line periodically. While some might dislike the idea of getting too gimmicky, it could be a win-win situation: Clients get a stylish new smartwatch, while companies push their marketing.

Smartwatches could also be a sneaky way to stay in near-constant contact with employees. By offering smartwatches as a perk, it’s easy to send status messages and reminders, allowing everyone to be on the same page at the same time.

The age of smartwatches is still in its infancy, but the Intel MICA proves that it’s heading in the right direction. After all, beautiful things can happen when fashion meets function.


Jumpy: 5 Things Kid-Centric Smartwatches Teach us about Wearable Tech

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Although it failed to reach its $100K goal on Kickstarter, Jumpy – the smartwatch designed especially for kids – is still in the pipeline for Taipai-based startup JoyRay.  And with Jumpy’s design comes a new set of capabilities for smartwatches; and they’re not just child’s play.

Jumpy isn’t the first of its kind: Leapfrog released a similar product, designed to help children be more active throughout the day, thanks to preloaded games and reminders that get kids moving. The trend toward getting the whole family involved and using smartwatches isn’t only teaching a valuable lesson in marketing, but also in how wearable tech can be harnessed for more than just checking text messages. Here are five things that Jumpy (and other kids wearable tech) can teach us.

  1. Wearable tech can be used for augmented reality.

The idea of virtual reality isn’t as complicated as one might think. Wearable tech can allow for everything from games to simulated environments, all in the palm (or wrist) of the wearer’s hand. Whether it’s running a race in the kids’ Olympics or nailing a sales meeting, wearable tech makes augmented reality accessible.

  1. Interactivity is the name of the game.

One thing that kids’ wearable tech gets right? The sheer interactivity of it all. Hey, toy and electronic makers know that when kids aren’t engaged, they’ll probably ditch the device. It’s a lesson in user motivation: By asking learners to tap, swipe, drag and otherwise engage, there’s better chance for repeat experiences.

  1. Multimedia knows best.

Songs, graphics and videos: You’ll find them installed in just about every kids’ wearable tech device. And why not? Multimedia has a proven track record for increasing user engagement and retention. By jazzing up the interface with a variety of multimedia components, kids stay glued and get more out of each app.

  1. Bluetooth is for more than just headsets.

Sure, you love your Bluetooth for hands-free phone operation, but Jumpy harnessed the technology for something else: The potential to play with a Bluetooth-connected ball to register time and technique on a smartwatch device. The idea that Bluetooth can be used for more than just hands-free conference calls opens an entire world of devices that can interact with smartwatches to expand their reach and ultimately, make the more effective and valuable to the user.

  1. Voice command is the next big thing.

Wondering where wearable tech is going to go next? It’s probably going to land squarely in the realm of voice command. Whether it’s asking a smartwatch what time a movie starts or a wondering how far it is to Jupiter, kids are understanding the value of being constantly connected to the latest information. Sound familiar to any goals your team might have?

Time will tell whether or not Jumpy will actually make it onto toy shelves (right now you can preorder one for $99), but it’s the technology you should really get excited about. While the applications may be geared to kids, the implications of innovation and design for such devices are all grown up.



Likes for Learning: 7 Ways to Use Facebook Groups for Training and Development

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Just logos

As of July 2014, Facebook boasted over 1.3 billion users overall, with 680 million mobile users. The average user is also connected to 80 pages, groups and events at any given time. Of course, the same Facebook can be a thorn in a corporate paw: Time on Facebook usually means wasted hours and less efficiency.

But what if an organization could harness Facebook as a force for good in the L&D sphere? Hey, employees are probably updating their statuses anyway; why not make it count? The recent release of Facebook Groups as a standalone app makes it even easier to create a private space on the Web where colleagues can collaborate, share information and yes, have a little fun. As long as proper security and confidentiality measures are met, you can incorporate any number of training and development interactions into your next Facebook break.

  1. Project-Based Groups

When a group is collaborating together, not every communication requires a face-to-face meeting. Facebook Groups is ideal for putting together teams and ensuring they’re in constant contact for the little stuff, as well as the big stuff.

  1. Specialty Events

Special events and incentives aren’t always appropriate meeting fodder, so the more casual environment of the Facebook Group makes it a no-brainer to announce stuff like sales contests or health initiatives.

  1. Team Morale

Whether it’s a funny meme or an inspirational video, Facebook Groups offers a forum for CLOs, HR pros and even Chief Culture Officers to deposit morale-boosting media. What’s more, the sense of inclusion and community within the group can work wonders for worker satisfaction.

  1. Instant Notifications

Let’s face it: We all love seeing notifications pop up on our profiles. But that’s what makes Facebook Groups so genius for work. Instant notifications means the team always has up-to-the-minute information, even if it’s a last-minute change or a reminder for a conference.

  1. Project Management

With a number of colleagues working together, the elected project manager can sometimes lose sight of various assigned duties and delegated tasks. Keeping contact information, basic updates and team responsibilities in one central place streamlines the process.

  1. Open Communication Across Roles

Put an entry-level employee in the same room with the CEO and chances are that the entry-level employee won’t voice much of an opinion. Opening a casual line of communication through Facebook encourages more idea-sharing across roles, since social media can be a major equalizer for managers and employees alike.

  1. Branded Communication

Facebook Groups is a simple way to continue branding, graphics and media across a number of channels. As employees interact with each other through the branded page, it creates a seamless experience in combination with mobile updates, formal training and written communication.

Facebook can definitely be a distraction in the workplace, but it doesn’t mean it has to be viewed as an inherently negative thing. By creating a standalone app for Groups, Facebook makes it even more possible for companies to harness the power of social media and eLearning for the greater good; and who doesn’t like that?


Will e-Books Overtake Print in 2018?

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If you’re thinking, “Nah, no way,” allow me to refresh your memory. Do you remember when we collected music CDs? How about cassettes? Eight tracks? Vinyl? Remember when going to a movie theater meant parting with a boatload of money—even before hitting the concession stand? With On Demand, Netflix and Amazon, we can watch a digital movie at home and save enough money to toast the occasion with a bottle of Dom Perignon. That’s progress.

Just the Facts Ma’am

According to the BBC, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report predicts that consumer e-books will outsell print by 2018. The firm forecasts e-book revenues to grow from £380 million to £1 billion ($590 million to $1.56 million). The New York Times confirms the trend in the U.S. and the U.K., with the rest of Europe lagging behind.

BYOD Is the Game Changer

When do you find time to read? On vacation? On the airplane? Who carries a book when they travel? Your smartphone, tablet or phablet is all you need to cover the entire spectrum of entertainment and education. Today, when you Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the world is your oyster. BYOD is catapulting eLearning into mLearning.

The Ugly

Publishers can update digital textbooks on the fly, but can they tweak history with a few subtle word changes? Can they make sweeping revisions to history? There’s a new and improved, sanitized version of Huckleberry Finn in print, so just imagine what can be done digitally. In a stunt right out of Orwell’s 1984, Amazon remotely deleted copies of 1984 off users’ Kindles in 2009.

The Impact of Digital on Business

Just ahead of Thanksgiving 2014, the White House released its Unified Agenda for fall—3,415 new regulations, many of which encompass numerous rules. Will business prepare for these changes by printing tomes for their employees and then subjecting them to classroom training? Of course not. It’s not economically feasible because the Unified Agenda is released quarterly. Business will rely on digital forms of communications to disseminate regulatory information—eLearning, mLearning and social learning—forms of communication that can be updated at the same clip as government add new regulations or change existing ones.


More than a Game: Applications for Minecraft in eLearning  

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The tech world was atwitter in September, when Microsoft announced its takeover of Mojang, the developer responsible for Minecraft. Basically a set of virtual Lego, Minecraft’s charmingly retro design has done the impossible: Turned a generation of kids into veritable engineers with a simple, creative interface. In fact, elementary schools have already adopted Minecraft as part of the math, coding and science curriculum, and Microsoft is poised to control what may be the most powerful Gen Z gaming franchise.

Hey, that’s great for Microsoft, but it doesn’t apply much in the corporate sphere, right?  Not so fast. While it’s true that Minecraft has primarily been assimilated as a tool for K-12 education, that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied on a corporate training level. It’s not quite there yet, but with some tweaks and creative thinking, it’s possible that Minecraft could become a tool in the CLO’s arsenal. Here is the original post on whether Microsoft bought Minecraft for eLearning.

Lessons from Second Life

If you were part of the L&D landscape in 2009 and 2010, you might remember some of the hype surrounding the game Second Life; a casual virtual reality gaming platform that was assimilated for corporate training.

Here’s how most of it worked: Because Second Life was an avatar-based gaming situation, training pros could load scenarios and simulations into the user’s interface. Users could then experience a certain interaction and would then be required to answer a series of questions about that interaction, mostly useful for stuff like sales and ethics training. Second Life users were quick to praise how memorable the scenarios and environments were in comparison to the same old “Click for next slide” training modules they’d used before.

Second Life also allowed users a modicum of control; users seemed to enjoy the available social interaction and personalization. There was low risk, since users undertook training module privately, on their own time and enjoyed person-to-person interaction from the comfort and safety of their computer. They could create their own avatars, work in groups and even design their own home environments, which made the game – well, gamier.

Minecraft Training 

Second Life, for whatever reason, has faded from the L&D scene, but its similarities to the challenges facing Microsoft in creating corporate uses for Minecraft can’t be ignored. While applications for Minecraft have thus far been focused on elementary-aged children, it could easily be adapted for training purposes.

While it might not work for simulations, Minecraft does have value in teaching team-building skills. In the game, you can collect resources from other players and share your work with others. Ideal for new teams, Minecraft could supplement team-building retreats and activities as a way to solidify department bonds.

Minecraft could also have value in improving workplace morale, too. One of the reasons that Second Life was such as success for the organizations that used it was the fact that it was simply fun. It didn’t feel like work or training, so users were more likely to log in on their own time and experience modules and simulations away from their cubicle.

Perhaps Minecraft could be used as a way to create workspaces, or as a way to build cognitive and problem-solving abilities. Maybe it’ll be used as a way to improve morale and boost teamwork among departments. Maybe Minecraft personalization capabilities will be altered in the future, allowing L&D pros to create scenarios and simulations specifically for training applications. Either way, there is vast potential to utilize Minecraft for any number of eLearning applications, and could serve as a vital element within overall e-Learning solutions.

The truth is that we don’t really know how Microsoft plans to use Minecraft. For now, Minecraft’s main application rests firmly in the K-12 educational arena. Still, by taking a page from the Second Life playbook, it’s easy to see how Minecraft could make the leap from kindergarten to corporate: We’ll just have to wait and see.