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Practical intervention or pipedream?

Elearning and soft skills are not the most obvious of bedfellows, but could one be used to educate people in the other?

Over the last 20 years, digital learning has evolved from the periphery to a core part of Learning & Development strategy in many organisations. As technology has moved to the heart of our workplace, effective elearning and mobile learning solutions have also emerged and this trend is likely to continue, however, lies a considerable challenge.

Digital learning is now expected to deliver solutions in a fluid and challenging business environment; we are in an age of the multigenerational workforce, where elearning must bridge the gap between those working beyond retirement and those who have grown up with Google. We are in an age of complexity, where five-year-plans are a thing of the past, and where performance support tools must frequently be more adaptive than predictive. We are in an age where information is frequently free, but where the litigious nature of decision making environments demands accuracy in multinational, multicultural and multi-technological environments.

One of the most critical Learning & Development issues that need to be addressed in such contexts is the effective delivery of soft skills – the very skills that are difficult to deliver using digital learning in such areas as emotional intelligence, teamwork, resilience, communications and so on. Elearning design in these areas must therefore move beyond thoughts of compliance, training and knowledge of theory to instead focus on the development of individual traits and resultant skills critical to effective interactions between people. So how can effective elearning for soft skills be developed in practice?

Three core principles need to be considered:

Build the foundation

With any soft skill, there will inevitably be a base of knowledge that can cultivate both insight and opportunity to improve practice. There is, however, almost always a challenge of how best to get the learner to 'pay attention' to the knowledge delivered. To develop an effective foundation for the development of soft skills, it is essential to carefully target the core content that is delivered to individual needs rather than adopt a 'sheep dip' approach to training.

Diagnostics at an early stage are invaluable, particularly 360 reviews such that the views of colleagues are used to refine the effectiveness of interactions further down the line. Once initial reflections have been processed, selected learning objects in various forms - text, audio, video – can be used to deliver basic principles of the subject of interest.

Connect to practice

Given the complex nature of how best to apply soft skills in practice, it is always essential to connect to application rather than just broadcast information. Soft skills are developed in context, so delivery of these contexts through example, through simulation and through coaching are key parts of soft skills development.

Soft skills development must therefore make full use of the range of digital learning interventions now available;

  • Online simulations and animations to experience the issues in practice
  • Live simulations and cases to 'rehearse' application of knowledge
  • Real-time collaboration via web and video conferencing to introduce real context and allow personalised discussions to connect to practice

It is significant that many of us now operate in global business environments where much of business is delivered via online activities. As such, development of soft skills in an online space is a far more natural and appropriate mode of delivery for simulation and practice than ten years ago.

Reflect on continuous improvements

The theory and basics of many soft skills can be delivered by elearning. To maximise the impact from the capability that has been nurtured, however, the learner must be willing to take on responsibility for steady improvement of these skills in practice.

The ongoing interest in 70/20/10 models of learning recognises the critical importance of balancing on the job, peer to peer and formal learning activities. Soft skills do not deliver impact from knowledge; they need to be applied in different contexts and within different communities. As such, the development of soft skills benefits from ongoing reflection and reinforcement. The US Army model of lessons learnt is a good model here, encouraging learners to reflect on situations in terms of:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What can be learnt?

Developing an ethos of continuous learning is essential to ensure that soft skills are not just taught as theories but are consistently applied in practice. The more senior the role, the more complex the situation, the more critical it becomes to develop effective application of soft skills. In an increasingly technology-driven world, it is not only possible to deliver soft skills digitally, it is becoming essential to do so. The secret to success is to design for individuals, to recognise that application is as critical as information and to think about the journey rather than a single-point solution.

By Tony Sheehan (learning services director at Ashridge)

Source: Trainingzone

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Employee training is an art not yet perfected. The days of sitting in a classroom and getting lectured about the company product/s are over. Technology is revolutionizing the way companies are able to train employees and channel partners. Videos, documents, webpages, photos and other training material can be accessed through the cloud to enable a smoother training process. Not only is the cloud a place for managers to train, but they also have the ability to set standards for their employees and partners.

Self-Service

Nowadays, we are growing up as more independent individuals than ever before and there has been a shift towards self-service in all aspects of life. Grocery store self-checkout suppliers predict growth of 84% over the next 5 years. Powerful banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and USAA now allow you to deposit a check just by taking a photo on your smartphone. Employee training has also entered this era. The cloud provides a platform in which employees and resellers can learn on their own and at a pace they feel comfortable with. They don't have to show up at a certain time and follow a designated path. These people know better than anyone else what they need more training on. With all of this information up in the cloud, they can spend more time on what is important to their own unique learning needs. As an extension of this shift to self-service, the cloud is a training mechanism that provides an individualized experience.

Anywhere, Anytime

Employees and resellers may travel, work from home, work at a different location or be meeting with a client. Wherever they may be, it's important that they are always prepared. The ability to access material anywhere and at anytime is becoming a necessity. With use of the cloud, employees and partners are able to pull up information at the touch of their fingertips and from any device. The cloud stores their valuable resources so that whenever there is a question, it can be answered on the spot. We're all busy and the cloud enables us to keep our flexibility.

Highly Secure

Most businesses need the utmost privacy for their training files. There could be confidential information, passwords, unreleased press coverage and many other materials that need to be kept secure. On the managers' single machine, these files could be damaged and lost forever. In the cloud, they can't be. With better privacy settings and less infringing Terms of Service Agreements, companies using cloud software to train employees and channel partners are in good hands. The training manager will have permissions over content in the cloud so only the people that need to see material will have the ability to access it.

Expectations Made Clear

By placing training material up in the cloud, managers have the ability to track who is most engaged, thereby setting an activity threshold. If an employee or partner isn't performing up-to-speed it's easy to get to the root of the problem. The manager expects all of his/her content to be read and processed in a timely fashion. These expectations can be made clear by how often the manager cycles through material. A standard is set by the manager for how the training material should be accessed and put to use. In turn, sales should correlate.
Relaying all of the information that an employee or partner needs to know is a difficult task. Employing the use of cloud software can only make this easier. Your training will be personalized, mobile and secure. Even better, it becomes easier to set and track goals. For good reasons, cloud technology is now a leading phenomenon for company training programs.

By Laura Lilyquist, VP of Marketing at LiveHive. Source: Cloudtweaks

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Wireless audio transmitters that operate in the 694-820 MHz band will be illegal to use in Australia from 1 January 2015 because the federal government has sold that range of frequencies.

Wireless audio transmitters include microphones, in-ear monitoring systems and public announcement systems, which are commonly used by training organizations.

If your organization owns wireless audio transmitter it is recommended to check at which frequency they operate since the 700 MHz band is used by most current devices. In case you own any affected equipment, you will have to replace them before the end of December 2014.

If you are planning to purchase or upgrade any wireless audio transmitter confirm that they operate in a band outside the 694-820 MHz.

References: http://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Suppliers/A-Type-of-equipment/WirelessMicrophones/welcome-to-your-wireless-mic-hub

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