So I had my first proper blog post all lined up in my head. But given the fact that I had an extra special Friday night, I’ve decided to postpone that for now and write about something else instead. I was lucky enough on Friday evening to go to the O2 Arena in London to watch Jamiroquai in concert. Jay Kay really is an amazing performer – he was fantastic live! If you’ve never seen him play and you get the chance, go! My friend also got backstage tickets which was pretty great and whilst we didn’t bump into the man himself, we did get the red carpet treatment, so was well worth it.
So what’s the relevance of all this you ask? Well, apart from wanting to tell you all about my great night (!) I have a learning related anecdote to impart on the back of this fabulous evening.
We travelled to the O2 down the Thames on the Clipper boat. Once we had boarded and made ourselves comfortable, the captain’s voice came over the tannoy to tell us all about the obligatory safety notices. However, rather than reel off a list of boring dos and don’ts, this chap turned what should have been a fairly dull 5 minutes into a bit of a comedy routine. Clearly he has to do it several times a day so has decided he might as well make it entertaining. But crucially, everyone on board that boat was paying attention when he told us that with the boat travelling at 65mph, we really didn’t want to accidentally fall overboard and be left ‘cold and alone’ in the Thames. So despite people’s giddy excitement before the concert, many of them sipping champagne (myself included!) the captain was able to get his message across, loud and clear.
And that was because everyone there was engaged with the captain. He made the effort to talk to his audience in a way they appreciated and on a level they all understood. I made the observation to the friend I was with (who works as a project manager for a large telecommunications company) what a difference it makes when people are engaged, rather than being forced to listen to a list of boring announcements made without interest or passion. She then proceeded to tell me about how she ‘had’ to do ‘a load of e-learning’ this week ‘just to keep her boss happy’. This obviously sparked my interest and I asked her what the e-learning topic was. Knowing the industry I work in, she duly rolled her eyes and said it was about negotiating skills, but that ‘to be honest’ she finds the e-learning boring and just skips through the screens and tries to answer the quiz at the end ‘as best she can’ in order to pass the module and ‘get on with her work’.
Dear reader, it’s this that prompted me to change the content of my first proper blog post. Someone, somewhere in my friend’s organisation has hopefully tried and tested this e-learning. It’s an off-the-shelf module as opposed to a bespoke piece of content but no matter, it’s still content they felt comfortable sharing with their employees. This someone felt the e-learning would be appropriate, relevant and useful to her as part of her on-going development in her role as a project manager. Also, someone, somewhere created that e-learning thinking it would help people’s skills and to grow and prosper in their career. So why isn’t it working?
As my day-to-day role is that of a marketer, I feel incredibly strongly about the levels of communication between an organisation and its learners. I believe that the success or failure of many learning interventions depends on the engagement of the learner and whole heartedly agree with Lars Hyland’s ‘Campaign vs Course’ philosophy. With a little bit of thought, care and yes, marketing, any training or e-learning course can be more of a success as long as it is targeted, timely, relevant and useful. If my friend’s manager had perhaps encouraged her a little more and explained the benefits of the course to her, or positioned the e-learning as something helpful as opposed to something mandatory, she might have actually taken her time and absorbed the learning and maybe even (shock, horror) enjoyed it! Just in the same way as the entertaining captain of the Clipper boat managed to hold everyone’s attention and made sure they learned how to behave on board, despite the noise, champagne and general merriment.
e-Learning seems to continue to suffer from a less-than-stellar reputation and stories like this one from my friend are sadly not uncommon. But the L&D professionals I am privileged to know, work really hard to try and engage their learners – so why the disconnect? This is a theme I am very much hoping to explore in this blog. And it’s why I have chosen it as my first proper post. I don’t have all the answers but I’m looking forward to trying to find them out and would welcome any thoughts and comments you might have to offer on this subject.