Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tech Learning Stage – “Smart Content – It’s Not Just for Web Marketing Anymore” (Clark Quinn)

(It’s beginning to get like a broken record, but as soon as I saw Clark’s name, I knew I had to attend.  I am BEYOND pleased I did so…this could not have been more relevant.)


Clark opens up with a site selling shoes.  It has all of these smart options…waterproof, hiking, etc.  It intelligently allows us to find just what we want.  Amazon, Netflix?  Same thing.  “People who bought this would buy X, Y, or Z.”

Now, why can’t we/don’t we do this for learning?  Imagine now you’re looking for a specific piece of content from a course.  “People who found the content in this course valuable liked these courses.”  But we can’t do it by hand.  We can’t hand cobble all these X’s and O’s…these puzzle pieces together.  It should be easier…SMARTER…for learners to find more specifically just WHAT THEY WANT.

Clark poses the question: “How many people have content out on their servers or their LMS that is out of date?” EVERY FLIPPING HAND WENT UP.  It all comes down to Content Governance.

“I have a visceral reaction to technological hype.  Remember when virtual worlds were going to be the cureall for everything?”  ß I love this guy.


“It’s hard to get stuff to stick in our head.  We’re better at pattern matching.”  No more knowledge dump/knowledge test.  Continual innovation in how we learn, how we train, how we teach is the ONLY way to continue to cycle…continue to improve.  Individual innovation is busted.  Creative friction is key to this change, key to this innovation, and key to starting the discussion re: moving our training from e-learning to smart content…to intelligent systems. 

“How many of you have portals in your organization?  How many of you have multiple portals?  How the hell do you find anything?” ß It’s like he’s reading my mind at this point…honestly, this is one of the GREATEST burdens to our day to day.  Why must the material in the portal be different from the material in the LMS?


Having the components accessible is key to allowing the learner to practice, re-practice, and re-learn what it is they need to do their job.  Knowledge should be a whole learning experience.  And it should be outlined as such.  You don’t need to re-create, but you do need to re-purpose. 

Again, on a personal note, a colleague of mine and I just had a discussion re: including more ‘rich’ materials for takeaway after class or after the learning experience (in the case of CBT training).  We shouldn’t be just focusing on what we need for the day…for the class…for the CBT…but what that learner needs 3 months…6 months down the road.  While I feel like I’ve had this discussion before, I feel it falling into place a bit more easily here.


You separate the pieces out by Introduction, Body, Job Aids, Assessments, and so on.  Clark shows an example that, admittedly, was VERY daunting.  And, yet, he assured that with such a model, once you get your head around it…TRULY get your head around it…it’s work, but the payoffs are big. 

Once you have it managed like this, you can have a search engine that can comprehend the structure and, wonder of wonders – searchable content.  You’re not going to get it right the first time, you’re going to need flexibility to do this, but the benefits are great.

On a personal note (again), this seems doable, but we will need to bring someone in with more XML/CSS knowledge than any of our team currently has.  It will take some money, some time, but with those two small things, what a great, great thing for our training materials to be indexed, managed, and made more accessible than ever before?

“I don’t care about big data…I want big insights. It’s mining the big data that matters.”

That quote is SO indicative of the problem.  We focus on the big piece…the module, the class, the agenda…and we focus on it as one piece.  “What do we do tomorrow?”  You start thinking about granulating your content and describing it.  It won’t pay off right away.  We overwrite in eLearning already.  We should focus more on “What’s the least I can do for you?”…be more minimalist. 


What can I say?  It’s what I knew already, at least what the problem is.  But the answer has eluded…not completely, but enough.  With Clark’s insight and very plain-spoken solution, I think it’s time to refocus our efforts on granulating…on focusing on the more individual elements of our product, not just our product as one concrete block.  As I mentioned before, I know Clark, I think he’s brilliant, and this presentation proved no different.  My hope is that this is the first step in a long walk when I get back home…

Formal Learning + Performance Support + Social Media Systems = TRUE eLearning

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