Should You Flip Your Training?

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I once was a trainee at a course given by a famous trainer. The course was pretty expensive and I was excited by the subject matter, so I took their suggestion of reading a whole book before going to the training seriously. By the time I entered the training location, I was enthusiastic, ready to learn more and eager to interact with others that had come to the training.  Only later did I realize that this was a simple, yet powerful (low-tec) example of flipping the classroom or, as we might call it, flipping the training. Only a few years later, flipping the training has become an important trend and something we think about a lot at LearningStone*.

Flipping the classroom is a concept that has a growing following in education. It refers to moving the consumption of…

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How to become a Blended Trainer

If you’re new to LearningStone, you might ask yourself how you can keep training groups but also start using an online platform to offer extra services and improve learning using the tools of today. Michiel Klønhammer, founder of LearningStone, wrote a few thoughts on the subject for Training Industry, in the following article.

Transitioning from Class-Based to Blended Training

In the practice of talking to trainers about implementing blended learning tools, an important business question comes up repeatedly. How does a training agency or an individual trainer transition from a traditional to a more flexible blended model? Based on discussions with… Read the full article on Training Industry

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How do blended trainers earn money?

How do blended trainers earn money?

6 ways of adding value with technology to your training business

By Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma

money.fwWe are probably not the only ones who thought that technology would at some point replace face-to-face training and coaching all together. It took getting to know the corporate world and understanding what people want, to realize we were wrong. Dead wrong.

Trainers in the ever changing training industry justifiably stick to offering face-to-face training to groups of learners. Why? Because people need inspiration from other people. People need to leave their jobs, leave their desks, and leave their day to day routine to learn from more experienced professionals and to meet and learn from peers. Indeed, instructor led training is very much alive and needed.

Now mind you, we love educational technology and all sorts of great eLearning is being developed but our shift in perspective from “technology is all” to “blended learning is better” was key when we started thinking about developing an online platform for professional training and coaching.

A few years on, we find ourselves dealing with blended trainers all the time. We now realize that the rise of blended learning is bringing on a whole new challenge for the professional training world. Are you a trainer? The good news is that your billion dollar market is not going away but it is evolving and you’ll have to evolve with it. You need to ask yourself: “How do blended trainers earn money?”

Each of the following added values – not necessarily in this exact order – lets you save money, charge more or offers you competitive advantages in the  incredibly competitive training market.

Added Value 1: Online office management

As a trainer you might have designed a series of live group activities (we’re assuming you’re good at that) and all the learning happens there. Without noticing it, you’re using lots of digital tools to promote, sell and organize the courses. Just think of all the digital tools like e-mail, YouTube, Dropbox, LinkedIn, e-forms and other online tools that you might be using. If you’re an agency, you might be starting to realize that the out of pocket costs are low but the amount of time spent on this online office management is rising. You are probably charging for the learning like you always did but you’re spending more time than ever dealing with your digital tools.

Result: Some cost saving. No competitive advantages.

Added Value 2:  Flip the Classroom

You are using a set of online tools to flip the classroom, a term coined in the educational world to describe the process of moving passive activities like watching a video or studying a text out of the classroom. Activities that need guidance, interaction, networking between participants are moved into the classroom. Typically you are sending our time consuming homework like watch a longer video or reading some pdf-documents.

Result:  You’re adding value and saving time but it’s not very tangible yet and a hard sell.

Added Value 3:  The learning platform as an additional service

You are offering an online platform as an additional service. You have designed and developed a course timeline containing materials, events and interactions and offer a collaboration space for your participants to learn from you and from each other. The platform is branded so that not only your client will appreciate you as a trainer (agency or department) but your participants (your future clients) will get to know you as a brand, not only a trainer.

Result: You’re offering value and you’re saving money due to cost efficiency (depending on the cost of the platform), but your losing money as you’ll probably be offering less training hours but not charging for your online services

Added Value 4: Blended training as a business

You have designed a learning path for a group and sold this to your client based on an approach that combines traditional face-to-face learning with an online, digital component. You are charging for the class based events, charging for your online product and services (a mix of platform and materials), charging for online moderation, and reviewing assignments. You might even be reselling online resources. Quite often your face-to-face hours are more expensive than your online work; however, the online component can sometimes go to the less experienced people within a training agency.

Result: You are creating a business that can move flexibly with your client’s needs. You have created a huge competitive advantage.

Added Value 5: The Learning Community

You have designed and sold your blended training services but have gone on from there. A learning community is a group of people that stay together for some time to learn from each other. This might be a mix of participants from training groups, even from many (international) locations. Learning Communities need a collaboration space sometimes combined with online materials. A coach or mentor will monitor the group, stimulate collaboration and learning with assignments, discussions and other activities. The coach might be charging for the platform, the monitoring and the regular introduction of new learning materials. The community can also be the starting point of new training activities, workshops, etc.

Result: you are adding long term value for your participants (inspiration, networking, and learning) and staying in touch. Your future clients are getting to know you.

Added Value 6: The Blended Training and the Blended Coach

You have sold courses and realized that an external training provider (that’s you) can do only so much (remember the 70-20-10 principle) unless you get in touch with your individual participants as a coach. You are not only charging for a well thought out blended training course but are adding personal coaching services, either in person or through your online platform.

Result: you are becoming a part of your client and are making a huge difference to their business.

Trainers and agencies who are actively thinking about how to change their business model will be the ones who will be thriving in the future. We can safely say that very few training providers have a future-proof business model yet (so don’t worry… you’re not running behind), but as cloud based tools and platforms mature we see that the strategic thinkers are starting to move forward faster than ever before. Are you joining in?

Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma are veterans in the eLearning world and are the founders of LearningStone – the online platform for blended learning & collaboration.

michiel@learningstone.com  / Sjoerd@learningstone.com

This is what eLearning Joe says about LearningStone

We got a call from a guy who calls himself eLearning Joe. He’s the famous Joe Ganci who often has something to say about learning and innovation. He had a few questions about our work at LearningStone. And this is what he wrote (and it makes us blush 🙂

LearningStone

JANUARY 27, 2015

“Is LearningStone absolutely essential? We’ve survived without it until now, but like many tools, until we start using them, we may not realize what we’ve been missing. I now count LearningStone as another tool in my toolbox to ensure that my learners, whether they are sitting in my classroom or they are taking one of my eLearning courses, have a greater chance of success.”
Read the rest here:

9 great ways to stimulate collaborative learning

or how to create a great collaborative learning experience

As a professional trainer you might know how to make participants feel comfortable and motivated so they will work, collaborate and learn together. But how do you make people feel comfortable and motivated when you are using an online environment.

There are two core assumptions that underlie approaches to building blended learning communities: (1) that the deeper the personal relationships between learners, the richer the collaborative learning experience; and (2) that relationships between learners may be strengthened through structuring group interactions (using technology) before and/or after a face-to-face training event. (Strategies for Collaborative learning, Soren Kaplan*)

Our experience shows that it is possible to stimulate social activities, cooperation and collaborative learning among participants in an e-learning setting. Based on our experience with users of LearningStone we came up with a few suggestions.

1. Mix online and offline

If you believe in blended learning like us, you’ll find this obvious. The best way to stimulate online collaboration is warming things up with an offline session. It’s even worth having just one single offline (fun!) session so that everyone gets to know each other.

If that’s not possible because everyone is too busy or too far away, use a webinar tool and consider recording it for people who have missed it. You can also plan an online chat in the first or second week.

2. Explain how things work

Let the participants get familiar with the learning platform. Offer them some time to get to know the learning platform. Invite them into your online group at least a week before the course starts They have to feel comfortable with the learning environment. Let them play around a little and use a video to explain how it all works. Don’t worry about the quality of video: a tablet or modern phone is good enough.

3. Ask everyone to be personal and reward it!

A virtual learning environment works best if people dare show themselves. When the participants feel comfortable with navigating the learning environment it’s time to present themselves. An invitation from teachers or even a first assignment to build up their personal profile always turns out to be very effective.

Ask them to use a good picture of their face (no funny stuff, cartoons etc) that will appear in all communication. Let them add another picture to their profile of a situation at work, at home or doing something they love (thrill-seeking sports always work well :-). Ask them to add some background info to their profile, what they expect from the course and something personal. Invite everyone to read the other profiles.

If a profile makes someone walk over to the owner at a live session and say “Hey aren’t you the person who goes snowboarding in the alps?” you have succeeded!

And don’t forget, as a trainer you have to give the right example first! Participants will follow your example and don’t forget to give them a huge public compliment for something like a great picture.

4. Tell participants that they should work and learn together

If you want your participants to work and learn together, tell them how that works. Tell everyone what you expect from the very beginning of the course. Don’t just throw the environment at them and walk away.

It’s fine if there is some off topic chatter but try to give that a place (a thread in a discussion or just some time in the beginning of the course) so that relevant collaboration doesn’t get hidden. If you’re working for a client, get him or her involved from the start and make sure they understand the need to communicate.

5. Make a schedule that creates opportunities to collaborate

When arranging courses for participants from different working environments and even from different countries, realise  they may have holidays, exams and heavy workloads at different times which makes it hard to follow a strict time schedule. Structure the weekly programmes a bit and  give assignments over a longer period than one week to enable students to find time for collaboration. It helps to send automatic notifications about events and assignments each week, so every participant can fit these in his or her own week schedule.

6. Don’t let them be passive!

Everyone knows how crowds sometimes do very little if something needs to be done. Everyone assumes the next person can do it better, is more daring, smarter etc. Psychologists call this diffusion of responsibility and it can easily occur in online discussions or other collaborative moments. To avoid this, ask specific people to start a discussion, upload some content or ask for reactions, and do it yourself as well!

7. Use deadlines and reminders

It’s the downside of being a trainer: you simply need to be like a school teacher sometimes! If you ask people to react to some content or work, it’s important to tell them to do it before a certain date and yes, you’ll have to remind them. More than once.

It’s okay to do that reminding automatically with scheduled messaging as long as you’re not bombarding people with messages and as long as the messages still feel personal.

8. Allow playfulness

The great thing about live or offline training sessions, is that it’s easy to have a sense of humor and to allow playfulness. You simply allow for some chaos here and there and breaks are great for some banter. This is much harder online  as you miss nonverbal communication and as you don’t want permanent content to be messed up by silly remarks anyway. Our trick is to use group chat or specific discussions or wall threads to do this. If, for example, you’re running an international group, why not ask everyone to post a joke from their country… yes, just for fun. Fun groups just work better.

9. Create Memorable moments

A teacher once told us: the key to working with groups is creating memorable moments. Do something original when you’re running an online group. Use a funny video, post pictures of yourself, celebrate a birthday… whatever it takes to make your participants remember the moment. This deepens relationships and stimulates learning.

And it will make your participants remember you and your company the next time they need a trainer.

Any comments? Let us know!

Sjoerd Boersma and Michiel Klønhammer

sjoerd at learningstone.com and michiel at learningstone.com

Founders of LearningStone

 

Twitter:   www.twitter.com/learningstoneHQ .

We love social… or is it collaborative learning?

dialog.fwIn our daily practice, we often have to switch back and forth between the words collaborative and social. We see collaborative learning as those active moments of learning together in groups versus social learning as ongoing learning in an organization through ‘social’ connections.

In general we prefer the word collaboration or perhaps even cooperation above social as we find that the social media connotation sometime scares people away, though social learning is so much more than exchanging information through Facebook and Twitter.

Since we went live with LearningStone, training providers have been adding groups of people collaborating on courses on a national and international level. The social… eh… collaborative aspect that is supported by LearningStone is more important than just sharing personal knowledge. We see people collaborating on mutual learning goals that have been prepared by a trainer or creating learning moments for others by actively asking questions. Trainees work on group assignments, share experiences or simply exchange practicalities so that the (expensive but important) face-to-face learning time can be as efficient as possible. It is obviously not just the instructor who shares his or her knowledge. A teacher can even be a bottleneck for learning if he or she doesn’t stimulate learning.

Quotes & resources
If you’re interested in the background of collaborative learning, here are some interesting quotes and resources, but before you take off, remember one thing: Collaboration through technology provides great opportunities for learning, but at LearningStone we always stress that professional development also requires face to face learning as people need to leave their workspace and be inspired by other people.

Collaboration is the act of joining together to make possible that which cannot be accomplished alone. http://www.wikihow.com/Collaborate

Collaborative learning teams are said to attain higher level thinking and preserve information longer than students working individually.

Technology makes collaborative learning easier. Collaboration had the same results via technology as in person, increased learning opportunities.

http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/facilitating-collaborative-learning-20-things-you-need-to-know-from-the-pros/#ixzz331ClhodC

Collaborative learning can be viewed as the gradual construction and accumulation of increasingly refined and complex cognitive and linguistic artefacts. This takes place primarily in collaborative interaction.

http://gerrystahl.net/cscl/papers/ch16.pdf

Collaborative learning is a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together. Unlike individual learning, people engaged in collaborative learning capitalize on one another’s resources and skills (asking one another for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one another’s work, etc.). More specifically, collaborative learning is based on the model that knowledge can be created within a population where members actively interact by sharing experiences and take on asymmetry roles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_learning

Facilitating Collaborative Learning: 20 Things You Need to Know From the Pros. Best practices for collaborative learning in our classroom

http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/facilitating-collaborative-learning-20-things-you-need-to-know-from-the-pros/#ixzz33C0SQwnI

Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age

Attention blindness is the fundamental structuring principle of the brain, and I believe that it presents us with a tremendous opportunity. …. It’s not easy to acknowledge that everything we’ve learned about how to pay attention means that we’ve been missing everything else. …. Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.

http://chronicle.com/article/Collaborative-Learning-for-the/128789/

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL)
CSCL is a relatively new educational paradigm within collaborative learning which uses technology in a learning environment to help mediate and support group interactions in a collaborative learning context.
CSCL is a pedagogical approach wherein learning takes place via social interaction using a computer or through the Internet. This kind of learning is characterized by the sharing and construction of knowledge among participants using technology as their primary means of communication or as a common resource. CSCL can be implemented in online and classroom learning environments and can take place synchronously or asynchronously.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer-supported_collaborative_learning

Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma

LearningStone is an online learning and collaboration platform for groups. Try it out for free (for ever free!): www.learningstone.com