Training Needs To Get Plucked


Did any of you read the article posted at Chief Learning Officer’s site, “When Employees Hack Learning – and Why That’s a Good Thing”? If not check it out – short and sweet – and right on the money. Evidence of this “hacking” also shows up as something that many LMS administrators see in their reporting summaries as a negative signal – Course Incompletions – courses forever in “In Progress” status, and likely never to be completed. This is NOT a negative indicator of the value of training content, but it IS a negative indicator of how we are providing learning content.

Courses rest in the LMS as In Progress forever and ever because the learner accessed the course – plucked the content that was relevant to their need at the moment – and bailed, never to return. The evidence is screaming at us.  They did NOT need a training course to satisfy a moment of learning need.  They only needed a “chunk” of it, and I bet that that “chunk” was task-specific.

Check your LMS stats just for grins, and start plotting how many “In Progress” courses you have, and keep on tracking it. I wager that you will see that number steadily increase. That is not a negative as much as it is evidence that there is a greater need for smaller, targeted, role-centric, learning objects that are task-specific. It is important to note that when and where those objects are needed is not during training, but in the downstream, post-training work context. Workers are @ the point of work.

I’ll be the first to admit that the LMS is a very unfriendly place to go and try to pluck the learning content needed to satisfy a performance moment. Solution? Web services-based portals with search capability enable learners to plug in keywords/phrases/process or task names/form names/etc. to gain direct access to downloadable/viewable content specific to their task-level needs in the workflow. This technology spans from simple [and free] WordPress platforms to highly functioned electronic performance support systems (EPSS). Where your organization falls along that spectrum of technology is a matter of significant importance to the agility of the workforce and competitive viability of the organization. If it is not already there, it should become part of the learning strategy for the organization.

Our job [Training’s] requires shifting the design paradigm to align more closely to workflows and processes that we now only offer training for our people to execute flawlessly. Keep training if so inclined, but design it in a way that those same objects can be plucked at the moment of need by those who have the need. And that’s NOT plucking from the LMS. We see training on the LMS getting plucked because that is the only place the content exists, not because it was ever intended to support that effort. Workplace needs have changed, and the LMS is NOT aligned with that need, nor is it the technology tool of choice to satisfy it.

Plucking is good. It’s happening at an ever-increasing pace. A technology savvy user population is asking for it by their actions. Isn’t that reason enough to shift our content design, development, and delivery models to match the needs of the population that pays the rent on our training cost center?

Methinks it is, and our [Training’s] paradigm is way over due for an evolutionary step toward the new ground zero for learning @ the point of work.


Gary Wise
Learning & Performance Solutions Strategist
LinkedIn Profile
Twitter: Gdogwise

  1. August 12, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Hate to say it , but I think it is an optimistic view to think so many courses are left “in progress” because learners got that one nugget they needed and then left. I suspect if you polled learners, they would give you a very different reason: they saw no relevance or value.

    Too many courses (my estimate = 99% of them) are content rather than outcome focused and that content was created/selected by subject matter experts – not anyone who wil actually USE the content in their jobs.

    Most of the time these SMEs don’t really care/know how the learner’s job works or in what situations they might need to recall the information being taught in a couse. I recently talked with a SME who is rsponsible for designing technical training for a sales force…and he has never taken a ride-along with a sales rep to understand how that rep does his job. Why, then, would that rep want to complete a course?

    The other challenge I see for learners is that for too many of them the # of courses they may have on an “individual training plan” is enormously long. Hence, you see a long list of “in progress” courses that mostly never get finished.

    • August 13, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Sharon, my responses to your comment – yes, yes, and yes! I hope I did not imply ALL “in-progress” were plucked courses. Certainly that would never be the case, but our own studies confirmed that many were never finished because the learner was able to pluck the relevant content they needed and had no need for the rest. That statement tags along nicely with your own observation that many courses are just not relevant. I agree, but even in those situations, there may be a nugget of value. The trick is finding it. I love you comment about the SME that had never taken a “ride-along”. I would extend that to the trainers as well as an indictment that there exists a huge gap between those who training or provide content and the actual work context where it will be applied…consumed…by the workforce. As far as outcome focused, in a way I think they are…but it’s the wrong outcome. The emphasis is too heavily focused on the outcomes of positive level 1 & 2 [where level 2 is even pursued] evaluations. There is nothing, or precious little in that outcome that translates directly to business tangible and sustainable business outcomes.

      thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!

  2. August 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Gary, I just love your “tell it like it is” style that challenges our thinking.

    It is too true that the content of the training is often developed by people who never even consider what the target audience has to do with that training. I can believe that a lot of people find a relevant nugget in a bloated course padded with too much unnecessary information and then they leave the course. I’d love to do a study of a lean, targeted, task-oriented solution based on an audience and task analysis to see if it has the same results in the LMS. In other words, if it was built to get to the point, would the learners complete the learning module?

    And I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the LMS gets “plucked.” The main thing is that the learners can get the knowledge and skills to do their job. And if the LMS is the source, then that may not be a bad thing. But if we accept that the LMS is used that way, we need to stop measuring ourselves on “completions” in the LMS. Maybe we need to start finding a way to measure the useful “plucking” that helps people do their jobs?

    • August 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Amen, brother!

      A “completion”, when used as a measurable milestone of success truly is evidence that someone managed to get to the end of the course and SCORM blessed their training record with a completion. Somebody’s box just got checked. If only a boat load of checked boxes did sustainability make. I’m just impressed with people with enough initiative to figure out how to navigate through the LMS to find what they needed. We just built a prototype using WordPress…for free…not counting for our time of course, but there were no servers involved, no SQL licensing…none of it. And best of all, it’s not a LMS. And having people sign in, we can track who uses what. So if a particular object gets downloaded in high numbers, we see a flag. Still have no idea why they are downloading the object, but at least we know which rock to look under. Exciting times these…

      Hey, bluestreak, thanks for reading and sharing a thought or two!


  1. August 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

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