Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Half an Hour, Oct 09, 2019



Summary of:
Digital Learning 4.0: How to Guarantee Measurable Learner Impact Where Others Have Failed
Paul Hunter
Director Digital Learning, IMD Business School

IMD is a business school based in Switzerland.

(Table discussions - what are you doing in digital learning, what have been your biggest successes and challenges).

Table summary: Successes: one was using different modalities. Challenge: making sure students have complted all of the personal study before they attend the face-to-face session.

Paul Hunter: only 9% of people finish MOOCs.

(SD: I think this was a bit of a cheap shot - I wondered how much people pay for IMD programs, an who exactly takes these programs).

Table summary: blended learning has improved attendance, because people don't have to take a full week off work.

Paul Hunter: we get a lot more pushback from clients based on sustainability - won't spend on air travel.

Table summary: in Ontario with class size changes, we're using e-learning to offer courses that would not otherwise be available. But we're worried because the competencies aren't what they should be, so we're worried about success rates.

Table summary: challenges were timelines, 6-8 weeks to create one course.


IMD completion rate is 92%. But we're trying to work ot, has this had an impact on them.

We are moving from knowledge dissemination to learning application. MOOCs are really good at the former, not the latter. It's the difference between knowing that running is good for fitness, and running.

Of course you have to do some knowledge dissemination to move to learning application, but it's only a small part pf the journey.

This is the model we use at IMD:

First step: re-calibration. We use videos, high-quality readings, or engaging case studies. Eg. "If you're not having conflicts at work, there's probably something wrong with you." "You may not be putting the fish on the table."

Second step: horizontal interaction. Specifically:

  • cohort interaction, which offers reassurance ("I am not the only person in the world who has difficulty managing conflict") and allows people to share best practices; 
  • group projects, which is all about applying the concept, eg., 'take that strategy framework and apply it to Uber' - the idea isn't to fix Uber, the idea is to use that tool;
  • and buddy assignments. These are all about disclosure. This sounds a little bit scary, but it's not that scary. Disclosure moments get reciprocated, whihc creates a connection, which creates an emotional bond.

Third step: application. You take the concept and apply it in your daily work. Your colleagues' (ie., your coach) feedback blends into your learning journey. Eg., after discussing with your buddy about a difficult conversation you've been avoiding, the assignment is to have that conversation.

(SD - the thought that occurs to me here is that learning in this way involves conducting experiments on human subjects, eg., 

Fourth: wrap up the experience with a coach. Note: the coach is not a policeman, not saying 'you need to do your assignments', rather it is to give you feedback on how good or bad job you've done - they "join the dots"...  

Example Applications

We have fifteen different programs in the B2C space. Each is a stand-alone program.

(Table question - will Steve be a farmer or a librarian ... the 'correct answer' was based on statistics, as opposed to what the characteristics of Steve were ).

(SD - I think this was set up in a very misleading way.) (I guess that's how 'recalibration' works.)

(Story about Elton John concert - 10 Euro app that feeds into Elton John's sound system - eg., "I would like  little bit more voice, less drums", etc.)

The point here: coaching can be varied based on your specific needs. These days, that sort of personalized experience is everywhere - even for coffee, eg. So if you think you can just serbve up generic learning, you are mistaken.

Slide presenting a lego analogy of how modules can be fitted together to personalize the experience. So ask: is there a way learning can be chunked in able to personalize learning. This in turn leads to guided pathways, etc.

We also use 'nudges'. There are four types of nudge:
- knowledge nudge - where you receive fresh and relevant learning nuggets
- empathy nudge - we reach proactively to people anticipating their pain points implementing changes back at work
- reminder nudge - highlighting deadlines and commitment points
- network nudge - staying in touch with the network in the ourse

We don't send these out in the two weeks after the course. But three weeks, maybe. For example, we might follow up with the PowerPoint slide presenttion all about the course, so you can easily tell your boss what you learned.

We're also experimenting with AI to offer some coaching bots. Also gamification.

Finally, the Seven Secrets

  1. Start at the end - start with the learning objectives - what do you want people to be able to do, how will you measure it - only then do you work on the content. Som the content feeds into the assessment mechanism, etc.
  2. Treat executives like executives - most of them don't live in a world of black & white - most live in a world of grey - they need to engage critical thinking - so don't give them daft quizzes with multiple choices. Don't ask me to do ridiculous things that insult my intelligence.
  3. Change the channel. Because something works face to face does not mean it will work in the digital arena. Eg. when I go to a Rugby match, I am not going for the best view. I'm going for the atmosphere and the experience. But on television, I wouldn't expect CBC to put a camera on the seat in the top row, turn it on, and broadcast it for 90 minutes.  
  4. Respect the holy trinity of virtual learning: design, production and delivery. Eg. if you outsource, you need to make sure they understand the full value chain. Don't have design and production off in their own corners. Same with delivery. 
  5. Keep the content fresh and make sure it's easy to digest. Eg., don't give me a case study from three years ago - maybe three days or three weeks ago. Don't expect me to watch 60 minutes of video. 7 or 8 minutes maybe.
  6. Continuously demonstrate impact. Make sure people can see the impact. This is a little bit like weight watchers - the principle here is you have a week of misery, and then you go into a room with other people, and say what you've lost. An you've just understood the impact. It has to be the same in digital learning.
  7. Leverage qualified feedback for change - make sure the people who offer feedback know what they're talking about.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 11:43 p.m.