Whose training record is it anyway?

Some time ago, a friend and colleague suggested this topic. I agreed and then time overtook me and I missed the moment. A conversation yesterday jogged my memory and the theme rose again. So, thank you Karen Moran, if you still have the patience to stick with me, for what was a good idea.

The theme is disruption. (I know. I know. It always is. Sometimes it is hard to get away from it). To be a little more helpful, the disruption of the recording of training and education. The higher education world is struggling to respond to the idea that a three year degree is weak signal of the value and capability of a candidate or employee – add the £27,000 fees to that and the pressure for higher education to pay off is aggressive. Breaking degrees down to smaller and more descriptive qualifications that match economic needs is a valid response. Smaller credit bearing learning ‘moments’ would be easier to participate in, beyond higher education, too. Separating the learning from the credentialing will help this. Smaller, cheaper courses with employment requirements designed in will become more common: “we should put learning from all sources on equal footing and assess it through an independent approach”

There is a clear logic and trend towards this outcome. But, where does that record of education reside? With the issuers of the credentials? Yes. A centrally recorded, managed and verified repository seems like a necessity to help deal with false claims and mendacity (the CV will never overcome it alone). But this is not enough. I want my own record too, one where I can add context and experience that does not carry a credential. I want to show projects I worked on, teams I was in, technology I know about, documents I have written. I want this to carry the context of my working network too. It needs to be public, at least to have the potential to be public. (Maybe even blogs could be included?) LinkedIn are moving into this territory, to claim the place as the professional profile of record for the global workforce. The purchase of Lynda.com may help cement that case. I’m sure Microsoft will be pleased to support as well.

The world of Training and corporate L&D needs to respond more thoughtfully. asAs workers are increasingly mobile and decreasingly company-loyal, a fragmented series of learning record  scattered across LMS systems of the past becomes more impediment than irritation. The increasingly freelance workforce needs a solution as well. Companies will want to retain their training records but need to set them free for workers to apply them outside of the corporate boundary. The Experience API deserves applause for enabling the addition of learning context from other experiences beyond the LMS (webinars, workshops, books, blogs, conferences can paint a much more subtle and useful picture of a person). So far, the application of the learning record store has been corporate or institutional (please do let me know where I am wrong – a meaningfully open LRS feels like an important development to share). So, an LMS morphs to include, or become, an LRS. There is still a personal angle missing. Is it truly my record?

Is there a real opportunity here? Are we ready for personal professional profiles that carry accredited learning evidence? I think we are. The momentum behind Open Badges seems to support it. Smaller credentials accumulated as we work and learn feels like a good answer or will LinkedIn just swallow it all up?


Can stakeholders do UX?

In short…no. Or, not easily. Or…not very well. A stakeholder is not a user. To satisfy a user need you need to focus on the user. By definition, a stakeholder is not a user. They might be able to help but they cannot offer the insight vital to UX success.

In the corporate learning world, stakeholders have a powerful position in most projects. Often they have the most powerful seat at a small table (along with subject matter experts who should not do UX either). Still, they are not users.

Stakeholders are very good at describing what they want users to want. This does not qualify them to define what users actually want, however. Unless they have evidence. Evidence direct from users. Very often they do not.

Before I suffer the slings of accusation about a closed mind, let me expand my thinking. A stakeholder has a vital role in defining a business problem or need. Something that needs to be improved, stopped, or started. Business requirements. These are the stuff of the stakeholder. The business metrics that need to change need to be described and analysed to scope a response. A learning project rarely starts without these inputs. There are enlightened stakeholders with supporting evidence and user insight. This is great and useful grist to the mill of UX testing. It is not the full UX answer though. That must come from users.

Insight on user needs can come from many sources, including: talking to them, surveying them, studying use of products and tools, product usage analysis, social media, feedback links, feedback mail. The significant point (for me) is that it should be unmediated and direct to the product owner. Interpretation and response to user data is what product owners are for. The best of the can translate this into stakeholder friendly stories and evidence.

Last week, during a UX workshop I was facilitating, we talked about “the head office bubble”. A central learning team, talking to fellow head office stakeholders about how best to design a digital learning experience is a familiar scene. Add some more corporate subject matter experts and an elegant, self-affirming bubble is easy to create. We are all hard-working and well-meaning but with no user voice it is not a full conversation.