The First Early Trend – 2023 – “Confusion”

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It’s the new year, and that can only mean, one thing – early trends. Oh, and new terminology by vendors, because after all, you can’t roll out new solutions, without coming up with terms nobody understands or can figure out.

For this post, one of the early trends will be covered, then the week thereafter, the “Perform” trend, will be presented in-depth.

The first trend to cover is cohort-based learning (and how vendors are actually using it, because no surprise, the way it should be, has fallen by the wayside – early-on, sort of how vendors took the LXP premise, and re-established it as something else OR what an LRS was designed for, and vendors said, “nah”, let’s do it this way, and everyone followed suit). I refer to this trend as “Confusion”.

Pricing – Third Trend – Cliff Notes Version

The third trend will be covered at the end of this month – is pricing and negotiating. I wrote a bit about this – actually just this and that, and received a lot of comments, which said to me, let’s cover this a bit more, because it is complicated, it is happening, and with a recession in the works, the logic behind it, will lead some vendors to make serious business mistakes, yet still make a nice profit margin, OR make a nice profit margin, yet avoid what others will do. On a sidebar, did you know that coffee at a bagel shop, on average generates 74% profit margin per day? Wow.

Perform – The bigger Trend – #2 – Coverage is next week

This new offering, being seen as an add-on, is if every vendor adding it, met in a secret room under the Woolworth building (FDR and Churchill met there), and said “hey, let’s add these features” and everyone agreed. Then, we all jumped into the past, and remembered when as employees in the office, the majority of L&D folks (overseeing it), provided specific programs and approaches for employees (office workers dominated here). Tada! The Past is now back to the present, because that is what everyone needs (not). This isn’t your usual performance management (thank G-D), nor talent management (ditto on not being), it is something new and wonderful, or old and rehashed – take your pick, re-wrapped online with a bit of learning integrated, because it is a learning system after all.

Trend 1 – Cohort-based Learning – the Vendor Way

I have written in the past, on what is cohort-based learning, how it should work, and so on. Here is the post to refresh. What I suspected when I wrote this, was one of two things – a. Some vendors would try to replicate it to the full extent, b. The majority of vendors would take pieces, pitch it as cohort-based learning, and since the audience isn’t fully aware of what truly is cohort-based, just agree and buy.

As of right now, the latter is taking massive shape, with vendors who are not cohort-based learning focused systems. NovoEd for example, is a cohort-based learning system, with nearly all the components to be 100% truly (which is a plus).

The rest? Oh boy, get ready to be confused. Roll the bullet points

  • Facilitated Learning Programs is the buzz word. Cohort comes in, from the perspective that they are “groups” and thus cohorts. Because it is all about…
  • Group Learning – As groups of learners. Sorry to say this, but a cohort isn’t the same as a group. Nor is it like you say, “soda”, and someone says “pop” and it is the same thing. Groups, or Communities are not the same as cohorts. I can guarantee the industry will use them as interchangeable. Unfortunately.
  • Facilitators are “Experts” – as in “Expert facilitators” – I’ll cover how this should work and what I am seeing today, which uh, seems to be missing the boat (as a whole)
  • One at a time for the cohort learning experiences. One vendor the other day, used another word for this, sounded great, I hope no one else picks it up. In this angle, the cohort works only on one “session/topic” at a time. When completed, they go on to the next one. Now, you can have as many cohorts as you want, but the individual learner goes thru only one at a time, until they complete. For the record, this is not how it should work.
  • Everyone is invited. The power of cohorts should be limiting the number of people per cohort (12 max), and that they should be a mix of folks, senior and newbies, blue-collar and office (depending on the topic, example leadership is universal and should be available to everyone), onboarding – it’s across the board of folks.
  • Real-time learning. Uh, not really. I mean the idea that everyone has to be on a live webinar, is flawed. I work in the UK, and your session – live webinar is 11 a.m. PT. This means 8 hrs from now, I have to be there. Or let’s say, your live event session tied into the learning topic/course, is in one time zone, and you have folks in that cohort where the time zone is early morning. EdTech does this approach. And that works out so well. (not). Have the session, go live, and record – then others can view it at any time, and still provide feedback and comments. Engagement doesn’t mean we all have to be on the same time, and power thru; rather it means the people in each cohort are engaged in the experience and wrapped in as part of it. All for one! err All for All!
  • Coaches and Mentors are the same thing. No, they are not. Totally different. Different in their approach and methodology. I see this over and over again, where vendors think they are the same, OR state “coaches” for their cohorts. You want mentors. A mentor is life-long, well you know what I mean from a work standpoint, but also from a well-being standpoint – Here is my post on Mentoring – and you can see the difference, right away from coach.

If you decide as a vendor to take the pieces, remember the following – in order for it to work correctly, I won’t cover the entire previous cohort-based learning post, rather just from what I am seeing right now, around “facilitated learning programs”.

  • There is no rule or law that says you can’t do asynchronous-based learning with a cohort. Yes, while true, it is wrapped (and based) around synchronous based (from a course standpoint), it could be achieved with a mix, some SBL, some asynchronous. I firmly believe that one factor for the fail of EdTech (again, the term means K-12 and higher education) with “remote learning” – the term used in the states, is that it was all SBL courses. All with the syllabus angle (which vendors in corporate use, but do not call it that), and in essence a classroom experience online. It ended up being boring, inefficient, and turned people off. It is hard to bring a real-world simulation (could be business) or real-world life experience as an SBL. It is easier to do it as asynchronous. After all, the end result is to acquire and share the information and instill learning in a new cohesive manner – for everyone. I’m a big believer in thinking out of the box, and again, yes CBL requires the SBL approach, but after thinking more and more, I do believe it can work with a mix – mainly because people do acquire knowledge differently, some may prefer the SBL, others may not. You can still have all those cohorts
  • CBL is a believe that each cohort, and thus each learner in that cohort, can be on in a) multiple cohorts – i.e the learner, and b.) multiple courses/experiences at the same time. It has to work this way. Even if you are following a – complete the section first, then do this, then this – in the syllabus angle, why tell someone, oh, that other cohort covering blah blah – you can’t start or be in, because you can only be in one, one at a time. People can handle multiple topics/courses, if you believe a course should be all about homework, then go enroll in your local college and see for yourself, how awesome that experience is for you. Share. Acquire. Discovery. Experience. Evolve. Attain. Collaborate. Sustain. Engage. That is the plan here. Trust me, people can handle being in multiple cohort sessions going on, because if you do it correctly, a person could be in this course, with a completion date by X, and thus goes at their own pace, so they can handle multiple. What I am seeing is more of the school angle, you go here. You have to turn in the assignment by this date. Then you go to the next. And you have to do this by this date. You know who else followed this awful methodology, MOOCs, with an average completion rate of 7%. Whoohoo!!
  • Facilitators – This is where the biggest challenge will come from

Those Wonderful Facilitators

The success or failure of your CBL course(s) as it ties around facilitators, are well, those facilitators. I’ve seen a lot of “experts”, which means what exactly? Betsy from the pool hall? Steve who oversees where people park? Tom, who hangs out every weekend at your house, and whom your spouse can’t stand? He is thou an expert in leadership, being a leader of the local Boy Scout Troop. Who are these experts?

Are they brought in from somewhere else? Because there are plenty of folks on the web, pitching themselves as experts/coaches who offer for a fee, to help you (it’s the latest creator influencer cash cow). Do you go to a speaker’s bureau and find these folks? Do you do what one vendor tried, which is anybody could sign up as a “facilitator” “expert”, set a fee, and then you could hire them, and bang they go right into the system? It had premise, but this angle, wasn’t going to work, and it didn’t.

Oh, it is going to be in-house facilitators. Fantastic. Let’s get Rose who is a Subject Matter Expert, but has no experience as a facilitator, let alone as a trainer. Oh, that isn’t going to work? No worries, Mike who runs a very successful sales team, can be the facilitator for our course on sales; we can ignore the fact that Mike, while a great sales leader, has zero experience in facilitation.

The folks I would use?

  • Trainers. If you have a training department or L&D, whereas they have trainers – these are folks I would use. Not the instructional designer, who has never trained – via a live session, webinar, or event. If you do not have any trainers – find them. Hire them. Get someone with experience. Or two. OR…
  • Teachers. In the states, there is a massive movement of teachers leaving schools. I wouldn’t get someone who has taught K-6 (primary), but focus on those who have either taught adult learning, or secondary – if they have the skills to be effective in facilitation, because just being a teacher doesn”t mean you are good or great at your job. Some folks might eye college professors or instructors, but what you will need to do is find a college/university that focuses on teaching, not research. And yes, there is a difference. And yes, this division does exist. But, as with anything, just because you are at a teaching institution (which doesn’t mean, they offer only education classes), this does not guarantee you as a good facilitator or trainer of knowledge. Bad is bad.

I wouldn’t go “let’s get coaches”, because having experience as a coach, doesn’t mean you are good at it, plus a facilitator needs to be different, than the mentoring aspect you will want in the cohort. And need.

Bottom Line

If someone asked me to be a facilitator in a cohort-based learning session, I would. I truly believe that cohort-based learning can revolutionize the industry, if it is done in the correct way, even with a few tweaks here and there, but stays true to the overall arc of the key takeaways.

What learning system vendors are doing as a whole (not all of them), is taking something that can bring learning and training into a whole new light, and tap into the various learning styles, and discovery – a major role, and discombobulate it, to such a degree, it is unrecognizable.

It becomes just another “new thing” for learning. It moves the needle, for someone to find it successful and then others align to it, because one client of Vendor X does it this way and loves it – which means so should you.

That’s a propgranda technique known as bandwagon. And just because the learning system vendor decides to take a piece here and there, then morph it into something else, doesn’t make it effective.


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