LRNT 524 – Activity 4

For this activity, we were tasked with placing our innovation along a continuum from renewal to new. Here is a brief commentary on where my learning reinforcement innovation lies:

Rarely are innovations truly unique – rather they build upon practices that came before. In my context, where we are relatively new to the learning space and leadership development, this is especially true; rather than truly innovating, we are often looking to identify and implement best practices which have been tried out by many organizations before us. This is true in the case of learning reinforcements, though we hope to discover ways to differentiate ourselves over time.

RENEWAL ←————-*——————————————————->  NEW

LRNT 524 – Activity 3

For this activity, we were asked to develop design principles that can be used to improve learning in our context. You will find a draft of my first five principles below. Comments and suggestions welcome.


I. Right-Sized Reinforcement

The right amount, type, and delivery of learning reinforcement vary depending on content and context, not to mention individual user characteristics. Although bite-sized content – or microlearning – may be the best choice in many situations, it won’t always be suitable. As such, our reinforcement design will be suited to the content it is meant to reinforce, with complex, multifaceted concepts receiving more attention in both in-person sessions and reinforcement material. This means all design guidelines will need to be flexible.

II. Focused on Core Concepts

Our leadership programs will focus exclusively on core concepts and their reinforcement; if it doesn’t add value to the primary aims of the training/development, it will be excluded (save for a humour break here and there). Learning reinforcements will focus on:

  1. Strengthening learner competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) and/or
  2. Helping learners apply competencies (e.g. through discussions, debate, case studies, simulations, etc.).

III. Well-Designed

In addition to the content, the look and feel of the learning reinforcements are critical to attracting and maintaining user engagement. We must pay close attention to the aesthetics of the learning reinforcement material – and later to the design of the user experience (UX) in the Integrated Learning Experience Platform (ILEP). 

IV. Applicable for a Broad Audience

As our learners come from all different industries, organizations, and roles, it is critical that our content is generalizable. In other words, learners must be able to apply learnitointo their day-to-day work. This is a critical design principle and one that is reflected in our Research department tagline: “Research that is practical and tactical”. Learning reinforcements are no exception: they must offer learners an opportunity to apply core concepts into their context and offer them help in doing so, both through the material design and additional support (e.g. analyst or coaching calls).

V. Built with Learner Differences in Mind

Learners will learn at different paces and learning reinforcement material should be designed with this in mind. Initial reinforcement material should be recommended for all learners and include the most impactful examples, background information, insights, and activities. Additional reinforcement material for the same concept should provide further support material, with the best illustrations and activities always taking priority in line. This allows learners who are more familiar with core concepts to get the most out of shorter engagement with the material and the self-pacing also gives them a sense of autonomy (both of which are components of adult learning principles).

LRNT 524 – Activity 2 Part 2

For this activity, we were asked to build a case using the case framework. Below is a draft of the framework. All comments and suggestions welcome.

I. Title – used to introduce the reader to what this case is a case of.

  • Keywords: e-learning, digital learning environments (DLE), learning/training reinforcement, learning/training reinforcement and virtual/online, microlearning, content reinforcement
  • Working title options:
    • Designing learning reinforcement material for a remote leadership development program
    • Effectively reinforce key learning concepts at a distance

II. Quote positions your case within a broader human experience. Could be a quote taken from a range of sources (i.e., historical figure, common knowledge, participant in the case, etc.)

  • Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”  – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Will Durant (paraphrasing Aristotle)

III. Introduction – several paragraphs that help the reader to understand why the case under study is important and has significance to the organization in which the case is situated. The introduction also explains the underlying issues inherent in the case and shares any required background information.

  • Why the case is important
    • The learning solutions division of Info-Tech Research Group is focused on delivering learning solutions for member organizations in two areas: functional content for Information Technology departments (e.g. cybersecurity risk assessment, hardware asset management, helpdesk optimization) and leadership content (i.e. entry-level, mid-level, and executive-level). In order to fulfill our mandate of building the competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) of our member base, we must not only deliver world-class content, we must ensure it becomes knowledge and translates into lasting behavioral change. In order to ensure retention and drive behavioral change, we must help our members reinforce core concepts after the initial learning event.
      • Our leadership development programs all involve a week-long on-site component where learners are exposed to, and practice, core concepts through lecture, dialogue with instructors and peers, and targeted activities. After the experience is over, only those learners who have signed on for additional coaching are engaged in any learning reinforcement, and even then it is targeted to their development plan rather than broad concept reinforcement.
    • The reinforcement of learning is critical to learning retention and application.
      • This is a particularly important activity in light of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve which hypothesizes the decline of memory retention in time when there is no attempt to retain it. A typical graph of the forgetting curve purports to show that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material. ( ). From his discovery regarding the “forgetting curve”, Ebbinghaus came up with the effects of “overlearning”. Essentially, if you practiced something more than what is usually necessary to memorize it, you would have effectively achieved overlearning. Overlearning ensures that information is more impervious to being lost or forgotten, and the forgetting curve for this overlearned material is shallower. ( )
      • Aligns with principles of adult learning
    • Member companies will see behavior changes in their attending employees
    • Member companies will realize measurable improvements in productivity and/or profitability
    • Findings are generalizable to anyone interesting in online/virtual (or distance) learning reinforcement for any type of training
  • Why it is significant to the organization
    • Opportunity for significant revenue generation in a profitable market segment (driving both repeat and new business through demonstrated value)
    • Ability to help members improve leadership in their organizations – thereby helping them to increase employee engagement, increase organizational commitment (i.e. increase employee retention / reduce turnover), and aid in talent attraction
    • Potential to build upon this model and offer fully virtual/distance leadership development in the future (which would likley have a much better ROI than the on-site delivery model, even virtual participants paid a lower price)
    • RISK: If the reinforcements are poorly designed or delivered, we risk alienating (or at least boring or disengaging) members we have worked hard to build a trusted partnership with. In the absence of a robust and well-conceived offering, the risk may be too great to justify launch. In other words, nothing may be better than something ill-conceived or ill-designed.
  • Underlying issues
    • Resource Constraints
      • One complicating issue is that the current content development team in the Learning Solutions division is fully utilized with work associated with on-site delivery and the proposed task is labour-intensive, as learning reinforcement must be composed of examples, background information, and insights not previously shared in order to engage the learner, drive deeper understanding, and motivate behavior change. In other words, this undertaking requires net new content builds that can only use existing content as a foundation. In order to justify task reprioritization for the current content development team and/or the borrowing or hire of additional human resources, secondary research will need to support the importance of reinforcement material moving beyond a restatement of previously delivered content.
      • We need to establish a time estimate for each learning module. If we estimate the time to develop to be 1 week per 1 hour of content and we assume reinforcement is given the same time as delivery per module, then we need to complete roughly 32 hours worth of reinforcement content per leadership product. If we were to focus solely on the two core products this calendar year, that translates into 64 weeks worth of labour.
    • Time constraints
      • No set time constraints, though we would like to have a project plan by the end of FY2017/2018 which is July 31, 2018.
  • Required background information
    • Content contained in the leadership solutions modules are constantly evolving in response to changing political, economic, social, environmental, and legal (PESTL) conditions; as well as primary and secondary research which unearths new insights. Time-to-completion estimates and timelines should take this into account – particularly when undertaking medium to long-range planning.

IV. Case Narrative – shares the story of the case and the evidence.  This section is descriptive and forms the bulk of the case.  It could include charts, pictures, graphics, statistics, etc.

  • Who: Our learners are all leaders, most of whom are time-constrained. To capture their attention and time, the value of the reinforcement must be clear
  • What: Learning reinforcements must be clear, engaging, connected to core concepts (but not repeated), etc.
  • When: Learning reinforcements will be scheduled for bi-weekly or monthly distribution for 6 months following the in-person session. However, all content will remain accessible to the participant for a period of 1 year from their last enrolment in an ITRG leadership program (i.e. on-site program and/or coaching).
  • Where: reinforcement material will be delivered online through the ITA portal (later the Integrated Learning Experience Platform)
  • Why: As ITRG has decided to offer leadership development as part of its product and service line, it is critical that learning reinforcement be offered to ensure learning retention and behavioral change – two of the stated benefits of program participation.
  • How: Learners will use either computers or mobile devices to access the learning reinforcement content, which will be housed on ITA until the more robust ILEP is launched.

V. Discussion – analyzes the case narrative and helps the reader to understand the learning environment innovation from either a new or renewed perspective

  • This is an innovation for ITRG, rather than the learning industry. As such, ITRG will benefit from robust research on both online delivery and learning retention.
  • The challenge will be find the right amount of content for each reinforcement chunk – enough to help engrain the learning without overburdening participants. If the latter happens, we could get drop off. (Note: we must consider cognitive load during design)

VI. Questions prompts for the readers to consider or questions for the readers to answer for the case writer to help move the case forward or further develop the situation described in the case

  • How can we reduce cognitive load on learners?
  • How can we track usage and engage uninterested or disinterested learners?
  • How much reinforcement content should be provided? Over what time horizon?
  • What content should be delivered in what way?
  • How will we measure success? How will participants/learners measure success? How will decision makers (i.e. purchasers – often the participant’s boss) measure success?
  • What can we measure the effectiveness of learning reinforcements?



LRNT524 – Activity 2

For this activity, we were asked to identify two new or renewed learning practices in our professional context. In my role as Director of Learning Solutions at Info-Tech Research Group (hereafter referred to as ITRG), my team is tasked with developing commercial learning products for our member organizations. Two innovations we have been investigating over the past year are:

I. Integrated Learning Experience Platform

In 2017, ITRG launched a video learning library for research content videos (i.e. focused on core Information Technology products and processes) called Info-Tech Academy (ITA). At present, ITA consists of videos of analysts discussing their taxonomy/research areas and accompanying quizzes. The Learning Solutions team would like to expand upon the offerings in ITA and create a robust Integrated Learning Experience Platform for both functionally-focused and leadership-focused content. Our draft plan is to:

  1. Add leadership-focused content to ITA that highlights core program concepts for the benefit of all our members (rather than solely those who enrol in the leadership programs)
  2. Create a portal with diagnostic functionality, including 360° feedback functionality and psychometric assessments
  3. Create alumni networks in the portal or establish links to an externally-based network (e.g. LinkedIn)
  4. Build additional content and functionality in support of program content
    Learning reinforcement material – i.e. content and activities (including quizzes)
    Functionality that allows members to ask questions related to the leadership content
    Functionality that allows members to book analyst/coaching calls
  5. Help our research partners focused on taxonomy/research areas to develop more robust offerings within the portal (e.g. additional content and functionality, forums, et cetera.)

II. Online Learning Reinforcement

In order to ensure that the content in our week-long on-site leadership development programs are well-understood and translate into behavioural change, we must provide learners with materials and activities that reinforce core concepts. We will begin by researching best practices in distance learning reinforcement and then produce design principles, templates, and guidelines for our content developers. (Note: Learning reinforcement material is a core element of the Learning Solutions Portal – 4a above)

And the Winner is …

I will be focusing on Online Learning Reinforcement Material because of its criticality to program success. Also, as this is a core element of the Integrated Learning Experience Platform (4a in #1), it is a logical first step.