Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Augment Your Technical Training Programs with QR Codes

QR codes are everywhere. You can find them on everything from billboards to diesel generators to laundry detergent boxes. Scan a QR code and you get instant information on your mobile device. Increasingly, QR codes are finding their way into the workplace, and there are many opportunities to leverage them for improving your business.
Did you know you can use QR codes to deliver skills development and training programs for using the equipment in your organization?
If you are familiar with Shift iQ, you know we are how particular we can be about the language we use to describe skills development planning and training program activities. Learning requirements (which might include technical competencies, SOPs, training guides, etc.) are attached to occupational profiles (or job descriptions), which drive your training and education programs, and a training program can include any number of learning objects. For example, an equipment-related competency might have many different skills that together define safe and competent use of that specific piece of equipment.

Tying it all together

A QR code might appear on a small stainless steel plate fixed to a piece of equipment in your hospital laboratory. Staff members can scan the code to access training guides, operational information, maintenance history, warranty information, and contact information for the manufacturer.
For example, imagine a cardiovascular ultrasound system in your hospital. A staff member can scan the QR code attached to the equipment to access all of the training information associated with it.
QR Code on Medical Equipment
Shift iQ organizes learning objects into learning requirements that can be incorporated into the equipment information assigned to individual QR codes.
Suppose we have a learning requirement that states, "Demonstrate practical instrumentation and use of ultrasound controls." The training resources needed meet this requirement become available on your mobile device after you scan the QR code. These resources might include technical documentation, video instruction, and a competency assessment or quiz.
After the learning requirement is met by a member of your hospital staff, his or her training records are automatically updated for compliance reporting.
It's that easy.
And it gets even better. Shift iQ can track the time from the QR code scan to a completed competency checklist. If your organization needs a comprehensive log of minutes and hours spent on training and skills development (whether in broad, general terms, or in very narrow, specific areas) Shift iQ can help.

An increasingly common practice

Skills development and training programs can be augmented using QR codes in any setting, ranging from hospital laboratories, to mine sites, to aircraft maintenance facilities, to petroleum facilities and renewable energy operations.
QR codes provide a great anchor to technical training on specialized equipment.
Shift iQ is the software that takes learning management to the next level using simple and accessible technology to revolutionize skills development and training programs.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Delivering Learning Content in Multiple Languages

Nothing connects people like a shared language. It enables us to communicate and understand one other in a way that bridges even the largest cultural divides.
With the exception of immersion schools, the majority of education and training is almost always delivered in the language of the institution or organization. According to Pew Research, in the United States alone, 1 in 10 pupils indicate English as a second language (ESL); and 35 million speak Spanish as their preferred language at home. Another 12.5 million indicate English is a second language.

Big Opportunities

Looking at these numbers you can't help wonder at the implications for continuing education and training for ESL learners. We see huge opportunities in for skills development and learning management here.
Think about it: if continuing education and training could be delivered in the preferred language of the learner, it would open doors to many potential learners that would not otherwise consider continuing education as an option, when language is a barrier to doing so.

We've Figured it Out

Shift iQ enables multi-language learning through our unique translation framework. Our software is designed to enable your organization to translate a single learning object into any desired language without any loss of fidelity around management (tracking and reporting) of the original learning object.
Content and course material originally developed in English can be translated into Spanish, and both can be managed as a single deliverable unit of learning.
For example, imagine a multiple-choice question on quiz. The text displayed to every learner is displayed in his or her preferred language, and the instructor or administrator can easily run consolidated reporting on the results in his or her preferred language. In this sense, the question (and all of the metrics that surround it) is what we call "language agnostic".
Not only can you translate learning requirements (courses, modules, quizzes, and exams) and deliver these online, you can manage learning requirements within a single centralized workspace, rather than managing content in isolated language-specific silos. Instead of dealing with a separate library for every language, you can think in terms of one core file shared across any number of languages.
Shift iQ empowers trainers and educators to engage learners for whom English is a second language, enabling them to participate in continuing education in the student's language of preference. Just imagine the possibilities...

Making a Difference

Shift iQ is different from other Learning Management Systems. It relates training requirements and learning outcomes to occupational profiles. Individuals who have demonstrated the knowledge and skills to work in a specific occupation can then carry their credentials with them; this adds tremendous value to individuals and organizations working in industries with shared learning requirements.
One of the main goals in education is to produce a competent, capable workforce. Shift iQ exists for this reason: bridging academia and industry.
Shift iQ makes a difference, connecting educators and learners and industry, setting the standard for skills development and talent management nationally and internationally.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Desperately Seeking the Community College Advantage

Re-evaluating Your Learning Management Systems

Most Learning Management Systems (LMS) are out of date. The consequences may not seem dire at the surface, but this is a critical time for a new paradigm of learning to emerge. Many LMS products evolved at a time when learning institutions did not face the crisis of today. Colleges and universities are going broke at a time when industry is screaming for skilled labour. Governments are struggling to correct the massive mismatch between people, funding, and jobs.

What's changed?

  1. Older LMS products were based on the idea that learning is a set of courses to manage. No longer: employers want verifiable and relevant skills, not just courses.
  2. There is a massive disruption happening right now. Learning organizations of every stripe are desperately seeking another model.
The request is clear: The old LMS system that evolved from university-style courses cannot keep up with the current global disruption to learning and demand for skills.

So what's the burning question?

How do we create a new learning product that will scale and empower Skills Development?

And what's the answer?

The answer is startlingly simple: we need Skills Development (SD) that is tightly connected to the workforce. Without this match between learning and the "right" learning (skills), we will get what we're getting today: an educational crisis.
Two big problems created the mismatch:
  1. A well documented skills shortage: many sectors are unable to find properly trained labour
  2. The labour coming out schools is without the "right" skills
This mismatch has huge negative implications. Who is best to deliver a scaled solution? Again, the answer is clear: community colleges.
Today, community colleges aren't just delivering warmed-over university classes. They are responsible for a new intersection between INDUSTRY, APPLIED RESEARCH, and SKILLS DEVELOPMENT (more on research at a later date).

How are forward-thinking colleges connecting people with jobs at scale?

  1. New SD (Skills Development) products have evolved a much more responsive set of tools designed to connect industry with the right skills and with the right analytical tools.
  2. A "paradigm shift" is happening around "industry-defined skills development" as one of the best ways to create system/sector level productivity and employment.

What's the paradigm shift?

How does your old LMS product manage Skills Development? The paradigm shift requires that we let go of the LMS as a repository of courses, but ask for a superior Skills Development solution, a comprehensive system of managing and connecting Skills Development at three intersecting levels:
  1. User
  2. Organization
  3. Sector and industry

What's the bottom line?

The LMS is dead. Learning is no longer about courses. Learning is about skills, abilities, and knowledge that can be demonstrated, measured, and tracked.
Best in class organizations tightly connect Skills Development with industry needs using SD products such as Shift iQ.

What's in it for the learner?

New SD products take old LMS thinking to next level. They offer users a model best described as mastery-based learning. These "learning experiences" are highly experiential. They often using QR codes, for example, to create just in time on-the-job training that can be tracked and credentialed.
In a nutshell, it's all about relevant skills learning.
The skills learning model creates highly engaging and perhaps most importantly, HIGHLY RELEVANT, learning experiences that integrate hands-on training to every learning task. This paradigm of learning often uses "competency-based learning outcomes" and delivers modular components that allow learners to work within their target zone of skills development: learners are able to reinforce and build upon their prior knowledge. Learners practice at the "edge of learning": mastering new skills in a way that is highly engaged and career relevant.

What's in it for the learning organization?

Many leading learning organizations are now partnering with industry using Skills Development systems that:
  1. Match industry competencies with learning outcomes
  2. Develop responsive ways of keeping the learner up-to-date
  3. Education and industry can now utilize the learning data to create system-wide employment competencies sets that are current, well-understood, and allow guaranteed levels of learner success
21st Century Skills Development tools such as Shift iQ allow organizations to finally invest their resources in the right skills with the right people at the right time.

What's in it for the sector or industry?

Leading edge thinkers know that Skills Development products such as Shift iQ allow the rational, organized development of an entire sector or industry in two core ways:
  1. This level of skilled workforce development allows for game-changing levels of productivity as well as rapid deployment of a skilled workforce.
  2. Community colleges who partner with industry and government with products like Shift iQ enable an unprecedented level of strategic thinking in the development of laddered and interconnected workforces.

Need More Information?

Need a video demo? Need info? Please contact Alan Roberts or Stan Chung at Shift iQ to discuss ways we can help you and your organization. Send us an email or give us a call us toll-free +1 (888) 435-0981.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

360 Performance Assessments

Arguably one of the most important tasks for any company’s Human Resource department is performance management assessment. If the very thought of either administering or undergoing assessment strikes terror into your heart, you are certainly not alone. Even the most successful assessment programs tend to make employees uncomfortable; if, as is often the case, assessment is linked to compensation and promotion prospects, then the situation becomes even tenser. Done badly, assessment can set a company back months, due not only to the frustration generated among disillusioned employees who feel they have been unfairly treated, but also to the unwieldy and time-consuming process of administering the assessments in the first place. Small wonder that so many people dread this annual event!
Employers need to be clear as to their objectives when evaluating their personnel. Ideally, they should be able to: link assessment to the company’s goal-setting exercises; ensure they hire — and retain — efficient, productive staff members; obtain feedback from customers and employees; and make sound judgments regarding future promotions and compensation. An effective performance management review will align goals set for individual employees with those of the company as a whole, ensuring that the company’s short and long-term objectives can be met. It will also identify those employees who are performing above expectations, enabling them to be rewarded with promotions or salary increases. Also, identifying weaknesses in staff members can enable employers to set personal targets, or establish mentoring programs to facilitate improved performance. Customer feedback offers invaluable information in terms of future development.

Why 360° assessment?

360° assessment, also known as multi-rater assessment, places the person being assessed at the center of a circle; s/he is assessed by supervisors, peers and employees or customers as appropriate. This should give a clear all-round picture of an employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while also providing target areas for future development. Most feedback tools also allow for self-assessment in response to each evaluation. Ideally, the process should be interactive, with opportunities for feedback to be openly discussed at every stage. This is far more informative than top-down, supervisor assessments. Just a few of the advantages of 360° assessment are: minimizing bias and discrimination, team-building, improved customer service, and mutual responsibility for setting career goals.
However, employers should not automatically assume that 360° assessment is a magic wand that will solve all their problems. There are limitations and downsides to any system; the selection of raters is key; inexperienced evaluators can give imperfect results, and bias cannot be completely eliminated, though arguably the overall assessment should be more balanced. Additionally, since far more people are involved in the assessment process, it does become more unwieldy and time-consuming, placing greater stress on resources. A well-tailored program, specifically designed for this purpose, is obviously invaluable.
There are many software programs available to assist companies in carrying out 360° performance management assessment. Shift iQ offers employers a suite of applications including Compensation and Performance Management modules. Since Shift iQ utilizes cloud computing technology, accessibility is easy and cost-effective.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Show and Tell

A better way to assess competencies in the workplace

The common objective of all competency assessments is to effectively verify, record, and manage employee records in the workplace.
I stress effectively because it is amazing how many ineffective approaches are still utilized for assessing and tracking competencies.
Having done countless site visits, in a variety of operational settings, we see is a lot of thrashing going on. It is surprising to discover so many organizations where the drive to consolidation, or doing more — all in one place, has not yet been fully embraced.

The Challenges

Assessing, verifying, and recording the outcomes of competency assessments is a responsibility that is usually assigned to someone who is already in a cross functional position.
Site safety supervisors and training managers are often the "go-to" people to take on the role of workplace assessor, and often this work is done over and above normal duties.
Unfortunately, without the proper tools and systems, many of the processes and procedures used to assess competencies, deliver technical training, and manage employee training records are largely unsustainable, extraordinarily expensive, and risky.
All too often, a patchwork of unrelated systems is used to manage and track this process. By not utilizing a system specifically designed for this purpose, a significant amount of time is lost on repeating the tasks, steps, and procedures related to assessing competence and delivering technical training.

A Recipe for Disaster

Attempting to coordinate, deliver, and track competency assessments using an assortment of spreadsheets, documents, PDFs, PowerPoints, and paper-based checklists is a recipe for disaster.
Consider what happens when...
  • You have to transfer these duties to someone else?
  • Records are not up-to-date, or there are delays in data entry?
  • Records do not meet the demands of an audit?
  • Reports from different systems are incomplete or inconsistent?
  • One of your many software tools goes offline?
These are all legitimate risks and we have seen what happens when these scenarios play out. It's frustrating, expensive, and disabling to operations.

So what should the process look like?

Competency assessments are typically done through a combination of discussion, performance and observation. Or as I like to say: "show and tell me how it's done".
  1. In simplest of terms, it all starts with a notification being sent to an employee indicating that they need to self-assess on the various competencies that make up their occupation profile or job description.
  2. The employee indicates whether they meet the requirements of a given competency, or if they don't and require training.
  3. This information is then submitted to a workplace assessor.
  4. Where an employee indicates they meet the requirements for their competencies, the workplace assessor then meets with the employee.
    1. Where an employee indicates they need training, then the WPA ensures the appropriate learning and training activities are attached to their skills development plan.
    2. The employee reviews and completes the necessary training requirements.
  5. Competencies are then verified through discussion, demonstration and performance.
  6. The WPA signs-off on verified competencies and Shift iQ then generates the appropriate credential (SOP, time sensitive safety certificate, ticket, etc.)
  7. This information is recorded real-time so the employee and workplace assessor are always working with up-to-the minute information and skills development plans are always current.

Choosing the right tool for the job

You wouldn't use Microsoft Excel to write a novel, and you would never use Microsoft Notepad to manage financial statements, but all too often a hodgepodge of inadequate tools is used to manage and assess competencies and deliver technical training.
Shift iQ is a purpose-built solution that meets regulatory requirements. It is also the only solution designed to meet the workflow requirements for assessing competencies in the workplace.
Shift iQ was designed with competency-based training in mind. And yes, it is flexible enough to handle the most advanced notification and reporting requirements.
Shift iQ is also fully optimized for web-enabled devices, enabling skills development anytime, anywhere.
Contact us today to learn more. www.shiftiq.com 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Future Shift

If you've been following this series of articles, you may recall that the first instalment, "Shifting from the Traditional LMS", set the foundation for a critical look at the learning management system (LMS) domain. My subsequent articles, "Desperately Seeking a Mind Shift" and "A Whole New LMS World", explored the current state of the LMS industry as I observed why things are in need of change.
It's been a fun and challenging exercise, and I think I've sparked some good conversations. Since this is the last installment, I would like to conclude this series by looking ahead and describing what I think the future of the LMS domain will look like.


If you already have an LMS, then roughly a quarter of you will be using something different by 2018. From what I've read recently:
  • 20% of academic institution plan to replace their LMS in the next three years, according to results from a survey titled Study of Students and Information Technology 2014 conducted by Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR).
  • 35% percent of corporate, government and non profit sectors plan to change or replace their LMS in the next 2 years, according to results from eLearning! industry and eLearning! Government surveys.
There are several factors driving the need to change or replace systems and demographics play a big part. This brings be to my next point.


By now it should be fairly common knowledge that there are not enough people to fill the gaps left by older workers exiting the workplace, and the demand for skilled workforces will continue to intensify. As such, learning organizations will be looking to deliver training and education in a way that will scale and empower skills development.
More precisely, what will stimulate shifting loyalties (and usher in the next generation of LMS's) will be the need for solutions that will be tightly connected to concrete workforce requirements as well as enable learners to demonstrate competency and capability.


This may be more of a hope than a prediction, but the next generation of LMS's will not be based on the obsessive of pursuit of marketing novelties in the guise of features, but grounded in actual learning and workforce requirements as I describe above.
Also, the days of using different LMS's to do different things in isolation will soon be gone forever. Next generation learning platforms will be designed with consolidation and integration in mind. The new standard will be open, multi-tenant architecture. Essentially, systems that play well with others. Now that's progress.


My final comments looking ahead are based on the assertion that many brand-name LMS vendors we know today will be gone tomorrow. From an innovation perspective, other LMS vendors will disappear because they fail to keep pace with the new generation of skills development solutions. They will attempt to offer more responsive tools, but by the time they get that right, the industry will have shifted again.
From a purely financial perspective, the balance sheets for many of these companies are simply horrifying. Investor relations can only go so far promoting financial basket-cases with an unsustainable business models.

About the Author

Don Keller is a member of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame. See the original article published in Training Magazine here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

A Whole New LMS World

I participate in the Training Conference & Expo every year. It is a great way to connect with friends and meet leaders in the training and development world. As a former executive at Training Top 10 Hall of Famer SCC Soft Computer, a highlight for me has been seeing the best-of-the-best recognized for implementing transformative training programs in their organizations at the Training Top 125 Gala/Awards Ceremony. This inspiring event underscores the important role training plays in the success of any organization and the important role the training community plays in making this happen.
While I was at Training Top 125 Gala this year, I received a copy of my article, "Desperately Seeking a Mind Shift". The article was literally "hot off the press," give or take a day or two. The timing of the article was great, and I was surprised how many people I spoke to had read it and wanted to talk and learn more about the "next generation" of learning platforms I have been advocating and writing about.


It seems a lot of people besides me are beginning to notice that many of the learning systems they are using fall short of what they need them to do. So what gives? How can all these learning management systems (LMSs) and learning content management systems (LCMSs) be used so widely, but so widely underused?
The answer came to me at the Training Top 125 Gala. As names were being called and the awards were being handed out, I realized that it all comes down to people. Any system can have a world of features and functions, but if it is not designed properly (for people), and it is not implemented properly (by people), then it will fall short.


I believe the LMS industry itself is largely to blame for the current state of affairs. The incessant focus on "bells and whistles" comes at the expense of the learner, and at the same time creates a wickedly confusing market to navigate when looking for a learning solution.
In my first article in this series, "Shifting from the Traditional LMS", I posited that LMSs should be in the business of managing learning, yet the domain remains largely centered on all the features and functions for authoring, managing, and delivering courses and content. Take a look at your current LMS. I'm sure it does a great job of creating and delivering course content, but how good is it at managing learning workflow? How about connecting learning outcomes, skills, and competencies to industry-defined requirements? Probably not so good.


So what should we look for in the next generation of skills development and learning platforms? From what I can see now, the new breed of learning and skills development platforms are designed around people (learners) and their learning outcomes.
Learning is no longer about courses. Learning is about skills, abilities, and knowledge that can be demonstrated, measured, and tracked. These platforms scale to various learning requirements, manage learning workflows, and can deliver concrete learning outcomes.
As training requirements become more sophisticated, so will our need to be flexible in meeting these requirements. Integration here is an important factor, particularly with existing systems. Many systems don't play well with others. This is why we tend to have multiple systems all doing different things. Next-generation learning platforms are designed with consolidation and integration in mind to allow you to keep what you want, and let go of what you don't


It may be an obvious fact that technology works only as well as the people implementing it, but next-generation learning platforms are designed and implemented by people who understand learning. Here are what I see as the key characteristics of the new generation of learning platforms:
  • They deliver valuable learning experiences through personalized dashboards with intuitive and friendly user interfaces in a mobile-first framework.
  • They use open, multi-tenant architecture that plays well with others, simplifies workflow, and delivers real-time analytics
  • They make learning management easy. Planning and creating courses, developing and delivering learning programs, managing learning records, and reporting and sharing knowledge are all straightforward.
I'm glad to be part of the training community and see the best-of-the-best recognized for implementing transformative training programs in their organizations. Trainers are the people who make transformation happen, and having the right tools certainly helps.
Is that too much to ask for?

About the Author

Don Keller is a member of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame. See the original article published in Training Magazine here.