I have held interest in the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) for years.  With the mission “to develop and recognize the proficiency of its members and advocate the use of Human Performance Technology”, I have come to believe that all managers of eLearning should consider joining this group.  Many themes of my book MindMeld focus on developing a culture of continuous improvement by promoting a commitment to processes and continuous evaluation.  The goal is to improve, to energize your staff toward reaching higher.  Ultimately, as a manager,  I stress the importance of using evaluation. First during development, use embed formative evaluation by mandating user testers at various development stages.  This allows for your team to improve a product as it is built.   And of course it is important to insist on the “post mortem” to evaluate what went right and what went wrong after the project is completed.

Jack Phillips-President of the International Society for Performance Improvement

This past July, ISPI reached and celebrated its 50thanniversary, a good time to show my respect for this association and present reviews of two relevant articles that have since been published in their monthly journal. I read the president’s message in their July issue and stopped at a quote by President Jack Phillips, PhD., that states where his interest for ISPI came, “I became involved in ISPI because I saw a need to focus on performance improvement, not on the solution of the day or the solution based on an executive’s gut feeling.  Rather, there was a need to focus on solutions that evolve from an analysis that can withstand scrutiny.”  These ideas, along with many others, are some that ISPI recognizes and challenges members to use in their Performance Improvement in technology related areas—and they do so by presenting ideas and arguments to their members in the following way:

August’s issue highlighted an article entitled “Ask the Instructional Designers: A Cursory Glance at Practice in the Workplace” by Thompson-Sellers and Calandra.  This article introduced an exploratory study in which the connection between what is presented in college instructional design programs and what actually happens in the workplace was sought out.  A story was followed that included an intern hired and then promoted in a new job.  As she was an intern from a university instructional design technology (IDT) program, she was considered along with subject matter experts (SMEs) for an instructional design (ID) position.  The intern wondered throughout the hiring process “What are [the] knowledge and skills that are expected of us when we graduate?”  Many of the concepts and theories that she had studied and memorized in college were not important tests of aptitude when she entered the workforce—so is there a disconnect between academia and the workplace?  The ISPI Journal examines the process of a study that was conducted to find the answer to this question and found: “although all participants mentioned ID theories and models as being at least implicitly a part of their daily practice, none of them directly considered this type of knowledge as requisite.”  Furthermore, it seemed that whether a worker was trained formally in college, or informally in the workplace, both adapted to their environments and compensated for any deficit “in their knowledge or skills through various avenues.”  So if you are wondering whether to hire a subject matter expert as instructional designers or hire an academically trained instructional designer you may be interested in this article and study.  I would caution you, however, that the article ends with the statement: “Future research should be conducted.”  In my opinion, a corporate eLearning staff needs both types of team members.

Deb Page-Willing Learner President

Another article from the September 2012 ISPI Journal, written by Deb Page, is also worth mentioning. Page’s article “Using Electronic Portfolios” emphasizes the new, sweeping uses of e-portfolios and the benefits of using them.  Page argues that e-portfolios encourage reflection and can strengthen performance improvement, performance management, and collaboration.  She emphasizes that with the use of e-portfolios, individuals can showcase themselves and their achievements, workplaces can showcase new employees, projects, and facilities, and managers can connect employees and team members to each other.  A second aspect of e-portfolios that can be beneficial to eLearning associations specifically is its ability to formalize informal learning.  Users can dynamically post their work and commentary in a social environment and over time exhibit those items that best demonstrate their proficiency, performance, and progress throughout their academic and work careers.  Page goes on to describe the influx of e-portfolios in the past ten years which led me to draw upon educational sectors and how they have used ePortfolios like the Wisconsin Administrative Code PI 34.  This code helped develop a new system for preparing and licensing educators.   The requirement that each initial educator must develop, implement, and document their Professional Development Plan (PDP) has led to the use of e-portfolios which are easily updated and accessed.  It has also encouraged the documentation of informal training and learning activities.  Someday we all will be encouraged, as life-long learners to maintain a PDP.

For example, continuing medical education (CME) and licensing boards are aggressively looking into how e-Portfolios can be used to help document proficiency and demonstrate performance improvement.

I would encourage others to look at the ISPI community of practice and see what benefits membership could offer you, your team and your employer.

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.