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The Training "Ombudsman"

04/10/09

While conducting the ASTD Essentials webinar this week, I encountered a bit of a shock. Well, perhaps shock is too strong a word, but I definitely got rattled a bit. Let me tell you what got under my skin.

Part of my first day of training is a big session on my idea of an eLearning development "Dream Team":

  • Project Manager: The project manager is responsible for ensuring that benchmarks are hit and that everyone is working together to create a fantastic finished project. This person should create a project plan to make sure that time lines and responsibilities are visible to all and that everything runs smoothly.
  • Instructional Designer: The ID is the person who is a training professional and has taken the time and energy to follow an instructional design process to come up with the training program. This person creates the templates, storyboards and diagrams necessary to facilitate training through the electronic medium.
  • Graphic Designer: The graphic designer is the person who creates all the graphical elements of the eLearning program. This person makes the buttons, the background pictures, and anything else that isn’t explicitly textual.
  • Multimedia Designer: Sometimes called the “New Media” designer, the multimedia designer is the person who is responsible for creating and editing digital movies, programming Flash movies, or working with 3-dimensional animation software to create simulations and other effects. Many times, the Graphic Designer and the Multimedia Designer are the same person.
  • Developer: This person receives the information and training program information from the instructional designer, the graphics from the graphic designer and the multimedia from the multimedia designer and programs the training.

Follow up:

I propose that in a "perfect world", you would have one or more of each of these individual roles, but that in the real world, you would have only a few people developing the training. In the "real world", most organizations would have their participants play multiple roles.

I then provided a survey to the participants, asking them which role they want to play, listing out each of those roles. I added a "funny" final choice which was "The Training Ombudsman - I want to do it all!!!"

With the exception of one person, everyone in my session stated that they wanted to be the "Ombudsman." When asked to elaborate, one of my participants responded that she "doesn't want to be, she has to be."

This is what scared me. Has it gotten so bad that training groups around the country have stopped thinking about being realistic when it comes to the development of their training programs that they are firing everyone but a scant few, and then demanding that these remaining survivors do it all? That thinking made me very sad.

As a consultant, I pride myself at being in the training world for a long time (forever, some might say) as well as getting the web work under my belt when the web was being born. I've posted about it before, but I think that people who are just getting started now have a huge learning curve to overcome. I remember the days when being able to design training as an instructional designer AND facilitate a course was a skill set to be admired. Now, that just gets you in for the interview.

Trainers then had to add Organization Development skills to their repertoire. In addition to facilitation and instructional design, they had to learn to coach and do team sessions, become certified in communication styles and analyze 360 reports. Has it gotten so bad that instructional designers/facilitators/OD specialists now have to learn to program eLearning? Because, as learning professionals, we tend to learn quickly and adapt to change faster than most, that the expectation is that we pick up the yoke of eLearning in addition to these other tasks?

Programming eLearning is not like learning to coach. Programming eLearning is not like writing a learner's guide or facilitator's manual. The skill-set is completely different. It's called eLearning programming because it requires an IT skill set and logical mind. That isn't to say that ID or other training work isn't hard, it's just that eLearning programming is completely different.

Designing good eLearning requires the structure and discipline of instructional design training and mythologies, but programming on the web is a completely different skill set. It cannot be picked up in a weekend of classes and a spiffy new $2000 piece of software. People are scared and they are coming to me for help. After three days with me, I cannot take my 16 years of training and web experience and download it into their minds. People are frustrated because they cannot pick up eLearning programming overnight, nor make their amazing storyboards and templates into a graphical reality.

And here is what keeps me up at night, writing past midnight: Companies don't seem to get it! Even though it is only April, I have had more work teaching ID and OD and facilitators the basics of the world I've lived in since 1999. Your average trainer is being asked to learn a completely alien set of skills. Well, asked is too light a term. They are being expected to learn it, and more importantly, to do it!

And this scares me. I hear their frustration. People are afraid of losing their jobs so they agree to this task and are underwater. They come to me looking for help, and I do what I can, but they know its not enough. In the past, they would joke and say "If I can't figure it out, I'll hire you to do it for me." And it was true...I did receive lots of work. Now, they can't afford to hire me and are left frustrated and under water.

Are corporations asking too much? Am I worried for no reason? I'm encouraging, but some of these people have stories that scare the heck out of me. It isn't that they can't learn it...my question and ranting is whether or not it's fair. Should these brilliant designers and facilitators be tasked with yet another responsibility?

Thanks for reading...let me know your thoughts.

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1 comment

Comment from: Derick Jones [Visitor] · http://www.u-2-me.com/
*****
Finally someone who thinks exactly like me and I am so glad I got to learn about your "scary" experience. But it is pretty scary, huh. I was in the IT sector and am now into online learning, distance learning and so on. I think due to cost-cutting, bright minds who can do a certain kind of task are getting loaded with other tasks too, just because they "can" do other things. I think it's unfair. Enough is enough!
05/27/10 @ 01:24

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