Better every day

Eric van de Graaff, ilearnr


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50 ways to learn fast

Have you ever experienced pressure cook learning? After 4 months in my new job I feel challenged to write a recipe. It reads as follows: Get hired in a job at the forefront of technology, in a customer partnership focussed culture with very cool colleagues, aiming to solve the big challenges of 21st century!

This is exactly where I am at in my new role as pre-sales learning consultant. My most impactful moments of learning:

Committing to a deadline for a customer without realising the full impact of the task ahead: not clever. When you do accept it and fail, it becomes downright stupid. Asking a colleague for help and forgetting to plan time afterwards to digest the advice: not clever.

Not recording the navigation across a powerful platform: that is a waste. Heading to miss an already extended deadline, before a well deserved holiday: painful. It is okay to not know and it is okay to ask. It is annoying to ask for the same solution for the third time, because you failed to take notes. Answering a question without knowing the right answer is even more painful.

So what did I learn? So far 7 lessons: Balance: do not try to cramp 3 jobs into a 50 hour workweek from home. Enjoy: find pleasure in the conversations with new colleagues from different cultures. Let go: Do not hold on to the conception that you should know it all. Ask for advice when you need it and inform other when things may go “south” (not good).

Inspire and challenge others and yourself to be your best, even when you make mistakes. Empatically bond in your team and understand other perspectives. Visionary: talk with the founder of the company to learn his passions and dreams. Energetic in the way you prioritise and complete your tasks.

In short: BELIEVE! My dream is helping companies to learn faster and smarter. I feel proud to be learning to be this guide on this journey in digital learning. Do let me know your challenges and lessons, we learn together!


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How do you measure and evaluate learnings?

The truth is that most learning analyses stop short of numbers of participants and percentage of active promoters. Excel, powerpoint, survey monkey and mentimeters are used to their full extend, but soon the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve trolls the L&D department and the “lessons learnt” are lost.

Is there another way?

We humans, or should I say: I can only process so much. I remember last years introduction group, but what do I remember of that marketing course last May, that ran in five locations, in three countries?

As a learning & development manager, I recently changed to a forerunner of digital learning. Now I feel humbled and lucky to get the chance to see how learning analytics can support business strategies.

I already had the knowledge of statistics and organizational dynamics. I desired to improve human skills and business performance. And now I discovered the two missing links: xApi and LRS.

According to Wikipedia an xApi is Experience API (Tin Can API), an e-learning software specification that allows programmatic inclusion of the learning content.

Basically it says: ‘I did this’ (also known as an actor-verb-direct object) statement, alongside a variety of contextual data. “I” stands for an individual user, “did” stands for a relevant learning verb and “this” stands for a learning-element. Any element: stopping a video, restarting, completing an e-learning, joining a class or finishing a book!

Learning Record Store (LRS)[1] is a data store system that serves as a repository for learning records collected from connected systems where learning activities are conducted. Great you may say, so what?

Well the LRS, with all the XAPI can be used within a business intelligence tool: 60% of learners exited the course 3 minutes into the video. 80% of learners who completed the course produced 60% less compliance fails. 75% of users that completed this course generated 20% more sales, etc.

xAPI and LRS may improve the quality of future lessons, they may start to improve business results, but I hope these two missing links will future proof you when you prepare to measure, store and analyse your next valuable learning intervention.


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“When one teaches two learn” –

A solid way to master a topic is to provide a training on it. As a teacher you think through the logical flow of your “class”, so that students will achieve their goals. You preview your students and you assess their current knowledge level. You anticipate questions and you think of answers. That in itself may bring you new insights. During class you may learn new insights on your class and topic too. Some students actually know a lot about your topic already. And they will probably bring new topics to the table. Meaning you will learn of lot!


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Why I enrolled in a MBA… and why you could too!

“live as if you die tomorrow, learn as if you live forever”

-Mahatma Gandhi

In October 2019 I wrote my application and send it to Haroun Education Ventures MBA Degree Program. Chris Haroun, who has raised over 1 Billion in venture capital and has over 1 Million online students, reviewed the application and accepted it. Now that I look back at my application, I can confirm that it is about my ambitions for myself and for the world. Having completed the MBA it was well said by one of the other graduates: “this graduation is only the end of the beginning“:

Dear Chris, 

Thank you for your time to address my questions and set up the video interactions today. It was informative and fun and it is a good way to get a feel for the MBA interactions. In this motivation I like to share who I am, why I want to participate in the Haroun Education Ventures Master of Business Administration Degree Program 2019-2020 and how I see my best life in 10 years:

Who am I now?

I develop people and teams so that they can realize their dreams, that is my passion! I am sort of addicted to everyday learning and putting learning into practice. I am a father, a husband, a friend and a life long learner, dreamer, trainer, coach, snowboarder and personal growth hacker. My skills round up like: communicative • go-getter • emphatic • eager to learn • result-oriented • strategic • teamplayer • innovative.

Why do I want to get an MBA?

I want to get out of my comfort zone. I train soft skills and organise learning and I want to be able to translate this into business value and financials. I want to know the latest International Business trends and I want to keep challenging myself.

I look forward to network and interact with other students and teaching staff from different cultures and learn from their management experience. I may join a new company as a learning lead or I may even start my new business again. This time not so much working in the business as much as working on the business.

At this point I am considering to set up an online training business and the MBA will help me broaden my cultural horizon and  international business career prospects. The MBA network helps me find companies that I want to work for or with. It can help me arrange meetings with potential employers.

The real advantage of an MBA for me , however, is its proven versatility. With an MBA, I want to reignite my career and advance to be the tech savvy learning sponsor with a finance foundation.

What is my perfect life in 10 years? 

Family: My kids will have completed their educations and they will regularly visits us at our home in Velp. My wife has trimmed down her workweek to three days and participates in local charity work a the local dog-care unit. 

Friends: the friends from my youth are al still there and we continue to visit the isle of Schiermonnikoog once every year.

Success: my life’s satisfaction comes from helping other people grow and make their dreams come true. I feel More motivated. More confident. More competent. Than 10 years ago.

Career: I have reignited my career and I am the finance savvy, tech savvy learning lead in a company of 500-2000 people. Next to that I have an online community of 25.000 people. This generates participants for the online training.

Health: I am free of serious health sorrows. I participate in the weekly bootcamp hour and I participate in the business hockey competition. I take weekly doses of vitamins, Whey, diet candy and I weight 84 kilo’s.

Quality of life: I feel appreciated by family, friends and neighbours and we enjoy an occasional holiday, dog Teddy included. The cats stay happily around the house. 

Spiritual connection: my adagio is: understanding is forgiving and I have kept up a daily routine of being grateful for three things in my life and taking the time to reflect on what I can do for society. I am happy and enjoy challenges.

Personal growth: my interactions with students lead to a lot of learnings: when one teaches, two learn! I listen to one podcast a week, and I read on book a month.

Fun and enjoyment: I have lot’s of fun with my wife, our grown up kids and our dog. We go out for a walk on the Posbank at least once every day. 

My life makes me smile and makes my heart sing and I am motivated to learn new things.

This MBA is my essential next step!

I am convinced that with my skills in leading, collaborating and learning I will contribute to the MBA and support the group to maximise our potential. I am looking forward to participating.

The best number to reach me is +31 648 797 809. I look forward to speaking with you in a few business days.

Yours sincerely,

Eric van de Graaff

Everyone is different and everyone has different reasons to start or not start an MBA. In the end I think investing in your knowledge is always a wise decision.


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7 Sources of Personal Power

Every battle is won before it is ever fought.

-Sun Tzu

How to build Personal Power: In this episode we will discuss how to identify the sources of Personal Power. For my travel to Nepal I packed my backpack with clothing and gear, to discover I did have a lot of t-shirts, but I was missing some essential medical supplies. Now you will see what you already have in your Personal Power “backpack”.

From their practical experience, David Gershon and Gail Straub wrote the book Empowerment. It outlines that the inventory of your life consists of 7 vital aspects. These 7 aspects of life you can shape and or create the way you prefer.

These seven aspects are: emotions, relationships, sexuality, the body, money, work and spirituality. From each of these aspects we will discover what it is that we most desire. Ultimately the goal is to live life the way you and I want to.

So take a couple of breaths and relax while you pause reading after each question, so that you can take notes. The exercise helps your relax and focus.

Take three breaths, funneling the air to your stomach. Then slowly focus on the air and trace it from your stomach to your nose. Then focus to breath in through your right nostril and out through your left.

I know it sounds out there, but trust me; try it. Do this three times and notice that your world quiets down. When it does your are ready to listen to your answer on the first question. Just read it out softly and let your mind wander and work to come up with your answer:

1: Which qualities of someone else do I find most important in a relationship? And what do I have to offer? Please pause and take notes. After you completed your answer, please repeat the breathing exercise till you are ready for the next question.

2: What is one thing I can do to create more love, more sensuality, more passion in my life? Please pause and take notes.

3: If my body could speak to me, what would it say to me about how it is being treated? Please pause and take notes.

4: If I had as much money as I wanted, what would the first five things I do with it be? Why? Please pause and take notes.

5: If I did not have to work for money, what kind of work would I do? Why?Please pause and take notes.

6: Which emotion is easiest for me to express? Why? Which emotion is the most difficult for me to express? Why? Please pause and take notes.

And question 7: What three things can I do to get in better contact with the miracle and mystery of life? Please pause and take notes.

I hope you enjoyed this episode on how to identify your sources of personal power. Feel free to share these insights with people around you and remember I made all the mistakes in growing up, and developing personal so you dont have to! See you in the next episode!


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“How to complete 1 online course”: my top-5 tips

With the current pandemic and the need to work from home as much as possible, staff are shifting to working and learning remotely. Online learning providers offer many of their courses for free, so students stay at home and stay safe.

I have been working from home for years and have taken many online courses. I humbly believe I made all the mistakes you can make: from falling asleep on my desk to missing a class because I forgot about the switch to summer time. I share this top 5 so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

Top 5

1: Relevant: Select a course topic that is really interesting to you and that you can apply in your life within 3 months. A topic that you cannot apply quickly is unlikely to have enough motivation for you to complete.

2: Realistic timing: View the schedule of the lesson and estimate the time you need to reserve by adding an extra half hour before and after each session. You will have to organize and manage your activities after class.

3: Commitment: Announce that you are participating in a selected course and what hours you will be spending so that you commit publicly to complete. This may feel uncomfortable, but it will help you build peer pressure and home support.

4: Social Learning: Find two or three friends in the group of participants and find a way to know their situation and reasons for participating. You can set up a Slack channel or WhatsApp group for that communication.

5: Experiment and have fun: try to have regular zoom meetings with the three of you and discuss your situation, your life stories, your progress, setbacks and dreams and make the interactions fun.

With this Top 5 I hope to prepare you on your first steps to a successful course completion. Class Central did an excellent job of bringing over 100’s of free courses from Harvard, Standford or Udemy together. My humble first course (Better Every Day) is also free.

I hope you enjoy the learnings. Do share your tips, mistakes and successes below! Stay safe and learn from home!


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Jungle of Chitwan

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 

― Mahatma Gandhi

_______

““The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 

― Albert Einstein

_______

Sitting in the seat on the back of Pawankhali and Champikhali, the Asian elephants, we view life from a spacious position. I get rocked back and forth a bit and the jungle of Chitwan passes by. Based on the idea that this spacious position is inviolable, we go on safari every morning and afternoon in search of tigers. 

The camp is open. All animals can walk in and out without having to pass gates. This makes it all the more exciting to go outside in the morning. 

There is a disturbance because there is a rhino walking nearby. Everyone stands on the 4-meter-high porch looking at the rhino. He doesn’t care too much about the curious eyes. 

Nevertheless, the open design of the camp is disturbing. The wild animals can enter the site unnoticed on all sides. Then we are not talking about the trip that we make in the evening when we return from the campfire to our house. 

Is that exactly the house that is furthest away, exactly on the edge where the safari starts? No tiger to be seen and we are sitting on an elephant in the jungle and life is relaxed. We see everything, deer, pigs, birds. In the presence of this giant, they feel unthreatened and show themselves up close. 

Suddenly the guide points to traces in the sand. A fresh print of a tiger, approximately size 48. Very large. A few meters away the elephants start trumpeting and stamping. 

They let pee and poo walk. They no longer listen to the stick commands. Moreover, they make a kind of hum sound, as loud as a drumming on a hollow tree trunk. I feel it throughout my body. 

The elephant clearly shows its presence. In addition, I also sense fear. My fear? Is this search for the tigers so sensible? What if the elephants panic? Or we? Or all? In a basket on the back of a beaten elephant right through trees and under branches, is suddenly less relaxed. 

The behaviour of Pawan and Champi makes it clear that the elephants do not like to contact this predator. Just when I think I have everything under control, I am introduced to the real jungle. 

Corporate life

And how does that work in the Netherlands? Not much else! Starting as a young psychologist at a well-known training agency is particularly inspiring. What a new business world, what an energy, what a pleasure, what personal contacts. It actually feels like family. 

For example, later on I also want to have my own villa with a large garden together with seven trainers / advisors who prepare their next training sessions in the garden or in the attic and then develop one, two or three days people in a hotel. After years of distant scientific studies, I suddenly learn how to speak effectively and above all listen. 

Knowing the importance of real attention. Knowing with which questions I get the right information, knowing how I determine the course of further contact in the first 8 seconds. Being able to show my interest. Jokingly I do business in humming, nodding and summarizing. 

The most important skill for having a good conversation is listening. Active listening, which means that I show that I listen to you both verbally and in behaviour. 

Research shows: “People who speak in conversation about 60% of the time have the feeling that they had a good conversation afterwards. Give it a try. Let your conversation partner tell you something before you share part of your entire story. 

Click me for more …


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Learning Analytics adventure…

One big goal: How to apply analytics to support success! Now that the MOOC is almost to an end, I want more practical experience!

How did it start?

The first week of the MOOC Learning Analytics Unraveled  curated by Maastricht University (also source of above pictures) starts with “…an introduction on ‘What is Learning Analytics’ and how could it be applied in different organisations. Week two has focus on why we should be interested in Learning Analytics and for which kind of purposes it can be used. Third, in week three we look into different ways of applying Learning Analytics, always keeping in mind the purpose you are heading for. Finally, we zoom into pitfalls when doing learning analytics…” There is still time to participate!

What did I learn?

I am now in the fourth week and my expectations were surpassed, already.

  • Data’s power can drive human performance and business results. “through the roof” May be wishful thinking, but substantially improving outcomes is just a moderate expectation.
  • With power comes trust, privacy or backlash issues.
  • There is a vast amount of usable KPI’s already existing in organisations.
  • KPI’s and proxies can be used to determine the relation between learning and output.
  • I also learned that I am curious to learn all about it.
  • In my humble opinion the middle way forward is to provide employees with their individual data and performance support tools, while anonymously analysing the data at company level and supporting initiatives at scale.

What do I want to do next?

I am looking for an internship at a company that is currently connecting business performance to learning proxies. I want to contribute to improving business performance and at the same time learn and extend my experience in this area. I am currently enrolled in a MBA on start-up funding, company valuation, entrepreneurship and online learning. It’s is the first cohort and it is different, innovative and online and it takes two days a week. I am looking for synergy here.

Why?

I am a Learning and Development manager, changing to a new adventure. I believe everyone want to be his/her best and I believe Learning Analytics holds the promise to support strategies more strongly. I have knowledge in statistics and Organization Psychology and I want to improve human skills and performance more effectively.

What is your connection to learning analytics?

Do you work with analytics or do you personally know people at companies that are in the forefront of data analytics? Usually High Tech, Telecom, Financial or Service providers. Think Call Centers, Microsoft, NASA, NASDAQ, Vodafone and alike. Also think local tech start-ups in financing rounds 2 or 3. What is learning analytics to you? Do share!

And if you know someone who may benefit from an Internship on applying Learning Analytics, please forward my info to them! Or just let me know and I will follow up.

Enjoy the reading, thank you for your time!


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Daily Habit of Learning

With the Talent pool being more sparse than ever, companies feel the need to close the skills gap internally. As productivity is vital, learning may not carve out productive time. If learning is to take place during working hours, it has to be as efficient and focussed as possible. 

The new kid on the learning block is called “On-Demand learning” or “Learning In The Flow of Work”: closing the skills gap at the moment of need. This is when the learner is most motivated to learn. Small snippets of content, focussed on the task at hand, ready to be accessed On-Demand. This content is created from available materials, processed with AI. Learners are enabled with the availability of PC’s, laptops, tablets and phones. Maybe even with e-watches, e-glasses and VR-goggles? It may seem like the perfect learning solution, but is it really? Do employees take the time to learn?

I think the future of learning is here, but it is not spread evenly. Providing assistance at the moment of need is a helpful and an effective tool. I believe learning is more than just that and I will strive to provide On-Demand learning also outside the direct scope of a task. People are at their best when they are learning. Learning and discovery are fun also. It is where the magic happens, where new solutions are being developed, where discovery leap-frogs. And this discovery may include some failures too.

So On-Demand learning should have content that really drives you forward. Conten based on topics selected by yourself, based on your view of your future. I believe your success depends on being able to form a daily habit of learning. I believe in daily learning to be your best!

You may jumpstart this habit forming with some help from Psychology. In Psychology Today habit formation is described as the process by which new behaviors become automatic. Key roles are played by three elements: Trigger, Behavior, and Reward. Trigger: Everyday after starting your computer, search for new content on a topic of your interest. Behavior: Spend 5 minutes to read it. Reward: Reflect: “What did I learn?” and “How can this benefit me/us?”.

I allowed the app “Coach Me” to create a trigger moment for learning and I allowed the app “Degreed” to present me curated content snippets. I am enjoying the daily learnings.

I am curious to learn how this works for you. Do let me know what you think!