Guy playing guitar

Learning Resolutions: Get Better as the Boss and the Wild and Crazy Guy

This year, I read Bruce, a biography of the musician Bruce Springsteen, and Born Standing Up, a memoir by comedian/actor Steve Martin.

One thing that both Springsteen and Martin share throughout their careers is a seemingly endless desire to improve their craft and find the right “voice” at different points of their lives. For example, Springsteen started as a young kid impressed by Elvis Presley and The Beatles who picked up a guitar and practiced tirelessly, and then he went on to lead a popular regional band called Steel Mill, find his own voice as a solo artist for the Born to Run era, and continue to reinvent himself again and again for later records and tours. Martin went through a similar progression. He started off as more of a magician than a comedian, worked hard over the years to develop a comedy routine that was different than stuff he had heard before, and eventually went on to quit being a stand-up comedian at a point when acting appealed to him more.

Reading the books, I admired the hard work and diligence of both performers as they sought to get better at what they did. And it was a nice reminder for me to do the same thing at work. Because I do a lot of work training customers who have just adopted our learning management system (LMS), helping them learn to use the LMS and helping to give their training programs a direction, I’d like to do this as an elearning creator, a designer/facilitator of instructor-led training, and as a creator of performance support materials.

So that’s my resolution for this year. It’s really not a New Year’s Resolution per se, because I think it’s the kind of thing we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over again, but we’ll stick with it for this article anyway.

So what am I going to do to keep getting better? Nothing shockingly new, really—I’m just going to double-down on some of the stuff we all try to do all the time.

Keep up on developments in cognitive psychology—it’s a pretty exciting time in this field, and it seems like we’re learning more about how the brain learns all the time. I’m going to try to read some books, check out some periodicals, and catch some lectures. I’m even happy to notice that these stories seem to pop up quite a bit these days when I’m reading my daily news through sources like the NY Times and NPR.

Keep reading instructional design blogs—there are a lot of great ones out there. My favorite is probably Connie Malamed’s, but I’m a big fan of the blogs by Julie Dirksen and Cathy Moore, and I find lots of good stuff over at the Articulate website and at Don Clark’s “Big Dog Little Dog” site. Anyone out there have a blog recommendation they’d like to pass along to me?

Keep reading instructional design books—same idea as above. I’ve got a few by Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark in mind here, including her recent one about scenario-based learning, but I’m open for tips on this issue also.

Network more with other learning professionals—it wouldn’t hurt me to get out of the bubble a bit, spend some more time with others in the field, learn from what’s working well for them, and pick up some inspiration through osmosis. And I’m lucky to have several helpful friends in the field too, so I’m going to remember to pick their brains more often.

Create more (and better) performance support—I’d like to cut down on the amount of training I provide and instead create more performance support materials that people can refer to when they need to on the job.

Facilitate more informal learning—I’d also like to try to help create more environments in which people can learn from their coworkers and other people through conversations and online bulletin boards.

Keep learning the tools of my trade—I’d like to get better with the elearning tools I’m currently using and get to know some I’m using only a little or not at all. Storyline, I’m lookin’ at you, here.

Become a better instructor-led trainer—I do a lot of this, so I’m always looking for ways to make my delivery more effective.

Become a better designer of blended learning experiences—ideally, I’d like to roll up everything I listed above when I’m training new LMS customers to make the experience more fruitful for them: creating self-paced pre-training materials, leading in-person training sessions that incorporate multiple training formats, and sending customers off with even better performance support materials.

So, all told there’s nothing striking in my resolution, but I think it’s a good one. I’ll keep reminding myself of these goals throughout the year and will look to others in the industry for inspiration and lessons when I find myself in a little rut or on auto-pilot. It should be fun; I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure it won’t lead to the fame and fortune enjoyed by Misters Martin and Springsteen, but it will be rewarding for me and may even prove to be a good example for my two daughters as they wrap up their final year of high school and prepare for college.

Finally, I’d like to close by thanking the folks at OpenSesame and by wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a great new year. And if you’re making a learning resolution yourself, I hope it works out well for you. Cheers!

Jeff Dalto is an Instructional Designer and Trainer at Convergence Training. You can keep up with Jeff at the Convergence Training blog or on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.