Category Archives: Design

Benchmarking Online Learning




Fascinating data.

63% lack of time for self-study
40% can’t find what they need
41% find current online learning not relevant to their need
28% lack of somewhere appropriate to study
26% find learning content uninspiring
25% technology issues such as low bandwidth
22% learning objectives are not clear

This is one of thousands of findings from benchmarking studies drawing on the experiences of more than 3,500 L&D professionals and 16,000 learners.

91% team collaboration
81% manager support
73% web search
83% conversations / meetings
67% support from mentor / coach / buddy
64% formal education course55% internal company documents
52% internal networks / communities
50% mobile
49% live online learning
47% self-paced e-learning

Twelve years ago, my friend Laura Overton (we worked at SmartForce together) founded Towards Maturity to benchmark learning across organizations. 

Benchmarking is the process of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and/or best practices from other industries. Benchmarking provides an opportunity to:

Review your progress and approach
Compare your results and approach with others – both your peers and the top performers in the field
Act on the findings to improve your performance

The Towards Maturity Benchmark is the only free, independent and confidential formal benchmark available to learning and development professionals.

75% want to be able to do their job faster and better
51% like to learn just for personal development
50% want to be eligible for promotion
47% want to obtain professional certification
41% want to be enabled to earn more money
39% want to keep up with new technology
35% want to achieve/maintain a higher certification level
35% want to increase productivity
22% want to pass an assessment
10% want to compete against colleagues for a high score

Benchmarking provides independent evidence that can helps organizations:

Set a baseline today to help demonstrate progress tomorrow
Increase staff engagement and results
Learn from common mistakes rather than making them
Justify an investment or proposal for change
Apply industry best practice relevant to your organization
Set ‘SMART’ targets in your business plan
Motivate your team to become industry leaders
Provide an external perspective to get stakeholders engaged with new ways of learning

Towards Maturity’s work to-date has focused on Europe, but the firm is going global. If you want to explore the topic of benchmarking, I suggest you speak with Laura at:

  • DevLearn, 28-30 September, Las Vegas
  • Learning@Work, 27-28 October, Sydney
  • LEARNTech Asia, 2-5 November, Singapore
  • Online Educa Berlin, 2-4 December, Berlin


Contact Laura Overton at [email protected] for more information. Say hi for me.

Disclosure: Laura and I are planning a joint session at Online Educa that ties together the findings of benchmarks and the competencies addressed in my new book.

Photographic memories

paulA delightful nostalgic post by Paul Simbeck-Hampson this morning led me on a search of my Flickr photos.

When was it that Paul, Harold, and I spent a zany day shooting video in Berlin? I couldn’t find it. (I have 32,000 photos, most of them not tagged, on Flickr; finding anything is a bitch.) So I queried Google with “berlin jay cross” and came up with this fascinating page. What a flood of memories!

Up popped photos of not only Paul and Harold but also Donald Clark, the Santa Claus at KaDeWe, Jeff Staes, Ignatia de Waart, Doug Engelbart, Bert de Coutere, Rebecca Strohmeyer, George Siemens, the Brandenburg Gate, the Christmas Market, Raines Cohen, Jos Arets, Vivien Heinjen, Allen Tough, George Leonard (he coined the term “Human Potential Movement”), Peter Isaacson, Jaan Netzow, Buthaina Alothman, David Hassselhoff, me dressed as Santa, Jane Hart, Sarah Frame, Angela Merkel, Charles Jennings, Robin Good, the Berlin Wall, Adolf Hitler, JFK, Graham Attwell, Karl Marx, the cover of my book on Learning Architecture, and a chicken thinking “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.”

Drilling down got me to Paul’s original post on our rendezvous; it’s loaded with photos. We were doing the European launch of the Working Smarter Fieldbook. Sort of.



Turns out this took place in October 2010.

Photographs are such wonderful reminders of things past. I’m a snap shop guy, not of these folks toting around 2-pound Nikons and a bag of lenses. Give me a camera that fits in my pocket. Unobtrusively.




Yesterday I was crafting illustrations for Aha!

Just as I rely on my journals and blogs to refresh memories of the past, I let my photos retrieve the good times I’ve had. Photos enrich one’s life.

Thinking a few decades out, I expect images are going to replace alphabets. Your brain has to go through a lot of computation to make out letters, assemble words, and understand the meaning of sentences and paragraphs. We weren’t born to do this symbol manipulation.

We humans are sight mammals. We were born to see, not to spell. Of course it’s better if the images move.

Conferences can be better, a whole lot better


The conference business is booming yet every participant has some major gripe about the way conferences are run. We all think we know better. It goes with the territory.

In the beginning of the year, I looked into the future of conferences. Would they go the way of record stores and newspapers?

I concluded that:

Flipping conference presentations can vastly improve learning outcomes.

Community First! Events should focus on nurturing the L&D community of practice before content.

Many Next Practices for conferences (I’ve listed 30) are not difficult to implement.

Asked what brings them to events, nearly everyone replies “face to face.” People attend events to be with other people, to rub shoulders with colleagues from other organizations and with industry spokespeople and gurus. The cliché is that you learn more in the hallways than in the classrooms. As in the workplace, informal learning at conferences has more impact than formal learning.

The Flipped Conference session differs from the Flipped Classroom in that content delivery takes place at the conference, not before. However, presentation time is greatly condensed and is delivered in a 10-minute Ignite session up front. As with the Flipped Classroom, the bulk of face-to-face time is spent on discussion and contextualizing the lessons


The traditional building block of formal learning at conferences is a session. A typical breakout session is 45 minutes to an hour long. The session leader chooses the topic and presents a point of view (there’s a reason they call it PowerPoint) for the bulk of the session. This is an overdose of content. Most people’s attention wanders after ten or fifteen minutes. The bulk of the message falls on deaf ears.

After ten to fifteen minutes, we tune out the message. Between minute 15 and minute 50, I might as well be asleep. That’s 35 wasted minutes.

Flipping the session allocates a majority of the time to participatory events.


Next Practices for L&D Conferences

Here is a dog’s breakfast of suggestions for improving the effectiveness of conferences.

Before the Event

Provide a generic ROI proposal for attending to send to the boss, saving people the time of working out the value to be extracted from the event.

See who’s coming and set up appointments in advance.

Participants should have expectations and set explicit objectives for the event.

During the event

Encourage social networking. Announce a Twitter hashtag and encourage people to Tweet. It’s a great way to tap into the pulse of an event and to find what’s going on.

During sessions, use Twitter to gather questions and make comments. Tweeting among participants spark reflection about what’s gong on. Perhaps make the Twitter feed visible on a separate screen in presentation rooms.

After the conference

Visit the backchannel to attend a conference virtually, get to know people before the event, or catch what you did not have time to visit.

Get rid of happy sheets. One’s reaction immediately after an event says nothing about their long-term gain.

Conference goal: co-learning. Taking the message back home. Make this mandatory. Conference ends with plan for distributing ideas back to home organization and team.


Business is good. Attendance at the events I examined (eLearning Guild, Masie, Training, ATD, Learning & Technology, Educa) is rising.

John Seely Brown says every business model will be disrupted. Nonetheless, my gut tells me that L&D Conferences are here to stay for at least the next five years and perhaps infinitum.

The 20-page research report is here.

Crowdsourcing a design from 99designs

Internet Time Lab needed a logo for its iPhone app to measure emotion. At my partner’s suggestion, I turned to, “the fastest growing design marketplace in the world.” Their site says they’ve conducted 174,000 design contests and paid out $1.4 million to designers last month. I’d never heard of them.

Nine days ago, I posted a spec for what I wanted, put $149 on my credit card, and began receiving design options. 23 designers submitted a total of 62 entries. 3 withdrew their designs. 3 designers made my short list. I selected the winner last night.

Here’s the winning icon:

Look for it at Online Educa Berlin.

99designs also does brochures, web pages, t-shirts, banners, and book covers. I’ll be back.




Help me select a design for Blips, our iPhone app

Internet Time Lab needs an icon for its forthcoming mobile app. “Blips” records a person’s feelings at various times during the day and displays aggregate results on the web. The name Blips refers to the scant amount of time — a couple of Blips a day– it takes to increase one’s feelings of contentment and satisfaction.

I crowdsourced the design of the icon to 99Designs. I put up $149 and designers are submitting ideas. What do you think? If you feel strongly, leave a comment. Note that all entries are numbered.

Here’s the Web poll. If that doesn’t work, I’ve cut and pasted the contest pages below.






Internet Time Blog 2012-11-02 00:03:56

October 26, 2012, 12:26 p.m. ET

So Much Training, So Little to Show for It

An expert on corporate programs reveals why they often are a waste of time and money

In this lopsided Wall Street Journal article, a professor slams training for all the wrong reasons. For one thing, he disregards experiential learning on the job and seems to think that training always takes place away from the job. He touts the need for a thorough needs analysis which defines who will take what topic and be tested on it. That might have worked before jobs became complex. It’s tough to pull off when the future is unpredictable and work involves dealing with novel situations. He laughs off companies that believe technology will solve all training problems. I’ve been in the learning business for forty years and have yet to meet someone who thinks tech will solve all training problems. I couldn’t resist leaving a snarky comment:
Dr Salas focuses on training that takes place away from the job. He’s looking in the wrong place. Most corporate learning takes place informally in the course of doing the job, not in training courses away from the job. These days, many organizations support what’s known as the 70-20-10 model that says 70% of learning is experiential, 20% guided by others (often managers and supervisors) and a mere 10% via formal instruction. Salas offers common sense advice on making the 10% work better. There’s a lot bigger bang for the buck in making the learning ecosystem supportive of learner-directed “pull” learning. The school system is one of the few institutions where lectures, courses conducted in artificial environments away from the context of what’s to be learned, and one-way “push” learning are the norm. Corporate learning has its flaws, to be sure, but they are minuscule when compared to the practices that are commonplace in schools and colleges. Most corporate trainers know more about learning theory than the grad students who lecture in colleges. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Management 3.0 from Jurgen Appelo

Jurgen Appelo plays with more models of how things ought to work than anyone I else I know. His book Management 3.0 presents, assesses, and sometimes interconnects with agile, people-oriented processes relentlessly. I’m a fan. See his blog. And this presentation:

Jurgen and I met at the Stoos gathering. I just bought his latest, How to Change the World, to read on vacation.
Here’s the Stoos bookshelf. This is about as close to a definition of the spirit of Stoos as you’re going to get.

Clear up the cloudiness about cloud computing

Cloud computing.

Some people think their credit card information and Amazon preferences are stored a mile overhead in a cumulus cloud. It’s not that mysterious.

Just think of the cloud as a humongous computer that is connected to endless warehouses of rack-mounted servers spread around the globe. Is it safe? Like walking across the street in Manhattan, it’s perfectly safe if you know what you are doing. You don’t need to see inside the cloud. All that’s required is faith when you put things in, they will emerge where and how you want them to.

Four years ago at the Expo 2.0 conference, I was among those asked “What is cloud computing?”

“At the Web 2.0 Expo, we asked Tim O’Reilly, Dan Farber, Matt Mullenweg, Jay Cross, Brian Solis, Kevin Marks, Steve Gillmor, Jeremy Tanner, Maggie Fox, Tom McGovern, Sam Lawrence, Stowe Boyd, David Tebbutt, Dave McClure, Chris Carfi, Vamshi Krishna and Rod Boothby the same question: What is Cloud Computing?

Looking back, things haven’t changed. Millions of words later, the cloud is what it always was.

To my amazement, 332,156 people have watched the video.

My broadest exposure on the net is a minute-long comment I made four years ago.