Does Your Organization’s Online Learning Strategy Make the Grade?

On October 13, Dr. Sarah Steinberg (of Frogstone Strategies LLC) and Ariela Rosenstein (of Rare) are leading a Pre-Conference Workshop at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum. Entitled “A Blueprint for an Online Learning Strategy,” this one-day workshop is designed to provide expert guidance as you develop or revamp your organization’s custom online learning strategy.

Blueprint-e1434637111415Accessible and highly adaptable, online learning can play a key role in engaging staff, driving innovation, and forging links between organizations, partners and stakeholders. The road leading to these positive outcomes, however, can be a confusing navigation of buzzwords (MOOC, social, or gamified, anyone?) –and a pyramid of decisions about technology and content sourcing.

So, you need a map. And if you’re already underway but know that your strategy isn’t maximizing reach or ROI, then it’s time to recalibrate the path that you’re on.

In October, Dr. Sarah Steinberg and Ariela Rosenstein are leading a Pre-Conference Workshop at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum on developing a blueprint for an online learning strategy. We caught up with them earlier this month to discuss online organizational learning, and two “foundational” questions that serve as helpful starting points for Workshop participants – and for anyone charting a path for online learning in their own organization. Take a peek!

  1. Why Online?

Here’s the secret that’s too important to keep: As you consider online learning options, your answer to the question “Why are you going online?” will be your driving force, framing all of your other critical decision points – and your discussions with stakeholders. In a landscape as wide and intangible as the field of online learning, your reasons for steering your organization there in the first place can quickly get buried in conversations about how you’ll get there – and if you’re still gathering your thoughts, it’s probably too early to be talking technology, languages, and content.

So ask yourself: “Why should my organization take its learning online?” In doing so, you’ll start to analyze some of the tradeoffs, a critical move given the variety of options available. For example: Are you willing to forgo a certain amount of impact for the cost? Is your focus on low-bandwidth field solutions, or a high-resolution classroom environment? Who in your organization would benefit most from online learning? Chances are you’ll spark some ideas about your organization’s specific goals and potential blended solutions, which leads us into the next question:

  1. What are your best-case scenarios?

This runs close to the simpler question of “What are your organization’s needs online?” but it varies in one critical, theoretical sense. Framing your new strategy purely as a solution to your organization’s needs can ground you in the logistical everyday – and start you plodding forward based on the building blocks of your identified essentials, a slow process at best.

No, better here to wonder, “What are the ideal outcomes of online learning for my organization?” This can help you envision your strategy as a line of best fit between your current position and your ideal outcomes. Your answers to this question (there might be a few) provide goals from which you can trace direct lines back – as the crow flies – to your current drawing board.

In the Pre-Conference Workshop, your answers to these questions will become part of a larger toolkit designed to help achieve your organization’s ideal outcomes, not just its needs. Under Sarah and Ariela’s expert guidance, you’ll assess your baseline resources, identify key activities and decision gates in your strategic planning process, and discuss implementation with colleagues who share similar goals and contexts – before leaving the workshop with your own blueprint for an online learning strategy.

Register for the Workshop and find additional details on the Global Learning Forum here.

Questions? Contact Sarah and Ariela – we’re all looking forward to seeing you on October 13!

Do You Want to Help Your Organization’s Managers Succeed? Come Learn With Us!


This guest post is by Mike Culligan, LINGOs’ Director of Last Mile Learning and one-half of the expert duo (with Sam Davis of Save the Children UK) leading the management development
Pre-Conference Workshop on October 13. Check back on the LINGOs blog for more posts from our workshop leaders and keynote speakers! For more information on LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum, visit our website.

chess-e1434637123955The relationship between managers and their employees is a key predictor of the overall health of an organization.  Strong managers result in more productive, engaged and committed employees.  These employees, in turn, contribute more effectively to the strategy and goals of the organization.

However, while the potential impact of strong manager-employee relationships is generally accepted, often organizations have a hard time acknowledging how difficult it is to get this dynamic right in the first place, and fail to recognize the real impact to the organization when teams fail.  Too often, when we retrace our (mis)steps from an undesirable outcome, we focus exclusively on the concrete inputs – budget, calendar, resources (human and otherwise) – without acknowledging that a significant cause can be dysfunctional team dynamics, inadequate communications, or any of a number of weaknesses that contribute to poor management.

So how does an organization avoid this problem?  Too often, we resolve to “hire smart people” – development professionals who are good at their technical area of focus (health, watsan, small enterprise development, agriculture, etc.) – and expect that they will grow into the role of a manager as they are promoted through the ranks.  This leaves new managers in the position to teach themselves, at cost to their own development and that of their employees.

The alternative, developing a training program for new managers, is daunting.  The steep time and development costs of creating a management training program is prohibitive, the skills required to create a curriculum are often unavailable, and organizations often lack the budget to acquire the training materials to implement the program.

Enter LINGOs.  This month, representatives of LINGOs member organizations are initiating a series of meetings in England, the US and online to look at ways that we can improve the management capacity building of our agencies by working together.  The premise is simple: While each of our organizations is unique, good people management is based on several precepts that apply just about everywhere – even in organizations of diverse structures and missions.   Are there ways we can learn from each other and share resources, so that we make good management a far more manageable task (excuse the bad pun)?

These meetings will culminate at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum’s Pre-Conference Workshop, “7 Steps for Creating a Management Development Strategy in Your Organization.”  There, participants will work on developing a blueprint for management training in their organizations.  We’ve been collecting and analyzing the experiences of organizations that already have management development programs, and exploring their curricula, competencies, and skill maps. When you participate in the Pre-Conference Workshop, you’ll be learning from these other agencies’ experiences: tuning in to the commonalities we’ve found between them, discussing their lessons learned, and identifying key success factors.

So whether you have a management development strategy that you’re looking to revamp, or you’re just facing the task of compiling one, the Pre-Conference Workshop will provide a map of what already works for organizations much like your own.

Find more details and register for the Pre-Conference Workshop here. We hope you can join us on October 13!

Is Traditional L&D Still Relevant?


mikeGuest post by Mike Culligan, LINGOs’ Director of Last Mile Learning

Last month we published a survey, based on Jane Hart’s recent blog post, that asked readers to rate 10 different ways they learn at work. We did not receive 3,500 responses from 55 countries (as Jane did), however, 69 individuals from our sector responded to our survey. Their responses reveal a number of interesting trends about the way development/relief organizations learn, identify the similarities/differences between “our learners” and learners in other sectors, and raise the challenging question, “Is Traditional L&D Still Relevant?”

First, there is one very strong area of alignment between development/relief learners and learners in other sectors. Both surveys’ results identified knowledge sharing within teams as the most important source of sharing in the organization. Over 90% of LINGOs respondents identified team knowledge sharing as either “Essential” or “Very Important.” In Jane Hart’s survey, this category also took the top prize, with 87% of respondents identifying it as Essential or Very Important.

Interestingly, while respondents to both surveys agreed on the importance of knowledge sharing, they disagreed significantly on other points.

In Jane Hart’s survey, the second most useful source of learning was identified as web searches, while company training/e-learning was the lowest-rated way to learn at work. Respondents to LINGOs’ survey did not agree! LINGOs respondents identified general conversations and meetings within their teams as the second most important source of learning (which Jane Hart’s blog respondents put in third place.) However, what is probably the most interesting contrast between the two surveys is that LINGOs respondents identified Training/eLearning Provided by Your Company (73%) as the third most important source of workplace learning, just behind general conversations and meetings (77%)! In contrast, only 37% of Jane Hart’s respondents identified Training/eLearning as Essential or Very Important.

What does this mean? While it is clear that LINGOs survey data needs improvement, beginning with more respondents from more locations, representing a wider variety of backgrounds, there are several very interesting takeaways. First, Social Learning is king! Both surveys identified knowledge sharing and conversations in teams as being the most important avenues of learning. Secondly, it appears that eLearning and Trainings continue to be very important in our sector (while not nearly as much in other sectors). Why this discrepancy in results?  It could be because our offices are so remote that eLearning a pragmatic/practical approach to reach staff on limited budgets. It could be that the social components of our training events allow for the hallway/watercooler conversations that are critical to social learning in our agencies. The survey does not ask why, but it clear that respondents still value eLearning and Training.

Below you will see a summary of the responses from the two surveys. They are definitely thought provoking. LINGOs will also be discussing the results of these surveys at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum (Little Rock, Arkansas; October 14-15, 2015.) There, we will review the challenges these responses pose to our agency learning strategy, and explore approaches and products that will allow LINGOs members to better serve the next generation of learners in the workplace.

LINGOs’ survey results

Mike's survey data

Jane Hart’s survey results, available at C4LPT.uk

Jane Hart survey

You Asked For Accessible, Interactive, and Collaborative – Meet Philanthropy University!

Philanthropy University logo

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On July 16, NovoEd and LINGOs hosted a preview for LINGOs members of a nonprofit e-learning initiative, Philanthropy University. Missed the webinar? Read on for more information!

Social, accessible, workshop-style – there are no shortage of attributes to describe the future of NGO learning. Across the sector, however, one thing is certain: to truly leverage our resources and common goals, the future must be collaborative.

Enter Philanthropy University: a new initiative powered by NovoEd that offers online organizational learning geared specifically towards the learning needs of nonprofits. Philanthropy University is partnering with LINGOs to offer community learning opportunities through expert-taught courses. Fall 2015 courses include:

Each 5- to 8-week Philanthropy University course is free to attend, and participants have the option to receive a Statement of Accomplishment upon course completion. Discussion forums & workspaces allow learners to share content, team up on projects via video or message, and get feedback on ideas and assignments. Participants from LINGOs member organizations can easily find and team up with other LINGOs learners in their courses, and use the Philanthropy University platform as a springboard for ideas to improve the entire community.

Philanthropy University for LINGOs Learners

Here’s why these collaboration-oriented courses are a great opportunity for LINGOs learners:

  • LINGOs and Philanthropy University share a common mission: to provide world-class learning and tools to help nonprofit organizations make the most of their resources.
  • Shared knowledge is a powerful stepping stone for innovation: joint participation in Philanthropy University courses will enhance cooperation and learning among LINGOs members – and across the sector. These free courses also provide a great way for staff, volunteers, and stakeholders within an NGO to learn together, and leverage their learning for greater impact at an organizational level.
  • Accessible learning builds a better sector: Philanthropy University uses Amazon Web Services to adjust video resolution based on available bandwidth, providing accessible learning wherever users are. Built-in course reporting tools also help organizations gain insights into the interests and needs of their learners – and help the LINGOs community as a whole focus resource development where it’s needed most. To this end, for the pilot year Philanthropy University will provide LINGOs with aggregate member data, and organizations with high participation (to ensure data relevance) will be eligible for individual data reports.

Check out the website, share with your organization, and enroll now! Questions? Please contact Jen Hu at philanthropyuniversity@novoed.com.

We’re also excited to be partnering with Philanthropy University on other collaborative learning opportunities in the future, including a panel discussion on MOOCs and social learning at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum in October. Stay tuned!

Making the Most of eCornell: A Conversation with George Nyamao of MSH

george nyamaoGeorge Nyamao, an Operations Associate at Management Sciences for Health’s Kenya office, has completed a number of certificates in management and human resources through eCornell’s generous partnership with LINGOs. A self-described “family man” who loves people, music, nature, and his work, George also holds a Diploma in Management from the Technical University of Mombasa and an MBA in Finance from the University of Nairobi – a testament to eCornell’s versatility for learners of all educational backgrounds. George was kind enough to speak with us by email about his learning experience, the value of continuing education for his organization, and the colleagues he’s inspired along the way (our words, not his).

George, you’ve earned 5 separate certificates from eCornell through MSH’s program with LINGOs. What led you to seek these certificate programs?

It all started as a compliance effort in my first year at MSH, where it was a requirement for all employees to do the course “The Power of Managing Your Time and Personal Priorities”. I learned many practical approaches to increase my output by just thinking through how I could spend my time to achieve more and still maintain great working teams around me that are supportive and equally productive. Further navigation of this eCornell course showed me it was part of a series of other interesting courses leading to a certificate in Supervisory Skills. [Ed: more about the certificate here]. I discussed with my supervisor Peter about my interest and sought his approval, which he gave readily, and he pointed me to the fact that MSH offers great opportunities for quality personal development. The rest is where I am now!

How has your experience with the eCornell courses impacted you?

I have changed the way I work. It is evident. I have learned to listen more. I have learned to be more assertive and focused on what matters most on my priority list and also the team’s priority list. More importantly, I have gained satisfaction from having to execute my roles even in the midst of time and resource constraints. My interpersonal relations have greatly improved. I can team up with anybody and achieve great results, even the most difficult individuals. I now perceive challenges positively as opportunities for me to offer a solution. Solutions reside in the midst of challenges. Everyone can be enabled to lead in their locality and harness local resources to perform great work that improves the social wellbeing of the people.

George quote 1What has MSH been able to do or do differently as a result of your experience with eCornell?

The most commendable is that staff in MSH have appreciated that it is possible to grow their skills while working and impact the delivery of service. During my studentship at eCornell, I encouraged my colleagues Martin Githungo (driver), Brian Ayugi (Office Assistant), Irene Kihara (Administrative Assistant), Roseline Wandera (Operations Associate) and Rosemary Njue (Procurement Officer) to enrol with eCornell. I am aware that most of them have achieved certification and others are at various stages of their certificate series program. The MSH model with LINGOs is an open cheque to all MSHers to put their names on at total benefit to them and no cost to them. I commend MSH and encourage it to keep offering these courses to employees.

George quote 2

Any thoughts you want to share with LINGOs and other LINGOs member organizations (80+ international development/humanitarian organizations)?

There is growing demand for skills in monitoring and evaluation, program evaluation and assessment/audit. This is an area to target for course offerings to improve skills in the NGO sector for setting realisable targets/goals.

To existing and potential LINGOs members, eCornell courses are great models for leveraging value, by spreading the benefit of staff development programs over a big team. eCornell offers high quality courses at unbelievably low budget costs per staff member compared to conventional individual staff sponsorship programs.

Anything you want to express to eCornell?

The quality of training materials and faculty is commendable. The print course materials offer great reference. The animated presentations and videos are great learning aids, as are the array of multicultural Teaching Assistants and students who enrich the courses with global cases and experiences shared during discussions and forums. I am glad to remain an active Alumni of Cornell University.

George, thank you!

And to all LINGOs members: it’s always great to hear how member benefits have made a difference for your organization, whether they’re LINGOs learning programs or products donated by our corporate partners. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email marian@lingos.org

LINGOs member organizations have access to an unlimited number of subsidized seats for their staff in eCornell’s award-winning courses and certificate programs. For more information on eCornell, please visit www.ecornell.com and reach out to your organization’s designated contact to LINGOs.

LINGOs Global Learning Forum 2015: Why Little Rock Rocks

Holly 4This October, Heifer International will host the LINGOs Global Learning Forum at the Heifer Global Village in Little Rock, AR. We asked our host to share a bit of information about Little Rock. Here’s what Holly Dunning, Heifer International’s Manager of Talent Development, had to say:

First things first: Arkansas is that diamond in the rough that you want to keep secret. But because I am proud of living here (and terrible at keeping secrets), here are some of my favorite things about the Little Rock area, just in time for the 2015 LINGOs Global Learning Forum:

1. The landscape is unforgettable, and much has been invested in creating some of the U.S.’s most beautiful biking paths near the city. One of my favorite rides takes me over the Arkansas River via the Big Dam Bridge, the nation’s longest specially-built bicycle and pedestrian bridge. The River Trail system here allows a rider to ride for hours and hours if their legs will allow it.

2. From the Heifer Village complex, you can walk downtown to Little Rock’s vibrant River Market district. If you prefer, the trolley will also easily get you downtown, and the driver provides a great historic tour of the sites and buildings as you pass them. The trolley will also take you to the Argenta district, just across the Arkansas River (which, by the way, is a stone’s throw from the Heifer headquarters).

Heifer International's headquarters in Little Rock, AR. Photo courtesy of Holly Dunning

Heifer International’s headquarters in Little Rock, AR. Photo courtesy of Holly Dunning

3. Another really cool thing that is close to Heifer is the Clinton Presidential Library.

4. For those of you who are history buffs, you may want to spend some time at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and learn about the role it played in the desegregation of public schools in the United States. The Historic Arkansas Museum and the Old State House Museum are two other great places to visit and learn about Arkansas. They are all close to Heifer International – the museums are within just a few blocks – and they are all my favorite price: free!

5. Food. If you haven’t tried southern fare before, Little Rock is the place to do it! My favorite all-around restaurant is a seafood joint called Flying Fish. A great dinner-and-show option is South on Main, and Natchez serves up local Southern.

And finally, if you’re giving yourself a few extra days in the area:

6. You may have spent your childhood impressing your friends with your ability to spell it, but have you ever seen it? I’m talking about the Mississippi River, which is two hours due east of Little Rock (in Memphis).

7. And if you can swing it, head north to check out the fall colors in the northwestern part of Arkansas. Have you ever been to Vermont in the fall? No? Well now you won’t have to wonder what it is like.  Fayetteville is a beautiful drive from Little Rock.  While you are there, visit the Chrystal Bridges Museum of American Art – it really is one of the finest in the nation.   Another great town to stop by if you’re taking a few extra days is Eureka Springs, which is a small art community nestled in the Ozark Mountains.  If camping and hiking is more your thing, Arkansas has some of the best.  Another popular spot in Arkansas is Hot Springs – the name says it all, and it’s only about an hour and a half south of Little Rock.

In sum, in addition to attending the LINGOs Global Learning Forum this year, I do hope you will add in an extra day (or three, or five) and visit other parts of Arkansas.  I am looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Holly Dunning

Manager of Talent Development,

Heifer International

Take the Survey: How Does Your Organization Learn at Work?

LINGOs logoA recent survey by Jane Hart asked her blog readers to rate 10 different ways they learn at work.   As you can see here, the results of the survey are provocative, and challenging to Learning and Development (L&D) teams.  However, her results likely don’t represent the reality of the learners we serve in the development, relief and conservation sectors.  While 3,500 readers responded to the survey, very few were from the global South and over 50% of the respondents worked in HR/L&D.

So, let’s explore the different ways that development, relief and conservation workers learn!

Please share the link to this brief survey with your learners around the world.  We want to know how learners in your organization rate 10 different ways they learn at work.  We will keep the survey open for one month, and results will be published in the next LINGOs newsletter.  We will then use the data to:

  • inform a series of articles that outline the challenges of the new world of learning
  • identify models to evolve the traditional role of L&D teams, and
  • introduce LINGOs resources that help address the new realities of learning in the workplace.

Please share the link to the survey widely and often!  The URL is:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CYNVVSK

If you’re interested in learning more about the resources available to NGOs through LINGOs, sign up for our monthly newsletter here.