Written by: Dr. Page Chen, President and CIO
Bigger Ideas, Smarter Training, Greater Impact…It’s more than just a tagline. It is at the heart of who we are at Remote Learner. In the many years we’ve been in this industry, we know one thing for certain: there are lots of ways to achieve and measure impact. We can chart our revenue growth, evaluate our clients’ course completions or employee retention, or even look to our client’s sales numbers as benchmarks for success. All of these examples, however, are quantitative benchmarks. How do we measure the impact of the human connection in online learning?
With that question in mind, I recently sat down with Prof. Martin Mehl, founder and CEO of Mentorship Academy, and a leading expert and consultant on mentorship communication and synchronous/asynchronous technology literacy. Prof. Mehl’s expertise reflects both quantitative and qualitative skills in communication studies as well as forging mentorships through pairing learners and leaders.
The RIPPLE EFFECT of CIRCLES of INFLUENCE
Core to how Mentorship Academy evaluates the long-term impact of online learning utilized is a learner-centric approach that Professor Mehl calls the Ripple Effect and Circles of Influence measurement method. In an important modification to the traditional “end of course evaluation”, the method extends the evaluation period in order to connect with current and former learners. They reflect on their onboarding experience, their expository training, and their perceived satisfaction with how those events prepared them for their daily tasks, career growth, and sense of belonging to the “in crowd.” Prof. Mehl describes it as being akin to skipping a stone across the water: it’s important to know what angle, what speed, and what distance will make the stone skip as many times as possible. The more we know about how far our learners have gone and how they got there, the better we are at preparing the next batch of mentees. We can also connect them with mentors who can share their lessons learned. That way we can adapt, adopt, and diffuse knowledge-transfer between mentor and mentee (and vice versa) with the least amount of friction.
Prof Mehl: You can’t course correct if you are not measuring while you are moving. Surveying learners based on how much they “liked” or “enjoyed” the training is roughly the equivalent of a child rating their parents’ performance on how they are parenting. Frankly, we often lack the transparency, maturity, or context to give constructive feedback. We can judge how we hoped it would impact our future decision-making process and our potential mastery of the training, but we also need to have different tools, mechanisms, and social engineering in place to measure the true impact of grit, perseverance, and innovative or commendable workplace behavior.
Research has clearly shown that we have an innate sense of loyalty and obligation, and feel motivated when we are both appreciated and formally recognized for our efforts. This creates a classic win/win environment: More loyalty, more retention, more measurable success. Less turnover, less brand damage, less negativity, less cost. Mentorship communication establishes that ROI. We need to recognize that the agile nature of the remote learning arena requires intentional and purposeful mentorship communication while we master digital literacy and new networking etiquettes. It is also crucial to recognize that this is a core value for the entire organization and all of its pegs and wheels. Mentorship communication provides a formal label and badge for the 21st century that matches human connection with technology innovation and remote learning. We can create pipelines of success, mentorship channels of best practices, and high levels of workplace satisfaction. Mentorship communication is the glue that holds it all together and mentorship is the approach that gives it long-term/lasting results and creates happier, more equipped remote learners.
The INTERSECTION of TOOLS and MENTORSHIP
Taking a step beyond measuring for ROI, there is more and more talk these days about the impact of brain science on digital learning design. Researchers are continually capturing data to turn into insights about how learners engage with online learning. As software designers, we often seek to use those insights to place triggers in the paths of motivated learners that influence behavior change and lead to increased engagement and mastery.
The challenge with the insights gained from many data and analytics systems is that, while we all agree that not all learners are created the same, we seem to forget that not all digital learning experiences are designed the same. Therefore, as an industry, our analysis of learner behavior data becomes fundamentally flawed if a subset of learners had a poorly designed learning experience.
Where do you see the evolution in the tools available and the role of the mentor in utilizing them well?
At Remote Learner, we address the design of all aspects of the digital learning environment through the use of Persuasive Design Strategies, where the platform serves as a social actor in the learning experience to persuade or “nudge” learners towards desired behaviors. A well designed digital learning environment should also enhance human connection in today’s more remote world of working and learning.
Prof Mehl: Persuasive communication should be based on ethics, integrity and trust-building. Remote Learner’s mission statement, when added to the core goal of Mentorship Academy, highlights our symbiotic relationship: “Unlock the potential of technology to improve lives through learning…Converting raw potential into optimal capacity.”
The Intersection of two worlds….
Prof. Mehl: The question is not whether we should be adopting mentorship communication, digital literacy, and remote learning. It is why haven’t we fused them yet? Why are we not using an approach that is clearly more efficient, more cost effective, and more satisfying?
Sometimes we need innovation to shift us to new healthy habits or disrupt old hierarchies. Sometimes we need paradigm shifts to change behaviors and lifestyles. Sometimes we need both. Just because we are aware that something is better for us does not mean it will become part of what we do unless we have to do it; the choice is removed or it becomes the most convenient alternative. Procrastination is a mindset that is not about being lazy but rather not being forced to act on ones’ own volition unless motivated by self-preservation (fear/anxiety) or self-fulfillment (ambition).
The ROLE of MENTORSHIP at REMOTE LEARNER
Onboarding training or even unlimited access to on-demand resources is fundamentally different from providing proactive access to expertise. In many corporate training models, the focus is so often onboarding, compliance, and certification that we leave out the power of mentorship. The value of layering in the human connection in the form of adding an expertise layer can’t be understated.
Does mentorship communication replace the need for training?
Prof. Mehl: The way we are addressing the need for Mentorship Communication, as it is both intrapersonal (self) and interpersonal (other oriented), requires the symbiotic relationship to convert initial credibility with agile attitude, purposeful control, and intentional planning into good terminal credibility (long-term) to improve the lasting impact. Essentially what’s “location, location, location” in real estate is “reputation, reputation, reputation” in the mentorship communication mindset. You need to be conscious and aware of your own brand, your message, your purpose, your intent, your audience, your goal, and be clear in your mission to be a change agent that prioritizes digital literacy. It is crucial to be both self-aware and other-oriented to create meaningful and successful mentoring relationships.
The TRIGGER – CHANGE AGENTS on a MISSION
COVID-19 has created a significant period of change that is having an impact on social/emotional learning at all levels. The best approach to addressing this is proactively planning, designing, and organizing remote learning solutions that address the full spectrum of learner needs.
What other intersections do you see and how do we get started?
Prof. Mehl: During his final lecture, Randy Paush indicated that you might have looked at something for a long time and suddenly you look at it again and you process it in a completely different way. Page, you identified that, after we talked about “mentorship communication”, it created a “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon,” also known as “frequency bias,” in your daily routine, which is exactly why the timing and the impact in our current social emotional environment is so crucial. We have both identified our obligation to make sure that this dynamic and culture shift doesn’t turn into opportunities missed and golden moments lost. We have a responsibility to merge our values, vision, mission statement, integrity and expertise. Remote learning is not a supplemental approach, it isn’t a substitute, it is the better alternative when paired with mentorship communication, providing the most cohesive approach for how to conquer and succeed, instead of simply surviving the unprecedented challenges that have erupted in 2020 and are here to stay.
About the Authors
Prof Martin Mehl, Founder & CEO of Mentorship Academy
Prof. Mehl is a visionary and futurist, with expertise of nearly 20 years in broadcasting, consulting, management, research and training experience serving academic, business, government and non-profit clients. He was the founder and owner of Incognito Consulting in Boston, MA serving as a strategic communication consultant and advisor for clients including fortune 500 companies, public universities, ivy league institutions and various centers for excellence in biomedical, ethics, political & health communication/research. He was the principal investigator and co-author of the Online Learning Consortium’s “Effective Learning Award” winning six-part series called “Digital Academic Revolution Mentorship Competency,” and has been recognized by his colleagues and students at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo as the departments “faculty of the year” winner multiple times, including the inaugural award year in 2012 and as recent as 2020.
Dr. Page Chen, President & CIO, Remote Learner
Dr. Page Chen, has been designing learning solutions for over 20 years. She is an accomplished writer, speaker, and consultant on creating “persuasive” learning environments that support the goals and objectives of organizations and learners. With a PhD in designing digital learning environments, she is an expert in how techniques from other fields that incorporate interactive technologies can be integrated into an eLearning environment to positively impact mastery. Dr. Chen and her team at Remote-Learner have developed a collection of Persuasive Design Strategies that truly transform the learner experience and help to make an impact in the solutions they provide.