Moving Away From Synchronous to a Blend With Mostly Asynchronous

I Started Moving to Async Training in 1981

In 1981 Bill Wiggenhorn at MTEC – Motorola’s Training  & Education Center, the forerunner of Motorola University, challenged his new staff at this new corporate training team, to move as much content as possible out of Classroom, group-paced to self-paced modes.

The reason for doing so – was to facilitate a more flexible delivery – or access – to Training – for learning how to perform on the job better, faster and cheaper. We were greatly influenced by people like Geary Rummler and Neil Rackham.

I began to design – post analysis – most of my programs for self-paced modes – which was quite controversial in the Motorola Manufacturing, Materials and Purchasing audiences I was focused on. I did – along with my hired consultants “The Legal Aspects of Purchasing” in a self paced book.

And I did a pilot-test for manufacturing supervisor’s book on the ABC’s of Supervision (a misnomer – for it was really about the 7 Basic Tools of Quality) using a new printing technology where – in the mode of Programmed Instruction – one would use a highlighter pen device to select and mark answers and the hidden invisible text would come up/out and let the Learner know if they got it right – and if wrong – where to go back to reference the related text. I still have that book in my archives – but the pen has dried out over the past 30 years and no longer works it magic.

In that particular effort, several of the Pilot-Test participants confided in me that they took the Training home with them where they had their wives read the materials to them – as they could not read well enough to do the Instruction. As I had promised a skeptical Project Steering Team that if this little experiment failed – they had really wanted Group-Paced, Classroom Instruction – that I would convert the content to that format.

But hold on – they told me not to do so. They were intrigued by the possibilities of this delivery mechanism – and regarding the lack of reading skills uncovered in my Pilot-Test experiment – they now had a heads up of bigger issues coming down the pike.

For coming down the pike were “computer technology on the factory floors all across Motorola.” Reading was going to be critical. This discovery led to Motorola partnering with Community Colleges in their areas and paying for free “Reading Classes” for any and all of their staff.

The Rule That Guided the Design

The rule that guided me, as I explained to Bill Wiggenhorn when he came to visit my cubical in 1981 – I skip-level reported to him for the first 9 of my 18 months at MTEC – and he saw my Learning Path for my Supervisor Audience on large sheets of paper taped together  – which was mostly Self-Paced course with a few Group-Paced courses – a modular curriculum design – was:

If it can be Self-Paced – it will be Self-Paced.

Only when it absolutely had to be Group-Paced would it be.

And even then I’d shave off the potential Self-Paced content and use that as Pre-work to the Group-Paced course. Until I became discouraged by the reality that most Learners would show up without having done the pre-work – as they were always too busy.

So much for my experiment in Flipping the Classroom – back in 1981.

I left MTEC in November 1982 to join Ray Svenson’s consulting firm where I became a partner – and it wasn’t until one of my Chicagoland clients, MCC Powers (now Siemen’s Building Technologies) who actually sent Learner’s home on the airplane if they failed the pre-test – proving whether they had done the pre-work or not – that I began to incorporate pre-work into my designs.

No one else would actually do that – send the Learners back home if they didn’t do their pre-work – and invariably the Instructors would cover that pre-work material – rewarding those who didnt do it and punishing those who had.

Talk about flipped.

Video – Rummler on Performance-based Training

45 minute Video – note this video was produced in 1983 but shot in 1981, in April. I know, I came in from Saginaw a week early – before my official first day at MTEC – to attend this one day Workshop. I had been working in Saginaw at Wickes Lumber in a Training group where Geary’s brother-in-law worked and I had become a Rummler-ite years before (1979).

Video – Rackham on Design Criteria

57 minute Video – I was also in this session, back in the day – a week after the Rummler workshop – during my first official week on the job at MTEC. The video was produced in 1982 – but again, was shot in April 1981.

Note: Geary is not pronounced like “Gary” – but more like “Gear-ee.”

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2 comments on “Moving Away From Synchronous to a Blend With Mostly Asynchronous

    • My experience has been that some do/ most don’t. I imagine it’s a matter of the individual’s Conscientiousness – and the Enterprise Culture – largely influenced by what is accepted and what is not. I had one client try to change their culture back in the 1980s – where they sent people home Monday mornings – from across the USA – if they had not done the pre-work for their week long courses. The outcry from the branches/ divisions and EVPs was so huge that they were forced to stop that practice – and then just had to deal with it. I’ve written about this more recently on Blog Posts about Flipping the Classroom. The instructor has to decide to punish those who did the pre-work by covering it for those who didn’t – thus rewarding the inappropriate behavior of those who did not do the pre-work.


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