Thursday, March 26, 2020

The many forms of webinars

Rachel Burnham writes: I am working with a client to help them with their transition to making use of webinar/virtual classroom technology to support learning.   

I created the following graphic to help them think more widely about the different ways that webinar/virtual classroom technology can be used, beyond the idea of webinar as a lecture delivered on-line.  I thought it might be helpful to share this more widely. 

The examples I have included aren’t the only possibilities, nor are they intended as ideals, but as prompts for thought.   The way that you use webinar/virtual classroom technology is a design choice and like other design choices needs to be made with the learning & performance need in mind.

I would love to have some feedback on this.

Rachel Burnham


I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

'Teams' Everywhere

Rachel Burnham writes: At the moment I am seeing and hearing Teams everywhere.  Not ‘teams’ but ‘Teams’, that is Microsoft Teams to be precise.  I am seeing presentations about it, talking about it with friends & colleagues, reading about it and even receiving emails about it (there is an irony here, as Teams is often talked about reducing the need for emails). It is in my work and soon to be in my volunteering. Microsoft Teams seem to be everywhere I look – I think I am having one of those times when having become aware of a topic or product, you suddenly see it everywhere.

If you haven’t yet come across Microsoft Teams, it is  a communication and collaboration tool designed by Microsoft that works alongside a whole array of their other products, particularly Office 365.  There is a paid for enterprise version and also a free version that anyone can download – there are some differences in capabilities between the two.  I’ve heard it described as hub for your work, both with people, within and without your organisation and the software tools that you regularly use.   Or the glue that holds it all together.

It isn’t the only game in town.  There are of course other alternatives available from other providers (I am feeling a little like a BBC presenter at this point) and they each have many common features and their own strengths and weaknesses – I am most familiar with the alternative offered by Slack.  I have no interest in promoting Microsoft Teams over any of these other platforms and tools, it is just that this is the one that has grabbed my attention at this point.  I am not making  a case for this particular product, over any other, but I do want to make the case for using what we have well.  
If your organisation has chosen to adopt Microsoft Teams as it’s chosen platform, then it seems to me that it behoves us in L&D to really get our heads around how the organisation is using it and how we all can make best use of it, including L&D.   We need to be playing our part in seeing how this tool can be used to enable effective performance. That means using it in ways that do not stimulate unhelpful habits (eg like not being able to do ‘deep work’ for constant interruptions through poor use of chat features) nor seeing it as a silver bullet, that can of itself solve major challenges (eg silo working) without doing the other work needed to support this. However, I do think it has a huge potential, if used well, for supporting and enabling behaviours that lead to effective performance, including learning.

My thinking around this was stimulated by this year’s Learning Technologies’ event, where I went along to a presentation which was titled ‘Microsoft Teams as a Learning Platform’.  I was hoping for lots of sharing of ideas and experiences of using Teams to enable learning in the flow of work.   Lots of people turned up for the presentation.  But I was very disappointed by the content, which was very much about using Teams as an LMS and about access to training.  But it made me ponder how else we could be using Teams.  It made me focus on the question ‘If we are working within Teams, why not learn within Teams?’

Anyway, I Sketchnoted the session and as is my habit, I shared my Sketchnote both on Twitter and later on LinkedIn – I received a huge response from people, so many comments, questions and lots of sharing of experience.    Many were sharing that their organisation is adopting Microsoft Teams and they are trying to get their heads around it, some were puzzled about how it can be used to aid learning, others excited by the possibilities but wanting help and support, others were already making use of it to aid collaboration and support learning and shared some of the ways they are doing that.

Two comments in particular stood out for me.  Jo Wainwright shared on LinkedIn ‘I use it because it is where people already are and it already connects to everything else.’   When you are wanting to encourage social and collaborating learning, it is always helpful to consider where people already are – it means you don’t have to work hard to get them there or to overcome barriers to access.   Secondly, Mike Bedford shared on Linkedin ‘…I do not want it to be seen as another wasteful LMS missed opportunity’.   Nor do I!

One of the other people who responded to my Sketchnote was Helen Blunden, @ActivateLearn, who works for Adopt & Embrace, who along with her colleagues has written a book full of advice on using Teams.   I have been reading this with great interest and recommend it to you for providing some great examples of how Teams can be used and a framework for thinking about what is needed for each Team. 

Here are a few quick ideas about how we could be using Microsoft Teams.  Some are my ideas, some have come out of the conversations with colleagues since Learning Technologies, some from my reading and some were shared via social media in response to my Sketchnote – many thanks to all those who have contributed towards my thoughts on this. 

·       You could host a community of practice or a Working Out Loud Circle in a Team and use Microsoft Teams to host the conversations and resources shared.   This can provide a safe space for conversations and exploration of ideas and practices.
·       You could build reflection into every single Team by always incorporating a channel dedicated to ‘Lessons Learned’ or something similar.   Of course setting aside the space, won’t make the reflection happen, but it could provide a mechanism to enable it.
·       You could use the Teams Meeting feature – a video chat feature similar to Skype for Business – to host online coaching or webinars/virtual classrooms.  These can also be recorded, so you could record webinars or walk-throughs sharing your desktop. The features for webinars are not perhaps as fully developed as in other platforms, but can be combined with other tools.
·       You could share resources with colleagues through Teams eg a line manager or a peer recommending an article or video to colleagues.
·       You could curate useful resources as an individual or as a team using either OneNote or a wiki, both of which can be easily linked to a Team.
·       You could create a curated learning programme involving online discussion, reflection and sharing hosted either within a Team or using a wiki.
·       You could help people to find who within your organisation has particular expertise using ‘Who’, a bot that can be utilised.  You could then ask for help from that individual using Chat.
·       You could make relevant performance support tools and resources easily to hand within the relevant Team via a Tab.
·       You could make use of Forms to develop questionnaires and other tools within Teams.  Or use Teams with existing other survey tools eg SurveyMonkey.

I am sure this list is only scratching the surface of the possibilities and of course, it is making these ideas work that is the challenging part.  Encouraging the behaviours and habits of individuals and teams to give these tools and approaches a go.  

Microsoft Teams is just a tool.   We know that it isn’t the tool that is important.  What is important is how we use it to solve the problems that matter to the people we work with and our organisations.

If you are interested in joining me in working together to explore how Microsoft Teams can be used effectively to aid learning and performance, do get in touch.

Rachel Burnham


I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Collection of Sketchnotes from the Learning Technologies Exhibition 2020

Rachel Burnham writes: Last week on 12 & 13 February I participated in a number of sessions at the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition at Excel, London.   As with all exhibitions, the sessions were variable in quality and relevance, some being mere sales pitches and others well informed and thought-provoking.  I have taken the decision to only share my Sketchnotes from the sessions, I found of value or stimulating.

I shared these Sketchnotes via social media during the event and one in particular got a huge response, both on Twitter and on LinkedIn.  It was the Sketchnote of the session on the use of Microsoft Teams for learning – I don’t think it was the session itself, which focused on an add-on to Microsoft Teams, but the idea of using Teams effectively and using Teams for learning really hit a chord.  I think there is huge potential for using Microsoft Teams to aid learning in the flow of work and that is what I think people were responding to.  

I also participated in the launch session of ‘Back to the Future: Why tomorrow’s workforce needs a learning culture’ which is the 2020 annual report from Emerald Works.  Previous years reports were published under the name of Towards Maturity and you may be familiar with them under that name.  Do take a look at this report, there is lots for us to work on in L&D here. Copies of this report can be downloaded from Emerald Works.

Here are my Sketchnotes:

Rachel Burnham


I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Skills Development and Deliberate Practice

Rachel Burnham writes: One of the things that has been concerning me for a while in L&D, is that we don’t seem to be paying sufficent attention to skills development. 

In recent years there has been a lot of focus on how we approach the knowledge that people need to be effective in their jobs and a welcome move to making much more use of performance support or resources to address people’s needs and reduce the need for knowledge learning.  There has also been work done on behaviour change through a focus on experience design, habit development and learning transfer.  I made this point in my recent blog ‘5 Ways we could change how we think aboutL&D’. But I think we also need look more deeply at skills development as a profession.

What do we mean by the term ‘skills’?  Here are a couple of definitions of skills that I think are particularly helpful:

‘the ability to do something well, expertise’
Oxford Dictionary

‘the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or peformance’

Both bring out how important skills are to effective performance, which is what we need to be focusing on in L&D.  Skills take many forms: specific skills for specific jobs – taking blood in nursing, operating precision equipment in engineering, managing conflict amongst neighbours in social housing, advising a client on the best pension options for them, designing the graphics and layout for a textbook; and skills that have more general relevance such as problem-solving, project planning, providing feedback, managing our time, communicating effectively with an upset individual. Skills can be primarily physical skills, interpersonal skills, cognitive skills or combinations of these. Some skills are relatively simple and straightforward, others hugely complex and ones which need to be used in very many variable situations and ways to be fully effective.  Many skills take a long time to develop and hone.  Developing expertise is in part about not only having the skills, but being able to judge when and how to apply them in very different situations.  I think skills are really important to effective workplace performance.

So, I have found myself wondering whether we are giving skills development the attention it deserves, so that we can support this as well as possible within our organisations and the clients we work with.  I think some of the workplace qualifications in wide use don’t sufficiently focus on skills development, over-emphasising knowledge.  Some of the new thinking, around approaches to improving performance in the workplace, provide a needed corrective to traditional education and ‘content-dumping’ approaches, with increased emphasis on performance support or the use of resources and how we engage employees to care for the things that matter to the organisation.  But that still raises questions for me about how best to support employees in developing skills.

I think we could do better.

I had the chance to participate in the eLearning Network’s Connect event in November last year.   One of the sessions I took part in was led by Toby Harris and he was making some related points in his session ‘Beyond the Point of Need’.  Here is my Sketchnote of his session:

He recommended the book “Peak Performance: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things’ by Anders Ericsson and Robert Peel, which describes Anders Ericsson’s years of research into how people in many different fields have achieved outstanding performance and developed their expertise.  

In the book, he identifies ‘deliberate practice’ as the key to this development of expertise and in particular looks at how this leads to the formation of ‘mental representations’ which enable high levels of performance.    Ericsson is very clear in distinguishing what he means by ‘deliberate practice’ and how this differs from the purposeful practice which we may already make use of.  

I have set out in this Sketchnote the key factors which Ericsson uses to describe what ‘deliberate practice’ is:

I think there is much to be gained from exploring the implications of Ericsson’s work.  

It raises lots of questions for me.  For example:
·       What are the most effective ways, that we in L&D can support people to develop their skills?
·       Does it make a difference if they are new to an area of skill or wishing to enhance an area of skill – Ericsson suggests it does?   I want to pay more attention to these kinds of boundary conditions (ie in what circumstances does a particular approach work or not work).
·       What part can formal programmes and self-directed learning play to develop expertise in a particular skill or set of skills, including the use of resources? What might a formal programme look like that is based on ‘deliberate practice’?  How can we encourage & support individuals to use ‘deliberate practice’ in their self-directed learning?
·       How do we help people to develop the ‘mental representations’ that Ericsson suggests are needed for expert performers more speedily and reliably?

I would be interested in hearing from anyone who is already applying these ideas of deliberate practice in their work to aid skills development.

Rachel Burnham


I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Monday, January 13, 2020

5 Ways We Could Change How We Think About L&D

Rachel Burnham writes: At this time of year, I often curate a set of resources that I think are helpful for developing L&D and enabling L&D professionals to modernise our ways of working.  This year I have decided to do something different and instead take a step back to focus more generally on how we think about L&D.
Whilst some in the L&D profession are forging ahead trying out new ideas and experimenting with approaches based upon well-founded research and evidence of what works well, we also are part of a profession that is slow to change. Many continue to use methods and practices that we know are not as effective as they could be - methods and practices that are not meeting the challenges facing organisations or individuals.  

Here are five areas that I think we need to work on as a profession.

1.  Evidence-based

Whilst this approach has been adopted recently by CIPD, there is still a lot of muddle and confusion around about what this really means.   I think getting more in our profession familiar and confident using an evidence based approach can help with three challenges:

·       Tackling the pervasive influence of learning myths around subjects like learning styles, left brain/right brain and so on.
·       Encouraging a focus on effectiveness and what actually makes a difference to performance.
·       Building an appetite for making use of data analytics that is practical in focus.

2.  Looking at a wider range of jobs and sectors

So often the case studies, research and examples explored in L&D conferences, articles and podcasts are from the same rather narrow fields of employment.  It is time that we started to look more broadly beyond the knowledge worker or service sector and also consider the needs of other types of worker, sector and size of organisation.
When we are only hearing from this relatively narrow field, important though it is, we risk considering only these needs of these kinds of organisation and that the ideas and solutions presented only are effective in those situations.  If we want to tackle the long tail of L&D that is mostly still only using face to face delivery of content-heavy material, then we have to ensure that our examples, our research, our practices can meet these needs of a diverse range of job roles and organisations.     

3.  Less black and white, more nuance

I think we are running a risk of being too simplistic in some of our thinking about L&D practices.  Of making ‘blanket –judgements’ about ways of working.   ‘This is good’, ‘this is not’.  This is current, up-to-date, the latest thinking and this is not.

For example, I notice in each at the time of the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition a slew of articles about the latest technologies and a corresponding slew of articles defending face to face delivery.  

When it isn’t either or. 

We need to be so much better at being nuanced.  Not just about about the respective values of using technology and face to face, but across the whole field.  It is not helpful to run down the whole of education.  We know that context matters.   So let’s get much clearer about what works when, and in what circumstances, for who and at what point in their career and what the limitations are.   Let’s identify the boundary conditions for approaches, rather than portray each approach as the answer to everything. 

4.  Connect ideas

There are some amazing ideas being developed and explored in L&D.  New ways of working and new (well, newish, in some cases) models and practices.  Many have slightly different focuses and emphasis.   When you begin to be exposed to the range of approaches to performance consulting, models of learning, alternatives to face to face, learning at the point of need or in the flow of work and so on (and also their critiques) – I think a lot of people in our profession, who are new to these approaches can feel overwhelmed and over-faced.  ‘Where are earth do you start?’ 
It would be great to see some more linking up of these ideas, some more comparing and contrasting of them, so that they are not just used piecemeal, but more systematically. We need help to work our way through the thickets of new ideas and research, to weigh up what is of value and work out which ones  link together and are worth taking action on.     

5.  We neglect skills at our peril

I think there is some very interesting thinking around at present about knowledge – mostly about how we make much better use of resources or other performance support tools to reduce the need for knowledge learning.   There is great work on behaviour change around – work on habit formation and learning transfer to support this.   But I think we need to be also paying attention to how to effectively support ‘skills’ development. 

I think we have taken our eyes off this area a bit, yet it is hugely important.  High level skills can be challenging to develop and continue to be important in many areas of work.   Although we critique learning programmes for ‘mere content-dumping’ and a reliance on knowledge transfer done badly, we haven’t really focused much on how to develop complex skills effectively.  Skills that are needed in this wider range of jobs and organisations that I think we should be looking at.  

So, these are the 5 areas, which I think we could usefully focus on, to help shift thinking within our L&D profession, this year.  What do you think?


Rachel Burnham


I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Friday, November 22, 2019

'Creating a Culture of Curious Learners' eLN Connect 2019

Inspired by the title of this year's eLN Connect - Rachel Burnham

Rachel Burnham writes: On Wednesday 20 November 2019, it was the fifth eLearning Network Connect event in London.  This conference brought together about 180 professionals from the fields of elearning and L&D to explore the theme of ‘Creating a Culture of Curious Learners’.  There were interesting speakers, parallel sessions with participation, facilitated networking sessions, lots of coffee breaks for conversation and chats with exhibitors and even cake.  Big enough to have a variety of sessions and participants, small enough to be friendly and undaunting for the novice.

 It was by far and away the best conference I have been at this year – as in most friendly, thought-provoking and useful.   

I Sketchnoted throughout the event and I am pleased to share my work here:

Opening Keynote from Nicole Bradfield

Neusha Milanian - putting some drama into the event

Debating Digital Transformation and L&D's Role

Debating How Leadership can contribute to Creating a Learning Culture

Toby Harris - provoking and making us think seriously about developing skills

I have plenty to mull over as a result of the event and I am sure I will be blogging about this before too long.  And I definitely will be back at future eLN Connect events.

Rachel Burnham

I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Monday, September 9, 2019

'Doing' Sketchnoting

Rachel Burnham writes: I have been reading (or perhaps it should be looking at) ‘The xLontrax Theory of Sketchnote’ by Mauro Toselli, which is a book about Sketchnotes in the form of Sketchnotes.  xLontrax is Mauro Toselli’s sketchnoting name and you can find him on Twitter @xLontrax.

His book explores what makes an effective Sketchnote and is based upon many years of experience of sketchnoting, plus some research he did into what people are looking for when they look at a Sketchnote. This makes it very interesting reading for anyone wanting to produce Sketchnotes.  His Sketchnotes are lovely to look at and his typography is so graceful – I keep practising some of the fonts he uses.

His emphasis is on producing Sketchnotes to share and what makes an effective Sketchnote to share.  He looks at the various elements of a sketchnote and pulls out what works for people – what attracts initially and what makes them easy to understand.   It is well worth looking at and will help you think about the way you layout and present a Sketchnote. 

The value is in the ‘doing’ of Sketchnoting

Reading this has made me realise that my thinking about Sketchnotes has changed and now differs from Mauro Toselli’s focus. Over the last couple of years of offering workshops in Sketchnoting, I have begun to appreciate the value of Sketchnoting as a process, rather than the production of an end product.   For me Sketchnoting is now mostly about the ‘doing’ of it, rather than the production of a finished Sketchnote.

I now think of Sketchnoting as a ‘gateway’ activity that can serve to introduce people to drawing and also to using visuals to aid their thinking, learning and work.  Sketchnotes can be used not only for note taking, but for planning, reflecting, as a recap tool to aid spaced practice, for thinking things through and communicating informally. My friend and colleague, Liz Longden, has commented that learning to Sketchnote opened up the creative side of her brain. 

I have identified a number of benefits to ‘doing’ Sketchnoting:

1.  Sketchnoting is a great way to get started with drawing for work

As sketchnoting combines the use of simple drawings and graphics with words, it can be a great way of getting started with drawing.   As adults, so many of us feel that we can’t draw and feel embarrassed about sharing our efforts with other people.   Yet as children, the vast majority of us did draw confidently and with enjoyment.   Sketchnoting can be a way to dip your toe in the water and have a go at drawing, without any pretensions to art or illustration, that so often get in the way of people picking up a pencil.   You can begin to Sketchnote effectively with very simplified hand drawn graphics that you can get started with straight away.   And the more you do, the better you get and the more confident you get - applying that ‘growth mindset’.

2.  Sketchnoting slows you down

The use of drawing in Sketchnoting forces you to slow down.  Traditional note-taking using just words is definitely faster, but that doesn’t mean you take it in – sometimes you can make notes and when you look back at them, you are hardly conscious of what you have written, because it has been so automatic.  When you add in drawing, it slows you down.   It forces you take things at a slower pace, whether this is note taking in a presentation, meeting or learning session or when thinking things through for yourself or putting information together to share with colleagues. 

That slowing down in itself can be beneficial – many of the participants in my workshops have commented on how relaxing and de-stressing they find this.  But it also gives you time to think, focus and identify what is important.  

When you are Sketchnoting live in a presentation, meeting or learning session that slowing down is linked to listening deeply and focusing on what is important, so that you only attempt to capture in a Sketchnote key points – the key points for you.   In a similar way, when using Sketchnoting to aid thinking or if planning a project, presentation or piece of writing, slowing down can enable you to think more deeply about that piece of work.  Outlining an image or colouring in a section can give you time to engage at a deeper level with the material.

3.  Sketchnoting promotes observation and listening

This slowing down that drawing and Sketchnoting require are also closely connected to being able to observe and listen carefully.  

Great drawing often begins with observation and similiarly Sketchnoting live begins with listening.  These activities promote attentiveness.  

You need to be able to still yourself and your own voice to see what is before you, to consider the evidence and listen to what is being said, or not said.  Observation and listening are very powerful skills to have and are helpful in a great many circumstances in the workplace, such as when working with customers and colleagues, when problem-solving, or when improving services and processes.

4.  Sketchnoting encourages playfulness

Sketchnoting often involves the use of metaphor and humour.  Colour is often made use of – though some Sketchnoters work very effectively just using black ink. 

This all encourages a playful approach which can enable you to look at things differently and from different perspectives.   It can help you to communicate  a concept, a process or information in a more imaginative way, that connects more effectively and memorably with the intended recipients.   It can help you to see things in a fresh light as well, perhaps enabling you to come up with a different approach or additional ideas that would not have occurred otherwise.  

5.  Sketchnoting develops pattern seeking and creation

Sketchnoting and the use of visuals can help with seeing patterns amongst information and data.  The use of different layouts, colour and tools, such as arrows, to group information and to explore the relationship between items can be very helpful in thinking things through.  Perhaps in outlining a current process, or imagining a new framework or communicating an idea. 

This is an area where you definitely don’t need to be able to draw, other than simple arrows and shapes such as circles, rectangles or triangles to link and group items together.   The use of colour can also help you to see patterns and present material more clearly.
6.  Sketchnoting encourages seeing the whole story

Presenting ideas visually can help you to see things differently.  A recent participant in one of my Sketchnoting workshops was mapping out a process he was very familiar with in a Sketchnote and commented how much easier it was to do it in this format.  He noted how quickly he had spotted things out of place or missed, compared to when he had tried to describe the process in a text only document.

Others have commented on how useful a Sketchnote can be to support describing a process or presenting information to a colleague, because they can see the information as a whole.

So, whilst a finished Sketchnote is a lovely thing, great for capturing notes of a session or summarising some reading or a podcast, being able to produce a finished Sketchnote is only one benefit of Sketchnoting.  I think that the real value of Sketchnoting is in the doing of Sketchnoting and the many ways Sketchnoting contributes to thinking, learning and working.       

Rachel Burnham

9 September 2019

I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.