Tag Archives: unified talent development

Online Talent Development Part 2

Online Talent Development Part 2 – How Did Corporate Online Learning Originate?

by Mark Sivy

London University

The London University in 1827, drawn by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

In tracing the roots of online learning, it’s necessary to put forth a basic understanding of what sets online learning apart from other forms of learning. For the purpose of this article, online learning is learning that takes place via the Internet when there is a lack of physical presence between the learner and instructor due to geographic separation. Given this perspective, evidence of learning at-a-distance is seen in a 1728 advertisement for a Boston mail-based correspondence course for learning shorthand. Recognized formal education at-a-distance can be found as early as 1858 at the University of London and in 1873 through the Society to Encourage Studies at Home in Boston. Early forms of technology-enhanced distance learning are found in the early 1900s with the use of new technologies such as the radio, slide projector, and motion picture. Starting in the 1940s, television provided another medium for distance learning.

PLATOThe first noted use of computers that formed an organized and connected system of learning was PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) in 1960 at the University of Illinois. With the ability to network computers, corporations began exploring and developing Computer Based Training (CBT) that involved text and graphical content. With the conception of the World Wide Web in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and it being made publicly available in 1993, modern forms of online talent development began occurring.

The increased use of online learning in the work environment was driven by several factors. A primary concern with talent development is the required preparation, travel, and logistics to bring participants and /or facilitators to a common physical location, which can be costly and cuts into productivity. Additionally, in-person sessions are supply-oriented rather than being readily available and need-specific for a given individual. Other drawbacks of traditional development are the limitation in the number of attendees and the lack of having access to subject matter experts. Corporate talent development programs are using online learning as a means to reduce or resolve these and other issues associated with face-to-face events, while at the same time improving participant outcomes and reducing costs.

Today’s online learning occurs through the use of digital devices such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, or mobile phones that are connected to educational content, events, and activities via the Internet. Depending upon personal choices, needs, and resource availability, web-based learning is available in a variety of formats from instructor-led massive open online courses (MOOCs) to self-paced personalized web-based tutorials to corporate universities. Online learning usually involves having access to rich learning environments, experiences, and events which might otherwise not be possible or readily available in a typical learning environment.

corporate online talent development

Today, online learning is often and incorrectly, used interchangeably with e-learning. In actuality online learning is a subset of e-learning, which actually encompasses all forms of teaching and learning through the use of educational technologies whether via the Internet, a network, or a standalone system. This broad expanse of e-learning includes multimedia learning, computer-based training (CBT), virtual learning environments, and mobile learning.

Reflection Point – “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~W. B. Yeats


Virtual Operations Development

Virtual Operations Development

by Mark Sivy

Most of us probably haven’t thought much about being in an era where virtual organization operations play a major role in our daily work activities and we likely haven’t received any special development assisting us in being successful with it. But it does and we should.

A Perspective on Virtual Organization Operations

Virtual organization operations have existed since individuals have communicated and coordinated efforts when being at different locations. Prior to the advent of electronics, some of the earliest methods of contact have been through the use of mirrors (heliographs), smoke signals, drums, and flags (semaphore). As we moved into the 19th Century, organizations began using electronically-mediated services including the telegraph, fax machine, and telephone. Coming into the 20th Century, virtual operations were facilitated by the advent of radio, television, and eventually the Internet. Currently the use of Internet-based communication and collaboration tools for virtual operations is increasingly being integrated into work cultures and the use of these tools has become as much an art as it is a science.

Typically, a virtual work group represents a broad pool of shared skills, knowledge and experiences that are networked via digital communication and collaboration technologies to achieve a common outcome such as an event, service or product. The technologies involved address the barriers of time and distance, enabling an organization to leverage collective innovation, creativity, and synergy.

Virtual Organization Talent Development

Virtual Organization Operations in Practice

So where does this leave us as practitioners of virtual organization operations? Well, this practice actually involves a huge range of activities from something as simple as two work colleagues in different parts of a country talking on the phone to plan a conference presentation to a corporation’s globally distributed team working together to develop a new product line. Since you’re reading this blog, I would say that it is very likely that within the past 24 hours you’ve engaged in some form of basic virtual operation whether you’ve placed an online order with Staples or Amazon for merchandise, collaborated on a work document on Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, or used social media such as Twitter or Google+ to plan a social gathering.

So What’s the Challenge in Organization Talent Development?

With all of these common examples of how one might accomplish virtual operations with relative ease, you might be thinking this isn’t rocket science. In part that is correct. Some of the everyday tools that are used for many virtual tasks are linear or have been created for end-user simplicity. However, when it comes to mission critical, dynamic, and interactive virtual operations that involve interactions between diverse distributed team members, it becomes much more complex. Working in this type of networked environment requires specialized knowledge and skills that enable people to communicate effectively and function efficiently when separated by geographic distances.

The Challenge in a Nutshell

Body LanguageMost of us are unknowingly dependent on gaining much of our communicated information and understanding from in-person body language. In a seminal study, Mehrabian and Ferris (1967) discovered that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words stated. So depending on the form of communication, as much as 93% of face-to-face communication content could be lost in communicating with others at-a-distance. We can only partially compensate for this, but it is important that we do, otherwise serious misunderstandings, mistakes, and failure can result. This is where unified talent development comes into play.

In future posts, this development topic will be explored in more depth using the concepts of presence, emotional intelligence, transactional distance theory, and social constructivism.

Reflection Point – The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. ~ Peter F. Drucker



MEHRABIAN, A., & FERRIS, S. R. (1967). INFERENCE OF ATTITUDES FROM NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IN TWO CHANNELS. Journal Of Consulting Psychology, 31(3), 248-252. doi:10.1037/h0024648