Learning Anytime Anywhere

ADHDA while back I said that my next musings would be around Dr. Tom Gilbert and the Behaviour Engineering Model (B.E.M). but I keep running into other things that catch my attention! I will  tie the BEM into the story at the end.

Last weekend we hosted a friend of my daughter’s who recently arrived at CFB Kingston to start his training as an Intelligence Operator (INT OP) in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). One of my first two projects as a Training Development Officer (TDO) was to convert the first forty hours of training for this course from Face-to-Face (F2F) to self-directed online learning. That was ten years ago… wow time flies!

2006 was “the year of the social network” (R. Macnus, 2006). Phones were getting smarter and the 3G network was here! Important to the CAF was the increased stability of its Learning Management System (LMS) “DNDLearn” which at the time was provided by Desire2Learn or D2L. Since then, the CAF has moved onto SABA and D2L created Brightspace. My point here is that with respect to Distance Learning (DL), the CAF was really at the beginning of a major shift when I was assigned the project.

When I took over the DL project, the school had already thought through a lot of the logistics and access issues. There was real (valid) concern that the learners might not have a computer, reliable Internet access or the support of their supervisors to commit the time required to complete the DL portion of the training. To address these issues, laptops, headsets and hard shipping cases were purchased to send to each student so everyone started at the same level with respect to technology. An instructor was available every day to support the learners. Learning contracts were developed that the instructor, the learner and the learner’s supervisor at the “home unit” had to sign.

This learning contract is really key to the story. The CAF is – understanding its culture – pretty particular about where it’s people are and what they are doing. The more junior you are, the more this applies! The staff at CFSMI were not about to let these new INT OPs run willy nilly all over the country unsupervised while they did this training! The instructional staff and I had some passionate debates about learner centricity and giving the learner responsibility. A tall order for an organization that is so control oriented.

Fast forward to last weekend. Matt and I were talking about his upcoming training and given my history with the initial attempt, I was naturally curious about what had changed! I wasn’t disappointed. The DL curriculum has expanded from 40 to 72 hours (9 training days) which is a pretty solid demonstration of success, but the change that really got me was that Matt has already headed back to Victoria while he completes his DL phase of training. The Chief Instructor’s directions were (in Matt’s words) “I don’t care where you do it, as long as you get it done on time and you don’t get hurt.” Quite a different contract from 2006.

Of course, logistics and access have changed quite a bit in the past ten years and the Defence Learning Network (DLN) has matured. More importantly, connectivity is not the issue it was and we are almost all connected. Internet access by individuals jumped from 67.9% in 2005 to 80.3% in 2009 (Statistics Canada, 2010). I couldn’t find more recent stats, but I think it is safe to say that access has surpassed 2009 levels and mobile technology keeps getting better.

So how does this story about learning relate to workplace performance? As  noted in Expectations of the Workforce, there is a consensus amongst  research and experts in the field of performance improvement that around 75-80 percent of the factors that influence performance are environmentally rather than individually based. The top row of Chevalier’s Improved Behaviour Engineering Model in Table 1 below helps focus the analyst’s attention here first.



Table 1: Updated BEM (Chevalier, 2003). Reprinted with permission.

The expectations “I don’t care where you do it, as long as you get it done on time and you don’t get hurt” are pretty clear! The maturity of the DNDLearn system ensures that guides, materials and tools are in place and support performance. The biggest change to me in this environment is the level of trust displayed by the leadership in allowing young Matt to really learn anywhere anytime, within the allotted timeframe of course. A truly incentivized environment!

My hat is off to the School of Military Intelligence and I trust Matt is enjoying being at home with friends and family while taking this first step in his journey to becoming an Intelligence Operator.


Macnus, R. (2006). 2006 Web Technology Trends. readwrite. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2006/12/11/2006_web_technology_trends, 09 Mar 2016.

Statistics Canada (2010). Internet use by individuals, by location of access, by province. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/comm36a-eng.htm 09 Mar 2016.

Chevalier, R. (2003). Updating the Behavior Engineering Model, Performance Improvement, 42(4), 8-13. Retrieved from www.aboutiwp.com


Humble Beginnings

MugI have been working in the training and performance improvement field for a little over ten years now. There is so much information “out there” that I have never thought that there is something unique for me to add to the discourse so until now, I have remained a consumer of information with the exception of my own little professional network where I was more of a “sharer” than creator.

Yesterday I was interviewed by a graduate student from the University of Louisville who is studying Organizational Development and Learning. We spent about an hour talking about my beginnings in the field, past projects, my favourite thought leaders (many) and models (also many) and things he should consider in his future role as a  “consultant.” His positive reaction to my stories – “I learned more in this hour than all my classes,” an exaggeration I am certain, has prompted me to reconsider my potential as a creator of information.

I always joke that I am Métis but was raised a poor white boy. I enrolled in the Navy at the age of 18 as a Sonar Operator where any sailor will tell you, you learn quickly. After 17 years and a succession of promotions to Chief Petty Officer, I was looking for a change and timing was on my side. The military was paying for sailors, who were so interested, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree – the Navy paid, you committed the time. A great opportunity that with my wife’s encouragement, I took. (Thanks Momma!)

With my Commerce degree from Royal Roads University, I was qualified to take a commission and become a Training Development Officer or “TDO.” During my initial training, I learned about the Instructional and Performance Technology Programme (now Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning or OPWL or “opal”) at Boise State University, which really caught my attention. I had no idea that training was only ONE of many many ways that performance can be improved. What a revelation! The worst of it was that TRAINING, the thing I just learned all about, was (is) usually the most expensive. I also learned that if you write on a white board with permanent marker, all you have to do was scribble over it with a dry erase marker and wipe. It comes right off! That was good to know too.

In 2012 I was invited to join the Boise OPWL Faculty as an adjunct. What a privilege to share what I have learned so far and equally important – to learn from everyone in the program – faculty and students alike.

After ten years of “doing the business” in the military, yet another opportunity appeared and I retired to become a veteran and start a new career in the private sector doing the exact same thing I did as a TDO, but from home! That has been working really well! It is lean and focused and we get a lot done so it is very rewarding.

So in short – that’s how I got here. I am looking forward to sharing my view on the world through the lens of performance improvement.

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