Categories
How

A digital HR experience

A digital HR experience

In our new COVID-normal world, companies are working to adapt and pivot their businesses.

Significant changes can be observed in Human Resource practices in organisations across the world, including the application of more technology in the workplace, which ArcLab was glad to contribute our thoughts to this Tech Collective Asia exposition.

What are some key themes?

First — the way we hire affects who we end up hiring. From getting your prospective interviewees take gamified online assessments to identify thinking patterns, to virtual recorded interviews which are run through an AI algorithm instead of a human recruiter. Such technology helps assess and filter candidates with attributes which accurately match with what the company wants for subsequent rounds of interviews.

For example, Hilton hotels, a renowned chain of hotels around the world has turned to digitising their HR. Hilton’s HR team gathers data from high-performing employees and apply it towards filter new applicants.

Existing high-performing employees’ data can be applied to new applicant filtering | Photo by Marvin Meyer from Unsplash

Second — digitalisation can be used to enhance employee experience. To manage the introduction of these new processes in the HR department, skills of current staff need to be upgraded. This means we need to familiarise the staff with technology before they can further hire tech-savvy employees.

Internal HR processes that can be digitised include payroll and leave applications. Digitising these free up HR Department’s time for higher-value activities like strategy and planning. Employee feedback systems can also be digitised, and analytics applied to provide important insights for the organisation.

Pivoting training (traditionally done through face-to-face lessons and by sending staff to external courses to upskill them) to online training services also allows organisations to tailor specific training content for their workforce.

Some important HR will always require a human touch | Photo by Christina from Unsplash

There will undeniably be aspects of HR that will require a human touch. For example, complaints about harassment and bullying will almost always require a closer look from HR, management, and line managers. Empathy is an (the) important trait for HR professionals. Technology is ultimate just a tool.


In conclusion, we need to take the right steps for our our workforce. Happy employees form the working culture for the entire organisation, which translates into the experience of the customers the firm serves.

With the right framework, we then need to apply the proper training. ArcLab empowers companies set up digital training for your workforce with your own Nano Learning modules.

To take the next step, go to ArcLab Discover today!

Categories
Who

SUTD — Doing what it says on the box

SUTD — Doing what it says on the box

As a workplace learning edtech platform, ArcLab collaborates with our Institutes of Higher Learning (“IHL”), who nurture industry-ready students, e.g. I previously wrote about Singapore Polytechnic.

Today I’ll share about one of Singapore’s newer IHLs— Singapore University of Technology & Design (“SUTD”). Here are 3 SUTD stories we’ve privileged to be a part of.

SUTD: Where Tech & Design talent is nurtured | Pic: SUTD

“The Intern” — starring SUTD student Sylvia (& ArcLab)

In the depths of last April’s COVID-19 lockdown, I received an email from Sylvia, a mechanical engineering student from SUTD’s Engineering Product Development Pillar. Sylvia had just returned from her exchange programme in Silicon Valley.

As ArcLab is a Mobile Learning SaaS platform… we wouldn’t have much (tbh zero) mechanical engineering work for Sylvia to do 😅 . But Sylvia’s CV showcased various interesting design projects, she had strong interest in technology design & development and aspires to be an entrepreneur that improves the lives of others. Sylvia also built & included an ArcLab module of herself in her email (talk about impressing a prospective employer!). We Zoom-terviewed , and took Sylvia on as a UX/UI Design + Business intern.

Sylvia worked on a variety of projects for ArcLab. To quote from her internship report: “(she) worked on many feature designs, created a marketing sales pack, designed public education modules, and came up a plan to increase product virality”.

We incorporated several of Sylvia’s UX/UI Designs, e.g.:

(i) Unscramble — ArcLab’s newest Assessment Screen, used to test learners as a question midway between MCQ & OEQ difficulty levels. Sylvia’s design was improved upon by Estee (more about her beneath) when she implemented it.

(ii) OEQ Auto-Grading— Saving L&D managers & trainers hours in grading time. ArcLab’s grading engine takes care of everything, with results displayed automatically in our Learner Analytics dashboard.

ArcLab’s vision is to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce through building the World’s Simplest Learning System.

In ArcLab, there is no room for complexity, as it would get in the way of learning. Hence, great design always needs to be weaved in with our tech — so it is fuss-free and seamless to ArcLab’s users and learners.

Sylvia’s education in engineering intersected well with her interest and learning in design — she is what SUTD says on the box.

Subject: Sylvia! | Pic: Sylvia!

“Hidden Figures” — starring SUTD graduate Estee (& ArcLab)

Estee is an SUTD Information Systems, Technology & Design Honours Graduate, who worked with ArcLab as a Software Engineer under the SGUnited Traineeship scheme.

Estee had impressive work ethic and quickly hit the ground running to build ArcLab features and fix challenging bugs. Ever thoughtful about good design to help the user adopt ArcLab, she took it upon herself to design and implement ArcLab features. Essentially she played the role of UX/UI designer AND developer, which made the features she built intuitively usable for ArcLab users & learners.

ArcLab features that Estee helped build and design included:

(i) Unscramble assessment screen described above.

(ii) An upgraded Form Screen which ArcLab customers used for visitor registration (very useful during COVID-19).

(iii) The ArcLab Learner Dashboard, built specially for Deskless Workers.

Estee augmented Sylvia’s original design by looking further into the unique requirements and problems faced by a Deskless Worker who would otherwise been forced to use a feature-rich but clunky alternative LMS made for desktop, on their phones.

So Estee designed the ArcLab Learner Dashboard from the ground up, taking into account the above, and making the UX seamless for the learner, as well as for the L&D Manager / Trainer building and assigning modules to staff.

Estee also applied her experience from working in larger teams at GovTech in her previous internships, and took great initiative to propose good product and project management processes for the ArcLab team which we had just started to build last year.

We lapped them up and eagerly took them on board, ever-learning as we build the ArcLab core team.

Estee’s education in (and love for) Tech & Design empowered her with a great toolkit as she put her skills to good use helping us build ArcLab — She is exactly what SUTD says on the box.

ArcLab is grateful for the opportunity to work with Sylvia and Estee. We credit them both in our alumni list, acknowledging their role in building (and imprinting SUTD’s DNA into) ArcLab’s early foundations. They were also pleasant young ladies whom the team enjoyed working with. We’re honoured they chose to spend time working with us.

ArcLab Team lunch @ 4Fingers. Spot Estee! | Pic: Me

“The Office” — starring SUTD OD & HR team (& ArcLab)

ArcLab also has the privilege to count SUTD as one of our platform’s customers. We first met the forward-thinking and energetic OD & HR team of Adeline & Sharon in late-2019, before COVID became a word.

Already thinking ahead of workplace trends of that time, the SUTD OD & HR team looked into ArcLab as a way to easily onboard new staff and educate them on different aspects of the excellent organisation that they were joining.

Adeline & Sharon pushed the boundaries of our platform (we love power users like them), and we listen to their feedback as we continue to build out the ArcLab platform.

Looking back at the early days of ArcLab in 2019, we are grateful for how Adeline & Sharon used ArcLab, and generously helped us on our early prototypes with feedback and suggestions (fun fact: we incorporated Folder Sharing into the ArcLab Learner Dashboard after a conversation with them).

I’m humbled to end this story by sharing Adeline’s review of ArcLab on G2. We’ll keep working to continue to earn her (and your) trust, by making ArcLab better and better.

We remain as always, in #Day1.

https://www.g2.com/products/arclab/reviews/arclab-review-4526275


We’re grateful for the privilege to serve Singapore University of Technology & Design, one of Singapore’s youngest universities, and be part of their stories.

May SUTD continue to produce more Sylvias and more Estees — who are exactly what SUTD says on the box, and are instrumental in building impactful product that uplifts lives and livelihoods, as what ArcLab seeks to do — to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce.


Categories
How

How ArcLab uses ArcLab

How ArcLab uses ArcLab

I often get asked “How does ArcLab use ArcLab?”

Great question! We’re in the privileged position to share with you how we use ArcLab because…ahem, we built the tool (and continue to improve it as we receive feedback and iterate to solve customer needs).

Let’s walk you through how the ArcLab team uses ArcLab, and share some ideas on how you can stretch the limits of ArcLab to more easily & effectively train & support your workforce. Anytime, anywhere.

New Hire Onboarding & Training

We built ArcLab to empower organisations to easily create & distribute training. Naturally, we dogfood ArcLab for our team’s onboarding & training. 😎

New ArcLab-bers and interns receive a personalised link to an ArcLab module on their 1st day. The module walks through ArcLab’s vision & mission, introduces teammates and basic work processes. This particular link can be referenced again repeatedly so it serves as a reference in the early (or not so early) days.

Doing new hire onboarding via the ArcLab mobile learning module beats having clunky ring-folders dumped on the new hire’s desk with no context whatsoever on the SOPs or training. In fact, a well-onboarded staff through ArcLab can get up-to-speed to begin work within the same day, helping your organisation’s operations much more quickly.

See how simple it is to create your organisation’s own onboarding module on ArcLab.


Performance Support / Digital Manuals

No more clunky folders! ArcLab Performance Support Collection, personalised.

The onboarding module I talked about earlier is the new ArcLab-ber’s 1st digital manual.

As our organisation grows, more specific and targetted modules are getting created to document train team members. We call these Digital SOPs or Performance Support modules, which are used to support team members in their day-to-day work, as a reference guide. Hence — “Performance. Support”. They’re really useful as an SOP manual that’s always accessible on our phone (Say goodbye to bulky training manuals!).

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Performance Support modules aka Digital SOPs were of immense help to organisations who had to very quickly set up split teams and remote-work arrangements. ArcLab modules created by them, as well as by us (see ArcLab’s COVID-19 Mobile Resource Pack) helped workers thrust into unfamiliar working arrangements to set up their home workstations, and still have the resources (now digital) to do their work.

For ease of organisation, we group these Performance Support / Digital SOPs into folders right in the ArcLab dashboard, which are shared as a “Learner Dashboard” with specific groups of team members depending on job function. ArcLab-bers can then easily refer to their required modules when they need to reference or refresh their knowledge.

(One other Easter egg for you: I’ve converted several of our presentations from Powerpoint / Google Slides into ArcLab modules, which makes for much better presentations. E.g. this presentation for HR managers).


Digital Assessments

To help organisations to confirm staffs’ knowledge retention, we also built Assessment Screens like Multiple-Choice, Open-Ended Questions, Word Unscramble in the ArcLab platform (that’s for a start; we’re adding more!).

i.e., we use ArcLab modules to test and assess understanding of what had been trained before. Learner performance is then immediately reflected in the administrator’s dashboard, and any needed follow-up can be done quickly.

We saw a lot of this during COVID-19-induced lockdowns in 2020. Organisations whose staff had were not able to operate remotely (e.g. retail or F&B companies — how does one “remotely” cook/serve diners or man a shopfront?) took the ‘down time’ to train & assess their staff in product, service training etc. Obviously these now had to be done digitally.

Then when the lockdowns were lifted, staff were now refreshed in their knowledge, and many learnt new things too, to do their jobs better as many of these companies pivoted to delivery and e-commerce models. F&B operators saw food delivery helping to offset post-Covid impact of safe distancing reduced dine-in capacity, and e-commerce helped add back some topline to retailers.

These new business and operating models also require new skills and new training — and we can now use ArcLab learning modules to efficiently deliver them to staff and assess knowledge retention.


Employee Surveys & Polls (and many more)

We also use ArcLab as a Dipstick Polling Tool — via ArcLab’s Poll Screen and/or Likert Scale Screen. This can be votes on features, text copy choices, icon design, or even simply what to ‘tapao’ for lunch. With data at the forefront of companies’ decision-making, at ArcLab, we walk the talk and ‘dogfood’ it.

In fact, ArcLab’s customers have used our platform for Employee Appraisals, Peer Ratings, Employee Engagement Surveys and many more. It’s simply down to the imagination of the company’s HR and L&D team to utilise the full features of ArcLab’s platform, built for simplicity and flexibility. It solves yet another pain point of how companies can easily solicit views and use data in their decision-making.


Declaration Forms

We also used ArcLab to create a Visitor Health Declaration Form, helpful for COVID-19 related contact tracing.

Visitors to the office can now log their contact details in a contactless fashion (more hygienic) and their contact data stored digitally and securely. This beats using pen & paper which is environmentally-unfriendly. This also avoids loose sheets of paper which could run foul of Personal Privacy Data Protection laws.


Public Communication Modules

A more interesting use case is how ArcLab marketing uses ArcLab for, well, marketing.

ArcLab modules can be set to public, which we can include in emails, EDMs, social media posts as well as blogs like these 😎

For example, see this really fun public education module that Martin our Learning Designer made to educate the public on local attractions that families can go to during the year-end holidays last year.

ArcLab modules are interactive, rich-media, and can provide an immersive educational experience beyond just a static poster.

That’s great, engaging communication. Win-win-win.


We hope you found useful — all the different ways that ArcLab uses ArcLab.

You can easily adopt them for your own organisation. Simply head to ArcLab Discover:

Showcase

Explore the different modules, and remix any module template that you like DIRECTLY into your ArcLab dashboard, e.g. the Onboarding module.

One-click, and you’re all set to edit and roll the module out to your team!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with to easily upskill & provide performance support to your workforce.

And please reach out at any time.

Categories
Why

Workforce Training in the New Normal

Workforce Training in the New Normal

What #COVID19 taught (and continues to teach) us. Guest post on HRTech Cube.

Even Spidey needs to continuously upskill. aka Training in the New Normal | Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Fun fact: When I wrote our company thesis in Jan 2018, ArcLab didn’t yet ‘exist’. 😅 We were in POC-mode, learning from usage data & feedback on a prototype built in 6 weeks, and incorporated ArcLab only 3 months later.

It’s been an eventful 2 years.

In Aug 2018, ArcLab released our MVP and got accepted to AWS EdStart. We launched the full platform in Jul 2019, welcomed paying customers, and were accepted into the pioneer class of Spaze Ventures’ EduSpaze accelerator in Feb 2020. We were also humbled to be featured in Holon IQ’s inaugural SE Asia EdTech 50 in Jun 2020 and welcomed investment from Bisk Ventures in Sep 2020.

These milestones provided encouragement to us that ArcLab was solving a big problem, and doing it in a scalable way.

Our work to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce is only just beginning. Embracing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ famous #Day1 mindset, we continuously listen to our users and build out our platform to serve our customer organisations.

But like most organisations, our original plans and projections never quite factored in an infectious disease that would lock down entire countries and change the face of our world and economy as we knew it.

COVID-19 & our VUCA world | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. — V.U.C.A.

COVID-19 accelerated the paradigm shift that had already started to take hold of the public consciousness.

To me, COVID-19 is the very definition of VUCA. It starts with biology, where individual symptoms may be Uncertain and sometimes Ambiguous, spreads through social behaviour which differs from society to society and can be Volatile, and through various Complex linkages — impacts much of everything around us, notably our economies, jobs, livelihoods, and lives.

Each country’s COVID-19 response differed — a reflection of culture, politics and sometimes plain common sense (or lack thereof). There is still much we don’t know about COVID-19, despite the best efforts of our brightest minds. We can only hope our scientists and doctors make good progress on understanding the disease and developing a vaccine.

The immediate impact of this VUCA disease: Large gatherings of people are no longer possible, for fear of the virus’ spread. Workplaces could no longer function as before. What we took for granted — people meeting or gathering in the same location, could no longer be done.

Truth is: Many of us are generally resistant to change. INERTIA — ‘this is how we’ve always done things so there is no reason to change’ is a big obstacle to progress, even if the alternative is better. From a career perspective, it’s also riskier to propose something new that nobody else is doing, compared with sticking with the status quo, and the safety of ‘everyone else is doing it’.

Until COVID-19 hit.

The by-now famous meme | Pic credits: Forbes

COVID-induced lockdowns globally meant teams could no longer gather in the workplace. So Remote Work became the default arrangement (though some in our workforce still need to brave the frontlines 🙌).

Human Resource teams became organisations’ champions, helping staff in many organisations transition to the new remote work arrangement. A task made harder by schools also moving to home-based learning at the same time.

For HR, this would prove to be their shining moment. Many proved their mettle and it’s only apt that we give a shoutout to our HR professionals — who got going when the going got tough.

During tough economic situations, businesses are forced to take an even harder look at financial performance. For many companies, COVID-19 hurt top-line, which inevitably impacts their ability to fund running costs, of which a significant portion is headcount and salary.

There is no question that without customers and revenue, firms cannot (and in fact have no need to) fund headcount. Yet talent is also needed to develop product to solve customer needs and grow the business. At ArcLab, we fully understand this as we are a business ourselves.

Several governments stepped up quickly to square the circle through salary support schemes, like Singapore’s Jobs Support Scheme and the United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Though these, state funds are channeled to help firms fund a percentage of cash burn, while they figure out how to pivot their businesses and continue to operate in a much-changed world.

Except for tourism-related businesses where the recovery to pre-pandemic levels is likely to be some time away, other business sectors are slowly starting to recover, many adding or pivoting to newer (and often-digital) models. This gives some financial space to companies to at least think beyond immediate survival concerns.

With the workplace also transformed, teams in many countries will work remotely at least part of the workweek, and in split arrangements for the foreseeable future. Employers will need to think about how to adapt their businesses accordingly, to operate as an ongoing concern and (if we dare dream it) to grow.

Workforce Training is a Need. Not a Want.

Now more than ever, businesses need strong leadership to strategise, and a high-performing team to execute.

Good businesses are built by high-performing teams.

Highly-performing teams do not happen by chance. The first step is good recruitment — to find good people. Companies also need to:

  • Rally hires behind a shared vision,
  • Onboard hires properly, and
  • Train them in what’s needed to perform their job role.

The last 2 points are important, especially for our junior and rank-&-file workforce. Very few of us take on a role and become expert workers right-off-the-bat. New hires typically go through an Onboarding process to familiarise with the business and their role, followed by an On-the-Job Training (“OJT”) process, mentored and guided by a supervisor or senior.

Implementing OJT and mentoring is hard enough in normal times. It’s time-and-labour-intensive, and does not scale well. So for businesses that employ more than 5–10 staff, it becomes cumbersome and inefficient for supervisors and seniors to train new staff.

A better way is needed, and has always been needed. The solution for scale has always been technology, once we got the training andragogy right.

At ArcLab, we learnt a few things from serving our customers:

  1. How important it was for the workforce to learn In the Flow of Work. This reduces time away from the shop or factory floor and maximises productivity.
  2. How crucial it was for training to be Uniform, so the company’s standards can be taught without personal bias (or person-specific incompetence!).
  3. How useful it is to continuously provide Performance Support to staff through digital training material — Training Manuals, 101s, Primers, Standard Operating Procedures. So staff can easily access information for them to do their jobs AS-AND-WHEN they need it.

In our New Normal, it’s no longer possible to gather 1–200 people in a training room. Organisations have to do this more efficiently and effectively. So the way forward is to leverage on the power of digital, and to stage out learning, through bite-sized modules, delivered directly to staff devices.

Moving training to the digital/mobile space also helps businesses reduce time and cost needed for training. This effectively funds free headcount for the business, through the resource savings and productivity gains.

Importantly, mobile learning can bring great uptick in learner engagement, knowledge retention and most importantly, knowledge application. Some of these knowledge application metrics include— the drop in customer complaints, production errors etc, time spent on tasks. These are very tangible business objective metrics and provides a positive return on training investment.


COVID-19 has negatively impacted all our lives. The silver linings we can glean for now are:

  1. A greater appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our frontline workers — our cleaners, transport workers, delivery and supply chain professionals, healthcare heroes and our educators.
  2. An irreversible push towards digital and mobile: Video-conferencing, e-commerce, digital payments, tele-health and Digital Learning were all catalysed by COVID-19, and helped make some parts of our lives better to offset the pain and inconvenience it wrought elsewhere.

COVID-19 might yet be with us for some time. Hence, we expect mobile learning to support organisations in a Business Continuity Planning, as well as a Business-As-Usual situation.

ArcLab stands ready to support every organisation in this important part of your Digital Transformation journeys.

For Training is not a luxury for businesses. It is an absolute staple, because without a high-performing team, it’s impossible to build a great business.

Categories
What

ArcLab Dev Update — What’s New?

ArcLab Dev Update — What’s New?

Editor’s Note: Last month, Joanna interviewed Claire, our former dev intern so instrumental in assisting CTO Steven in building ArcLab. This month, Joanna speaks to Rohit Rajesh and Kimberly Pontanares to get their perspectives on working with Steven to develop ArcLab.

Rohit interned with us after completing National Service and while awaiting University admission. While not formally-schooled in software development, Rohit brought substantial coding knowledge from self-study and Tinkercademy classes, a relentless drive to build great software and a great learning attitude.

Kimberly continues ArcLab’s tradition of collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Computing, following in the footsteps of Claire, Francis, Darryl, Zainul and Bing. Adept in coding and possessing a great visual sense, she’s a showcase of the excellent work SP does in nurturing industry-ready tech talent that will play (and are already playing) a big part in solving real-world problems to improve lives and livelihoods.

Rohit (L) and Kimberly (R), ArcLab super-interns

We are excited to once again bring you a new ArcLab Platform Update for August!

This month, I interviewed Kimberly and Rohit who were involved in the upgrade of the new ArcLab dashboard.

Joanna (J): “Hi Kimberly and Rohit! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. We wanted to get some insights from the creative minds behind the new ArcLab upgrade!”

Kimberly (K): “Thank you! First, let me explained what we have designed: ”

Learner Analytics — Filter Feature

Filter your learner analytics and view the analytics of your published project by date. Simply select the start and end date on the calendar tab to segment your learners (by cohort, etc.)!

Filter your analytics by date

Media for EVERY ArcLab screen

Media can be added to almost every screen … or not — the choice is yours!

Adding images in each screen is now optional

“Project Settings” — Reloaded

We have also split “Project Settings” into 3 tabs — Manage Learners, Manage Emails and Question Settings, so that Training / L&D Managers have greater granularity of control!

“Project Settings” split into 3 tabs

Folders

Lastly, we added a folder system in the ArcLab Dashboard. This feature allows you to move projects to folders, so you can manage your various projects more easily and effectively. You also have the ability to rename, delete a folder and remove a project from a folder.

Folders added to dashboard

J: “Wow! I hope ArcLab users will find these updates as useful as we did! Could you guys share about the reasons behind including these features?”

K: “For sure! The folder system was something Claire and I discussed to be included for ArcLab’s UI/UX Refresh. We included it to provide users a way to manage their projects more efficiently by enabling them to further categorise their various projects and facilitate easier access.

While the filter analytics by date was included to further enhance users’ experience when studying learners’ analytics by allowing them to view the calculated statistics (which learners completed the module, how many attempts did a learner take on a specific date, etc.) This also makes it easier to find specific learners that completed the module within a certain date, and help L&D managers segment users into cohorts for easier tracking.”

Rohit (R): “Meanwhile, media inserts were added (and made optional) on a variety of screens so that learners can be exposed to media regardless of the ArcLab screen type. All in all this allows for more flexibility in the creation of projects for learners — to make learning more effective.”

J: “Thank you for sharing! Lastly, could you give us a sneak peak of what we can expect in the next update?”

R: “Of course! Do stay tuned for the next update because ArcLab’s dev team is excited to bring you:

What to expect in the next Dev Update?

ArcLab’s team is always listening to your feedback and seeking ways to improve — part of our never-ending quest to build the world’s Simplest Learning System.

You can next expect:

  • A “Discover” feature where L&D Managers can source for training templates to adapt to their organisations’ specific needs.
  • Further enhancement of the Learner Analytics Dashboard
  • Additional features such as editing and uploading photos in the Question Bank.

… and several more! Follow ArcLab on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to find out!”

J: “Thank you for your hard work, Kim and Rohit! With both your internships ending soon, what did you learn most from your time at ArcLab?”

R: “Firstly, I learnt how to work effectively from home as I sadly only managed to spend a day in the office before being restricted to WFH. I realised that creation of daily task lists and a rough timetable for the day help immensely!

Under the guidance of our CTO Steven, I was exposed to DevOps as well as technologies like Docker and Jenkins in order to streamline development processes in the firm. Some notable ones include the creation of Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery pipelines allowing for rapid deployments and testings, and containerisation of the application for developmental work. I was also further exposed to tools in Amazon Web Services (AWS) such as Lambda, S3, CloudFront, and Elemental MediaConvert in the creation of the video upload feature for learners.

I also learnt how to work closely as part of a team. As a lean team, communication and teamwork is paramount to the monthly updates we push out for our users. This includes biweekly sprints, where we gather feedback from users and prioritise tasks. We have weekly “standups” where we talk about what we have achieved in the previous and the coming week, and, of course, daily chats with fellow colleagues on bugs that were discovered and/or any user requests that require urgent attentions. With WFH, the importance of communication was amplified, as you could no longer just shout over your shoulder to find out what your fellow dev was up to or to look for help.”

K: “While working at ArcLab, I learned a great deal about the process to find the most efficient way to develop and implement features that give our users the best user experience. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work and learn from everyone here.”

J: “Thank you to both of you for sharing your insights!”

Now check out the Brand New ArcLab User Guide: https://b.arclab.io/u !


Postscript — Rohit will soon start his undergrad studies at National University of Singapore, while Kimberly heads back to Singapore Polytechnic for her final semester. We wish them both the very best and hope they put ArcLab at the top of their list when considering future employment. 😊

Categories
What

Developing a Brand New ArcLab Dashboard

Developing a Brand New ArcLab Dashboard

Editor’s Note: ArcLab believes in authentic learning. Students interning with us work on REAL projects to help them translate school-learnt theory into industry-relevant skills.

Singapore Polytechnic School of Computing student Claire Liew interned with ArcLab in 2019–20, working closely with our CTO Steven to build features of ArcLab’s mobile learning software platform. Claire was mature, self-driven, resourceful and had great design & coding chops. Guided by Steven, Claire led ArcLab’s dashboard upgrade — continuing ArcLab’s never-ending quest to build the World’s Simplest Learning System, to help organisations everywhere Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce.

We interviewed Claire in in her last internship week to get her thoughts on building ArcLab’s new dashboard.

Claire Liew, ex-ArcLab super-intern | super-Software-Engineer

We are excited to introduce your Brand New ArcLab Dashboard! 🤗

I interviewed Claire about the upgrades we launched earlier this month.

Joanna (J): “Hi Claire! Thank you for working so hard on the new ArcLab Dashboard. We’ve been getting great feedback from users and wanted to tap your views on what went behind the new design”.

Claire (Cl): “Thank you! First let me explain what we built:

Sorting & Filtering your learning modules made easy

  • A search bar to search for a specific project name
  • View your projects in 2 categories: “Unfinished” or “Published projects”
  • Use the column headings on the table to sort your projects in ascending/ descending order based on Project Name or Recency
  • Delete or duplicate your projects just with the click of a button

These features save you the trouble of scrolling through your entire dashboard just to find that one module you are looking for!

More intuitive Navigation Bar

Features such as Project Settings and Learner Analytics have been moved to a more optimal and intuitive location in the Editor. Take a look at the graphic below, and also see ArcLab’s user guide for comprehensive step-by-step instructions!

Step-by-step guide to adding authorised learners

Compulsory Open-Ended Questions toggle

We also now give users the option to make Open-Ended Questions compulsory. This is particularly important for Assessment modules (which we’re also considering ways to make the grading process more automated and intuitive — stay tuned for that).

Open-ended questions can now be made compulsory

Send Digital Certificates to Learners

We received feedback from many users asking if they could send a “completion” certificate to learners.

The answer is now YES. If you are an employer or content creator designing these modules for your learners, you can now personalise your employees’ learning by sending them digital NanoCreds (certificates) when they complete/ pass the module. The best part? Being able to include your OWN digital signature on the certificate as well!

Step-by-step guide to mail digital NanoCreds to learners, personalised with your e-signature

J: “Wow, Claire. I hope ArcLab users will enjoy this update as much as I do! So why did ArcLab include these features?”

Cl: “We included these features because we keep learning from our users to keep improving the platform so it can better serve user needs.

We had received feedback that the ArcLab dashboard should let users more easily visualise all the learning modules and analytics at one go. So we took it on board and iterated our design to help users do just that.

By improving your module editor in the other small ways I described above, we hope creating #nanolearning modules can be made even more fuss-free and personalised (for you and your learners)! As we get more user feedback, ArcLab will keep improving the platform.”

J: “Thanks for sharing Claire! Just one more thing — could you possibly give us a sneak peak of what we can expect in the next update?”

Cl: “Of course, do stay tuned because here’s what ArcLab’s dev team is building:

What are we building next?

Our team keeps working hard to listen to users and build what’s needed to best solve user organisations’ training pain points. We will soon release:

  • Video Uploads (for ArcLab PRO users) — this adds to Youtube/Vimeo videos you can already embed directly into ArcLab modules
  • Explanations for MCQ Answers — allowing your learners to see individualised explanations based on their answers

…and several more which you should follow our blog to find out 😉”

J: “Thank you for your hard work, Claire! What did you learn most from your time with ArcLab?

Cl: “I learned how rewarding it is to be able to ship live features tailored to our users’ needs. Also, I’ve learned a lot of technical and soft skills from everyone here at ArcLab. It was definitely an enriching experience for me.”

J: “It’s been really great to be team-mates. All the best to your future endeavours!”


Postscript— Claire graduated from Singapore Polytechnic and will soon start her undergraduate studies at Singapore Management University. We wish her the very best and hope she considers us favourably when contemplating future employment opportunities 😊

Meanwhile, if you have any feedback or suggestions, please drop us an email, we would love to hear from you. ArcLab continues to work hard to #Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce. Always #Day1.

Categories
Who

#WFH as an ArcLab Intern

WFH as an ArcLab Intern

Editor’s note: ArcLab is privileged to work closely with Singapore Polytechnic (“SP”). In March 2020, we welcomed Joanna from SP’s School of Business to intern with ArcLab till Aug 2020. Alas, Singapore moved into #CircuitBreaker mode which meant Joanna had to #WorkfromHome after just 1 1/2 weeks.

Here’s Joanna’s story, and what she built to help organisations get staff ready for Remote Work Arrangements.


By now, majority would be familiar with the telecommuting lifestyle following the Circuit Breaker measures implemented by the Singapore government just last month. I was privileged enough to be able to intern from home as well. Being my first time working from home, it definitely took time adjusting to a different lifestyle and I thought I would share my experience so far…

Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

Since we are on the topic of lifestyle changes, a significant change for me was not having to wake up as early as before Circuit Breaker to get ready for work. I think this is something many people can resonate with. Whether you are a working adult or an intern, showing up for work on time means having to wake up 1, 2 or even 3 hours earlier! You could be taking a longer time than necessary choosing an outfit for work, making breakfast, or even having to drop your kids off at school before rushing to work.

However, with the new Circuit Breaker measures in place, time taken to get ready for work online is significantly reduced. You no longer have to worry about getting your children to school on time. You can even be working in your PJs and enjoying that cup of coffee while answering to work emails. Working from home now means being able to get an extra hour of sleep! Of course, with every benefit there is a downside.

Working from home also taught me a lot about how productivity and discipline go hand in hand. With no one (manager, supervisor, or even colleagues) constantly keeping you in check, it can be hard saying no to distractions. It could be constantly wanting to crawl back into bed, or making rounds to your fridge looking for a quick bite. What I found helpful for me was writing down a to-do list for the week (and although this may not be the first time hearing such an advice, it really does help!) — and once I was done with a task, I would have the satisfaction of crossing it off the list.

Photo by Allie on Unsplash

With an increasing reliance on technology, I realised how we often take it for granted, because without it we would hardly be able to get any work done, let alone communicate with our friends and colleagues (even more so during this period). At ArcLab, we use Slack and Zoom to communicate with each other. We even have scheduled weekly Zoom call meetings to update each other on the progress of our work and how our weekend has been.

Speaking of technology…

Split Teams & Remote Work modules

A main project that I have been working on was creating modules for Nano Learning modules for ArcLab’s new “Split Teams & Remote Work” (or WFH) series. The series was created in line with the WFH measures implemented by companies, to help both employers and employees alike adapt to the new work arrangements. If you have yet to check it out or have a few minutes to spare in between your day, you can do so here!

With the hustle and bustle of work, it’s very rare that we find time to learn something new, or pick up a new hobby. We probably steer clear of this as well due to our perception that learning = lengthy = time consuming.

ArcLab Nano Learning modules (such as the WFH series) has thus been made targeted, specific and short so that you can slot learning into your busy schedule, without taking up too much of your time!

My WFH experience has been a fulfilling one so far, and I certainly hope yours has been too! Press on, the Circuit Breaker is almost coming to an end, and we would soon be a step closer to resuming our lives as normal.

#StayHomeStaySafe #NanoLearning

Categories
Why

#WFH isn’t for everyone

WFH isn’t for everyone

With contributions from Edwin of PowerAbsolut and Justina for Edugrow for Brighter Tomorrows

Covid-19: BAU no more | Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

7 Feb 2020 almost seems a lifetime ago.

It was the day Singapore upgraded her disease outbreak status to DORSCON Orange, in response to what the world would soon know as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19. As COVID-19 infection numbers rose, governments all over the world began to impose quarantine, lockdown, movement control measures to limit community spread. Singapore started her own “circuit breaker” on 7 April, recently extended till 1 June.

With travel curtailed and workplaces closed, Work-From-Home was no longer good Business Continuity or a fashionable hashtag. WFH was now non-negotiable. Schools also closed, so students now had Home-based Learning, or HBL.

Organisations began getting licenses for video conferencing software, communication platforms, productivity tools.

Mobile learning and edtech tools saw increased uptake, as training could no longer be done face-to-face.

Video Conference Prep, for the Nth time today | Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Organisations began social-sharing their teams doing video conferences. Photos (and videos!) of video conferences, encouraging messages and memes started to grow, as #WFH started to trend.

While most of us are taking WBL/HBL in our stride, there is starting to be cabin fever / fatigue as lockdown periods get extended.

There was the odd joke about how COVID-19 was a conspiracy by video conferencing software companies / food delivery platforms etc. Some comments were in really poor taste — snide remarks about teachers celebrating that they could slack / shirk, folks living in mansions or large apartments complaining about how they couldn’t find a suitable place to ‘focus’ to work.

Worse, some started to flat-out disregard Stay-at-Home advisories and venture out, turning ‘grocery shopping’ into family outings, and driving to different parts of the country to buy food or ‘exercise’.


#WFH isn’t for everyone

I’m using this op-ed to highlight that even as some might tire of #WFH, it is in fact a PRIVILEGE enjoyed by just a small part of our societies, and in many cases, only the higher-income and white-collar segments of our workforce.

Most of us are aware of F&B and retail businesses for whom WFH is a near-to-impossible option. There are in fact many others. I canvassed some perspectives:

Engineering: Contribution By Mr Edwin Wong (CEO, PowerAbsolut)

“In the engineering sector, WFH may be applied where work is instructional, administrative, design, e-commerce, etc. Meetings and reviews can be done via video or phone, but these are not the core money-making activities to begin with.

In marine engineering, WFH is virtually irrelevant. Production, maintenance, repair, troubleshooting, survey all necessitate onsite presence. Shipbuilding, fire systems certification, ship surveys and inspections, GPS system installation etc. all require physical presence and very often, congregation. Such work requires physical interaction with machines and other stakeholders. These are the revenue-generating activities which cannot be executed from a remote location.

The Singapore government has been helpful in NOT imposing a full lockdown or enforcing WFH across the board, which will otherwise seal the fate of many engineering businesses. We need the entire society to help us. Please listen to the health professionals, comply with the government, change our social behaviour to keep everyone safe.

So that those of us whose work nature do not permit us to WFH, WILL NOT BE LOCKED DOWN. The more the outbreak is contained, the lesser the restrictions, the sooner we regain our footing.”

Healthcare: Contribution by Dr Wong (Working in a private clinic)

“Healthcare is an essential service that is still open to provide emergency services. Many perceive that it’s business-as-usual for private healthcare providers, far from the truth. Non-urgent or elective procedures that form a substantial portion of our work cannot be done, resulting in significant loss of revenue. Yet we continue to honour our commitment to staff, paying full salaries, and taking this time to train and re-train ourselves.

Private healthcare providers have been taking extreme precautions to safeguard the interest of their patients, as well as healthcare staff who are at highest risk of getting COVID-19, where examining patients require close contact. Most healthcare workers have no option to work from home.

We are totally in alignment with MOH and the Government’s call. Stay at home and flatten the curve. Avoid crowded places like wet markets and supermarkets. Healthcare workers cannot battle this virus alone. Collectively, every resident in Singapore must play their part. Then things can go back to normal for all.

Social Sector: Contribution by Ms Justina Quek (Programme Manager, Edugrow for Brighter Tomorrows)

While our children take to platforms like TikTok seamlessly, HBL is, unfortunately, not done via the social networking app. When MOE first announced moving to a month-long HBL, Social Service Agencies island-wide like us had to scour around for devices for our children. That was the first hurdle.

Next was the knowledge and skills gaps in typing, or navigating the various e-learning, video conferencing, and shared drive platforms. These are still considered “easy” problems with “easy” solutions.

The more challenging struggles are the environmental factors; whether it was the lack of a proper study space (such as a table and chair with proper lighting), or a lack of structure (as opposed to being in school), or even simply a lack of the privilege of quiet. Regrettably, many things the more privileged amongst us take for granted becomes more pronounced during this period of WFH.

Nonetheless, this period also serves as an opportunity for us at EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows to bridge that very gap with the children we work with. In enforcing HBL, our children have to learn to deal with browsers and tabs, pick up basic typing skills, and have found a use for the microphones attached to their earpieces. They have learnt to take ownership of their own studies and set their own time tables.

While we cannot change their environment, we can empower our children to adapt and become more resilient. We walk step-by-step with children who need the extra assistance or an extra push, to ensure that no one gets left behind — or fall further behind. WFH or HBL aren’t great nor are they ideal. But, like our children, we can learn to work with the hands we are dealt with.

So in summary, #WFH is not a privilege easily enjoyed by:

our healthcare heroes, our F&B, hospitality, delivery, supply chain & logistics colleagues, our security staff, our cleaning colleagues, our carers of young and old, our machinists, technicians and engineers, our construction workers, our law enforcement officers and soldiers, our persons-with-disabilities in the workforce — for whom technology “as-is” may not be sufficient to help them to #WFH.


It’s a PRIVILEGE to be able to Work From Home.

COVID-19’s impact is still playing out, as our healthcare workers and scientists work tirelessly to combat the virus.

We all need to play our part — washing our hands, social distancing, and staying home as much as we can (see this excellent video by Jeremy Goh & Steven Jap).

No-one knows how long the outbreak will last. No-one knows how the world will be after, only that it will be changed.

Some of these changes are good, e.g. WFH and flexible work arrangements. I hope they stay even as our world returns to normal. We’ve also seen great leadership from some countries and companies, and acts of selflessness and heroism.

At firm level, we play our part in two ways:

  1. Collaborating with creative educators like The Dim Sum Warriors to create digital educational material that educate the public (children & adults) on COVID-19. Knowledge about how the virus spreads and what we can individually do to mitigate is the best weapon against community spread. TL;DR — Stay 🏠 Stay Safe.
  2. Helping firms to digitise training material that empowers them to remotely #Upskill staff for the #Upturn (which WILL eventually come), at scale. Ping us if you need help.

WFH is really a PRIVILEGE we should not abuse.

I hope my fellow contributors helped put our #WFH “woes” into perspective.

In the short-run, the Singapore government’s 3 Budgets provides a lot of short-term support for families’ and businesses’ cost pressures. But this cannot last forever and we all need topline (salaries, revenue) to kickstart the economy’s flywheel again.

So the more that those of us who can WFH do so, the more we can flatten the curve; and the sooner that everyone can revert to a more ‘normal’ arrangement — to visit our loved ones, eat our favourite foods, run and play outdoors.

With everyone playing our part, we can overcome these worst of times… with the best of times.

#StaySafe. #Stay Home.


Last but not least — If you’re Singapore-based, please donate your spare computer and/or accessories to Engineering Good, whose volunteers, led by Johann Annuar, are working overtime to bridge the digital divide and repurpose donated laptops for children of disadvantaged families to do HBL 🙌

Donate at: https://engineeringgood.org/computers-against-covid

Categories
Who

Many paths to success — The story of Bing

Many paths to success — The story of Bing

A short story of Bing — who helped us as we built ArcLab’s L&D mobile learning platform, and what we can learn from him.


With training and education at our platform’s core, ArcLab is honoured to work with Institutes of Higher Learning (“IHL”). One important IHL partner we support is Singapore Polytechnic (“SP”):

  1. We support SP School of Business — lecturers & students from their Dip. Human Resource Management with Psychology —who work on our ‘live’ HRTech L&D platform.
  2. We collaborate with SP School of Computing (“SoC”), offering internships to SP students to give them real-world experience, as they support ArcLab’s development under our CTO Steven’s guidance.

Our SP SoC interns proved to be adept coders and were of great help in ArcLab’s product development. Kudos to their lecturers for making them industry-ready — teaching coding skills and software engineering, while instilling in them the mindset of continuous learning (our firm’s raison d’etre), and perseverance & creativity while problem solving.

ArcLab 2019 interns at EduTECH Asia 2019 | Claire, Bing & Nicholas (missing Luke — at uni, Francis — serving the nation). NOT that 2nd guy from the right 😎

We’ve had the pleasure to work with Claire Liew, Francis Yeo and Chin Bing Huang from SP, and others we credit here.

They bring enthusiasm, vigour, hard work, and lower the office average age 😅.

On the ArcLab blog — I’ve written before about how we should make the opportunity for everyone to do well a reality — here, here and here.

Today, let me share the real-life example of Bing.

The Story of Bing

I first met Bing in late-2016, before ArcLab even existed.

I was then running a game-based learning firm serving schools, but I’d started to research problems organisations faced in scaling workforce training, as knowledge cycles kept shortening. This was before Digital Disruption had taken hold of the public consciousness.

Kris, Cedric and Ruiwen (My then-colleagues and intern 👋) and I met several companies to understand the problems they faced.

I had this idea to reverse-engineer the training process, then mainly face-to-face and requiring significant logistical coordination, with difficulty gathering data to help the organisation’s further training. Imagine the additional efforts needed for organisations with distributed workforces (think multi-boutique retailers, chain restaurants etc.), and how technology could reduce these pain points.

Leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones, we could deliver bite-sized training modules directly to staffs’ mobile phones! I didn’t code AT ALL then, so we needed someone who could.

Enter Bing — Final-year SP student, whose project ‘Happy Wheel’ ( navigational application with checkpoints annotating obstacles for the disabled or wheelchair bound users navigating from point-to-point) had just won in IMDA’s Data-Driven Innovation Challenge.

Bing was a quiet fellow, but had a mind like a sponge, absorbing all the information we fed him — problems we were looking to solve, first-iteration feature designs and wireframes, and a data dump of EVERYTHING.

Early ArcLab Ver 0.1 (Built by Bing, Kris, Cedric, Hei Wai, Ruiwen, Zainul, James)
Ver 0.1 Design Pillar: SIMPLE learning module creation. We still do this today.
Ver 0.1 didn’t have 5 million users. But it’s important to dream big 😉

We had no-one to guide him technically at that time (we were all designers, though Kris had working coding knowledge), but Bing simply took in all our functional design and UI/UX, and single-handedly architected and coded what would later become ArcLab Ver 0.1 — in all of SIX WEEKS.

What Bing built with us was a PoC we could now bring back to the companies we first interviewed, and they became our first beta users.

The amazing thing about Bing was how calm and organised he was. What I admire most about him was his clarity of thought, his ability to break complex requirements into simple pieces, to pick off, build and put together. He didn’t over-engineer, but because he architected properly, there was method to what he built.

(*N/B: When we later co-founded ArcLab in 2018, our CTO Steven remarked that Bing’s original code was well thought-out, with elements worth keeping even as we continued to scale and evolve the platform).

Many paths to success — The way of Bing

Bing enlisted soon after helping us with this Ver 0.1. But I’m forever grateful to this young man, for helping us lay the foundations of what would later become ArcLab.

So Bing had taken a slightly longer academic route than his peers. Before entering SP, he’d spent two years at the Institute of Technical Education (“ITE”) where others matriculated to SP directly after ‘O’-Levels. Where others might have ‘given up’, Bing became a top ITE students. He also did well at SP, as you know.

But what was more amazing was his thirst for knowledge and continuous drive to improve.

Bing participated in many industry hackathons, working backwards from problem statements to code a technical solution. So he constantly honed his skills, which are way better than his peers who may perform better academically, but couldn’t code as well.

As an employer, I much prefer Bing’s approach — to hone skill rather than optimise grades.

Bing also started me on my own coding journey. I got onto the Codecademy platform and started to do coding exercises and learn the basics of Javascript and Python (Note I’ve no ambition to be a professional programmer, but I wanted to at least read code, think like a developer and work with a technical team — which I (hopefully) was able to do when we co-founded ArcLab). Even when Bing was serving National Service, we kept in touch and he helped me out when I ran into learning roadblocks.

ArcLab got the privilege to work with Bing officially after he completed National Service. Bing worked with us in mid-2019 with Luke Tan and Claire (his SP junior). They were Steven’s “power dev team” as we responded to user feedback to build features for ArcLab (now an actual business with customers) to serve users’ L&D needs.

To me, Bing embodies this “Many Paths to Success” statement that has been much bandied about.

At the policy level, I think the right things are being done in Singapore so different academic routes can still lead to employability and viable livelihoods. At the societal level, we have someways to go; there are still many employers who use academic qualifications and grades as a non-negotiable filter (though these are slowly changing).

At our firm level, ArcLab is playing our part in this transformation journey by helping organisations continuously train staff, through ArcLab’s on-demand, bite-sized, mobile learning modules.

But it is at the individual level that I think most work needs to be done. Too many give up when they meet their first failure; they settle into a sub-optimal pathway when perhaps more perseverance would have helped them break through.

We can all learn from Bing. Never giving up, learning and doing. Building what’s useful, always improving.

Bing is now a freshman at Singapore Management University. I am so happy he continues to improve his knowledge, and eager for the chance to work together again in the future.

2019 Assemble! | Francis (leftmost), Claire, Bing & Luke (in white). Our CTO Steven’s 2nd from the right.

Join us! Be like Bing.

ArcLab has just opened our 2020 call-for-interns — across various disciplines.

We’re organisationally-flat so your voice always gets heard and you get to run with your proposals from start-to-finish.

For our tech interns — you also get the benefit of working with our CTO Steven, who’s held senior software engineering roles in PayPal, and previously built & sold his startup Spickify to Rocket Internet! One more HUGE plus: You get to ship ‘live’ code into production, working in consultation with Steven — invaluable experience in your programming journey (whereas (we heard) interns in other companies may only do bug-testing or buy coffee…).

So if you’re a student excited about solving real-world problems and having a positive impact on improving the skills, lives and livelihoods of millions of deskless workers, please apply to ArcLab, and be part of our mission.

(… And I may yet write about you too 😊)


ArcLab’s L&D Mobile Learning SaaS platform empowers organisations everywhere to create effective training that improves staff performance. It’s free to create. Get started today.

Categories
Why

Snackable Self-Paced Learning for the Modern (Deskless) Worker

Snackable Self-Paced Learning for the Modern (Deskless) Worker

Buffets! Spread upon spread — Delightful morsels of savory and sweet dishes. (Hungry yet?) — Guest Blog Post for hrtech.sg

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Why we love buffets

Some say it’s the food. That’s a factor, but I suspect our love affair with buffets lies in knowing there’s ALL THAT CHOICE available. That’s what makes buffets special — the fact we CAN eat such a broad spread of different dishes, whatever you fancy, without limit!

Buffets have made their way into increasing facets of our lives, especially entertainment. Think Netflix, Spotify, MoviePass. These platforms make you the promise that there’s all this content (movies, songs…) that you CAN watch or listen to. It’s impossible obviously, but the fact that we CAN… has users stumping up their subscription fees. Month after month.

Netflix and Spotify do something else — they make recommendations to you — what to watch or listen to next.

To each his/her own

The recommendations are “personalised” for each of us, because our behaviour on the platforms are all different. We watch different movies, listen to different songs. Our likes and dislikes are different. The platforms aggregate all this data to personalise their recommendation, based on what they understand of us.

Yet personalisation is hardly new. As parents — we have knowledge (aka data) about our children’s likes and dislikes. We know Johnny loves his fish ball noodles and Jamie her chicken rice. So, we ‘personalise’ their lunches. We know Jimmy loves green and Jessica loves blue. So, we ‘personalise’ their room decor accordingly.

Personalised Learning — What’s hampering it?

In modern-day Learning & Development (L&D) — it’s not always easy to personalise training, especially if time and resource is constrained. So, often, it’s a one-sized-fits-all approach to training. Much of these changes in the classroom started in the Industrial Revolution — the advent of factories required skilled workers needing to be trained quickly and efficiently. Sadly, that hasn’t changed in the past 150 years.

We know training should be personalised, and we know that there is technology that can help us. But somehow — what Netflix, Spotify, Amazon and Google have honed to an artform — L&D practitioners find hard to do. This is despite a bevy of ‘personalised learning’ and ‘adaptive learning’ platforms that have sprung up over the last decade.

Yet, good teachers and trainers have always sought to personalise their teaching to the learners they interact with. In an older time, masters impart their skills to different apprentices differently, because each one is different.

Focusing (wrongly) on the technology

So, our first goal must be to figure out what best fits our modern-day learner. Focus should not centre at the technology; it starts with the learning pedagogy.

The modern workforce is becoming more mobile, and information’s shelf-life shortening. That makes traditional methods of training less effective. So, the delivery needs to change, and assessment too.

What we should first do is figure out the best medium and form factor of training. No longer should we front-load training in the first 3 days of an employee’s induction programme and hope they remember something. Rather, training now needs to be spaced out, made available on-demand; and if possible, ‘pushed’ at the right time.

Thinking specifically about the “deskless” worker — the frontline associate in the shopfront, the barista, the outbound healthcare worker: The gentleman or lady who does not have a cubicle or workstation; no computer to access the operations manuals (s)he may have vaguely remembered browsing through during induction.

Yet most (if not all) of our deskless workers now have powerful computers sitting in their pockets — their smartphones. Our Learning & Development teams can take advantage of these mediums and find an effective platform and toolset to engineer learning content. This investment is done once, and content can then be tweaked on an ongoing basis with relatively low marginal effort. This ensures accuracy and currency.

Snack-able Learning — Nano Learning

The best form of training delivery is to downsize content into ‘snack-able’ modules — Nano Learning.These are housed on the cloud and readily accessible for the worker to refer to, a recipe card for example, or a repair instruction for a particular machine. Whenever he/she needs it.

A worker who refers to it continuously will level up faster. It’s a proxy for employee effort to HR managers, which should ultimately translate to better productivity and better bottom lines.

Over time, the platform also builds its knowledge of the worker, and platforms can build recommendation engine to recommend learning — which is already proven to be effective. This helps our deskless workers continuously upskill and level up — translating into better job performance, promotions and better pay to uplift families.

Ending back at the buffet

We end back at the buffet spread, and the key element of choice. Best of all, there’s no wastage -because unlike buffets where unconsumed food is thrown away, all learning content always stays available, to consume as best fits our schedules, to adopt into better work performance — that leads to better organisational outcomes, and hopefully better livelihoods for our workers.

As we bring personalisation into learning — and in ArcLab’s case, Nano Learning, our focus still centres on human choice. So we do not just consume what is recommended or ‘pushed’ to us blindly.

Rather, that insight we glean from all that data and personalisation is the ability to make better choices. That ability to choose is what makes us human, and that’s why we love buffets.

Categories
Why

Creating Effective Training — The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Creating Effective Training — The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

“Question: What’s effective training?” | “women’s gray cardigan” by rawpixel on Unsplash

In a previous blog post, we shared with readers how learning needs to be ENGAGING, EFFICIENT and EFFECTIVE. For workplace L&D in particular, today’s managers and trainers face:

  1. Increased Mobility — Our teams are more mobile and distributed. So it’s hard to get everyone in the same training room. Especially true for multi-branch / multi-geographical organisations.
  2. Reduced Attention Spans — The infamous study that us humans can concentrate for less than 8 seconds, ranking us below goldfish…

Organisations can no longer ‘pre-dump’ our teams with reams of training binders; it will get lost amongst everything else that they need to get up to speed on and daily work responsibilities!

L&D managers are convinced that the best way to train teams is by:

  1. Putting training content online to supplement (NOT replace) face-to-face training. This should be mobile-optimised to be delivered directly to employees’ smart devices.
  2. Making sure training engages the learner for more effective content absorption. Even better if the training is contextual and just-in-time.

That’s where Nano Learning comes in.

What’s Nano Learning? Bite-sized, self-contained training content that is rich-media focused and peppered with knowledge checks to make sure learning has taken place.

Think of Nano Learning as ‘power bars’ that are consumed just before a key task or activity. The learning is contextual, just-in-time, and application-focused. Employees learn what’s needed, do quick assessments to confirm learning, and put their learning into action through the task. The practical application reinforces the learner, and gets the ‘muscle memory’ going.

So how do we create effective Nano Learning? Do we simply take our existing Powerpoint training decks and chop them up into 15-minute modules?

The Bad

Bad Nano Learning: https://b.arclab.io/2ykhQWn

Here’s one learning module: https://b.arclab.io/2ykhQWn

Did this work for you? Did you get the point of the module? Or were there too many “focus points” that you got lost in the information overload? Were you able to test yourself that you learnt what you were being asked to

The module is indeed short, but we need to do more than keep our Nano Learning modules short.

More than that, we need to keep them focused, and to-the-point. Ideally we should only teach ONE learning point per module. There’s no focus if we ATTEMPT to cover too many things.

The Good

Now try this Nano Learning module: https://b.arclab.io/nano1

Good Nano Learning: https://b.arclab.io/nano1

This 2nd module is short, just like the previous one. But there are several important differences:

(i) This module is to-the-point.

(ii) There are knowledge checks to make sure the learner stopped him/herself and reinforced the learning.

(iii) There is also good use of infographics, contextually-appropriate pictures and a very short, to-the-point video on how Nano Learning can be created.

In general, the rich media appeals to our learners’ right brains, creating emotional connections that imprint on memories more strongly.

In short, it is effective.

How do we create effective training?

LESS is often MORE: Resist the temptation to load in more and more information. This leads to loss-of-focus, and your effort is wasted.

SHOW; don’t TELL: Spend time sourcing or crafting visually clear media resources, be it infographics that display data or information, or demo videos.

The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” never goes wrong, as the learner doesn’t need to imagine what wordy descriptions actually mean.

KNOWLEDGE CHECKS: We learn best by testing ourselves continuously. Nano Learning modules that have regular Assessment (be it simple MCQ or Open-ended screens) do this effectively. The learner reinforces his/her learning, and there’s good data for L&D managers.

Create Effective Training now!

We trust these short tips helps you the L&D manager and trainer to create more effective training through Nano Learning — to supplement your workplace learning programmes.

Remember, crafting effective training requires more than mindlessly chopping up 100-slide Powerpoints into 15-minute bits.

Put thought into the pedagogical approach we suggested, and let’s all create better training for our teams.


Creating effective training for your teams, self-service, with ArcLab Pro is always free. Start now.

For more help or are resource-constrained, get in touch with us for ArcLab Enterprise, where our Instructional Designers can work with you to help craft your content into effective training. Reach out now.

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Why

The Grades Matter

The Grades Matter

There is chatter about how grades don’t matter; that perhaps we should move away from awarding marks and grades to our learners. This has been raised in Singapore where we are based, and some other economies.

Critics point to Finland’s much-lauded education system, where the focus centres on learning how to learn, rather than marks and grades. Students in Finland go through a comprehensive academic programme that encourages curiosity, lateral thinking and life skills. A culture of lifelong learning continues throughout adult life, as the individual graduates into the workplace.

Yet ignoring grades misses the point, as GRADES DO MATTER.

But perhaps not in the way that we use them now.

Grades are FEEDBACK

Grades give feedback to the learner and feedback to the educator.

As a Learner: When I do badly on a test or assessment, it is feedback to me that I did not understand the material well enough. I should go through the material again, maybe seek help from my teacher or trainer. Perhaps I should work harder. Maybe I should give up and look for something else that I am better in.

As an Educator: If the entire cohort does badly for a test, it is feedback to me that perhaps I should relook at the parts that everyone did poorly for. Maybe I should think about covering certain concepts again, think of a different way to explain this part of the material that many in the class/course did not seem to understand.

It’s no different from sports, where week-in, week-out, athletes and teams compete for a good ‘grade’, which is to beat the opponent. Better sides (like Tottenham Hotspur 😊) win in style, though there’s no bonus grade for exciting play.


Olympic champ Joseph Schooling got an excellent ‘grade’ at the 2016 Olympics. He did poorly in 2017 before working hard to improve his 2018 ‘grade’ at the Asian Games, inspiring kids like the author’s daughter (pictured) in the process | Photo: James

Singaporean son Joseph Schooling won the 100m Butterfly gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. He worked hard for his excellent ‘grade’. He turned in the hours, honed his talent through good honest hard work, and swam faster than everyone else.

Joseph’s 2017 ‘grades’ weren’t stellar, with a poor NCAA showing and finishing only 3rd at the World Championships in his pet 100m fly. By Joseph’s own admission, he had put in less than half his pre-Olympic training. It showed in his ‘grade’.

But the poor ‘grade’ was feedback to Joseph, who went back to training hard. The results showed, as he routed the field (which included world-class Chinese, Japanese and Korean swimmers) to win 2 Asian Game gold medals in 2018. His work is not yet done, as he hunkers down for the next World Championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Joseph Schooling responded to his 2017 ‘bad grades’, worked hard, and got back to the top step of the podium.

A world without grades?

Now imagine a sporting world with no gold medals. No silver, no bronze. Participation certificates at the Olympics; every athlete returns with the same certificate.

Imagine if the English Premier League doesn’t keep score, and there are no winners and losers. That FIFA gives every World Cup team the same medal. Just for showing up.

Hardly the real world, is it?

The real world doesn’t give us participation prizes just for showing up. The real world gives us grades — constant feedback, whether we like it or not.

CEOs are graded by their ability to strategise, execute and deliver performance. Politicians by their ability to serve the citizenry. Fund managers by their ability to earn above-market returns. Carpenters by the quality of their furniture. Software engineers by the ability to ship working code. Movie Directors by the reception of their movies. Startups by their ability to turn product into business. Each and every one of us by our ability to do our job.

We cannot escape the reality that performance matters. The ‘grades’ we get through the metrics we define and are defined for us, are the feedback to us to keep doing what is working, and to change tack when something’s not turning out so well.

Those who respond to this feedback well, would hopefully turn in better performance (and ‘grades’) at the next opportunity. They should be rewarded more than the ones who did not respond to the feedback.

So it is facetious to tell our children that grades do not matter. Because in so doing, we are not preparing them for life.

Grades SHOULD NOT BE JUDGMENT

The issue with grades right now is how we view them, and how we use them.

Grades DO matter, but grades are not THE ONLY THING that matters.

Singaporeans gripe about the Primary School Leaving Examination (“PSLE”). Currently, each student taking the PSLE is awarded a numerical T-score. This score determines the Secondary school that the student is eligible to enter, as admission is primarily based on the scores of those applying. So the PSLE grade is a first-cut filtering tool.

Singapore’s Ministry of Education recently tweaked the PSLE ever so slightly, where from 2021 onwards, students are not awarded a numerical score but instead are given a grade banding.

It’s a start, but doesn’t go far enough. Now students aren’t sieved down to the individual point, but to the individual grade band.

The primary issue for me and many who think Singapore can do better, is the PSLE is still perceived as a single high-stakes examination.

Do well at the PSLE, enter a top secondary school, and your academic journey (and perhaps career) is laid out for you. Do poorly at the PSLE, and you’re routed to technical education, and the road ahead becomes bumpier than the other kid (though “there are still many paths to success”).

It may or may not be true, but sometimes perception shapes reality. And parents have to bear a large part of this responsibility.

What is worse is this warped mindset sometimes carries over to the workplace and shapes hiring practices. And the fixation on grades carries on…

Which is wrong. Good grades should not give a free pass to the learner that one is set for life, nor should bad grades condemn one to failure forever.

For what if I was just a late bloomer? And what if I was always good at something else?

How do we do better?

  1. Grading right.

Albert Einstein said, “If you judge a fish by how well it climbs a tree, it will spend its whole life feeling stupid”.

If we take grades for what they are, which is feedback, then the challenge for education policy-makers is how to design grading systems that are appropriate for learners-in-question.

There’s good progress being made already, as education systems are becoming more flexible, with different tracks of learning for different types of learners. But more needs to be done.

This is true for academic learning, as well as learning in the workplace. At work, HR practitioners and line managers need to define the right metrics to ‘grade’ staff. Ultimately it needs to translate to business goals (which staff help organisations to achieve).

In the workplace learning arena where ArcLab operates, we encourage organisations to break training content down into modular pieces, or Nano Learning.

This allows staff to learn in bite-sizes, on-demand. The ‘grades’ given at the end of each learning module is specific to the single learning objective that HR, L&D and line managers have defined together. The employee (and the organisation) knows straightaway whether he/she ‘gets’ the material or not, and how to apply it towards his/her job role.

The ‘grade’ has become what it’s meant to be — feedback.

2. Giving room to fail. Really.

Just as Baseball players get 3 swings before striking out, Racket players get 2 chances at a serve, we can shape our learning systems to give our learners room to fail.

If at first you don’t succeed, Try Again | Photo: ArcLab

There is a common saying in the military — we sweat more during training, so that we bleed less during war.

Learning should be a ‘low-stakes’ environment to make mistakes.

That’s why every Nano Learning module we empower organisations to create has a “Try Again” button.

In so doing, someone who hasn’t grasped the material, or hasn’t mastered it to his/her standards, always has the option to re-visit it.

Repeated tries are also a proxy indicator to the organisation about the individual’s effort and endeavour, that this individual doesn’t give up.


I have only skimmed the surface of ‘The Grades Matter’, where the current downsides negatively affects both academic students and workplace learners.

Grades DO matter — as FEEDBACK to the learner and the teacher/trainer. Feedback on what has been learnt and done well, and what hasn’t.

If we adopt this “Grades-as-Feedback” mindset, we can not only work together to define grading systems that can more appropriately measure learning, and also help those that don’t do well try again.

This needs everyone to play our part: Educators, Parents, Employers, Government and Individuals.

For one bad grade should never doom one to a lifetime of failure.

That — we at ArcLab will never accept.

Categories
Why

Size Matters

Size Matters

Interactive Nano* Learning is small but POWERFUL learning.

(*Nano: 1 billionth (1/1000,000,000) a.k.a. bite-sized, digestible, very small)

NanoLearning: small but POWERFUL learning | Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

In this Age of Digital Disruption, organisations need to keep employees’ knowledge and skills current.

For all of us, continuous retraining and upskilling is no longer optional. Not doing so puts us all at risk of our jobs being made obsolete and us being made redundant.

Two key factors have major implications for the way we conduct training in the workplace today, or educate our children in school for that matter.

  1. Knowledge gets outdated much more quickly today.
  2. Our attention spans now average 8 seconds (FYI the average goldfish’s is 9 seconds).

It is ineffective to have 3-hour lectures, where a trainer stands in front of the class and lectures without break, or learners doing anything ‘interactive’.

This is especially true for millennial learners, who no longer have deep fixated attention spans. Instead, millennials “multi-task”, where attention is divided amongst many concurrent activities (aside: our brains don’t actually focus on many different things at the SAME time, but rather, SWITCH between different areas of focus — more on this in a future piece).

It’s also questionable if one-way content delivery in training settings adds much value since there’s already so much knowledge and content that is readily-accessible on the web by learners. In fact, the proliferation of web and digital media also makes it harder to get learners’ attention.

When the ‘competition’ is the latest superhero movie or hit mobile game, the teaching & training profession has its work cut out, to design and deliver knowledge in a manner that at least captures learners’ attention (for those 8 seconds anyway), and more importantly, effect the learning.

There is a better way:

We’re talking about NANO learning: bite-sized, digestible, on-demand learning.

Effective learning.

2 quick points:

  1. Learning in short bursts is not new. For example, the Israeli army, on recommendation by Daniel Kahneman (of “Prospect Theory” fame in collaboration with Amos Tversky), converted the training of tank drivers from a series of 2-hour sessions to 30-minute bursts, during the 1970s Yom Kippur War. This helped tank drivers get educated more quickly and effectively, and reduced war fatalities.
  2. We’re not advocating that trainers and educators do nothing more beyond break down 3-hour lectures into 5 minute chunks — lock, stock and barrel. Nano Learning is more than simply putting a shrink ray gun on a classroom lesson and nothing else.

Nano Learning is a PEDAGOGICAL FRAMEWORK where we work through the entire content base and think hard how to package it into bite-sized, interactive modules that best help the learner understand and absorb the content and learning points.

We’ll talk more about the science and pedagogical aspects in a subsequent post, but first let’s think about how we can operationalise Interactive Nano Learning for our organisations.

How do we start?

So, what does an organisation’s Learning & Development team need to do, to put this in practice?

  1. Start Small (pun intended) — Rather than propose an institution-wide overhaul, start by securing the support of a small group of stakeholders, and use it to get corporate leaders’ buy-in.
  2. Involve the TRAINER — Interactive Nano Learning never REPLACES the trainer & the educator, and we should work with in-house (or external) trainers to repackage learning content into a series of bite-sizes. Remember that the human brain works well with packs of threes, so that might be a good number to reach for, to keep training digestible, and show a progression path.
  3. Reach the LEARNER — The average person today touches his/her phone more than 2600 times per day. So embrace technology that can help to deliver your training content TO YOUR LEARNER. Hence, a digital platform might be your best bet.

Ultimately, it is all about letting our data guide us. Does this new form of nano learning help deliver content in a better way?

Hence, it’s important that we set very specific milestones and desired end-outcomes, so that we can measure effectiveness, which will help us secure buy-in to extend the framework to more parts of our organisations.

A good way to start may simply be to take 1 specific training module, like a new-employee onboarding programme, and break it down into a bite-sized format.

This Nano Learning format can be sent to the new hire ahead of them joining your company, and contain key information that they need to know: Start date, who to report to, dress code (if any), things to bring/prepare for etc.

Then when your new employee shows up on Day 1, they at least have some knowledge in their minds, and helps ease them into the new environment.

Talent is the most important resource that every organisation has.

It takes time, effort and costs to search, interview, recruit and hire every new team member. If employees leave because they feel they are not being trained properly, the re-hiring for the role hurts the cost by explicitly adding to firm hiring costs, and implicitly by dampening morale (and increasing workloads) of team-mates who stay.

So it’s in every organisation’s interest to train employees properly all throughout their journey with the firm.

Interactive Nano Learning can be a big help in making this training bite-sized and on-demand, better delivering the requisite content and skills to members of your team.

Don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself…


p/s: We’re excited to let you know that WE HAVE LAUNCHED ARCLAB PRO!

ArcLab Pro is a Software-as-a-Service web tool and platform that empowers organisations to build Interactive Nano Learning modules that can be easily distributed to teams to help them onboard and upskill.

ArcLab Pro provides easy-use templates, learner analytics, everything you need to effectively train your team with Interactive Nano Learning. There’s no software to download or install, no lock-in periods, no minimum number of learners.

Simply sign up, and start creating and investing in your team TODAY!

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Why

“Many Paths to Success” — Walking the Talk

“Many Paths to Success” — Walking the Talk

with advice & contributions from Huang Shao-Ning, Co-founder of AngelCentral & JobsCentral (any errors are James’)

Is there only one road? | Photo by Sean Pollock on Unsplash

A seasoned mid-career professional in her 40s recounted her recent experience applying to a few Public Sector roles in Singapore. To her surprise (and dismay), the hiring organisations requested for her educational qualifications all the way back to her GCE O-Levels. Without this information, she could not submit her job application.

Juxtapose this anecdote against the Singapore’s government’s exhortation to continually upskill and keep our knowledge current. The official message to employers and society (which we agree with):

Don’t view academic qualifications as the marker of success, embrace lifelong learning, be open to new career possibilities and opportunities that may come our way.

So the same government pushing citizens to move away from sole reliance on academic qualifications, still asks for these very qualifications when recruiting for public sector positions. It is especially strange that academic grades are still required in an application process for a mid-career position.

Returning to my anecdote, that mid-career individual’s O-Level results has zero bearing on her career performance, where she has proved her mettle through her 20 years of work experience. So there should be no reason for the job portals in question to demand this information as a mandatory submission. Importantly, getting that applicant’s O-Level results will not help the recruiter from assessing the applicant’s suitability for the position.

There are 2 ways to view this:

  1. A trivial IT implementation issue, which can be fixed easily with a line of code to make the request for academic grades non-mandatory.
  2. Part of a bigger public sector mindset-change issue, and needs to be addressed at its roots.

If we take the second view, then Public Sector hiring stakeholders should work together to remedy it more holistically.

The Public Sector is a large ship that takes some time to change course. While political and public sector leaders make the big-picture pronouncements, it takes time for that change to filter downwards and operationalised. Realistically, hiring frameworks and systems need some more time to be adjusted.

Yet adjust it must, and we offer several suggestions for Public Sector employers (and employers in general) to consider, to speed up this change.


“Papers, please” | Photo by Bernard Tuck on Unsplash

“Papers, please”: A genuine rethink from a recruitment perspective

What is the best way to assess the suitability of job applicants?

  1. Never use grades as a non-negotiable filtering tool for prospective candidates.

One of us previously helped with a Public Sector project to to review post-graduate scholarship applicants. There was a particular candidate whom we assessed to be a poor fit for the scholarship programme (among other drawbacks, he was unable to speak nor articulate his views clearly). Yet the Public Sector body requested to “upgrade” him to a pass, SIMPLY BECAUSE he had a Degree with First Class Honours.

There ARE valid reasons for academic qualifications to be provided for specific jobs, e.g. medicine, accounting, professional engineering, especially for entry-level or early-career positions. In such situations, paper qualifications are useful as a minimum standard to prove basic technical competency.

In other contexts, e.g. roles where more analytical skills or communication skills are required, academic qualifications or grades are hardly useful to assess candidates’ suitability.

2. Make a more considered effort to PROPERLY PROFILE job requirements.

Employers (both Public & Private Sector) can start by quantifying the hard skills required for the role but also design better filtering mechanisms to assess candidates on the soft skills needed to execute the role effectively, e.g. a well-designed questionnaire or work-tests to suss out values / aptitudes that current top performers of the role possesses and hire following that pattern.

Work-trials (which our firm uses) are also a good alternative way for Employers to assess candidates’ competency and softer skills, such as communication skills and teamwork. Work-trials provide the same opportunity to the job applicant to assess suitability of the Employer and their comfort in working with potential colleagues.

WE HAVE SUGGESTED AN IDEAL SCENARIO.

The above will take skill, effort and courage(!) to translate into hiring frameworks. There will also need to be periodic reviews since skillset requirements change over time. One key challenge is how to quantify and effectively communicate the soft skills and “x-factor” required for a role into an advertised job description, and craft it into an interview / assessment framework.

So for a start, a lower-hanging fruit would be effectively quantifying the hard skills required for the role, and work with that as a baseline.

We are conscious that it will take more effort by Employers to operationalise these frameworks (we are Employers ourselves), but we believe the initial hard work will outweigh the time and re-hiring costs to the company of hiring the wrong person for the job, where costs include time wasted from staff turnover and the subsequent re-hiring needed.

In the long run, the hiring organisation wins as it will truly be hiring based on skills profile, resulting in better job hires and benefitting the organisation financially. This contrasts against the usual broad-brush academic qualifications and grades filter of job applicants, which gives the Employer little insight into competency.

Importantly, a move away from a blanket focus on paper qualifications puts the brakes on our country’s systematic discrimination against late-bloomers who may not do so well in the early years of their academic journey. It will also stop the relentless paper chase for academic qualifications’ sake.

There are many stories in industry (which both of us face as Employers) of polytechnic graduates “obsessed” to get a degree after one to two years of working and saving up. This phenomenon may serve to translate to a vicious cycle of more re-hiring and re-training costs for Employers. Such an obsession to get a Government-recognised degree at times could also sometimes totally blinker polytechnic graduates in their career planning, inadvertently leading to poor financial outcomes.

We recall the example of an ex-staff (fresh polytechnic graduate), who after one year of working with the firm, was accepted into a local university to read Electronic Engineering. This individual was working with us as a designer, and was in fact a very good one! However, for the sake of the “paper with the logo of a local university”, he suppressed his own professional and career interests and took on a student loan to do the engineering degree which was not in line with his interest at all. He gave up after one year and enrolled himself into a private university to study a creative discipline that was closer to his real interests. This individual wasted time and money, all for the (misguided) pursuit of a University Degree for its own sake.

The sad truth is that it was perfectly rational for the above-mentioned polytechnic graduate to “aspire” towards a University Degree.

For an employee-track career (unlike in entrepreneurship), university graduates have consistently advanced faster and higher than polytechnic graduates, and their salaries have grown more quickly. So these point towards getting “that University Degree”, because every Employer looks out for it, and reward those who possess them.

The media sometimes profiles non-graduates that have done well in their careers, e.g. the recent story of non-graduate school principals. Sadly, these stories only serve as the exceptions that prove the rule.

There are not yet any CONSISTENT examples of non-graduates rising to leadership roles in the Public Sector or professional corporate sphere (unlike in the business world where there are consistently a higher percentage of high-performing non-graduate entrepreneurs).

We look forward to the day where non-graduates in leadership roles are no longer newsworthy.

Lifelong Learning; Verified Credentials | Photo by Wadi Lissa on Unsplash

Lifelong Learning

The other side of the coin is improving the skills-base of job-seekers. To that end, our SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore public agencies have rolled out a plethora of schemes that promote the continued improvement of indviduals’ skills to remain employable.

Flagship programme SkillsFuture was launched as a national lifelong learning movement to provide Singaporeans with the (quote) “opportunity to develop ourselves to the fullest, achieving skills competency and mastery”. The programme is intended to tangentially complement our traditionally rigourous (and perhaps ruthlessly efficient) academic education framework.

As of Feb 2018, ~300,000 individuals have utilised their SkillsFuture Credits for upskilling courses. So from a numbers perspective, there IS take-up, especially in infocomm technology (according to the Agency), which represents the jobs of the future, and which our economy lacks in our talent base.

From a scan of new programmes being offered by our tertiary and vocational learning institutions, the direction appears to be right. But only time will tell.

For now, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of SkillsFuture, as this will need more years of data. We will need to track end-outcomes, i.e. are employers now able to find the right fit of talent, and in sufficient numbers, to meet workplace needs, even as the advent of new technologies create new “industries” like e/m-commerce and fintech. These have required new skills and created demand for certain jobs, even as they in parallel create labour-efficiencies and reduce demand for other jobs, often structurally.

I believe that more thoughtfully-curated learning paths are required to train deeply-competent professionals in all disciplines. These will presumably need to be effected in collaboration with our tertiary institutions, which should be like the US or Israeli institutions that do not preclude non-alumni from participating.

We caution that SkillsFuture must not become a marketplace of entry-level courses, or we risk never being able to produce an adequately high-value and highly-trained workforce.

Nano-Credentials: Adding a Skills-based alternative / complement

As outlined, there are strong calls for a Skills-based framework to complement or serve as an alternative to academic qualifications. We believe this can be framed into a coherent accreditation framework, which we coin “Nano-credentials

On this front, Singapore has its Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) which recognises skills and competencies of participants in approved training programmes.

There are also competing disparate verticals. For example, individual industries and associations may also provide their own form of accreditation. Tracking and recognition of such training and competency is less straightforward. Learners may also have to justify the courses undertaken to current or would-be employers.

Since no-one is presumably “ashamed” of our qualifications, I question if is there a better way to track and populate ALL our qualifications, achievements, skills into a “central database” for individual to “allow access” to selected parties, e.g. totally public, or only to companies one applies to for jobs etc.

In terms of tracking qualifications — should we also move away from just tracking only formal degrees and certifications, and are we able to create a centralised (or de-centralised(?)) Nano Credential framework that consolidates and maps skills that individuals have learnt from bite-sized courses which are contextual and on-demand?

I believe the answer is yes, especially as technology continues to improve. There are providers with technology that can help to coalesce and VERIFY all training and certifications centrally (or “de-centrally” — blockchain perhaps(?)).

The more able frameworks can also provide ways for individuals to assess current skills competencies and suggest upskilling pathways towards a desired goal, e.g. Head Chef at a leading hotel in 5–7 years. and work backwards from the desired end-outcome and provide recommendations to the individual.

Conclusions

Our belief is that the traditional ways of hiring are outdated. We particularly frown on the antiquated practice of would-be employers demanding for educational qualifications and grades, especially for mid-career positions.

I believe there are better ways for individuals to manage and provide their skills and qualifications to parties of THEIR choosing, through a consolidated skills assessment and accreditation framework.

The key goal that employers should aim for, and put our money and hiring decisions behind, is to hire based on skills rather than qualifications or grades. These need to be built into recruitment systems and job portals, and the philosophy OPERATIONALISED at the hiring manager level.

The Public Sector is a major employer in Singapore. Walking the talk sends a strong message to other employers and the job-seeking public that it is serious about “alternative pathways to success”.

I have faith that it can, and we’re ready to play our part.


Visit ArcLab to find out more about how we’re helping with Lifelong Learning and Skills-based hiring.

Categories
Why

INTERACTIVE nano learning

INTERACTIVE nano learning

“Tell me & I forget. Teach me & I may remember. INVOLVE me & I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

How fun to build AND learn | “A little boy playing with different colored legos” by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Singapore’s Budget 2018 Speech (where the Finance Minister announced the future increase of Goods & Services Tax to 9%) had a small section on “Support for Financial Planning”. Within it was a move to “pilot a new financial education curriculum” at Singapore’s Polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education.

Financial Education (#FinEd) was the origins of Oikonopolis, a SimCity-esque learning game that taught teenagers Economics and Personal Finance – created by my first startup, Innervative, in 2013. We made mistakes (being business newbies) in the running of Innervative, but Oikonopolis’ product cycle and startup journey was a great learning experience.


I co-founded ArcLab in 2018, drawing on lessons from the Oikonopolis product journey to build a full-fledged EduTech business. ArcLab adopted 3 key principles as we designed and developed our learning product:

1. Learning must be ENGAGING

We need our learners to be engaged in the experience that the product delivers. Otherwise there is no opportunity for any content to be conveyed, meaning there is no learning. A recent IPSOS study revealed that 90% of US employees emphasised the importance of engagement in learning.

2. Learning must be EFFICIENT

With the average human attention span these days under 8 seconds, the learning process in our product can’t be draggy. If not, we lose our learners to distractions like binge-watching movies, or the latest kitten Youtube video.

(More on efficient learning in my next piece: “Size Matters”).

3. Learning must be EFFECTIVE

Most. Critical. Aspect.

The key metrics of learning products are not the number of downloads or active users.

Instead, the most important metric whether learners have learnt what they’re meant to, by design (or even not by design). Otherwise, nothing else matters.

What’s the most effective way to help me learn? | Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

Effective Learning

How do we measure a product’s learning effectiveness? Simply put, it’s to assess whether the learner meets learning outcomes.

Take the field of game-based learning.

One of games’ key benefits is the ability to engage its players; many of us recall childhoods where countless hours were spent playing video games.

For years, educators have tried to leverage the power of games to help students learn.

Will coating the broccoli with chocolate make a difference? | Photo by FOODISM360 on Unsplash

Game-based learning has often been thrown into disrepute by what is termed “chocolate-coated broccoli”.

E.g., some “edu-games” (a misnomer) might make learners do math problem sums to unlock a game “entertainment level”.

Ultimately, learners are still doing problem sums (“eating broccoli”), and the game is totally redundant in the learning process.

Such games do nothing to promote learning through game mechanics. The game has no need to exist.

I advise all educators to avoid adopting such “chocolate-coated broccoli” games unless the educator’s intent is solely to promote “engagement”.

A digital worksheet does nothing to improve learning, if the original pedagogy wasn’t effective in the first place.

We find that the key to making learning effective, is getting students involved in actually doing something interesting that is related to the topic. This should be built into the design mechanics of the learning product — so the learning is intrinsic through participating in the activity.

INTERACTIVE Learning

The learner’s interaction with the learning tool (as opposed to passively listening to a lecture or watching a Youtube “educational” video) — becomes an important part of the pedagogy — for the learner to internalise the lesson or concept taught.

Slice Fractions | UluLab

Take Math: A good example is the learning game “Slice Fractions” (by UluLab), which brings learners through a prehistoric game world. Through clever use of slicing lava and ice (SLICE Fractions, geddit? =), the learning game introduces them to the relatively abstract and cerebral concept of parts of a whole, aka fractions. A truly effective learning game. See the results for yourself!

Arctopia: Bryan Gets FinEd | Innervative

Or Financial Literacy: Arctopia: Bryan Gets FinEd (FINancial EDucation) by Innervative lets the learner make financial decisions while throwing them life’s curve balls. It makes the learning realistic and the lessons immediately contextually applicable to the learner. Yay for financial goal-setting; nay to impulse buying!

These are just 2 examples where well designed pedagogy is applied into an interactive product, and successfully takes the learner through the journey and helps them internalise the learning.

I also need to stress the importance of the EDUCATOR, who takes on the role of facilitator and helps the learners make meaning of what they have just experienced.

These learning games (and more) are available on TeacherGaming Desk, EduTech visionaries from Finland, whom Innervative was pleased to collaborate (and whose founders I have become friends) with. #SinFin =)

https://www.teachergaming.com

“INVOLVE me & I learn”

We encourage all educators and workplace trainers to think about how best to involve your learners as they go through the learning process, and how to make them learn interactively.

Ultimately, this interactivity concretises the learning for them, helping them to learn better and makes your job easier too.

This is true whether you are an academic teacher, or a workplace educator.

We’ll end with a short story of how Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, learns. Salman believes in “mastery learning”, spending hours to:

(i) observe the subject (and master) in practice,

(ii) read about the subject,

(iii) talk to other experts,

(iv) solve problems on the subject and work on projects

(iv) think and ponder more questions and solutions,

(v) consult experts again.

He repeats these until he “gets it”, and internalises the concept.

This is interactive learning at its core: Act -> Learn -> Think -> Apply

That’s how we (and you) make learning effective.


Stayed tuned for my next piece on “interactive NANO learning”.

p/s: We’re excited to let you know that WE HAVE LAUNCHED ARCLAB PRO!

ArcLab Pro is a Software-as-a-Service web tool and platform that empowers organisations to build Interactive Nano Learning modules that can be easily distributed to teams to help them onboard and upskill.

ArcLab Pro provides easy-use templates, learner analytics, everything you need to effectively train your team with Nano Learning. There’s no software to download or install, no lock-in periods, no minimum number of learners. Simply sign up, and start building and investing in your team TODAY!

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Why

How to win a 100m race when starting 90m behind everyone

How to win a 100m race when starting 90m behind everyone

12th August 2016 was a proud day for The Little Red Dot. Singapore’s Joseph Schooling made history at the Rio Olympics, winning our first-ever Olympic gold medal.

Schooling won the Men’s 100m Olympic Butterfly Final in an Olympic record time of 50.39 seconds, beating world-class swimmers including swim legend Michael Phelps — the most-decorated-Olympian. Ever.

The Same Starting Line

Schooling’s win was the result of years of dedication and hard work, not to mention sacrifices by his parents and supporters. His training honed his innate talent and skill, and made him stronger and faster, culminating in his (hopefully 1st of many) Olympic triumph.

Yet despite all his effort, if Schooling had swum the race where his competitors were given a 10-second or 10-metre headstart, it’s unlikely he would have prevailed. Neither would he have won if his competitors were given motorised fins attached to their feet and Schooling was forced to swim with a weight tied to his waist.

Schooling won his Olympic gold medal in a FAIR RACE, where every competitor started at the same time (barring time differences reacting to the starter’s horn), swam the same course length, with no extra tools except what they were born with, and honed through training.

They say Life is a Race

Unlike in sports, we don’t start life at the same starting line, nor run our race with the same resources. Some have more to work with, or “privilege”, which can help them run faster and further, and get higher in life.

This theme is not new but has recently taken hold of public consciousness again, in the US as well as Singapore.

Scions of the well-heeled and well-connected mostly continue to do better than their peers (should they even be considered peers?). Realist theory dictates that players in power can rewrite rules of play to continue favouring offspring and descendants, and preserving the status quo. It’s a virtuous cycle for those at the top, and a vicious cycle for those at the bottom.

Of course, while we should not ask for equality of outcomes, most of us believe in equality of opportunity. But the truth is opportunity is not equal.

Privilege entrenches privilege?

I grew up being taught that one’s standing in life wasn’t fixed or pre-determined. Many friends and people I know had humble family circumstances, yet went on to good careers in corporate, civil service, the military. Some founded start-ups, pursued academia, sport or music, became top engineers, scientists, lawyers…

The most remarkable story is that of a chap I met while working in London – a managing director of an investment bank covering our account (I was the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s London-based Portfolio Manager) — with the humblest of beginnings — he was the son of an African goat-herder, did well in school, worked hard, got a job in London, and rose the corporate ranks.

The son of a goat-herder!

In my simplistic view, so what if we don’t start at the same starting line? We can still run fast and go far. Sometimes faster and further than someone starting further ahead.

I simplistically thought it was all about choices. Luck plays a part, but in general we could improve our standing in life, if we only made GOOD CHOICES. We could make the choice to study harder, work longer, harder, smarter, “network” more… We could be anything we want in life that we set our hearts on, and we had the same opportunities as those higher up the ladder — the essence of the Singaporean / American / {insert country} Dream.

I had several impassion-ed arguments with the missus on this, who told me (in nicer language) I was a fool to believe that everyone CAN make GOOD CHOICES to progress in life, that the same opportunities were open to everyone.

The reality she wanted me to see is not everyone has the OPPORTUNITY to make good choices.

I’d like to have the opportunities to make the same choices you make too. | Photo by Jessica Mulder on Unsplash

Children in the 3rd-world have nowhere near the same opportunity to make the same choices as children in privileged Singapore.

But I kept thinking back to the goat-herder’s son… and what about that Kenyan’s son who became US President? Or the English teacher who couldn’t get a KFC job and now runs one of the world’ largest companies?

A Mile in their Shoes

I’ve since realised that I, and probably many others did not have enough awareness of the specific situations people “without privilege” faced. Often, there is judgment that one struggled in life because one made bad choices. We frame their situations through the lenses of our own VERY different experiences and contexts.

This judgment borders on arrogance, perhaps elitism as a result of having gone to different schools, and living within very different social strata. These all goes to further entrench the differences that are dividing our societies within and without.


I’d spent the last couple of years volunteering with Edugrow for Brighter Tomorrows, an early intervention programme for children from lower-income families, ably administered by the big-hearted people of Life Community Services Society and WeCare @ Marine Parade.

Edugrow is not a pro-bono tuition agency. Instead, it aims to work through mentors to help these children build aspirations, character and important life skills like financial literacy. One of the programme’s key objectives is to brighten and magnify the dreams of these young ones, to bring them beyond their present surroundings which may not be too uplifting.

Through Edugrow, I got to know a young boy (let’s call him “H”), with whom I spend 1–2 hours with every Monday evening.

It was hard in the beginning. One job hazard of being a founder is the tendency to view everything as “problems to solve”. I had pigeon-holed my mentoring of H in that framework and perhaps got a bit too analytical about his family background, problems he was facing in school, why the current intervention activities he joined may not be helping etc. I chaffed (internally) at his academic performance, school attendance issues, staying up late playing computer games, why he was eating dinner so late, why he spent all his money on snacks, why he wasn’t doing his homework etc.

While my intentions were good, I had framed the situation within MY OWN context. Even though I did not express my negativity (I hope), I had inadvertently adopted a judgmental mindset, which surely wasn’t benefiting H.

I realised later I had missed the point of what I was there for. My “brief” is not to tutor H or solve his problems. It’s simply to be his friend.

H was not a problem to “fix”.

H is a PERSON, a genuinely nice boy, whose first thought always went out to his family whenever he received something nice, a responsible kid who helped his mum take care of his younger siblings when she was at work, who was always carefree and positive, always smiling (even though he was often distracted — but then again who isn’t these days).

H had severe family constraints, not of his own doing. He had to help cook dinner, he had to take care of his younger siblings, he had to juggle many things. H was mostly doing the best he could, with the knowledge and resources he had. He did not have the OPPORTUNITY to make what in my opinion were the “good choices”.

May I walk with you and not judge you? | Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

I have since come to enjoy my time with H a lot more, and hopefully am now able to be a better influence.

When we meet, H and I often cycle (his choice), chatting while we ride. He’s started to open up about issues he faces, what he is thinking about, and I am honoured that he is choosing to share them with me.

I try not to “offer advice”, but to just nod and ask questions, and hopefully help him to figure out his own way. As part of our mentoring training, we were taught how to encourage the kids we work with to talk, and turn problems brought out into brainstorming sessions where they provide THEIR OWN answers. It is a mindset shaping move. After we manage to do this a few times, we will hopefully be able to internalise this within the kids.

The next step is to scale up ambitions: If the ambition is to be a cook, could (s)he think about what type of cuisine, what skills to learn and master, how to progress, so that there are no dead-end paths and vicious cycles downwards.

The journey is still in its infancy. But I am walking it with H with a much more positive viewfinder. Hopefully he allows me to walk with him for a long time more, and I am helping in some small way.


Is Education still the “Leveller”?

I look at this from 2 angles:

1. Education for the “privileged”

The most fundamental thing to be educated is the fact that one is “privileged”, and others are not. If you have that realisation and want to help bridge the gap, you should first also understand the very different contexts that people who are very unlike you face.

A good way is to help out in programmes like Edugrow, and importantly, not be judgmental.

There are many other organisations that do good work that you can help. Googling should help you find those in your local area, though I’d like to mention 3 in Singapore that I’m personally aware of:

(i) CampVision — Empowerer of marginalised youth, founded by a superwoman who is a Hunter of Heads in her day job, and Shaper of Minds the rest of the time.

(ii) EDIS Cares — CSR initiative that works with underprivileged children, and is advised by another superwoman (exited founder, now angel investor, and mother of 4[!])

(iii) Advocaid — Platform that advocates for those in need through crowdfunding. Founded by a Professor who knows the swimming analogy above very well.

Go to their websites and see if something fits what you can contribute. The easiest thing to do is “click donate”, but if you are able to, please also think about donating time and skill.

If you’re unable to volunteer, at least educate yourself in the contexts our underprivileged friends face, and why making “good choices” (in conventional terms) can sometimes be very hard.

Simulations like Spent are great for adults to learn this, while learning games like Life of Bryan ( iOS & Android) can help privileged children understand the lives of those not as fortunate as them.

And hopefully there might be a future opportunity to help when your schedule opens up.

2. Education for the marginalised

They say education is the greatest leveller. But traditional education systems and methods often do not work for those at the very bottom, for various reasons which I will talk about in a future piece.

Hence, at an organisation level, we have been researching a better way to deliver skills-based education and training to those most in need.

Can we EFFECTIVELY combine education, tech and HEART to uplift lives at scale? | ArcLab

Our work is still in its early stages, but we are thinking about ways to best use our Nano Learning methodology (bite-sized, on-demand, just-in-time digital learning) — currently being used in the workplace, to help the less privileged.

Our work has 3 prongs:

(i) Researching and refining our Pedagogy to best teach the skills that are needed, in the most effective and time-efficient ways (Fact 1: average attention-span now <8 secs).

(ii) Improving our Technology, to make it easy to self-serve content creation for skills training and scale the reach to impact more lives, ideally in the areas of the world where skilled trainers and educators are scarce.

We will still need to lift lives face-to-face, but the omni-present smartphones can be great complementary tools (Fact 2: the average person touches his/her phone >2000 times a day).

(iii) More importantly, finding the Partners to work with to uplift lives, at scale. Let us know if you know anyone we should talk to.

Home


Back to that 100m race

I’ll end by giving MY answer to the question I posed in the title.

My answer: it is IMPOSSIBLE to win a 100m race when starting 90m behind the other competitors. Unless physics laws change, this is what I’m sticking to.

Thankfully, the race of life is not 100m. It is a much longer race, and if we remember Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, there is plenty of room to catch up even if you are disadvantaged and start further behind.

Not all hares in real life are as complacent as Aesop’s. But unlike in the fable, I believe hares can also help tortoises in the race, perhaps through some of the ways I suggest above.


Postscript: The issues touched on in this piece are complex and multi-faceted, which I only manage to skim for brevity’s sake. It is not my intent to trivialise the challenges many face, and which many are working hard to help with.

I’ll be grateful for ANY feedback and suggestions you might have on how I can better help, or how we could work together to further the cause. Please reach out at james@arclab.io. Thank you.

Categories
Why

Learning in the age of Star Wars

Learning in the age of Star Wars

Star Wars fans all over the world eagerly await The Last Jedi. It’s an extreme vision of the frontiers of technology, though science fiction sometimes does lead to science fact.

Back on Earth, we’re seeing more drones around us, there are cars driving themselves, and many other new technologies that would fit right at home in Star Wars.

Positively, these new technologies and other innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence have potential to do much good for society.

Imagine robots doing all the work we find dangerous, dirty and/or repetitive, like that in Star Wars. Wouldn’t that make our lives better? Technology can also help us do more work with fewer workers and time, a boon as our societies age.

Phys.org

But the message that makes headlines is that of ROBOTS TAKING OUR JOBS AWAY.

While I ultimately view technology as neutral, there WILL be groups that are hurt and groups that gain.

Optimists point to the fact that with every major scientific breakthrough, society ultimately harnesses the innovations to create better (and more) jobs.

The “This Time is Different” crowd points to the increased pace of change for this particular transition, raising concerns that robots could displace many more workers much more quickly. This gives little time for the now-redundant workforce to learn new skills that the economy needs.

The person who loses his/her job due to technological innovation is NOT going to care that society overall has benefitted from the new technology. All (s)he experiences is the loss of a job and income, and uncertainty for the family’s future. The pain is felt at a PERSONAL level.


What about Learning?

The best thing to do is get prepared. Technology is a tool, and we can all learn how to use it to our advantage.

The learning can in fact be pretty fun, and accessible at all ages.

For our children, the folks at Tinkercademy teach the young (& young-at-heart) coding and electronics in a fun and relevant way.

The climax of a recent Tinkercademy coding class was a race of littleBits R2s droids to the finish line. VROOOM!!

Besides stoking “Fast & Furious” ambitions (no bad thing if properly applied), the kids learnt to use their hands and tools to build hardware, and learnt to program the software to control their R2 droids.

They mastered the technology. It became their friend.

Step 1 in preparing for life in the age of Star Wars.

What about Workplace Learning?

Learning can be fun for the working crowd too.

Crucially, it needs to be EFFECTIVE.

I was reading Star Wars from a Certain Point of View (yes, all about Star Wars here… ). The blue-boxed section is about the “e-learning” experience of officer from the Empire (the ‘bad’ guys), obviously ineffective.

 

Despite Star Wars’ technological advances, learning hasn’t quite kept pace…

It’s a reminder to us that education practices aren’t innovating enough compared to the breathtaking developments in other sectors.

That’s the irony. We are upgrading many parts of our economy, from retail to transport to finance to healthcare, with breakneck speed.

But we’re not upgrading the most important part as much or as quickly: Us, People. Human Beings.

That needs to change, and we’re working hard to help.

We’re working particularly hard to help up-skill the under-served groups of the economy: the factory worker, the F&B professional, the retail assistant, the store-clerk, the construction worker… traditional “Blue Collar” folk.

We believe that new (and newly-designed) jobs will be created in these existing industries and occupations, and their existing workforce needs the most help in up-skilling.

We’re focussing first on the efficacy of the learning, taking into account shortening attention spans, and our new on-the-go, on-demand lifestyles.

Here’s what’s in store:

Learning that is easily consume-able, effective, and not just “acknowledged” like that hapless Star Wars character I read about.

Learning that workers can access on-the-go, leads to tangibly better skills and hopefully higher pay.

Learning that is interactive, trackable and seamlessly integrated into HR practice, giving managers insight on their staff’s learning and helping them to holistically develop staff to contribute productively to business goals.

Learning that is holistic, effective, scalable and saves companies and managers time and cost.

Say hello to Learning in the Age of Star Wars.

Say hello to Interactive Nano Learning.


May the Force be with you <(-_-)>

Categories
Why

Singapore will never make the World Cup

Singapore will never make the World Cup

My brother Roy and I are part of the generation who grew up watching Malaysia Cup football at the old National Stadium. To us, the Kallang Wave was not a mall; it’s the passion of 55,000 fans.

At the old National Stadium, we cheered the 1994 Malaysia Cup winners, Singapore’s best-ever football team captained by Fandi Ahmad (still our only world-class footballer). Ranking high in our memories was the National Stadium’s greatest goal — THAT Sundram bicycle kick against Brunei. I was seated near the corner flag where Nazri delivered the cross. It was magic.

Singapore football’s greatest goal | Image credits: The New Paper

The ill-fated “Goal 2010” initiative was mooted some years later. Perhaps coincidentally, Singapore football began its downward spiral.

Today in 2017, Singapore is nowhere near the World Cup. We’re not even Southeast Asia’s best team any more. There is little joy in watching Singapore football. We’ve no more local football heroes, and struggle to fill our stadiums.

I’m no football expert, so can’t analyse what went wrong.

But the good thing about hitting rock bottom, is there’s no way to go but up.

Grassroots Football and Intrinsic Motivations

Commentators point to strong “grassroots” movement as the driving force behind the rise of Iceland and Belgium from football minnows into world beaters.

Where you would once struggle to name even 1 Belgian or Icelandic player, they are now lynchpins in top European clubs, including the Belgian trio (Vertonghen, Alderweireld & Dembele) of the mighty Tottenham Hotspur, who stand toe-to-toe with Champions League winners Real Madrid. =)

One reason for success stemming from grassroots movements is the internalisation of motivations, which propels us to work harder than if change was pushed from external sources. Everyone fights harder when it’s a change WE believe in.

We’ve not had good grassroots football in Singapore for some time.

But there are green shoots.

A “grassroots” movement of kids’ football is taking flight, ironically from a government-led start: ActiveSG Football Academy (which must rank as one of SportSG’s best initiatives). Hundreds of boys and girls train in satellite centres all over Singapore 3 times a week: learning football, teamwork, sportsmanship and discipline. Parents are involved too; some join as assistant coaches, some form their own ancillary sports activity groups. Fun and healthy, while spending time with the kids outdoors.

Grassroots Football: ActiveSG | Facebook

My daughter trained at the centre run by Malaysia Cup ’94 champion Steven Tan (how cool that Papa grew up watching “Coach Steven” as a player). I’ve no expectations she will be a professional footballer, but we will support her if it’s what she chooses.

I see the bunch of kids at training every weekend and can’t help but harbour hopes for our football future. Singapore still may not get to the World Cup, but we’ve started a movement, and our kids are better for it.

Multipliers through Upskilling Local Coaches

“Training the trainers” create multiplier effects, as great coaches spread good football techniques and life skills to ever-larger audiences of young footballers.

First Kick Academy (“FKA”) is doing just this. Their coach training programmes concentrate on training good people first, before training them to be good coaches.

FKA boss Jimmy is a former youth football player. Jimmy embraces the best coaching methods and partners with top football clubs world-wide such as Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam to import best-in-class coach training methods, infused with his own local knowledge and expertise.

ArcLab and I are big fans of Jimmy and FKA. We admire their international outlook, adoption of best-in-class methods, and embracing of technology to increase their programmes’ effectiveness and reach.

In a world where we need to keep “upskilling” ourselves, FKA is leading the charge with football coaches.

If you’ve interest to be a football coach, try FKA’s Nano Coach Profiler (which ArcLab worked with FKA to digitally embed their coaching philosophy using our nano learning tool) to see if you fit the bill. Or send it to those you think could benefit from FKA’s programme:

Singapore will never make the World Cup…

But I’m waiting for ActiveSG and First Kick Academy to prove me wrong, and look forward to the day that the Singapore Lions and Lionesses fly our national flag at the World Cup…

(And if you want to create your own Interactive Nano Learning content, it’s as easy as 1–2–3).