What is digital body language?

I’m interested in how people communicate and connect when they aren’t face to face or even communicating in real time, perhaps through an asynchronous forum or community such as Slack or Yammer.

Lori Niles-Hoffman, Chief Learning Officer at Fuse Universal, has experienced “the seismic shift from classroom to digital” in her career and this is what many professionals are dealing with – either embracing or struggling.

This is a pretty epic blog post exploring the topic in a fair amount of detail, with lots of links for you to read more.

What’s the short version?

The short version of this blog post is:

  1. Digital body language is all of the electronic stuff we do (or don’t do) online that you can analyse to understand people and what they want to do
  2. It comes from marketing, but we can, and should, apply it to L&D
  3. Face to face communication and training is changing, so we need to understand how to communicate with people differently
  4. Digital body language applies to groups, forums, enterprise social networks, social media, internal and external electronic behaviour, communities, webinars and virtual classrooms.

And here’s the long version…

What is DBL anyway?

According to Lori, it was Steve Woods who developed the term “Digital Body Language” in 2009.

Steve explains it this way on his blog:

Digital Body Language is the aggregate of all the digital activity you see from an individual. Each email that is opened or clicked, each web visit, each form, each search on Google, each referral from a social media property, and each webinar attended are part of the prospect’s digital body language.

In the same way that body language, as read by a sales person managing a deal, is an amalgamation of facial expressions, body posture, eye motions, and many other small details, digital body language is the amalgamation of all digital touchpoints.

This is a great introduction from the Clicktale e-book about customer’s body language:

Clicktale goes on in the document to say:

The same level [as face to face] of interaction and interpretation is achievable in the digital world. Every mouse move, hover, scroll, tap and pinch exposes structured behavioral patterns that determine customers’ digital body language and mindset.

Digital body language is a customer’s subconscious online behavior. Being able to interpret this digital body language is a must-have standard for the next wave of digital commerce.

Jamie Good, in his LinkedIn article, defined digital body language as:

The aggregate of an individual’s passive and active online activity

This focuses on the data generated when using computers and associated devices. It’s looking at what you click, or don’t click and a huge amount of other online measurements too. It can bring up issues of privacy and who owns the data, which Jamie’s article starts to discuss.

Also this TLDCast discussion I hosted with HT2Labs CEO Ben Betts addresses some of the opportunities and challenges with data, xAPI, Learning Record Stores (LRS), the implications of GDPR and who owns what data.

This is all very well about data from platforms and websites, but we need to think about how this can apply in learning and development.

From face to face to digital comms

There’s a lot of change in corporate communications, sales, marketing and of course the way that not only do people learn, but also how we as L&D professionals communicate with our learners.

In her eBook, Lori Niles-Hoffman highlights that:

Sales and marketing departments experienced a similar challenge [to L&D departments] when customer relationships moved from face-to-face, nurtured relationships to online transactions.

…Connections are now developed via multiple and rapid online interactions.

Building on this point, Clicktale share some HBR insight:

We are increasingly seeing this change with learning offerings: not only through an LMS (learning management system); but also online communities/groups/forums as well as digital content offerings and virtual classrooms.

In her book Lori gives the example of what digital body language analysis can enable:

DBL analysis can show which content format is most appealing and at what time of day or week the customer prefers to engage.

From a marketing point of view Lori continues to explain that:

Once the DBL of a customer is decoded, then marketing can design content and campaigns that respond to these preferences.This increases the probability of positive and ongoing engagement with the brand and company.

And we can adapt this for learning and development when we are putting together learning campaigns and digital content for people at work. To this point, Lori shares that:

This type of thinking has not yet arrived in the learning industry. Every drop-off, click, or share is a learner shouting their likes and dislikes. These actions are the eye-rolls, smiles, and arms crossed from the classroom, simply in digital format. But we are not listening.

Read more about why Lori wrote her Data-Drive Learning Design eBook here.

Problems with digital body language for learning and development

Refocusing on the L&D professional, Lori highlights that that change with technology-enabled communications and learning transactions means that:

The in-person relationship is fading. Companies are shifting to digital modalities to avoid the associated travel and accommodation costs of face-to-face delivery.

This loss for learning professionals means the inability to real-time assess the engagement of learners.

Lori confirms what many face to face trainers, facilitators, teachers and presenters are afraid of:

The opportunity to read and adapt to the body language of participants in a classroom has vanished.

With regards specifically the virtual classroom, I wrote this article for Training Journal about facilitating A Group You Cannot See and what technology features are available for interacting with and engaging your attendees.

When thinking about the data to analyse, there are challenges in how to capture it. The Granify E-Commerce Blog, in an article by Lacie Larschan, highlight that:

The usefulness of digital body language depends heavily on the granularity of data captured…and even more challenging to interpret this data.

They highlight that there are ways to overcome the challenges:

This is why recent advances in machine learning have propelled the use of digital body language in marketing and sales campaigns.

A system powered by machine learning can detect patterns that might be hidden from even the best of human analysts.

This is another reason that, whilst you as an L&D professional might not specialise in this area, an awareness of computer and data trends are important as they will impact on how we work in the future.

Opportunities for digital body language

In their research paper Data-driven Learning: A Student-centered Technique for Language Learning, Touraj Talai and Zahra Fotovatnia reference Tim Johns about Data-Driven Learning:

Johns (1988) expressed that DDL entails a shift in the role of teachers and students. In other words the teacher works as a research director and collaborator instead of transmitting information to the students directly and explicitly.

If you want more depth, you can read a bit more from Tim himself in his paper Should You Be Persuaded – Two Samples of Data-Driven Learning Materials.

This is moving into an area of potentially using technology to provide curated materials to attendees, as well as analysing their online behaviour. We are moving into looking at not only the learning intervention and the ‘session’ as it is live, but also the broad and varies social interactions that surround this.

Is this still digital body language when looking at social media and the various platforms that people use for work and learning (remembering of course that there’s huge overlap between those two).

Perhaps digital body language is a strict marketing term and in L&D we should focus on different terminology to describe further what we do. Is it “electronic body language” or “virtual body language”. Is it actually about “online communications” or “online behaviour analysis”.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter and the semantics aren’t the issue here – it’s more about understanding what we CAN include rather than exclude, and what we actually do.

What can digital body language help us do?

Community Roundtable co-founder Rachel Happe wrote on her blog about digital body language:

After years of watching people interact online it is clear to me that you can infer quite a bit about people’s unwritten intent.

Rachel goes on to give some examples, such as these based on Twitter:

  • How and when someone inserts themselves into a public conversation
  • What and who a person RTs [Re-Tweets] or shares
  • How reactive and emotional individuals are (are they quick to judge or slower to respond to good/bad news?)

This is then focusing on the behaviour of an individual, and we need to include ourselves in this – as our professional profile, business owners, learners ourselves and of course in understanding the people we are interacting with in ways other than face to face.

On the Business 2 Community website, PureMatter CEO Bryan Kramer wrote an article about mastering your digital body language and stated that:

A company’s digital body language is an assessment of the collective behavior across the Internet, including marketing initiatives and user interactions in the earned, owned and paid sectors online.

As opportunities to interact socially are growing infinitesimally, paying attention to your personal digital body language – as a representative of both your personal brand and your company brand – is becoming critical.

….When you’re able to build a digital body language that reflects your authentic personal and corporate brand, true magic happens.

Bryan goes on to share ways to shape your own digital body language, which go towards the perception of your company or professional brand. His first point is “create and share heartfelt content” in order to “be authentic in everything that you represent” and avoid seeming manufactured.

Following this line of thought, Lisa Attygalle, Director of Engagement at Tamarack, wrote that:

There is a need for community engagement to become more focused on relationship-building rather than being transactional.

…Developing an understanding of digital body language may be helpful. I thought about some digital body language cues that may be visible in typical online engagement initiatives and suggested what they may infer.

Lisa goes on to give examples such as “on Facebook, responded as ‘Interested’ (not attending) to an in-person consultation event” the inference might be that they are “interested in contributing but the timing or location of the consultation may not suit.” Lisa also makes suggestions of your responses, such as inviting people to share their story on your blog if they have already commented in social media.

Lisa’s blog post is a really valuable list of behaviours, understandings and suggested responses to help with your thinking about your community, be it in a specific platform such as our own Lightbulb Moment free virtual classroom and webinar group, or your followers on social media.

So what?

With the different ways that we communicate in business, in our working lives and as learning professionals ourselves, we all need to know a little bit about digital body language. We need to understand the personal brand we have and as part of the organisation we work for.

In our organisations we need to start thinking about what data there is already that we can analyse, what can we perhaps start to collect and what we can do with that – especially with the learning management system being an ever-changing beast and there being so much rich data outside of it’s digital walls.

When thinking about our communities of practice the digital body language analysis we can make from an admin point of view of the data, as well as what community managers and contributors can understand and interpret as invested users or individual participants are going to be part of our daily lives, if they aren’t already.

And when we come to deliver learning solutions that include social learning through discussions groups/forums, maybe MOOCs and of course virtual classrooms and webinars, we need to be able to understand what the online behaviour is of people.

In the modern working and learning world, we can’t see everybody face to face. So it’s time to face up to digital body language.

Virtual classrooms are like aeroplanes…

Mark Gilroy guest blogger for Lightbulb Moment

Webinars airlines blog

The practice of facilitating in a virtual environment is unique in so many ways. When planning a piece of virtual learning, one of the key challenges is that it can appear incredibly abstract. If you’ve never designed a piece of e-learning, webinar content or other virtual learning solutions, it can be helpful to pick a meaningful analogy to make things more concrete.

In this post we’ll be using the analogy of an airline when considering the planning, design and delivery of virtual learning.

So, if you’d like to take your seats and place your luggage into the overhead compartment, we’ll get started…

Check-in

Before boarding a plane, airlines take several steps to let you know that you’re in the right place to begin, long before you arrive at the airport. Clear, concise messages are sent out to remind all passengers about the important dates, times and location to minimise confusion. When passengers arrive on the day, there’s either an automated system or an ‘in person’ check-in to welcome you to your flight.

In the same way, it’s critical for virtual learning hosts to think about this stage of the learning process:

  • Most virtual facilitation tools have automated emails that are sent out when your participants register. Are these being sent in a timely fashion to give your participants appropriate notice?
  • Check the tone and impact of these emails – do they reflect the intended experience of your session? Are they clear and easy to understand?
  • As people arrive in your virtual ‘room’, consider verbally checking-in people by name as they arrive. If there’s anything you want them to prepare or think about before you get started – usher them in the right direction.
  • Signpost clearly when things are about to start. Some facilitators like to use a musical cue to distinguish between check-in and take-off (see below).

Pre-flight checklist

As passengers arrive on a plane, the airline team are busy working through numerous checklists to make sure that they all have a safe and smooth flight. Lists are an important part of airline protocol to ensure that processes are slick, nothing essential  gets missed, and things happen in the correct order. These are often checked by multiple people to ensure accuracy.

Similarly, with webinars and other types of virtual learning environments, it can be helpful to prepare a pre-flight checklist to work through on the day of the event, to guard against the unexpected. Be cautious of facilitating long sessions by yourself, and consider recruiting a crew to support you, including a co-pilot and technical support, to help keep everything ticking along. Potential checklist items might include:

  • Ensure any computer updates are downloaded and applied several hours before take-off.
  • Have a backup computer powered-up and ready to switch to in case anything happens mid-flight.
  • Run a test to check that your microphone/headset is working. All necessary polls/breakout rooms set-up and ready to go.

Safety announcements

As a plane is about to take-off, the hosts guide the passengers through a set of safety announcements. Where the exits are, how to fasten your seatbelt, how to blow that  funny little whistle, and so on. For frequent flyers, these are often a dull and unsurprising part of the journey, but for a first-time flyer, this is essential information.

Virtual training rooms can be a confusing and frustrating place for the uninitiated. Even for the seasoned virtual learner, different platforms can have slightly different rules and features, so ensure that some time is spent before take-off answering the following questions:

  • How do you want your passengers to interact?
  • What can people expect to see/hear during the course of this session?
  • How can people offer feedback during/after the event?
  • What are the ‘controls’ that participants can use, and how do they work?

Take-off

The doors are closed, the plane has taxied to the runway, and the flight is ready to begin. Suddenly the engines fire-up and you’re in the skies. Most of the time, this is such a smooth process that passengers rarely even notice the series of complex steps that allow this to take place.

The official start of a webinar can be a make or break situation for both the hosts and the passengers. How are you going to make it as smooth as possible to let your passengers know they’ve made the right decision to fly with you?

  • If you’re the type of facilitator who prefers a flexible, unscripted approach, consider scripting the first two to three minutes of your session. This has two positive effects: it’ll leave you feeling confident as a presenter in knowing what’s about to come next without having to wonder what to say/ask, and also will give your participants confidence that you are in control.
  • Consider recording a ‘dummy run’ and listening back to the first section of your virtual learning event. Notice, and capture, the things that work well which can be repeated in the real thing. Equally, notice the things that don’t work, so that you can try and avoid them next time round.
  • I remember after hearing myself back for the first time presenting virtually, I was struck by how the noticeable and numerous my use of words such as “um”, “right”, and “OK” were. In an audio-only broadcast these conversational ‘fillers’ really stood-out and I still work hard to try and minimise them, without sounding too robotic.
  • Occasionally, things will not go to plan on take-off. Passengers may be late, your presentation slides might appear in the wrong order, or (worse case scenario) your internet connection might cut out. Practice and plan for the eventualities that you can control, so that you can avoid panic in the heat of the moment.

In-flight entertainment

The flight has taken-off smoothly, your passengers are in their seats and engaged by everything they’ve seen and heard so far. Now, it’s time to keep them there. For short flights, a timely snack or drink help to keep everyone refreshed. For long-haul journeys, a varied selection of films, TV boxsets, and music is available, to enable passengers to entertain themselves and avoid boredom.

We’ve all sat in on webinars that are ‘broadcast only’. It’s a dull experience that invites distraction. Virtual learning is unique in that it usually takes place via a medium (your laptop, desktop, or mobile device) that is already screaming distractions at you in the shape of new emails, notifications and vibrations.

  • You may find that there is a balance to be achieved between your content and inviting learners to input their own. This will very much depend on the context of your virtual learning session, but I would suggest it’s highly unlikely that your content should take-up 100% of the airspace. Hint: if you think it should, do yourself a favour and record a video/screencast – you’ll be saving everyone a lot of time!
  • At the other end of the scale, running a live poll or Q&A session every two minutes can slow things down and create a list of questions that might never be answered in the time you have together.
  • Consider variety in your in-flight entertainment. Become familiar with the tools at your disposal so that you can select them when necessary: live chat, polling, breakout groups, whiteboards, and video feeds are just some of the popular ones. Is there anything physical and/or tactile that you can have people working on to avoid boredom with a screen?
  • Attend other people’s sessions to keep your toolkit fresh. It’s just as important to practice being a passenger as it is being the pilot.

Landing

The journey has nearly finished – it’s been a safe flight, passengers are feeling nourished with snacks and drinks, and appropriately entertained. Now, for the finale. Statistically, the most likely time for something unexpected to happen: landing the plane at your destination.

The end of a webinar is a great opportunity to re-engage and revisit the highlights of the session. A space to recap, ask questions, and share reflections before everyone goes their separate ways. An equally useful time to thank people for joining you, and to consider using some of their ‘loyalty points’ towards a future event.

  • What is the last thing you want people to be thinking/feeling/doing as their final impression of this piece of virtual learning?
  • Are any calls to action made clear?
  • Do you want to encourage people to fly with you again? Is there an opportunity to showcase a benefit of upcoming events that people may be interested in?
  • Consider scripting the final few minutes of your event so that you can ensure all bases are covered.

There we have it – a handful of parallels between running an airline and being a successful virtual facilitation ‘pilot’. There are many other areas that I haven’t included here: refuelling (managing your energy when presenting), navigation (letting passengers know where you’re headed, and how far they’ve travelled so far), baggage (ensuring the ‘journey’ isn’t weighed down with too much non-essential content). Mark GilroyPerhaps you can think of others – please do feel free to post them in the comments below.

About our guest blogger

Mark Gilroy is Managing Director of TMS Development International Ltd, a leading global provider of psychometric development tools designed to create, nurture and sustain high performing teams. Mark has a background in psychology and has been working in the L&D arena as an executive coach and team development facilitator for over a decade.

Tweets covering the LTSF17 live online learning conference session

“Making the most of your live online session” was the presentation I delivered at Learning Technologies Conference Summer Forum 2017.

Click for LTSF webinar session description

LTSF webinar session description

These are the tweets that covered my session about webinars and the virtual classroom.

Ady Howes had a 360 degree camera and recorded the session. I’ll update this page when we have a video link!

My session was one of the last of the day, against stiff competition of conference Chairman himself, Donald H Taylor, as well as 702010 God Charles Jennings! I still had a packed, sold out room though.

As Kate mentions, each conference session has a person tweeting the highlights, which was the lovely Joan Keevill.

Many thanks to @Obhi and @Designs_JoanK for their tweets.

Remember to download the paper that goes with this session.

And you can also join us for the webinar version!

Facilitator Guide for live online classroom

This is a free Lightbulb Moment resources of a blank facilitator guide, session plan, lesson plan (or whatever name you want to use!) that you may wish to use as a starting point for your live online sessions, virtual classrooms and webinars.

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Click for the Word document: facilitator-guide-blank-lightbulb-moment-jo-cook

Main facilitation section

What you can see in the main part of the document is:

  • Space for the slide thumbnail
    • Easier to update and add slides than change slide numbers
    • Easy visual reference when delivering
    • Doesn’t replace a print or screen of the slides with any detail on it that you might need
  • The facilitator column with script/information for delivery and key question points
    • It’s up to you what is right for your team in terms of the amount of ‘script’ that is on the document. Good facilitators will use this as a guide and life to their delivery
    • The questions in red help experienced facilitators highlight the important question point
  • The producer column is great for if you have someone in a host or more technical support role
    • Even if delivering content solo, I use this column to hold technical information, such as links or questions to paste into the chat window, tabs/pods to select and so on
    • You could re-purpose this column to be for co-delivery too
  • Technical and interaction notes as screen-grabbed icons of the software system
    • This makes it very quick and easy to process the input from the attendees – the chat icon tells me to say “Please type your response in chat” or the tick/check/cross/X tells me to ask for the response this way. It cuts down the need for this to be scripted
    • Ensuring that there is lots if meaningful, varied interaction will hold people’s attention and assist with their learning
  • Time on slide might seem strange to plan down to the 30 seconds – it’s not set in stone, but is an aide to know if something is a quick statement versus an interactive discussion
  • Having the elapsed time in minutes is helpful to keep on track
    • I have this in minutes and hours so that it doesn’t matter what time I start the session, I don’t have to mentally think “Oh, it says 10.27am, but today I started at 2.00pm…”

Opening pages

The first few pages contain some useful elements of design:

  1. A one page overview to help when planning initially and for trainer’s/facilitators to get a feel for the session
  2. An Adobe Connect specific table to help ensure planning and building of rooms and materials is correct
  3. The last section is a legend and icons to copy and paste into the document

Yours!

Please use this document as you see fit and update as you need to.

It would be great comment your thoughts, adaptations and changes that might help other people.

Live online learning, friend or foe? At CLC Member’s Seminar – March 2016

I was invited to the Charity Learning Consortium’s March Member’s Seminar and facilitated a session about live online learning, or virtual classroom’s. I titled the session “friend or foe” as there can be so much challenge, negativity, mindset or attitude issues when looking towards something new, especially when that involves technology.

I haven’t got any slides here to share, as it was a covnersation I facilitated that had no slides and no structure. Instead, below, I’ve captured the tweets from the session to give you a flavour and also say thank you to the kind comments that people made about my facilitation too.

If you do want some more on this subject, look on my other pages about articles, videos and recorded webinars.

Thank you to Training Journal, Tim Scott and others for their tweets.

Reflections on virtual classroom articles

This is an assignment for a course I attended and I thought I’d share my key learning points from two articles.

Key points from “Making the most of the virtual classroom

by Bob Mosher

Here’s a PDF to download if the above link is broken: More Death by Slide Deck (Jul 09)

Bob-Mosher-Article-Pic

  • Failure is due to implementation, not design of technology
  • “The design should be divided into two experiences: the learning done online during the virtual session and the learning done off-line” – this is something that is not unique to online learning, however it is perhaps ginning prevalence because of it
  • “Scripted activities can include polls, chats, virtual tours, whiteboarding and even breakout rooms, and they should occur on average every five minutes” – key point in terms of thinking about building interaction
  • “Assign extension activities that will allow a learner to take his or her learning to the next level” is important for designing the whole course, not just a ‘webinar’ like session

Key points from What stinks about webinars?

by Allison Rossett, Antonia Chan and Colleen Cunningham

  •  “Webinars have become a low-risk, easy, quick and cheap way to stay current about the state of the field — research, trends and tools.” A quote that sums up my thoughts about webinars when they are good
  • “It is wise to make certain the technology and presenter are ready” is a key point for me around logging in early, ensuring my technology works and that I’m ready for questions from participants about their technology and supporting them
  • Content should include “vivid examples, stories, enthusiasm and personalization.”
  • “feeling all alone during several webinars… blocked from seeing the names of others” I don’t like this as an attendee, though it will be interesting to see my opinion as I start using this technology to deliver more. This might be different for webinars rather than online training with fewer participants
  • Lastly, a key point about what webinars could be, which is perhaps where we are aiming for true online blended learning “Imagine if the sessions were just the beginning of conversations and debates. Imagine if they were jumping-off points for projects, with feedback delivered by peers and experts. Imagine if participants volunteered to offer subsequent sessions based on that initial offering. Imagine if they were part of a blended system with blogs, e-coaching and even face-to-face events”