Marc J. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

District Manager - Learning Strategy
AT&T

Would you briefly describe your educational and professional background?
B.S. (1972) Marketing (Advertising) and Communications (DoubleMajor)
State University of New York at Albany  
M.S. (1974) Instructional Technology State University of New York at Albany
Ph.D. (1977) Instructional Design Kent State University
1977-1980, Assistant Professor, Instructional Technology , Southern Illinois University

I've been with AT&T since 1980, serving a variety of functions, from Course Developer, Instructional Technologist, Quality Assurance Manager, Internal Consultant, Project Manager and Strategic Planning. I was president of the National Society for Performance and Instruction (NSPI, recently renamed the International Society for Performance Improvement, ISPI) from 1990-1991. I am on the Editorial Board of "Performance Improvement Quarterly." I've spoken at the white house, plus at over 100 professional and corporate conferences. Over 30 articles/chapters in professional publications. Contributing author to NSPI's "Handbook of Human Performance Technology" (1992) and ASTD's "Training and Development Handbook, 4th ed. (1996).

What type of activities do you do at AT&T?
Currently, I am responsible for supporting the strategic planning for education and training across the enterprise, including planning for reengineering learning and the accelerated use of learning-technology.

What are the advantages of working in a corporate setting as opposed to an academic setting?
Actually, there are advantages and disadvantages. First, the advantages. In a corporate setting you are more likely to have access to resources necessary to get work done. Even though the days of unlimited resources are long gone, well presented, business-oriented ideas can get a good hearing and, if appropriate, be funded at a level necessary to succeed. Also, in a business setting, you are more likely to see the benefits (or suffer the consequences) of your work. The business world forces you to be practical and results oriented. This is a discipline that all people in our profession need. Finally, in today's modern business, nothing gets done without teamwork and upper management support. It gives people in our field opportunities to develop unique interpersonal and organizational skills that are less likely to be found in other organizations. On the downside, however, there are several disadvantages to working in a business setting. First, the short cycle times often assigned to projects can mean that there is little time to experiment, to try out new things. In some organizations, managers have such short time perspectives that it is difficult to develop or implement projects where the payoff is not almost Immediate. Maintaining long-term sustainable momentum on projects can be difficult and challenging. This is particularly troubling in the people development business. While we are usually very successful in training workers to do today's jobs, I sometimes wonder if we are doing equally well in the long-term education and development of these people to meet tomorrow's even more complex and unstable challenges.

What are a couple of projects that you have worked on that you feel were particularly rewarding?
I have found that the projects that have been most rewarding are those that let me incorporate new ideas or new thinking into the process. For example, I was instrumental in the development of new approaches to electronic performance support (EPSS) in the company. Also, I was part of a team that implemented new management strategies, i.e., performance management, into the business mainstream. In my strategic work, I am able to integrate new paradigms of thinking about learning and performance into the continual redesign of education and training. I am particularly gratified that the essence of human performance technology is incorporated into these and other projects. In each of these cases I have learned that it is possible to sell people on, and incorporate new ideas on learning, technology, etc. Into current and future business processes. The key, I believe, is not to overwhelm the organization with new jargon or new processes that are of little interest to them. Rather, what seems to work is to integrate new ideas into existing processes, and/or to redefine human performance and learning into business terms and business results. The lesson for us is, I believe, to lay off some of the jargon and mystery of our field and to be ready to integrate our ideas onto existing structures rather than overwhelming the business with entirely new, and in some ways equally bad ways of doing things.

Are there two or three books or articles that you find especially valuable to you in your work?
This is a difficult question, because while I find may items in the literature of value to me, I must be very choosy which I expose the business leadership to. Let's face it, business leaders have little time for this stuff and so you better be ready with the one or two best articles you can find for them to read. Normally, I find those pieces not necessarily in the training literature, but in the business literature, such as "Business Week," "Information Week," "The Wall Street Journal," etc. Interestingly, I've also found some great pieces that I will distribute in "Training Magazine." Now for me, I'm constantly amazed at the quality of the articles, especially in theme issues, in "Performance Improvement Quarterly." As for books, ISPI's "Handbook of Human Performance Technology," is a great reference. Gloria Gery's "Electronic Performance Support Systems," and Geary Rummler and Alan Brache's book, "Improving Human Performance" are quite good. Hammer and Champy's "Reengineering the Corporation," Davis and Botkin's "The Monster Under the Bed," Rossett's "Training Needs Analysis," and Burrus's "Future Trends" have also be influential.\

]What sort of an impact does research in instructional technology and educational psychology have on your work? What theories do you find most useful to the things you do?
I wish that the research had more influence. Unfortunately, research information is rarely written or communicated in a way that's useful to practitioners. It takes far too long for research findings to get integrated into the course development activities of most businesses. I believe the problem lies both with the majority of researchers, who mostly write and communicate with each other, with corporations, that give short shrift to research, and to the practitioners themselves, who too often fail to take any professional development time to learn about the latest in research. This is not to say that the benefits of research don't reach the business practitioner; they do. It just takes far too long. I am particularly impressed with the concepts of information design (as opposed to instructional design, although the two are naturally related), and how we will design for the information age where knowledge must be delivered in real-time, and I am also very interested in the concepts of constructivism. Information design is manifesting itself in the design of electronic performance support systems and on-line knowledge networks. Unfortunately, we are designing these things without enough attention to concepts of information overload, display theory, search and storage strategies, attention span, etc. This is where research can help. It would be risky to try to explain constructivism (or congnitivism for that matter) in a business. But the power of constructivist thinking, in areas like Action Learning, EPSS, etc. Is very compelling. I like the work of Roger Schank, who has used constructivism in the development of goal-based scenarios and other models, and has been able to make them valuable to business leaders. That may be his most important contribution. Finally, I am interested in the whole arena of organizational learning, which I believe is often misunderstood. I don't necessarily believe that organizational learning is about training at all. To me, its about culture, leadership, networks and the behaviors that result when knowledge is shared. Much more work is needed here.

Are there any topics that you feel will emerge as important areas of research over the next 5 - 10 years?

  • Information design;
  •  Use of intelligent "learning agents";
  •  New approaches to instructional design that shorten development cycle time;
  •  Learning from the Internet
  •  Goal-based instructional design;
  •  Impact of multimedia learning on performance;
  •  Impact of entrainments and incentives on learning
Do you have any advice for it graduate students who may be Considering a position in business and industry? Several:
  1. Know the business you're in, and I don't mean just the instructional design business.
  2. Develop a very flexible model for yourself on how training is developed. Don't rely too much on specific models that may bog you down in the weeds of instructional design. The best instructional designers are those that can "turn on a dime."
  3. Get involved in the profession. Professional development is essential and involvement outside your company will help you keep an open mind about your craft.
  4. Sharpen your written and oral communication skills. They are likely to be as important, or more important than instructional design skills.
  5. Learn all you can about learning technology, from distance learning to multimedia to the Internet. But you do not have to be as technical as you think. Strategic thinking and interactive design orientation are more important.
  6. Remember the two most important activities in instructional design are identifying the correct performance problem and underlying cause in the first place, and effectively evaluating your solution. Do these well and the actual instructional design will take care of itself.
  7. Finally, bulk up on project management and vendor management skills. this is the age of outsourcing.
What are your long-term professional goals?
Working in a major corporation, it is often difficult for my to stay professionally active. I think, however, that my involvement in the profession has given me a better perspective about our field that enables me to provide even more value in my work. So, first of all, I want to continue to be active in the profession. I'd also like to help shift the paradigms of the training community to concepts of performance technology and the use of electronic networks to store and distribute knowledge. I hope that my corporate and professional work will help the profession in this much needed redefinition of itself.