Yean Feng Yue is the AP Leader, IBM University Programs and Sales Enablement, AP CMO, IBM Global Financing for IBM.  She joined The Collaborator to chat about IBM and Skillsfuture’s initiative to enablement the workforce in Singapore with the skills to contribute to the digital economy.

Yean Feng noted that the traditional way of teaching is not working in the age of covid.

To be effective with virtual, keep these three things in mind.

1️⃣A blended learning approach must be leveraged.  Lectures are needed, but cannot be all that is used.  Mix in experiential learning, giving people the opportunity to be hands on.

2️⃣Tools, content, and other supporting materials must be intuitive and easy to use.

3️⃣You must build in opportunity to apply the learning throughout the journey.

Yean Feng shared a lot of amazing insights, give a listen.

Audio Transcript

The Collaborator
Yes, sir. Do me a favor, introduce yourself to the audience and tell them what you do.

Yean Feng Yue
Hi. Yep. Thanks, john. Thanks for having me. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And Hi, everyone. My name is Jensen. Yeah. And like what I told john, right, you can call me again, for sure. So, I’m here to actually share a very exciting piece of work, you know, that I’m doing with like, IBM and also the skillsfuture. So john actually asked about my role, right. And part of my role is actually transforming the way we enable, right, if I may use the word right, transform the way that we teach an evil workforce for the future.

The Collaborator
That’s so exciting. I’m serious. I’m so excited about this, in fact, tell tell us, um, so tell us a little bit about the work you’ve been doing. And let’s just talk about that a little bit.

Yean Feng Yue
Sure. So, um, and I’m excited to share, right, because I think, um, I think in this new normal, that the traditional way that that we are teaching, or enabling adult learners is not going to fly. Right. So if I may just just start with a little story of mine. Right. So so I think storytelling is great. Right? So I’ll just start with a story of mine. Right? So when we had, you know, when we had the circuit breaker in Singapore, so that’s where I’m located in Singapore. And then you know, of course for Singaporeans, right, our kids, you know, we are great with all the extra tuition activities that we have for our kids, right? Yes, I was actually setting up my daughter’s laptop for the Chinese tuition that, you know, she was having in a classroom, and they couldn’t go into a classroom setting. So everything was turned into virtual and they use zoom. Right. And I was just sitting beside her, you know, simply because I just want to make sure that the technology actually works for her. And then I realized that the way, the way the Chinese tuition is being delivered virtually exactly the same way as how they would have taught in a classroom setting.

The Collaborator
Yeah, exactly. Same thing here. Yes. And same thing here in the US. That’s the same approach is, is essentially trying to replicate what we’re doing face to face over zone.

Yean Feng Yue
Yeah. And and at that time, at that moment, right, to me, that was a great learning moment, because I just realized that we can’t do that, right, john? We can’t, because it’s totally different, right? versus how you will be teaching life. If I’m meeting you in a room, right? The way we interact will be totally different, versus a virtual setting. Right. So that was when it really dawned upon me that we should transform the way we teach, right? So that the students are the people that we are enabling, it could be adult learners, yeah, it could be students, they continue to view engage, and they learn right in in the proper way. Online, virtually.

The Collaborator
I love that. Nine, I love that I love the fact that you noticed it. By watching your daughter and observing what was happening together. That’s what tipped it off. How old is she?

Yean Feng Yue
She some 12 this year?

The Collaborator
12. That’s a hard age to begin with. So well. So So what did you What were some of the conclusions you’ve been able to come to as you started to go down this path?

Yean Feng Yue
Sure. So in fact, I can apply some of the learnings right, you know, from from just that moment, I applied some of the learning, while we are actually rolling out a six months program in which we are enabling adult learners in Singapore. So some of them are the learning, right? The first and foremost is how do we make learning virtual learning? engaging? Right, yes. So and, and that is not easy. It cannot be just a one way lecture. Right? So in the program that, you know, we have developed, we can often we use a blended learning approach, if I may use the word blending learning, that learning, right? I mean, you know, you know, john, there will be lectures, obviously, there’ll be lectures, because there are certain principles and theories that needs to be thought. But beyond that, right, then how do we, how do we bring in the concept of experiential learning? Right? So how do we make it real? And if we’re teaching technology, you know, we just we just need to let the students experience the technology for themselves. If we are teaching an AI course, for example, yeah, like we should actually incorporate a hands on lab sessions, so that students get to build our own chat bot, for example. Right? So they get to, they get to play around with the technology. So I think the experiential learning is important. And then how do we make it in a virtual setting right? So meaning the instructions has to be very clear. Right, whatever tools and enablers we provide needs to be really clear to the learners. Right. So that is the second part right of, of, you know, transforming learning. And the third part to me is really applying the learning, john. Right. So, AI is AI, right, cloud computing is cloud computing. Are you able to apply that in the industry context? Right, so so in this program that I’m driving, we are basically training adult learners, right, so that they can move on to a new chapter in the career, right. So we want them to be able to apply, apply the technology in a business in a real business setting. And in an industry setting. Yeah, you

The Collaborator
know, and I’m sorry to interrupt you. But if I started my career as a developer, so I’m familiar with coding, and it’s easy for me to picture, setting up an experimental experimental that experience, a learning experience, when you talk about writing code. Does this model though, apply to other things? Like if I wanted to learn how to be the world’s best fisherman? Or how to build cars or other things like that? Is it the same sort of model that that applies?

Yean Feng Yue
Yeah, I would think so. Right? Because it’s like, it’s like riding a bike. Right? Yeah. Simply because, you know, I’m not so familiar with fishing. Right, but right. So, sometimes the theory is just a theory, right? But you have to really get hands on. Right. And when it comes to adult learners, that is how, you know, so we think, right, so the other, the other consideration we have is, how would success look like, you know, after the enablement and after the learning, so we have to kind of think, one step ahead and say, okay, you know, as a student two outcomes, once they graduate, they, they want to be able to apply this in a real job contexts. Right? in jobs. Right. So the technology, if you know that theory, you know, what it is, is? That’s it right, but if you’re able to apply it, and that’s the gist of it, right? That is how technology actually helps me business growth, you know, and driving productivity is the application of it. Right? So, so it’s the same with a lot of the, you know, the life lessons that we are learning.

The Collaborator
I like that, though. Okay, have you go back to the beginning? So you were partnering? So what was the motivation for this training? It sounds like trying to teach people how to write code, you know, using AI, so that they could get into different careers? Was it a matter of people were laid off, or didn’t have jobs, and you were trying to get them upskilled, or additional skills so they can get the next round of jobs?

Yean Feng Yue
I think is some mixture of you just said, john, right? Because I think that this COVID situation, it is not as clear cut, right? Because there will be people that are entrepreneurs that have their own business. Businesses may not be trading as well. Right? Maybe they feel that the businesses, they need to put something else in the business, right to take it to the next level. Yeah, and they have time right now to do some learning. And of course, there’ll be people that will be taking a break from work, right, that they want to read thing and set. And and we are not really training developers, right? We are training is, for example, right? If we look at, let’s say, the banking or any industry, you will have customer relationship managers. Yes. Interacting with clients, right? So traditional way of interaction is, of course, human to human interaction, which is, which is fantastic, by the way, right? But if we can improve productivity by including some AI, right into the whole mix of this client management, right, it would be fantastic. Right? So and it means that when our students graduate, they need not be a developer, but they need to know how to apply how to apply the technology that makes sense. could be, it could be an entrepreneur, right? I’m just somebody who has owns a restaurant. So would it be great if, you know, we can have someone apply and use back to the AI example right? To use AI as a restaurant house, you know, to be able to, to recommend, maybe a better cuisine or a better five course meal to customers.

The Collaborator
That’s so cool. That’s really cool. So what you know, so so I understand you were saying, you know, some of its going to be lectures because you still need to do that. How do you construct the experiences? How do you know what kind of experiences makes sense? To build, and then how do you how are you actually delivering them?

Yean Feng Yue
Right. So, um, so I guess as we put this together, john, the learning for me, frankly, right, the personal learning for me is tremendous. along the way. And many of us, we were part of the first train the trainer. So even before we start training the teachers to deliver, yeah, six months program for us a lot of the designer of the course, we were kind of the guinea pigs, right to experience that train the trainer. Yeah, that was when we decided, right, okay, maybe this is how we can do it better. And all that. And an excellent example would be how we actually. So I spoke about the blended learning approach, right, so one of which is really getting together to do ideation, case studies that are relevant to the industries. Wonderful. So so we were thinking, right, in a normal, you know, pre COVID setting. How do we do brainstorming? Join? Right, we get into a room, you know, maybe we white walls, you know, we have some whiteboards, we write, right, we

The Collaborator
discuss throw ideas out there, and we’re talking exact Sharpies. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Yean Feng Yue
Yeah. So how do we do that? virtually? Right. So that was one of them. The challenge, right, that we were struggling with? And we said, okay, so students may not want to go to a classroom setting to learn, they want to learn in the comfort of the home using zoom, like what you and I are doing right now. Do brainstorming, right? Sharpies pose it notes? How do we get right or dumb? The ideas? Right running? So we kind of design in a virtual setting. So of course, we use a tool, right, some online collaboration to Digital’s sticky notes.

Unknown Speaker
Okay.

Yean Feng Yue
Okay, then we get together in a tea tree. And we said, how do we actually plan for the, to get people into smaller groups to do brainstorming? When I can’t even see the person, you know, that is brainstorming with me, right? JOHN is like, you know, if we were in, you know, a face to face setting, and if I don’t understand like, okay, where are we supposed to do for next 30 minutes, ideation, I can look at the person next to me, right? And I said, hey, how do we do this? Yeah, start the discussion. And we get going. But in a virtual setting, we are all sitting at home. Right with like, you know, a little bit more comfortable.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah,

Yean Feng Yue
yeah. So how do we actually overcome some of those, right, those human interactions that basically need some booster when it comes to a virtual, you know, a virtual setting? Yeah. Yeah. So that was one of one of the greatest learning for me, frankly, in putting together the whole program

The Collaborator
with so hard because whatever you’re teaching, whatever you’re enabling, if you have a room, Zoom Room, let’s say as more than 10 people, it’s always hard to get the conversation going. Because not everybody is afraid to be the first one or, or maybe it’s always the same one or two people, but everybody else kind of stays quiet. Well, how did you What did you learn? How do you get those conversations? How do you get people comfortable? To start talking? How did you figure it out?

Yean Feng Yue
So um, so what we did, right, so interestingly, right, when we put together this some, you know, some of the instructors we use design thinking, right? You say, what wonderful words do we want our students to have? Right? So design thinking is great, right? You look through the lens of the end users, they think about how are they going to experience it, rather than how are we going to solution? How are we to put forth an offering, right, so you look at it from the other side? And then we said, Okay, a couple of things. Right? So, like what you said, john, not everyone is comfortable to speak up in a virtual setting. But, you know, I think with the advancement of technology, there are many different ways that we can do it, right. And now even in zoom, you can have thumbs up, you know, give me a thumbs up. Oh, exactly. And then even in the vacation when we use a virtual collaboration tool, we have voting as well. Right? We get people to vote for ideas. Nice. get people to I’m sorry, there’s a plane flying across my my house. No, no.

The Collaborator
That’s the beauty of live. Yeah, that’s the beauty of live as well, though. You never know what’s going to happen. So that’s all right.

Yean Feng Yue
And from looking working from home,

The Collaborator
working from home, exactly,

Yean Feng Yue
yeah. Okay, so back to what I was saying. Right. So, so there are different ways, right? We get people to vote. And even with digital sticky notes, we can have people and we empower them and we said, you know, just use some concern, right? And let’s just Group things together. And when we see the cursor moving, we can actually see the main text to it, right? Like we can see John’s cursor, trying to group certain things and infer and trying to type in certain things. So you can actually see the action as well, as just hearing and talking.

The Collaborator
I see them additional stimulation helps. Is that part of it? How interesting in terms of you know, I want to pick on the the ideation a little bit deeper? Is there an ideal group size? You know, is it different in terms of how you put a group together, virtually then in a rented a room together? You know, I’ve done brainstorming sessions in person, and you might have five people, you might have 20 people, and it can still sort of work. But is it different? Did you know digitally virtually like this?

Yean Feng Yue
I think, I think virtually, the ideal group size could be between like, four once we get into the breakout sessions, right? Like in zoom, where you break out rooms and all that, I think between six to eight, that is a very comfortable group size, and especially in the Asian context, john?

The Collaborator
Oh, interesting.

Yean Feng Yue
Yeah. Because, you know, I think for some of us, we, we may want a bigger group so that we feel more comfortable to speak out, maybe. Otherwise, when the group is so small, you know, people get uncomfortable like, Oh, you know, I have to say something. But when it’s between like six to eight people, you hear people talking, and people start chiming in, and people get used to it. Right. So So the other notion is, people need to get used to feel comfortable. We’re all learning at the same time. Right. So so I think a lot of us right now are pretty comfortable right? Before this virtual collaboration and meetings. Yeah, exactly. My students.

The Collaborator
A wonderful, well, what surprised you the most in what you’ve learned so far from this whole process? Has it been anything like that?

Yean Feng Yue
What surprises me is, I think it’s the, the entire notion of everybody shining together to make it work. Right? It’s just like, like, in Singapore, for example, right? When we had the circuit breaker and all that, and we do see a lot of cooperation among people, when we are in the public setting, right? Because we all understand, right? That, you know, this, the situation that we are in is like no other, right? And the only way to overcome it is to get together and make things work. So is the empathy. So when I work with this with my colleagues, and we deliver to the students, I think, you know, what, pleasantly surprises me, and, you know, inspire me as well, is really how humans come together. And we try to make the best of a situation that is so new. It’s so new to all of us whether Is it a teacher, or a student?

The Collaborator
That’s a wonderful insight and a wonderful, and it’s wonderful to see, it’s wonderful to see when that happens, in fact, exactly. Yeah,

Yean Feng Yue
it’s pretty heartwarming, great to see everyone trying to make it work. It is only you know, from the delivery side. And you know, all our wonderful students out there as well.

The Collaborator
Have you taken down? Have you? Have you learned anything that you’ve been able to bring back to your 12 year old child to help her learn any differently or better along the way as well? Has it been any of a full circle or not? Right? Okay, so

Yean Feng Yue
So interestingly, right for my kid, and, you know, I can’t I feel funny saying this right, in a, you know, in a video setting, right, but Well, of course, she has more than one type of tuition. So it was kind of comparing, right. And I think, even for some of her other tuition deliveries, they are great. is so nkechi. All right. And I realized, right, if you as a teacher, you make your virtual session, engaging, people will come they will none. Right. So there’s this other tution that she’s in. And basically, it’s me learning from her is the other way around. I love that and her tutor, yes, I realized that as a teacher, right? If you are able to make the session, so engaging, people will listen to you and they will want to follow a bit of your use of what you want to teach. So for example, there was this other tuition, right, whereby, you know, students get excited because they’re using zoom for the first time, and they were talking over each other, they were trying different things, changing the background setting and all that. And the teacher basically says he says, Hey, if you want to stay in my class, right, make sure you listen right. And the rule is, we will only talk right at a certain point in time so that you do not get Throughout the class, and you can see that all the students, you know, 12 years old are quite a rowdy bunch, right? They are excited. They’re getting excited over the technology and all that. But they listen, they listen. And they go with what the teacher is saying, Why? Because his session was engaging as compared to the previous one. He was engaging, because he had quizzes. He showed them fun videos. He had, like, you know, breakout sessions where students interact with each other. So he

The Collaborator
really broke it up with a lot of different styles and approaches.

Yean Feng Yue
Yes, or the blended learning, right, that, you know, in the adult learning as well. Yeah. So so I think that’s what makes learning more engaging, right? When we, we shift to, you know, a virtual setting.

The Collaborator
I love that. I love that so much infant, you know, it’s already we’ve already gone 27 minutes. So I feel like I can talk for another three hours.

Unknown Speaker
I know, but it is late for you, but it’s

The Collaborator
late for me. Um, but even without that, I like to keep this closer to 30. So we’ll, um, let me ask you this. What happened we talked about that you like that you really think is important to share with people listening in?

Yean Feng Yue
Okay, so I think the other life lesson, right, so So you see, john, as we work, right? We always try to bring in lessons we learn from as individuals, right life lessons, are things we experience as individuals, you know, we try to apply it to work and the other way around. So one of the other things that that I kind of apply, right, is what we were offering what we are offering for six months. And it’s not easy, right? Especially for adults, right? When you do a one week course maybe is good, right? Two weeks cost is like well, pretty long. But can you imagine this? Is a very long time, right? So we were thinking, how do we design it? Right? When we first started? How do we design it that people feel motivated? And they want to continue? Right? So So I was thinking about? Because I do a bit of jogging, right? I jog and then I use the app, right? So you know, when you plot a certain amount of steps, or, you know, mouse, you get that just badges. It’s not like you get a medal for a half marathon. But

The Collaborator
you get excited about those badges? I know I Yeah, exactly.

Yean Feng Yue
Yeah. So you get a badge, right, that says congratulations, right? You have just plot the amount of time it takes, right, you know, to walk from here to another country, you know, that kind of thing? And yeah, Wow, this is great. So we kind of apply that to to our six month program running while we have a grand prize at the end of six months, which is that big certification that we have the skillsfuture don’t between right, we actually, we actually issue digital certification of digital badges with the students along the six months. So they get motivated, right, the same way that I get motivated, and I want to put on my running shoes and go running this weekend. I guess I’m crazy for the next batch.

The Collaborator
I know it’s so silly. But But we all get excited about those things.

Yean Feng Yue
And those that just john, definitely more valuable than my my running batches.

The Collaborator
I’m with you. I have a few running medals, from marathons and stuff that I’ve run in the past. Yes. But those badges that you earn in those in those silly apps that you always look at and go wow, you know, I just climbed Mount Everest. That’s wonderful.

Yean Feng Yue
And those badges, you’ll feel shy to post it on LinkedIn. Right? Yeah, the badges that we have for the six months cause exactly what the students can post on LinkedIn. So it will definitely help right with the personal branding, you know, and the current.

The Collaborator
Show it Yeah, yeah. I love that. The incense. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing this with us. I really do appreciate it. I learned a lot in a number of wonderful. I’m going to reach back out to you because I feel like I want to talk to you for another three days. But we’ll find something else to talk about.

Yean Feng Yue
I can’t talk about these three days. Yeah. I’m very passionate about learning.

The Collaborator
Oh, wonderful. I’m gonna reach back out and we’ll have you back on again. Then. You have a great day, john. No, thank you. Take care. And thank you again.

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