I think I’ll have more time to reflect and comment on my artefact and the experience of making it in a few days, but for now here it is.
Exploring rich media and social networking to create more innovative learning experiences…. 2 parts knowledge and inquiry, 2 parts plan, 2 parts sub and pop culture, 3 parts fun (including what the suits call execution).
I finally had the opportunity this past week to focus on preparing this presentation for Slideshare. A co-worker and I presented this at TCC (Technology, Colleges, and Community) this Spring 2011. By the way, TCC is one of the best examples I’ve found of a truly well-run virtual conference, and it’s worth much more than the very inexpensive price of admission.
Of all the projects, I’ve worked on in the past year, I really enjoyed working on the Education Award resource the most. It was the labor & efforts of a great team of truly creative people who helped put it together. Also, it’s a good example of how good content can be developed around learning objectives while meeting user needs and user-centric design principles. This was one of the first projects where I was able to use “Paper Prototyping” to help validate the appropriateness of a web design for both user-friendliness and solid information architecture design.
I’m hoping to be able to record a mp3 recording to apply to the Slideshare soon, but in the meantime, you can view the slide notes and a rough script of this presentation in Slideshare in the “Speaker Notes” tab.
Forward thinking and moving companies usually give their employees actual time to think, learn and innovate. In companies that foster a culture of innovation, this isn’t just some imaginary time-allowance that gets built into the employees’ unpaid overtime, it’s actually built into their schedule. This time cannot impede upon employee’s productivity, but savvy leaders and managers know that innovative and creative employees need time and tools to develop, learn and investigate the answers to problems that interest them.
Google encourages their employees to use a percentage of their time to solve problems or develop products that pique their interest or that they feel a genuine need for. Many of these tinkering efforts resulted in some of the signature products that Google is known for today such as Gmail, Google News and Adsense to name a few. In fact, the company estimates that at least 50% of Google’s products are a direct result of this “20% time.”
Unfortunately, not all companies can aspire to be Google, but with help and guidance management and employees can create their own culture of learning for innovation’s sake. There are at least five things they can do to foster this in their own organizations.
1. Make learning part of the professional development process:
Some workplaces actually allow employees to identify areas of interest for professional development in their own yearly development plans. For many employees with heavy workloads, it’s difficult to find the time they need to explore these interests unless they can be directly applied to their work.
Managers can help their employees develop their business plans by helping them identify their professional interests and working with them to integrate these interests in both their current work plan as well as helping them finding opportunities to apply their interests to efforts that may help current business goals.
2. Give employees easy access to learning resources:
Management can also provide ready access to learning tools and resources. Not just internal documentation and training, but content that is available from external resources. Some examples include:
For the self-directed learner Skillsoft Books 24×7 presents a virtual treasure trove. This collection has books and periodicals for management, IT professionals and other job areas. Employees can learn just about everything from programming in Ajax to applying the principles from the Book of Five Rings into their work practices. Their company or organization has to pay for the subscriptions, but even if one paid the $459.00 out of pocket, access to this collection is like being able to take almost any book out of Powells, Barnes and Noble and Amazon at any time.
At $25.00 a month for a subscription to a huge library of online tutorials complete with demonstration/simulations. You have to pay a larger premium subscription rate to have access to the development files for say a Flash course. Though arguably you can learn just as much by creating the development files on your own.
3. Call out life-long learning as part of the company’s charter:
Peter Senge, author of The Learning Organization, coined the term life-long learner. According to Senge the life-long learner spends their entire life acquiring skills and knowledge. Senge also maintained that organizations can embody life-long learning in their culture and practices.
An organization can write the goal of establishing a culture of life-long learning into their own mission. This goal can be embodied both explicitly and implicitly in the company values, but the company or group needs to define a list of examples of behaviors and accomplishments that demonstrate the achievement of this goal.
4. Model life-long learning:
Leaders of an organization need to be the first to model this behavior of constant learning. Demonstration of their efforts can be presented to their employees both subtly and directly in their communications. They can provide examples in sharing their own professional development goals with their employees in addition to explaining what they wish to achieve with these goals both personally and professionally.
5. Reward employees who demonstrate the behaviors of life-long learning:
Sharing one’s own aspirations for professional development may provide an example and possibly inspire employees to take up the cause of learning on their own. However, calling out an employee’s success in implementing their own learning can provide positive reinforcement for the behavior. Management can be coached to give this feedback by giving positive feedback to their employees when they see it developed.
They can also recognize employees who exhibit the behavior in staff meetings or perhaps even designate specific awards for employees who demonstrate life-long learning. Here’s an example of one such employee:
Jeanie, a web developer in the IT department, expressed an interest in learning more about usability testing. Jeanie took it upon herself to review books and articles from the company online library. She also took some time to take advantage of external sources from the web including community forums on usability. Jeanie then created a proposal for implementing usability tests throughout different parts of the the web development process. With her management’s approval she was able to implement a simple paper prototype test as well as a formal usability assessment. Her testing efforts and knowledge gained resulted not only in a more efficient and pleasing user experience for customers, but also the start of a testing process that was later implemented by other staff on the web development team. Jeanie’s manager recognized her learning efforts in a staff meeting by presenting her with a “Life-Long Learner” award and a $50 gift certificate to a local bookstore.
While it may be difficult to adopt the Google 20% practice, organizations and companies can still take steps to build learning for innovation into their culture and practices. Not all employers are ready to adopt Google’s 20% rule. Their company culture may not be ready for such a shift, or they simply many not be able to readily adjust their business process and goals to accommodate spending this much time to what they consider research and development. Perhaps Google’s other secret to success is that they seem to be skilled at hiring people who are inquisitive, life-long learners, and natural experimenters. These are people who take to using the 20% time to explore and discover the same way a duck takes to water.
I have a little bit of time to think about generating as many ideas for online learning activities. This list of course is not exhaustive, and I will probably benefit from the contributions of colleagues, at work and not at work.
Click to view larger image.
I’m trying to keep these activity ideas simple and as ‘familiar’ as possible. Not all stakeholders are open to newer forms of learning online. Whenever introducing a strange or unfamiliar tool or technique (for example: using synchronous chat or Twitter to facilitate discussion) I try to pair it with a similar or analogous term use for traditional or face to face training.
In my past experience, I found that designing learning opportunities is only the first part of good online learning design. Facilitator preparation and training is the next key piece to achieving success. In my last position I was fortunate enough to work with a crack team of Instructional Designers who worked hard not just to create the training materials, LMS (Learning Management System) simulations, and activities to prep our facilitators by helping them adjust to the ‘culture’ of working online.
Last week I was able to quickly develop a slide set that covers my take on successful online facilitators based on what I’ve learned from my experience. You will have to download the presentation via Slideshare to view my notes.
Many, many moons ago I wrote a post on Knowledge Management Systems that illustrated Marc Rosenberg’s KM model. This model depicts an organization that has a truly integrated system of sharing knowledge that includes formal training and an ongoing mentoring system for it’s employees. This model includes use of social media to connect employees. Since I wrote this post, the use of social media online for both connecting and learning has exploded. Many more company executives (though not as many as there could be) are now schooled on the finer points of using social media as promotional vehicles as well as within the organization to enhance employee learning and knowledge.
Recently, On his blog, Jay Cross presented an adapted version of Jane Hart’s 5-Stage Model of the Evolution of Workplace Learning.
Here’s the visual that illustrates this.
As Cross points out in his post, the more familiar your workers are with online networking tools and media, the more they can readily use social networking support to improve their learning and skills. You need to be able to assess where your audience of learners skill lies in the following areas: Web/Tech Expertise and Social Networking Familiarity.
Going back to the “5 Stages” illustration shown above, the newbies or novices to the workplace, culture, organization, or system would be FIRST guided to the LMS where formal learning can take place (your essentials such as terms of service, legal information, safety, organization mission, organizational structure, job skills, compliance training, etc.). If you need to track learning in a blended model (both face to face and online), you can use the LMS to keep track of who’s completed what training as they come into your workplace or program.
In the grand old days when most training was done in face to face sessions complete with massive binders and glossy handouts, training really only took place at the beginning and employees or trainees were expected to absorb what they could from the training. If they couldn’t remember everything that was okay because they had their gigantic binders as a print reference. This system works when the nature of the work can be completely documented in print and is static. In other words, nothing changes about the nature of the job and there are NO variables.
Some workplaces assign ‘buddies’ or coaches to new employees. It’s often part of the work coach’s job to model or teach these learning behaviors to their employees. At one entry-level job I had many years ago, I remember my work coach or mentor telling me something as basic and obvious, as “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” In sharing this with me she was essentially letting me know, “It’s safe to ask questions here. We’d rather you do things right or learn by asking, and we won’t punish you for what you don’t know.”
A truly rich “Informal Learning” environment can provide learners with the support they need to deal with variables NOT covered in formal training. And here’s the big “But,” you have to teach effective mentoring behaviors to all staff and reinforce these behaviors as much as possible. The informal learning model explicitly sets the expectation that learning and workplace improvement inherently part of the work culture. Employees must see it as part of their job responsibility to take the new guy under their wing. The sooner you get the newbie up and flying the sooner everyone can be productive and creative. Managers and employees can build checklists of knowledge, skills and ‘tribal knowledge’ that new employees need to know. These lists and even ad hoc information can be shared during social or work activity.
But Informal Learning isn’t just what you’d learn about your fellow employees from washroom or smoking break talk. Informal Learning can happen via chat and discussion forums. The other day a work colleague and myself noted that we both got ourselves unstuck from work-related ‘problems’ by looking up similar situations or issues in professional forums online. It’s just as easy to set up an internal online work chat or forum.
I’ve seen some older employees cringe at the words “Informal Learning.” Many of the more ‘traditional’ workplaces place a lot of value on formal learning (lectures, lessons, face to face training, etc.) because that’s the people, are used to. I think the key to building a truly learning rich environment and workplace is to highlight where social learning is really happening naturally and successfully and then introduce less familiar methods of leveraging informal learning. But again, if your company or organization doesn’t have a clear definition of what it means to learn effectively (outside of formal training) the concept of Informal Learning will be a hard sell. Maybe it’s just a matter of re-branding it or camouflaging it. As for the acceptance of learning via social media… Maybe we just have to wait until the technologies that propel Informal and Social Learning (forums, chat, wikis, etc.) become more commonplace and accepted by the majority. It will happen, eventually :)
Pleas exxcuse the typos I’m typing from my Iphone. :)
What are my challenges with elearning?
Andrew McAffee speaks:
It’s important to convince company execs.
Asks does anyone here find their company intranet easier to find things than the web only 5 people raise their hand. Duh :).
Rely on peoples good will
Don’t allow anonmynity
Important to lower behaviors to encorage altuism.
Freedom and flow of information:
Jimmy wales doesn’t want to use newpedia. The process is laborious and clunky.
Walk away from assumption that bad things happen. Allow people to self select and organize their own learning and info needs. YAY!
Undo and redo.
My question how can we leverage drupal for this?
I’m still typing. Check refresh for an update.
Best predictor for how a problem got solved was the diversity of scientific interests of the people that were looking at it. Not their iqs or degrees. I’d say pushy leadership or people who want to claim credit for the ideas doesn’t help either.
Build communities that people want to join.
Find ways to build participation.
Intelligence of crowds.
Ex – us 2008 election – polls done by professionals but developer of 538 website used his knowledge and algorithms to predict electoral vote breakdown. Helped by strangers Result: Margin of error about 15.
Enable peer review.
Benefits business stuff:
Don’t do this, dudes:
1. Declare war on enterprise
2. Allow walled gardens to flourish
3. Don’t accentuation neg
4. Declare war on email
5. Fall in love with bells and whistles
6. Don’t over use the word “social”
My husband just sent me this interesting article in how “DreamWeaver is Dying.”
This isn’t a matter of bells and whistles, it’s absolutely fundamental. Ultimately a web site is all about content – posting it and making it findable – and Dreamweaver and the other static HTML editors have proven fundamentally flawed when it comes to these two core tasks (and features such as Dreamweaver’s libraries and templates are patches not solutions).
I think the lack of searchability is what really bothers me about putting pages up for our courses with DreamWeaver. As the article points out, the model of authoring static webpages and managing html files from a central point may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I want to take some time to think about the future that is being hinted to us in this article.
The only feasible course for the future is for content to be posted by the content contributor, whether that’s the site owner or site visitors, and for the best possible navigation to be constructed around that content on the fly.
I’m okay with this, because I’ve been trained to ‘look for things’ using searches and to search for wording using the built in text finder in my browser. I’d argue that I have this so ingrained in me that I feel powerless and helpless when I cannot search for anything electronically. This afternoon I about had a fit because I was finding it difficult to use the Postal Zipcode index/book at the Post Office, so I called my husband and asked him to look up the postal code on the net. I even wondered… why the heck doesn’t the post office have access to this information via their computers? I and many others know how to navigate and search on the web, but what about those countless people who honestly don’t know how. We need to train them how to do this.
Not to mention we have to break them of the thinking that only ‘experts’ can manage and create content. Also, will this ability to have multiple ‘loci’ of control for content creation/editing cause confusion or even conflict? How can you train people to work with each other effectively and follow rules of etiquette for changes?
I know that it will probably be at least a few years before the idea of dynamically created and shared content will be universally accepted or as normal as e-mail.
As Tom Arah points out, this sort of change will present many opportunities for the “web designer who can adapt.” But how? I can think of a few things:
At Eduardo’s urging, I am making my return back into blogging life in Design for Learning. It’s been a while because I’ve been terribly busy learning from both successes and failures in some my current and recent endeavors. Right now we’re evaluating two learning management systems and executing a usability test and pilot on both. The whole process has forced me to rethink and reconsider the effect of online technology on learning behavior.
George Siemens asks the question “How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?” Learning online illustrates how learning is not linear: when we start learning about a subject online we often start with a search. The search may lead us down to many paths, so our journey is not linear. Online learning environments enhanced with features such as video sharing, social networks, mash-ups, podcasts, blogs and wikis offer a more engaging opportunities for learning and constructing projects for learning, but how do we evolve past our industrial factory influenced model of learning where learning is teacher-centric and control focused. How do we move into a more constructivist model where learning is peer and student centric and teachers work more as guides and mentors to learning rather than lecturers and test administrators? I have many questions, and I fear that the won’t be answered if we aren’t careful about changing our way of thinking about education and make that ‘paradigm shift.’ (ugh… to quote the 90′s biz-speak).
I knew that moving to a different LMS would be difficult, but I almost that in making this shift we are altering our direction in how we approach online/distance learning. These changes will greatly impact everyone involved, administrators, designers, teachers, and students. In order to help people move as smoothly as possible into the change we need to address a plan for change for each of these groups. Training can be involved, but, as I’ve learned from the past, it shouldn’t be the panacea for implementing change. All parties need to be aware of the change and how it will impact them. Also, if the change requires and affective shift or change in attitude or viewpoint, this must be managed effectively as well, but open discussion and clear communication of goals and requirements of all involved.
It’s not going to be easy, but still it’s a great opportunity for learning.
On another note… in the same article I linked to above, Siemens poses a number of questions that have really made me think. These questions address many of the challenges in adopting online learning that I’ve felt or seen so far:
If I have the time I want to take most of these questions into consideration in this blog. These questions would be great for an online forum discussion amongst online educators. I think in answering the questions the point is not to end up with a concrete solution but to flesh out or brainstorm possibilities at first.
I found this great piece on Nethack: 15 steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning
I thought that this list had some nice suggestions for keeping the passion for learning alive.
UNESCO characterizes 21st Century education as being education geared to developing lifelong learners. It’s no secret that these types of learners are usually the best innovators, problem solvers, etc. I suspect an indirect consequence of being a lifelong learner is that you are able to solve not only professional issues but personal ones as well. Well, at least we can only hope.
I started putting together a list of characteristics of lifelong learners. It’s not complete, but it’s a start.
Lifelong Learner Characteristics