Wednesday, February 25, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future-- Evolving Characteristics of E-Learning and Vibrant Pedagogies

In a early post (April 2014) I suggested to you that before we can talk about E-Learning characteristics, we need to make sure that we are all on the same page of understanding as to what pedagogy is. Pedagogy is not just the same pedagogy it always was when we are talking about the online environment versus the brick and mortar traditional school setting.


 Phylise H. Banner in her blog post entitled: "The Pedagogy of Learning Design: A Translation of Pedagogies" defines what we are talking about and list some essential elements. In the realm of education, the word pedagogy is used when talking about this designed approach to instruction and the alignment of learning elements such as objectives, content, activities, and assessments. She suggested that we need to focus on three key elements in effective e-learning: social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence.

Social presence focuses on creating a welcoming setting that is open and inviting so that our learners will want to engage with each other, the facilitator, and the learning content. Social presence is fostered by activities, methods, or approaches put in place to break the ice, build trust, and facilitate interaction with those around you.

  Teaching presence focuses on three major functions that we take on as training and learning professionals: design, facilitation, and direction of the learning experience. We build teaching presence by designing learning events that guide participants through learning materials, reinforce key concepts, foster critical thinking skills, provide opportunities for formative feedback and support, and evaluate progress throughout the learning experience. We develop a mentoring relationship with the learner.

  Cognitive Presence focuses on critical thinking skills. We want our learners to be active learners – to be actively integrating key concepts into their own worlds, exploring related resources, and adding new ideas and new knowledge. Cognitive presence is, in essence, the scaffolding of learning  as we move from the initial stages of knowledge and comprehension toward the critical learning stages of application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creativity.  

However. even the description given above needs to be modified to see how it fits within the context of e-learning.


In the present evolution of E-Learning, pedagogy becomes a transformative force that is tied to a new vision and model of education. Creating a culture of systemic innovation in which students and instructors play a vital role as agents of change means that the pedagogy itself is innovative in its scope.

Relating this back to the need for a unified vision and blueprint to the future of E-Learning, we see the need for those who have talents and skills related to E-Learning to sit down at the same table and collaborate in designing this blueprint. For those who are members of the LinkedIn forums, we are greatly indebted to people such as Christopher Pappas (Instructional Design and E-Learning forum) and Ravi Singh, Santhosh Kumar and Srividya Kumar of the Learnnovators group who each week provide access to an assortment of resources and articles dealing with E-Learning. There are others who contribute to these forums that I have mentioned who also should receive the recognition due. However, we are faced with the question:

"Given the wonderful resources that are available, who can coordinate these elements in an orderly fashion so that they harmonize with the intent of a transformative pedagogy tied to a new vision of E-Learning, a viable blueprint for E-Learning? Are we not still seeing a fractured vision if this coordination does not take place?" 

I believe that the elements of the pedagogy tied to the old model of education, the industrial model, will become no longer relevant in a new E-Learning blueprint and will give way to elements that nurture a transformative and more vibrant pedagogy that reflects a new view of the learner, instructor and trainer as change agents in society. For example, the posting of lectures in an online environment will not engage the digital natives of this century or the next. Also, what about assessment that was tied to the old model of education? The cartoon below perhaps highlights the problem that was a characteristic of the old model:
Even assessment must evolve and move away from the standardized testing of the past. I have detailed in recent posts why I think that assessment transformed can become a real learning experience for the learner to the benefit of our societies as a whole.

Next...... How can we bring a new blueprint together? What steps can we take as instructional designers, instructors, trainers and innovators to start down this path of creating a viable and vibrant blueprint for the future of E-Learning? It really is all about the learner!!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

E-Learning- A Blueprint To The Future--Challenges and Status of E-Learning

As I have mentioned in previous posts, E-Learning is evolving. Although it has come along way in a short time, it still suffers from what I will term a " fragmented vision".

E-Learning and the Fragmented Vision

 The best way to explain this "fragmented vision" is to use a metaphor that many of us are very familiar with, titled: "The Blind Men and the Elephant". There are many versions of this Hindu based parable but I  think that you will grasp the meaning as it applies to E-Learning.

As the parable  is described, six blind men try to describe an elephant that they are standing beside. Being able to describe what is standing in front of them only by touch, each of them has "direct evidence" that it is a snake, spear, fan, wall, tree, or rope.

As this is put in terms of E-Learning in its present state, the digital blind men might give the following responses:

  • E-Learning is blended learning
  • E-Learning is mobile learning
  • E-Learning is augmented learning
  • E-Learning is total virtual learning
  • E-Learning is gamification
  • E-Learning is problem based learning
The problem that we have created is that all of us have created "niches" in the E-Learning world which we pursue with vigor for a variety of motives from building up the monetary value of the corporate brand we represent to seeking to help educate the digital natives of this world to not only cope with a changing environment but also to be effective agents to create real innovation in the changing digital environments.

" If we were to look at this from a blatantly honest point of view, we have been driven by some primitive instinct to mark our territory in the E-Learning world !"

In order to create an effective blueprint to the future for E-Learning, we need to step back and look at the perspectives of the other digital blind men. We need to recognize that dwelling in a niche that is set apart from other stakeholders in E-Learning will prevent us from seeing a " bigger picture" of what E-Learning could and should be. We need to collaborate as people who have a valuable contribution to make to a greater vision of E-Learning. We have the technology and really no excuses except perhaps self-interest.

The Present Status of E-Learning
Now I know that there are trainers in the corporate community and E-Learning educators who will look at the above comparison and say: "We DO serious E-Learning!!" To that I say GREAT!  However, what is needed is a unified, collaboratively arrived at vision that says that this is what E-Learning is truly all about. It should not matter what part of the world you are from. The unified vision once completed needs to go viral and reach even the dark corners of academia, no disparagement intended.

Next---Vibrant Transformative Pedagogies

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future-Part I--The Challenge

 Challenges in Education: The Need for A Blueprint

With the number of changes that are impacting education on a global scale, it is reasonable to ask the question:

"Where will these changes in education take us and do we really want to go there?"

In the education systems around the globe, we are seeing disruptions in the traditional ways of educating learners. Some of this is most assuredly due to the exponential changes that we are seeing in technology and the fact that technology is re-shaping all aspects of our lives.

In the above diagram, change management might be a better construct than content since it is the interaction of these three elements that has been forced to the forefront of education.

With these changes learners have increasingly become disconnected from their education largely because of education's resistance to the changes occurring outside the walls of the school. Dr. Lee Jennings, a former California superintendent and researcher on learning improvement asked more than 2000 teachers what grade they teach and what percentage of their students love school. The results were that 95% of students love school in Kindergarten but by Grade 9, that love of school declined to 37% with a slight improvement to 45% by Grade 12. The obvious question to ask is:

"How do students view the present state of their education?"

In the following video, you have a student who expresses view of school and education.

"What do you think when you talk to your students about school and their education? Does the view of this student sound familiar?"

The big question is:

"Does our inaction have a greater cost than the cost of making a mistake?"

We need to create a blueprint to the future in regards to education. E-Learning has great potential but it can't be in the form that exists in today. In creating this blueprint, education itself will become a disruptive force.

Next.... E-Learning, its problems and how it needs to be a part of the blueprint.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Real World Scenario and Engagement In the Business Community--Part II

In the last post, I identified a challenge that most business leaders are well aware of and have struggled with over the years, that being, the problem of engagement of employees. One observation that should also be made is that the problem of employee disengagement is not improving but is getting worse. It is getting worse at a time in which changes are happening in the global market place that require more engagement on the part of employees rather than less.
In this post I hope to describe to you how the use of real world scenarios within a training context might be a step to re-igniting the engagement of the employees as if it was there first day of employment.


Creating an atmosphere of personal positive engagement within a company requires that we recognize the signs when we see them. The above diagram are the traits in employees that are visible within the company culture that indicate positive engagement. It is also worth noting that in Fortune Magazine (Feb. 2015)  that of the list of the best global companies to work for, the top five concentrated on nurturing many of the attributes indicated above but not all of them. Those companies were listed as:
  1. Google
  2. SAS
  3. NetApp
  4. W.L. Gore & Associates
  5. Belcorp
Using Real World Scenarios in Corporate Training

Using the engagement principles introduced in the last posts, we note that:

1. Relate: We want employees to use higher order thinking skills so that they will develop deeper understandings and knowledge in the areas that directly relate to their functions within the company. What this means is that they must be engaged in activities that occur in a group or collaborative context. The real world scenario used in a blended learning approach must be a scenario that is real and directly related to their the world that they enter everyday within the company.

2. Create: For example, a scenario could be designed as an online simulation dealing with customer relations. Within this type of scenario, a group of employees could be presented with a challenge which they have to come up with a solution to. This represents a problem based in the form of inquiry and investigation. The person that they are to deal with can be presented in the form of many personality types. Through collaboration, the employees make a decision and take action. Whatever action they carry out must give them immediate feedback on the client's reactions to their solutions. This should result in a reconsideration of their actions and a new solution. Confounding variables could be introduced into the simulation such as the reactions of the CEO or the COO to their actions.

3. Donate: The simulation that they are challenged by should result in them formulating new ideas that could work within their world. It is in this stage that engagement can be strengthened by offering them a forum to present their ideas to the decision makers within the company. They need to know that their efforts are valued as a good contribution to the company's culture. Personal recognition is crucial in order to nurture a desire by employees to continue to be engaged in the company's vision and mission.

How Do We Do This?

These are just a few suggestions:

  1. Distractions: Remember those things that were distractions for employees and which resulted in lost time? Such things as social media, game, and socialization can be used for a positive purpose by incorporating them into real world scenario. Properly, done the simulation will be far too engaging for sleeping to occur. As far as smoking breaks, I have nothing for that.
  2. Blended Learning Approach: The role of the trainer changes from being the "sage on the stage" to the "mentor on the side". Going back to the original assessment event, you will remember that the students had access to their teacher only three times during the event and the role of the teacher was not to give information but to ask questions designed to help direct the student and help clarify their thinking.


Please keep in mind that the scenario suggested is just an example and other real world scenarios could be substituted as more sophisticated purposes become important to the company.

Next...Other lessons from the assessment event.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Debriefing the Real World Scenario Assessment--The Real World Scenario and Engagement in the Business Community

In the last post I suggested to you that the need for engagement on the part of the student or learner is an important conclusion that we can draw from the assessment event. I also suggested to you, based upon  Kearsley and Schneiderman's paper titled:"Engagement Theory: A framework for technology based teaching and learning" (1999)( that there were three important principles that help us understand what engagement should look like and whether the use of a real world scenario used in the assessment event fit this model. Those principles were explained in the last post but they are:
  1. Relate
  2. Create
  3. Donate

However, the following question needs to be asked:

" Can the use of real world scenarios within a training format help promote employee engagement in the business community?"

First, I would like to assure you that I am not so naive as to believe that this idea is a panacea for the needed growth of a business in a digital global economy. The idea of engagement on a business wide scale requires many complimentary processes to be in place. However, I will suggest to you that the use of real world scenarios within a training context could cause an incredible ripple effect within a business that will have an effect on the "bottom line"in a higher ROI and prepare a business to become a global participant in a developing culture of innovation.

Is There A Problem?
Is there a problem with disengaged employees? I think that the business community has to do some soul searching by asking themselves why employees when they first start out in a business are eager and forward looking but later become disconnected from the company and its goals.


An analysis of how employees who are disengaged spend their time reveals some clues that are beneficial to our understanding as to what is going on. Our first reaction, as managers, might be to terminate their employment and hire new replacements. However, if this step is taken then all of the company's time and investment in that individual ends up going with them and often to a competitor. If our response is to monitor very closely how they use their time, especially in regards to the use of company technology, it results in a cycle of broken trust.
Perhaps, what we need to do is to take a close look at the distractions and utilize them as part of the way to re-engage employees or channel these actions in a way that will benefit both the business and the welfare of the employees themselves.

The Training Event

 What is wrong with this picture?

Credit: www.humancapitalist .com

The days of the reading of bullets from a Powerpoint presentation to a captive audience are over and will not help build the needed systemic culture of innovation or sustain it. Engagement is intricately linked to realizing that goal. The positive side to this is that once engagement is in place it begins a cycle on sustained innovation within the company culture.

In Part II of this topic, I will describe how we would use the engagement principles through the use of a real world scenario that is germane to the business community... Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Debriefing the Real World Scenario Assessment--Valued Learning in the Business Community and the Education Sector

There are a number of conclusions that may be drawn from such an assessment event where a real world scenario is used as the vehicle. These conclusions are important not only to the education sector but also to the training departments in the business communities.

 The first very important conclusion that we can draw from the event is the level of engagement in personal learning that students demonstrate. Engagement is extremely important because under the old systems of training within the business community and within the education sector, engagement of the learner leading to deeper sustained learning was a serious problem. Employees attending training sessions within companies may have been attentive at the time of the training but engagement and commitment to continue their learning after the training was over very often dropped off or was disconnected completely. In the education sector, the use of MOOCS in high education have not delivered the type of engagement by students that sees them through a quality course successfully to its completion.

Mrs Wendy Smith of  Yeppoon,  Queensland Australia produced the above mind map relating to Kearsley and Schneiderman's paper titled:"Engagement Theory: A framework for technology based teaching and learning" (1999)( Although this paper is dated and technology has advanced greatly since its publication, the three principles still hold true in the 21st century. These principles are:

  1. Relate
  2. Create
  3. Donate 
These principles are valid in relation to the use of real world scenarios in online education and also the use of real world scenarios within a training environment in the business community.

Online Education: To encourage students to develop deeper understandings and knowledge through higher order thinking skills they must be engaged in activities that occur in a group or collaborative context(relate); the activities should be problem based in the form of inquiry or investigation(create) and the learner identifies the link between them as an individual and the authentic use of their knowledge as a valuable contribution to a community whether it is local, national or global.(donate).

In the assessment event two of the skills that I emphasized that needed to be assessed is the ability to analyze a problem from a number of perspectives and then generate solutions that utilize the skill sets of these perspectives.  Marzano and Pickering et. al(1997) in a manual produced titled: "Dimensions of Learning" stated that:

"The transformation of information is when the students apply their higher order thinking skills to use their new knowledge meaningfully. This is done through problem solving (in the form of an investigation or inquiry), invention or analysis of the knowledge and what is required to apply the new knowledge. Students apply this knowledge and can use ‘digital tools’ to demonstrate their understanding."

Although Marzano and Pickering's work is dated, you will notice that these principles were used in the assessment event and I believe are still valid in the 21st century.

Irresistible engagement of the learner is one of the first steps to leading them on a path of deeper sustained learning in which they can contribute as agents of change in real and authentic ways.

But, what about the business community? How can they use these ideas in the training of employees? Next post will focus on engagement for employees in the business community and the benefits that lead to a culture of innovation and an increased level of ROI for the business in question.......

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

E-Learning Assessment- Part II--Real World Scenario--"They Can Run But They Can't Hide"-The Proposed Solution

As was indicated in the last post the problem that is being presented to the students is a real world issue. Stated simply, it comes down to two questions:

  1. "Given the fact that terrorists have the ability of becoming anonymous after an act of terrorism by blending in with the urban population in such a way that they become invisible to authorities, what can we do to enable both soldiers and law enforcement to track the movement and gathering of those who have committed terrorist acts in order to prevent further attacks both in combat areas and in civilian areas of the west?
  2. "What can we do to track the movements of people who are on watch lists without straining law enforcement organizations beyond the breaking point?"

"The Celestial Necklace Proposal"

Background: The use of medical technology to examine the movement of blood flow through the arteries of the human body using radioactive isotopes has been in use for years and is based upon solid scientific principles. In recent years the technology has been so refined that it is now possible through the use of more advanced MRI technology to get even more precise imagery that can be remotely accessed so that doctors in a variety of cities can collaborate when doing research in Cardiology. If you take these advancements and link them with the advances in Nanotechnology, we have an opportunity to adapt this to counter-terrorism.

Proposal: We are proposing the use of something that we will call "Radioactive Tagging". This involves the tagging of terrorists either during hostile engagement on the battlefield or dealing with radicalized home grown terrorists with a hybrid designed radioactive marker. Since the half-life of such a particle clearly is longer than the normal human lifetime, this marker when delivered would actively give off a radioactive signature that can be tracked  and plotted.

Delivery System: With respect to the battlefield and also for law enforcement agencies, we are proposing the development of what we call a "Quantum Round". This is where Nanotechnology comes into play. The payload of this quantum round will have two parts to it and the following characteristics:

  1. When the quantum round hits its target, the radioactive particle is absorbed into the skin where it begins to transmit a radioactive signature. The purpose is to wound but not kill if possible. 
  2. Along with the transmission of the radioactive tag, a nanobot is dispersed into the blood stream where it begins to gather DNA data, and any other information that completes a profile on the individual who has been tagged. This information is transmitted to the designated law enforcement databases. The programming of this nanobot could be set up in such a way that if the radioactive particle is too close to the surface, that it could be picked up and transported deeper into the body.
  3. If any attempt is made afterwards to remove either the radioactive tag or the nanobot, the design safe guard kicks in and both items dissolve leaving no trace when coming in contact with the air.
  4. Individuals who are on watch lists, under new powers given to law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies, will be required to be inoculated with both the radioactive marker and the nanobot.

 Tracking System: The code name for this project, Celestial Necklace, is descriptive of the method used for tracking of implanted radioactive tags in individuals in battle areas and radicalized members of urban populations in a variety of identified countries. It has already been stated that it is impractical for law enforcement and counter-terrorism units to keep track because of limited personnel available for such a task on a 24/7 basis. Therefore, we propose the development of a string of geosynchronous satellites tasked with monitoring the movement of radioactively tagged individuals in established zones or grids on the earth. For example, it could be divided into a North Americas zone, European Zone,...etc.


The information gathered by the satellite system can be then transmitted to law enforcement agencies and counter-terrorism units to alert them when there is movement or a gathering of radioactively tagged individuals in their area. The use of the augmented device, Microsoft Hololens, with an engineering improvement could automatically highlight individuals who are tagged so that they show up in the HUD of helmets when soldiers or law enforcement are out on patrol.

Credit: (Lockheed Martin)

Methods of Investigation : To aid you(students) in your investigation of the feasibility of this proposal, you have enough computing power available to you so that you can:
  1. Create a computer simulation to test out your ideas.
  2. Create 3D models through the use of the 3D printer to help you analyze the problem more effectively. For example, if the proposed satellite monitor should need to be re-engineered because of what you have learned, then it could be modified.


 Collaborative Discussion Guide Points: As you take on this scenario, also consider some of these points:
  1. What ways could terrorists use to counter this new method?
  2. What are some of the moral implications in regards to individuals rights vs. the security needs of a population in bringing this proposal or your alternative proposal to fruition?
  3. What kind of oversights should be in place to protect this technology from falling into the hands of terrorists who could use it against its own creators?
Good luck students and remember that you can call on your teacher only three times and he or she will only offer questions that will help direct you or clarify your thinking...

Next---Debriefing the learning value of this scenario.


E-Learning Assessment Part II---Real World Scenario-"They Can Run But They Can't Hide!"--The Problem

In the last post dealing with assessment, the student team had received feedback on their performance both as individuals and as a collaborative group from the assessment team. They now know more about each others talents and academic aptitudes than they did when they first met. They also have a much clearer picture on how they match up with world standards in a variety of disciplines from their assessors. They have also been able to see the linkages between skill sets used in a variety of disciplines germane to the tasks they were involved in. Now they are going to complete the final part of the assessment in which they will have to work effectively as a collaborative team to come up with creative and innovative solutions to a pressing real world issue. They use the key to open the next door which leads them to a secret government research laboratory. Once again the countdown for the event begins.

As the door opens, they see a room that has a number of flat screen monitors on the right and left hand walls and directly in front of them is a full wall panel which has a display of an dynamic digital map of the Earth.

Their teacher appears, in avatar form, and presents them with the following real world scenario:

Scenario Title: "They Can Run But They Can't Hide!"

Scenario Problem:  " As you are aware, global terrorism has been on the rise since ISIS or the Salafi-Jahadi organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham overan Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq on June 10, 2014. Since then they have captured large swaths of territory with the intention of declaring a caliphate in these middle eastern zones. The response of the West to the atrocities committed by ISIS has been to conduct air strikes daily with the intent of crippling their ability to maintain their armies and supply lines.

However, we are not going to go through this sorted history but instead want to point out to you two major problems that their actions are causing for the western powers. It is on these two problems that you and your team are going to concentrate on:

  1. Since ISIS has began its campaign of terror there have been many in the Middle East who have flocked to join them from countries such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya...etc. The problem is that these volunteers take part in terrorist acts and then during the day fade back into the urban population. After that happens, it is hard to identify them as terrorists until they strike once again. It is impractical to locate surveillance equipment in every village to track movements of the residents and we can't rely on resident informers because we may be getting set up for ambushes of our troops. We need a way in which we can realistically identify terrorists in an urban population!
  2. A second problem is that although watch lists exist in western countries,  limited surveillance coupled with difficult legal rules for acting on people on watch lists makes it difficult to stop radicalized home grown Jihadists from committing acts of terror such as what has been seen in countries such as Canada, France and the United States. We need a way to track their movements that does not rely on extensive use of  law enforcement personnel both on the local and national level!
Our scientists have come up with a proposal and it is your team's responsibility to investigate the feasibility of the proposed solution, suggest alternatives and be able to defend your choices before our new group of assessors.

At your disposal in this research facility you have:
  • Computer technology including the new revised augmented technology, Microsoft Hololens headgear as well as the new and revised VR headgear Oculus Rift will be available to you.
  • Access to real time satellite data that can be displaced on the large flat screen monitor at the front.
  • Complete access to the web and a variety of relevant databases
  • Access to a 3D printer
  • Access to your teacher
The proposed solution that you are about to see is code named: "Celestial Necklace". You will need to identify what disciplines that you will need to access and what skill sets will be required to analyze the problem thoroughly and either approve the solution or create a hybrid solution or discard the solution entirely and come up with an alternative solution. Which ever choice that you make, you must be prepared to defend that choice before your assessors......

Next---- The Proposed Solution