Saturday, May 30, 2015

E-Learning Evolution: The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network: Part I

As we progress to looking at the Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network, it would be prudent to summarize first where we have been before moving forward with the global E-Learning re-organization proposal.



  • Global online education covering the planet is established through the development and institution of 6 Global E-Learning Portals.
  • Each Global E-Learning Portal consists of 4 collaborative networks that advise and take direction from a central hub called the Global E-Learning Hub
  • The Global E-Learning Hub has three primary functions: (a) It is an established "learning community" that students, who belong to the family of nations that the learning portal oversees with respect to education,can login to, collaborate with other students and receive personalized, adaptive learning according to their personal needs and learning profile. (b) It also has the responsibility to take direction and advice from the four networks that are part of the portal. This is especially important in its collaboration with the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network which serves the needs of learners by establishing a mentor relationship with professionals in the Sciences, Arts, Technology and Mathematics disciplines, and (c) It is a professional collaboration and innovation community.
  • The other networks and councils are: (a) The Business and Education Innovation Council which maintains close ties with corporations who are part of the family of nations involved in establishing a learning and innovation culture for their respective organizations and is a forum for their employees to present proposals, (b) Global Corporate Trainers, Instructional Designers and Learning Principles Educator Network which collaborates with the Business and Education Innovation Council and also promotes and designs E-Learning ideas in collaboration with the Global E-Learning Hub, and (d) The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network.
Cross Disciplinary Learning and Higher Education

As was pointed out in a previous posting, cross disciplinary learning is becoming more and more important in solving real world problems that have become more and more complex. The skillsets required to analyze and solve these problems require collaboration that cross a variety of disciplines. A bright spot in this is that the STEAM disciplines are starting to recognize this more and more as indicated by the rise of cross disciplinary research. The compartmentalization of disciplines are starting to transform into hybrids designed to challenge the problems of the 21st century.

Although research is starting to adopt the cross disciplinary and collaborative mindset, the institutions with the mandate to educate 21st century learners have shown a great deal of inertia when it comes to breaking free from the industrial model of education. Their experimentation with online education via the use of MOOCS has garnered mixed results but it is improving. They need to recognize that the technology advances will not improve their efforts if their pedagogy does not change

De-Programming Education Faculties

Since most major universities have faculties of education responsible for the training of teachers, if the university is still mired in the old model of education it will be the same situation for the faculty responsible for training educators. De-programming these faculties is now essential if we are ever to have teachers who have a renewed purpose to be agents of change and encourage their students to be agents of change and creators of new knowledge and skillsets. It requires deprogramming minds and preparing them for a new mindset that is going to have an exciting impact on their careers as educators and on the students as agents of change in their respective societies.

In order for these transformations to take place, E-Learning needs to communicate and even mentor educators and the faculties they attend in this cross disciplinary way of learning. This explains one of the purposes of the Global Higher Learning and Teacher Mentoring Network which I intend to describe in more detail in the next post.

Just as a side note, I know that some of the labels I have used for these networks and councils might be a bit unwieldy. If you could suggest alternative labels that would be better, I am open to suggestions. After all, I am a life long learner!

Next... Characteristics of the Global Higher Learning and Teacher Mentoring Network...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

E-Learning Evolution: Collaborative Problem Solving and a Real World Problem Application: The Nepal Earthquake

 Solving Real World Problems in the 21st Century: Introduction

Two points that I have tried to emphasize in describing cross disciplinary learning as it applies to collaboratively solving real world problems are:

  1. The approaches to problem solving that we used in the past are not measuring up to solving the complex real world problems that we have today and which are increasing in number. The wealth of resources that the world wide web provides, especially in the area of being able to collaborate on a global scale are not being effectively utilized. We are still trying to solve problems with a compartmentalized thinking mindset. Cross disciplinary thinking is alien to many because all of their educational lives have been immersed in a compartmentalized knowledge mindset.
  2. In a serious crisis, such as the Nepal earthquake, relief efforts were hampered, IMHO, in part by this type of mindset that exists in government bureaucracy. In no way should this point be construed as an indictment of the heroic efforts made by many nations to get aid to those who suffered greatly from this disaster.

The Need for a Paradigm Shift That Reflects 21st Century Realities

If we accept that cross disciplinary collaborative problem solving is an approach to dealing with the increasingly complex real world problems then what would this paradigm shift look like in real terms?

A. /Collaborative Team--------> Analyzes  Real World Problem

Necessary questions that the team needs to ask itself in order to effectively analyze the problem are:

  1. In order to get a complete picture of the problem what skillsets from what disciplines are required in order to analyze it?
  2. Do any of our team members possess the required skillsets to bring clarity to the analysis of the problem?
  3. If we are lacking necessary skillsets, where do we look online in order to make up for our deficiencies? Do we have access to other professionals who can contribute to the analysis? Do we have access to databases that offer easy access, excellent search qualities and are relational in their responses to queries in that they are able to relate and coordinate information from similar problems that may have bearing on our specific problem?
B.  /Collaborative Team-----------> Postulates and Tests Potential Solutions

Necessary questions that the team needs to ask itself in order to arrive at potential solutions are:

  1. Do we have protocols in place that encourage divergent thinking in our collaborations, using the data that we have gathered from the analysis of the problem?
  2. Can we draw on cross disciplinary expertise to test our thinking in regards to our proposed solutions?
If you look carefully at this paradigm, what you should see is the context used for PBL (Problem Based Learning) but we are taking this context further by incorporating some of the useful elements available to us from the professional online learning communities. The reason is what every educator, corporate trainer, instructional designer and CEO should recognize which is:

"As professionals, we do not have a sufficient level of expertise that is needed in order to solve the complex real world problems that we are facing today. Collaboration is not optional; it is absolutely essential. It is also essential that we begin to educate learners in schools, colleges and universities in the art of this type of mindset!"

Real World Problem Solving: The Nepal Earthquake Crisis

 On April 25, 2015 an earthquake measuring 7.8  in magnitude struck the country of Nepal resulting in the deaths of more than 7000 people at the time.
The incredible physical devastation was so wide spread that even Mount Everest was shaken causing a number of catastrophic avalanches that led to the loss of a number of climbing teams engaged on the mountain.


If the devastation and loss of life was not enough for the people to contend with, some serious questions arose in regards to the coordination of the relief effort that followed. I would like to make it very clear that many nations reacted and made a heroic effort to get what was needed to Nepal as the story unfolded but the question that needs to be asked is:

"Was the coordination of the many levels of expertise to address the problems that existed present or was there compartmentalization and a refusal to accept the type of leadership and analysis of the problems needed to arrive at timely and effective solutions?"

I know that hindsight is 20/20 but do we need to re-think how we approach complex problems? The media provided a variety of points of view on the relief effort. In a New York Times article by Gardiner Harris, titled:" Nepal's Bureaucracy Is Blamed as Earthquake Relief Supplies Pile Up" (May 3,2015), Jamie Goldrick, the United Nations resident coordinator was quoted in an interview as saying:

"The bottleneck was the fact that the bureaucratic procedures were just so heavy. So many layers of government and so many departments involved, so many different line ministries involved. We don’t need goods sitting in Kathmandu warehouses. We don’t need goods sitting at the airport. We need them up in the affected areas."

This was just one of many similar points of view. If what the article is saying is true then what you have is different levels all protecting their turf rather than providing the level of collaboration that should be expected.

 As a lesson in cross disciplinary learning, this could represent a classic example of a real world problem that we could and should build into E-Learning programs that want to deal with real world issues. We need to educate this present generation and those that follow to adopt this mindset and be as immersed in it as they have the previous mindset of the past. One thing that should be clear is that the approach that is taken affects more than the education sector. This mindset should be a priority for businesses in the 21st century if they hope to grow a culture of innovation.

Next...Taking aim at higher education and education faculties

Friday, May 22, 2015

E-Learning Evolution- The Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network-Part II-Its Nature

If we accept the idea that more and more disciplines are become less and less compartmentalized and are moving towards more cross disciplinary approaches with open collaboration, then the question that we need to ask:

"What must we do to help learners transition from the compartmentalized thinking about knowledge that has been the driving force in their education under the old model of education to a new way of cross disciplinary thinking?

Perhaps an even more telling question that should also be asked is:

"How do we as educators, corporate trainers, instructional designers and even CEO's, make the transition ourselves in our professional practices?"


Cross Disciplinary Skill Sets Needed

 If our goal is to teach students how to solve real world problems in effective and collaborative ways, we need to address the question as to what skill sets does a cross disciplinary learner need to develop and nurture in order to accomplish the goal. Certainly the following key cognitive skills are standard requirements:

  1. Intellectual Curiosity
  2. Reasoning
  3. Problem Solving
 However, these skills were also standard requirements under the past way of thinking. What changes?

Intellectual Curiosity: It is not enough to be able to engage in scholarly inquiry and dialogue, learners must also be able to determine while working on the web who has the most credible voice to speak for the discipline in question. Engaging in dialogue with anyone who calls them self a "guru" without using thoughtful discernment is like walking into a minefield and hoping the mines are where the experts think they are.
Learners need to have access to professional forums and need to learn to listen to conversations. They need to be willing to probe and test what is being said.

In the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network, the professionals making up the network would have a responsibility of providing such a forum and making it intellectually accessible to learners.


Reasoning: It is a basic requirement that learners have the skill of being able to consider the arguments and conclusions of others as well as being able to construct well-reasoned arguments. However, in the support of this skill, they also need to be able to determine what online databases and other sources of information will yield the most reliable and authentic data. They need to be able to collaborate with peers and professionals in order to produce compelling and defensible solutions to problems that they are tasked with.

In the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network, learners would have a forum to present arguments dealing with problems they are tasked with and would expect to be challenged by the professionals there. Learners would need the skill to collaboratively re-think arguments when evidence gives warrant to it.

Problem Solving: Problem solving is the very heart of what we are trying to accomplish with learners from a cross disciplinary perspective. Under this new way of thinking, certain skills are paramount:

  1.  Students need to be able to analyze a real world problem and determine what skill sets are required in order to get the most accurate picture of the problem.

    2. Students need to be able to collaborate with others both peers and professionals in creative ways. Divergent thinking skills would be encouraged in arriving at multiple solutions to a real world problem. This skill was a trait that the old model of education said was only possessed by a few people. Recent cognitive neuroscience research now has shown that the "Right Brain-Left Brain" theory was wrong.


    The mentor network becomes instrumental in nurturing learners and encouraging them to thinking outside the box as a standard way of approaching real world problems.

    The Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network:Other Responsibilities

    Some of the responsibilities of this network have been mentioned above. Some other important roles that these professionals could play are:

    1. Work with educators, corporate trainers, instructional designers and game designers in the design of irresistibly engaging learning experiences that would then be provided to the Global Learning Hub.
    2. Collaborate with educators, corporate trainers, instructional designers and game designers in the design of assessment tools and also take part in the assessment of the learner's efforts from the perspective of their discipline. This would involve them in providing ongoing feedback to the learner and especially to mentor-learner groups.
    3. Willing to identify students with the right aptitudes and skills for their specific discipline and set up mentor matches.

    The transition for both learners who will become the creators of new knowledge and skill sets will take time and in order for this to happen, we need to look at real world problems in new ways.

    Next... Revisiting an example of a real world problem but this time from a cross disciplinary approach.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

E-Learning Evolution-- The Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network--Part I

 Detecting and Solving Real World Problems

Cross disciplinary learning is an approach to learning that suggests that when we need to find and solve real world problems, that no single set of skills will enable us to detect, analyze and solve problems in the 21st century.

Paul Jeffrey (2003) in an article titled: "Smoothing the Waters: Observations on the Process of Cross Disciplinary Research Collaboration" very aptly  stated:

"...A central motivation for research funders to support studies that consider the contributions of more than one disciplinary field is the fact that real world problems do not come in disciplinary-shaped boxes. Indeed, national research policies lay increasing emphasis on problem oriented research, which requires the crossing of disciplinary boundaries..."

PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) recognizes that the world has changed and that the compartmentalization of subjects that was a product of the industrial model of education no longer fits and the globally focused organization, OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), supports this position.


In 2003, PISA recognized that the world was changing and that the way that learners needed to solve real world problems also had to change and take on a cross disciplinary format.

In its progression it is worthwhile to point out that the emphasis in 2015 is collaborative problem solving that not only involves the use of a computer but involves collaboration with other students, using cross disciplinary skill sets that are drawn from the scientific and arts disciplines. The country of Finland, as stated in an earlier post, performs very well in the PISA standings and now has taken the step of moving away from the traditional compartmentalization  of subjects in favour of a cross disciplinary approach.

Cross Disciplinary Research and Learning: The Challenge

One of the points that Jeffrey makes in his article is that for many disciplines, when it comes to collaboration, "they still need to learn how to play well with others in the sandbox"!

If we expect learners in the 21st century to become creators of new knowledge and skill sets that will feed innovation, we need the disciplines to develop the necessary parameters for the collaboration among themselves that is required in order to advance cross disciplinary learning. They need to lead by example and put aside the barriers of the past.

This is not only something that educators want to happen. Business has stated very clearly that what they want in the way of the primary quality in future employees is that they are problem finders and then problem solvers. They want employees to be able  to analyze a situation, detect potential problems and then arrive at preemptive solutions. In a digital age, learners can not be problem finders unless they have the skill sets necessary that when used together give a complete picture of the situation as it exists. This requires more than one perspective to contribute valuable data. No student can have problem changing expertise in all disciplines which means that they need to be able to access those that do.

The Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network

If we accept the growing importance of cross disciplinary learning then how do we nurture it as a way of thinking for solving real world problems for 21st century students and those who will follow them? In the Global Learning Portal, the establishment of a cross disciplinary research and mentor network is a first step in encouraging and addressing this mindset.

Next........ The nature of the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network and a return to the Mount Everest example

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

E-Learning Evolution: The Global Business and Education Innovation Council--The 80/20 Solution

It would be a gross understatement to say that the global corporate community has a stake in promoting and nurturing the seeds of innovation within their organizations. The daunting question that they face is:

" How do we institute innovation within our business organization without disrupting what we already have established and is showing a good ROI within our given market? We don't want to lose clients or market share."

The important understanding is to avoid the extreme positions on the issue. At one end is the position that we do not try to innovate and we remain doing what we always have done.

This approach of pretending that innovation is not a path to follow is one of the reasons that companies such as Kodak are no longer with us. On the other hand, there is no doubt that "full on" innovation on a large scale is disruptive for a company that could place a company in just as a precarious position as Kodak was in except for a different reason.

Credit: www.
 The disruption due to innovation will not be reserved to one sector alone but will be similar to dropping a stone in a large pond. The ripples act on objects in that pond to create a chain reaction so that one reacting event then triggers other events which in turn become stimuli for new events.
Within a business organization, a vision is needed to deal with the seismic changes that will impact a business. The way to do this is to be proactive instead of reactive.

An 80/20 Solution

In order to avoid taking extreme positions on innovation, one suggested approach is a 80/20 solution. This means that 80% of the business efforts goes towards maintaining and growing the services and products that are the strengths of the business's brand. The 20% is a part of the company that is created and devoted to creating conditions and protocols needed for innovation to grow and become a natural business thought pattern for the company. This means that the use of blended learning for its employees as a means of creating collaborative, problem solving and innovative thinking becomes the goal. In establishing such a focus, designated resources and funding should be planned for.

To achieve useful collaboration where innovative ideas can flourish, there must be a forum where groups can present such ideas where decision makers hear and discuss the possibilities. I refer you back to the case of Kodak and why it faltered as described in the Forbes(2012) article. The following quote is worth noting:

"...Historically, Kodak was built on a culture of innovation and change. It’s the type of culture that’s full of passionate innovators, already naturally in tune to the urgency surrounding changes in the market and technology. It’s these people – those excited about new ideas within your own organization – who keep your company moving ahead instead of falling behind. One key to avoiding complacency is to ensure these innovators have a voice with enough volume to be heard (and listened to) at the top..." (Forbes, 5/02/2012)

The Global Business and Education Innovation Council

In order for a business to create that 20% devotion to innovation that engages employees in putting forth innovative ideas, I am suggesting that the creation of a council made up of business leaders who are decision makers in their respective sectors is worth considering. The functions of such a council could be:

  1. Provide a forum for businesses to encourage new and innovative ideas by employees to be brought forward where they could be discussed openly with an understanding that proprietary concerns would need to be addressed.
  2. Coordinate business opportunities to help developing nations within a specific family of nations develop E-Learning access that is more in line with that of developed nations. The form that this could take could range from establishing appropriate infrastructure to the creation of targeted MOOCS to address educational needs specific to a particular region.
  3. Collaborate with other councils in other portals to share common problems and seek appropriate solutions that will keep innovation moving forward.
Remember!      This is not an option !!
 Businesses have some soul searching to do in a digital age and some questions that every business should consider are:
  1. Does the present business environment foster the development of innovation in a systemic way, starting with the engagement of employees in innovative thinking? If not then why not?
  2. Are there protocols in place that enable employees to become engaged and to collaborate in producing innovative ideas?
  3. Are the training events designed in such a way as to take into account the principles of learning for the employee? Are personalized learning profiles kept?
  4. Is there a Learning Principles Expert on staff who works with the trainer and instructional designer to create irresistibly engaging learning experiences?
  5. Do engaged and innovative thinking employees have a forum in which they can "pitch" innovative ideas freely without fear of penalty?
Next.......More about the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network

Monday, May 11, 2015

E-Learning Evolution: Global E-Learning Hubs--What Are They?

One of the key elements to the development of effective Global E-Learning Hubs is that their guiding purpose should be to develop purposeful networked relationships with all the stakeholders who desire to make the learning experiences of today's learners and tomorrow's learners a true reflection of what "life-long learning" was meant to be for all people regardless of their station in life. With that in mind, the following are the characteristics that I would envision such a hub should have and I am open to suggestions:

  1. Learning Community: In order to promote "life-long learning" for all people who are part of the family of countries of a specific portal, the E-Learning Hub should be the place where people can receive guidance in developing a individualized learning plan that fits their future goals as citizens of their respective countries. This is where they will be able to feel connected to other people from their family of countries socially, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. It is a place where regardless of your station in life, you enjoy equity with all other learners because you are guided by one vision. This is also the place that when they log in, they may access the learning experiences that are required in order to satisfy the needs of their individualized learning plans. Easy access to open collaboration with others in this learning hub will help promote community.
  2. Professional Collaboration and Innovation Community: The Global E-Learning Hub is also the place where professional instructional designers, innovators, educators, trainers get together to design learning experiences for learners. It is here that cross disciplinary learning is a guiding force in the design of learning experience. The work that is prototyped is then shared with two networks:  (a) Global Corporate Trainers, ID and LPE Networks and (b) Cross Disciplinary Research and mentor Networks. The purpose of this sharing is to have the work discussed within the framework of current global business needs and the needs of the scientific disciplines. Recommendations for change and innovation may then be made to the respective networks and/ re-thinking of the prototype efforts. (More will be detailed about these networks in followup posts.)
  3. Student-Mentor Relationships: This is the place where students are linked up with the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network. As students progress through their individualized learning plan, a learning profile that details their goals and progress is continually updated and detailed. The student is requested to give permission for their profiles to be made available to this network. A mentor from the scientific/arts disciplines is matched up with the student based upon the student's goals and also the talents and aptitudes of the student. The purpose is for the mentor to develop a guiding relationship with the student to make sure that the student's efforts lead to growth. The mentor will also be part of an assessment team who evaluate students' efforts in their courses, offering a voice from the point of view of their respective disciplines.


Mark Zuckerberg has the mission right. In E-Learning, we not only have to take this mission on but go much further in the goal of bringing order and form to a noble enterprise such as life-long learning.

Next..... Looking at the the other collaborative networks that should have a relationship with the Global E-Learning Hub

Friday, May 1, 2015

E-Learning Evolution: Global E-Learning Portals and Their Elements--The Global E-Learning Hub--Part I

The diagram that I posted in the previous post was designed by me to visually illustrate not only the parts that I think should make up each portal but also the collaborative relationships that should exist.

The focal point in each portal is what I would call a Global E-Learning Hub.

Global E-Learning Hub: As the name implies, this is the main focal point for the portal. Within each portal there are two types of countries within the context of online learning. There are countries who have a well developed infrastructure that supports high speed Internet access and already have a high percentage of their population that not only have access but use the Internet as a regular part of their daily lives and then there are countries that are at various stages of developing the needed infrastructure and only the professional disciplines use the Internet on a regular basis.

" How do we overcome inequity in order to make E-Learning accessible to greater percentages of have not countries?"

I would approach this question from two points. First, I would draw your attention to the analogy of the mentor/ apprentice construct of the trade guilds of the 13th -17th century . The mentor or master craftsman had skillsets that were predicated on striving for excellent quality in their craft. The same is true of those countries today who have learned what the pitfalls of establishing appropriate infrastructure for Internet access are and also for developing effective E-Learning programs and know, through experience, how to streamline and customize the process. The apprentice would be mentored by the mentor until they would reach the stage of being what is called a journeyman. Applying this construct to the countries in various stages of development for the purpose of E-Learning, we could see an important mentoring relationship develop. 
For this reason, I would suggest that each Global E-Learning Hub would be established in countries that are advanced in their establishment of infrastructure and E-Learning development. Those countries within the portal that are in various stages of development, I would label as "protege nations" and they would come under the direct mentoring of the established nations when it comes to E-Learning.

The second point I would approach this from is a business perspective. Obviously, there is cost in every development that we attempt that requires innovative approaches. 

"What is the role of the corporate community and what ROI and other benefits can be expected from such a plan?"

Any 21st century business hoping to continue to grow in the area of education and especially online education has every right to ask about the potential of a return on their investment in online education. Based on economic predictions, the following would needed to be seriously considered.


What we can discern from the above data is that from a business perspective, we can see where the areas of predicted growth in Internet use and E-Learning will be in the future if we are able to bring order and form to E-Learning within a global context. From a business perspective, there are many opportunities to lead in innovation rather than follow when there is a unified vision and purpose to what we are trying to accomplish.

Next.... What exactly is the function of a Global E-Learning Hub?