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

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