Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Transforming Learning Cultures Through Dynamic E-Learning--Part II--Putting the Pieces in Place for Business

For business organizations to foster all that is required to transform their learning cultures, creating an environment of engagement for employees that appeals to them on the levels of personal relevance, the need to be successful and the drive to make a real and appreciated difference, there is a number of elements that need to be examined. Leadership, roles and areas of opportunity for immediate feedback to employees for their initiatives, collaboratively and individually, are important.

 Ultimately, it comes down to the question:

"How do we harness the most effective technologies to bring about the greatest benefits of both formal learning and informal learning in pursuing a transformation of our learning culture?"

Learning Culture and Leadership

One of the most important elements to consider in creating change is to question how the leadership sees change and what plan they envision for change management within the business organization. The response to this will dictate the shape that the learning culture will take.

 In a learning culture, there needs to be the desire on the part of the leadership to lead by example which means that they consider their own learning a high priority and convey that priority to employees by their own example. This means that they use all of the tools that enhances their learning that the web has to offer through professional organizations, networks and opportunities presented by conferences that involve hands on experiences.


Evolving Roles in Learning Cultures

One of the great fears concerning change is that the role a person has fulfilled for many years within an organization may all of a sudden evaporate causing the loss of employment, transfer to another satellite location that is at a different stage or being thrust into a role that is completely unfamiliar to the person in question.
When you introduce the idea of using E-Learning as a concept for the inspiration, creation and the dissemination of new knowledge and skillsets, roles are transformed so that the work becomes more focused on "knowledge work". Every employee by virtue of a changed focus becomes a knowledge worker and the key goal is learning how to learn and think in an online environment whether it be through a blended E-Learning approach, interactive video collaborative approach or investigative networking in which teams collaborate with other external networks for the purpose of coming up with innovative solutions to complex real world problems that impact the business organization. Change management must be done carefully so as to avoid increased resistance as a result of the fears expressed above.

Credit: Stephen Schillerwein
The obvious question in regards to this extensive level of learning that is required is:

"Who will be able to guide us through this process in a way that won't be disruptive to the flow of our business?"

What is required here is the creation of a new role that I will term as: "The Learning Principles Expert (or Guru)". In a rapidly changing age of information, knowledge and technology, the focus is not on how much content we can force feed employees to help them master their working role within the organization but instead the focus should be on engaging and empowering employees to learn, think and create using all the resources that E-Learning opens up. It is a fact that learners internalize knowledge and skillsets faster when they are intimately engaged in learning that is interactive, dynamic, challenging and empowers them to innovate in a manner that is faithful to the core values of the business organization.

Skillsets of The Learning Principles Expert (or Guru)

The question that should be asked concerning this type of leader is what skillsets and traits should such a person have. The following are only suggestions based upon my own professional experience and background. The LPE should have the following traits and skillsets:

  • He or she should be a person who puts people first before dogma. What that means is simply it is important to consider learners as thinking, feeling and creative individuals who need consideration of their personal situations and forget the idea that they are simply empty vessels to be used as a means to an end.
  • He or she should have considerable academic and practical experience dealing with how adult learners are engaged to sustainable learning in an online environment.
  • He or she should be someone who keeps abreast of important ongoing research on the relationship between pedagogy, technology and change management. These are the three forces that are shaping learning in 21st century societies not only in regards to formal learning but also with regards to the business culture.
  • He or she should be capable of detailing how existing networks would be useful to business organizations and how to create mutually beneficial partnerships in learning and innovation.
  • This leader should be someone who can relate to the learning needs of all levels of the business organization and able to create and track learning profiles and advise on individualized future learning goals that enrich learners' roles within the business organization.
 One piece of advice to offer to recruiters is that in an information, knowledge economy, competition for talent is peaking. It is no longer just enough to post a job posting, wait for the resumes, do the multi-level interviews and hope that you have the right person. You do need to go out and aggressively recruit talent before the competition does. Although a person's "branding" is important, his or her level of expertise and contributions to the greater networks of knowledge should be key guides in making aggressive moves to get to know talent and acquire it. The skillset of knowing how to think effectively in an online environment is a key requirement if we hope to nurture innovative thinking within business organizations from the ground up.
So, what about the roles of people that already exist within the learning culture of the business organization? How will they be transformed and why?
More about these specific roles in the next post! However, the last word on leadership belongs to Dilbert:
[If you think that this is a worthwhile discussion/conversation to have, promote the discussions here through social media so that the conversations can stimulate more thinking on this topic so that we can all grow and acquire an enriched understanding of the usefulness of learning cultures and E-Learning]

Monday, May 30, 2016

Transforming Learning Cultures Through Dynamic E-Learning---Part I--21st Century Business Organizations

In the last post, the final topic to follow was "Habits of the Mind for E-Learners" but there is a need to recognize that such a topic can not be examined without looking at the present status of learning cultures within business organizations and in formal education itself.

For business organizations, when the suggestion is made that the learning culture needs to be transformed from what it is now to where it should be so that it is in sync with developing changes occurring as a result of the exponential growth of technology, information and new skillset requirements, many decision makers pose very insightful questions such as:

  1. Okay, if our learning culture is not where it should be, what steps do we need to take and who will advise us on the steps to take in order for this needed transformation to happen?
  2. Our employees are already well versed in what their jobs require, will needed changes affect the job security of people who have been instrumental in the success of this organization? How do we prevent a fear of change with the people that we depend upon every day?
  3. How do we manage change so that our present relationships with our customers and suppliers are not disrupted to the point where we lose clientele and future opportunities to expand our market share?


Before even attempting to answer these questions, we need to assess whether or not the present learning culture within a business organization is ready to employ E-Learning as a means of engaging everyone from the leadership to the different employee groups within an organization in a mission of collaborative, globally connected learning that benefits the organizations growth within the changing global economy.

The success of such a paradigm shift from the traditional learning culture to one that employs E-Learning hinges on fostering engagement of those directly affected by this change, that being those who labour in a variety of roles within the organization.

Some Key Observations of Engagement Within Present Business Organizations

The degree of engagement that E-Learning can deliver will transform the learning culture of an organization to be more in sync with the realities of a 21st century connected global economy. The more traditional learning cultures that business organizations have been using for decades are following short because the world of information, knowledge and technology is changing rapidly but business organizations are not adapting. The statistics of the importance of employee engagement show this decline.

Credit: Stephen Schillerwein(2014) 
 In a globally connected economy, this level of employee disengagement is not just a North American problem or just a European or Pan Asiatic problem. It is a systemic problem that exists that has a cascading effect for all business organizations that need to be globally connected in order to prosper and deliver healthy ROI to those who are bona fide stakeholders in the health of the organization.

Credit: Stephen Schillerwein(2014)
The reason for the evident erosion in the engagement of employees within the business organization is the failure to realize that the learning culture within the organization is more and more at odds with the type of digital lifestyle that employees live in outside the business organization. This lifestyle in fact defines their life and the business culture which places very little emphasis on personalized learning creates a growing disconnect between the employee and the organization.

Transforming the learning culture in this type of digital world is not a frill but is an essential if the drive to create innovation within a business has any hope of taking on life. Business organizations that have already undertaken such a reasoned transformation are seeing results.


Learning Culture Involves Knowledge Work

Within a business organization in the 21st century, we need to understand that in this age of knowledge, information collaboration and innovation, the spotlight is on  what we would term "knowledge work". We would be very naive to believe that knowledge work only refers to business that deal with the creation and dissemination of knowledge. 

"Knowledge and information is the new currency that is a shared requirement in all businesses that are globally connected. It is also the premier source of influence and power in the 21st 

Working with knowledge and information involves going beyond the company Intranet to a global Intranet and when employees are engaged in this change in the way of performing their roles, engagement grows.

Credit: Stephen Schillerwein (2014)  
So, how does a business organization make the transformation to a learning culture that creates the needed engagement which will result in benefits for the organization on multiple levels?

Next post deals with the pieces to this puzzle and the steps needed to make it happen.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

E-Learning's New Mindset --Thoughtful and Sustainable Engagement

With the new technologies that are being brought into the mainstream to be incorporated into the service of E-Learning, we need to be very discerning as to what kind of mindset such technologies will foster within the learner. Not every technology, which on the surface looks promising, will necessarily be beneficial and supportive of the goals that we have for E-Learning. There is such a position as being "paralyzingly cautious" but there is also a position that could be termed "rock star awe" where we recklessly adapt and incorporate a technology because its concept dazzles us.
In order to be discerning we need to be clear on what type of mindset that we want to foster in the learner as they pursue their learning in ways that benefit the societies that they live and work in.


In order to transform E-Learning to a form that promotes thoughtful engagement, we need to see what qualities should make up serious E-Learning that is applicable to not only the formal education sector but very applicable to the learning cultures of business. The most important revelation that should impact those entrusted with ID and training in the business culture is that today's 21st century learners are not taking part in the training for the cute badges or the check marks on their task completion lists.

If we look at what serious E-Learning should entail that will foster thoughtful engagement of the learner in his or her learning so that deeper, sustainable learning takes place, we have to ask ourselves as ID's , Learning Principle Experts and trainers:

"Are our deliverables creating the type of learning culture that leads to innovative and creative problem solving and solutions?"


So, the obvious question to ask is:

"What does this have to do with the selection of technology as a tool for serious E-Learning?"

To answer this question, lets consider a couple of technologies geared to social media. One that everyone is familiar with is Twitter.

Credit: www.Diane Benner

"Does the Twitter technology foster the type of mindset that promotes the depth of thoughtful engagement required to achieve the level of learning that we will need for learners in E-Learning?"

If you remember from the last post, the level of thinking skills required for learners to become effective agents of change and able to solve complex real world problems collaboratively, were at the upper end of the Revised Bloom Taxonomy. The very nature of being able to demonstrate the ability to effectively search, evaluate, authenticate, synthesize and then task information from multiple online databases and professional learning communities to a given real world problem, requires a level of thoughtful engagement that is rarely seen in Twitter technology. How the technology is routinely used is a revelation in itself.


Another new technology is what is called "Bite Sized  Learning". Again just as Twitter involves learning within 140 characters, this type of learning suggests a "buffet style learning " where you really draw on information at the surface. It is questionable whether this type of technology fosters the type of mindset that promotes thoughtful engagement required in serious E-Learning.

The skillsets required for modern learners in an E-Learning, collaborative world can be achieved only if we are careful and discerning about the new technologies that we come across. As ID's ,Learning Principle Experts, educators, and trainers, we have a responsibility to make our pedagogy as an active, dynamic and adaptive paradigm to be the driver for change in E-Learning both in the business culture and in the formal education sector. Technology is only useful if it helps our pedagogical practices expand to capitalize on what the changing world wide web has to offer.

Next.....Habits of the E-Learner's Mind

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Challenge of Adapting New Technologies to E-Learning--Part III

Technologies that serve the need of making experiential learning appeal to a majority of the human senses means that our online learning experiences will create a greater degree of deeper learning that will last longer than any methods employed in the past.
Human beings' ability to interpret and act within their environment depends upon the data streams coming into our brains through our senses. In cases of where one particular sense has been reduced or completely eliminated, the remarkable human brain adapts by extending the range of sensitivity to the other data streams from the other senses. This is why when an individual loses their sight that their hearing, sense of smell and tactile senses become more acute and the focus switches to these data streams. This enables the brain of the individual to make sense of and navigate their environment.. Actions taken using the information results in feedback to the brain which then interprets and adjust further actions. So, the question becomes:

Why is this concept important to understand in relation to E-Learning and pedagogy?

This means that the more a pedagogical approach is able to appeal to a majority of the senses of a learner the more likely that the learner is going to be totally engaged and intrinsically motivated to follow the learning experience through. It is for this very reason that scenario learning experiences, serious games and simulation learning are so effective. Game designers understand the importance of this concept. Take a count of the number of senses that the new more advanced online games appeal to and notice that in some cases, such as X-Box 360 & X-Box One, that technology accessories (ie: "the Wii") are designed to incorporate the use of the tactile senses. Movie theaters understand the growing importance of this concept of multi-sensory stimulation with adaptations to appeal not just to motion sense but even the olfactory human sense.

The Promise of Augmented Technology in E-Learning
Augmented technology could be useful in helping to reach further and transform pedagogy more and more within an online environment.

This is especially true when it comes to a new skillset that is rising in importance and in fact is already touted in some science fiction movies as the skillset of the future. The skillset I am referring to is the ability to access, draw from and contribute to multiple databases at the same time.
To understand this, consider a simple analogy.

When a student was given a student project by a classroom teacher, one of the approaches the student might take when working at this at home, would be to gather a variety of books from a library, sit at a table and open the books in a semi-circle, each to an important section that the student might want to draw pertinent information from. An important distinction to make here is this is NOT multitasking because these various sources of information are being drawn on for the purpose of excelling in one task and not a multitude of tasks.
Putting this analogy in an augmented technology digital form we have happening something similar to what the infamous Tony Stark was doing in the Iron Man movies series.

The skills required involving actively searching for, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing information from a variety of databases that can be brought to focus on the complex real world problem that the learner or learners are tasked with. The use of augmented technology in E-learning becomes a "natural fit" since all that needs to be accessed is found through learning networks and professional online organizations on the web.

Another example of this merging of man with machine are the modern HUD(Heads Up Display) that are coming more and more into use for pilots of aircraft of many different types from the military to future commercial space flights. Within these displays, a pilot can access data from meteorological, topographical, radar sat, aircraft status databases which are necessary in order for him or her to make informed and effective decisions.

This leaves us with an intriguing question:

"If these skillsets are going to become the norm, how do we develop digital pedagogies that will enhance these skillsets and enable learners to develop the discipline to maintain a focus and ignore the overwhelming "white noise" also present in the web environment?"

To answer the above question, we need to re-consider a concept that was mentioned in an earlier post. The concept was "thoughtful and irresistible engagement".

Next...Re-visiting thoughtful and irresistible engagement in an E-Learning environment

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Challenge of Adapting New Technology to E-Learning--Part II

In a past post, it was mentioned that technology must be harnessed to serve pedagogy. Just to make sure that we are all on the same page in regards to pedagogy, the following will suffice. 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.

  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, and evaluation.  

In terms of E-Learning, we assert that in the relationship between technology and pedagogy, technology can not and should not be the driver to effective E-Learning.

With that understanding in mind, there is an important question that needs to be answered which is:

"If learning is to be set more and more in an online environment, what opportunities does the web offer to transform our pedagogy?"

If one of the skillsets we really want to nurture is "collaboration", then what does the web and its associated technologies offer that will transform collaboration from a closed, localized area for interaction to one that incorporates the global outreach that the web is capable of?

If a goal is to have the power to draw together a collaborative team from around the globe, either ad hoc or permanent, tasked with using their skillsets to come up innovative solutions to a complex real world problem, what technologies will allow us to do that?

One thing that we have learned from the study of how we learn is that problem based learning and experiential learning lead to the greatest engagement of the learner and a sustained deeper learning where the learner is intrinsically motivated to transfer learning and apply learned skills  to novel tasks.
In an online world, the focus needs to be on the higher order thinking skills as illustrated in Bloom's Revised Taxonomy rather than being focused on the acquiring and repetition of content as the digital skillsets have moved from being just a nice add on to something that are essentials to ensure deeper sustained learning.

The analyzing and evaluation level are crucial in determining the authenticity and validity of information on the web since anyone can create a website and use flashy visuals to present corrupted or discredited information as truth.

Technologies and Pedagogy in the Past

In the past, the use of a variety of web conferencing technologies such as Go-To-Meeting, Skype, Google Hangouts...etc attempted to make effective online collaboration possible. They allowed audio and visual presence with the possibility of sharing documents out so that a group could edit them in real time.
The introduction of Second Life as an immersive collaborative environment went a step further. it created virtual meeting places in which individuals could collaborate. In this environment, it was not only audio and video presence that was made available but all emotional presence. This was a step forward to the goal of making learning personalized in an online environment. The irony found within their approach is that when it came to actual classrooms in Second Life, they were still designed in age old industrial model format of the "sage on the stage" and the learners in seated rows.

With the introduction of Minecraft, the concept of problem solving and experiential learning was again emphasized. The ability of being able to act on objects, rearrange them and build things collaboratively from a concept for a particular purpose again appealed to the sense of presence.

Next... Augmented technology and E-Learning

Monday, May 2, 2016

Taking Time Off the Grid- The Challenge of Adapting New Technology to E-Learning-Part I

With the frenzied introduction and daily updates on new technologies, sometimes it is good to step back and dare to take time off the grid. There is a time honoured practice peculiar to our species that distinguishes us from other species which is the human capacity for reflection. This is very often the catalyst for the development of vision and insights that normally would not present themselves. So, being an explorer and innovator at heart, I took those steps and went off the grid. I would have to admit it wasn't totally off the grid since I did respond to postings found in LinkedIn.

In considering the challenge of adapting new technologies to serve E-Learning, we first must describe what we would like E-Learning to look like either within the context of the business culture or within the context of the education culture.


Desirable Characteristics for E-Learning

1/ Based Upon a New Paradigm and New Vision: We need to embrace a new vision for E-Learning specifically and education in general that is more in sync with the needs of societies that are globally connected and which share very common complex problems. We need to educate learners in such a way that collaboratively with others these learners may be effective agents of change who see people as a global community and may use the resources available to them to produce innovative and workable solutions. The previous paradigm which is still in force is not designed to nurture the skillsets needed to produce effective agents of change. What it does is that it maintains all the divisions that rob societies of being able to promise the hope of a better quality of life for their children regardless of their socioeconomic status. What is required is a paradigm shift.


Paradigm shifts are by their very nature, disruptive and as a result will be difficult to achieve.

2/ The Learning Design:  The thinking used in creating learning experiences must make use of the principles of design thinking. It must focus on creating learning experiences that are experiential, collaborative, problem focused and tied to real world outcomes. Learning experiences that result in collaborative, innovative solutions to complex real world problems must not stop at the walls of the classroom but should flow through a conduit to professional communities where they can receive feedback and promote discussion. Relevance and personal meaning for the learner is found in being able to receive feedback on their work from those on the leading edge of their respective disciplines. The ROI will grow on more than one level for both the professional community and for the learners themselves.

3/ Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking: Creativity in the old paradigm was never really given the priority that was needed and critical thinking was promoted but within certain boundaries. In a world where information and knowledge is increasing exponentially, we can no longer allow creativity to wither in the hearts and minds of learners. Critical thinking is not an adversary to creativity. In this age they need to be perceived as complementary and crucial in solving complex real world problems. To maintain the status quo that exists in a paradigm that no longer serves our greatest need is a recipe for disaster on a global scale.

4/ Fostering the Creation of New Knowledge and Skillsets: As part of the new paradigm, we need to design learning experiences that systemically presents and reinforces the skillsets required to fulfill this function. Too much of the past approach emphasizes unbridled consumerism at the cost of being societies that created new skillsets and knowledge. The obvious question is: 

"If you say that knowledge and information is growing exponentially, then are we not overproducing new knowledge and skillsets?"

The answer to that question is to re-examine our vision. What are our motives for the production of new knowledge and skillsets or what are the drivers for this? If the drivers are still tied to the old paradigm which sought to educate learners to be life long consumers and to live to accumulate things as the defining factors of our lives then we are still reinforcing a dated paradigm and can not effectively move forward.

5/ Fostering Effective Habits of the Mind: The fact that E-Learning takes place in an online world, means that we need to educate learners to handle this new reality. It is not about the memorization of content and then the regurgitation of that content on a one shot exam only to be forgotten a few days later. What it is about is engaging a connected generation to develop the necessary skills to analyze, synthesize, evaluate and create in an ocean of information (valid or invalid) and knowledge (supported or unsupported) and be able to actively contribute to powerful and important real world discussions in meaningful, life-changing ways. The old paradigm did not encourage this and the fact that education systems are still following it is one of the reasons that the new connected generation is disconnecting with their education at an alarming rate.

We need to have real conversations not only with all who are stakeholders in the future of education but everybody who has a stake in an enriching and viable future. In order to do that we need to share such simple posts as mine with everyone you can think of that would like to be part of this conversation. Share this on social media such as Facebook, Twitter or choose your favourite social media outlet. 

Going off the grid was helpful for me to step back and look at the beautiful forest that the future in education could be instead of obsessively focusing on just one tree. Share this post, talk about it, challenge it. In doing so the I can tell that you care about this passion of mine.

Next--Looking at specific new technologies as they apply to E-Learning