Posts Categorized: Learning

Innovation and the Learning Industry 3

Dave Pollard completes his piece on A Prescription for Business Innovation in Part 3 of this series. I’ve previously commented on Part 1 and Part 2.

Simply put, we are living in an age when we cannot afford innovation, and cannot afford to be without it. Perhaps the most critical innovation need therefore is for creative mechanisms to finance, price and pay for the costs of innovation itself. Funding, pricing, and cost management are now inseparable parts of the innovation process.

Dave Pollard has created an innovation model that includes eight stages, and comprises three key processes – Analytical, Communicative and Creative processes. The eight stages are: Listen, Understand, Organize, Create, Experiment, Listen Again, Design, and Implement. Note how important "listening" is in this model.

My recent experience in the NB Learning Industry capacity initiative reflects that we are not listening enough. During the industry meetings this Winter, there was much discussion on "our" issues and needs, but very little on "broad ideas" from the market, key ideas from "pathfinder customers & competitors", "stories from the front lines", or an understanding of why customer wants and needs are not met. Maybe all of this information is proprietary, and not willingly shared, but we talked more about our needs, than our customers’ needs.

If we want to innovate, Dave Pollard’s model provides us with a starting point – Listening. We can provide a forum for listening through the Web, especially blogs. Remember that "markets are conversations", and innovation starts by really listening to those conversations. This is why we have to keep our R&D community of practice open to the public. Are there any users of learning products and services who have some advice for this industry? Post it here.

Update for the education community: George Siemens comments on Dave Pollard’s three articles as well:

Much of what he writes is applicable to education, training, and knowledge management. Formal education really needs to explore what innovation means in delivering learning. So much potential…yet so little focus.

First Online Teaching Experiences

In the April issue of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Dianne Conrad of the University of New Brunswick has published her qualitative research on the reflections of novice online instructors. The research covers interviews with five new instructors, all using the WebCT platform in a university setting. The study uses Collins & Berge’s framework for facilitating interaction online.

Conrad notes that most of the instructors’ concerns were content-oriented, trying to ensure that enough content was delivered. There was little mention by the instructors on the student learning process, a hot topic amongst those using blogs in education. Conrad also notes the important role of instructors’ egos in the virtual classroom, and that online environments require a more learner-centred approach. Though not mentioned by Conrad, I find it interesting that all five instructors were men. Would the "content focus" have become more of "learner focus" with a different gender mix? How about with a different cultural mix?

One of the respondents made a comment about the limitations of the platform, in that the discussion fora were not searchable. This reinforces my opinion that any LMS/LCMS should be used in conjunction with a good CMS/Blog so that the conversation is less constrained by the technology [this open source blog is searchable, as are most others]. You need the right tool box, as well as the right pedagogical approaches.

Conrad’s study is a worthwhile read for anyone working with online instructors in an academic setting.

Free Online Course – IT Fluency

The University of Washington is offering a free, self-paced course in Fluency in Information Technology. According to the website, the course covers the basics, concepts and capabilities. For example – Basics: e-mail, word processing, searching for Web information; Concepts: what’s a "graphic user interface," how do networks send pictures; Capabilities: troubleshooting problems, thinking up IT solutions. There’s even a section on SQL.

A cursory review of the course shows that it is based on a published book, and requires about 150 hours of study time, which includes projects and quizzes.

What is missing from this course is interaction. I understand that a free course cannot offer mentored support or instructors, but why are there no blogs, student-generated FAQ’s or discussion boards? These would not cost much more, but would add a lot. It will be interesting to see what the uptake on this course will be.

Anyway, I commend the university for making this course available.

NS eLearning – Blog Follow-up

On Thursday, when I discussed blogs in business at the NS eLearning Summit, I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of interest. The fact that most learning is informal, and that our education and training programs only address about 20% of our learning needs, seems to be understood by many. Blogs are one way of encouraging conversation, which leads to individual knowledge creation and can result in increased business value.

Blogs are also a way of supporting more formal learning offerings. They can be used to engage potential clients through meaningful discourse. Blogs can also be used as a follow-up of a formal course or workshop, to keep the conversation going. These applications were appealing to a number of people in the audience.

There are many sources of information on how to use blogs. For the academic sector, I would recommend beginning with Weblogg-ed;, while Blog Kathleen is a good starting point for a business perspective. Other Blogs (learning, work, technology) are available on the left "Links" section of this website.

NS eLearning Summit

I attended the Nova Scotia eL Summit in Halifax yesterday, and it was a resounding success. Over 100 people in attendance; a number who were linked-in via the Net, thanks to Phil O’Hara of Dalhousie University. A quick review of what I learnt, with more to follow when I get home:

From Julie Kaufman of IDC – Linux developers generally prefer informal learning while MS developers generally prefer more formal learning. (It’s always important to remember who your audience is, when designing any learning intervention)

From Phil O’Hara – small incentives along the way work better than one large incentive at the end of a learning programme.

From the Education panel – the main driver for e-learning in NS schools is "equity of access".

From Joe King at Tecsult-Eduplus – you can create a sustainable e-learning business model by sharing costs and profits with your clients/channel partners.

From Jerry van Olst – has some of the most interesting clients: Nerds On Site.

Many thanks to Barry Nicolle for organising this conference.

Explaining Blogging for Business

Tomorrow I’ll be in Halifax for the Nova Scotia eLearning Summit. As a panelist during the "eLearning in the Corporate Environment" forum, I will have ten minutes to focus on weblogs and provide:

Practical, real-life examples of how companies/organizations are using elearning to strengthen their competitive position, streamline employee training and bring value to customer relationships.

This is like getting the perfect blogging elevator pitch, which is currently being sought by Judith Meskill, but unfortunately her competition isn’t over yet, so I can’t view the collective wisdom of the blogosphere.

So far I’m cobbling together ideas from Rob Paterson, Jay Cross, Robert Scoble, Kathleen Gilroy, and Lee Lefever. I’ll also tell how blogging has become an essential part of my free agent business. I’ll publish the feedback when I return.

Innovation and the Learning Industry 2

Dave Pollard continues his discussion in A Prescription for Business Innovation Part 2 and gives us further principles of innovation strategy:

Flat, small, responsive, democratic organizations are inherently more innovative.
True innovation only occurs where there is consensus that there is an important problem to solve and a sense of urgency to solve it.
Competition is now dysfunctional, a vestige of earlier times of resource scarcity, and cooperation is now essential to effective innovation.
The customer is now king and needs only better decision making tools to become the sole driver of economic activity, rendering obsolete the need for marketing, branding, and other producer-driven mechanisms of influencing customer actions.
… organizational structures, processes and behaviours more commonly associated with businesses run by women are gaining traction in the New Economy, and that bodes well for innovation.

This is a current interest of mine, as I’m moderating a community of practice around elearning R&D in the region. The central issue is how to get a disparate group of companies, united by geography, to collaborate on innovation in the form of a problem, project or issue. As Dave Pollard writes:

Perhaps this is a universal trait that we need to consider when designing innovation programs: Everyone loves to engage in social activities that are fun, challenging and unthreatening, but when the social activity impinges on individual ‘territory’ or property, or on scarce resources, social and collaborative behaviour ceases and confrontational, competitive behaviour takes over.

I believe that the key to this community of practice will be to find that fine balance between collaboration and confrontation, but also holds peoples’ interest.

Blogs in Business

Seek and ye shall find. In response to my question, the Otter Group’s Kathleen explains some of her current business-related blog & RSS projects.

I believe blogs are ideal peer-to-peer learning and communications channels. Because they are so inexpensive to produce and maintain, they can be cost-effectively used for small groups and small projects.

It seems that the participation levels are higher with blogs. This was an issue that we had a few years back with a community-building project using a hefty document management system (think expensive) – it was just too cumbersome. This post is much more practical than what was reported in the NY Times on BloggerCon II and blogs for business, via Weblogg-ed.

Thanks Kathleen!

“It is difficult to overstate the significance of the Internet …”

From the University of Prince Edward Island, Mark Hemphill’s end of course notes from "Networking, Knowledge & the Digital Age", discussing eBusiness, enterprise software and the social and commercial forces of the Internet. Some of Mark’s observations:

Web-like Internetworking provides us with a new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound ourselves.

Networking offers an opportunity to reclaim our real voices and restore real human relationships.

We are hurtling through an era of unprecedented change – a transformation of unimaginable scale and proportion. Much of the existing complex has been undermined and is slowing crumbling around us. Legal, ethical, and social institutions are lagging far behind our technological evolution.

Great technological shifts of the past, such as the advent of speech, fire, writing, and the printing press, can help us to understand our current transformation.

Lots of food for thought. Worth the read, and worth some reflection. It’s great to see this use of social networking software in our region’s universities. Keep up the good work Mark.