Tuesday, March 31, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future- The Finland Initiative--Part III

The last post ended with a question whose purpose was to get you to think about the potential of cross disciplinary learning with the focus on the need to recognize that when confronted with real world problems in the 21st century, we need to stop thinking in terms of the compartmentalization of disciplines and start thinking in terms of the collaboration of disciplines in applying their specific skill sets to a common real world problem. From a business perspective, it is the application of the best intellectual assets in a collaborative arena to a common problem which, as NASA, discovered was the best way to go.


One thing that I need to make clear is that when I suggested S.T.E.M. or S.T.E.A.M. as the configuration, I am not suggesting that these are the only configurations for cross disciplinary learning. What I was suggesting is that we need to do away with the strict compartmentalization of subjects in education and move towards "clustering of subjects" in such a way that the skill sets will complement each other when applied to real world issues. As Finland is starting to do, arranging topics set into a thematic framework can help establish the important habits of the mind, such as collaboration, very early in the education life of learners. I also believe that it is absolutely crucial that the basic literacies be woven and reinforced into the foundation of whichever configuration that is used.
Another potential configurations might be: H.E.M.G (History-Language-Mathematics-Geography). This configuration might not be used at the primary level but might be an invaluable approach in the study of current conflicts in the world. The nature of the real world problems highlighted within the thematic structures determine which configuration would be most useful. This is arrived at through a collaborative effort

Role of the Educator?
Obviously, the role of the educator changes. The often used saying, reaching the status of a clichee, is:

 "No longer the sage on the stage but the guide on the side!"

The educator is the individual who organizes effective learning experiences and develops mentor contacts on the web that students will use as complementary resources in a blended learning context.

What About Technology and Online Education?

Imagine, using LEGO MindStorms to design the next Martian rover and having a NASA scientist as a mentor, an M.I.T. robotics scientist to help with the programming and the design.( S.T.E.M)! This is the potential for education through the creation of professional online mentor networks.

Middle and Senior Grades

The essentials of effective collaboration using problem based learning principles should be well grounded by the time students reach middle grades. It is at this level that I believe that another crucial habit of the mind should be introduced and nurtured in its development. I am referring to the trait of divergent thinking. Real innovation is dependent upon the ability of learners to see the possibility of more than one solution to a problem than just one.
One of the lessons that I have learned regarding the traits of middle school pre-teens and teens, is that they can be notoriously innovative when they feel the need to beat "the system". It is at this point that I think it would be good to channel their innovative tendencies to things that benefit humanity instead of frustrating it. One of the areas that requires the greatest of caution is teaching young people the coding languages of computers. It is unwise to do this in a moral vacuum.

These are just a few ideas that I think that Finland education should consider. We will have to wait and see how their plans come to fruition.

Next.......Bringing the elements of the blueprint together..

Monday, March 30, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future--The Finland Initiative--Part II

With respect to the Finland Initiative, we have to ask the question:

" If the elimination of subjects in favour of cross disciplinary learning is an important organizational goal, what would it look like in real time?"


One of the elements that has to be included in the configurations for cross disciplinary learning is creativity. As was mentioned in the last post, learners begin with a high level of creativity when they enter the education system but as they proceed through education systems based on the industrial model of education, the level of creativity decreases dramatically by the time learners hit the middle grades because the system goal is to instill conformity. What we need in this century and the next are not people who have been conformed to a set "one size fits all" way of thinking but we need learners who have been educated to be problem solvers, creators of new knowledge and skill sets. We need learners who naturally think, discuss and collaborate to solve real world scenarios in innovative ways. We need to dispense with the myth that only certain individuals are capable of this type of thinking and the majority just have to accept it.

Credit: Scott Barry Kaufman
In an article dealing with creativity and what really happens in the brain, Scott Barry Kaufman(2013) in an article titled:" The Real Neuroscience of Creativity" (Scientific American) suggested that based on current neuroscience research, our concept that creativity is a right brain process from beginning to end is simply wrong. He makes the following statements:

" ...Instead, the entire creative process--from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification--consists of many interactive cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions...Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. The most recent work suggests that "cognition" results from the dynamic interaction of distributed brain areas operating in large scale networks.."(Kaufman 2013)

What Kaufman and other cognitive neuroscientists such as Anna Abraham , Kalina Christoff are saying is that what we have in the creative process is a microcosm of collaboration among networks on a neural level. 

Therefore in developing the Finland Initiative, we should not see this myth as a barrier to our expectation that creativity is an element available to all learners. It is very inclusive.

Cross Disciplinary Configurations

Primary Grades:  STEM vs STEAM

" Which of these two configurations, STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) would be an effective problem solving approach at this level to begin to educate learners on the path to becoming agents of change in our societies?"

This is the question I would like to explore as one of the elements of the blueprint to the future of E-Learning and it is here that we can draw parallels between the brick and mortar world of education and the online world of E-Learning.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future-Bringing It Together-Part I-The Finland Initiative

The important idea behind putting in place elements of a blueprint is that at some point you have to bring those elements together to produce a usable blueprint. In this post, I will describe how this blueprint might be realized in a blended learning context within a brick and mortar classroom and then describe how these elements would fit in a totally online E-Learning context.


The Finland Initiative

On March 20, 2015, it was reported in "The Independent"( in an article titled:" Finland Schools: Subjects Scrapped and Replaced with Topics As Country Reforms Its Education System "(Richard Garner) that Finland was making a radical change in the ways in which the education system educates its students. The education system of Finland is well known as being at the top group of education systems in the world. It ranked 3rd after Singapore and China in the international student assessment rankings (PISA).

So the obvious question is:

"What prompted this change from an education system that is widely recognized as one of the top systems in the world?" 

Finland's Revelations About 21st Century Education

  1. The Finns have come to the conclusion that the industrial model of education that has been in place for around 200 years does not serve the needs of societies in the 21st century. If the purpose of education is to educate students and educators to be agents of change who will create new knowledge and skill sets in synch with bringing about a culture of innovation, this model and its constructs will not do that.
  2. The compartmentalization of subjects is a product of the industrial model of education. If a major skill set is to educate students to be collaborative problem solvers using the higher revised critical thinking skills required to analyze and arrive at solutions to problems then a cross disciplinary approach to learning is required that enables students to use the skill sets from more than one discipline in order to get a greater understanding of real world problems.
  3. The "Phenomena" based teaching approach where topics with the perspectives of multiple disciplines are incorporated has been chosen by Finland as the vehicle for bringing this about.
In order for Finland to give vital form and function to this initiative, IMHO, there are a number of considerations that must be looked at and processes put into place.

Here are four suggestions that I would make:
  1. Creative thought on the part of students and educators must be encouraged and nurtured throughout all grades. Under the old model of education, creativity was sacrificed in the name of conformity as students moved through the grades. Everyone was conformed to the idea that there is only one right answer to problems. Creative thought was discouraged in such an arrangement.
  2. New habits of the mind that are in tune with requirements of working in a digital connected world in a blended education format needs to be started and nurtured throughout the grades. For example cross disciplinary thinking combined with collaboration and development of divergent thinking skill sets can be nurtured through design thinking with respect to the learning experiences presented.
  3. A new and evolved "expanding horizon" approach to the organization of topics in curriculum should be considered in which students at early grades would work collaboratively on real world issue that are local and familiar but expanding outward through the higher grades. This recognizes student development from concrete thinking to more abstract thinking individuals. The expanding horizon approach would be on two levels: in brick and mortar classroom and online. In the middle and higher grades a greater emphasis on divergent thinking in approaching real world problems is important to nurture.
  4. A thematic approach for the organization of topics should be considered with an emphasis on PBL both in the brick and mortar classroom and online
If you remember correctly, I suggested that the STEM supporters have the right idea. In part II of this post, I would like to describe to you hybrid combinations of subjects that might help the Finns achieve what they are hoping to in their changes in education......

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

E-Learning: Business Innovation, Collaboration and Professional Mentor Networks

In a previous post, it was emphasized the need to develop a learning community within a business and how effective collaboration that involves all employees when it comes to training is an essential. It is an essential so that a systemic innovation mindset becomes a natural way of thinking, learning and discussion for all levels within the organization. However, it is important to emphasize that no business is an island and that there needs to be effective collaboration that sees connections to important professional networks due to the vital knowledge and skill sets that they provide to the learning community within the business organization. With the rapid change in technology and the emerging of new skill sets as a result, it is vital that a business have the most current "strategic intelligence" that impact the performance of the business.


In the past SME's were relied upon to help Instructional Designers in creating effective relevant training experiences for employees. However, with the proposed re-defining of the roles that I have suggested, it is important to ask a few questions in regards to their role:

  1. Can SME's keep up with the rapid changes occurring within many disciplines that have a bearing on the business' innovation efforts?
  2. Can SME's be asked to develop these external connections to professional networks or should that be the role of a new entity within the business that I call the "Council of Innovation and Learning"?
What would these professional networks look like?

Ideally, they would have some of these characteristics:
  1. They would be made up of professionals who are on the leading edge of their disciplines. These would be disciplines that have a relevant impact on the product or services that the business excels in. They would be finely tuned to ongoing research in their area and able to translate how different lines of research will impact a business interests both in the short term and the long term.
  2. They would be able to collaborate with the learning team within the business and advise them on direction that training should take, given the present status of the business and the goals it has in establishing a culture of innovation within the business.
  3. Along with the Council of Innovation and Learning they would have a presence in providing a forum for innovative ideas that employees have where employees can receive relevant feedback from professionals as to the potential of the ideas have for the company.
Building a culture of innovation should be based on the "expanding horizon" concept where you start with building the learning community and mindsets within the business first and then expand out work to make valuable connections to important professional networks that are global in their reach.

Sir Kenneth Robinson offers some additional insights in his presentation titled: "How to Build a Culture of Innovation". I will leave it to you to think about how these principles would apply or not apply to your aspirations as a business seeking to lead the way in your area.


Next....E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future--Bringing It Together

Thursday, March 19, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future: Instructional Designers, Trainers and Business Innovation-Part II

The goal of today's business should be to establish and nurture a learning culture and culture of innovation within their businesses. The big question is how??


In Part I of this post I suggested that the addition of a LPE or Learning Principles Expert to the training team is a start. The responsibility of this person would be to use his or her understanding of how people learn within a collaborative settings within a blended learning setup within the company and also in an online collaborative network which would extend outside the company's walls to create learning experiences that would lead to deeper sustained learning that if done well, would impact performance of employees in a measurably positive fashion. This would be done in collaboration with the the Instructional Designer.

So, speaking in regards to what this would look like within the company itself, it is helpful to look at the characteristics that would define highly effective collaborative organizations. Jacob Morgan of the Chess Media Group published an article in Forbes Magazine(2013) titled: "The 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations". The link is below:

Although his description is dated, it does give you some clues as to what to consider when setting up a collaborative network within company walls.

However, no business is an island in the digital age and business is first and foremost mortal. In order to flourish in a digital global economy, business needs to establish connections to what I term as "mentor networks" that provide valid and up to date expertise in the form of ongoing collaboration on projects that not only allow a company to excel in its chosen area but also to be a leader in innovation in areas that it excels at.The development of the skill of strategic intelligence gathering and adaptability are survival skills in this economy. Vibrant vision and astute leadership are the hallmarks of a company that strives to be a member of a global culture of innovation.

Next....Connecting  Business Culture with Culture of Learning--The Mentor Network Described.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

E-learning-A Blueprint to the Future- Building Professional Mentor Networks in Education

The question in the last post at the end is an important one:

"What happens in cross disciplinary collaboration if those who are tasked with coming up with a solution to a real world issue lack the level of knowledge and skill set development to complete the task?"


This is where access to a network of mentors becomes important. Professionals in the disciplines, especially the sciences, are already recognizing the importance of cross disciplinary learning in their research efforts.

With the networks already in place, a transformation needs to take place in which the professionals collaborate to:

  1. establish frameworks to operate from
  2. to identify areas where there is overlap in their skill sets and coordinate what they offer for the best fit as a resource for students
  3. to extend their professional networks mission beyond collaboration for research purposes to include a mentoring relationship with promising students as they collaborate to solve real world issues. Within this mentoring relationship they would help keep students up to date in advances within their disciplines as they pertain to the real world issues that students are tasked with solving and make available a forum where students can present their solutions for real and relevant feedback.

Obvious Question: "Why should the disciplines want to take on such an endeavour that might be quite time sensitive? How would the disciplines benefit from such an ambitious arrangement?"

Potential Benefits:
  1. Through the continued association with students, they will obtain insight into students who demonstrate attributes and skill sets that fit well with the needs for the future growth of their disciplines. They will be able to determine if students have an interest in pursuing their specific discipline as a profession. If so, then a mutually agreed upon mentor relationship can be established as part of the student's personal learning plan to help guide the student in developing their skills.
  2. The mentors can benefit from "fresh thinking" that breaks them out from set patterns and allows them to entertain student initiated innovative ideas from a different perspective.
  3. These students can become the new "life blood" of cross disciplinary learning that leads to future evolution in the specific areas.
  4. Collaboration takes on a global context with a focus on the future with the goal of developing a vibrant culture of innovation.
Next.....E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future- Instructional Designers, Trainers and Business Innovation--Part II

Friday, March 13, 2015

E-Learning: Blueprint to the Future: Cross Disciplinary Learning and Transforming Mentor Networks-Part II

By identifying the problem that needs to be overcome, we can propose that the solution involves the transformation of compartmentalization of subjects to cross disciplinary learning.

The STEM(Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) initiatives have the right ideas but what we should realize is that this cluster of subjects having complimentary skill sets are not the only configuration that could be used. The nature of the problem determines what skill sets are needed to get a clear and complete picture of the problem presented.
We can come back to the metaphor that was used in an earlier post of the six blind men describing an elephant.

 Each blind man had his own perspective in dealing with the problem but their perspectives were compartmentalized. There was no collaboration to gather more information or data among them that would help shed light on the problem. The only thing that they had in common, as far as we are told, is that they were blind.

The Nature of Collaboration: Cross disciplinary learning suggests that collaboration is important only as long as the perspectives brought to the problem help give a more detailed analysis of the problem. In order for this to be effective it is necessary to know what talents and attributes each person brings to the collaboration and how this helps bring to light the full picture of the problem. For online students what this would mean is that they would need time to socialize with each other for a directed purpose of finding out what the others were good at. Sir Kenneth Robinson pointed out the great myth of dividing students into academic and non-academic. What this myth ignores is the great capacity that all have for creative thought which is essential for divergent thinking which leads to innovation. The following is a problem example:

Scenario: " The Preservation of the Remains of the R.M.S Titanic

Problem: Suppose that a collaborative team was presented with the following scenario:

" The R.M.S. Titanic has rested upon the ocean floor since its fateful sinking due to a collision with an iceberg in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. Today, the ocean based sensor net system has detected growing seismic shifts in the area that is the final resting place of the Titanic and a crevasse has opened up in the area threatening the remains of the Titanic.


Since the remains of the Titanic is part of a world heritage site and a memorial for the families whose ancestors were part of the final voyage, it is imperative that your team come up with a solution(s) to this distressing problem. We need solutions to prevent this disaster!"

Collaborators Profiles:  In order to begin to solve this problem, the collaboration team needs to find as much out about each other as possible. In an online environment, the use of YouTube to produce autobiographies highlighting the talents and attributes of each student could be made.

Analysis of the Problem: In order to get a complete and data rich picture of the problem the following question needs to be discussed among the collaborators:

"What skill sets and what knowledge from what disciplines will be required to fully understand the problem?"


Question: "Although the collaborators bring their skill sets and attributes to apply to the problem, what happens if they are lacking in the prerequisite skill sets in order to fully analyze the problem and come up with solutions?"

Next..the importance of the transformation of mentor networks.

E-Learning Blueprint to the Future: Cross Disciplinary Learning and Transforming Mentor Networks-Part I

One of the consequences of the "industrial model of education" has been the compartmentalization of subjects into separate and distinct boxes. In the age for which the industrial model was created, they served the purpose of their creators.

However, in this age of transformation in public education, the compartmentalization of subjects is an anachronistic concept. The problem that arises is that this idea is dangerously out of synch with the desire of societies to have educated populations that are to be agents of change who will bring about a new culture of innovation. A better quality of life for people now and in the future is the hope of nations. In order for learners to become agents of change capable of creating new knowledge and new skill sets, they must have the proper habits of the mind and skill sets to be effective problem solvers. They must understand how to capitalize on online technology and concepts for deriving useful information that can be applied to real world scenarios.

The seriousness of the problem can be illustrated by an exchange I had with a World History student:

Problem: Students were studying the Battle of Thermopylae fought between the Persian forces and the Greeks in 480 BC. In this battle a small Greek force defeated and discouraged a larger Persian force. Students were given a "what if" scenario where they were asked to take the role of the Persian leader, Xerxes, analyze the potential problems and come up with a winning plan.

As a part of this exercise, students were asked to make calculations with respect to timing of advancements, numbers of forces, topography calculations...ect. They also had to consider whether or not angle of the sun in the sky would be of advantage. I was then asked the following by a student who I knew to be a sincere and intelligent learner based upon my past experience with him.

Student: "Why do we have to do Mathematics and Science work when this is History?"

Students have been so inculcated with this compartmentalization concept, that they could only see the problem and its solution from one perspective. Compartmentalization of subjects has taught students to analyze a problem from only one perspective within the context of a subject.

This type of mindset runs contrary to our need for problem solvers who are divergent thinkers, able to analyze a problem from a number of perspectives. Sir Kenneth Robinson, in a talk entitled:"Changing Education Paradigms" expresses the nature of the problem well.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

E-Learning: Blueprint to the Future-Innovation Lessons From 3M

It has been noted that having a systemic plan for innovation from the grassroots up within a company culture can bring benefits that are far reaching for a company, especially in regards to the ROI. It is better for a company to be proactive in pursuing innovation which requires that the right talent is at the company's disposal and in place to lead the way. A company that is not proactive ends up in a game of global "dodgeball" because just like in that children's game, the company ends up with its back against the wall and then acts reactively to avoid from getting hit. The frequency of the global hits increase as technology advances, as competition making use of all the digital resources makes aggressive moves to maintain and gain market share and clients look to companies that are more in synch with their needs.

One important step to understand is the process of talent acquisition. In the past and even at present, the process involved in assessing a need within the company, posting a job description in the appropriate venues and then collecting resumes and cv's is the typical path followed. Then a selection process for prospective candidates would take place and an interview list compiled. Then actual interviews would take place and in some cases a candidate might undergo a series of interviews. The time and resources that went into this process were substantial. I know that I am simplifying this process as most HR people would point out to me. The question I would pose is this:

"Is this process the most efficient way to pursue talent in the 21st century?"

I pose this question for a couple of reasons. First in this age, candidates have professionally designed resumes and cv's at their disposal. There are even organizations that will design for a candidate a "winning, guaranteed to get the position" type of resume. As much as a resume can reveal much about a candidate, they can also hide information that might be crucial to the decision making process. The sorting process can be cumbersome. 
The second reason and one that I would say is the more important is the growing realization that there is a growing competition to acquire talent. In this age, talent acquisition has become more and more of a "blood sport." Companies need to go out and recruit those who have noticeable talent before the competition does so. Innovation needs people who have the right skill sets.

What About 3M?

There is something that we can learn by studying the following diagrams that deal with innovative companies:

In 2009, it should be noted that 3M was considered the third most innovative company after Apple and Google.

In 2013, 3M was ranked fifth in terms of innovation.

"What happened?" 

"Did other companies simply surpass 3M due to the innovation plans that they put into place or did 3M forget an important caveat that in the world of innovation, you have to review and upgrade the systemic plan that you have in place?

A lesson that companies should learn is that no company no matter how successful it is can rest on its laurels. The E-Learning program that a company puts into place will have an impact on the level of innovation that a company is able to rise to. If the the necessary transformations are not made to deliver challenging, inspiring and personally relevant learning experiences to employees, there will be a ripple effect that will be felt throughout the company and in the global market place. This is just one person's thoughts on a seriously important subject.

Next......Adding to the blueprint----The Need for Cross Disciplinary Learning and Global Networks

Friday, March 6, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future--A Case of Innovation Planning in the 3M Company

One of the key elements in developing E-Learning programs within a company is the level of engagement of employees at all levels. This engagement needs to move from the typical mandatory edicts that are passed down to the point where employees are engaged out of a desire to be part of a great mission and that they know and feel that what they bring to the table is valued by the decision makers. This needs to be shown in real and tangible ways. Innovation that is built throughout the company is part of a mindset that everyone shows daily by their actions and discussion. Companies that are resistant to granting such freedom to their workforce will find it difficult to hold on to employees as they will be recruited from under their noses or will become part of a rising group of digital entrepreneurs. Companies that see no need to innovate will fade into being niche organizations running to hold on to what share of the market that they already have.

Credit: Fishburne

The obvious question that a company should ask is:

"What benefits will the company see in adopting such an approach?"

Some of the potential benefits are:
  1. This change would give employees across the board a solid sense of company unity and will nurture loyalty to the company brand.
  2. It will enable mentorship relationships to develop to benefit the company as a whole.
  3. It gives employees a desire based upon collaboration to improve on what they do and allows employees to see the challenges that each face across the company's various divisions. It allows for a concerted effort to work to find innovative and lasting solutions.
  4. Personal acknowledgement of innovative ideas in real and tangible ways by company leaders go along way to increasing desire on the part of the employees in making a personal commitment to the well being of the company.
Developing a Systemic Innovation Pattern in Business: The Case of 3M


I think that most people would agree that when it comes to innovation, Google and Apple lead the way. Perhaps one thing that people don't realize is that while Google and Apple were experiencing a meteoric rise to fame, a company called 3M was developing a systemic pattern for innovation which was ahead of its time.
I have to give credit to Therese Berglund, a professional training and coaching consultant, for drawing my attention to the case of the 3M company in 2009. The pattern for pursuing innovation within the company is summarized below:

  1. Build Support Networks: Business is encouraged to build web-based social networks. The purpose is to create a resource that would enable employees who are confronted with a problem to find those who have an answer. With the case of 3M, they created a grass roots networking initiative called Tech Forum. However, it was more than just a database style resource. This employee run group also organized speaker events that would help to address areas where there was a pattern of recurrent questions. Open collaboration between employees and the speakers were encouraged.
  2. Build Collaboration Into Your Employee Evaluation System: 3M created a system that not only rewarded employees for developing an innovative technology, idea or process but also for spreading it. The rationale was that it doesn't advance collaboration which is in the company's best interests if managers or employees hoard or stockpile innovations only to reveal it at the next quarterly meeting.
  3. Encourage Curiosity: 3M allows employees to spend 15% of their time on projects of their own choosing, giving them permission to develop ideas or technologies that were outside their immediate work focus. This type of approach increases the odds of collaboration because employees will venture beyond their own professional knowledge base to seek the insights of others.
  4. Create Innovation Funds: One of the reasons that some innovations that create a lot of excitement in a general meeting end up gathering dust on a shelf has to do with protectionist attitudes when it comes to spending department money on something that is not core related. To overcome this barrier, 3M created what it called the Genesis Fund which was where employees could obtain grants to fund innovative products that didn't fit neatly into defined departments.
Keep in mind that this was the pattern that 3M was following in 2009. There is much we can learn about transformations as they relate to innovation but there are also some warnings that need to be heeded. One value that a business should never surrender is prudence.
Next...Some caveats that we can take away from the experience of 3M

E-Learning: A Blueprint- Instructional Designers, Trainers and Business Innovation--Part I

The modern 21st century business has a crucial stake in the transformations that will take place with respect to the roles of the learner and educator because very similar role transformations need to happen with respect to the trainer, the employee and the instructional designer.


Business needs future employees who have skill sets that are geared to bringing about change in the business culture with an eye to developing a systemic culture of innovation within the business. Sir Kenneth Robinson in a seminar given to Marketing Profs titled:" Leading a Culture of Innovation", states:

"...Innovation has to become a habit... Innovation needs to be systematic, deliberate; it is what defines you as an organization."

Business needs people who have skill sets that will allow them to help the business transform with as little disruption as possible. It is also important to keep in mind that the future clients will be those who have grown up in the digital age and now function using all the digital resources that are available to them. They will expect that the businesses they deal with will be 21st century businesses who will know what they are talking about when they express their needs. For businesses who are content not to institute transformations, they will relegate themselves to obsolescence.


So, what transformations will be needed in designing effective learning experiences within the business culture? How should the roles of the trainer, instructional designer and employee be transformed?

The following are suggested transformations that focus on a the roles of people within the organization with the mandate to develop a learning community within the business:

  1. Learning Principles Expert(LPE): A new individual needs to join the training team. This individual is important to help the training team provide engaging learning experiences for employees. As much as we accept that SME's have been an important element in training, we need to realize that if the business is to employ a blended learning approach we need someone who understands how people learn in an online environment. It needs to be someone with practical teaching experience in an online environment coupled with formal training in curriculum design. This person would also be responsible for networking with people leading new technologies that could be used by Instructional Designers in creating learning experiences that are irresistibly engaging and lead to sustained deeper learning.
  2. Instructional Designer:  The role of the ID would transform to include the following:
  • create real world simulations in collaboration with the LPE that are irresistibly engaging to the learner in that the learner gains new skills sets and understandings through collaboration with other employees both within the company or through a matching up of employees from within the branches or divisions making up the company. So that means that during a simulation there may be a matchup between employees of the company in the Seattle, Washington branch with employees in the Toronto, Canada branch.
  • lead a Council of Innovation and Learning within the company made up of Instructional Designers, Trainers and Learning Principles Experts. The council's mission would be to present a forum where employees who have developed new innovations, processes or ideas may come and present their ideas. The company executive officers should be part of this council as well.
     3. Trainers/Mentors: Trainers would coordinate the learning events but would also have the    responsibility of developing learning profiles of employees based upon big data that is collected and act as mentors to employees in helping them nurture and develop their skill sets. They would also provide individual feedback to employees on an ongoing basis in regards to their development. During the learning events, trainers would have the opportunity and ability to introduce challenging variables into the simulation while it is running to measure responses from the participants to unexpected changes.

If innovation is to become automatic, as suggested by Sir Kenneth Robinson, then effective collaboration can not be an afterthought but must be built into the learning experience on multiple levels across an organization.

Next: An example of systemic innovation planning--The Case of Innovation Planning in the 3M Company

Monday, March 2, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future--Transformations--Educators and Students

In striving to create a new blueprint to the future for E-Learning, the operative word becomes "transformation" and the necessary questions that need to be asked are:

" What transformations need to take place to create a needed evolution in E-Learning as we presently understand it?"


"If we know the vision that we aspire to with respect to creating an enriching, sustained learning experience for the learner, what will the map look like?" 

E-Learning Educators and Trainers 

Transformation of the E-Learning educator and corporate trainer is an essential part of a new blueprint and is a building block for the development of global learning networks ascribing to the vision of being agents of change in our societies.For the corporate community this is one of the ingredients for helping to develop systemic innovation within the business community. For the E-Learning educators this means breaking with the way that they were trained as educators. Most educators received formal training at faculties of education attached to universities that subscribed to the industrial model of education. They were trained with the idea that their professional purpose in life was to train students to be efficient, obedient workers and to teach them to accept that their mission in life was to get a job that gave them purchasing power so that they would find fulfillment as life long consumers. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a consumer. The problem arises when you are told that this is what gives meaning to life. Every commercial and paper ad that came out bombarded students and educators alike with that blatant message. Educators who even suggested that perhaps students should be thinkers who could effectively bring about change in society were often labelled as radicals bringing back visions of the 1960's and therefore should not be taken seriously.


So, what transformations are needed for the present E-Learning educators?

The following changes should be considered :

1. Educator-Learner Relationship: The past roles followed by the educator and student under the old model of education stated that the educator was the source of all knowledge, skills and wisdom and that the student came to the educator's class as essentially a "tabula rasa". The skills and knowledge of the educator were never to be disregarded or questioned by the student on the penalty of being disciplined. Discipline was designed to enforce conformity and re-focusing. This was in the truest sense "assembly line education" where students moved from educator to educator and much like rats in a maze, the rules of behaviourism  were judiciously applied. Students who didn't comply on a consistent basis were relegated to the "drop out" pile.

The new relationship that should be developed between educator and learner could best be described as a "mentor relationship". In this relationship, the educator is not seen as the fountain of all knowledge and skills but instead could be compared to a conductor of a world class orchestra.


 In such a role, the educator recognizes that there is a great diversity of unique gifts and talents in all the students that he or she instructs and that in an online environment, his or her role is to be intimately familiar with all of the resources and avenues that are available to a student to pursue a personal learning path for their lives. His or her role is to help the student bring into alignment all the elements that are available from potential technology uses to networks of disciplines that can be used as a resource. The educator would also seek contacts within the web where students can showcase new knowledge and skill sets before those who are on the leading edge of their respective disciplines. A close analogy to this concept would be the apprentice(learner)-master(mentor) relationship that existed in the guild system of the Middle Ages. Students can and should be creators of new knowledge and skill sets with the guidance of the educators as mentor.

2. Educators As Design Thinkers: The quality of the learning experiences in a digital age requires that there be a focus on engaging the student in their learning in a sustained manner. We live in an age of distraction and one of the great myths of this age is that the more you are able to multitask and balance a number of commitments at once, the better all things will turn out. IMHO, the experience of attempting this results in many tasks being competed with a large measure of mediocrity.
We can learn much that is of value by watching university students in a lecture hall in the 21st century. What is their level of engagement in what is being presented? How many are using their mobile devices to supplement and enrich what they are being taught during that lesson and how many have already disengaged from the presentation a few minutes after it has started and are using their mobile devices to simply "fly away".

"As design thinkers, how can we take what we learn from student cyber distractions and change them into student engagement through our instructional design?"

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