Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Transformation: "So, You Want to Be a 21st Century E-Learning Teacher?" : Part II

In the previous post, I mentioned that there are three essential ingredients that should not change in education and especially in E-Learning education which are:

  1. Reason for entering the profession of teaching is driven by the desire to make a positive difference in the life of the learner.
  2. Building a relationship of trust and respect between learner and educator which in today's moral climate is a "counter-cultural" thing to do and yet is vital to healing our societies.
  3. Emphasis on the idea of the educator being a co-learner with his or her students in an environment where pursuing life long learning is no longer just a phrase in mission statements of education institutions but has become a survival imperative in a world where knowledge and technology are advancing exponentially.

Things That Must and Are Changing

The Model and Purpose of Education:  I wish that I had a dollar for every time that I have mentioned this in posts and in responses to articles. Simply put: 

"We need to stop educating learners to take their place in a world that no longer exists."

In the past, learners were educated to become efficient workers for industry and life long consumers of products being mass produced. We still see the consequences of this consumer focused mindset in the 21st century where people are told that they must have the latest and the best whether they need the item or not. We need to stop making life-changing decisions based on nostalgia.


 In developed countries consumer debt load has been on a steady rise to points where the next generation are already deep in debt when they are born. To make matters worse, our education institutions place such a heavy burden on the very people who could make a difference in the world by forcing them to focus more on the basics of life instead of enabling them to focus on being the creators of a better quality of life for all people in society.


The distribution of wealth on a global scale creates a great divide in which the majority of people in poorer countries become vulnerable to abject poverty, illness, unemployment, civil war and the growth of terrorism.

It really does not take a great visionary to see where this present scenario is leading our societies if we continue to support an industrial economy mindset in which a few achieve lavish lifestyles on the backs of a majority of people in society. Our societies are now facing the backlash of people who can no longer ensure the health and safety of their families and loved ones. We see people who are angry with the disintegration of their quality of life while others in powerful places in government serve themselves first but to the majority they metaphorically speaking say, "Let them eat cake:)".

A new paradigm for the purpose for education needs to be put in place to change the tide for people who feel that they have been robbed of a future for themselves and their families.

The new model and purpose of education should now focus on educating learners to become agents of change within their societies who will use the technology to collaborate with others on a global scale to help solve complex real world problems which the past model and purpose of education failed to resolve. These new learners will also become creators of new knowledge and skillsets with a focus on cross disciplinary collaboration with the purpose of improving the quality of life for all people.


Strategic Systems Thinking and Design: The structure of learning experiences will take advantage of new opportunities presented by access to cross disciplinary networks on the web which will reform and re-shape pedagogy so that the new pedagogy is agile, dynamic and fluid. Unlike in the past, creativity and innovation will be nurtured and encouraged through the learning experiences of the learners. Design thinking involving real world simulations and scenarios will not remain as a contrived classroom exercises but will involve using the professional networks on the web as an audience for the innovative real world ideas of the learners.
Learners will receive real world feedback from those who are on the cutting edge of their disciplines. This will provide greater engagement on the part of the learners as well as allowing them to be part of a global learning community.


Mentoring Networks: One of the necessary changes to E-Learning is the needed development of global online professional mentoring networks. As was pointed out in discussing learning for the business organization, life long learning has to be more than a nice phrase used in the organizational mission to impress stakeholders. In a knowledge and learning age, developing effective mentoring relationships is an essential. The learning process in an online environment must have as its first mission to teach critical thinking skills to learners when confronted with exponentially growing amounts of information. Not all information is bona fide knowledge on the web and learners need to be able to know how to authenticate what they find. To support the process of learning how to learn in an online environment, developing a mentoring relationship with professional mentoring networks is an essential. The goals of these mentoring networks would be:

  1. Provide an audience for the innovative and creative ideas of the learner.
  2. Provide personal encouragement of the learner in order for him or her to continue to grow in their learning.
  3. Provide up to date opportunities to collaborate with other learners on global projects.

The elephant in the room in all of this talk about change is the question:

" How will the role of the educator change in order to meet the challenge of these changes?

Look for the answer to this question in an upcoming post titled:

 "The Dawn of AI(Artificial Intelligence) and the Transformation of the Role of the Educator"

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Transformation: "So, You Want to Be a 21st Century E-Learning Teacher?":Part I

As we move more and more into the evolution of E-Learning as a means of educating learners both in the corporate and formal education worlds, people who are already educators or trainers need to do some personal introspection dealing with questions such as:

  1. "What do I have to do to make the transformation from the brick and mortar school  or business organization where most of my experience and training has been to the entirely new environment of the online world?"
  2.  "Do the skillsets that I have developed in the brick and mortar school system or business culture still apply in the online environment?"
  3.  "What will I have to sacrifice in order to adapt and be successful in this new environment?"

These questions are all quite valid and important to resolve before under going the transformation. The reality that many brick and mortar classroom teachers and traditional trainers may have to face is that they might not be able to adapt to the demands of the online world of education even though they may have been excellent in their previous capacities as educators and trainers. Not all educators and trainers can manage change at the level that may be required in an online environment. If dealing with new technology comes intuitively to you then you see ways of harnessing technology to effective online pedagogy and can move "flexibly" in the online world . The opposite end of the spectrum has individuals who feel threatened by technology and as a result build personal defenses to help resist it. They are individuals who are quite happy to maintain the status quo regardless of whether or not learners are in sync with the digital world they live in. It is in these circumstances that we see the rise of disconnect of learners from their education.

What Things Stay the Same?

Reason for Entering the Profession of Teaching: If you ask most educators why they entered education, most would respond that they wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of learners. They would also say that they truly love young people with all of the different stages of life that they go through and how they cherish the moments when a young person finally understands something that they have been struggling with. The reward for the educator is to see the learner's face light up as they have that "Eureka" moment. As an educator, you are willing to do almost anything to help a young learner succeed. All of the above should remain the same in the transformation from the one world to another.

Building a Relationship of Trust and Respect: The relationship between the educator and learner must be one of mutual trust and respect. In the moral climate of today's world, building this type of relationship has sadly become a "counter-cultural" thing to do. The simple truth is that in this world, there is enough hypocrisy to go around from the leaders of our nations down to the simple man or woman on the street. In the brick and mortar classroom when you are face to face with the learners, you can pick up emotional clues from the learners which gives you an indication of the state of your relationship. In the online or virtual education world, these clues take the form of abbreviations and emoticons.

"In order to make a difference in a young person's life, you have to be that one difference that stands out when they look at their world and their life!"

Partners in Life Long Learning: For centuries, regardless of which culture you focus on, the educator has always been that "sage on the stage" and the fountain of all knowledge in the relationship between the learner and educator. It was considered true arrogance for a student to presume that they possessed the necessary knowledge to correct their teacher. It was also perceived by the student that the teacher now knew everything and that the teacher didn't need to learn. During the 1990's with the introduction of the Internet to the main stream, access to knowledge became more widely available and the amount of information, thanks to advancing technology, grew exponentially. All of a sudden, the sage on the stage and the fountain of all knowledge became an anachronism and more importantly, the learners knew it too. The transformation that the educator had to make was from overseer of knowledge to partnership with the learners on the journey of life long learning. In present online world of education,  the role of the educator as the " guide on the side", as a life long learner is something that is an essential and should not change.

These are three main aspects that should remain the same in the transformation from brick and mortar educator to online educator or trainer.

Next: "So, You Want to Be a 21st Century E-Learning Teacher?" : Part II--Things That Must Change"

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Race to Develop the Future of E-Learning Communities--Part VIII

In a movie titled : "A Few Good Men", there is an intense courtroom scene in which Tom Cruise as a prosecuting attorney confronts Jack Nicholson, a Marine base commander in which the following interchange takes place:

Cruise: "I want the truth!"
Nicholson: "You can't handle the truth!"

There are certain truths about our present education systems in our many societies that if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit to how much Jack Nicholson's really applies to us. Rather than face these truths, we make excuses, shift blame to others or deny that the truths even exist. Some, unfortunately, take a more cynical, fatalistic point of view that we just have to accept these truths and move on to a different topic.

We, by choice as educators, trainers, parents, CEO's, CLO's, have become part of the problem instead of the solution. So, the most obvious questions that you should be asking are:

" What are these formidable truths that I am referring to and why do they matter?"

Truth #1: We have educated this generation and ones before it to love marks or grades more than they love learning. This is one of the products of the Industrial mindset and unfortunately, it is reflected in the attitudes of not only today's young learners but also in the attitudes of education faculties as they clone more and more new educators with this very mindset. It is reflected in how students approach the tasks that they are assigned. To dislodge this type of mindset means taking on a billion dollar assessment industry in North America alone.

Truth #2: As long as our education institutions sustain practices that treat learning as a consumer commodity, the idea of creating a global learning community can not be nurtured and the attitudes of self-entitlement on the part of learners will over rule any attempt to have them use their gifts and talents to improve the quality of life for all people.

Another question that needs to be asked is:

"Why should the global business organizations be concerned about this status quo?

On the surface, business organizations might applaud this type of mindset because it represents potential marketing opportunities for the products and services that define them. The problem is that when you have potential employees with this mindset, the effective use of collaboration and real engagement of employees in nurturing systemic innovation and problem solving does not reach its potential because of a prevalent attitude among employees which says: "What is in it for me?". This means that employees will only engage in real learning when it suits them and only to a limited degree.

The next question that follows from this for any business organization hoping to carve out a place in the globally collaborative world is:

"How do we eliminate this type of attitude in the learning culture of our businesses?"

The answer to this question speaks to the idea of the ways that we reward competency within our business organizations. If the emphasis in an age of information and learning is to engage employees to be involved in the learning of the organization, then the motivators for employees need to change. We learn from business organizations that are already making the necessary changes and see that they are paying off. Again, we can take some clues from companies such as Google, Apple & Facebook.

With respect to the business organization, the goal is to create a learning culture where the intrinsic motivation of employees becomes more powerful than extrinsic motivators that might be offered. 

"In other words learning becomes like a powerful digital aphrodisiac where employees feel driven to engage, collaborate, solve complex real world problems germane to the health of the organization, and contribute to the realization of a powerful company vision."

This leads us to a very important question that CLO's and CEO's have every right to ask which is:

"How can we achieve what you are suggesting if the education system is continually mass producing both students and educators who still maintain the Industrial economy mindset?"

This brings us back to the need to take this new relationship between education and business into consideration in the design of Global E-Learning Communities.

The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network

Global Learning Community 
 [ Note: Change Global E-Learning Hub to "Global E-Learning Portal]

 The purpose of this particular network within the Global E-Learning Community is to address the very problems outlined above. It is essential that a strong collaborative tie be established with higher education and that a mentorship relationship be established with the very university and college faculties that have the responsibility of educating and training educators. The purpose is not to take over what these faculties are tasked to do but instead to provide them the necessary resources that stress the change over from discipline knowledge silos to cross disciplinary, collaborative, globally driven problem solving. Teachers and faculties would have 24/7 access to mentoring in effective online pedagogy with important input from the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network. Educators would have the opportunity to work collaboratively with business employees and employees would have the opportunity to bring valuable skillsets back into their business organizations with the intent of helping to improve the learning culture of the business.

Potential Drawbacks:

  1. Institutional inertia with respect to universities and colleges when it comes to change that will disrupt the status quo. Universities and colleges would rather tweak their programs than give up the model and purposes they were based on. Just adding what worked in a brick and mortar classroom in an uncritical fashion to an online environment will not work. It will lead to a greater detachment by students from their learning because they may be naive about a number of things in life but they are not naive about university and college instructors who try to "pull the digital wool over their eyes" by giving them more of the same, except with a few more technological bells and whistles thrown in.
  2. Another potential drawback is having leaders in business and education realize that it is in their best interests to establish  a digital "symbiotic" and purposeful relationship. One group "calling the shots" in dealing with the other group needs to be replaced with a truly collaborative relationship in which they are united in one powerful purpose, that being, working to improve the quality of life for all within the area of their Global E-Learning Community.

Change is something to be mastered by us and not the other way around. The same is true about how we use technology and how we create pedagogy. There are clearly understood reasons why change in business organizations and educational organizations fail.

So, the question still remains: Can you handle the truth about E-Learning and its benefits in the 21st century or does Jack Nicholson still have you pegged when he states:

"Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth!"

Next... how would the establishment of Global E-Learning Communities change how teachers educate students

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Race to Develop the Future of E-Learning Communities--Part VII

In laying out a proposal for the organizational structure for global E-Learning communities, it is essential that we do not forget the changed relationship between business organizations and education. In this age of knowledge, technology and learning, it is how we engage our employees from the CEO to the lowest labourer in life-long learning that will in fact determine the future health of a company and establish its place in the global connected economy. It is no accident that companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are where they are in the global economy. These organizations have established learning environments that go beyond "PowerPoint slide presentation days".

  Looking at the Google Learning Environment, there are some important points that they incorporate that truly reflects the priority that they place on engaging employees in learning.

Credit: Manpreet Kaur

Credit: Manpreet Kaur


 In reading articles on current E-Learning and business organization practices, there are still many who unfortunately still believe in "quick fixes and tweaks" in order to add E-Learning components to their business learning culture. Often, the articles have titles such as "10 Steps to Engaging Employees in E-Learning" or " 3 Easy Steps to Initiating Blended Learning in Your Organization". It is always important to recognize that the motives behind such quick fixes may not be the noble motive of helping you "not waste time by re-creating the wheel". What they don't seem to understand is that such practices really don't cut it because what is required is a whole new mindset that represents a paradigm shift that fits with 21st century realities. It really requires a re-designed environment.

"This is really the point of the need to shift from an entrenched consumerism mindset to one that will nurture and encourage global learning communities with a noted emphasis on "communities". This is what my proposed organizational structure is about!"

Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Networks in the Global Learning Community

Global Learning Community
 [Note: Change Global E-Learning Hub to Global E-Learning Portal]

There are two main barriers to making the paradigm shift for the learning cultures of business organizations. First there is a needed shift in how we look at complex real world problems. In our world up to this point, organizations have been driven to create what I would term as "guarded silos of knowledge". This intellectual "protectionism" runs contrary to one of our greatest needs in attempting to effectively come up with solutions to complex real world problems that being to collaborate effectively on a global scale and come up with solutions. 

"In our various disciplines, thanks to technology, knowledge and skillsets have grown and advanced exponentially but what we have not outgrown is a 'sandbox mindset' which basically says that this is mine and I am not going to share with the greater community"

The problems that we now face require that we use our knowledge and skillsets in a collaborative fashion because what we face impacts everybody. The problems require a cross disciplinary collaborative analysis and solution. Secondly,this runs contrary to how the education system has prepared individuals to become contributing members of society because they have been repeatedly trained by sending them from one "subject silo" to another in an assembly line fashion. It is encouraging that the university research communities are starting to recognize the benefits of cross disciplinary research and some education systems, such as Finland's system, are making the necessary paradigm shift.

So, what is different about this network and how does it benefit business? The following would describe it:
  • This is the network that is guided by SME's in a role where rather than being the "sage on the stage", they become the "guide on the side". Rather than being the expert that provides content to aid the instructional designer in creating learning experiences, they become mentors who guide employees in developing skillsets involving learning how to think in an online environment. As mentors they help employees establish relationships with organizations on the web that will allow them to be effective problem solvers.
  • The SME's also provide a "technology sandbox" where everybody shares and tests out new technology and skillsets. This "sandbox" is accessible 24/7 so that employees can use their time of informal learning in a creative and innovative manner.
  • The activities and new research is shared with the learning portal as updates on what is going on. It also shares opportunities for cross disciplinary research.
Buckminister Fuller has much to say when it comes to systems thinking, learning and innovation. The following quote is the path I am on and I think that this is the type of thinking that entrepreneurs and innovators need to consider:
 In dealing with the last segment of the organization of a global learning community in the next post, an important quote comes to mind for us to think about.... 

Next...The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network