Guest Post: What is nano-learning?

This post is provided by guest blogger, N. Heidi Hess, current student in the MS Training and Development program

Earlier this year I was introduced to the idea of nano-learning. One of the biggest challenges we face in learning is simply time. How do we find time or even make time for learning? How do we sell stakeholders on investing time into training? Nano-learning may offer some solutions.

While most training modules start at about fifteen minutes in length, nano-learning refers to shortening training to about two minutes. An expert in adult learning, Malcolm Knowles explained “the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer” (Masie, 2006). In these moments, we are ready to learn and be receptive to that learning. These moments need not be buried in hours of tedious highly technical training, but very simple, short, and direct to the point training that can be delivered electronically when the learners are ready to receive it. Training of this sort might be in the form of a power point, an infographic, a white paper, a printable job aid, a youtube video, or an interactive activity. Two minutes may not be enough time, but it seems quite reasonable to ask retail employees to spend five minutes reviewing a quick course to help improve performance. Ideally, employees would even be able to learn on a computer on the sales floor between customers so that the training may immediately be put into use.

While any minimalists reading this may be celebrating, the rest of us may be struggling. How can we possibly fit complex information into short bursts? If we look at training in a modular format and focus on one learning objective per module, the idea becomes more achievable. We can still train complex topics by focusing in on one idea at a time. A more complex topic will just require more modules versus a less complex topic that may require something as simple as an infographic. Look for the greatest small answer you can find.

Reference:

Masie, E. (2006, January). Nano-learning: Miniaturization of design. Chief Learning Officer, 5(1), 17.

Competency-based Education as a Disruptive Innovator

Summary of presentation to the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) annual conference. October 28, 2014. Las Vegas, NV

Competency-based education is a current “buzz” topic in higher education due, in part, to large funders such as the Gates and Lumina Foundations supporting research and new models of education. Competency-based education places an emphasis on the assessment of learning outcomes. Learning is broken into individual competencies that students must demonstrate they have mastered. In some models, prior learning is converted from competencies to credit.

The theory of disruptive innovation developed by Harvard University professor Clayton Christensen, “describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors” (Christensen, 2014). Disruptive innovation revolutionizes an expensive, inconvenient and complicated industry to one that is more affordable, convenient and simple (Christensen & Horn, 2013). Is higher education expensive, inconvenient and complicated? Competency-based education can help make the industry more affordable, convenient and simple, if done right. Continuing education units, in particular, have the opportunity to drive the conversation due to the nature of working with non-traditional populations and entrepreneurial systems.

Competency-based education is not a new phenomenon. In the 1970’s, the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) put forth grant support for innovators in prior learning assessment (PLA). Initiatives such as student portfolios for credit, College Level Examination Program (CLEP), American Council on Education (ACE) credit equivalents and the Military Assessment of Training for Civilian Hiring (MATCH) programs have been providing competency–based credit at institutions for a long time. Some of the newer models go further by thinking outside the credit box. For example, Western Governors University is exclusively competency-based where students advance based on demonstrating mastery of content rather than credits. Therefore, the student has the ability to progress quickly depending on their prior learning. Southern New Hampshire University also evaluates direct assessment of learning not tied to the credit hour. The University of St. Francis in Joliet converts prior learning to credits using a portfolio process to measure competencies and also provides block credit for credentials such as military training.

There are numerous other examples and best practices in competency-based education. Continuing education managers are encouraged to view the topic through the lens of disruptive innovation and to think differently about how to apply the concept within their unit. For example, is there a technology enabler that can speed up a portfolio process? Is there a business model for prior learning assessment that can revolutionize the institution? Can prior learning assessment be moved from the advising office to the admissions office? How can students quickly advance through the process of education without losing the value and integrity of programs?

Competency-based education has the potential to add value to the adult education field. It is outcomes focused, provides benefits to the adult learner’s emotional and cognitive connection to learning, and has the potential to lower the cost and time to attainment of a degree. Competency-based models also have the potential to disrupt our industry. However, as units of continuing education, we have the opportunity to participate in the disruption by promoting new models on our campuses.

References

Christensen, C. M. (2014). Disruptive Innovation. Retrieved from:

http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/

Christensen, C. M., & Horn, M. B. (2013). How disruption can help colleges thrive.

Chronicle of Higher Education, 60(5), B30-B31.

Eduard C. Lindeman: a Father of Adult Education

Is adult education the formal classes hosted by institutions of higher education and for-profit training centers? Or is it the other side where informal training experiences help advance knowledge and cognitive understanding in a particular subject matter?

Eduard C. Lindeman was an early contributor to the study of adult learning and his reflections and teachings continue to provide a foundation for scholarly discourse within the field of adult education.

Lindeman (1926) seems to support both avenues of adult education in his broad definition. He states:

“If we are to make the most effective use of whatever quantity of intelligence is available, we shall need to grant the right of each personality to rise to its own level. This means that increased inventiveness will be required to discover the kind of education which will most effectively meet the needs of varying capacities. Formal educational discipline cannot be accepted as the criterion for ability to learn” (Lindeman, 1926, pg. 18).

Lindeman (1926) was right when he said that intelligence is an individualistic concept. And to achieve each persons’ actualization of intelligence, both formal and informal educational techniques are needed. For instance, the leader of a Girl Scout troop, with no formal education, can achieve a high level of status, power, knowledge, and intelligence through informal training techniques targeted towards areas related to fostering achievement and leadership in youth. This example supports Lindeman’s concept that formal education is not the only criterion to showcase the adults’ ability to learn.

Later in his book, Lindeman makes several statements which move into an idealistic concept of education and how education supports society. For purposes of this short discussion, I will focus on the second: “How can education supply directive energy for collective enterprise? By transforming the battle of interests from warfare to creative conflict” (Lindeman, 1926).

Creative conflict in a diverse society is often contrary to human instinct. Creative conflict certainly occurs in ivory towers and Paris coffee shops, but for those of us who live in the real world, warfare, of varying types, often makes the decision. While this may be controversial, I think it is real. It would be a wonderful ideal if education can strive towards developing future leaders to embrace creative conflict; however, in reality, I think this will be a struggle.

Reference:
Lindeman, E. (1926). The meaning of adult education. (1989 edition). Norman, OK: Harvest House, Ltd.

How Disney Makes Training Enchanting

When you visit a Disney Park, there is energy and magic that inspires you to smile, relax, imagine and dream. It is no wonder that Disney has bottled this magic into their one-of-a-kind Disney University and Disney Institute.

Disney University is an internal program that provides training using a curriculum centered on storytelling and tradition and communicates the “three magic imperatives: 1. Keep the park clean. 2. Create happiness. 3. Do your job” (Allerton, 1997).

Disney Institute offers customized professional development to businesses. The external programs extend the Disney magic into outside organizations and include training in personnel management, leadership development, and customer service management (Disney Institute, 2014).

Allerton (1997) describes what is coined as the “Disney Difference” at both the Disney Institute and Disney University. This “Difference” is summarized by a few key points: create fun in training; create a consistent organizational theme; empower staff; communicate priorities and their order of importance to staff; celebrate people who have moved positions within the organization; and, finally, guests (customers) perceptions are reality (Allerton, 1997).

The “Difference” promotes fun, infuses fun and practices fun in training. The “Difference” provides unexpected surprises in training. The “Difference” creates positivity in training, a concept both young and old can relate to and embrace.

Innovative, positive, fun training techniques will help a diverse group of learners to rally together. Disney demonstrates the success of this model. Hopefully, you can add the “Difference” to your next training program.

References:
Allerton, H. (May 1997). Professional development the Disney way. Training & Development, 51 (5), 50-57.
Disney Institute. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from: http://disneyinstitute.com/about/our-story/

eLearning – Beyond the Buzz

eLearning –Beyond the Buzz

The concept of eLearning is hot. Blogs, wikis, tweets and even journals are proclaiming the rise in eLearning as one of the fastest growing phenomena in higher education, or so it seems. Computer-based education has actually been around a long time. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduced a computer-based Education Research Laboratory project in 1959 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Alberta Department of Medicine offered early versions of online courses in 1968 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Phoenix opened its online doors in 1989. The University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. launched its fully online MBA in 1997. These brave instructors and administrators were pioneers in eLearning education! So folks, eLearning is not new. There just happens to be much more bandwidth these days, and it seems everyone wants to jump on board.

So moving beyond this latest hype surrounding eLearning, let us focus on the tactics of eLearning. There has so many tools to produce effective synchronous and asynchronous learning modules, but most of us who are teaching in the medium are not doing enough to incorporate these tricks of the trade into our course designs. And the tricks mean more than simply linking to a YouTube video or recording an opening introductory audio “welcome to class” recording. The advantages of eLearning are that we can incorporate features into an online course that do not even exist in the face-to-face format. eLearning provides us with the ability to interact using writing collaboration tools (i.e. GoogleDocs), real-time interactions between instructors and students (i.e. webcasts), learner-created resource guides (i.e. wikis) and much, much more.

The eLearning buzz needs to push the envelope a bit more. The eLearning buzz should be about: are we doing it well?

References:

Lepi, K. (2012, November 12). Who actually started online education? Edudemic: Connecting Education and Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/online-education-starters/

SAM. (2012, October 9). 11 early online education pioneers who paved the way for today. [blog post]. Avatargeneration. Retrieved from: http://www.avatargeneration.com/2012/10/early-online-education-pioneers-who-paved-the-way/

Unplug 101: Is the internet driving you mad?

Unplug 101: Is the internet driving you mad?

Have you ever thought about just getting away, and, dare I say, unplugging yourself from everything?

We are constantly on the move; we are on our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and sometimes, we even fire up our desktops. The question we need to be asking is what is all of this connection doing to us?

According to numerous studies conducted in more than a dozen different countries, it is definitely not all good. On average we spend half our waking hours looking at a computer screen, and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has added “Internet Addiction Disorder” to its list of disorders (Dokoupil, 2012).

In 2006, one in eight individuals showed an unhealthy attachment to the internet (Dokoupil, 2012). That was before Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone!

In the summer 2012, Newsweek ran a cover story titled “Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?”  It chronicled the overloaded screen time that each of us faces on a daily basis.  And that was in 2012. Just think about how much has changed since 2012.

The irony of this is not lost on me.  As I write this article (on my computer) warning about the hazards of the internet, you are reading this article via the internet.  The world wide web is a great resource, but we need to find that proper balance.

In my personal life, I have definitely found there are challenges with the age of the internet and trying to raise a family. My husband and I have stayed on the cautious side – we were the last to buy our kids phones; we still have “parental controls” turned on for our teenagers; we know their passwords; we read their text messages. But it is tough. Our whole family is screen-time heavy, and I do worry about the dangers and potential psychological damage pointed out in the Newsweek article.

“The computer is like electronic cocaine,” says Neuroscientist Peter Whybrow (as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

“The internet ‘leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,’” says Nicholas Carr author of the Pulitzer nominated book The Shallows, about the web’s effect on cognition (as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

According to the Newsweek article:

“The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found ‘abnormal white matter’—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to ‘structural abnormalities in gray matter,’ namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy’” (Small, 2008 as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

I have heard my colleagues and extended family joke about how family time is everyone sitting in the living room on their laptops, and they talk to each other through Facebook rather than turning to the person sitting right next to them. I think we need to be cognizant of the advantages of technologies, but also the disadvantages.

I am reminded of the television commercial in the 80’s/90’s about drugs. It was the one where all you see is the egg being cracked and then fried on the stove: “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” (Partnership for a Drug Free America).  The next public service announcement should be:

“This is your brain. This is brain on the internet. Any questions?”

Reference:

Dokoupil, T. (2012, July 16). Is the onslaught making us crazy: What the new research says? Newsweek. Retrieved from:

http://www.newsweek.com/internet-making-us-crazy-what-new-research-says-65593

Can leadership be sustainable?

“Sustainability” is one of those modern day words that is often overused and abused. Every business proposal, grant opportunity, reorganization plan contains the word sustainable. After all, why would you make a change or receive funding if you cannot prove sustainability?  Despite the word’s bad reputation, we propose viewing sustainability through the lens of leadership…

More: Visit our guest post on Pat Sullivan’s Blog

Originally posted on July 7, 2014 by Bonnie J. Covelli and Jeanne Washburn on Pat Sullivan’s Leadership blog.

 

10 Strategies to be Successful as an Online Student

10 Strategies to be Successful as an Online Student

“1. Avoid procrastination.

2. Plan & organize weekly coursework.

3. Set goals and manage time effectively.

4. Develop and engage good study habits, then practice them.

5. Keep up with assignments and post in a timely manner.

6. Allocate time in work schedule for rest, exercise, proper nutrition, and social interaction.

7. Participate in online discussions and check into courseroom based on course requirements.

8. Communicate with professors, as often as necessary.

9. Take keyboarding class (before beginning online class) if typing and computer skills are not proficient.

10. Take notes while reading and practice becoming a good note taker and developing outlines” (Barr and Miller, 2013).

Barr, B. A., & Miller, S. F. (2013). Higher Education: The Online Teaching and Learning Experience. Online Submission, Online Teaching and Learning.

6 keys to reaching and teaching adult students

6 keys to reaching and teaching adult students

Whenever I talk about training adults, there are really two questions that need to be answered before you can begin diving into the topic: Who are the students, and do you really need to teach adults differently?

Who are the students? The snarky answer is “adults” but the diversity within that umbrella term makes subdivision rather important. Sure, corporate trainers and healthcare trainers teach adults, but do they teach the same way just because they happen to both be teaching adults? These practitioners understand the differences among adults, and the instructional strategies required to inspire them. They understand the importance of connecting the learning to the adult’s life; they practice the art of presenting training material in a way that appeals to the physical and psychological needs of their student.  The needs of the adult student are not feared in these programs and workshops and training sessions.

Why then, do we need to research and present academic scholarship on training and development of adults?

Because adults, much like teenagers and grade-schoolers, are remarkably different and constantly changing. As a corporate trainer nearly two decades ago, I developed expertise in working with adults at various stages of their lives, but if I used the same strategies and materials I did then to teach adults now, I wouldn’t get anywhere with the students. The way teaching has evolved over the past twenty years has dramatically changed my style and choice of media in teaching.

Diversity among adult student groups could be discussed at length, and how this diversity affects the instructional environment would be as varied as the training setting, the training location, the training purpose, etc. Even the categorization of the age of an adult student is a floating reality. Is your 20 year old student an adult? What if the 20 year old has a spouse and a child? How does a 25 year student differ from a 65 year old student? I think we can all agree that there are differences.  The research and academic scholarship surrounding the adult learner helps us better understand these differences in order to better serve the needs of the student.

Andragogy, one such academic scholarship theory, was defined by Knowles in the mid-1960’s, as: “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, Holton and Swanson, 2011).  The theory helps align the unique needs of adult learners with the practice of facilitating learning.  The model presented by Knowles, Holton and Swanson (2011) outlines six adult learning principles that trainers or teachers should recognize and foster as they seek to meet the needs of the adult learner.

Knowles, Holton and Swanson (2011) six adult learning principles

(1)   Adult learners need to know the purpose of training and must understand why or how the learning affects them.

(2)   Adult learners tend to be self-directed, and the learning environment should create opportunities for self-directed exploration.

(3)   Adult learners bring with them and relate their learning to prior experience.

(4)   Adult learners must be ready to learn, and their personal environments often impact their readiness.

(5)   Adult learners often approach learning from the perspective of problem solving or hands-on application.

(6)   Adult learners are motivated to learn for different reasons but often it is related to internal or external rewards and benefits.

These principles transcend the environment and diversity of the student. Regardless of what life stage they are in or their demographics, these principles can guide educators and trainers to better engage their “adult” students.

Reference:

Knowles, M.S., Holton, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2011). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. (7th ed.). New York: Routledge. [Kindle paperwhite].