No network? Afraid of speaking out? Try WOL!

Knowledge management and modern learning have a common ground: interact, exchange and collaborate to learn and advance. To do so, one has to have a supportive network and the ability to formulate one’s aims, ideas and thoughts. Which may not be the case for everybody. You may not have a network (yet), collaborative work is not a part of your organization’s culture (yet), or you are just shy and don’t dare to contribute (yet).

Working Out Loud (WOL) is an approach (or a whole movement) that helps you to build trustful relationships and thereby a network supporting you in reaching a personal aim. It teaches you how to reach out and engage with people, to build up trust, to get and give (from recognition to sharing actual work), to empower yourself and others, and to contribute to establish a collaborative culture.

I never did WOL before, but now I take the chance of the #cl2025, the Corporate Learning 2025 MOOCathon of the Corporate Learning Alliance, to experience it myself. Our small learning group of 5 will meet once per week (virtually, maybe personally) for one hour for a total of 12 weeks and thereby follow the Circle Guides. This should step-by-step lead us to a new habit that includes outreach, engagement, strengthening of relationships and, of course, reaching a goal by peer-support.

I am very curious and looking forward trying this (for me) new approach of learning and collaboration in the digital age. As I do personal knowledge management (PKM) for quiet a while now, which seems to partly overlap with WOL, I am wondering about the similarities and differences of the two. And last but not least I am wondering how such an approach could be applied to supporting network building within an organization. I definitively will tell you!

Picture taken from : https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CUMZNisUAAABgDd.jpg

The real benefits of virtual teaching

Christopher Pappas is one of the e-learning superstars- he founded the largest online community of e-learning professionals, the eLearning Industry– which makes him one of my very important teachers. Recently, he published a short article on talentlms.com „7 Tips to create a self-paced eLearning course“. Nothing groundbreaking, but a neat way to remember what nowadays e-learning really is (or should be) about.

  • Personalized Learning Plans: In traditional classrooms, all the students face the same content, independent of their previous knowledge, their preferences, and their learning speed. Virtual teaching allows students to pick or get delivered the content they need and work through it at their own pace.
  • Social Collaboration Activities: Learning from and with each other greatly enhances the learning experience and motivation. Virtual teaching allows for many different forms of collaborative work- asynchronous, spatially apart, and with online resources. 
  • Microcontent: Presenting the content in small pieces supports not only ubiquitous learning, but also consolidation and reinforcement of the material learned. Virtual teaching allows to learn bitesize, whenever, wherever.
  • Regular Assessment: Especially when learning at your own pace, it is important to get regular and qualitative sound feedback.  Online teaching includes an array of assessment options- self-directed online tests, online communication with the teacher, and peer-review as an important social collaboration activity. Virtual teaching allows to mix different ways of feedback, giving the learner an array of opinions on his mastery and progress.

But Virtual Teaching also asks for things:

  • Easy access: It is crucial that students can easily access and find their lectures and content.
  • Supportive Online Community: A supportive online community has to be build up in order to help students socialise, get feedback and help and be motivated.
  • Variety: Nowadays students ask for more than an online book. Only courses that take out most of the available virtual resources and offer a variety of material fulfilling students various preferences will be satisfying. Otherwise one could stick with the good old textbook.

Picture credit: http://gavs-maria.blogspot.ch/2015_03_01_archive.html

Adaptive Learning for everyone?

I like the idea of Adaptive Learning. And after reading this article about Adaptive Learning in Compliance Training, I am sure thousands of employees will like it too.

Adaptive learning is a computer-based and/or online educational system that modifies the presentation of material in response to student performance.

This definition by Dreambox, a provider of an adaptive learning platform, very much nails it down. You first assess the students knowledge and then only give him the content he needs to fill his knowledge gaps. This saves time and enhances motivation. Both factors that are also extremely important in business environments with mandatory corporate training such as compliance training.

Although it sounds great, it’s not so easy to implement. Some schools or companies may be able to spend money on a platform that sophistically tests and then guides the learner through his very personal learning path. But most will not. Still, they may adapt some features of adaptive learning into their own learning management system, presupposed their learning is modular.

At the beginning, learners can be assessed through a quiz reflecting different levels of knowledge in different aspects of the content that has to be learned. What then on sophisticated learning platform the machine is doing, can also be done by a human being- telling the student that, based on his performance in the test, he has to learn these modules while he is allowed to skip others. Of course you don’t want to do this for a thousand students, but in smaller settings, it is doable, effective and motivating. You may even implement interim tests to adjust the mandatory modules, or you just finish with one big assessment.

In any case, this strategy can be applied in any LMS as long as the learning content is designed modular and you have a lecturer creating good quizzes and willing to do the additional work of assessing the initial student assessments. I am sure, it will pay out by having motivated and successful students!

Picture from Wikipedia

Microlearning- how to?

I already bothered you with a scoop about microlearning– learning in small pieces of about 10 to 15 minutes each. It meets the requirements set by short attention spans, learning by repetition, and flexibility in temporal learning. But how to translate this into a practical approach?

I guess we agree that just cutting a learning activity, e.g. an online lesson, into chunks only formally fulfils the definition of microlearning and is not really beneficial to reading smaller chapters in a printed text book. In contrast, it may result in annoyed students who feel like making only little progress in their learning paths.

Microlearning should take advantage of multimodal presentations, interactive assignments, and collaborative functioning, which are the real benefits of technology-enhanced learning.

This article from the magazine eLearning Industry highlights some activities that meet those requirements. Podcasts, infographics, videos. Branching scenarios, task-based simulations. User-generated blog posts (or wiki entries). Like to have some examples?

What about letting your students make a short video how they perform a practical task (e.g. adding a layer in their graphic design software), upload this on a platform and let fellow students comment- resulting in a reviewed library of hands-on videos?

What about presenting students short work-related situation (a customer calls you and asks…. What do you suggest to him?) and later presenting all the answers online so fellow students can learn for each others answers?

What about teaching students procedures by asking them to create checklists for each other and then let students study them one per week?

You may realise I already incorporate a collaborative learning scenario in every example. Of course you can prepare the tasks for the students and just let them study or answer. But especially microlearning, when content is small and therefore reading followed by peer-review or commenting is done quickly, provides a powerful base to include collaboration and thereby learning from each other.

Microlearning- when used for the right scenarios- is a very convenient way to meet todays need for temporal flexibility while at the same time enhancing learning by (spaced) repetition and reinforcement.

A fool with a tool…..

… is still a fool.

If you read blog posts of me before (like this one), you know I am very sceptical about using tools. Of course there are some very creative and innovative ones, and I personally like to play around. But then I often feel like they ask faculty and students to adapt to them (the tools) instead of seamlessly integrating into their (faculty and students) work flow. And this is the beginning of the end. Moreover, as I wrote in the post linked above, many of them disappear as quickly as they appeared.

I am very convinced that the essential point when creating fun /interactive /innovative /engaging /collaborative /younameit (online) lessons is concentration on the content and the design, not the environment or tools. 

The first questions should simply be „What shall my students learn?“. Is it some formal learning like basic physics? Is it a pure list of terms? Is it solving of some problem-based tasks? Is it applying what they learned before by adding their own tasks?

Of course the next question is „How shall they learn this“? By reading some text and studying some graphics? By self-generating content? By group work? By searching for online sources? By interviewing seniors? By discussing within a group of peers?

And then the time comes to first think about the „How to deliver this to the students“. And I strongly recommend to keep it simple! Use what you have– the Wiki in your LMS for example offers tons of possibilities, like generating a collection of case studies written by the students, gather additional resources found by the students, accumulate Q&As, curating a (self-made) video collection. Assignments include peer-reviews, group-compiled glossaries or text-based exams. And workshop modules provide space for group-written texts as peer-assignements. So be creative how to use the many options you already have in your LMS or other internal instrument like (micro)blogs or chat or document repository.

And if you still have this brilliant innovative idea you are not able to implement with what you have- there are more and more plugins for LMS that integrate third-party services. Just be careful that the service will not have shut down next year ;-).

Picture taken from http://www.schrockguide.net/uploads/3/9/2/2/392267/5395036_orig.png

Using WordPress as a learning management system

Last week I had another serendipitous event letting me learn something new. I stumbled upon a job offer, had a glimpse on the company’s website, and saw that they use WordPress as an LMS (learning management system). So here I am, working with WordPress for years now, and never thought about using it to present content for learning like articles, presentations and videos, do tests and quizzes, display learning paths and personal learning progresses. Of course I immediately had to check out what LMS plugins are available for WordPress and what value they have compared to a stand-alone LMS like Moodle.

Continue reading „Using WordPress as a learning management system“

Just a scoop: Mobile Microlearning- a natural venue for spaced learning

One of my favourite sources is the Learning Solutions Magazine. It covers a wide range of topics with an emphasis on EdTech- educational technology- and learning theories. Here an article that combines both: Mobile Microlearning- a natural venue for spaced learning.

  1. Microlearning: Microlearning is learning in small pieces. We may all remember when we had to learn a vocabulary of a foreign language. What was suggested to us was learning a little chunk every day (and repeat what we learned before).
  2. Spaced learning: Spaced learning means intensive learning with breaks. Example given: An intense lecture – break – a second lecture that picks up information from the previous one and puts it into context – break – a third lecture applying the information already given to a particular problem.

It’s no rocket science to see the neat combination the two learning methods offer. Offering several pieces of microlearning units, building up on each other by including content taught in earlier units, is not only providing flexibility for the student, but in fact lets him unknowingly apply instructional concepts known to enhance learning and reduce forgetting.

Oh, and of course, nowadays the units have to be mobile. Or not….

Visualize your knowledge!

Currently I am working on a project that includes visualisation of information and knowledge, respectively. Visualisations can help to clarify information, to compress large amounts of information, to transfer knowledge, to trigger insights in the viewer, and to support the creation of new knowledge by stimulating imaginary. So visualisations influence most of the traditional building blocks of knowledge management.

visualizations_probst2

More than text, visualization can also provoke emotional reactions, both positively (improving our understanding) and negatively (manipulating and distortion), thereby motivating the viewer to contribute and/or create.

Continue reading „Visualize your knowledge!“

Just a scoop: Two cool recommendations for H5P libraries for Moodle

As I am currently working on a Moodle project, I am reading quiet a bit about user cases, design possibilities and extensions. Thereby I stumbled upon an article in elearningsindustry.com about H5P libraries. They integrate into Moodle as activities and offer additional features.

The article points out 5 libraries that can be helpful especially with adult learners- so my learners. I let you read it and judge by yourself, but these are the two features I liked most:

I love the Hot Spots! When working with visuals, it’s a great possibilities to even enhance engagement and learning by letting the student click on a spot put into an image or visual for further information.

I also like the video library that allows implementation of questions right into the video. They used it in a MOOC I attended a while ago, and it helps to keep up the attention and to reflect on what was just said.
Articles I read and like are regularly posted on my scoop.it page.

Technology, Organization, Humans

Humans, Organisation and Technology are considered the three cornerstones of KM.

Technology is the easy one. Design and implementation of information and communication infrastructures and tools. Progress in technology has lead to a development of KM, and although there was a period (or maybe there still is this period) when technology was taking over KM, being the central focus and alleged solution for all problems, technology is a very important aspect and enabler of KM. The main task here may be to identify the right tool to be implemented at the right time and the right place. Ideally, the used tools seamlessly integrate in the normal workflow of the people– which often asks for less than tech-lovers would like to see.

Organisation is more complicated. Because it does not deal with tools and technique, but with hierarchies, culture, environment, frameworks. In order to implement a successful KM strategy, there needs to be a knowledge- and learning friendly atmosphere, a social component smoothing the way for effective exchange. Creating such an environment often requires structural and mental changes within an organization, which in turn asks for open minds and participation- if not even courage to leave old paths and structures. An open minded leadership that not only supports those changes but also exemplifies them is essential for success. But even when this support is available- considering the many factors that form an organisations culture, one can truly ask if it is even possible as an „outsider“ (which consultants normally are) to grasp them, to disassemble them and even more to change some of them. In any way, a close interaction with key members of the organisation and a serious effort include the organisation aspect in the KM strategy is inevitable.

And then there are humans. Humans, as the carriers of most of the relevant knowledge within an organization, are naturally the core of every KM strategy. But unlike a database, humans need to be willing to share this knowledge and to acquire new knowledge, they need to see a sense in what they are doing, a profit in participating. They need to be social and interactive to exchange knowledge. People share because they want to, people participate because they are motivated. Both, sharing and motivation can never be enforced. Therefore it is the key of every strategy to consider peoples needs, wishes, goals, constraints, feelings, fears, skills, social competencies, expectations. Sounds like one first has to do a master in psychology, but asking the right questions, listening well, taking people and their feelings seriously, and being transparent may already be a good start. And engaging people already in the design process and asking regularly for feedback further improves acceptance and motivation. Which is clearly inevitable for every KM strategy to be successful.

Picture taken from Course script „CAS Knowledge Management“ by IKF, copyright A. Bellinger