This one goes out to all the L&D folk who are wary of the “I haven’t been trained” excuse.
Posted tagged ‘informal learning’
I’ve been blogging a lot about open badges lately. That really means I’ve been thinking a lot about open badges lately, as I use my blog as a sense-making platform.
This consolidation I
rehash share with you now in the form of my Top 5 benefits of open badges for corporates.
1. Open badges can motivate employees to learn.
Badges are widely perceived as being childish, yet there is no denying that the game mechanics that underpin them can work. Some people are incredibly motivated by badges. Once they’ve earned one, they want to earn another.
You will note that I am using weasel words such as “can” and “some”. This is because badges don’t motivate everyone – just ask Foursquare! But my view is if they motivate a significant proportion of your target audience, then that makes them worthwhile.
I consider this an important point because as learning in the corporate sector becomes more informal, the employee’s motivation to drive their own development will become increasingly pivotal to their performance, and hence to the performance of the organisation as a whole.
2. Open badges can credential in-house training.
Yes, corporates can print off certificates of completion for employees who undertake their in-house training offerings, only for them to be pinned to a workstation or hidden in a drawer.
And yes, corporates typically track and record completion statuses in their LMS, but that lacks visibility for pretty much everyone but the employee him- or herself.
In contrast, open badges are the epitome of visibility. They’re shiny and colourful, the employee can collect them in their online backpack, and they can be shown off via a plugin on a website or blog – or intranet profile.
Badges therefore give corporates the opportunity to recognise the employees who have completed their in-house training, within an enterprise-wide framework.
3. Open badges are portable.
Currently, if you undertake training at one organisation and then leave to join another, you leave your completion records behind. However, if badges were earned through that training, their openness and centralisation in the cloud means that you can continue to “wear” them when you move to your next employer.
This portability of open badges would be enhanced if third parties were also able to endorse the training. So an APRA-endorsed badge earned at Bank A, for example, would be meaningful to my next employer, Bank B, because this bank is also regulated by APRA.
Still, the concept holds without third-party endorsement; that is to say, much of the training provided by Bank A would probably still be meaningful to Bank B – because Bank A and Bank B do very similar things.
4. Open badges are task oriented.
Despite my talk of “training” thus far, open badges are in fact task oriented. That means they recognise the execution of specific actions, and hence the mastery of skills.
I love this aspect of open badges because it means they don’t promise that you can do a particular task, but rather demonstrate that you have already done it.
That gives employers confidence in your capability to perform on the job.
5. Open badges can formally recognise informal learning.
I have argued previously that in the modern workplace, we should informalise learning and formalise assessment.
My rationale is that the vast majority of learning in the workplace is informal anyway. Employees learn in all kinds of ways – from reading a newsfeed or watching a video clip, to playing with new software or chatting with colleagues over lunch.
The question is how to manage all of that learning. The answer is you don’t.
If a particular competency is important to the business, you assess it. Assessment represents the sum of all the learning that the employee has undertaken in relation to that competency, regardless of where, when or how it was done.
I see open badges as micro-assessments of specific tasks. If you execute a task according to the pre-defined criteria (whatever that may be), then you earn its badge. In this way, the badge represents the sum of all the learning that you have undertaken to perform the task successfully, regardless of where, when or how that learning was done.
This is my blog, so of course all of the above assertions are the product of my own opinion. Naturally, I believe it to be an opinion informed by experience.
So, I’m curious… what’s your opinion?
Now that I have participated in a mooc, I am naturally qualified to dispense expert advice about them. Lol!
Seriously though, one aspect of moocs that I think requires urgent attention is the sense that many participants feel of being overwhelmed. This was certainly the case for some in the EDCMOOC, and I fear I was too dismissive of the issue in my previous blog post.
Upon further reflection, I appreciate that what gave me an edge in this mooc was my experience in studying at postgraduate level. By that I don’t mean so much the knowledge acquired from the instructors, but (on the contrary) the skills developed in learning how to learn for myself.
You see, in postgrad you are left very much to your own devices. You are given a tonne of readings, and the most instruction you can hope to extract from the professors is “read this”. The theory is that the students will collaborate with one another, share their diverse experiences, and contribute to robust conversations. Too bad most of them are straight out of undergrad, inexperienced, and don’t have a collaborative bone in their body.
So if you actually want to learn something rather than skate through each subject, it’s up to you to do your prescribed readings, seek more from blogs and journals to enhance your understanding, reach out to your network to ask questions and gather feedback, and generally drive your own education.
The successful postgraduate student is highly motivated, autodidactic, connected, and participatory. I suggest the successful mooc participant shares these same qualities.
So what I’m really trying to say is: I’ve been there, done that. If you trust me, you may find the following tips useful as you embark on your own mooc voyage…
- Before doing anything, ask yourself three fundamental questions.
Firstly: “Why a mooc?” It may very well be the right mode of study for you, but of course there are many others to consider. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of this mode in light of your personal circumstances.
Secondly: “Why this mooc?” There are plenty of them around, pitched at different levels and targeting different audiences. Analyse the pre-information of your chosen mooc to ensure it will give you what you need.
Thirdly: “What do I want to get out of it?” Be very clear in your own mind about the WIIFM, then doggedly pursue that during the mooc.
Having said that, remain open to new ideas that foster other lines of inquiry. Your goals may change. That’s fine; it’s called learning.
- Follow the sequence of the curriculum as arranged by the mooc coordinators. It may be tempting to jump ahead or even lag behind, but it’s wiser to pace yourself week by week.
- Read the mooc’s instructions! I’ve added the exclamation point in case you think words on screen are merely decorative. Sometimes they’re informative, so take notice.
- Prioritise the core videos and readings. At the very least, all these should be watched and read. The other stuff is a bonus if you get around to it.
- Participate actively in the discussion forum. This is your opportunity to share your understanding of the key concepts with your peers and receive valuable feedback from them.
Don’t just talk at your peers, but rather engage with them. Reply to their posts, build upon their ideas and suggest alternative thoughts. Challenge them (politely) to clarify their position if they appear to be waffling.
- Blog. More specifically, use your blog to articulate your learnings from the mooc. Focus on the practical applications that you have drawn from the academic concepts.
I found it helpful to use the discussion forum to post preliminary drafts of my ideas, refine them, then blog them.
- Concentrate your discussion activity on only one or two threads each week. You’ll go mad trying to keep up with all of them, so narrow your field of vision to what really matters to you.
At the end of the week, abandon those threads. Again, this is about pacing yourself. While the conversation may be rich and rewarding, you can’t afford to go down any rabbit warrens.
If you’re super keen, you can always continue the conversation with your new-found friends after the mooc has ended.
- Pick a social media platform to support your progress. I made the mistake of bouncing between Twitter, Google+ and Facebook in case I missed out on anything, but all that did was waste my time. Next time I’ll pick my favourite platform and stick with it.
- Do something daily. Whether it’s watching a video, reading an article, discussing an idea, writing a blog, liking something on Facebook, or mulling over a thought in your mind, it’s important to keep the momentum going.
- Think of moocing as informal learning. If you remember your WIIFM, it will ease the pressure that you put on yourself. You don’t have to finish the course. In fact, you don’t have to do anything. Assume control of your own actions, and become the master of your destiny.
In other words, be the tiny ship of order in the vast sea of chaos.
People familiar with my blog will know that I’m not a member of the anti-LMS brigade.
On the contrary, I think a Learning Management System is a valuable piece of educational technology – particularly in large organisations. It is indispensible for managing registrations, deploying e-learning, marking grades, recording completion statuses, centralising performance agreements and documenting performance appraisals.
In other words – and the name gives it away – an LMS is useful for managing learning.
Yet while LMSs are widely used in the corporate sector, I suspect they are not being used to their full potential. You see, when most people think of an LMS, they think of formal learning. I don’t.
I think of informal learning. I think of the vast majority of knowledge that is acquired outside of the classroom. I think of the plethora of skills that are developed away from the cubicle. I think of reading a newspaper and chatting around the water cooler, and the myriad of other ways that people learn stuff. Relevant stuff. Stuff that actually makes a difference to their performance.
And I wonder how we can acknowledge all of that learning. We can hardly stick the newspaper or the water cooler into the LMS, although many will try in vain.
No – the way we can acknowledge informal learning is via assessment. Assessment represents the sum of learning in relation to a domain, regardless of where, when or how that learning was done.
The assessment need not be a multiple-choice quiz (although I am not necessarily against such a device), nor need it be online. The LMS only needs to manage it. And by that I mean record the learner’s score, assign a pass or fail status, and impart a competency at a particular proficiency.
In this way, the purpose of learning shifts from activity to outcome.
Having said that, the LMS suffers a big problem: portability.
I’m not referring to the content. We have SCORM to ensure our courses are compatible with different systems. Although, if you think migrating SCORM-compliant content from one LMS to another is problem free, I have an opera house to sell you. It has pointy white sails and a great view of the harbour.
No – I’m referring to the learner’s training records. That’s the whole point of the LMS, but they’re locked in there. Sure, if the organisation transfers from one LMS to another, it can migrate the data while spending a tonne of money and shedding blood, sweat and tears in the process.
But worse, if the learner leaves the organisation to join another, they also leave their training records behind. Haha… we don’t care if you complied with the same regulations at your last organisation. Or that you were working with the same types of products. Or that you were using the same computer system. We’re going to make you do your training all over again. Sucker.
It’s hardly learner-centered, and it sure as hell ain’t a smart way of doing business.
Enter Tin Can.
According to my understanding, Tin Can is designed to overcome the problem of training record portability. I imagine everyone having a big tin can in the cloud, connected to the interwebs. When I complete a course at Organisation A, my record is recorded in my tin can. When I leave Organisation A for a better job at Organisation B, no worries because I’ve still got my tin can. It’s mine, sitting in the sky, keeping all my training records accessible.
This idea has taken the education world by storm, and some LMSs such as UpsideLMS have already integrated the API into their proprietary architecture.
Furthermore, I can update my tin can manually. For example, if I read a newspaper article or have an enlightening conversation with someone around the water cooler, I can log into my account and record it.
This sounds admirable prima facie, but for me it raises a couple of concerns. Firstly, the system is reliant on the learner’s honour – ! – but more concerningly, its philosophy reverts back to activity over outcome. Recording reams and reams of minor learning interactions all seems a bit pointless to me.
So where to from here?
Plurality is a brilliant short film watched by the participants in Week 2 of The University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures course.
The film paints a dystopian vision of the future whereby everyone’s personal details are stored in an online grid, which is controlled of course by the government. When you swipe your finger over a scanner, the computer reads your DNA and identifies you. This is convenient for automatically deducting the cost of a sandwich from your bank account, or unlocking your car, but not so convenient when you are on the run from the cops and they can track you through everything you touch.
Despite the Big Brother message pushed by the film, it prompted me to recognise an emerging opportunity for Tin Can if it were to re-align its focus on assessment and exploit the Internet of Things.
Suppose for example you are sitting in a jumbo jet waiting to take off to London or New York. If the cockpit had a scanner that required the pilot to swipe his finger, the computer could check his tin can to confirm he has acquired the relevant competencies at the required proficiencies before activating the engine.
Or suppose you are meeting a financial advisor. With a portable scanner, you could check that she has been keeping up with the continuing education points required by the relevant accreditation agency.
Competencies and assessment tend to cop a beating in the academic sphere, but in the real world you want to be reasonably confident that your pilot can fly a plane and your financial advisor knows what she’s talking about.
If the film’s portrayal of DNA is too far-fetched, it need not be the mechanism. For example, the pilot could key in his personal credentials, or you could key in the financial advisor’s agency code.
But maybe it’s not so far-fetched after all. The Consortium for the Barcode of Life – based at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, no less – is currently researching DNA barcoding.
And still, maybe Plurality is looking at it the wrong way around. We can already store digital information in synthetic DNA. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future our training records will be coded into our natural DNA and injected back into our bodies. Then instead of the scanner referring to your tin can in the cloud, it mines your data right there in your genes.
And you thought science fiction was scary!
Some people are head-over-heels in love with MOOCs. Or perhaps more accurately, the idea of MOOCs. They believe the new paradigm will democratise – and even revolutionise – education.
Others, however, consider MOOCs a passing fad, an unsustainable business model, yet another a buzzword destined for the scrapheap like so many before it.
I happen to stand somewhere in the middle. I believe MOOCs will democratise education to some extent, and they will revolutionise the delivery of education. Importantly though, I don’t think they will revolutionise the science of education; after all, a MOOC is arguably an extensible version of what we’ve been doing all along – albeit on a massive (and free) scale.
I also think the business model will become sustainable, as soon as the providers adopt a freemium model. By that I mean the content is free, but the formal assessment and certification attracts a premium.
And don’t forget the intangibles of marketing. Perhaps a MOOC is a loss leader, or a branding exercise, or a CSR strategy. The ROI might be more complicated than the profit-and-loss statement suggests.
So I appreciate the arguments both for and against MOOCs pitched by their proponents and detractors. Nonetheless one aspect of the argument that I don’t grasp is the high dropout rate. Apparently if relatively few participants officially complete the course, then the educational experience must have been be a failure. I just don’t buy it.
Annie Murphy Paul recently blogged about this phenomenon (The Truth About MOOCs: Only 10% Of Students Actually Finish Them), in which she makes the point that…
…for all the hype about making education available for free on the web, we need to work a lot harder to create the psychological conditions that promote persistence, accountability, goal-directedness, responsiveness to instructors’ and classmates’ expectations, and whatever else it is that makes students keep going to class in the real world.
Fair call, but I think there’s more going on beneath the surface, and the post attracted some excellent comments to that effect. For example, Arthur Clarke commented…
…I wonder if we might not overstate the problem. How many unfinished books do you have lying around? If you are like me you have quite a few. Does that mean that I have wasted my time and, puritanically, should castigate myself for being a quitter? Perhaps we need to look at learning differently.
Perhaps we need to look at learning differently indeed.
My reaction to the 10% completion rate for MOOCs is:
The proponents of informal learning don’t care. Nor do the proponents of constructivist learning. Nor, dare I suggest, do the proponents of social, mobile and blended learning. To these people, the completion rate of a MOOC is a moot point.
The only people who seem to care are the MOOC providers themselves (naturally), the proponents of formal learning, and the ever-present killjoys.
To the MOOC providers I say: Adopt the freemium model already! I’m no accountant, but I expect a 10% completion rate would be financially viable.
To the proponents of formal learning I say: Formal learning certainly has its place, but that doesn’t mean it meets everyone’s needs. One size does not fit all.
To the killjoys I say: Identifying an obstacle does not impress me. Explaining how to overcome it does.
The volume comprises a collation of my articles from this blog. As in the first volume, my intent is to provoke deeper thinking across a range of e-learning related themes in the workplace, including:
• social business
• informal learning
• mobile learning
• data analysis
• digital influence
• customer service
• augmented reality
• the role of L&D
• critical theory
• ecological psychology
• online assessment
• government 2.0
• human nature
Order your copy now at Amazon.