Posted tagged ‘corporate’

Constructive criticism of Coursera

23 November 2016

Well it’s taken me over 3 and a half years, but I’ve finally completed another mooc.

I use the term completed loosely, because while I consumed all the content, I didn’t submit any of the assignments. In other words, I completed the course as far as my personal learning needs are concerned, while still feeding the naysayers’ MOOCs-are-a-failure-because-their-completion-rate-is-low argument.

The mooc in question was e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age by the University of Illinois on the Coursera platform. I found the Australian accents of the instructors a pleasant surprise, and the quality of the content top-notch.

The course revolved around 7 affordances of e-learning “ecologies”, with 2 presented each week. I have put the word ecologies in inverted commas because I would have used the term “pedagogies” instead. Nonetheless, while most e-learning professionals would be familiar with (or at least aware of) each of the affordances, I found it worthwhile to review them in turn, which also provoked deep tangential thinking.

Speaking of tangents, one of the instructors supplemented his presentations with interesting vignettes about his educational heroes from history, which I found both informative and engaging.

Pulp fiction cover entitled Amazing Wonder Stories: Cognitive Reality: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and other stuff!

Despite my overall satisfaction with this course, however, I experienced yet again a couple of perennial bugbears. Accordingly I offer the following points of constructive criticism to Coursera.

1. Lack of instructor interaction.

I am sensitive to the “massive” in mooc, and appreciate the fact that the instructors can’t possibly respond to every contribution in the social forum.

However, I found their total lack of participation really quite odd, especially in the early days when I seemed to be the only one posting anything.

Given the subject matter of this course, it’s also ironic!

2. Obscure pricing.

It may be widely known among enthusiasts that moocs are free, but this fact is not widely known among the general population.

I’ve lost count of the number of times my colleagues have contacted me to double- and triple-check that the Coursera courses which I have curated for them are indeed free. Either the price (i.e. $0 or “FREE”) is not mentioned, or the effectively meaningless “Audit” is used in its place.

Coursera’s push towards paid courses – which, by the way, are not moocs – only serves to muddy the waters.

I don’t know if it’s due to Coursera’s genesis in Higher Education or for some other reason, but it’s evident they do not understand their prospective customers in the corporate sector.

How to fix our senseless compliance training

4 October 2016

All big organisations have a Learning Management System.

It’s used to track and record the training that the employees do. In practice, it tends to be used to administer compliance training, though it can be much broader than that.

And this is a good thing. Despite the scorn that LMS’s attract, we should be tracking and recording the training that our employees do – especially compliance training.

Looking down at the buildings and streets of Sydney

But here’s the rub…

Let’s say I work at Bank A. I do all my compliance training within the first 3 months of starting at the company, and I keep those certifications up to date every 2 years. That’s normal.

Then I get a job at Bank B. But because my training records are locked up in Bank A’s LMS, I have to do my compliance training all over again.

This does not make any sense, because the laws governing privacy, anti money laundering, OH&S, and all the other topics, are the same for both banks! If I’m compliant at Bank A, odds are I’m compliant at Bank B as well.

I see re-doing my compliance training as a problem, not just because it’s an inconvenience for me personally, but also because the financial services sector alone employs half a million people in Australia. That’s a lot of people, a lot of movement, a lot of training hours, and a lot of wastage.

There has to be a better way, and as I explain in the video below, I propose the accreditation of compliance training with open badges as the solution.

Now some people misunderstand this idea, and they’ll say it’s not the role of the regulator to train a company’s employees. And I agree, but that’s not the idea.

The idea is that the regulator accredits the training that is delivered by the company to its employees, and authorises the issuing of the official badges for that training.

A use for 3D Printing in the corporate sector

6 September 2016

I’ve often wondered about the relevance of 3D printing in the corporate sector because we rarely produce a thing. Our products – such as bank accounts and insurance policies – are essentially 1’s and 0’s floating in the ether.

Then I attended a webinar presented by Jon Soong from Makers Empire. This Australian startup is active in the K12 sector, helping teachers bring 3D printing into their classrooms.

With the right hardware, software and guidance, teachers and their students can visualise abstract concepts (Mathematics, Science), produce replica objects (History, Geography) and create original objects (Art).

As the following video demonstrates, the technology can also be applied to problem-based learning.

I like what I see at St Stephen’s School, not only because of the pedagogical benefits that 3D printing affords, but also because it makes sense to familiarise our children with emerging technology.

This particular technology is already impacting manufacturing. A diverse range of products is currently being 3D printed, including clothes, jewellery, candy, teeth, prosthetics, tools, car parts, architectural models, furniture, toys and accessories.

I predict one day in the not-too-distant future, hospitals and medical device companies will dispense with their warehouses. Instead of stockpiling surgical equipment in big rooms – or worse, waiting for products on backorder – a hospital will be able to build the device it needs on-demand. No more need for storage and transport; just a licence to print the proprietary design.

A 3D printed umbilical cord clamp

In the corporate environment, however, we don’t make widgets.

In this context, I suggest we turn to the students from St Stephen’s for inspiration. When the kids use 3D printing to solve a problem, a by-product of that activity is collaboration. Following their lead, we could split our colleagues into teams and task them with producing a 3D artefact; whether or not that artefact has practical application is irrelevant. What is relevant is how the team members work together to achieve the goal.

The technology is the vehicle with which a collaborative situation can be engineered, experienced, observed, and reflected upon.

And we can go further. Consider a methodology such as Human Centered Design. By baking HCD into the task, the team members can practise it in a low-stakes scenario – for example, creating an office mascot. If the artefact doesn’t gain the target audience’s approval, it’s relatively cheap to make the necessary modifications or even go back to the drawing board.

After the team members build up their experience with the methodology via this seemingly silly exercise, they can apply it to the organisation’s real products and services.

3 uses of Virtual Reality in workplace education

19 July 2016

I’m always surprised when someone makes a sweeping declaration such as “No one’s using virtual reality in the workplace”. I heard this very statement recently at an e-learning conference. Yep, an e-learning conference.

Sure, VR is an emerging technology, but as 20 real-world examples of Virtual Reality can attest, early adopters are indeed putting it to use in the workplace.

I suspect the dismissiveness among some of our peers stems from their uncertainty about how they might apply it in their own contexts – particularly if that context is corporate.

However, I propose the opportunities for using virtual reality in the workplace – or more specifically, in workplace education – remain consistent across sectors according to the 3 use types that I outline below.

We corporate folks can learn from our peers in other sectors who are pursuing these uses, and translate their ideas in our own workplaces. All it takes is a bit of imagination.

1. Virtual reality can substitute the real environment.

Virtual reality may be a feasible alternative when the real thing is infeasible – perhaps due to expense, logistics, or sheer impossibility.

Exemplars that spring to mind include: Google Expeditions which teleports you to wonderful places like Machu Picchu; VR Mars which let’s you walk on the surface of the red planet; and The Body VR which takes you for a ride through the human circulatory system.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see myself visiting any of these places anytime soon. But I can visit a duplicated environment now, virtually. Of course I’m not really there, but it’s the next best thing.

This substitutive use of VR is being leveraged by a range of players in the workplace. For example, real estate agents offer virtual property tours; hotels show off their rooms; while architects visualise their designs (and modify them quickly and cheaply). The technology allows us – their customers – to experience each environment without having to physically go there.

Similar applications are more difficult to envisage in corporate L&D, so my advice is to return to the value proposition of the substitutive use of VR. Ask yourself: where would you like your colleagues to visit though it is currently infeasible to do so?

In my case, my employer is currently trialling new-look “concept stores” to transform the provision of financial advice. This strategic imperative relates to the overarching transformation of our organisation, so it’d be great if all our employees (and prospective customers!) could experience our flagship store in-person. But with people in different locations all over the world, that’s never going to happen. A 360° virtual tour is a feasible alternative.

2. Virtual reality can prepare you for the real environment.

Virtual reality can be the first port of call when the real thing is high stakes – perhaps because it’s dangerous, emotionally charged, or financially sensitive.

Flight simulators are the obvious exemplar of this use of VR. These systems enable trainee pilots to test their skills and learn from failure in a replicated environment, without the fear of losing their life or causing millions of dollars worth of damage.

This preparatory use of VR is also being leveraged by a range of players in the workplace. For example, engineers preview the hazards of mining; electricians manipulate high-voltage switches; while someone I know in a rural fire service is looking into using 360° video to help volunteer firefighters get a sense of what to expect in a bushfire.

Again, similar applications are more difficult to envisage in corporate L&D, so my advice is to return to the value proposition of the preparatory use of VR. Ask yourself: what will your colleagues be doing that is high-stakes? Bearing in mind that in the corporate sense, “high stakes” is probably financial.

In my case, my employer is progressively remodelling our office building into an Activity Based Working environment. This represents a significant shift in how we go about our day-to-day business, so the project team has been running regular group tours to prepare each batch of employees who are scheduled to occupy the newly decked-out floors. I dare not calculate how many hours multiplied by the number of tour leaders and tour followers have been spent on this. A 360° virtual tour would have allowed everyone to learn the basics at their own pace at their own desk, without any loss of learning outcome.

3. Virtual reality can foster empathy.

Finally, but no less importantly, virtual reality can foster empathy by putting you in another person’s shoes.

An exemplar that springs to mind is Fear of the Sky which uses 360° photos to immerse you in Syrian towns ravaged by barrel bombs.

This empathic use of VR is also being leveraged by players in the workplace. For example, doctors experience the hospital system as an emergency patient; while aged care workers see life through the eyes of someone with dementia.

The need for empathy is not restricted to charity and healthcare. Consider a retail environment in which your sales people can interact with a virtual customer, then have them replay that experience through the eyes of the customer. I also see an opportunity with VR for police officers to experience what it’s like to be hassled on the street, and conversely, for the public to appreciate what it’s like to be a police officer.

Returning to the corporate sector, ask yourself: where are the social interactions? In my workplace, the retail sales example that I suggested could be similarly applied to financial advisers, while our claims assessors would benefit from experiencing our company in the shoes of a grieving claimant. Then there are meetings, presentations, performance appraisals, and myriad other scenarios to simulate.

VR headset

In summary, sweeping statements such as “No one’s using virtual reality in the workplace” are nonsensical. Plenty of people are using the technology in their workplaces, and they are doing so according to 3 use types.

The substitutive use of VR allows us to experience an environment without having to go to there; the preparatory use of VR allows us to experience an environment before we go there; while the empathic use of VR allows us to experience our own environment as someone else.

I encourage you to consider how you might explore each of these use types in your own workplace.

In the meantime, those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of those doing it.

Clarifying the extension

10 May 2016

Extended Enterprise Training (EET) is a term that was introduced to me by Don Presant in response to my previous blog post Educate everyone.

EET is poised to become the “next big thing” in corporate L&D, but what is it exactly? Most sources I’ve looked up agree with Webanywhere’s definition of the term:

Extended Enterprise Learning is any training that is provided to learners outside of your organization. The training could be targeted at dealers, channel distribution partners, suppliers, resellers, franchisees, and even your customers.

I don’t disagree with this definition, but I do wish to provoke deeper thinking by challenging it.

Inigo Montoya

Take franchisees as the first talking point. I consider it a stretch to think of them as being outside of your organisation. Sure, they might not be on your payroll, but my local McDonalds is a part of the universal Golden Arches empire. I bet my Big Mac that Ronald says so too.

I put dealers in the same basket. Indeed, the folks in Aichi Prefecture don’t pay the sales guy at my local Toyota dealership out of their own pockets, but they’d choke on their saké at the suggestion he didn’t belong to the Toyota family. And rightly so.

Partners, suppliers, resellers… these make much more sense to me. And I would replace “even your customers” with “especially your customers” – as that’s where I believe the untapped upside of EET lay.

So I guess my argument relies on the concept of brand. To me, anyone doing business wearing your logo is a part of your organisation, whether you pay them or not. Anyone doing business with you or for you, without wearing your logo, is not a part of your organisation.

I hereby propose EET applies to the latter.

Educate everyone

19 April 2016

My all-time favourite example of augmented reality has been reinvented.

When I first saw BMW’s augmented reality glasses on YouTube over 8 years ago, I was excited. It heralded a new dawn in educational technology. A golden age in which learning & performance would be transformed.

Then… nothing.

For years afterwards, augmented reality seemed to be trapped in the mystical realm of what it “could” do in the future. Indeed it offered amazing potential, but with too few examples of the technology in use, not much reality was really being augmented.

More recently, Google Glass has been making in-roads, though I consider it more of a data display device than an AR headset. And Microsoft’s work on HoloLens is truly inspiring, but it’s not quite ready yet.

Then… BOOM!

At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Hyundai unveiled its Virtual Guide. Overnight, the Korean boffins made BMW’s augmented reality glasses a reality for the rest of us.

Now, I use the term “overnight” with poetic licence. Hyundai actually unveiled its AR app in the previous year. And yes, there have been other practical applications of AR done by other companies. Heck, they’re not even the first car maker to do it.

But all that is moot, because the point is this is the first time in a long time that I’ve been impressed by a mainstream brand. To me, Hyundai stands out from the myriad other car makers as a leader – not only in innovation, but also in customer service.

I compare them to Honda, for example, whose Civic can’t even play the songs on my Samsung smartphone.

Surprised koala

Hyundai’s app prompted me to consider the relationship between e-learning and marketing in the corporate domain.

Traditionally, e-learning (along with the rest of L&D) is inward focused; its specialists are charged with developing the capability of the organisation’s employees. In contrast, marketing is outward focused; its specialists are charged with attracting more customers.

Indeed there has been consideration of combining marketing with e-learning to promote and motivate employee development, but how about the reverse? How about combining e-learning with marketing to engage customers?

As Hyundai has demonstrated, e-learning can be used as a vehicle to establish a leadership position for the brand. Yet it can do more.

Consider an insurance company. Like cars, this is another sector that is usually considered boring by the general public and faces stiff competition. How about another TV advertisement featuring a loving family and a dog and… yawn… sorry, I can’t be bothered finishing this sentence.

Instead, how about a customer education strategy that teaches the public the fundamentals of insurance, providing a clear explanation of the concept, untangling its mind-boggling options and variations, ultimately helping regular folks like you and me make better decisions about our finances.

The strategy might involve a YouTube channel, an expert-authored blog, a moderated discussion forum, a free webinar series, a corporate MOOC… all open to the public.

Could someone consume your wonderful content and buy their insurance from someone else? Of course, some people base their purchasing decisions solely on price. But many don’t. With the trust and goodwill your education generates, I’d wager that plenty of prospective customers will prefer the brand that empowered them.

At the very least, you’d attract more customers with an education strategy than without one.

So don’t just educate your staff. Educate everyone.

20 real-world examples of Virtual Reality

22 March 2016

The inaugural Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week launched earlier this month. It’s something I started up almost on a whim to promote real-world applications of virtual reality.

There’s plenty of talk out there about how wonderful VR is and the incredible potential it offers us, but how about now? What are our peers currently doing with this emerging technology?

The online networking festival was open to anyone working with or experimenting with virtual reality. Whether you have been playing with Google Cardboard or developing high-end immersive experiences, we wanted to hear about it. Participants were invited to use the #VRwolweek hashtag on social media to share their successes, failures, questions, answers, work-arounds, or anything else we fellow geeks would find useful.

And I’m pleased to report it was a success! Over 60 posts on social media mentioning #VRwolweek is a good start in my book, and is a testament to the enthusiasm with which the digigeek community took up the challenge.

On the other side of the coin, some may say that 60-odd posts aren’t nearly enough. I acknowledge this perspective, and I put it down to two factors: (1) Lack of awareness of the event, as this is the first ever #wolweek dedicated to VR; and (2) Lack of hands-on experience. The technology is still very much in its infancy, and many of us are yet to make the leap from reading and talking about it to experimenting with it and applying it. Indeed, most of the tweets were about what others are doing with VR.

In any case, I learned a great deal about virtual reality via the event, and I’m glad to have raised my awareness of the following real-world applications across multiple industries, including sports, entertainment, healthcare, education, workplace training, and non-profit.

Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week 2016

  1. Port Adelaide Football Club uses virtual reality for match simulation training – @simongterry

  2. CITEC uses virtual reality to simulate a gym, complete with personal trainer – @kiwirip

  3. Casey Neistat takes us to the Oscars as his +1 with his 360° camera – @ActivateLearn

  4. Microsoft uses virtual reality to immerse players into the Minecraft metaverse – @kiwirip

  5. Six Flags is turning to virtual reality to enhance its rollercoaster experience – @LearnKotch

  6. Torbay Hospital uses virtual reality to improve doctor empathy – @MoorOfALife

  7. The US military uses virtual reality therapy to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – @simongterry

  8. The Virtual Reality Medical Center uses virtual reality therapy to treat phobias – @despinatracey

  9. MindMaze is testing the use of virtual reality to treat phantom limb pain – @despinatracey

  10. Conquer Mobile is testing the use of virtual reality to train surgeons for complex operations – @despinatracey

  11. Students at Barker College manipulate virtual objects in a 3D space – @ActivateLearn

  12. Students at Wagaman Primary School use augmented reality to bring an educational treasure hunt to life – @karinpfister

  13. Nearpod’s VR lessons allow students to go on virtual field trips – @kiwirip

  14. Prospective students at Harvard and Yale can take virtual campus tours – @kiwirip

  15. Nokia uses virtual reality to simulate public speaking – @Elearnstudiospt

  16. Lancôme uses virtual reality to visualise how its product works on the skin – @Elearnstudiospt

  17. Commonwealth Bank of Australia uses virtual reality to engage prospective recruits in a virtual workplace – @simongterry

  18. Sentient Computing uses interactive virtual reality to deliver high-stakes safety training – @sentcomp @dougbester

  19. The UN uses a virtual reality film to change attitudes in one of the world’s hot spots – @kiwirip

  20. Amnesty International uses virtual reality to help Sydneysiders appreciate the ravages of the Syrian conflict – @NeilVonHeupt

Man training in virtual reality

A special thank you goes out to everyone who participated in VR Working Out Loud Week, including Simon Terry who helped me lift it off the ground in the first place. I’m already looking forward to launching it again next year.

By the way, it’s not too late to keep the conversation going. Feel free to continue using the #VRwolweek hashtag to share with us what you’re doing in the virtual reality space.