George Siemens asked a really really big question. Does education need to change? This question will, hopefully, help me clarify my personal vision of what I want to accomplish over the next 5-10+ years.
The aspect of professional education that has always bothered me is the multi-hour / multi-day sit-in-a-classroom model of "training." I hate teaching that way and I hate training that way. It is grueling for all parties. And, in the end, I never got the feeling that anything we talked about stuck.
Much of the online courseware we purchased is of the same model. Multi-hour sit-at-the-computer and hope you don't get too distracted while working on the tutorial. At least in a classroom, there are fewer opportunities for distraction. (If you lock the door, collect all cell phones and lock down the computers).
We talk about moving away from the notion that education is an "event." Instead, creating an environment where folks get the information they need when they need it and in the appropriate context. I see that creating this environment requires the following:
- MUCH shorter chunks of information. 5-15 minutes max.
- More focused / contextual information. i.e. "How do I DO x" or "Where do I find information on x."
- Emphasis on designing an ongoing support structure. Where can someone find help when they need it?
- Classroom / synchronous interaction time designed more for allowing an opportunity to focus and talk. Fantastic for introducing new material, implementing new processes, the personal touch of change management.
- Providing processing tools for knowledge creation / management. This is where I am seeing wikis and blogs becoming a valuable resource.
I personally have 2 projects where I am trying to implement this model.
- A classroom series (mostly Captivate workshops) for those wishing to put their materials into our LMS for reporting. (BTW - just because it is in an LMS doesn't mean it has to be 3 hours long....or even a fancy interactive movie.....I'm just saying.....)
- A major upgrade to our enterprise higher education administration system.
Some of the ideas I am working on / kicking around:
- Short online courses and quick references will be made available for general tasks and broad training. These are proving to be quite popular, even without broad advertising. Just knowing that something is easily available and out there seems to help.
- Most of the classroom time for the Captivate project will be focused on individual projects. As a result, the classes will be very small - 5 people max. I'm having them bring their own projects rather than creating a "general" project. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone. They get work done and trained at the same time.
- For the upgrade project - larger classes will be created and team-taught with the local experts / managers. The managers can answer the procedural questions that I am not in the position to answer. Most of the questions that occur during implementation training tend to be of that sort anyway. I'm expecting some of the managers to balk at having to be there.
- During the design phase for both projects, I am focusing on processes and tools for ongoing support after the class. For the Captivate project, I am looking at cohorts. For the upgrade project, I am going to be working with the local "experts" and creating cohorts between them as well based on their most common tasks (cohort for payroll, cohort for student administration, cohort for student billing etc). That one may be trickier.
- For both projects, I am looking at implementing a wiki for the cohorts. I'm still researching how best to implement and administer this. We've had some success within individual IT teams - particularly among the Help Desk and Operations staff.
- Since what I do is technical training - I'm getting the help desk involved during the assessment phase. Particularly for the upgrade project. Where are people having problems with the application currently? What are the most frequently asked questions? What technical problems are they running into the most? In exchange, I've been introducing them to Captivate (because the help desk staff like new toys) and including special training for them as part of the plan. A closer relationship with the people who can help with support can be nothing but a good thing.
This is not a radical change, per se. More of an evolution. Trying to retain the best characteristics of what we do while trying to meet the current needs of our audience. Shorter chunks, more context, ongoing education rather than event education and greater support "post-learning." That's how I want to change education in my world.