Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Cat Herding



Over the past couple of weeks - just when I think I have a plan, someone else throws in another variable.

My initial plan - Get the LMS selection done and implemented.  Leave the Data Whisperer alone until Fall 2013 to let his world shake out.  Then (hopefully) hit the ground running and finally build the learning and development reporting mechanism of my dreams.

Um....yeah......
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One of the great things about being a trainer is that I get to touch multiple parts of an organization. 
I may not touch them long - but they at least know who I am.

I was catching up with a fellow IT colleague during a town hall for the greater University community.

"Hey Wendy, what do you know about this other content management enterprise integration project?"

Um....I know it is a pain point for the client and that they need to come up with a better process.  I thought we were going to get something done longer-term.

"Yeah - we just got this in our queue."

Hmmmm......

A later conversation with Sally let me know that another project was afoot.

"I just discovered there was a whole certification table in our enterprise system!  We're going to try and leverage that!"

Didn't know our enterprise system did that.

"Yeah - neither did we.  This should be cool."

Hmmmm.....
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So despite my plan to leave the Data Whisperer alone until Fall, my management chain tasked me to go talk to him.

I wandered over to DataWorld with a list of notes and a number of questions - along with the admission that I am going into the conversation very confused.

"Make that two of us."

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I've always believed that information should be free and that knowledge is only powerful if it is shared.

He laid out what he knew.
I laid out mine.

1 hour later - we had a better plan and an idea of the role each of us plays in each "project".
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I am suspecting that this may be the first of many "emergencies".

This gives me an important variable when we go to design the new reporting system.

Despite our intense desire to make everyone "conform" to standards - chances are we are going to have to accommodate multiple content libraries and management systems, multiple course management systems, multiple LMSs, and other sources of random input.

This could actually be a really good thing. Potentially giving us a much better sense of what is actually happening in our environment vs. sticking our head in the sand and INSISTING that everyone follow our lead, use our tools, and cooperate.

I work in Higher Education.  I herd cats.  The chances of us being able to get the cats to follow is practically nil.  Instead of fighting it, why not go with it?



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Doin' a MOOC



eLearning folks have been talking about MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses)for awhile.

Like "Mobile" and "Gamification" and "Analytics" - MOOC is becoming another buzzword that is being thrown around our environment.  As in "Can we make this a MOOC?" 

Implied in that is they want to know if we have (or can purchase) an application that "makes our course a MOOC" vs. the hard work of designing a course as a MOOC and the support structure behind running those courses.

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I hesitate to attempt to speak intelligently about something until I have actually done it.

To get a better idea of what a MOOC is, I found a course where I had decent background knowledge - PowerSearching with Google.  This way, I could better focus on how the course is designed and structured.

As I participated in the course, I realized "This is circa 2002 Distance Education with a couple of minor tweaks!"   Just this time, it has a cooler acronym.

I am defining "Distance Education" here as those time-limited multi-day courses that attempt to replicate / improve on the classroom experience without the classroom.  Often seen as semesters, but I've seen it as short as a week.
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2002 - lectures / presentations appear at designated time. Most of the ones I saw were PowerPoints.  If I was lucky (and had really good internet access) - they had audio. Often these are the same length as the original "classroom" lecture (an hour is pretty popular).

2012 - lectures / presentations appear at designated time.  These are chunked much more finely into topics (in the PowerSearching with Google case - about 3-9 minutes in length).  Activities in between.  PowerSearching with Google used a lot of video.  It reminded me of 80s-era "learn to use your computer over educational television" - but they still used video. Today - the video quality is much better.


Digging the couch and the old theater curtains.

Here is an old Computer Chronicles from 1985.  This was sold to Public Television stations as a way to fill daytime.

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2002 - community-building through message boards. Week 1 - getting to know you.  Participation matrix is important for evaluation.

2012 - community-building through chat, forums and virtual conferencing (like Google Hangouts - we can see FACES!).  Week 1 - getting to know you.  Participation in any of this optional - but strongly encouraged and designed in the assignments and activities vs treated separately.  Participation may not limited to the "official course forum". Jim Groom and Alan Levine's DS106 course at the University of Mary Washington is a great example of how this can work.

The DS106 class is a semester long MOOC - and does have grading for participation, structure and focus for each time period.   Clues to one possible structure can be found in the syllabus for Summer 2012.
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2002 - assignments due at a particular time.  Submitted in a particular way (WebCT was my exposure to this).

2012 - assignments might be time limited or might not. Submissions can occur over multiple media over multiple locations (Twitter, Facebook, personal blog, YouTube....) Generally - it seems to be best to follow the course from week to week to be able to maximize your participation in the community (since everyone participating will be focused on the same thing) and the facilitators.

Dave Cormier, George Siemens and Stephen Downes are finishing up a cycle of Change in Formal Education Systems.
A new cycle appears to have started a few weeks ago.  Click here to see the schedule.

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One of the areas where I am a bit cloudy is administration.  What it is like from the instructor perspective.  How does it work with a class of a few thousand (not that I am going to try that off the bat)?

I managed to find a few clues in this Educause paper.

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Sally and I MIGHT be trying to MOOC our Telecommuting onboarding series. for the next round.
At least - I stuck the bug in her ear.

We are thinking that the population is reasonably small (about 60 per class), some folks in this next cohort will have difficulty getting away for an hour during designated course times, and it might be a safe opportunity to experiment with the format.

Couldn't hurt.....
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Some articles by folks who have a much better idea about what a MOOC is and how it works than I do.
Review of MOOC Developments
Impressive MOOCs You Never Hear About

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jumping Too Quickly

The Manager, the Director and I sat around a small table staring at feedback for our (not so) little LMS project.  We are in the process of walking this project through our relatively new project intake process and have asked for feedback from some of the executives - including the SWAT team leader and the Data Whisperer.

'So are you looking at this as an augmentation to an existing system or as a new system?  Requirements collection will be really different depending on the direction you all are headed.'

I have already started the process of culling through all of the comments and complaints over the past few years regarding our LMS.  Using the Communications Point Man's example - I am pretty much dumping everything and anything into this initial draft of the requirements.  I have found over the years that having at least something as a discussion point makes it easier for folks to provide feedback.  Rapid Prototyping FTW!

One lesson I learned is that sometimes you have to go with the flow to get stuff done.

I mentioned in a previous post my thought that Compliance Reporting could potentially be an easy "kill."
Compliance reporting - however - is not terribly sexy.  Nor does it address the myriad other issues in our current process and tool set.  There is also a possibility we can address it within the LMS project itself.

During our conversation - I was reminded of was the importance of timing.  There are a few things occurring in our environment that makes separating and delaying the reporting piece of this project very desirable:
  • A data cleanup of our HRIS system (long overdue)
  • A major re-org in the Data Whisperer's world. 
  • Because of said re-org - the Data team's priorities might change.  Hopefully in our favor, once the dust settles.
  • If we wind up getting a new or different or added LMS - we would be creating duplicate work if we decide to completely discard the old one.
I've been kicking around the idea of separating the reporting piece from the LMS project altogether.
  • It might allow us more time and focus for determining what reports the stakeholders really need.  It would be cool to find an underlying strategy behind it all as a result of those conversations.  Not holding my breath there.
  • We would be able to focus on what inputs would need to be collected - because there is no WAY one LMS is going to capture everything in our environment. I am also not convinced that whatever LMS we wind up with should serve as a "training portal".  Too tough to access and there are likely better tools for the job.  I came to this conclusion through hard experience :(
  • We could work on something that would scale to different inputs (such as SharePoint, Drupal pages, the Student LMS, external content systems, new enterprise products).
  • We will have a much easier time keeping the sensitive information in-house vs. grappling with our Legal department and the vendor.
  • We would be able to connect to our business analytics without having to run a number of updates on a regular basis and run the risk of outdated material or accidentally erasing stuff.
So this is what we decided to do (at least as I currently understand it)
  • Approach the LMS project as a "new LMS".  This will require more comprehensive requirements gathering - which is needed anyway.  It's been awhile since the stakeholders have had a true "training" discussion and the environment has changed significantly since the last time we chatted.
  • Separate out reporting as a whole 'nother project for after implementation.  That should give time for some of those environmental factors to shake out.
  • Attempt to get a decision made in the March-May timeframe so we can either implement the new or reconfigure the old before Sept 1, 2013.
The plan is coming together.  Next step - see if the senior execs think this is a decent idea.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trends and Gaps

In preparation for my conversation with the SWAT team leader - I put together one of those text-heavy PowerPoints, if only to sort out my findings to date and give me some points of conversation.

Here's the PowerPoint.  

I didn't have to inflict the whole thing on him for him to see some angles of attack for a Learning Environment redesign.

1) Map the process this fits into.

I have been approaching the Learning Environment based on MY needs.  Yes, I should know better.  Don't judge.

The SWAT team leader's recommendation (done somewhat obliquely through his demonstration of ASU's fantastic Research Administration help site) was to look at the process the problem fits into.

As I thought about it - the training I do fits into the Employee life-cycle. This needs more concrete definition, but right off the top of my head, this is what I came up with:
  • Onboarding
  • The march from beginner to expert
  • Compliance issues and requirements during employment
  • Career development
  • Termination (and here I am including retirement, voluntary departure, firing)
The issues our training groups face embed within this life-cycle. 
  • Finding help - both information and people (experts)
  • Reporting (what did people take? When? Did they take all necessary mandatory training?  Nevermind the more advanced stuff that includes business analytics.)
  • How best to determine appropriate curricula for each level of employee.
2) Think about a development roadmap based on that process and the pain points within the process.

This idea has popped up a couple of times over the past month.  I've had one in my head.  I'm not sure if one actually exists for our training program elsewhere.  If not - it is definitely time to put one together.

3) Once the process (as it currently stands) and the roadmap for improvement are defined, choose 2 or 3 things to focus on over the next year.

I kept staring at my strange little PowerPoint and two things jumped out at me:
  • Compliance.  Almost every request I have received from outside the IT department over the past year has been centered around Compliance.  The pain points (gaps) I had identified in our process have at least one compliance element in them.  From terrible instructional design, to awkward approval processes, to manual reporting. 

  • Reporting. From what I can tell (and maybe it's because I am a trainer), training is a critical element of Compliance.  More grant and regulatory agencies are wanting evidence of "training" in their pet topic.  In conversations around the organization, I've been repeatedly told that being able to provide this evidence is key.  (Nevermind actually reducing the number of compliance cases and/or reducing the average size of the reward).
(Of course, this begs the question as to WHY compliance has become the thing we focus on vs. performance improvement / innovation / whether or not our training actually did something useful etc.  Probably best I don't go there....)

I then thought about my recent conversations with the Data Whisperer, the SWAT Team Leader, Syd and Sally...

What if we could use Compliance Reporting as the base?  That is an immediate need.  It would serve as a driver to help us get our baseline L&D reporting in line before we start adding non-traditional inputs (such as business data). And it could help each of member of the project reach their strategic objectives - which right now seem to center around analytics.

Makes sense right now as I type this.  I may also be jumping to conclusions to quickly.....

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David Jones has a couple of recent posts that provide food for thought on this.

Compliance Cultures and Transforming the Quality of eLearning
The Core Problem with Learning Analytics

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Desperately Peeking Over the Silo

One of the bonuses of the Thrash is that I am more open to new sources of input.
It also reminds me that my ADD generalist leanings occasionally come in handy.

Read more....

Thursday, October 04, 2012

In the Throes of the Thrash


Thrash metal and puppets.
Doesn't make the process any easier - but it does make it a heck of a lot more fun to listen to.
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I've mentioned before that I am looking to completely redesign the learning environment at my organization.

Read more...

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

In the Arena


In my mind, one of the greatest songs REM ever recorded.
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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

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I've run into the above quote a lot recently.

Along with the notions that
  • Success is built on failure
  • Hope is a function of struggle
  • Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to just show up.
I don't know if anyone else is sensing this - but we are in the midst of some major changes in the corporate learning space and in the way we need to think about things.

I'm seeing bits and pieces in the conversations surrounding mobility, performance support, analytics, informal learning etc.

The big flashing message I'm seeing locally is "Your system is broken!!!!"

The realization that everything I have been doing since getting my Instructional Technology degree in 2003 doesn't quite work anymore is more than a little unnerving.

Losing one's "religion" is a tricky thing..


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Building a Mobile Strategy Part 2: The Troika

Building a Mobile Strategy Part 1
Building a Mobile Strategy Part 1a

The Mobility Guru and I have been holding monthly meetings - not counting casual encounters where we run into each other on campus.

We've learned a few things over the past couple of months:
  • Once our web team finishes implementing our new content management system (they are really close to closing the project), all hands on that team turn to mobile.
  • There is a "Mobility Steering Committee" among some senior execs around campus.  This, however, seems to be focused on an app.  Good for the Mobility Guru and I because that means we are not missing anything that we might possibly need to know right now.
  • There are some other scattered "Mobility" efforts - most notably among the Security folks.  This provided an opportunity for awareness.  Better late than never.
We finally managed to have a full Troika meeting recently.  The Mobility Architect finally got out from underneath his configuration management project to talk.

Some good stuff came out of this meeting:

1) Both the Mobility Architect AND the Mobility Guru realized fairly quickly that our current policies don't adequately cover the new environment.  We think there is an effort underway to take a new look at all of our IT policies - particularly for data management.

2) A trend both of them noticed is that mobile OS providers (Apple, Google, Microsoft) are beginning to strongly encourage the use of their own cloud storage solutions.  This could be quite problematic for an enterprise since the temptation to put any-ol-document onto the "personal" cloud share for the sake of convenience is quite high. 

Conclusion: We need to get the definitions of what is appropriate on the cloud shares (and mobile devices in general) and what abso-positively-lutely does NOT belong on these cloud shares but behind secure document management needs to be very clear.  My argument - the less grey area, the better.

My 2nd conclusion: Any solution created for this needs to be really easy to use.  My thinking - ideally it would be as easy (or even easier) to put mobile stuff in the secure area vs the "mobile-phone-OS-approved" cloud share.

Easier it is - less I need to do training on it - more likely the solution will be adopted.  Win for everyone!

3) My role in all this - voice of the end-user and lcd (lowest common denominator) tester for any processes that come out of this.  I am perfectly suited for this because a) I'm an application trainer and notorious for breaking things and b) because I suck at using my smart phone.

I got involved because I wanted to make sure my mobile strategy followed what the rest of IT was doing. 

Still doing that - but this other role promises to be a lot of fun.