Thursday, April 06, 2017

Lessons learnt from the design of a blended learning trajectory

Over the past year I have worked with Proteion, a health organization in the south of the Netherlands. They have 3500 employees and a large part of their work is care for people with dementia. What made it so much fun to work with Proteion is that people occasionally started talking in the Limburg dialect. I could understand it reasonably it and always gave me a feeling of being abroad, maybe even the feeling of my work in Latin America and Africa :). Moreover, there was a strong vision to learn through a potent mix of learning methods to facilitate workplace. Learning with direct influence on practice. It was really about something important that we wanted to influence: better care for people with dementia. My first question was whether the people working there didn't already know and learn enough about the best care, but the thing is that when they were students, dementia wasn't as important as it is today. The second thing is that when they work in shifts, there is little opportunity to learn from each other.

Last year we had a number of working sessions, including a design workshop with all key stakeholders. After this the team continued using Scrum method to work on developing materials and assignments. The blended course is for (new) employees and consists of online modules, working together with a buddy/buddies using whatsapp, and optional face-to-face workshops based on their own learning needs. It concludes by discussing the analyse of a client case with the team leader. The course is ready and I am struck by how much work it has been to develop, and how bumpy the ride within the organization. Because it takes so much time, to develop I ask wonder sometimes if it is worth it, and whether it had not been faster to organize a face-to-face training ...

In February, just before the carnival erupted in Limburg, I was at Proteion to discuss the final design and point to put the dots on the i. I asked the location manager what he thought about the design and he said wholeheartely: "I wish we had this 10 years ago!" He was really very happy. This reassured me that it is worthwhile. The advantage is that even though the pilot start at two kocations, eventually there 2000 to 2500 people can participate. A first blended design is really a steep learning curve whereby it takes a disproportionately long time. I am curious about the results of the first pilot. A concrete result should be that the care improves and thus the number of incidents with clients and complaints from carers goes down. One challenge is the fact that employees are not paid for extra hours they invest in learning.

Lessons in developing a first blended course
I made a spark video for the start of the trajectory, however it is in Dutch.

  • Blended learning aimed at enhancing workplace learning really requires different roles than face-to-face workshops. We were luckily to have someone in L&D with heart for the technique who has done quite a job in understanding the potential of the learning platform and talking to and negotiating with the vendor. I am not sure any L&D could have done this. The psychologists who normally give an expert lecture also have a different role: in the search of materials, thinking about assignments and recording a short video. Furthermore, we really need the team leaders for this project, they will evaluate the final project and issue the certificates.
  • You can't simply designing a blended course, you also have to deal with organizational policies and politics. A blended course within an organization aiming to change practice is never standing on itself, especially if the subject is important (and it should be!). In this case there was overlap of the original topics of two separate initiatives which had to be worked out. There was a collaboration with another institution with apprenticeships in the same field. It takes time to properly position a blended course as one of the instruments among all other (change?) activities within the organization. In this case that was the cause that it took a year to develop the blended trajectory.
  • The most difficult to organize collaborative learning online. Everyone can imagine or has seen individual e-learning modules. However, how do you organize interactive learning and how do you facilitate it? It is difficult to anticipate and imagine if you have little experience with it. Where to use collaborative learning? Which social tools to use or leave it open? How do you make a good connection between the various components? Are we going or not facilitate over time the online modules or put everything open and people to work in their own time?
  • Sometimes you have to work with what you have. In this case the platform (PulseWeb). Although this platform does not offer all interaction opportunities that we would like it offers a lot of advantages. The organization has already purchased this platform, the employees are already used to log in, and you can get started right away without any additional search or costs. Disadvantages of an existing platform is often a lack of interaction and tight structure. This experience learn that it is worthwhile talking to the vendor to searching for ways to make it more interactive and personal.
Lessons from the professionals within Proteion are:

  • Blended learning is really another way of designing. We have underestimated this. Following the Ennuonline course alongside the support helped us get a broader look into blended learning approaches and various tools.
  • Make sure you're running fast; learning by doing, which can be supported by an expert on how to go about it, what are good examples. We have learned the most from the meetings with you there; working together on your own design; someone who asks the right questions, thinks about what steps you must take, for example, during the search for a platform, concerning attractiveness of the online course with photos, quotes, inspiring assignments.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A world full of knowmads in 2020?

John Moravec was the first to coin the term knowmad in the book Knowmad society. In this Tedtalk John poses an interesting statement about the 'rise of the knowmad'.  "In 2020 45% of the workforce will be knowmads". Eh 2020? That's already in 3 years time! Hurry up?

On what basis is this 45% calculated? Who are these other 55%? And what type of organization is attractive for knowmads? It was great that John Moravec himself participated in the MOOC from Minneapolis and we could just ask any questions and the next morning we read his answers.

Towards meaningful work
Previously you did your whole life the same work and preferably for the same boss. My father worked his whole life to repair and maintain army tanks and did this till he retired. Developing yourself was less important. The transformation from industrial society to the society knowmad brings along a new mindset towards work. In today's knowledge society personal knowledge is becoming more important. A knowmad not slavishly performing a job for a boss, but is looking for work that is meaningful to him / herself. Work in which you can find a personal connection. An example illustrating that the core of the knowmad lies in the connection to your own passion: "I was a knowmad a decade ago but adjusted me to what was expected of me, family, employer, society Hopefully there will be more. space for knowmads! " 

The famous 45% in 2020
John explains that we are talking about an estimate, not a measurement. 45% knowmads 2020 is a best guess, based on trends such as the growing number of independent workers, flexible work, intrapreneurship, etc. In the US, the estimated numer is 35-40% at present. The challenge with this figure is that it is difficult to measure, and that an OECD project would be necessary to collect all the data and compare. Some in the MOOC think that 45% is on the high side, but recognize the trends we are talking about. "I see the changes in the direction of the knowmad society: as more hybrid structures, professionals working independently and combining this with their work as part-time employee for example." The changing context of work driven by technological changes, think about robotics, drives us to work more knowmadic, we have to adapt and learn.

An important critical note: 'knowing how to find your way with knowledge' seems to become more important, but it can also create a gap between those who succeed and the rest. A new elite of knowmads? The have and havenot? Racquel Roca has written a Spanish book about knowmads which I am currently reading. She sees the middle class disappearing, A trend which Lynda Gratton also describes. The increasing possibility of working virtually makes it possible for any citizen to become a knowmad working globally. This means that the past advantageous position of Europe and North America will be lost. A positive vision for the future is "major jobs will be taken over by robots and machine learning, let's organize a basic income for all and learn will become a hobby!" ;)

By the way, the knowmad is an archetype. There is a continuum between the old and the ideal worker knowmad. Knowmads come in all shapes and sizes, but few will correspond 100% to the above-described ideal image.

Is the plumber a knowmad?
Of course, the conversation was also about 55%. Are these the less educated, the butcher, the attendant at the nursing home, the cleaner? Not necessarily, the majority opinion was: blue collar work can be very knowmadic. For example, an electrician could not find the problem, made a quick photo and shared it with its online network. Within 10 minutes he received answer from a colleague and he can solve the problem. This is also knowmadic problem-solving.

Online and offline knowmads
Can you be knowmad without online skills? Tiffany Motton think about 25 to 45% of the professionals might be seen as knowmadic, but lack digital skills: they could be seen as offline Knowmads. However, it would be a paradox that people with a knowmadic mindset, open and curious would  overlook the wonderful online opportunities.  Online information overload is a challenge for the knowmad. "At times I feel completely overwhelmed by all the sources. Am I therefore less of a knowmad?" Another challenge is the need for deep thinking and get out your information bubble. Is a knowmad in a bubble a real knowmad or it is crucial that he/she fosters diversity in his network?

Which organization welcomes the knowmad?  
Perhaps we will welcome 45% knowmads in 2020 ... but I wonder how many organizations in 2020 are capable to welcome knowmads. Which organization are best knowmads? Knowmads are not all the same: some seek more authoritarian structure than others. Many are seeking space for development and self determination. A system as Holacracy works in some cases but not everywhere. Startups and smaller organizations can work knowmadic, but what about the larger, more bureaucratic organizations ?. "I work for a large company. I see that we are becoming more hybrid. The work and the process is standardized in a part of the organization and will be done by robots within a few years. Innovation is located in another part where people work in several teams with methods such as agile and scrum. That's the part which will speak to knowmads" Larger organizations (both government and businesses) want to be agile and experiment with spin-offs, working with a network ring. As one participant said: "I think that the organizations is no longer the unit we need to focus on: focus on networks" Slowly, more and more knowmads will enter 1.0 organizations. What influence will they have on these organizations? Will they affect the structure and culture? Or will knowmads leave and start to look for an organization that suits them better? The leadership in the organization must also overhauled: Knowmads want inspiring, authentic leaders, work in co-creation with them and leaders with an eye for their development. A pitfall thereby may be that as organization you may have embraced an agile way of working, but it does not mean yet that the leadership has really changed.

The future is here
We conclude this topic two quotes. First a quote from Lincoln via a participant: "The best way to predict your future is to create it". We can work together on these changes. And John emphasize that it is not an abrupt revolution which will take place in three years. Waking up in 2020 as knowmads. This change is already underway. Or as William Gibson says, "the future is here, it's just unevenly distributed."


If you can read Dutch or use Google translate there are more blogs about 'Werken als knowmad' in Dutch:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Doctors versus internet: who is better at diagnosing?

I have dreamed for a long time of organizing our own MOOC. I was waiting to somebody to pay me for it, but nobody did. The challenge for in a MOOC is to facilitate a large group process online. We have just completed our knowmad MOOC with 637 people. This topic was knowmadic working and learning. At a peaktime, there were 203 people online simultaneously. It felt like a continuous party. It has yielded many new insights and resources. We ended the MOOC with a live meetup (see pictures). In some blogs I will share the harvest. To start with...

Doctors versus internet
In December I watched the television programme dokters versus internet. In this program laymen with a laptop have to diagnose in a competition against doctors without a laptop. It was exciting to see how laymen could still figure out occasionally through Googling what disease the patient was talking about. While the doctors were sometimes on the wrong track of questioning the patient. This obviously undermines one's belief in the knowledge of physicians. Here's a trailer for the Danish version:

I definitely work and learn very differently than before the Internet. If my printer jams, I Google to find the right answers on support forums and always succeed. The influence of the Internet is huge. But I think it's still impressive that laymen occasionally beat the doctors in diagnosing a patient. What about the long education and experiences of physicians? And how did we hence work 15 years ago without the Internet? Many participants in the MOOC remembered the CD-ROM with the Encarta encyclopedia, the documentation centres with microfiches, the subscription to a magazine, the Yellow Pages. Now you can find a lot of information online, and scientific studies are becoming easier to find. As someone illustrates: "I have a closet full of books and literature, but in practice I would rather use the Internet because you can get much faster to the core of what you are looking for." If we would interaction with somebody far away we sent faxmessages back-and forth.

The doctors trauma: experts are no longer automatically the authority
The internet changes the relationship between a patient and the physician to turn it upside down. Patients will self-Google and exchange within communities. Doctors are no longer automatically the authority which looks at the patient and his/her illness and takes decisions alone. In a positive sense, the doctor can connect to the knowledge of the patient and diagnose more in-depth. Recent research  in Belgium shows that 91 percent of Belgians look up information about their ailments and aches on the internet. Four out of five discusses the results with his doctor, and that is appreciated only moderately by the doctors. Many doctors feel it as a threat that patients have knowledge and an opinion. Someone in our MOOC calls this the doctors trauma.. People are no longer looked up at them. However, patients sometimes also come with information that is not true, think of the information that vaccinations can cause autism. This general 'doctors' trauma also applies to other professions, such as trainer, coach or HRD professional. There is so much information available on the Internet: you have to be sharper on your added value. That can be scary. You will no longer automatically seen as an expert / authority, and that can affects your identity. You should focus more on developing a unique vision as professional and invest effort to obtain status and to be seen as a trustworthy source.

Hairdressers versus internet 
What is the impact of the internet on practical and applied professions? A MOOC participant is curious to see what would happen in the programme hairdressers versus the internet. Particularly in practical professions it is of course easy to find instructional videos. However, it still requires practice to master those skills. I would really not like going to a hairdresser (or a surgeon) who only watched some youtube videos.

Data, information or knowledge?
There were clearly different views about whether you can find knowledge online, or only information. Some people think that you can find information online, but not knowledge. Knowledge resides mainly in our heads. This is the typical view of knowledge management specialists. On the other hand, you can argue that you can currently find knowledge online. George Siemens sees in his theory of connectivism learning as a process of network formation and connection of nodes, not so much as a process going on inside the brain. Knowing where you get knowledge rather than peruse is important. Learning can also occur in non-human nodes. Knowledge is changing so fast that you need a network and need to know who knows anything, even more than you can find it.
"Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed)" (Siemens)
Personally, I think the line between information and knowledge has become more fluid as a result of our interactions through social media. We may share personal stories online, follow people through their blogs for years, have deep conversations online, see videos how a customer call is being done. We cannot simply label this as 'information' in my opinion.

Filter and focus
There is a wealth of information and it is flowing ever-faster. According to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, every two days in 2010 there was as much information created as between the origin of the earth and 2009. This will be even higher now seven years later. The MOOC discussion shows how much we use online search. This however also raises the question of how to distinguish between valuable and less valuable info. How do you do that? Crap detection is important. Or, as someone says, it makes a big difference whether you get your medical knowledge of a blog, through social media, the yoga forum or a plant guru. What is true and what is not? Not all professionals are good at crap detection. Few education institutions have made crap detection central to the program. Howard Rheingold says: “Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.” In crap detection by Howard Rheingold you will find all kind of practical tools and tips like the site with information about ownership of webdomains and factchecker about the American politics.

The influence of algorithms - You are looking and we will find
And watch out! We do not only have to deal with crap detection, but also with algorithms. Algorithms make sure what is on the top of your information flows, eg in search engines or on your timeline on Facebook. Check out this explanation of algorithms (in dutch). Especially in social networks, but also in search engines algorithms determine what  you finally get to see. But we know little about the algorithms that Google uses. How do we become smarter than the algorithms? Still, by building and relying on a network of fellow professionals. Twitter is for instance quite algorithm- proof because you determine who you follow and those tweets surface in chronological order.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

How to organize for deep (not superficial) learning online?

Last week I had a great time again during the Learning and Technologies Conference in London. My third time! Like every year, we started off in the pizzeria on Brompton Road. Great to network with people who are working in the same field. I was sitting next to someone I didn't know and within 10 minutes we were discussing the difference between performance support and social learning and the presentation style of Bob Mosher.

With Joke van Alten I decided to shoot another video. It is a form to support my own learning. I start with a question I would like to learn more about, interview people and in putting it together and blogging it, it forces me to really think about it. This year my question is:
How to organize for deep learning online? 
In my definition deep learning does not have to do with artificial intelligence (which is sometimes called deep learning as well), but has to do with transformative learning, or as Argyris calls it: double loop learning. Single loop learning is learning for action: learning within the same frame of mind. Double loop learning is about change of mental models, changing the goals. (see the explanation on wikipedia). When I talk about online learning, through networks like LinkedIn, Twitter or internal Enterprise Social Networks, people think this online is perfect for quick information, like finding a tool for brainstorming, knowing how to repare your printer. You can find a video online and start the action. But does online engagement also facilitate deep learning? For many people this is not obvious and they cling to the idea that you have to meet.

Joke and I interviewed Mark Britz, James Tyer, Laura Overton, Clive Shepherd and John Stepper. They all believe in deep learning online and each has a different angle in responding to our question.

Reflect and build a good network
Many answer from the point of view of the individual professional and underscore the importance of reflection and building a network of meaningful relations online. Mark Britz highlights the fact that typing responding online and blogging in itself creates room to reflect. James Tyer also stresses that you need to consume deeply. You may use your networks to cut out the noise, so that you can focus on what matters. John Stepper also stresses the importance of building meaningful relationships by working out loud. This is a set of learnable skills. I agree that often engaging with a network/ community over a longer period of time can be really transformative. You start to share the beliefs of that particular community.

Learning how to learn (and reflect)
Laura Overton sees that in their TowardsMaturity benchmark the successful, agile organizations are the ones that involve people in reflection and make sure what is learned is applied directly at work. Learning how to learn and close the loop is hence important for deep learning. Otherwise the pitfall is remaining superficially engaged.

Online doesn't control the pedagogy
Clive Shepherd takes the angle of designing blended learning. He highlights the fact that the pedagogy comes first and the medium (online or offline) second. He recognized our question in the sense that online is often used for lower level knowledge sharing or instruction. If you aim for transformative learning you need guided discovery and reflected experiential learning. You need to design for this.

ps last year's video centered around: what is really changing in the way we learn because of social technologies?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whistle language Silbo is disappearing because of technology

I watched The Dutch comedian Javier Guzman on a lazy evening during the x-mas holidays, his shows is called Por Dios. In this show there is a story about the influence of technology I would like to share because it is really telling a story.

Javier explains that the shepherd on the isle of La Gomera have a  whistle language called Silbo. Through whistling the shepherds communicate with each other to upto 4 kilometers apart. It is actually a whistled sort of Spanish. It reminded me of the farmers in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia who were also communicating from mountaintop to mountaintop by ordinary language. Anyway, Javier talks to the patron of this language and hears that with the advent of the telephone that language is dying. The moral of this story is that technology changes culture. (video in Dutch).


I have witnessed a similar phenomenon in Diré in Mali, with the advent of television. The Malians in Dire could always spend hours chatting. They would sit on the ground or on small stools, next to a tea pot. Tea would always come in three rounds, with increasingly strong tea. So you could easily spend 1.5 hours drinking tea together. About a month after we moved to Diré, the TV was introduced. The next time that we went to visit my Malian colleague we were not chatting, but watching television together. Here the same motto applies: culture changes through technology. It is not all bad, of course, because through the same television I can watch Javier Guzman ... Nevertheless, the change may be unstoppable, but something will be lost along the way. Two medals of the same coin?