Specific Critical Issue – Continuing Research

As stated in my last blog post, the critical issue I have chosen is how podcasts affect student learning when assigned as a ‘primer’ for lectures (i.e. primer podcasts).  Like my teammates, I was drawn to the accessibility of this technology and its promise as a blended learning tool.

Literature

A more detailed literature review has unearthed many relevant resources, though few that reference primer podcasts.   To date, the most relevant study continues to that by Popova, Kirschner, and Joiner (2013), who investigated the effect of primer podcasts on stimulating learning in the eyes of students.  By contrast, research on the use of podcasts in blended learning applications has been plentiful and enlightening.  Many outline the benefits of podcast use, such as accessibility for both learners and content producers (Brookes, M. 2010, as well as the risks, such as learner and instructor dependency (Goldman, 2018).

Can podcasts compete?

One of my concerns when exploring podcasts as a blended learning tool was that they would deliver substandard results when compared with other more sophisticated tools like MOOCs.  However, many studies convincingly contend that learning modality is unimportant so long as learning design is strong (Thalheimer, 2018).  So, it is critical that podcasts are part of a learning toolkit that incorporates learning methods that are not common – or in some cases, not possible – in podcasts alone, such as spaced repetition and realistic practice.  That said, podcasts are often rich with real-world context, which is an oft-cited component of effective learning design (Thalheimer, 2018)

How have you incorporated podcasts in your toolkit? I would love to hear about your experiences.

 

References

Bauder, D., & Ender, K. (2016). Using Multimedia Solutions for Accessing the Curriculum Through a UDL Lens. 1134–1139. https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/173088/

Berlanger, Y. (2005) Duke university iPod first year experience final evaluation    http://cit.duke.edu/pdf/reports/ipod_initiative_04_05.pdf

Brookes, M. (2010). An evaluation of the impact of formative feedback podcasts on the student learning experience. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education (Oxford Brookes University), 9(1), 53–64. https://doi-org.libresources2.sait.ab.ca/10.3794/johlste.91.238

Chester, A., Buntine, A., Hammond, K., & Atkinson, L. (2011). Podcasting in Education: Student Attitudes, Behaviour and Self-Efficacy. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 14(2), 236–247.

Edirisingha, P., & Salmon, G. (2007). Pedagogical models for podcasts in higher education. figshare. Conference contribution. https://hdl.handle.net/2381/405

Fang, W. (2019, December 24). Why Do People Listen to Podcasts in 2020? Retrieved from https://www.listennotes.com/podcast-academy/why-do-people-listen-to-podcasts-in-2020-5/

Goldman, T. (2018). The impact of podcasts in education.  Santa Clara University. Advanced Writing: Pop Culture Intersections, 29. Available at: https://scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/29?utm_source=scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/29&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages

Hew, K. F. (2009). Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: A review of research topics and methodologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(3), 333-357. http://sttechnology.pbworks.com/f/Hew_(2008)_Use%2520of%2520Audio%2520Podcast%2520in%2520K-12%2520and%2520Higher%2520Education.pdf

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. (2007). Listen and learn: A systematic review of the evidence that podcasting supports learning in higher education. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of World Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education 355 123 Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2007 (pp. 1669–1677). Chesapeake, VA: AACE

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

Parson, V., Reddy, P., Wood, J., & Senior, C. (2009) Educating an iPod generation: undergraduate attitudes, experiences and understanding of vodcast and podcast use, Learning, Media and Technology, 34:3, 215-228, DOI: 10.1080/17439880903141497

Popova, A., Kirschner, P. A., & Joiner, R. (2014). Effects of primer podcasts on stimulating learning from lectures: how do students engage? British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(2), 330–339.

Pratt, S. (2019, January 30). 13 Predictions for Podcasting in 2019. Retrieved from https://blog.pacific-content.com/13-predictions-for-podcasting-in-2019-d52e7ed536ed

Thalheimer, W. (2017). Does elearning work? What the scientific research says! Available at http://www.work-learning.com/catalog.html

 

Individual Learning Plan

A shared interest in accessibility led my group to select podcasts as our learning technology as they are widely available, often free to listeners, and can be either streamed from or downloaded to most devices (e.g., laptop, tablet, smartphone); the only technology requirements are that listeners/learners must have access to a device and access to the internet, even if that access is periodic.  We further narrowed our selection to audio podcasts as they can be consumed in a wider variety of settings (e.g. on a run, through a car stereo while on a drive) and do not require the devoted attention that vodcasts can; the visuals in a vodcast can be integral to the full understanding of the content.

As the group was interested in beginning our critical inquiries with an academic podcast, we opted for a reputable publisher: University of Oxford.  We then selected a podcast and episode (i.e. learning event) based on group interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), ultimately landing on the episode “Is AI good for our health?” on the podcast Futuremakers. The podcast explores the social and ethical impacts of the use of AI in healthcare, including implications for the public at large.

Specific Critical Issue & Rationale

The critical issue I have chosen is how podcasts affect student learning when assigned as a ‘primer’ for lectures (i.e. primer podcasts).   I chose this issue because I found early readings on this topic interesting and thought it would be a nice extension of my team’s exploration of academic podcasting.  I also see the opportunity to create a more interesting and effective learning experience in classrooms by using this simple, broadly available technology; benefiting all students, even those without the luxury of home internet access and computers.

Literature

To date, I have found few peer-reviewed secondary sources on the use of primer podcasts.  One such study, by Popova, Kirschner, and Joiner (2013), investigated the effect of primer podcasts designed with advance organizers and higher order questions on stimulating learning in the eyes of students.  However, as the authors engaged in “a full-cycle epistemic activity” (Popova, Kirschner, and Joiner, 2013 p. 331), coupling primer podcasts, review activity, and feedback, the contribution of the primer activities to learning stimulation cannot be isolated.  I will need to delve deeper and use creative search terms in order to get more targeted research on this topic.

In addition to pointed research, I intend to read more broadly on the use of podcasts in blended learning applications to gain a deeper understanding of the role podcasting can play in effective design, and how to avoid any pitfalls associated with its use.  To do this, I will continue to search the resources available through the Royal Roads University (RRU), use relevant sources from previous MALAT courses (specifically LRNT524), and read relevant chapters in open source textbooks on blended learning and design approach.  To date I have found several general eLearning and podcast-specific sources I expect will be of use.  For example, one article, titled The Impact of Podcasts in Education (Goldman, 2018), offers much to consider, including the risk that teachers and students will misuse podcasts, relying on them too heavily as a substitute for in-person lectures and other learning resources.  Another article involving a meta-analyses of eLearning research (Thalheimer, 2018) found that all learning effectiveness is dependent upon learning design: “What matters, in terms of learning effectiveness is NOT the learning modality…; it’s the learning methods that matter, including such factors as realistic practice, spaced repetitions, real-world contexts, and feedback. (p. 25)” This finding is of particular interest as podcasts are one avenue to support these factors in a blended environment.

Hopefully additional research will offer insight into the advantages and disadvantages of using podcasts as primers or learning tools more generally, as well as provide supporting evidence for their use or avoidance.  This approach will empower me to examine this issue with consideration to the use of technology, assumptions about technology, design approach, critique, and learning theories.

Critical Inquiry Research Log

In order to organize my thoughts as I conduct this research, I am keeping a reflective critical inquiry research log that I write in at least once per week. I will track the evolution of my ideas, any insights I have along the way, and any resulting changes in my thinking or direction.

 

References

Bauder, D., & Ender, K. (2016). Using Multimedia Solutions for Accessing the Curriculum Through a UDL Lens. 1134–1139. https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/173088/

Berlanger, Y. (2005) Duke university iPod first year experience final evaluation    http://cit.duke.edu/pdf/reports/ipod_initiative_04_05.pdf

Brookes, M. (2010). An evaluation of the impact of formative feedback podcasts on the student learning experience. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education (Oxford Brookes University), 9(1), 53–64. https://doi-org.libresources2.sait.ab.ca/10.3794/johlste.91.238

Chester, A., Buntine, A., Hammond, K., & Atkinson, L. (2011). Podcasting in Education: Student Attitudes, Behaviour and Self-Efficacy. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 14(2), 236–247.

Edirisingha, P., & Salmon, G. (2007). Pedagogical models for podcasts in higher education. figshare. Conference contribution. https://hdl.handle.net/2381/405

Fang, W. (2019, December 24). Why Do People Listen to Podcasts in 2020? Retrieved from https://www.listennotes.com/podcast-academy/why-do-people-listen-to-podcasts-in-2020-5/

Goldman, T. (2018). The impact of podcasts in education.  Santa Clara University. Advanced Writing: Pop Culture Intersections, 29. Available at: https://scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/29?utm_source=scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/29&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages

Hew, K. F. (2009). Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: A review of research topics and methodologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(3), 333-357. http://sttechnology.pbworks.com/f/Hew_(2008)_Use%2520of%2520Audio%2520Podcast%2520in%2520K-12%2520and%2520Higher%2520Education.pdf

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. (2007). Listen and learn: A systematic review of the evidence that podcasting supports learning in higher education. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of World Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education 355 123 Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2007 (pp. 1669–1677). Chesapeake, VA: AACE

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

Parson, V., Reddy, P., Wood, J., & Senior, C. (2009) Educating an iPod generation: undergraduate attitudes, experiences and understanding of vodcast and podcast use, Learning, Media and Technology, 34:3, 215-228, DOI: 10.1080/17439880903141497

Popova, A., Kirschner, P. A., & Joiner, R. (2014). Effects of primer podcasts on stimulating learning from lectures: how do students engage? British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(2), 330–339.

Pratt, S. (2019, January 30). 13 Predictions for Podcasting in 2019. Retrieved from https://blog.pacific-content.com/13-predictions-for-podcasting-in-2019-d52e7ed536ed

Thalheimer, W. (2017). Does elearning work? What the scientific research says! Available at http://www.work-learning.com/catalog.html

 

Project Management: Implementing a new authoring tool

        In late 2018, my organization decided to create Learning Management System (LMS)-compatible versions of its published training materials for upload and use by subscription members.  In order to create content that could easily be uploaded into most LMS, we needed to purchase an authoring tool that could publish in the four most common formats – AICC, xAPI, SCORM 2004, SCORM 1.2.  Traditionally, our training decks were published in Microsoft PowerPoint and were designed to be instructor-led, so this was a departure in both format and design. 

        The Learning Solutions team was tasked by the AVP to oversee implementation of the authoring tool and manage ongoing operations related to the LMS downloads.  Given the necessity for Research subject matter expert(s) to consult on training material conversions, the team communicated its intent and high-level goals early on with this key stakeholder group.  Other stakeholders were informed of the project later on, according to the communication plan. 

The Project Plan

        Our internal project planning approach requires that a project plan is constructed for all projects, with the complexity of the plan mirroring project scope.  In this case, an internal Project Specialist was tasked with creating a project plan with input from the project team.  The plan was based on a pared-down version of the Project Management Institute (PMI) framework and included a team charter, an accountability matrix, stakeholder information and analyses, and a detailed task list with assignments.  In addition, a communication plan was created by the project lead that included targeted messages for all internal stakeholders, along with the timing of those communications.

        On the whole, the plan was a success: the project was completed on time and on budget. However, just prior to the launch of the LMS Downloads product, we encountered a challenge: the salespeople were struggling to understand and communicate the features and benefits of the new product to prospects and members, despite having witnessed a demonstration and participated in an interactive presentation.  As a result, we decided to create robust Sales support collateral for both internal education purposes and for use by external members.  In retrospect, the need for sales collateral of this kind was foreseeable and was a gap in our planning.  As a result, we have added this to our list of considerations for small projects going forward.

Going Forward

        The Project Management Institute’s framework is a robust one that is well suited to large, complex projects and will continue to be our go-to approach for the foreseeable future.  The pared-down version of PMIs framework that we use for small projects is also suiting our purposes well as most of our projects have a quick turnaround time, meaning environmental changes have less chance of dramatically affecting our plans.  However, despite our fondness for PMI, we will continue to watch for emerging models that can better help organizations navigate projects in a high change environment.

 

Change in Digital Learning Environments

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”  – Niccolo Machiavelli (1531)

 

Machiavelli, a 1530s Italian diplomat, politician, and philosopher who has become known for his ruthless approach to leadership, is undoubtedly an odd choice to kick-off a blog post exploring contemporary change leadership in learning, but he captures the reality of change we still face today: change is arduous to plan, precarious to navigate, and unlikely to succeed.  Proof of the ongoing struggle to successfully navigate change is easy to find in change management research, with several studies making plain the high failure rate (~70%) that plagues change initiatives (Balogun and Hope Hailey, 2004 as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015; Beer and Nohria, 2000 as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015; Grover, 1999 as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).

To explore how leaders currently manage change in Digital Learning Environments (DLE), two senior leaders at a management research firm were interviewed.  The participants were asked to explain their process for managing and leading through change, and to offer insight into change leadership in DLEs.  The interviewees use an almost identical high-level process for navigating change, likely due to the fact that the management research firm in which they are both employed has a published change management model, which is used for both internal and commercial purposes (i.e. change management research, advisory calls, workshops, and consulting). The change model includes three steps: “1. Prepare for change; 2. Create the change action and communication plan; and 3. Implement and sustain the change” (Figure 1).  The model is similar to the Planning approach put forth by Lippet et al. (1958): 1: ”Scout; 2. Enter; 3. Diagnose; 4. Plan; 5. Act; 6. Stabilize and Evaluate; and 7. Terminate” (as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015, p.246); as well as the TQM approach put forth by Deming (1986): “1. Plan; 2. Do; 3. Check/Study; and 4. Act” (as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015, p.246).

Although the McLean change model is an intuitive high-level approach, it became clear through the interview process that the interviewees were breaking two of the high-level steps into smaller ones, effectively creating a five-step model (Figure 2).  This approach helped them to create more distinct task categories and appeared to help both change leaders (in this case, the interviewees themselves) and change stakeholders maintain a sense of consistent progress.

Leading Change in Digital Learning Environments

When considering Digital Learning Environments (DLE), the interviewees emphasized the additional complexity introduced into the change process with the introduction of digital aspects, particularly when none existed before or when the change was a significant deviation from current practice. One interviewee offered the following examples: a change leader who wants to add a synchronous webinar session to a primarily face-to-face program may only require small tweaks to the standard approach to learner communication.  By contrast, a change leader who wants to create a fully online version of that face-to-face program will require a much more involved change management process that reconsiders requirements at all change stages.  The high-level process in both cases remains the same, however the way in which a leader prepares for and executes the change will vary considerably.  One interviewee suggested that leaders in a DLE environment should embrace a more detailed, task-explicit change management process to ensure the impact of DLE on all change factors was adequately considered.

In an effort to display the idea of a more detailed process, one interviewee worked with me to modify McLean & Company’s standard process (Figure 3) and create a more detailed process for application to a DLE (Figure 4).  This adapted model captures additional task items like the setting of success measures (Figure 4, 1.4) and communication with all stakeholders early in the change process (Figure 4, 2.4), which are arguably more critical in a DLE than in a standard roll-out.  In addition, these items are likely to look very different in a DLE, making attention to them critical to change success.

In addition to supplementary tasks in the model, there are certain tasks in the original process that could represent a common failure point in a DLE context, such as organizational readiness (Figure 4, 1.2).  Let us consider Weiner’s definition of organizational readiness for change: “organization members’ shared resolve to implement a change (change commitment) and shared belief in their collective capability to do so (change efficacy)” (2009).  In cases where the organization is not adept at navigating DLEs, it is easy to imagine that readiness is less common, and therefore a more important factor to accurately assess during change planning.  One means for exploring organizational readiness could be assessing the organization’s resiliency  (Weller & Anderson, 2013).

Conclusion

Change leaders in a DLE can benefit from taking a structured approach to change management, just like their non-DLE counterparts.  In addition, DLE change leaders may particularly benefit from a detailed, task-heavy process that ensures the impact of DLE on each process step is considered.  Given the current interest in context-driven processes as a means to drive greater change management success (Burnes & Jackson, 2011, as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015), it is likely research on change process tailored to DLE  is forthcoming.

 

 

 

References

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234-262.

Machiavelli, Nicolo (1531). The Prince. Retrieved from https://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Nicolo_Machiavelli/The_Prince/CHAPTER_VI_p2.html.

McLean & Company (2018).  Navigate Change Storyboard. Available from https://hr.mcleanco.com/research/ss/navigate-change.

Weiner, Bryan J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67).

Weller, M., & Anderson, T., (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher Education. European Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53-66.

Managing Change for Learning in Digital Environments (Activity 2.1)

A thorough review of the history of change management research, as well as an exploration of many change-focused theories and models, shows a distinct shift in response to a transformed (and still transforming) macro environment. Let’s explore this shift and its impact on leadership using a few question prompts:

1. How have the theories/models for change adapted to take into consideration our current technological, economic and societal contexts?

The change management arena is littered with change processes intended to suit all organizations, regardless of change scope, organizational readiness for change, or any other factor.  These “one fit” processes were the norm up until the early 1990s – and were, understandably, high-level and often comparable.  For example, Lippet et al.’s Planning Method included seven, rather generic, steps: Scout, Enter, Diagnose, Plan, Act, Stabilize & Evaluate, and Terminate (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).  Alas, the dismal change success rate of under 30% (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015) suggest that “one fit” processes such as these were ill-advised – and researchers took notice.

As early as the 1990s, researchers in the change management arena proposed that no single change process could produce success in all cases; change strategies must suit the context of the change (Dunphy & Stace, 1993, as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).  However, it was not until the late 2000s that it became more widely accepted that many methods would be required to suit the wide variety of change contexts (Burnes & Jackson, 2011, as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).  This attitudinal shift prompted many researchers to consider factors like organizational context, readiness, and change type as important inputs to process design.

As we operate in an increasingly complex, competitive, and ever-shifting macro environment, it is no wonder that a multitude of factors determine change success, and that those factors are not constant across applications.  Although there are many promising multi-factor theories and models emerging (e.g. Weiner, 2009, Weller & Anderson, 2013, Al-Haddad & Koutner, 2015), the field is too new yet to offer any well-supported guidance on change strategies that factor in multiple variables.

2.  Which theories/models do you think best align with your own approach to leadership? Do these approaches align with your organizational context?

Weiner’s theory of organizational readiness for change, which “treats organizational readiness as a shared psychological state in which organizational members feel committed to implementing an organizational change and confident in their collective abilities to do so” (Weiner, “Summary,” 2009, para. 1), resonates with me because it places emphasis on the importance of employee beliefs and motivation to the success of organizational change.  The ‘hearts and minds’ of employees as individuals and as a collective is particularly critical to change success in my organization because it is high-change environment and changes almost invariably require an alteration in collective behavior in order to be successful.

3. What role does leadership play in managing change?

Leadership plays a key role in managing change – both organizational leaders and change leaders. It is critical that our organizational leaders – from the Executive tier down – visibly support the change, and that we have strong change leaders who ensure a smooth, inclusive change process is outlined and followed.  As Elaine Biech (2007) says, we “must plan the work and work the plan” in order to realize change success (“Models of Change,” 2007, para. 2).

4. What are the unique challenges in managing change for learning in digital environments?

There are many unique challenges in managing change in a digital learning context, with the dominant one arguably being ensuring that function and identity are retained through any change as these are “particularly relevant to scholarship” (Weller & Anderson, 2013).  As I work in the Research department of a Research firm, this is also a dominant consideration for me as I design online experiences for our members: to deliver an exceptional online experience based on the same core functions as our in-person offerings where nothing is lost because of the change in form.

 

References

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234-262.

Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Available from https://library-books24x7-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/toc.aspx?bookid=22651

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67).

Weller, M., & Anderson, T., (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher Education. European Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53-66.

 

Personal Leadership – A Reflection

My team has spent the better part of three years trying to figure out the most important leadership competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (A.K.A. “VUCA”) environment. After conducting extensive primary and secondary research, we were able to isolate the five “elements” of effective leadership: Be Planful, Learn to Learn, Distribute Leadership, Activate Networks, and Incorporate Influence. In combination, we refer to these elements as Integrated Leadership.

The elements of Integrated Leadership seemed a good place to start when deciding on the most important attributes of a leader operating in a digital environment. Before I get into my selections, I should give a quick explanation of each element of Integrated Leadership (McLean & Company, 2016):

  • Be Planful – adequately plan for interactions (e.g. one-on-ones, meetings) and projects and always take time to reflect on your decisions (successes and failures)
  • Learn to Learn – always question your assumptions and seek feedback
  • Distribute Leadership –  assign work based on competence and/or development opportunities (be willing to delegate high-value work)
  • Activate Networks – use your networks to create value for yourself and others (e.g. connect people in your network who could benefit from knowing one another)
  • Incorporate Influence – use influence to affect actions and outcomes beyond your direct control

In considering the most important attributes of a leader in a digital learning environment, it occurred to me that although all the elements of Integrated Leadership are important – some even show up in different language in academic literature (e.g. Khan, 2017, says “Adaptive leaders recognize the best solution to address problems based on current realities rather than actions based on the past” (p.180), which is the heart of Learn to Learn) – there is a gap related to digital leadership: communication and interpersonal effectiveness. In order to achieve success, digital leaders must embrace bi-directional, real-time communication with all stakeholders (Sheninger, 2014), as well as be transparent, engage in active listening, and have an “open door policy” (Castelli, 2016, p.222). Further, they should engage in emotionally supportive communication as this drives credibility among followers (Cameron, 2012, as cited in Castelli, 2016).

My personal approach to leadership has been primarily based on the Integrated Leadership model for several years now, though I also value and focus on clear, consistent communication. As my team members are geographically dispersed, digital technologies are the foundation of our communication; they enable us to keep our projects on track and generally help us to feel connected to one another personally. One change to my leadership approach when communicating primarily through technology is to schedule check-ins regularly as we don’t have the benefit of impromptu interactions that occur naturally in a shared office environment.

In considering the leadership theories that work best in leading change within digital learning environments, two came to mind: Reflective leadership and Adaptive leadership. Reflective leadership is ”the consistent practice of reflection, which involves conscious awareness of behaviours, situations and consequences with the goal of improving organizational performance” (Castelli, 2016). The practice of reflection helps leaders to “make sense of uncertain, unique, or conflicted situations” (De Dea Roglio and Light, 2009, p.217, as cited in Castelli, 2016) – in other words, to lead through change. The act of reflection itself can reveal an organization’s optimal course of action (Castelli, 2016). Adaptive leadership, by contrast, is focused on identifying potential changes in the external environment and considering the best path for the organization in each scenario (Khan, 2017). As such, “Adaptive leadership allows institutions to properly plan for change and consider many factors affecting the complex nature of the leadership relationship. … Adaptive leaders recognize the best solution to address problems based on current realities rather than actions based on the past..” (Khan, 2017, p.179-180). In combination, these two approaches can serve leaders well when leading through change.

In addition to these theories, leaders can consider digital leadership: “establishing direction, influencing others, and initiating sustainable change through the access of information, and establishing relationships in order to anticipate changes pivotal to school success in the future” (Sheninger, p.2). By addressing each of the seven pillars of digital leadership identified by Sheninger, including Communication and Re-envisioning Learning Spaces and Environments, leaders can create “sustainable change in programs, instruction, behaviours, and leadership practices, with technology as a pivotal element” (p.2).

In summary, there are many competencies (e.g. attributes) that make a leader successful in a digital environment and many theories to help them lead through change. To my mind, a focus on communication and empathy, as well as a commitment to planning and reflection, are key.

 

References

Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performanceJournal of Management Development35(2), 217-236.

Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning18(3).

McLean & Company (2016). Integrated Leadership. Retrieved from: https://hr.mcleanco.com/research/ss/integrated-leadership

Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.

LRNT 524 – Activity 4

For this activity, we were tasked with placing our innovation along a continuum from renewal to new. Here is a brief commentary on where my learning reinforcement innovation lies:

Rarely are innovations truly unique – rather they build upon practices that came before. In my context, where we are relatively new to the learning space and leadership development, this is especially true; rather than truly innovating, we are often looking to identify and implement best practices which have been tried out by many organizations before us. This is true in the case of learning reinforcements, though we hope to discover ways to differentiate ourselves over time.

RENEWAL ←————-*——————————————————->  NEW

LRNT 524 – Activity 3

For this activity, we were asked to develop design principles that can be used to improve learning in our context. You will find a draft of my first five principles below. Comments and suggestions welcome.

DESIGN PRINCIPLES

I. Right-Sized Reinforcement

The right amount, type, and delivery of learning reinforcement vary depending on content and context, not to mention individual user characteristics. Although bite-sized content – or microlearning – may be the best choice in many situations, it won’t always be suitable. As such, our reinforcement design will be suited to the content it is meant to reinforce, with complex, multifaceted concepts receiving more attention in both in-person sessions and reinforcement material. This means all design guidelines will need to be flexible.

II. Focused on Core Concepts

Our leadership programs will focus exclusively on core concepts and their reinforcement; if it doesn’t add value to the primary aims of the training/development, it will be excluded (save for a humour break here and there). Learning reinforcements will focus on:

  1. Strengthening learner competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) and/or
  2. Helping learners apply competencies (e.g. through discussions, debate, case studies, simulations, etc.).

III. Well-Designed

In addition to the content, the look and feel of the learning reinforcements are critical to attracting and maintaining user engagement. We must pay close attention to the aesthetics of the learning reinforcement material – and later to the design of the user experience (UX) in the Integrated Learning Experience Platform (ILEP). 

IV. Applicable for a Broad Audience

As our learners come from all different industries, organizations, and roles, it is critical that our content is generalizable. In other words, learners must be able to apply learnitointo their day-to-day work. This is a critical design principle and one that is reflected in our Research department tagline: “Research that is practical and tactical”. Learning reinforcements are no exception: they must offer learners an opportunity to apply core concepts into their context and offer them help in doing so, both through the material design and additional support (e.g. analyst or coaching calls).

V. Built with Learner Differences in Mind

Learners will learn at different paces and learning reinforcement material should be designed with this in mind. Initial reinforcement material should be recommended for all learners and include the most impactful examples, background information, insights, and activities. Additional reinforcement material for the same concept should provide further support material, with the best illustrations and activities always taking priority in line. This allows learners who are more familiar with core concepts to get the most out of shorter engagement with the material and the self-pacing also gives them a sense of autonomy (both of which are components of adult learning principles).

LRNT 524 – Activity 2 Part 2

For this activity, we were asked to build a case using the case framework. Below is a draft of the framework. All comments and suggestions welcome.

I. Title – used to introduce the reader to what this case is a case of.

  • Keywords: e-learning, digital learning environments (DLE), learning/training reinforcement, learning/training reinforcement and virtual/online, microlearning, content reinforcement
  • Working title options:
    • Designing learning reinforcement material for a remote leadership development program
    • Effectively reinforce key learning concepts at a distance

II. Quote positions your case within a broader human experience. Could be a quote taken from a range of sources (i.e., historical figure, common knowledge, participant in the case, etc.)

  • Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”  – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Will Durant (paraphrasing Aristotle)

III. Introduction – several paragraphs that help the reader to understand why the case under study is important and has significance to the organization in which the case is situated. The introduction also explains the underlying issues inherent in the case and shares any required background information.

  • Why the case is important
    • The learning solutions division of Info-Tech Research Group is focused on delivering learning solutions for member organizations in two areas: functional content for Information Technology departments (e.g. cybersecurity risk assessment, hardware asset management, helpdesk optimization) and leadership content (i.e. entry-level, mid-level, and executive-level). In order to fulfill our mandate of building the competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes) of our member base, we must not only deliver world-class content, we must ensure it becomes knowledge and translates into lasting behavioral change. In order to ensure retention and drive behavioral change, we must help our members reinforce core concepts after the initial learning event.
      • Our leadership development programs all involve a week-long on-site component where learners are exposed to, and practice, core concepts through lecture, dialogue with instructors and peers, and targeted activities. After the experience is over, only those learners who have signed on for additional coaching are engaged in any learning reinforcement, and even then it is targeted to their development plan rather than broad concept reinforcement.
    • The reinforcement of learning is critical to learning retention and application.
      • This is a particularly important activity in light of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve which hypothesizes the decline of memory retention in time when there is no attempt to retain it. A typical graph of the forgetting curve purports to show that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material. (http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Ebbinghaus/index.htm ). From his discovery regarding the “forgetting curve”, Ebbinghaus came up with the effects of “overlearning”. Essentially, if you practiced something more than what is usually necessary to memorize it, you would have effectively achieved overlearning. Overlearning ensures that information is more impervious to being lost or forgotten, and the forgetting curve for this overlearned material is shallower. (http://users.ipfw.edu/abbott/120/Ebbinghaus.html )
      • Aligns with principles of adult learning
    • Member companies will see behavior changes in their attending employees
    • Member companies will realize measurable improvements in productivity and/or profitability
    • Findings are generalizable to anyone interesting in online/virtual (or distance) learning reinforcement for any type of training
  • Why it is significant to the organization
    • Opportunity for significant revenue generation in a profitable market segment (driving both repeat and new business through demonstrated value)
    • Ability to help members improve leadership in their organizations – thereby helping them to increase employee engagement, increase organizational commitment (i.e. increase employee retention / reduce turnover), and aid in talent attraction
    • Potential to build upon this model and offer fully virtual/distance leadership development in the future (which would likley have a much better ROI than the on-site delivery model, even virtual participants paid a lower price)
    • RISK: If the reinforcements are poorly designed or delivered, we risk alienating (or at least boring or disengaging) members we have worked hard to build a trusted partnership with. In the absence of a robust and well-conceived offering, the risk may be too great to justify launch. In other words, nothing may be better than something ill-conceived or ill-designed.
  • Underlying issues
    • Resource Constraints
      • One complicating issue is that the current content development team in the Learning Solutions division is fully utilized with work associated with on-site delivery and the proposed task is labour-intensive, as learning reinforcement must be composed of examples, background information, and insights not previously shared in order to engage the learner, drive deeper understanding, and motivate behavior change. In other words, this undertaking requires net new content builds that can only use existing content as a foundation. In order to justify task reprioritization for the current content development team and/or the borrowing or hire of additional human resources, secondary research will need to support the importance of reinforcement material moving beyond a restatement of previously delivered content.
      • We need to establish a time estimate for each learning module. If we estimate the time to develop to be 1 week per 1 hour of content and we assume reinforcement is given the same time as delivery per module, then we need to complete roughly 32 hours worth of reinforcement content per leadership product. If we were to focus solely on the two core products this calendar year, that translates into 64 weeks worth of labour.
    • Time constraints
      • No set time constraints, though we would like to have a project plan by the end of FY2017/2018 which is July 31, 2018.
  • Required background information
    • Content contained in the leadership solutions modules are constantly evolving in response to changing political, economic, social, environmental, and legal (PESTL) conditions; as well as primary and secondary research which unearths new insights. Time-to-completion estimates and timelines should take this into account – particularly when undertaking medium to long-range planning.

IV. Case Narrative – shares the story of the case and the evidence.  This section is descriptive and forms the bulk of the case.  It could include charts, pictures, graphics, statistics, etc.

  • Who: Our learners are all leaders, most of whom are time-constrained. To capture their attention and time, the value of the reinforcement must be clear
  • What: Learning reinforcements must be clear, engaging, connected to core concepts (but not repeated), etc.
  • When: Learning reinforcements will be scheduled for bi-weekly or monthly distribution for 6 months following the in-person session. However, all content will remain accessible to the participant for a period of 1 year from their last enrolment in an ITRG leadership program (i.e. on-site program and/or coaching).
  • Where: reinforcement material will be delivered online through the ITA portal (later the Integrated Learning Experience Platform)
  • Why: As ITRG has decided to offer leadership development as part of its product and service line, it is critical that learning reinforcement be offered to ensure learning retention and behavioral change – two of the stated benefits of program participation.
  • How: Learners will use either computers or mobile devices to access the learning reinforcement content, which will be housed on ITA until the more robust ILEP is launched.

V. Discussion – analyzes the case narrative and helps the reader to understand the learning environment innovation from either a new or renewed perspective

  • This is an innovation for ITRG, rather than the learning industry. As such, ITRG will benefit from robust research on both online delivery and learning retention.
  • The challenge will be find the right amount of content for each reinforcement chunk – enough to help engrain the learning without overburdening participants. If the latter happens, we could get drop off. (Note: we must consider cognitive load during design)

VI. Questions prompts for the readers to consider or questions for the readers to answer for the case writer to help move the case forward or further develop the situation described in the case

  • How can we reduce cognitive load on learners?
  • How can we track usage and engage uninterested or disinterested learners?
  • How much reinforcement content should be provided? Over what time horizon?
  • What content should be delivered in what way?
  • How will we measure success? How will participants/learners measure success? How will decision makers (i.e. purchasers – often the participant’s boss) measure success?
  • What can we measure the effectiveness of learning reinforcements?

 

 

LRNT524 – Activity 2

For this activity, we were asked to identify two new or renewed learning practices in our professional context. In my role as Director of Learning Solutions at Info-Tech Research Group (hereafter referred to as ITRG), my team is tasked with developing commercial learning products for our member organizations. Two innovations we have been investigating over the past year are:

I. Integrated Learning Experience Platform

In 2017, ITRG launched a video learning library for research content videos (i.e. focused on core Information Technology products and processes) called Info-Tech Academy (ITA). At present, ITA consists of videos of analysts discussing their taxonomy/research areas and accompanying quizzes. The Learning Solutions team would like to expand upon the offerings in ITA and create a robust Integrated Learning Experience Platform for both functionally-focused and leadership-focused content. Our draft plan is to:

  1. Add leadership-focused content to ITA that highlights core program concepts for the benefit of all our members (rather than solely those who enrol in the leadership programs)
  2. Create a portal with diagnostic functionality, including 360° feedback functionality and psychometric assessments
  3. Create alumni networks in the portal or establish links to an externally-based network (e.g. LinkedIn)
  4. Build additional content and functionality in support of program content
    Learning reinforcement material – i.e. content and activities (including quizzes)
    Functionality that allows members to ask questions related to the leadership content
    Functionality that allows members to book analyst/coaching calls
  5. Help our research partners focused on taxonomy/research areas to develop more robust offerings within the portal (e.g. additional content and functionality, forums, et cetera.)

II. Online Learning Reinforcement

In order to ensure that the content in our week-long on-site leadership development programs are well-understood and translate into behavioural change, we must provide learners with materials and activities that reinforce core concepts. We will begin by researching best practices in distance learning reinforcement and then produce design principles, templates, and guidelines for our content developers. (Note: Learning reinforcement material is a core element of the Learning Solutions Portal – 4a above)

And the Winner is …

I will be focusing on Online Learning Reinforcement Material because of its criticality to program success. Also, as this is a core element of the Integrated Learning Experience Platform (4a in #1), it is a logical first step.