All posts by k4moore

Don’t Tear the Sweater!

I work in a portfolio of a school within a post-secondary institution.  Often those of us at the portfolio level get an edict from management announcing new policies and it is up to us to find ways to implement them, making them work for our situation.  An example of this happened recently.  As a result of a safety audit, the decision came to implement a visitor sign-in procedure.  Until this time this was not part of the process when guests came to the classroom or to an event.  The problem in this situation was that there was not any communication about how to implement this change, the rational behind it, or any beneficial details.  The lack of shared information created a large barrier to implementing the change.  No one knew the expectations or the parameters, therefore people were creating their own systems and not sharing them with the other groups.  In this situation, the goal of the project caused many of the barriers.  Conway, Masters, and Thorold (2017) state “innovators should not just focus on user needs … they must also comprehensively map the system which they hope to change, employing a range of techniques to appreciate the complex dynamics at play” (p. 14).  The originators of this change did not follow this concept.

Without a map to follow, the type of system created was guests signing-in on paper.  Given the size of campus and the frequency of guests, I felt that a paper system was not an ideal solution and I suggested a digital option.  The barriers in this option, that I did not see when I brought the idea forward, included that many people felt the paper system would work perfectly adequately and we should take the easier path in order to accept the new procedure.  I have limited experience in leading change, and I felt that the digital system was clearly the correct option.  After going through the readings, I discovered that the lack of planning for this project contributed to the results.  The key players in the implementation did not know who the stakeholders were, or who was responsible for the process (i.e., who to go to with questions).  In order to overcome this barrier, I think the process would have benefitted from closer analysis.  I do not believe there was any data collected regarding the best method to use to implement the process.  Sclater, Peasgood, and Mullan (2016) present three elements of organising learning analytics, which are “the availability of data, the analysis and creation of insight, and processes that impact upon student success” (p. 34).  These components can apply to projects outside of the classroom environment as well and would have changed the outcome in this situation.

For this project, I received instructions on what needed to happen.  Should I ever be on a team who is rolling out a change similar to this one, I would like to take the time to have conversations with those involved (or a representation of the entire group) to ensure the solution fits the goal of the new process.  I think ensuring that step is complete will help those involve accept the new system and it will better function for the goal.

Cormier (2017) states “when you pull one string on that system to try and fix it, you tend to tear the sweater somewhere else” (para. 2).  In the situation I described here, I believe I may have torn the sweater elsewhere when I presented my digital solution.  I now know that in future situations I need to be more careful and take the time to get buy-in from the team, when presenting an idea with which they may not be comfortable.

References

Conway, R., Masters, J., & Thorold, J.. (2017). From design thinking to systems change: How to invest in innovation for social impact. Royal Society of Arts, Action and Research Centre. Retrieved from https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/pdfs/reports/rsa_from-design-thinking-to-system-change-report.pdf

Cormier, D. (2017, December 8). Our schools aren’t broken, they’re hard. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2017/12/08/our-schools-arent-broken-theyre-hard/

Sclater, N., Peasgood, A, & Mullan, J. (2016). Learning analytics in higher education: A review of UK and international practice. Jisc. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/sites/default/files/learning-analytics-in-he-v3.pdf

Change Management in Digital Learning Environments

Change.  That word elicits emotions ranging from trepidation to exhilaration.  Change management theories can help leaders in digital learning environments guide their teams through changes, ensuring a successful implementation.  With the speed that technology is advancing, change is the norm rather than the exception. While there is no formula to enable a leader to manage change perfectly, there are tools available to help him or her when the need arises.

I had the opportunity to discuss change implementation in digital environments with three individuals who have experience with this field.  Two of these individuals work in government and one works in post-secondary.  These conversations contributed to the ideas behind the infographic (figure 1) regarding change management along with literature on the topic, and my experiences with change.

“A good room set-up can’t make the class succeed by itself, but a bad room set-up can make it fail” (Feldstein, 2017, para. 5).  While this quote does not directly address change in digital learning environments, it does connect to it.  Often change is for the best or required due to adjustments in surrounding variables; without a well-planned execution, no matter the value of the change, it can fail.  Digital environments come with added challenges since much, if not all, of the team is inaccessible face-to-face.  If the change is unsuccessful, the effortless choice is to blame the change without looking at each component.  If this occurs, it takes a strong reflective practice to discover what happened.  According to Catelli (2016), reflecting on events can help leaders learn about the people they have on their team, and how events affect their industry (p. 217).  Providing leaders with strong tools to use, including to encourage empathy and learning throughout the process as indicated in the infographic (figure 1), will help provide a good (figurative) room set-up, increasing the probability of successful implementation.

The importance of clear and frequent communication was a common theme in the conversations with those in my network (J. Brown, personal communication, February 21, 2020; K. Mart, personal communication, February 17, 2020; F. Peermohamed, personal communication, February 20, 2020), ensuring its place in my checklist.  Al-Haddad & Kotnour (2015) also believe that communication is key to creating an atmosphere so “content, people, and process [come together to] lead to successful change” (p.244).  By keeping communication open between levels of staff (i.e., top-down and bottom-up), the entire team remains informed regarding the impact of each step on the environment (F. Peermohamed, personal communication, February 20, 2020).  Communication also facilitates answering What’s in it for me? which helps staff members know more about the change, the benefit to them, their work, and their productivity.

Mart and Peermohamed discussed the value of the change model they use, Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement (ADKAR) (K. Mart, personal communication, February 17, 2020; F. Peermohamed, personal communication, February 20, 2020).  As they explained this model, I realized that it has a lot in common with Theory O (Biech, 2007, para. 6) as each one focuses on participation between the organization, the leader of the change, and the staff members.  If used in a digital learning environment, these theories encourage team members to work with the change.  Weiner (2009) posits that when team members accept the change, regardless of the reason, they are more apt to accept the transformation.

The team on which Brown is a member does not use a change management theory (J. Brown, personal communication, February 18, 2020).  In listening to her describe what is taking place, I believe the leader applied systems theory (Biech, 2007, para. 3) to implement the digital change across two organizations; also, the team consists of members from both organizations, resulting in change for both systems.  Early in the project, the leader of the team engaged the members in an activity, in a face-to-face setting, which encouraged empathy throughout the project (J. Brown, personal communication, February 18, 2020).  Once the members returned to their home site, the activity connected them and provided the necessary tools to continue the work surrounding the change, following systems theory (Beich, 2007, p. 3).

Leading digital change is a challenging task.  In order to have a successfully implemented change, leaders need to have tools available throughout the process.  Based on my conversations with two leaders of digital change management and one member of an ongoing team experiencing digital change, teams, by nature of the knowledge, skills, and personalities of the members, have differing needs.  It is up to the leader to select and apply the best tools and approaches to ensure success.

Figure 1

References

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management28(2), 234-262. Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215

Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD

Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112

Feldstein, M. (2017, May 28). A flexible, interoperable digital learning platform: Are we there yet? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://eliterate.us/flexible-interoperable-digital-learning-platform-yet/

Weiner, B.J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67). doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

Leading Change

Change is a constant in every setting.  Work.  Education.  Personal.  Change affects every aspect.  It each circumstance, someone is leading the change; in professional settings it is typically the leader (i.e., boss) or someone who feels passionately about the change (i.e., a team member).

The theories discussed in this week’s readings, specifically those mentioned by Biech (2007) can help lead the ever-changing environments.  Even though Biech published these theories in 2007, I think they still apply to what we have today.  Biech’s (2007) Complexity Theory specifically seems appropriate for our current environment since it address the interlocked nature of many realities converging in one situation.  I do not think that we need new theories since our environment is different than it was at the time of creation of the current theories.  It is our responsibility to find ways to implement the existing philosophies and apply them now.  The number of theories would become uncontrollable if we created a new one for every environmental change!

I do not have much leadership experience, but I have been on several teams with both good and bad outcomes for change implementation.  The idea of change readiness (Weiner, 2009, p. 4) as always intrigued me, but I did not know how to encourage that readiness on a team.  My current organization does not spend much time or effort on change readiness; as a result, the announcement of changes come as gospel.  It makes it much harder to accept changes when they appear in an instant rather than having some time to ask questions and become familiar with the new idea.  If I ever take on a leadership role, I would like to remember to implement readiness techniques when change is on the horizon, while understanding that it is not always possible, especially if I become a leader within my current organization.

As this program focuses on digital environments, I often find that I take face-to-face experience and imagine a digital equivalent.  When it comes to change management and leadership in the digital world, I think that it is that much more important than in the face-to-face world.  Communication is key when managing any change, when that change is happening in a digital environment it is critical.  Digital environments come with the complication of missing facial expressions and tone.  In order to manage change, leaders need to create an open environment where team members can discuss the upcoming change(s).

“Some of the most promising organizational changes … require collective, coordinated behavior change by many organizational members” (Weiner, 2009, p. 6).  This statement is true in all environments, digital or not.

References

Biech, E. (2007) Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science4(67).

Attributes of a Leader

“Wisdom is the capacity to think through the consequences of decisions; reflection causes the activity of thought to occur” (Ackoff as cited in Castelli, 2016, p. 220).

Reflection is becoming more and more common in today’s society, as it allows individuals to consider events, lessons learned, and how the experience will affect future actions.  While reflection is particularly useful for students, we can all apply it as part of our day-to-day lives as lessons occur long after we leave formal educational settings.  I have found that leaders appreciate personnel who can apply a reflective practice, but what I have not seen as much are leaders who lead by example and implement reflection as part of their role.  As a team member, I appreciate it when a leader can look back on an event and consider what went well and what needs improvement.  Castelli (2016) defines reflective leadership as “the consistent practice of reflection, which involves conscious awareness of behaviours, situations and consequences with the goal of improving organizational performance” (p. 217); therefore, reflective leadership does not only affect the leader as a person, but it also has an impact on the organization.  After reading the assigned articles this week, I find that I can connect with the reflective leadership theory both as a non-leader (currently) and as a potential leader (future), in synchronous and asynchronous environments.  As changes are commonplace within digital environments, adopting a reflective practice can only help leaders to navigate the changes with those on the team.

Digital environments require strong leaders, though it seems that the assumption in society is that digital environments can make do with any strength of leader.  Leaders in digital environments have a much larger space in which to lead their teams and those spaces are continually changing (Sheninger, 2014, para. 6).  As these changes come, leaders must be able to manage those changes while still creating a positive environment for the learners or team members.  Fortunately, there are theories that can help.

The leaders I have admired the most are those who can take situations and find the best solution in the moment, while involving the team as much as possible.  I know that accomplishing that is not always feasible, but as a member of the team I feel valued when the leader takes the time to find out if I have any ideas.  In my experience, the only leaders who are able to take that step are those who are comfortable in their role and have a good relationship with the team.  These attributes are components of reflective leadership.

A recent activity asked me to rate attributes of leaders; here are the top five attributes I think a leader should have: competent, caring, honest, dependable, and fair minded.  As I read the articles, I realized that many leadership types can have these attributes which tells me that leadership theories and styles can blend depending on the leader and what he or she feels is important.  As I further consider the above listed attributes, I realize that most professionals have them.  That idea makes be wonder why everyone cannot make a good leader.  If one has the attributes of a strong leader, would that not automatically make them a strong leader?  Sadly, in my experience, the answer is no.

In order for leaders and followers to have the required relationship to make an organization run (either business or education), they need to have a shared goal.  Khan (2017) introduces the idea of transactional and adaptive leadership theories (p. 178).  I think that in a digital learning environment, it is best to follow the adaptive theory.  So much of online work relies on relationships and adaptive leadership allows leaders to utilize those on the team to keep the processes that are working and adopt changes for those that are not.  Khan states “[no] leadership theory can address all required actions in contemporary education institutions, but that adaptive leadership is flexible, takes into account current complexities, and is highly motivating for followers” (Khan, 2017, p. 182).  There is no all-powerful way to be a good leader.  Leadership is a work in process and the style or theory adopted by the individual can change depending on the team members or the set tasks.

References:

Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal 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).

Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/

It is like Magic…

A good Instructional Designer (ID) is like a magician.  He/she can take a situation and change or modify it while not having to be in the physical space or know every detail.  As I was reading Ertmer’s and Newby’s (2013) article, I realized that IDs can design courses for subject matters in which they have no experience by applied the right educational theory (p. 45).  As I discussed in a previous blog post, the title Instructional Designer was new to me when I started MALAT (Moore, 2019, para. 2).  I realize now that my initial perception was that an ID had to have experience in the field in order to create a successful design.  After reading more about the IDs’ roles and tools, I now see that by appropriately applying theories to designs it allows students to change throughout their learning, thus absorbing information and converting it to knowledge.  Just like magic.  Granted, there is more to it than magic, but a well-designed course can feel like it to the students.

As innovations come into the field, it is the responsibility of IDs and educators to balance the changes while keeping the goal of educating learners in mind (Moore, 2016, p. 425).  Since changes and innovation are constant, new ideas on how to focus on the goal will make IDs and educators stronger.

What are the best ways to guarantee students are at the centre of every design?

References

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013 Online). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.

Moore, K. (2019), Virtual Symposium 2019 [Blog post].  Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/173-2/

Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing distance education content using the TAPPA process. TechTrends, 60(5), 425–432.

Innovation

When you hear the word innovation, what is the first thought that comes to your mind?  Innovation does not apply to all change.  There are times when change means an addition to software, moving a physical item, or introducing a completely new technology.  In my experience, I have found that when people hear the word change, it causes concerns about what is to come.  However, sharing the word innovation gives people hope that something better is coming.  Innovation and change can, and do, work together, as Dron stipulates, “innovation and change tend to happen at the edges between communities when people are able to shift between systems, communities, and disciplines” (Wenger as cited in Dron, 2014, p. 523).  Technology is a common area for both change and innovation as new designs come forward on a regular basis and anyone who works in education needs to aware of the effects (be they large or small) on learners (Dron, 2014, p. 260).  Reading about this topic made me wonder, who is responsible for managing the waves of innovation and change that come into the world of education?  Who is there to ensure the students have a smooth experience in amongst all the new ideas and tools?

References

Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.

Risk and Learning

Introduction

“Information becomes education when it is shared” (Moore, 2019).  In order for adult learners to take intellectual risks and be actively engaged in their learning, they need a learning environment that provides support and positive challenge.  As online learners studying instructional design, we followed the Stanford University’s d.school design thinking process to identify shortcomings and propose a prototype for improving current learning management systems (LMS).

Context 

We considered our experiences as both teachers and learners in online learning environments to identify our problem statement and develop our prototype.  Our focus is to promote a safe place for intellectual risk-taking and active engagement through the lens of adult learners in formal fully-online learning environments.

Our backgrounds include formal face-to-face and online teaching, administrative support, and face-to-face and online learning.  We are currently online students in the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University.

Problem Statement

We reviewed the results of our design thinking process and discovered the following key points:

  1. Adult learners in online formal learning environments can struggle to take intellectual risks and to be actively engaged in their learning.
  2. Misdirected challenges such as technological frustrations, lack of efficient communication, and lack of connection with peers can cause strain on adult learners.
  3. Learning environments should create a balance between providing a safe environment where learners can have confidence to engage in intellectual risk taking, while minimizing the challenges that do not offer positive learning opportunities.

These elements led to the problem statement below:

Reducing the ineffective challenges of online learning promotes user-centered learning in formal online learning environments by increasing learners’ potential to not only learn program content, but also gain confidence within a digital learning environment.

Prototype

According to Crichton and Carter (2017), if students receive an abundance of information, their ability to work with the content is hindered and they resort to seeking exactly what is expected of them, rather than absorbing the information (p. 25).  We are proposing a prototype that addresses ineffective challenges, such as an overload of information, and promotes user-centered learning. As a result, we propose a number of modifications to current LMSes.

Component details:

  1. The beginning of each module includes a concise, informal video from the instructor summarizing details.
  2. The anticipated time frame in which the instructor will reply to posts is clearly published (e.g., within 24-hours).
  3. An informal space is available from the first day of the program, similar to a student lounge, which offers students a casual environment to share their thoughts.  Program faculty and administrators would not have access to this space.
  4. When students post questions in the LMS, they have an option to identify their posts as low, medium, or high level of importance.
  5. Synchronous sessions would include a photo of the participant, when video is not engaged, rather than a generic image.

Questions

Recognizing that learners must move beyond their comfort zone in order to fully engage in the learning and that comfort levels vary for each learner, we are seeking feedback and feedforward from our readers regarding the following:

  1. Do you feel that our prototype helps to promote safe learning environments for learners  to take intellectual risks while minimizing elements that constrain learning?
  2. What problems do you foresee?
  3. What modifications would you propose?

“Risk is inherent in learning” (Koh, Yeo, & Hung, 2015, p. 95).  In taking our own risk as learners, we welcome your comments. We will reply to all responses received before December 4, 2019 at 11:59 pm PST.

Co-authored by K. Moore and S. Ruth

References

Crichton, S. & Carter, D. (2017). Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit. Open School/ITA

Great Schools Partnership (2014). Student engagement. Retrieved from https://www.edglossary.org/student-engagement/

Koh, E., Yeo, J., & Hung, D. (2015) Pushing boundaries, taking risks. Learning: Research and Practice, 1(2), 95-99, DOI: 10.1080/23735082.2015.1081318

Moore, K. (2019. October 13). The Printing Press and Education [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/the-printing-press-and-education/

Stanford University Institute of Design (2019). A Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking. Retrieved from: https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources-collections/a-virtual-crash-course-in-design-thinking

Strohmeyer, D. (n.d.). Intellectual risk taking [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://lessonsforthelearned.org/index.php/independent-learning-overview/intellectual-risk-taking/

Empathic Learning Design

Instructional Design is critical to successful learning.  According to Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, and Koskinen (2014, p. 70), for students to be open to learning, the design should be based in their existing environment (not a physical environment); meaning, in order for the instructor to have success in the classroom, the designer needs to be aware of the students’ emotions.  This connection permits the designer to create a design that will allow the learners to be open to the learning, regardless of whether the students come with an active interest in the topic.  This idea made me wonder about how instructional designers could know the emotions of students they have not met.  Mattelmäki et al. did outline four pillars for empathic learning design (2014, p. 68) which do help explain the beliefs behind the concept; however, much of each pillar is built upon learners’ real life experience and I am curious to know how that data is discovered in the design stage.  In my experience, as a student, I have found that the instructor gets to know the students as the course progresses, but that relationship builds after the course is designed.  Does this method of design reach the students by introducing a different environment in the classroom (be it seated or online)?  Is the learning design model how we move from the model of a sage on the stage to a guide from the side?

Reference

Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What happened to empathic design?. Design Issues, 30(1), 67-77.

How is Learning best Accomplished?

As I read articles that discuss different learning principles, techniques, and models, I keep wondering how one makes the right choice on which to use.  Merrill (2002) discusses five principles in his article, each of which sound as though they would work just fine, but I think it is fair to say that not every principle would work for every topic, student, or environment.  Does this mean that the perfect teaching style is a mix of many principles?  If that is the case, how does one create the perfect blend?  I have limited teaching experience (which is one reason I am taking the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program), as I gain more experience I would like to assess the subject matter I teach and blend learning principles to see how well the blend works for both me as the instructor and the students.  I think the same concept applies to learning theories, the right one or ones depends on the topic.  In one of my previous blog posts, I discussed my use of constructivist learning theory (Moore, 2019).  As I revisit information regarding theories, I realized that the collaborative problem solving theory would also fit the limited teaching/coaching that I do in my current role.  The steps outlined by Nelson (Nelson as cited in Merrill, 2002, p. 54) would help learners to feel confident in the lesson presented to them as they learn in order to bring that skill to the working world.

While I have worked with Merrill’s article (2002) before, I enjoyed revisiting it and seeing how my perspective has changed.  I am looking forward to one day implementing these theories and principles in the classroom, and in curriculum design and development.

 

References

Merrill, M. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.