ePortfolio: Uncovering the Talent in your Organization

I went to beautiful Banff, Alberta to deliver a presentation on ePortfolios at the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA) conference’s conversation café.

Presentation Summary

An ePortfolio is an online record of formal and nonformal learning experiences and accomplishments which goes beyond the traditional résumé form. The objective of my presentation is to look at how implementing an ePortfolio development project in an organization can permit HR professionals to have a more holistic and complete picture of the knowledge, skill and abilities of the talent within their organization.

Building the Argument for Changes in Enterprise Learning

Today Jay Cross posted his elevator speech on what he does in his post Enterprise learning:

Most of the businesses and governments live in the last century. They cling to industrial-age beliefs that the world is predictable, management has the answers, and workers are under their control. In the real world, no one has the answers, collective intelligence beats top-down decisions, and management’s task is to inspire people rather than tell them what to do.

Corporations need to replace traditional training, knowledge management, and in-house communications with something more informal, interactive, collaborative, self-service, impromptu, and flexible. Instead of pushing content, they need to be facilitating conversation. I try to help them get there.

So what do you do?

I think when Jay asked “what do you do?” he meant, “how do you define yourself”. I could actually steal Jay’s elevator speech because that it pretty much what I do. Or at least what I’d like to be doing more and more of. But I can’t sell a service that people won’t buy, right? So I’m going to interpret it another way. What I do is try not to get discouraged/feel frustrated by those who cling to the industrial-age beliefs and want me to implement top-down learning systems. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some break-throughs, but I find I face so much resistance.

I know there has been a lot of research on why there is so much resistance to change.

Sometimes I wonder if my argument for change is not solid enough.

Perhaps this might help. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research recently released a report of their research on the use of social media by the Inc 500. I discovered this report via Ross Dawson who writes that “this is one of the first longitudinal studies, showing changes in adoption of social media tools from one year ago”.

In addition, a little over a month ago, Tony Karrer blogged about a Fortune Magazine interview with GE’s CIO who reports that their professional networking site gets 25 million hits per day and is “is becoming sort of a heartbeat of the company”.

There are definitely no lack of arguments for this change.

My concerns are the following:

  • I’ve found I’ve been able to implement change slowly: a little blog here, a little discussion forum there. But is this the most effective way to implement this kind of change?
  • Perhaps eventually they’ll think of a larger scale implementation, but I need to show the results and evaluation is a little trickier in this arena. What are the ways that we can concretely assess success with this type of learning?

I’m curious what kind of arguments and approaches have been successful in helping organizations change. I’d love some feedback.

References:

The Gen Y / Web 2.0 Way of Managing Information – Trend or Efficiency?

T+D Blog posted an entry today entitled There Is Not Much Difference Between Baby Boomers and Gen Y Grads. This slightly misleading title refers to a study which reported that new graduates, regardless of whether they graduated this year or 30 year ago, will make compromises to advance their career and succeed. This was probably in response to reports about Gen Y such as, but not necessarily, CIO.com’s October 2007 articles entitled Management Techniques for Bringing Out the Best in Generation Y and Employers Change Corporate HR Policies to Cater to Generation Y, Survey Finds.

What T+D Blog post does mention the report highlights as a fundamental difference is that:

today’s graduates are more community-oriented than boomers, and are more concerned with ethical behavior of employers and economic security.

Gen Y, Web 2.0 and Communities – a topic that has been in the forefront of my mind for a while now. In September 2006, I delivered a presentation at the Montreal ISPI Chapter conference entitled Designing eLearning Environments for Learning Organizations where I specifically addressed how the Gen Y, alternately referred to as “the Millennials”), have already incorporated social media technologies into their everyday lives and how forward-thinking learning organizations could leverage these spaces to get the communication flowing throughout the entire organization.

After watching this mash-up video on Informal learning & web 2.0 featuring Jay Cross, Donald Clark and Nigel Paine, I’m inclined to think that this wouldn’t be simply a trend brought forward by Gen Y, but rather technology catching up with the optimal and efficient way for professionals/adults to learn.

References:

Web 2.0 in Industry and in Academia

I delivered a presentation on Designing eLearning Environments for Learning Organizations at the ISPI Montreal’s 2006 Conference, which was assisted by Lt(N) Brett Christensen & Lt(N) Jason Barr of the Learning Technology and Innovation Cell of the Canadian Forces. Since then, we have been in communication discussing the role of eLearning/Web 2.0 to support virtual communities of practice and performance improvement

As a result, I have been invited to co-animate an interactive workshop with them on the application of Web 2.0 services to training, education and operations at the Canadian Forces Training Development Branch Association (CFTDBA) 2007 Conference on May 30th, 2007.

Click here to view the promotional Podcast (6 min.) to find out more. It requires the Flash Player to run

Here is the presentation team, minus Major Lemieux who had to leave right after his part of the presentation. In this picture: Lt(N) Brett Christensen & Lt(N) Jason Barr of the CFTDC R&D Company as well as LCdr Bruce Forrester, DTEP 3 and myself.

Designing eLearning Environments for Learning Organizations

My presentation at ISPI-Montreal’s 2006 Conference discussed A Systemic Approach to Designing Fluid eLearning Environments for Learning Organisations.

Presentation Summary

In a learning organization, a shared vision is built by linking individual and organizational performance objectives. The design of this organization’s eLearning environment must reflect this vision, empowering individuals, cultivating communities of practice and encouraging a holistic performance improvement perspective.

This presentation focuses on strategies for designing participative and collaborative eLearning environments. You will identify ways of assessing and implementing a new generation of eLearning tools that have the potential to keep learners curious, engaged, communicating and sharing, ultimately fulfilling a learning organization’s objectives.

At the end of this session, participants should be able to:

  • Recognize the principle requirements when designing eLearning environments for learning organizations;
  • Identify techniques and tools for designing networks that offer both collaborative and self-directed learning;
  • Describe the new generation of eLearning technologies, potential uses, strengths and weaknesses;
  • Select strategies for developing and implementing participative eLearning environments, and
  • Define criteria for success and growth.

Organizational Learning Strategy and eLearning

Situating the Current Popular eLearning Offering

When one decides to venture into the world of eLearning, he or she will quickly come across the following terms:

  • Learning object: a pre-defined parcel of learning that elaborates on a subject or a notion. It is usually developed with rich multimedia.
  • Learning Content Management System (LCMS): a system that enables the organization and sequencing of learning objects to follow a preset learning path.
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS): a system that manages individual learning paths and tracks the learner’s participation and results. It usually interacts with an LCMS and many systems today integrate both.

These technologies are usually worked into a training oriented design where information is essentially pushed to the learner. A certain degree of computer programmed interactivity is planned with the objective of keeping the learner engaged. However, the overwhelming majority of learning objects, at best, transfer a small amount of procedural knowledge—how to do something—and are often limited to declarative knowledge—what is something.

This approach, if properly developed, can be useful when a content push is required such as in the case of introducing new information, demonstrating a step-by-step procedure or other similar processes, etc. But it doesn’t even begin to address the need to develop situational, critical and creative thinking skills at an individual level. This approach cannot transfer contextual knowledge, causal knowledge or foster the development or transferable skills. In essence, it is an incomplete solution and we must push the eLearning offering further.

Looking At a Larger Picture

Organizational development experts began to really expand on the concept of a Learning Organisation in the early 1990s. Peter Senge, a leading expert defines learning organizations as “organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.” (Senge 1990: 3)

The idea that was brought forward by many experts in this field was one of transformation through systems thinking primarily at three levels:

  1. Aligning Objectives: Building a shared vision by linking individual performance and objectives with organizational performance objectives.
  2. Empowering Individuals: Enabling individuals within an organisation to develop personal mastery and reach their goals by providing them with mental models and continuous learning opportunities as well as encouraging creative and critical thinking.
  3. Cultivating Communities: Promoting team learning, cultivating inquiry and dialogue, addressing differences and tensions and using them to stimulate innovation.

Now fifteen years later, the American Management Association reported in their 2005 Global Study of Leadership that “fostering creativity and innovation” was the fifth most highly ranked leadership competency today. They insisted that the “the leader must foster creativity and innovation, both by providing the opportunity to tackle big business issues and by creating a culture where risk-taking and decentralized decision-making are encouraged and rewarded. All too often, executives preach risk-taking and the encouragement of change, but practice control and adherence to established policies and practices.” (AMA 2005: 61)

That said, in order to entrust employees with the mandate of being change agents, the manager needs evidence that employees have the requisite skills and competencies. The plan to develop these skills and competency needs to be embedded in the organization’s learning strategy.

Dynamic eLearning Environments for the Learning Organization

eLearning expert Stephen Downes explains that today’s Web user expects more than a content push. With the advent of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis, podcasts and other types of conversational Web usage, online users are creating connections in a complex self-directed learning network. Many Virtual  Learning Environment Systems such as Moodle, in recognizing that a series of sequenced learning objects will not suffice, are strategically integrating these functionalities within their systems with the intention of fostering a socio-constructivist learning environment.

Downes, as well as many experts in the field, insist that eLearning must look at these current networking and information sharing practices and embed them into our eLearning strategies. “Learning is characterized not only by greater autonomy for the learner, but also a greater emphasis on active learning, with creation, communication and participation playing key roles, and on changing roles for the teacher, indeed, even a collapse of the distinction between teacher and student altogether.” (Downes 2005)

By developing learning strategies that incorporate these social networking concepts, the potential for designing and developing learner-centered environments that foster reflective, creative and critical thinking is limitless.