Related Issues & Topics

With So Many MOOCs How Can Associations and Non-Profit’s Compete?

Laptop Computer photo from Flickr Commons

Massive open online courses or MOOCs are challenging and disrupting the traditional models of higher education and the practices of corporate learning and development.
In a recent article, Here Come the MOOCs, by Frank Kalman (Chief Learning Officer, January 2014) Mr. Kalman writes about the impact of MOOCs and the influence they are having on corporate learning. I will add, if the corporate world has to adjust to MOOCs, so too will professional and trade associations and non-profit organizations.

Two years ago, when I was working for a global engineering and design firm I wrote the blog Free Learning and Development Resources – 7 Tips. The blog included the names and websites for several of the same open online courses providers that Mr. Kalman discusses in his 2014 article. My purpose for writing the blog was to introduce to the firms’ staff, some free educational resources, beyond those that the firm offered internally. In the U.S. and Canada, most of the firm’s staff had historically relied upon internal training or professional and trade associations for their professional development training. Considering the increasing volume of MOOCs, a tight economy, the ease of mobile learning, and the increasing competition of industry specific online education providers – where does that now leave professional and trade associations and non-profits who offer education?

The root and strength of associations and non-profits has been their networking opportunities and the ability to share ideas related to common interest and issues. We know that social networking is radically changing the professional networking landscape. Still, these organizations are usually viewed by their members, and in some case the general public, as a reliable source of information that supports the betterment of the industry or mission of those involved. Professional and trade associations and non-profit organizations need to focus on their mission, their niche. Does the mission include the education and development of their members or the public? If the answer is yes to either or both of these audiences then the next step is to consider what knowledge they need to impart or information they want to share, that best serves their organizations interest. The mission focus of the association and non-profit organization is one of the major advantages they have over MOOCs. It can also align them closer with segments of the corporate world than the MOOCs. If monitored closely, the focus provides them with a competitive edge with early insight to practice changes, key issues and trends of a specific industry. Beyond specific issues and industry needs, associations and non-profit organizations can more logically tailor their business courses such as leadership, marketing, project management, accounting and legal practices to the specific needs of their membership. They should also have intimate knowledge of what and when certifications and, or continuing education license requirements are due. Depending upon available resources, technical capabilities, and finances, they should be able to adapt quickly with the most effective delivery format for their membership and interest groups.

Converting In-person Courses to Online Courses: Where do I start?

Jean Valence, Instructor led class

Today there are numerous tools, platforms and resources available. Prices vary greatly depending upon what you are trying to accomplish or what your course outcomes are expected to be. You might start with some free resources, such as YouTube.com and type in “Teaching Online” or “Online Teaching Best Practices.” Some of this material can be especially useful for those who are converting their technical classroom courses to something like WebEx. Webex can be an affordable approach for many small and mid-sized organizations that want to highlight expertise among your staff or members providing 30 minute to one hour presentations.

For those who want to become a more knowledgeable about “Online Teaching Best Practices.”, check out some of the books from Amazon. While a lot of the books are aimed more towards the longer online classroom environments, the concepts and principals are still valid for the shorter online modules and courses. If you are thinking ahead to a fuller value platform, such as Blackboard Collaborative, these texts would be helpful. I would recommend the LERN textbook, Designing Online Instruction. It is a very practical “how to” book that also covers “How-to techniques” for the design of online instruction.

For those serious about becoming online instructors, I suggest the 3 part series, Certified Online Instructor program. This certificate is offered by LERN and available from our website, Lowther7. More than 1600 corporate and university professors have taken these practical courses. Another valuable resource that offers certification for online instruction is ASTD.

Situational Leadership Applied to the Classroom

Flickr photo by velkr0

For individuals who have a business degree or most who have taken a few business courses you have probably heard of situational leadership? Others of you may have read, or at least heard of the book, The One Minute Manager or some of the other related books authored or co-authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard. For those of you who may not be familiar with the business management concept of situational leadership let me first cover that very briefly. The core of the Blanchard model, Situational Leadership II, highlights four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. What sets situational leadership apart from many other leadership models is the practical aspect that it also takes into consideration the development level of the subordinate or employee. Using a four step sliding scale the employee is rated on competence and commitment.

This discussion is intended to show how the concept if situational leadership is easily applied to classroom situations to achieve maximum learning. For the benefit of this discussion, when thinking of the situational leadership model substitute the word manager for teacher or instructor and substitute the word employee for student or class participants.

The win – win of applying situational leadership concepts in the classroom comes when the instructor, uses the most effective delivery style that is matched to the level of development of the student at the correct time of need. One example would be the teacher best at using a coaching approach when the student has a low commitment but some competence on a class project. Another correct example would be the teacher most effectively uses a supporting team approach matched to the student who has high competence but variable commitment.

A situational designed education program allows for the teacher to be most effective in their delivery approach by correctly matching the delivery method with the student as he/she learns and works through different development levels. It is important that clear learning objectives and expected learning outcomes are established and communicated from the outset of the experience by both the teacher and student. A successful situational designed education program can be a win – win –win for everyone, the student, the teacher, and the organization that supports the program.

How to Be Effective Using the Situational Classroom

Learning objectives are a key to selecting the best delivery approach for use by the instructor in a classroom. Once you determine the development and motivation level of your students, your learning objects should indicate when it is appropriate to be directive, when to use a coaching technique, when to be supportive and facilitate a group activity or when to delegate a learning approach.

Being practical, time is an element that also needs to be considered. For an individual class that is typically one hour in length it would be difficult for the instructor to effectively try and incorporate more than two delivery styles. Keep to the philosophy that the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need. The instructor should focus on a simple and effective delivery style. Subject matter substance should be emphasized over multiple styles when time is limited.

If you are teaching a half day or full day session, and the learning objectives indicate that a progressive learning track is the expected outcome then the use of multiple teaching styles and techniques might be considered. For a course that is a full day or longer, adult learners will find that instructors following a situational delivery progression more rewarding. If the learning activity is a day or two in length, as are many workshops and seminars for professional and executives, try not to cram too much “new” material into the timeframe. An eight hour or twenty hour course allows ample time to progress from a directive instruction style (lecture) to a delegating style of instruction (agreed upon action plan).

For those of you who teach an online instructor lead course, or certification courses, or traditional college classes I recommend breaking the overall course down into four parts. Start with the basics using directive, lecture approach and continue to progressively increase student involvement with each session. The instruction should progress slowly through each instructional style building one upon the other. The instructor needs to check regularly to ensure that students have reached the learning development level which matches the style of instruction that is being used.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a directive style

Educators all know the importance of clear, well written learning objectives. Knowing what you want the student to learn and what knowledge they should leave the classroom with is critical to the success of an instructor. Once the learning objectives are written the instructor needs to select the correct delivery approach to most effectively reach the students. Not all instructor delivery styles will effectively transfer the knowledge to the students identified in the learning objectives as intended. The variables of learning in the classroom are many but the instructor can increase his/her success rate by selecting and using the appropriate delivery style.

How do you know which delivery style is the most effective to use, and when? One method to selecting the appropriate style can be determined by referring to the core elements of situational leadership. There are four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. What’s important to know about situational leadership is that it considerations the development level of the student. Using a four step sliding scale the student is rated on competence and commitment. Similar to reaching success following the situational leadership model, to achieve maximum learning the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

The best time for the instructor to use a directive style of delivery (telling and showing) is when the student has a high commitment to learning the subject but has little or no competence in the subject area (enthusiastic beginner). Examples of a directive style of delivery include speeches, lectures (PowerPoint), and demonstrations. On the internet, delivery of a webinar generally comes under the directive style of delivery.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

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