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Catalog of Available Courses and Workshops

Below are the titles of seven online courses and/or workshops that are available from Lowther7, LLC Catalog descriptions, learning objectives, and details for each are provided separately following this listing.

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Available online or by appointment.

Embracing Sustainability in the Workplace

Online only - Instructor-led.

Simple LMS for Firms and Associations

Available online or by appointment.

Cyber Security for Small Businesses

Available online or by appointment.

Overview of Managing Projects

Available online or by appointment.

Developing Online Courses

By appointment only - Instructor-led.

Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Introduction

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For nearly three decades I have been designing and managing organization-wide professional development programs. Early on I figured that to reach high standards I should try to model my programs after some of the best in the business, so I would regularly pull ideas from different industry award program guidelines and applications. The various awards programs use buzz words and phrases like: Excellence; quality and total quality management (TQM); the customer is always right; best practices; and elite programs.

Over the years I have submitted my organizations for professional development awards. I have also served on jury’s, managed continuing education award programs, designed award programs, and trained jurors of award programs. What I discovered is that while the award applications, processes and criteria may be different depending upon who is offering the award, there are still common themes and practices between them.

Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, we created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice learning and development.

As part one of an eight part blog series I have assembled common themes from these and other prestigious organizational award programs. Not all of the awards programs are specific to learning and development but they do reflect similar core values. Since award applications, structures and terminology differ greatly I have taken this opportunity to organize the core values that we found and used to create the AIA/CES Award for Excellence. The core values listed below are generic and can apply to many professions and industries.

Common core values that address the following:
* Commitment and support €”examines the firm'€™s educational commitment and support.
* Planning and analysis €”examines the firm’s structure for analyzing the educational needs and professional development of the professional.
* Design and implementation €”examines the program(s) goal setting, learning objectives, design, and delivery methods.
* Resources and records €”examine human resources and the record-keeping process.
* Evaluation and improvement €”examines evaluation and improvement process of the education activities.
The assessment guidelines that you can view in the remaining seven installments of this blog are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for establishing and operating an Architectural/Engineering Design Firms’ professional education department. The recommendations are organized in a manner that should be used as general guidelines to establish, organize, and manage the organizational structure of the firm. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skills or professional program.

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.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a coaching style

So your next class is intended for students who have some knowledge of the subject matter but they do not have a strong comprehension? The student’s commitment to advance their knowledge to learning more about the subject matter seems to be wavering. Think of the individual who learned the basics of tennis but wants to give up because they aren’t very good after four weeks of training and just can’t seem to consistently keep their serve between the lines. Or the individual who purchases a new phone for the twitter function but can’t figure out how to use the hash marks correctly so they just give up on that function.

After you finish writing the learning objectives for the class you realize that just telling the students about the topic or showing them how something is done is no longer the most effective approach for the student to truly learn the subject matter. You know that the student has some knowledge but realize too that the student does not yet have mastery of that subject matter. Knowing what you, the instructor want the student to learn and what knowledge they should retain after leaving the class is critical to the next level of learning in their development. 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.

When students are at this moderate stage of learning development the use of role playing and roundtable discussions are two excellent ways to engage and support the students learning process. At this stage of the students development the instructional techniques require that the subject is told “how to” and/or is provided with a demonstration of what they are expected to learn. The student is then expected to try to demonstrate their knowledge or skill. The instructor stays involved by observing the demonstration and providing constructive feedback to the student. Ideally, this process is repeated until the student correctly demonstrates mastery of the knowledge or skill enough to take successfully to the next level. Some simple online gaming tools have been developed and designed that follow this model, such as the DMV’s defensive driving school. Using both a high directive style of instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a coaching style of delivery correctly.

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.

A Situational Classroom: What about the impact of group dynamics?

So far in our situational classroom series we have stressed what classroom format and delivery model the instructor might best utilize to maximize learning by the individual student. So when the instructor determines that a supportive style of instruction is most appropriate, plan carefully. For the best learning results review the course content and design well ahead of time. Consider how different the skills of supporting and facilitation are from lecturing, directing and coaching during the implementation and delivery phases of this learning model. Remember that facilitation of a group correctly usually takes more time to cover. Think of covering the material by a lecture or covering the same material using a case study. http://www.lowther7.com/courses/instructor-facilitator-understanding-gro...

Let’s look here at the similarities of an individual’s learning development and stages of group development. According to Bruce Tuckman there are four stages to group development. The first stage is forming, individuals seeking acceptance as they avoid conflict. According to the Situational Leadership, team approach, this first stage is orientation. Group participants enter with low to varied competence but generally high commitment, similar to an individual’s first development learning level.

Storming is Tuckman’s second stage of development. At this level team members determine what they are suppose solve and how they will participate within the group. The situational team approach calls this stage dissatisfaction with individuals demonstrating some competence with a low to varying level of commitment.

Groups that successfully work through stage two move into Norming or resolution, the third stage. Some members of the group may have to give up their ideas and agree with others to work towards a common goal. Individuals demonstrate a high competence with variable levels of commitment.

Successful groups reach the fourth stage, performing or production. The team members are motivated, demonstrating high competence and high commitment while working towards the completion of the groups goals.

In a situational classroom, the instructor using a supportive approach needs to be aware that student’s may enter into the group learning activities at different levels of competency and commitment. It is important to facilitate the group as if they are all at the same basic level during the forming/orientation stage. On the part of the instructor/facilitator it is critical that they carefully guide the group to each new development level as a group. Moving to a new level is a skill of balance. Move too soon and you can lose the involvement of students who are not ready. Move too slowly and you can lose the involvement of your advanced students who may get frustrated.

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 delegating style

As your students progress, at some point they should reach a high level of understanding and competence in the subject matter. When they also demonstrate a high level of commitment it is the right time to adjust your instructional style, using a delegating style. Think of the individual who has mastered the basic theories and concepts. They have demonstrated some advanced technical techniques. Working in small teams they work well and are able to design some interesting buildings with sustainable features. As their instructor it is now time to challenge them again. Since the key to continued 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. It is time for the student to demonstrate what they have learned moving beyond theory and concept and into practice.

Several models that you can use to engage students at this high level of learning development include research projects, self-directed studies, or learning contracts. It is time for the instructor to turn over responsibility to the student in decision-making. That means that the instructor provides little supervision or support. As within the structure of a contract, expectations and outcomes should be agreed upon between the instructor and student at the start of the project. Unless specified, either individual or network group approaches should be acceptable for the project. Upon completion of the project the instructor should providing constructive feedback.

For the instructor, using a low level of directive instruction along with low supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a delegating style of delivery correctly. Delegating behavior should not be confused with dumping or “hands off” instruction. Delegating means that there is still some, just limited involvement of the instructor.

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.

Virtual Curriculum: A program design solution for A/E/C firms.

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The responses were interesting and varied when last month I submit this series of questions to more than a dozen online professional discussion groups.

“Does anyone have an example of a virtual curriculum based upon an individual’s subject matter interest rather than group subjects or topics? Is success measured based upon the participant’s mastery of the subject or some type of norm scores? Are the results tied to work performance, pay, or certification?

Quickly, a definition of “virtual” needed to be established. It was generally agreed in most of the discussion groups that “virtual” meant “online.” Bill Brunk, Ph.D asked the question on the CLO Magazine discussion group, “ I wonder if you might not be confusing two concept here: self-directed learning and virtual (online) learning.” Dr. Brunk brought up a good point and I thought we were beginning to address the question but the largest number of immediate responses came from consultants and schools who obviously were trying to market their online courses. If they bothered to look, I too offer online classes on my website– but that did not really address the questions.

To clarify I stated that I wanted to explore the curriculum definition that relates to a set of courses constituting an area of specialization, where curriculum is built around the individual’s interest rather than the institutions offerings. I was looking for more than simply saying we (the association/consultant/university) give online degrees or provide certification in...(fill in the blank).

From the TED discussion group Donald R. (Chip) Levy, a former Senior Director of Professional Development at the AIA responded with, “In common practice, many think of a curriculum as a generally linear, organized learning path to some goal (degree, certification, specialist credential, etc.). For me, the interesting twist has less to do with getting one's ticket punched at the end of a process, and more to do with building a thoughtful, if idiosyncratic, learning program that continually moves each learner toward evolving performance excellence and (career) success. The resources can be from a variety of sources, focused on a variety of KSAs, employing a variety of delivery channels and media, and uniquely aggregated for each person. It is an ongoing, evolutionary prospect -- a "lifelong curriculum" that guides "lifelong learning" as we progress through our careers.”

In conclusion, I believe that technology allows us to expand our learning options in a format where we can pick the one that works best for us. If I take courses at my own discretion I would be reluctant to call that a curriculum. In order for the learning to become a curriculum I would suggest that the process follows a guided path, such as one outlined by a negotiated contract. I would advocate however that the curriculum options are greatly expanded when the learning process is not limited or restricted to just the courses offered by the school, the association or a business. The instructor or consultant thus becomes a learning adviser - guiding the learner toward agreed upon learning goals.

The International Learning Unit (ILU) holds new relevancy in the age of the Internet

Flickr Photo by by epSos.de

As almost everyone who works in the field of continuing education, professional development or organizational development knows - the continuing education unit (CEU) was the model for measurement most frequently used during the 20th century. This time based model worked well in the industrial age. Unfortunately the CEU model hasn’t changed, nor has it kept up to date while our global cultures have changed. So what can improve, update or replace the CEU? The International Learning Unit (ILU) developed in the 21st century to address the changing needs of continuing and professional education in the age of the Internet.

According to Wikipedia the “International Learning Unit (ILU)” is an outcome based measurement of learning designed for lifelong learning activities. The ILU is a competency based approach to measuring learning education courses. The ILU is an alternative measurement and standard to the time based measured courses. The ILU measurement can be used to provide evidence of completion of continuing education requirements mandated by certification bodies, professional societies, or governmental licensing boards.

The ILU was designed for the needs of the 21st century. Instead of recording seat time in class the ILU measures the knowledge and skills of the participants. The ILU adopts well to web based education that has begun to warp, change, and reshape time as it relates to learning. Unfortunately all of the rules and laws are currently written measuring the professionals success in time spent at the event. Does this still make sense in your continuing education or certification program to measure seat time – when there might not even be a seat used? Isn’t it time to adapt the International Learning Unit?