CLO

Chief Learning Officer

The International Learning Unit: An Expanding Role in Schools

Flickr photo by hohohob

What do West Palm Beach, Florida, Vancouver, British Columbia, Morgantown, West Virginia and Washington, DC have in common? They all host organizations that use the International Learning Unit (ILU) for continuing education courses and programs. In Washington, DC you will find associations that use the ILU. In Morgantown, WV you will find it used at the university, in Vancouver it is used at Langara College and in West Palm Beach, Florida at Forest Hill Community High School. The ILU is used because of its flexibility, its ease of use, and its capabilities of measuring learning, knowledge and skills. The ILU can be used for supporting a professional license or for personal growth.

David Reilly is the Assistant Principal for Adult and Community Education at Forest Hill Community High School. David states that “The ILU may be used in many teaching situations. It must be remembered that we are looking for a mastery of the content. The mastery is set at 80%. Content items may be evaluated through the use of test and quizzes, demonstrations, essays, online discussion, presentations, performance based projects, peer review, and other outcome- based evaluations. It makes sense that if a student is taking a class for the betterment of him or herself that there should be a measurement of how well the student did, and how much he or she learned. Many courses offer different types of instruction and the ILU unit of measurement can be used in all modes of teaching. It is also an advantage if a student is taking a course for his or her present employer. When a certificate is issued with the 80% amount of content mastery shown to an employer the mastery and the amount of ILU’s carries more clout than if a student simply takes a course.”

David told us that it was the instructors that saw a need for the use of the ILU in some of the adult and community education classes that were offered at Forest Hill Community High School. David stated that the instructors of courses such as Quick Books and cake decorating use the ILU because they were looking for a performance based measurement that supported quizzes as well as a demonstration to gain mastery. David indicated that within each lesson there are assigned actions that must be performed by the students. As the student completes assignments the teacher, using a scale for performance grading checks off the performance content and assigns ILU points.

Use of the International Learning Unit (ILU) at WVA

Flickr photo by Alan Cleaver_2000

The International Learning Unit (ILU) is an excellent standard to use as a measurement for learning. It has proven to be extremely well suited for online education. While at the American Institute of Architects we used the ILU as the baseline of measurement of learning for the online education that we offered. We found that it was more useful, flexible, accurate, and defendable when we wanted our continuing education credits to apply for mandatory continuing education credits for the architect’s licenses.

Sherry Kuehn, is the Senior Program Coordinator at West Virginia University (WVU). Sherry works in the office of Continuing and Professional Education (C&PE), a Division of WVU Extended Learning. Sherry shared with me that WVU adopted the ILU into their Forensics Program in 2008. She stresses that it works particularly well for that program as forensic professionals do not have a standard, mandated requirement to take continuing education classes in order to continue working in their field – no matter the specialization. Sherry stated that the entire WVU forensic program is completely online which to date includes 25 courses. These courses utilize a pre- and post-test as well as discussion boards, quizzes, and interactive projects to assist students in learning the material. Sherry stated that the instructors of the forensic courses assign the ILU value based on the criteria set forth by the Learning Resource Network (LERN) which is 50 content items = 1.0 ILU. Every activity within each course is set at an 80% mastery level before the student can proceed to the next unit or module. In the past year, the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) has approved this training and the use of the ILU for mastery of content. Sherry added that while the ABC won’t print its endorsement on any publications at this time, this is not necessarily specific to just ILUs.

How the CEU and the ILU can work together?

Flickr photo by The Library of Congress

For organizations that deliver continuing education consider using both the Continuing Education Unit (CEU) and the International Learning Unit (ILU). The CEU has been widely used for several decades. While the use and understanding of the CEU has become diluted by the many who do not fully understand the structure and intent, the formal CEU - next to time - is the primary benchmark used to measure continuing education courses and programs. The two, time and the CEU are interlinked but not always interchangeable. Subtle interpretations of how time is counted can affect the number of CEU credits awarded - one example, the 50 minute hour.

The ILU is only been in use since the early 2000’s but like the CEU, the ILU also measures continuing education courses and programs. Both the CEU and ILU records are used to provide evidence of completion of continuing education requirements by agencies and institutions. The CEU and the ILU require that courses taught use their designated standards. For the CEU there is a fee associated, for the ILU registration is required but no fee. Both CEU and ILU require learning objectives and qualified instructors to deliver course material in an appropriate format. And the CEU and ILU both use units of .1 to designate single units of learning. Example both would list 5 units of learning as .5 or 10 units of learning as 1.0.

Employers and faculty are interested in knowing that in a learning situation, substance and retention is more important than time. Where, when or how a person learns is not as important as what they learned and that they learn. The ILU requires an outcome based competency with a minimum result of at least 80% or better. This means that there are results available upon completion of the course. Some CEU providers include some form of test or demonstrated competency as part of their educations courses or programs. For other on-site training, classroom, face-to-face training, and some forms of eLearning a test or a demonstrated competency segment could be included for CEU and ILU credits.

We know that the CEU measures the length of the class, the time from start to finish. As delivery methods for eLearning continue to expand however, the time the participant spends in the process of learning loses importance. By focusing more on comprehension, competencies, outcomes, and retention those providers using the CEU could improve their courses and programs by adopting the additional ILU elements of testing and/or demonstrated competency measures. As education providers adapt to the new technologies and begin to use more e-learning media that are difficult to measure in time, the courses and programs can retain the focus on learning using the ILU standards.

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?

Is the CEU losing relevancy in the “Age of the Internet?”

Lowther7 Photo - August 2011 Conference Session

For more than half a century the Continuing Education Unit, or as it is more commonly known the CEU has been the standard bearer of measurement for continuing education and professional development. This time based measurement has become such a common term that it is now frequently misrepresented, regardless of some good intentions. So to respect the intent, according to Wikipedia the CEU is a measurement used in continuing education programs, particularly those required in a licensed profession in order for the professional to maintain the license. Examples of professionals in need of annual or bi-annual CEUs; architects, educators, engineers, interior designers, nurses, mental health professionals, physicians, and social workers. Wikipedia goes on to state that the “CEU records are widely used to provide evidence of completion of continuing education requirements mandated by certification bodies, professional societies, or governmental licensing boards.” Licensing boards and certification boards feel some comfort knowing that someone was watching to ensure that the professional/participant/student was in the classroom while the qualified instructor was delivering his/her presentation. Even our laws are written measuring the professionals success in time spent at the event.

The CEU as a standard for measuring continuing education is based upon time, or to be more precise - seat time in class. This means that someone measures the length of the class, the time from start to finish. For decades this system of measurement has worked. But was during the mid 1900’s that the International Association for Continuing Education & Training (IACET) worked with universities and the Department of Defense to promote this industrial age standard of measurement. Around the turn of this century the “Age of the Internet” came in like a storm. Suddenly the web began to warp, change, and reshape time. The CEU has not yet adjusted to keep up with the changes.

Consider of all the changes in technology over just the past five years. We now need to include blended learning, YouTube, iPod, the iPad, the iPhone and a host of mobile devices when we consider an education delivery system. Look at the differences in access speeds of the various platforms, the hardware and software. The hardware and software affected the “time” people spend accessing and participating on, online and mobile courses. People are challenging the importance of time on the web – instead – replacing that with results. Related to continuing education, concerns for competency based learning have returned to the forefront. To tie this together, the CEU is a time based measurement, not necessarily a competency based system. So I ask - has the CEU lost its relevance in the age of the Internet?

Evaluation and Improvement – The firm’s 7th key to quality continuing professional education

The question that I like to raise, "what does your firm do with the information collected after having employees evaluate each course upon completion?" Does your firm require course evaluations from each participant before certificates or credit is awarded? Does your firm use a competency based learning approach that ties into performance and bonus pay? Does your firm use a systematic approach to annual or semi-annual review of the overall education program? Does your firm integrate the results of the evaluations into the firm’s business plans? In order to establish a quality education professional education program you should have answered either “yes,” or answered, “We are working on all of these questions.”

It is amazing that firms spent time and effort to provide some type of an evaluation form for their employees and clients at the end of a training session and then do not use the results for improvement of the either the courses, instructors, staff performance, or business improvement. The opportunities for improvement within the firm are great. The collected information can be used to improve future course offerings, content, instructors, and delivery methods. Forward thinking firms can use the results to improve their firm’s product or services. They can also improve their firm’s marketing and promotion by having clients participate in select sessions.

Your firm could build a system that continually evaluates all of the courses and the employees upon completion of the courses. Curriculum could be developed from the results of the evaluations. Faculty or instructors could be developed from a selection process involving high performing employees. Performance improvement could be measured, evaluated and adjusted according to the business needs of the firm. Internal instructors, staff and human resources/training department staff could receive instantaneous feedback on what needs to improve, and maybe even how to improve. Use the information you collect to continually improve your continuing professional education courses and your business. Who knows, it might even help in the firm’s recruitment efforts when emerging professionals discover that the firm is serious about professional development.

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Firms find the third key to unlocking the secrets of a quality education program

Professional firms would not consider skipping planning and performance projection when developing their business operations. Why then do firms suddenly forget this critical element when it comes to the development of their staff? Just like a business, the third key to unlocking the secrets of a quality education program is planning and performance projection. To get to this level we must assume that senior management is committed to the development of their staff and are willing to support internal efforts. And that firms use the same sound business practice of developing measurable short and long-term goals with performance projections when setting the firm’s education goals.

Firms have an opportunity here to incorporate education into job performance projections when developing annual staff revues. This creates a more knowledgeable staff, helps create an internal career path and, and builds a better business. Architecture firms such as FreemanWhite Inc., HOK, and Cannon Design have employed this approach for years to improve the skills of their staff, improve recruitment and retention, and expand their business. These firms and others like Turner Construction and Perkins + Will spent two to three years each developing measurable short term educational goals before they saw key education results. All of these firms continued on their long path toward developing quality education curriculum that support their staff and business plans.

Because the social, economic, and global environments are changing firms need to incorporate these changes and adjust education their goals. In these tough economic times it is important to develop realistic budgets to support the continuing professional development to stay competitive. Review of long term education goals need take place both prior to and during senior management’s annual strategic planning sessions.

Remember that professional education and development should not be an add-on or after thought. Take a look at the fortune 500 companies and you will note that professional education and development is incorporated into their overall business strategy. The size of the firm should only influence what resources address the solution.

“Where’s the data?” – The second key for firms to unlock for quality education

The Chief Learning Officer (CLO) or Director of Education better be prepared when the CEO or COO asks the question, “Where is the data?” The senior leadership of the firm is business oriented and generally feels uncomfortable with gut feeling reactions. The firm’s education leaders need to develop a systematic approach for gathering both external trend data and internal staff development data. Professional development within a firm should not be limited to just making employees feel good. It is critical to the success of the firm that staff professional development be focused on the firm’s strategic goals. This means that the collection of industry market trends, client needs, and staff development information all be tied together.

Christopher Clinton a landscape architecture student at the Boston Architectural College provided a thoughtful summary in a recent LinkedIn landscape architecture professional discussion group. Christopher stated, “The first of three main techniques to help facilitate an awareness of the market in relation to the firm’s strategic plan is to explore new technologies and fresh perspectives related to the firm's strategic plan such as through attending seminars, classes, discussions with other professionals from around the world online, at trade-shows or reading articles/studies. The second is feedback and conceptual discussion of internal firm design work as well as other firms design work and concepts between professionals of related fields. Third, is to take these new concepts and have group design exercises consisting of drawings/models/etc...To incorporate what is learned in the first two parts and bring a new level of raw skills to incorporate into future work.”

For firms the intended of professional education is generally for internal use of the firm’s staff. In such situations it is important to match the assessment approach to the firms’ culture, operational structure, and short and long-term strategic goals. The content outcome could relate to technical, conceptual, and/or personnel related needs. It is important to focus on the details of professional staffs’ participation in the needs assessment process. Determine how the needs for the educational program and products/services are identified, how the programs are developed and designed to address those needs.

“Where’s the data?” – The second key to unlocking the secrets of quality association education

“Where’s the data?” – The second key to unlocking the secrets of quality association education

Professional associations are generally structured in an idyllic position to gather “state of the industry” data. If anything, the greatest problem that professional associations should face is possible information overload. The best possible scenario would be for the education and research to be under the leadership of the same department. For an association education leader it is critical to sort through key trend setting data that focus on the strategic goals. The association should annually identify, review and analyzing the industries educational needs that relate to the overall strategic plan.

If needs assessment is a process for determining and addressing needs or "gaps" then professional associations are well suited to play the role of leaders and use this information for improvement of its members and stakeholders through education and training. The individual members that make up professional association - are the industry experts. This unique opportunity allows for the association to identify the needs early, as issues start to become important or profession gap needs to be filled. This also means that the association has an opportunity and advantage and should be among the early leaders to provide the education that addresses trends and fills any missing gaps. Effective utilization of the member “experts” provides a pool that the association can draw from to help design and deliver the education based upon ongoing needs assessment.

A difficulty of many associations is trying to selectively limit the number of times each month the association reaches out to its membership soliciting feedback through opinion polls. For education and training assessments there are a growing variety of models to from which to choose. The education leader of the association needs to work closely with other department heads to be sure that whatever information is collected, that it be analyzed for trends. Trend setting information can then be converted to education programs or courses and then delivered in the most effective delivery format.

Methods and techniques for gathering information can vary from formal member focus groups, to telephone or mail surveys, to online surveys such as survey monkey. The intent should be to gather timely information to enable those in the association to make smart decisions based upon relevant and appropriate information. Select a model or a blend of models which most closely match your association goals, operations, personnel and budget.

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