SME

Subject Matter Expert

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!

Simple LMS for Firms and Associations

Many LMS systems add confusion

Description

The Simple LMS is based on the philosophy: start as simply as possible and grow as needed with just the features and structures needed. Thus, the Simple LMS is a bare­bones LMS system created on a capable and scalable CMS (Content Management System) platform.

A simple LMS can be built on Drupal 7, and so has hundreds of available modules that can be easily added, as needed, for functionality and expansion. Drupal is also easy to customize (using PHP and CSS) for features and functions that are too custom to be already available as modules.

This start-­simple philosophy assumes that three areas will all be growing and developing together, over time, at a rate dictated by the will and resources of the company:

  • the development of in-­house custom courses and materials;
  • the development of in­-house staff dedicated to staff development and company learning; and
  • the development of company policies, learning metrics, and process for learning paths.

Starting as simply as possible means that the company’s needs and direction will determine the growth and development of the LMS to match.

Knowledge Level:

This course is intended as introductory, and does not include any tutorial content for using specific LMS.

Program Design:

This instructor led session is designed to be delivered on-line in a 1 hour time frame, or in-person in a 1.5 hour interactive format. While there will be time for questions about specific networks, the focus will be on understanding the fundamentals, functions, comparing and contrasting various networks.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this program you will be able to:

1. List pro's and con's between a simple LMS and a feature-loaded LMS.

2. Explain the difference between SCORM import and export capabilities.

3. Outline a LMS policy for your organization with reasons for each decision.

4. Complete research for designing a simple LMS for your organization.

This Course is Recommended:

• Available online for individuals or small work teams.
• For Regional, State or local association events.
• To support a firm's or organization's internal curriculum.

No participant minimum required to book this session.

Faculty

Katin Imes is an experienced software developer, project manager, and a UX/systems designer. His passion and mission is creating access to the skills, tools, and knowledge that let people thrive in the Information Age. Specialties include: social networking software systems, online courses and LMS (Learning Management Systems), CMS (content management systems), online communities, e-commerce, Drupal, and Open Source. He has developed and managed web systems since 1996, the earliest days of the web, including server operations, hosting, security and encryption, e-commerce, and advanced back-end functionality.

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

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program – Implementation and Delivery

Photo of staff reviewing graphs on a laptop

Be patient and allow time for your implementation and delivery action plan to work. Individual courses can often be created and delivered in a short time frame if there is an established system in place. However, for an organizational-level program or curriculum, think in terms of a process that may take 2- 3 years to see real results. Your needs assessment and analysis (Key 2), and planning and performance projection (Key 3),will provide you with direction and a path. If the firm is committing time to the development of internal courses be sure that each support the firm'€™s strategic business plan. Most mid-sized firms and larger have a generational mixed staff so don't be afraid to try the new and the different methods of delivery. Stay as current of technology as your budget will reasonably allow. Be prepared for continual change and adjust accordingly. For those firms that already have some in-house programs in place consider tapping into the expertise of your own staff members, those who present at professional conferences or are adjunct instructors for your local college or university. I offered several suggestions last year in my blog An Overlooked Internal Training Source for A/E Firms.

Continuing in part seven of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for shaping and managing the organizational structure of an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill, or professional program.

KEY 6: Implementation and Delivery

Key 6 examines the firm's process for course / program delivery methods. This section provides recommendations for matching the appropriate delivery method based upon expected Learning Outcomes.

How well does your firm'€™s implementation and delivery process match up?

1. For each course/program the question is asked, “What do you want the participant to be to do, or what should they know when they finish the course /program?€ Then, €œwhat is the best delivery method to achieve the expected outcome?€
2. Courses and curriculum include provisions for practice and application, not just volume of information. There is a process for ensuring that program delivery methods are consistently appropriate for course content and material. [Ex: Instructor -led, PowerPoint, Case Study,Case Study, Gaming, Webinar, Podcast, etc.)
3. Selection of delivery methods that is appropriate to the learner'€™s skill/knowledge level is considered, such as awareness, practitioner, and mastery level.
4. Technology is used as a tool to support courses and curriculum, not drive them.
5. The firm ensures selecting appropriate delivery methods as required by external agencies when supporting special designations and license requirements.
6. There is a process to establish a schedule that meets requirements by external agencies when supporting special designations and license requirements.

Sources:
Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force 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 Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) 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.

How to Analyze a Case Study

Photo by Thom Lowther

Most of you who know me well know that I believe passionately in the use of cases studies as a learning tool. Years ago I discovered a excellent tool for analyzing case studies in the "Handbook for Training and Development" published by ASTD. I share below a simplified version of tool. I have used it often - in professional firms, in associations workshops and in college classrooms.

When analyzing a case study, an orderly, step-by-step approach is helpful. It is important to gain an appreciation of the overall situation initially, as well as to learn what information is contained in the case. Therefore, it is suggested that the case study be skimmed first to gain this overall perspective. While or after doing so, jot down the key points and issues that come to mind, as well as your first impression of the problems, issues, and opportunities facing the company. Then read the case in detail, adding to and modifying your initial thoughts. Remember that not everything in the case is vitally important, nor is all the important information necessarily included. The case represents someone's (e.g., management's) description of the company and its situation - it is up to you to probe deeper, sort and shift things out, and acquire additional information. It is your responsibility to analyze and recommend alternatives and approaches to management.

The following guide may be helpful to you in your task:

1. Define the situation. What are the challenges, problems, potential problems, opportunities, and potential opportunities facing the company? Typically, the case will contain various systems you will have to diagnose. To do so, try and isolate the major issues facing the company and their causes. Keep in mind that there are likely to be sub and secondary issues, as well as related and perhaps extraneous issues described in the case. Your task is to assign priorities to the issues, focusing on the critical few.

2. Assemble and analyze the important facts (gleaned from the case) which bear on the situation.

3. Specify important information that is needed but not included in the case. Determine whether or not it is available elsewhere. If available, acquire about it.

4. Make assumptions! For important information that is not available from the case or elsewhere, make logical assumptions as to what it might be. State these assumptions.

5. Draw conclusions Based on your analysis, information, and assumptions.

6. Determine alternatives and their likely outcomes. What are the major alternative actions open to the company, and what is likely to happen if each is adopted? Evaluate each.

7. Make recommendations. Based on your analysis, what do you recommend to management and why? Be prepared to defend your recommendations under critical questioning by the instructor and the class (the types of questions which might be posed by the company's management and other stakeholders).

8. Prepare an implementation plan. How should your recommendation be implemented, by whom? and in what sequence (short-term versus long-term actions). Where will the resources come from?

9. Prepare contingency plans. What do you recommend if your suggestions do not work as anticipated, or if certain external or internal conditions change?

“What Content?”- An opportunity for firms, use the fourth key to unlock the secrets of a quality education program.

Firms that are serious about professional development can use the fourth key as a framework for ensuring that their staff receives quality professional education. Firms are in a unique position in that they often are the source of knowledge; they have the subject matter experts (SME). This positions the firm as the leader and potential source of content. They are an excellent source to develop project based courses built from lessons learned from their own projects. At a minimum, these studies can be used in mentoring programs and establishing a firm culture of learning.

Let me begin with small firms, I define this as any firm with under 25 staff. Smaller firms should collaborate; work with other similar firms or even some client firms. When it comes to professional development your firm will benefit more if you cooperate with other firms on mutual interest topics. Remember, there is strength in numbers. Individuals from small firms usually rely on trade and professional association meetings, workshops, and conferences for much of their education. This is a great source for broad based professional education and includes the added benefit of networking. But for a more focused approach of obtaining education that is also related to addressing your business needs consider setting up some type of education “collective”. As a collective you increase the number of eyes that are scanning for that reliable source of new continuing education content and materials that is right for your business. The source of the education content may now be internal from anyone within the collective, or external as is common, or a blend of both.

It should be noted that all successful continuing education programs develop a systematic approach to identify, obtain and monitor the quality of the education material, how it is processed, designed, developed and delivered. A consistent approach to how the content follows a process flow enables the firm to establish and maintain checks and balances. As a firm grows in size, more effort should be placed on establishing a work flow process that monitors these elements.

There are a multitude of education formats and delivery models from which a firm can choose. According to ASTD, in 2010 for the first time in history the number of online education courses had passed the number of traditional classroom style courses. So ask, which model is best for the firm and the clients that they are trying to serve? (Yes, include your clients s some of your internal education activities).

“What Content?”- Associations struggle with the fourth key of a quality education program.

For most small associations the answer is usually “yes.” For many mid-sized associations the answer is “yes, most of the time.” For large associations the answer is, “well, it depends.” The question asked, “Does your association struggle with the fourth key to unlocking the secrets of a quality education program?”

The fourth key to developing a quality education program is for the association to develop a systematic approach that will identify the appropriate subject matter content and support a consistent work flow process. Most small associations and many mid-sized associations have great difficulty finding appropriate content for their programs on a continual basis. These associations can be found relying on the same few subject matter experts to provide content and delivery, over and over again. Even well stocked wells have been known to go dry.

Regardless of their size associations still need to establish a reliable, wide based source of new content and materials that will position the association as a supplier of vetted, industry related quality continuing education courses. The source of the education content may be internal, external or a blend of both. Successful continuing education programs develop a systematic approach to identifying, obtaining and monitoring the quality of the education material, how it is processed, designed, developed and delivered. Most associations simply do not have enough resources to do all of these things themselves. However, even for the small associations an appropriate check and balance system can be established using limited resources with involvement of members and stakeholders.

There are a multitude of education formats and delivery models from which an association can choose. Which one is best for the association and their members and stakeholder? Developing clear course learning objectives, when done at the beginning of the process and when done properly will guide the association in selecting the appropriate subject matter experts (SME), the best course design, the appropriate content structure, and the most effective delivery method for a course. If there are any special requirements such as CEU’s, ILU’s, license or certification standards that need to be met then it is critical to insure that a system of safeguards is in place. An established system can be as simple as a check list or as complex as a sophisticated computer metrics.

“What Content?”- The fourth key to unlocking the secrets of a quality education program.

Photo on Flickr by cogdogblog Alan Levine

The fourth key to unlocking the secrets of an a quality education program for an organization is for the organization to develop a systematic approach that will identify the appropriate subject matter content and support a consistent work flow process. Regardless of the type of organization, the organization will need to have a reliable source of new content and materials to be in a position to offer a supply of continuing education courses. The source of the education content may be internal, external or a blend of both. Successful continuing education programs develop a systematic approach to identifying, obtaining and monitoring the quality of the education material, how it is processed, designed, developed and delivered. A consistent approach to how the content follows a process flow enables the organization to establish and maintain a quality checks and balances.

There are a multitude of education formats and delivery models from which an organization can choose. Which one is best for the organization and the customers that they are trying to serve? Developing clear course learning objectives, when done at the beginning of the process and when done properly will guide the education administrators in selecting the appropriate subject matter experts (SME), the best course design and format, and the most effective delivery method for a course. When this process is repeated following an established yet flexible system the quality of the overall program increases. If there are any special requirements such as CEU’s, ILU’s license or certification standards that need to be met then it is critical to insure that the system checks to insure that they requirements are matched.

The established system can be as simple as a check list or as complex as a sophisticated computer metrics. The organization administrators can determine what works best for them, as long as they establish a system.

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

Photo by Dennis Crowley via Flickr

The question I always heard from superiors and peers, “Where’s the data?” I believe that the seeds for needs assessment should be planted with the establishment of the strategic goals. Early on the organization should develop a systematic approach for identifying and analyzing the educational needs that relate to the overall strategic plan. Planning and analysis are simultaneous and should be ongoing.

As defined by Wikipedia, Needs assessment is a process for determining and addressing needs, or "gaps" between current conditions and desired conditions, often used for improvement in individuals, education/training, organizations, or communities. The need can be a desire to improve current performance or to correct a deficiency.

For education and training assessments there are a growing variety of models to from which to choose. Select a model or a blend of models which most closely match your goals, operations, personnel and budget. Methods and techniques for gathering information can vary from formal 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 organization to make smart decisions based upon relevant and appropriate information.

If the program is intended for internal use of the organization’s staff education then it is important to match the model to the organization’s culture, operational structure, and short and long-term education and professional development needs. The content 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.

If the education program is intended for external use, the assessment should relate to the business needs, support the organizations need for delivering training; ensure training delivery design relates to customer’s needs; verifies effective performance; and provides guidance into the evaluation process.