CEU

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!

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Description:

This workshop provides practical approaches and tools addressing your firm’s professional talent development challenges. Using a 7 step methodology we will address the why, how, and what to do for staffing development. The workshop will cover areas such as graduate development curriculum, technical skills, client presentations, project management, leadership development, and on-boarding, as well as requirements for licensure and certifications. This workshop addressed the "how-to's" about developing and implementing an effective internal firm-wide, professional training and development program.

Knowledge Level:

This program is structure for Practitioners and Advanced levels. This program is for everyone within the firm responsible for effectively matching people to resources needed to achieve the team member’s professional goals while achieving the firm’s strategic and business goals.

Course Design:

This 8 hour workshop is designed to be delivered on-site. This program has been successfully delivered in a firm with multiple offices using a blended delivery approach. The program allows for Q&A and includes a personalized plan of action.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this program you will be able to:
1. Identify 2 performance elements of your in-house education program in terms of the firm's strategic and business goals.
2. Determine appropriate development method(s) of your firm’s unique technical or design educational content to advance your firms agenda.
3. Differentiate the most effective delivery method(s) for your firm’s top development priority.
4. Define 4 criteria for use of a master evaluation tool that will guide you in continuously improving your program.

This Course is recommended for:

* Individuals and project teams to supplement a design firm's internal curriculum.

Faculty:

Thom Lowther, Ed.S. Has been involved with the professional development of A/E and design professionals for more than 20 years. Thom is currently the owner and CEO of Lowther7, LLC, a small Veteran owned training and consulting firm. Thom has served as the Senior Director of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education System (CES). He managed the AIA/CES Firm Leadership Symposium series and the AIA/CES Award of Excellence program. He served as staff liaison on the Advisory Panel for Professional Development of the Union of International Architects. With the AIA, Thom worked with 43 state licensing boards to establish mandatory continuing education requirements for architects and engineers. As Vice President of Education at the U.S. Green Building Council, he was responsible for the oversight of LEED related education for design professionals. Following the USGBC Thom was the Americas Region, Learning and Development Associate with the global engineering and design firm, Arup. Thom is a contributing author to the PSMJ Resources monthly newsletter and a Jury member for the 2015 & 2016 LearningElite Awards sponsored by CLO Media.

On-site minimum of 10 participants required to book this workshop.
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!

Develop and Manage Your Own Personal Professional Curriculum

Graphic of a simple curriculum model

Let's start by clarifying that discussing professional curriculum here IS NOT about obtaining quick, technical skills, topic knowledge, or short term learning. Rather, when discussing professional curriculum here IT IS intended as a long term approach to obtaining knowledge and skills with expected outcomes. Usually I suggest that my clients consider at least a 3 -5 year curriculum plan that is reviewed annually.

As a professional development coach, the initial question that I ask my clients, Why do you want to do professional development? Among the more common responses I hear: "€œI need to complete my CEU requirements."€ Usually the individual is referring to a state mandatory continuing education (MCE) state license requirement. They may also need to fulfill CE requirements to earn or maintain a certification - such as LEED. Many respond that they want to stay current within their practice. The important first question of "€œwhy"€ helps the individual better understand their own motivating factors behind pursuing professional development. It also provides direction related to curriculum content and selecting the appropriate delivery methods.

The second question that I ask is "What?"€ By coming up with the answer to what and why, it will help you to create your curriculum outline. Your curriculum should be structured to include the key elements, skills and courses that you intend to pursue. Below is a sample outline of what key elements a professional curriculum might include. (Note: You can substitute by filling in any profession below where indicated)

Core Areas: The general area of focus within the practice of .

Performance Domains: The key areas of practice in the field of including the specific aspects and activities of professional practice.

Curriculum Proficiencies: The skills and abilities needed to perform professional service. What the needs to know to perform successfully within a given area of practice.

While you are considering the elements, skills and courses consider too, your competency level in each. Will the subject and content be new to you? Are you a beginner looking for introduce and awareness material? Are you a practitioner with experience but looking for something new? Maybe you are an expert and have mastered the material and now want to compare your knowledge to your peers.

Below is a sample list of skills and related subject that an A/E/C design professional curriculum might include.

Critical Thinking: Research, data analysis.
Project Management: Project operations, project controls, project delivery.
Practice Management: Business administration: Financial, legal, HR, marketing.
Communications: Written, oral, graphics.
Professional Service: Management Administration, strategic planning, ethics, values.
Technical Skills:€“ Systems technology, BIM, auxiliary/support software.

The third question that I ask is "€œHow?" How would you prefer to acquire the knowledge or skills that will provide the professional knowledge and skills that you are seeking? The answer(s) help the individual to design and shape their own curriculum plan. There are a myriad of options available. Take into consideration of your subject competency level. Then match that to the knowledge delivery methods that that you most enjoy using, that are practical for you, and/or they are affordable. An awareness level program may be as simple as watching a YouTube video or a university open source learning module. For more in-depth knowledge try working with a mentor, a tutor or on-the-job experience. You may find that taking classes on-site, online, or a blend of the two works best for you. Or you may enjoy attending special workshops, symposiums and professional conferences.

There are several methods to track your progress. You can develop a simple spreadsheet. Some of the online education providers are now providing a tracking service if you take their courses. Many firms have a tracking system as a part of their LMS for their employees. And if the record keeping becomes too complex or you just don’t have the time, there is at least one small company that provides a records tracking service for design professionals.

As a final thought, I generally have my clients develop an action plan that addresses how they will meet and manage their curriculum plan. Consider adding this feature to your performance appraisal or having a peer review if you are a single practitioner.

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

Photo of Strategy Outline

I have been designing and managing organization-wide professional development programs for years. 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 used buzz words and phrases like: Excellence; quality and total quality management (TQM); the customer is always right; best practices; and elite programs.

In part two of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment guidelines presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for establishing and operating an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms’ professional education department. The recommendations provided 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, skill or professional program.

KEY 1: Strategy:

Overall, work to gain a commitment at all levels of the firm. Building a successful program needs senior level support. It needs senior management’s involvement in creating and sustaining the firm’s educational direction, performance, and focus. And it should include the development of a strategic process that ties education into the overall business plan of the firm.

Key 1 examines senior management’s involvement in creating and sustaining the firm’s educational strategy, commitment, and support. This section provides recommendations for long-term education and professional development planning and program development.

Leadership Involvement
1. CEO/executive team leaders set direction and seek future educational opportunities.
2. Leadership set performance expectations and metrics.
3. Leadership reviews the education program's overall performance.
4. Leadership takes into account the educational needs and expectations of all key personnel.

The Firm'€™s Strategic Education Plan:
5. Describes how the firm’s professional development strategy aligns with the firm’s business strategy and objectives.
6. Uses key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the learning strategy. (Ex: forecasts, models, projections, etc.)
7. Outlines educational expectations, including options to seek new educational opportunities and/or prepare for new requirements.
8. Explains the process for analyzing the cost benefit of education investment for the firm.
9. Clarifies the firm’s approach to coordinating knowledge sharing efforts with the delivery of education.

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 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 of learning and development.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program Content and Design

Photo of small group breakout sessions

Short-term, develop a system that will collect appropriate subject matter content that addresses staff knowledge needs to support the firm'€™s projects. Long-term, consider a structured curriculum that supports the firm'€™s strategic plan and business needs. There are various formats and delivery models from which to choose - be sure that the content is appropriate for the format. Develop clear course learning objectives early as they will guide you in selecting the appropriate subject matter expert (SME), the best course content, appropriate course design, and the most effective delivery method. Determination should be made at this juncture, is it best to use inside sources, use an external vendor, or consider a blend of the two? This is a critical point in the process to insure that content matches any special requirement such as license or certification standards, such as CEU, PDH, CPD, MCE'€™s, HSW, LEED, ISO, ANSI, etc...

Continuing in part five 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 4: Content and Design

This segment examines the firm'€™s process, development and support for content selection, design and development. This section provides recommendations for how new, modified, and customized educational activities and services are selected and designed to meet the learning objectives.

Establishment of Learning Objectives
1. All educational activities are based on written Learning Objectives.
2. For each course/program ask, “What do you want the participant to be to do, or what should they know when they finish the course /program?€

Program Design
3. A criterion has been established that addresses the learner'€™s skill/knowledge level, such as awareness, practitioner, and mastery.
4. There is a process established for determining selection of program structure, content, materials and support resources, and course time based upon expected learning outcomes.
5. There is a process for developing instructor - led classroom and online courses verses self - paced learning.
6. There is a process for selecting and scheduling external education providers that complement the firm'€™s education goals and standards.
7. A process is in place for determining special qualifying designations for activities, such as Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW), LEED, ISO, ANSI, etc.
8. Changing professional requirements are incorporated into educational programs such as Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE), PDH, CPD state license etc.

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 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 of learning and development.

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.

Learning Objectives Simplified: Check out the New Bloom’s Taxonomy Tool

Candle Flame

The tool is simple, easy to understand, and easy to use. If you are the course designer, a trainer, an instructor, or the firm's Learning and Development Coordinator, Manager, Director or the CLO - this tool will make your professional life a little easier. If only this tool had been available during the past 30 years.

I would like to thank the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the University of Iowa for posting on their website the Model of Learning Objectives. This model was created by: Rex Heer, Iowa State University.

Sharing this tool with my professional peers who are working in the A/E/C design industry, this is probably the best gift I can offer for the New Year. Try it for yourself; I think you will like it.

Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

If you have trouble accessing the interactive Flash-based model the content is available in a text-only table.

Course Evaluations – Key 7

During a summer full of conferences, workshops, classes (both on-line and on-site), and numerous online discussion groups, lots of questions have been raised about how to structure course evaluation forms? While there are many good evaluation models available, here are the basic fundamentals that have worked well for the organizations where I have worked. This is part of Key 7 – Evaluations.

First, keep your course evaluations as simple as possible. I like to build a course evaluation using a 1 - 4 point scale. This forces participants to make a choice, to select above or below average. I have used the 1 – 3 and 1 -5 point scales but it allows the borderline evaluators to just be neutral by choosing the middle number. Neutrality isn’t all bad but when you are looking for what to improve, a neutral number doesn’t help much. And for those of you who debate whether using a 1 - 5 or 1 - 10 point scale, the only real difference that I have found are that participants will adjust their choice to reflect similar results of a slide between low, middle, or high scores.

There are 5 key areas where you need accurate feedback and information in order for you to know what, where or how you will want most to improve a course:
1. Content - is the course content useful to the participant?
2. Faculty’s Knowledge of the Subject – while this is often perception, did the faculty or instructor really knowledgeable about his/her subject?
3. Faculty’s Ability to Communicate – was faculty or instructor able to communicate their knowledge to the participants in the audience?
4. Quality of the training aids, handouts, etc. –were they applicable to the course?
5. Will the participant be able to apply the course to their job? Yes / No
Always allow the opportunity for open feedback from the participant as it can capture some amazing information occasionally. Questions about food, room temperature, arrangements, etc. should be left for the open general comments as generally the organization has little control over those issues and if it becomes an issue – it usually will appear in a general comments section. And yes, I am a believer that if you include food it can affect the results of the evaluations – poor food can lower the overall evaluations. Knowing that in advance – don’t provide bad food. And while the evaluators could be all over the scale in their final evaluations in the key areas providing you with detailed information about the course you will find it useful to ask a final general question about “How would you rate the overall program.”

If you have a way of collect the responses electronically, a tool like survey monkey - that could make your life much easier. What generally takes so much time related to surveys after the course is over is the summarizing the results. Anything you can do to minimize the staff time summarizing results is a plus.

My pet peeve is asking respondents questions that you know you are not going to use to improve the courses. Or worse still, requiring evaluation that goes straight to the storage file and then gets lost in a black hole. My final suggestion, keep your course evaluations as simple as possible.

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?

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