Learning

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.

Cyber Security for Small Businesses

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!

Gamification: A fad or the future?

Photo of individual participating in online game.

On the professional LinkedIn group, Learning and Development, Eng-Sing SOON from Singapore initiated a discussion by asking if Gamification was a passing fad or the future of learning.

It was not surprising that the discussion quickly jumped towards defining what gamification meant.
Kenneth Camel from New Zealand stated first with, “The process of gamification means using gaming techniques in developing learning events, not necessarily making a game out of learning. Gaming techniques use engagement, teaming and communication to reach an objective. This brings different types of learners together to solve problems (scenarios, role playing and practice). The techniques have been around for a long time. (war gaming, D&D, board games, learning maps, lean manufacturing).”

Jack A. Loganbill from the Unisys Corporation was quick to note that he found that there is a wide difference in opinion of what exactly gamification is as it applies to training. He went on to responded to the question by asking the question “Is it turning the training into a game? Or is it applying gaming attributes the principles that make games so attractive, to the training.

For those who read my recent blog, I too have noticed that when working with different organizations I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So I opted to simply used Wikipedia’s definition. “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

Personally, I think Katin Imes, from Expedition 21 Media, Inc. provided one most clarifying definitions when he stated, “I want to point out a word-transformation that is happening. The term "gamification" means really different things in different domains. The current term is "on fire" in sales, media, online "customer engagement", and corporate offices but there it means:
- adding track able, effectible metrics to simple customer actions
- presenting those metrics to the public or to a subgroup in a themed, "fun" way that provides competition or rewards
- providing prizes, rewards, freebies, or recognition awards to the highest-metric participants.”

“When a learning professional hears gamification in a sense of applying it to training or learning, the term is much more to do with providing exercises ("games") that directly include the skills or knowledge being learned to be applied in a system ("rules") that provides a clear outcome ("win or lose", "measurable benefit or loss", "rank"). Quality games provide problems or resource situations that cannot be solved well without the skills or knowledge being learned, and allow participants to experiment and "tweak the dials" to experience the outcomes and effects of different strategies and factors or sequences.”

Once you settle on a definition for the term “gamification” you can go back to the question that the title asks: Gamification: A fad or the future of learning? Hopefully your interest has been peaked. There is a general consensus developing among those participating in the discussion on the LinkedIn Learning and Development Group that you can follow. I however will not provide a spoiler.

Gamification as a Situational Learning Tool

Photo by by azwaldo

The use of games or gamification for learning enhancement is not new in education. During the past few years however, there has been a renewed interest in gamification due largely to the new technologies that has become available. If you Google “gamification” it displays more than 700,000 results. Unfortunately too many people create educational games so that they can demonstration a technology rather than because it is the correct tool to improve or increase knowledge or a competency. Before selecting any delivery tools consider context and learning situation.

Working with several different organizations this past fall I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So for those of you reading this blog let’s establish a common definition used by Wikipedia. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

In the January 2015 issue of Chief Learning Officer is an interview with Jake Orowitz, Head of Wikipedia Library. In the interview Orowitz explains how Wikipedia uses gamification for situational learning to onboard volunteers, sharing the process related to editing material.

There are several interesting business case studies that use Gamification to enhance learning. For Microsoft the situation was to create a bond between the consulting business’ senior managers and to use the opportunity for content delivery and learning, bringing management up to date on the vision, financial results and strategy for the year. A full gamification solution considering context and situations was designed to motivate participation in the event, measuring engagement with the content presented and creating team spirit within the ad-hoc teams formed during the process. As a part of the process the tools to deliver the content were selected using mobile phones and tablets.

Another situation called for improving a course designed for those learning how to specify building materials for the new LEED MR Credit: Building product disclosure and optimization credit, under the Health Product Declaration (HPD) option. A collaborative team between Expedition21Media.com, Lowther7, LLC, and GreenCE was created to meet the challenge. It was determined by the team that a good way to increase learning and have participants better demonstrate competency was to imbed a mini-game in the course at a point after students learned how to specify building materials. To see the results for yourself play the free version of the LEED Materials Credit mini-game!

For the last three decades the popular workshop, the Accounting Game was offered by Educational Discoveries, Inc. and Professional Training International. The situation called for assisting non-CPA’s to understand basic accounting and balance sheet practices. The one day, on-site workshop used a simple lemonade stand business simulation format.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog post, the use of games or gamification for learning is not new to education. One of my first graduate courses was how to create and use games to promote learning, develop skills, and improve competencies. Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter have written a book entitled, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Wharton Digital Press, 2012).

Through Wharton – University of Pennsylvania and Coursera, Kevin Werbach, offers the free course, Gamification. It is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course teaches the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.

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.

Developing Online Courses

Description

This workshop covers the nuts and bolts of getting your first online course developed and deployed, including:

  • components and costs
  • evaluating staffing requirements
  • structure and design
  • course conversion (from live format)
  • options for audio and video production
  • testing and assessment online
  • platforms and server options
  • getting feedback
  • mastering revision cycles
  • licensing and profit projections

You'll leave this live workshop with a complete development plan and timeline for at least one of the courses you'd like to put online. Our experts will walk you through the entire process, helping you make decisions while supplying you with data and how it applies to your situation. Learn about a breadth of approaches and case studies from others in the workshop as they build their course development plans alongside you.

Knowledge Level

This is an awareness level workshop. We encourage instructors at the practitioner and mastery level with little or no online experience to participate.

Workshop Design

This is an instructor led course designed to be delivered either on-site or via web video conference in 4 or 8 hour time frames.

Learning Objectives

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

1. Describe the various operational and material components of an online course.

2. Determine which online system features would be incompatible together and which would be appropriate for a given course.

3. Research and evaluate various platforms for online presentation and course management and determine a good fit for your project.

4. Create a course outline action plan specific to your organization, including estimated budgets.

This Workshop is Recommended:

• Customized and available online for small teams.
• For Regional or State association events.
• To support a design firm'€™s internal administrative and instructor training.
• To support a product or service manufacturer'€™s administrative and instructor training.

Faculty

Katin Imes
Minimum of 8 participants required to book this session.

Watch for our annual offering of this workshop on the west coast. Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasacommons/7876163956/sizes/m/in/set-72157631277625484/

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.

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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