Certification

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!

Badges, Certification, MOOC's -Oh My! Follow the Training Path

Following a Path, watercolor rendition

Emerging professionals, don’t wait; take charge of your own career learning paths now!

What’s typical of the A/E and design profession is you likely began with a BA or MA in your chosen field of study. The majority of design professionals will not add additional formal academic training to their resumes after graduation. Most interns and newly minted architects, engineers and designers hope and expect that they will start with a firm and participate in their in-house training activities. Currently, the typical training path starts with a lot of web surfing. “Structured learning” will likely be a mixture of in-house lunch sessions, on-the job training, webinars, and maybe some association conferences. Some lucky emerging professionals will connect with a mentor willing to assist them in designing a career learning path. In time, a few may be selected to participate in a specialized workshop or seminar. A small percentage of young professionals are even sponsored to receive specialized certification.

Unfortunately, results rarely match expectations. A major obstacle that is working against finding that perfect training firm is tradition. In the A/E design field only a few firms have well organized, structured learning opportunities, academies or universities. A/E firms were progressing well in developing their training centers until the Great Recession forced staff reductions. Among the first staff to be released and benefits to be cut back - anyone or anything that was not billable. Training in the A/E industry falls under that category. The industry has been slow to recover. A second obstacle to overcome is trust. That is, trust among some firm leaders about training staff and then losing them to their competition.

Would you erect a building without a foundation? Why expect that your professional education development would be any different? Consider the following:
* Few companies provide a “what you need to learn” outline for you. During your annual job performance appraisal you may be lucky enough to have a manager who is willing to take the necessary time to work with you to outline a one or two year training plan.
* If at all possible, find two, three or more trusted leaders or mentors that will advise you on the development of a career learning path. If you were making a life altering medical decision wouldn't you seek a second or third opinion?
* For established awareness, practitioner and mastery content do not overlook your professional associations. Some associations such as AIA and ACEC provide recommended curriculum that you can use as a guideline. (See my related professional curriculum blogs: Personal & Association).

Distinguish yourself at your convenience by earning:
BADGES has emerged as a recognized way to document your achievements in professional development. They can support and enhance your career portfolio and may help illuminate a learning path.
CERTIFICATION is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task. Industry examples include ASQ, CSI, LEED, and PMI.
MOOC (Massive open online course) There is a growing list of free college and university course available. For various fees, some of the courses provide digital badges, certificates, and/or college credit. These can be a great opportunity for when it applies to your professional interest or job. These college courses do require work. The completion rate is around 5-10%, being highest in the business sector.

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.

Decades of Change for the A/E Practice: Is professional development leading or reacting?

Trends graph markers

Everyone realizes that professional practices have changed drastically and in unimaginable ways during the past two decades. So my questions are: has professional continuing development (CPD) kept up? Have the education providers, design associations, and firms acted as leaders or followers in their efforts to shaping education in the design industry?

When I attended my first American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention twenty years ago, I observed that the education session attracting the highest attendance was Presentation Skills by Joanne Linowes. The remaining top ten sessions were related to "€œhot" practice topics such as project management and leadership. The irony of these topics, presenters submitted their proposals one year ahead of the next convention. Local chapter executives overwhelmingly responded that they selected their monthly meeting topics using a committee, better known as the "who do you know?" approach. Firms basically granted any product manufacturer supplying lunch "€œpitch" time. This was commonly referred to as the €œLunch-N-Learn approach. The better the lunch, to more time allowed.

Ten years later (2005) a lot had changed, in the practice and education. The AIA had implemented their Continuing Education System (CES). The AIA/CES provider program vetted 2700 education providers and began monitoring their courses. Health, Safety and/or Welfare (HSW) became the driving force of professional education. A majority of state licensing boards required 8-12 hours of mandatory continuing education (MCE) all related to HSW. Tracking MCE became critical to maintaining a professional license. Sustainability had become the hot topic everywhere, or at least the title of those€“ dominating the top 10 courses at the AIA convention. Presentation skills, project management, and leadership development courses were still simmering, but other practice related courses became more difficult to find.

By 2005, most A/E firms still relied upon product manufacturer for much of their in-house education, and they were still expected lunch. The big difference at this point, many firms insisted that the product manufacturer and their 1 hour courses be AIA/CES approved. Some of the larger firms had even hired training and organization development specialists with experience from professions outside the A/E industry to head their internal programs. Smaller firms would develop an education specialist from among their own staff. Firms still struggled to obtain presentation skills, project management, and leadership training.

Web based learning was making its influence felt by 2005. According to the American Society of Training and Development (recently renamed Association for Talent Management), by the end of 2010 technology based learning passed traditional classroom training in new courses offered. For the A/E/C Design industry that meant mostly 1 hour or 1.5 hour webinars. Today, technology based learning is making everyone evaluate their approach to sharing knowledge and delivering education. Today you can now find nearly any type of free, short introductory topics on YouTube. More traditional education is offered through programs like the Open University that includes schools like Harvard, MIT and Stanford offering free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

So where are we after 20 years? Today most associations are struggling to find their education niche. Some associations have turned to offering certifications but there are legal education concerns and restrictions but these programs are usually based upon a core curriculum of study. The process for selecting convention and conference presentations continues as before. However, many associations include a virtual component or have expanded their webinar series to complement their conference education programming.

Today, firms are beginning to fill the talent management and organization development positions that were eliminated during the economic downturn. They are returning with a more strategic approach, matching internal education to the firm’s goals and staff skill needs. Some firms are looking at developing their own core curriculum that include development of emerging professionals, practice skills training, project management, client facing skills, advanced presentation skills, and leadership development. Firms are using a blend of knowledge sharing technology tools for the introductory and awareness level skills. For their practitioners, they are using a blend of in-house trainers with vendors and consultants to address gaps that meet their strategic goals. And yes, many still rely upon the product manufacturer with registered AIA courses on, and still expect lunch be provided. Keeping track of all this activity has become strategic and complex.

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.

Converting In-person Courses to Online Courses: Where do I start?

Jean Valence, Instructor led class

Today there are numerous tools, platforms and resources available. Prices vary greatly depending upon what you are trying to accomplish or what your course outcomes are expected to be. You might start with some free resources, such as YouTube.com and type in “Teaching Online” or “Online Teaching Best Practices.” Some of this material can be especially useful for those who are converting their technical classroom courses to something like WebEx. Webex can be an affordable approach for many small and mid-sized organizations that want to highlight expertise among your staff or members providing 30 minute to one hour presentations.

For those who want to become a more knowledgeable about “Online Teaching Best Practices.”, check out some of the books from Amazon. While a lot of the books are aimed more towards the longer online classroom environments, the concepts and principals are still valid for the shorter online modules and courses. If you are thinking ahead to a fuller value platform, such as Blackboard Collaborative, these texts would be helpful. I would recommend the LERN textbook, Designing Online Instruction. It is a very practical “how to” book that also covers “How-to techniques” for the design of online instruction.

For those serious about becoming online instructors, I suggest the 3 part series, Certified Online Instructor program. This certificate is offered by LERN and available from our website, Lowther7. More than 1600 corporate and university professors have taken these practical courses. Another valuable resource that offers certification for online instruction is ASTD.

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.

Continuing Professional Education Audit Options for Associations

Certificates: A growing trend

There is a variety of approaches to providing continuing professional education quality assurance (QA) or compliance audits of association’s members. Regardless of whether the intend is to meet internal association education requirements, state mandatory continuing education (MCE) licenses related requirements, or continuing education requirements to maintain a specific skill certification. Below I will outline three approaches to conducting such audits or reviews from the auditing organizations perspective.
1. Professional Member Solely Responsible

The simplest approach for an association is to place full responsibly of compliance on the individual member. The member is responsible for everything relate to compliance. The member’s responsibilities would start from taking and completing the appropriate coursework and obtaining proof of passing the course requirements successfully at an acceptable level and in a timely manner. The responsibility of maintaining accurate records and reporting results to meet related requirements also becomes the full responsibility of the individual. Like taxes, there is generally a compliance time period that all records need to be maintained.

In this model the association only requests documentation from the individual member under extreme situations. Examples may include, but not be limited to a complaint or charge of fraud or incompetence by a client or customer. Another example, the individual member might be charged with a related legal violation or a professional ethics violation. Request of the individuals related continuing professional education documentation may be a required part of their defense. In this model a special review panel should be appointed to review and verify the documentation.

2. Blended Responsibility Model
Another approach would still require that the member be responsible for maintaining all continuing professional education documentation related to their meeting the association’s and/or certification requirements.
This model requires commitment and dedicated resources on the part of the association as they take a more systematic approach. This model requires that a small percentage of the members be audited on a regular pre-determined basis (5 - 20%). The association needs to commit at least a part-time dedicated reviewer that will be responsible to review and verify the documentation. A special audit/review task group should be appointed to establish guidelines and a review process policy. They should also act as a final decision making body for all disputed audits outside of a legal system. The established review process needs to be published and made available to all participants.

3. Association Commitment Model

An extensive association commitment approach should include a blended approach to records maintenance. While the responsibly of compliance falls on the member, course content and delivery should be a role that the association is at least involved with supporting and monitoring. The record keeping in this model becomes a shared approach.

Through an automated system it would be possible to offer a full menu of services. This could includes a selection of courses from pre-approved course content providers or listed options of alternate externally approved methods of obtaining the appropriate skills and knowledge. An automated records system can be monitored by the association. Records for members would include appropriate completed coursework that is maintained and monitored during the compliance time period. This approach also allows the association to provide and ongoing audit and review process towards a 100% compliance rate.

Similar to the Blended Responsibility Model an audit/review standing committee should be appointed to establish guidelines and a review process policy. They should also act as a final decision making body for all disputed audits outside of a legal system.

Depending upon the size of the association and the number of members involved, this model would require full time staff dedicated as reviewers responsible to review and verify the documentation. And depending upon the commitment of using an automated system, the service could be either in-house or contracted out. Appropriate staff to support either effort would be required.

Emerging Blend of Degrees, Certification, and Professional Development: Impact on A/E/C/ firms

Continuing Professional Development Conference

Today many A/E/C/ firms have established professional development programs. These were created to address the continuing professional development (CPD) of their staff, certification programs and state licensure Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) requirements. A few progressive firms extend their programs to their clients and peers through cooperative programs with associations and universities.

For decades there were only a few firms that encouraged professional development or had organized mentoring programs for their staff, but those firms were the exception and not the rule. In 1995 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) implemented MCE requirements of their members. Within ten years most state licensing boards began requiring MCE for licensure for registered architects, engineers, interior designers, and landscape architects. The number of industry related certification programs, such as those offered by AWI,IFMA,ICBO,NFSA,NKBA,and LEED also expanded during this period. Professional development began to take on a new importance.

What was lacking during the 1990’s, role models of how the A/E/C firms should adjust to the changing CPD environment? No longer is that the situation for A/E firms. One solution from 1997 - 2008 – the AIA Continuing Education System (CES) Award for Excellence program The AIA/CES award program not only recognized firms for their commitment to internal CPD, the award program also provided a roadmap for all firms to achieve professional development success. The AIA/CES award program was a blend of the Malcolm Baldrige award and education standards established by International Association for Continuing Education ( IACET). The AIA/CES award criteria involved a detailed review of the firm’s education strategy, planning and analysis, design, implementation, delivery, evaluation and the improvement process of their professional development programs.

At first only large firms had the resources to build these types of programs. Large firm award winners included NBBJ; HOK; FreemanWhite; Rosser International; Gresham, Smith and Partners; Einhorn Yaffee Prescott; Mithun; Cannon Design; and Lord Aeck & Sargent. During the last several years of the award some mid-sized firms such as Rogers Krajnak Architects, Inc and Marshall Craft Associates, Inc. also met the standards and won the award. Turner Construction was the first to achieve the honors for creation of their online education efforts following the standards of the International Learning Unit (ILU).

Now added into the mix are a few online certificate or certification programs such as those found on UGotClass that are developed by associations, colleges and A/E firms. Don’t forget the free online management courses from leading universities such as Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other colleges. While the Boston Architectural College offers an online Sustainable Design degree, RedVector delivers sustainable design courses created by University of Tennessee faculty for professional in the A/E/C industry. What’s coming? Look for A/E firms to offer online professional practice education using their own adjunct college faculty’s to reach out their clients globally, 24/7.

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