Format

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!

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.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program – Planning and Performance Projection

Photo of staff reviewing graphs

Planning and performance projection is the critical third step to building a successful professional development program. This step should be based upon the results your needs assessments and analysis. At this point you develop measurable short and long-term educational goal with performance projections of key education results that tie into the overall business strategy. If you have not already done so at this point, be sure to develop a realistic budget that supports your project.

Continuing in part four 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 3: Planning and Performance Projection

Here we examine the firm'€™s planning, support and performance projections. This section examines how the firm identifies, develops, and supports program designers and faculty. Key 3 also takes into consideration how the firm effectively collects and reports information about activities and participants.

Planning Process
1. There is an established organizational planning process leading to the implementation of learning solutions and educational programs. As appropriate this process includes on-the-job support where and when your L&D customers need it.
2. There is a process that addresses how technology supports the learning evaluated, improved, and kept current with changing business needs.
3. There is a process involving how to use key information in the determination of learning objectives for learning and knowledge sharing activities.
4. There is a short-term planning process leading to necessary adjustments of educational programming, staffing, and delivery.

Human Resources
5. There is a process to identify and involve key personnel in roles of program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
6. There is a process to train and support key personnel to serve as program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
7. There is an established process that ensures all appropriate staff is kept current of all requirements, regulations, and laws related to course content.

Performance Projection
8. There are identified metrics used to assess the effectiveness of your learning solutions that are updated annually.
9. There are short and long-term projections related to desired key education results.
10. There are short and long-term projections related to performance and/or benchmark data that can track improvement.
11. At least some of the short and long-term projections for the education program reflect measurable goals.

Program Tracking & Maintenance
12. Detailed summaries of all revenue and expenses related to the overall program are maintained and evaluated on a scheduled basis.
13. There is a process that ensures that program standards are maintained when partnering with other organizations.
14. There is a process for compensating and recognizing individuals and groups who help reach the education objectives and for those whose performance improves.
15. A process for tracking and reviewing the education program marketing results - internal and external.
16. There is a process for tracking, reviewing, and improving the program content and offering new educational activities.
17. A process is in place for recording and filing required designations for activities, such as Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW), LEED, ISO, ANSI, Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE), PDH, 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a coaching style

So your next class is intended for students who have some knowledge of the subject matter but they do not have a strong comprehension? The student’s commitment to advance their knowledge to learning more about the subject matter seems to be wavering. Think of the individual who learned the basics of tennis but wants to give up because they aren’t very good after four weeks of training and just can’t seem to consistently keep their serve between the lines. Or the individual who purchases a new phone for the twitter function but can’t figure out how to use the hash marks correctly so they just give up on that function.

After you finish writing the learning objectives for the class you realize that just telling the students about the topic or showing them how something is done is no longer the most effective approach for the student to truly learn the subject matter. You know that the student has some knowledge but realize too that the student does not yet have mastery of that subject matter. Knowing what you, the instructor want the student to learn and what knowledge they should retain after leaving the class is critical to the next level of learning in their development. 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.

When students are at this moderate stage of learning development the use of role playing and roundtable discussions are two excellent ways to engage and support the students learning process. At this stage of the students development the instructional techniques require that the subject is told “how to” and/or is provided with a demonstration of what they are expected to learn. The student is then expected to try to demonstrate their knowledge or skill. The instructor stays involved by observing the demonstration and providing constructive feedback to the student. Ideally, this process is repeated until the student correctly demonstrates mastery of the knowledge or skill enough to take successfully to the next level. Some simple online gaming tools have been developed and designed that follow this model, such as the DMV’s defensive driving school. Using both a high directive style of instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a coaching style of delivery correctly.

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.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a supporting style

You have now been working with your students for awhile and they are progressing in the subject matter. You notice that they have reached a high level of competence but you also note that the student’s commitment is not consistent and still varies. Think of the individual who has mastered most of the basic skills of drawing and design but is beginning to get bored by the daily routine and repetition of fine tuning the skills that they have already learned. After awhile it becomes difficult to stay focused and committed.

Your current learning objectives indicate that the next level of development is more than individual skills sets that the students have been practicing. The students are consistently demonstrating their mastery of the skills when required. They have grown to the point where they are becoming frustrated by either repeatedly being challenged by you or by challenging themselves. Since 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 students are ready to demonstrate their knowledge or skills in front of their peers.

Several excellent ways to engage students at this next moderate level of learning development include group activities such as gaming, case studies and charrettes. The instructors skills need to transform from directing, lecturing, coaching and feedback to one of facilitating, listening, praising and providing constructive feedback. At this stage of the students’ development the student interacts with peers demonstrating their knowledge and/or skill. The instructor stays involved but at more of a distance observing and guiding. For online instruction, chat rooms, discussion groups and designed group learning activities can provide similar results. For the instructor, using a low level of directive instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a supporting style of delivery correctly.

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.

A Situational Classroom: What about the impact of group dynamics?

So far in our situational classroom series we have stressed what classroom format and delivery model the instructor might best utilize to maximize learning by the individual student. So when the instructor determines that a supportive style of instruction is most appropriate, plan carefully. For the best learning results review the course content and design well ahead of time. Consider how different the skills of supporting and facilitation are from lecturing, directing and coaching during the implementation and delivery phases of this learning model. Remember that facilitation of a group correctly usually takes more time to cover. Think of covering the material by a lecture or covering the same material using a case study. http://www.lowther7.com/courses/instructor-facilitator-understanding-gro...

Let’s look here at the similarities of an individual’s learning development and stages of group development. According to Bruce Tuckman there are four stages to group development. The first stage is forming, individuals seeking acceptance as they avoid conflict. According to the Situational Leadership, team approach, this first stage is orientation. Group participants enter with low to varied competence but generally high commitment, similar to an individual’s first development learning level.

Storming is Tuckman’s second stage of development. At this level team members determine what they are suppose solve and how they will participate within the group. The situational team approach calls this stage dissatisfaction with individuals demonstrating some competence with a low to varying level of commitment.

Groups that successfully work through stage two move into Norming or resolution, the third stage. Some members of the group may have to give up their ideas and agree with others to work towards a common goal. Individuals demonstrate a high competence with variable levels of commitment.

Successful groups reach the fourth stage, performing or production. The team members are motivated, demonstrating high competence and high commitment while working towards the completion of the groups goals.

In a situational classroom, the instructor using a supportive approach needs to be aware that student’s may enter into the group learning activities at different levels of competency and commitment. It is important to facilitate the group as if they are all at the same basic level during the forming/orientation stage. On the part of the instructor/facilitator it is critical that they carefully guide the group to each new development level as a group. Moving to a new level is a skill of balance. Move too soon and you can lose the involvement of students who are not ready. Move too slowly and you can lose the involvement of your advanced students who may get frustrated.

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.

Pages