Guest blogger: Dave Tosh
A new product that we are currently working on here at HT2, Learning Locker, has several important aspects at its core, one of which is data ownership.
In a nutshell, Learning Locker provides a destination where users can create a personal locker housing their learning data that they can then put to work for them. The data comes from a variety of sources including the web and any learning platform that exports Tin Can statements.
From the official Tin Can site:
“The Tin Can API (sometimes known as the Experience API) is a brand new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline).”
How does it work?
The initial prototype is fairly basic. Users create an account and add any email addresses which they wish to be associated with their learning locker account, similar to a Gravatar account. You might have a personal email address, a work email address and an email address you were given for night classes at a local college. Adding these addresses ensures that any TinCan statement sent containing one of your email addresses will end up in your personal locker.
One statement might relate to something read and shared from Gigom on a personal level:
“name”: “Dave Tosh”,
“en-US”: “Coursera makes first foray into K-12 education with online courses for teachers”,
“en-GB”: “Coursera makes first foray into K-12 education with online courses for teachers”
Another statement could come from work training:
“name”: “David Tosh”,
“en-US”: “The Tyranny of the Next Button”,
“en-GB”: “The Tyranny of the Next Button”
“en-GB”: “Perhaps we don’t need to go through the course development process in the same way. Even exceptional instructional designers struggle under the weight of information that we are often asked to convey in a normal piece of Courseware.”,
“en-GB”: “Perhaps we don’t need to go through the course development process in the same way. Even exceptional instructional designers struggle under the weight of information that we are often asked to convey in a normal piece of Courseware.”
“bt_text”: “Added to my knowledge”
How do I get my data into my personal locker?
There are a few ways to import and save your data.The first is via our bookmarklet, this makes it easy to capture experiences that occur while you are accessing resources on the web. We are also working on a ‘Learn this’ button which will work in a similar fashion to the Facebook ‘Like’ button but with extra metadata built in such as ‘This challenged my thinking’, ‘This helped me understand X’ and so on (you can see an example above under the object extension). The final method is via learning platforms you use in school, at college, at work or online. If they support Tin Can, then, you should be able to get your learning statements out and into your locker. To help support this we are working on plugins for some of the major players such as Moodle.
As you would expect, with a Learning Locker account, all your data is yours and can be exported at any time. Further to this, we are developing an open source version that individuals can host if they prefer.
While a Tin Can statement appears basic at first glance, they can become complex quickly. To handle this, we are using a combination of tech. For our initial service, we parse incoming statements and abstract a couple of key components; actor, verb, object, and where available, context. This high level data allows us to offer the first phase of the learning locker, which is the storage and filtering of learning statements based on the action, source, time and reason.
To provide deeper analysis we store the full JSON object in a NoSQL database, so, over time, we can drill into the data exposing insights that we hope will lead to useful services for learners; helping predict learning paths, highlight areas of strength, topics needing addressed and so on.
We are currently testing an early prototype and will shortly solicit volunteers interested in providing feedback on the service. Stay tuned.
Dave Tosh is passionate about technology, in particular the web, and its potential for creating new learning opportunities for us all. Dave is a pioneer in the social learning space, co-founding Elgg. He is now working with HT2 as the product lead on a new learning service, Learning Locker and continues to experiment on a new goals based learning platform. Follow him on Twitter @davetosh.
This blog first appeared on the ASTD’s Learning Technologies blog, March 2013.
Two weeks ago we launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in association with the University of San Diego (USD). Based on “Sustainability in the Supply Chain,” the six-week course is aimed at managers working in supply chain positions around the world. For those unfamiliar with the MOOC terminology, this sort of course operates at scale and is open to anyone who wishes to join.
Two Types of MOOCs
Broadly speaking there are two types of MOOCs: cMOOCs and xMOOCs. cMOOCs follow a “connectivism” approach, which is based on the work of George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and others working at the forefront of online learning theory. (Siemens and Downes host http://mooc.ca as a place to host MOOC news and information.)
cMOOCs are something of an experiment in chaos; their mantra is to gather a wide range of people together to discuss and discover a subject that interests them and enables them learn in anyway they see fit. This style of course is open—not because of cost (or lack thereof), but because of the manner in which participants learn.
cMOOCs encourage the use of any platform, any content, and any connection a learner wishes to make. Also, the fact that cMOOCs are massive is important because it creates opportunities for learners to make connections with a diverse range of people. Exactly how massive a course has to be to be considered “massive” is something of a contentious point, but Downes suggests Dunbar’s number of 150 as the cut-off point.
However, cMOOCs are generally not the ones being written about in the New York Times. Instead, folks seem more interested in the MOOCs with hundreds of thousands of participants; those are the xMOOCs.
xMOOCs are those most commonly found on platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. You know instantly there is a difference because the xMOOC has a platform—the cMOOC methodology tells you to go make your own platform. xMOOCs stick closer to well-known methods of online learning, such as video tutorials and quizzes. There is variation in the form of peer marking and social discussion opportunity, but these aren’t required features.
A Closer Look at Our MOOC
Our MOOC is—in the strictest sense—an xMOOC. We have curated the content, put it into a course framework, and set our students free to roam through it. However, elements of a cMOOC are creeping in. We give a wide range of autonomy to students to browse what they want, and students can add learning content back to the platform right alongside our original learning materials. We encourage participation constantly and use peer review. Organized chaos, if you will.
The biggest job that companies like Coursera perform for those delivering MOOCs is marketing. Getting 100,000 students to sign up for a course outside of these marketplaces is tough. That is why we were delighted when more than 650 students signed up for our MOOC—a testament to social media and good old fashioned marketing organized by the Supply Chain Management Institute at USD.
In the interest of science, we decided to run a few experiments to check out the effect of class sizes and previous exposure to higher education. First off, we wanted to know if engagement varied with class size. So we broke our students into three key groups; one of 300, one of 150, and one of 50. Everything you’ve ever read about education tells you that big class sizes are bad, personalized learning experiences are good. MOOCs claim to run counter to that—by exposing learners to more people, they get to choose those people that they wish to participate alongside.
What We Are Learning About MOOC Learners
We’re only two weeks in, but we’ve got a fair amount of data already. The first thing we noticed is the dropout rate; only 50% to 55% of students registered for the MOOC signed in to the course. This data corresponds with what others have reported elsewhere, so it isn’t surprising. With no skin in the game, many don’t start the course.
From our large group (300 enrolled) 60 learners made it to level three of the module, which is about the halfway mark. In the next group (150 enrolled), 28 made it to the same point. And in our small group (50 enrolled) just 4 made it to halfway.
If we remove those who never logged on in the first place, around 40% made it to halfway in the big group, 39% in the medium group, and 13% in the smaller group. If engagement is any measure to go by, then small class sizes don’t make for a great experience in the world of MOOCs.
Those of you keeping tally will notice that I’ve missed 150 people out of this assessment. This is a deliberate mistake!
We saved another piece of research for three final groups of about 50, whom we sorted based on the amount of higher education they had previously completed. The first group had Master’s-level qualifications or higher, the second group had Bachelor’s degrees, and the third group had high school or Associate’s degrees.
Again those actually logging on was in the 50% region. In the Master’s group, 16 reached the halfway point or beyond; the Bachelor’s group had 9 reach halfway, and in the high school group only 4 made it halfway through the course. Those numbers equate to 60 percent, 33 percent and 17 percent, respectively (of those who logged on at all). When compared with the random selection of 50 students, the Master’s students showed themselves to be much more readily engaged by the learning process—four times more so.
On the face of it, it would seem that those who have already been exposed to an advanced education learn best with MOOCs. The course itself is accredited at the Master’s level, but I don’t suppose this is particularly unusual for a MOOC—as they tend to be aimed at niche areas in advanced subjects, given by the likes of MIT, Stanford, and so forth.
Does this mean MOOCs can’t be used for a wider section of the population? Absolutely not; after all, people still complete the course regardless of their background. But it seems to come most easily to those who have explored learning at its highest and potentially most self-directed level.
It’s been said before, but the biggest challenge ahead for the MOOC Revolution is perhaps to be had in learning how to learn. Maybe then the field will open up to cMOOCs taking center stage in the future of online learning.
And we are still in the early days for our research of our MOOC, so I won’t jump to conclusions—just yet. More important, I’ll have more data when I present the final output at the ASTD conference in Dallas, so please do come by my session on Wednesday morning to find out more and continue the debate.
Anyhow, throughout the talk (and one I did previously, Playing Games with Quality, in the exhibition hall), I littered the place with references, many of which might have got beyond the eager tweeting. So here’s a list of things I referenced. If I miss any, let me know…
Research on the efficacy of game-based learning:
Sara de Freitas – Learning in Immersive Worlds report
Simon Egenfeldt-Neilson – Overview of game-based learning research
Traci Sitzmann – Analysis of the research in to effective instruction using games. or see: PixelLearning
Tom Malone – Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction (1981)
Sara de Freitas – Literature Review of gaming practices for learning
Sara de Freitas & Martin Oliver – evaluating exploratory learning in games
Research on wider theories:
Deci & Ryan – Self-Determination Theory wiki plus academic papers
Benjamin Bloom – The Two-Sigma Problem
Garrison et al – Cognitive Presence
Dan Pink – Drive
Thaler & Sunstein – Nudge
James Paul Gee – Affinity Spaces
Marc LeBlanc – Eight types of fun
Game Design and Gamification books:
Jesse Schell – The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses
Karl Kapp – The Gamification of Learning and Instruction
Raph Koster – A theory of fun for game design
Jane McGonigal – Reality is Broken
Bernard Suits – The Grasshopper: Games, life and utopia
Henry Dobson was one of the few people with whom Greg House ever wanted to form a friendship. It could never have worked out. They were too similar. You see, Dobson’s knowledge of medicine was exemplary, almost as good as House. But if House had wanted someone to agree with his opinion, he’d have looked in the mirror. What Dr. House needed when it came to solving complex problems was diversity. He needed people who would stand up to him; disagree with him. Dobson wasn’t that man. As Dobson put it, you don’t need someone to tell you what you already know.
Which leads me to the obvious question, why should a MOOC be massive? Whilst MOOC’s have grown exponentially, the theory of knowledge underpinning them, Connectivism, has grown more steadily. Somewhere in the hysteria the point kinda got lost. MOOC’s are massive because they operate under the assumption of a network effect; they are decentralized and devolved to provoke connections. What MOOC’s seek is a diversity of opinion. It goes without saying that the quality of the experience is driven by the quality of the dialogue and debate. If this debate is within a small group, or driven by a teacher, or with a bunch of Dobson’s, then the outcome will always be the same. Consensus. Boring, mundane consensus.
I’m afraid that organisations are eyeing up the MOOC trend a bit too readily. On the face of it, it seems like a great excuse to make some content and then make thousands of people watch it. But of course, this misses the point entirely. Content is a trigger for connections at best. It should spur the creation of new content, new ideas, connections. The outcome of all this is unpredictable. Which makes it very much the antithesis of the training and development department.
This is why I’m starting to think that any corporate application of MOOC theory would do well to steer well clear of the training department. Instead it should focus on solving problems. Forget training. Training brings standardisation.
I’m interested in bringing MOOC theory to process redesign. The ability to connect a diverse group of participants around a single topic, to get them to connect with each other and create content, ideas and debate really intrigues me. I believe that it’s only through diverse connections that innovation occurs. Which is why House needs a team that is nothing like him. Anything less would be lethal.
Christmas always brings a conundrum. The kids want new toys, but they don’t play with the ones they’ve already got! Dutifully, you spend your hard earned cash adding to the pile of toys. Recognition is fleeting. By the time you read this blog, all new toys will have become a part of the amorphous mass of toys that sits in the corner of the bedroom. There they are doomed to remain, relatively untouched for the rest of the year, until of course the cycle begins again.
Nothing changes as we get older. Or indeed when we move to the world of work. New toys, that’s what we need. Or do we? Maybe, if we make just one resolution this year, it should be to play with the toys we’ve already got. It’s with that thinly stretched metaphor in mind that I give you this:
50 free sources of learning content for your curation.
I think it’s a bit of a travesty that we spend as much as we do trying to make the perfect piece of learning content, again and again. Of course the learning process takes us far beyond the realms of what content alone can do; we need learners to experience, practice, reflect and repeat real-world actions if they are to truly change behaviour. Content can be the start; it can be the trigger for a new experience, a new insight, a new conversation. But it is just that, the start of a learning journey. So I believe we should spend more time tapping into content that is freely available and putting this to use within our organisations. Our time, money and effort should be spent elsewhere – on the experiences and implementations that allow learners to put ideas in to practice.
With that in mind we’ve quickly curated some sources of information for you to tap. These websites host huge amounts of content on a wide-range of subjects, but in the interests of keeping the numbers down the following sites are of particular use to those looking to trigger learning experiences in the business world.
|OER Commons||http://www.oercommons.org/browse/general_subject/business||Links to over 1000 business related learning content objects||Academic articles|
|Stanford Business School||http://www.youtube.com/user/stanfordbusiness||Stanford Business School videos||Videos|
|Management for the rest of us||http://www.mftrou.com/||Introduction to management topics||Introductions|
|Jim Collins||http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/all.html||Video and Audio resources from leading business author, Jim Collins||Management, leadership|
|Team technology||http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/||Introduction to issues around leadership and management||Psychometrics|
|Free Management Library||http://managementhelp.org/||Huge range of management topics||Management, leadership|
|CIO||http://www.cio.com/||White papers, webcasts everything for the Chief Information officer||CIO|
|Leaders Direct||http://www.leadersdirect.com/||Over 150 pages of tips and checklists on leadership and self management||Leadership|
|PowerHomeBiz||http://www.powerhomebiz.com/||Site for small businesses with good tips and glossary||Small Business|
|Fast Company||www.fastcompany.com||The website for Fast Company magazine contains an easily accessible searchable archive of all its articles, past and present. It contains a number of interesting articles concerning power and office politics. Good for leadership, strategy, teamwork||innovation, web|
|Harvard Working Knowledge||http://hbswk.hbs.edu/||Great papers across the range of management topics from some of the key experts in the field||Management, leadership|
|Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute||http://www.hesselbeininstitute.org/||Formerly Peter Drucker site, links to Leader to leader journal||Management, leadership|
|Wharton Leadership Centre||http://leadership.wharton.upenn.edu/welcome/index.shtml||Leadership research papers, access to older articles||leadership|
|The Business Publications Search Engine||http://www.bpubs.com/Management_Science/||Good links to articles on BPR, Change, CRM, Leadership Project management and many others||Management papers|
|Customer Care Institution||http://www.customercare.com/||Everything about looking after the customer||Customers|
|PM World Today||http://www.pmworldtoday.net/archives/2012/march.htm#papers||Featured papers on the subject of Project management||Project Management|
|Project Management Institute||http://www.pmi.org/Knowledge-Center.aspx||Knowledge centre – resources to inform and improve the practice of project management||Project management|
|Thinking Managers||http://www.thinkingmanagers.com/||Edward de Bono and Robert Heller site giving clear and concise summaries of the best writing and ideas from the world’s best business media||Management|
|The Work911 series||http://work911.com/articles/index.htm||200 articles covering a range of management topics||Management|
|12 manage||http://www.12manage.com/||Summaries of management methods and models||Models|
|Alliance Training and Consulting||http://www.alliancetac.com/index.html?PAGE_ID=34||Good range of resources covering communication skills, customer service, employee development, leadership and many others||management topics|
|MagPortal.com||http://www.magportal.com/c/bus/strat/||Portal site that gives links to latest magazine articles on business strategy,management and leadership||Magazine portal|
|Bloomberg Businessweek||http://www.businessweek.com/||The latest uptodate thinking, articles, videos||Latest thinking|
|Inc.com||http://www.inc.com/||Latest thinking on leadership and managing, sales and marketing, Finance, Technology and Innovation||Latest thinking|
|Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections||http://curiouscat.net/articles/||Articles focused on operations management and improvement||Operations management|
|Article Planet.net||http://www.articleplanet.net/management/||Shortish articles covering an eclectic range of management topics||Management|
|OER Commons||http://www.oercommons.org/browse/general_subject/business||Great source of open resources, mainly focused on schools but a good range of material on business for the post-secondary level||Open resources|
|MIT OpenCourseWare||http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm||Incredible resource of lecture notes and videos||MIT Courses|
|MIT YouTube||http://www.youtube.com/user/MIT||Videos of lectures – not all areas covered but those that are are covered in great depth||MIT lectures|
|TED Talks YouTube||http://www.youtube.com/user/TEDtalksDirector||Great range of videos from inspirational speakers||Videos|
|Harvard YouTube||http://www.youtube.com/user/harvardbusiness?ob=4&feature=results_main||Great range of videos from some of the world’s experts||Videos|
|The Ken Blanchard||http://www.youtube.com/user/KenBlanchardCos?ob=0&feature=results_main||Leadership videos||Management videos|
|Wikiversity||http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Main_Page||Growing site with some business and management courses||Wiki resource|
|Learn out loud||http://www.learnoutloud.com/Podcast-Directory/Business/Leadership-and-Management||Portal to a range of management podcasts||Podcasts|
|Emerald Research||http://www.emeraldinsight.com/learning/podcasts/index.htm||Podcasts drawn from the latest research published by Emerald||Academic, podcasts|
|Under New Management||http://www.obweb.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=42&Itemid=66||Podcasts focusing on rigourous empirical research||Academic, podcasts|
|Bized||http://www.bized.co.uk/learn/index.htm||Whole range of different sorts of materials such as worksheets, case studies||Business studies materials|
|CBS Money Watch||http://www.cbsnews.com/moneywatch/management/?tag=hdr;cnav||Main focus on financial issues but other management issues covered||Finance|
|Business Balls||http://www.businessballs.com/||Businessballs is a free ethical learning and development resource for people and organizations, run by Alan Chapman, in Leicester, England||Business studies materials|
|Khan Academy – Finance & Economics||http://www.khanacademy.org/#microeconomics||College level Economics done in Khan Academy house style – a voiceover with drawings||Finance|
|Business Link Start-up Directory||https://online.businesslink.gov.uk/hub/action/render?pageId=learningdirectory||Everything you need to know about getting started in business – but also useful for those working within organisations||Business Startup|
|Marshall Goldsmith Library||http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/html/marshall/resources.html||Personal site of Marshall Goldsmith, the influential leadership thinker||Leadership|
|5min Business||http://www.5min.com/Category/Business||Video aggregation website, taking in content from a range of business websites||Videos|
|Tom Peters!||http://www.tompeters.com/freestuff/index.php||A selection of Tom Peter’s content available freely, as long as you do not charge for their use||Management, leadership|
|Business Insider Document Centre||http://www.businessinsider.com/document-center||A selection of simple (US) templates for business and legal documents||Business Startup|
|Business Model Generation||http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas||A great method for creating business models||Business Startup|
|The Times 100 – Business Studies Theory||http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/business-theory/||Topic overviews with pay-for case studies available||Business studies materials|
|FastCoExist||http://www.fastcoexist.com/||From The Fast Company, a website focused on breakthrough innovation||innovation, web|
|Systems Thinking – John Seddon||http://www.systemsthinking.co.uk/6.asp||A wide range of articles on Systems Thinking and Lean||Operations management|
|Clayton Christensen||http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/||Summary and links to articles by Clayton Christensen, Harvard Professor||Management, leadership|
|Ted ED||http://ed.ted.com/lessons?category_id=41||TED videos with a focus on business and economics and quiz questions.||Business and Economics|
If you’d like to learn more about the role curation can play in your learning strategy, why not come along to CurationCamp, on the Tuesday evening following London’s Learning Technology 2013 conference. It’s free and beer will be supplied (for a bit!) by yours truly and Curatr. If you can’t make it you can follow the event on twitter with the hashtag #ltuk13fringe
This year we exhibited our Curatr course, Service Operations Management, built in-conjunction with Warwick Business School at the DevLearn DemoFest event in Las Vegas. We were really lucky to win the ‘Best Academic Course’ award, as voted for by the audience. Following this we took part in a webinar to show the example and that created a bunch of questions that we didn’t get a chance to answer. So I’ve answered here! More questions welcome in the comments…
What system is used to accrue the points or was it build from scratch?
It was built from scratch. We include elements like Experience Points, Levels and awards (badges). As an administrator you can tweak the difficulty of each level to shape participation. But be warned – our experiments show that quality declines significantly if you force people to comment all of the time.
What kind of instructions were given to participants to teach them how to use this tool?
There is a short interactive introduction when you first login to the system and a help video. That’s generally all it takes to get people familiar with the platform.
Is there a set path that learners must take to level up? Can you level up by doing lots of things in one activity?
There isn’t a set path – it is quite autonomous, deliberately so. You could concentrate on just a couple of objects and gain a bunch of points. But that’s fine with us.
Is it all done on your own or is there any interaction a live person on the other end?
Through the system, no. But in this example course WBS also ran a number of live webinars.
Was Prezi used to develop some of this?
No, but I can see why you asked the question! We love Prezi!
How are you able to zoom in?
The interface you saw is Flash. We also have a native iPad app which uses pinch+zoom
What’s the ‘vetting process’, if any… how do ensure content is valid?
It’s all done post-hoc; so participants can report inappropriate content and a moderator spent an hour or two a week in class. However, this was never needed and (to date) never has been. Content is mostly filtered by the crowd – popular content gets shared and dull content never really goes anywhere.
Is the course accredited or just used in a company?
The course is fully accredited by Warwick Business School – it’s worth 24 MCATs points. Most participants are sponsored by their company to attend and we have students from all over the world in each class. See http://www.wbs.ac.uk/courses/professional/service-operations-management/
Do you not face IP/Copyright issues when curating content of other sources?
We never take content, we only ever link to it. What you saw there was an iFrame in the top half of the screen, so the content still resides with its author.
Is the intent behind the Curatr tool to be an alternative to using an LMS?
We prefer to integrate with an existing LMS. The WBS course I showed you does that – it has a single sign on (LDAP) with the universities LMS. We are also one of the early adopters of the Tin Can standard, which gives a really simple way to export our data to any LRS/LMS instantly.
How did you store all of the contributed content?
Right now it’s within our database, but through channels like Tin Can it will become accessible outside of the environment. We use this ability to allow Curatr to be a part of professional’s CPD, creating a portfolio of evidence and then exporting it as proof of work completed.
What software was used to develop?
Curatr is custom coded by the development team at HT2, lead by James Mullaney. The back-end is PHP/MySQL built on the PureMVC framework. The front-end we have a HTML/Flash (AS3) presentation layer and a Objective C presentation layer for iDevices.
You can play a demo of Curatr at: http://www.curatr.co.uk/demo/?view=demo
One of the most common criticisms of gamification for learning is the belief that gamification techniques can only reinforce a simplistic, behavioural approach, when what we really need to foster is creative knowledge creation.
Increasingly, I don’t see a conflict. I believe one can lead to the other. You don’t score goals without taking shots on goal. You don’t get published without writing. The same is true of creativity. You don’t have creative thoughts without making connections.
Which is where large numbers of birds come in.
Flocking birds are one of nature’s great sights. How they co-ordinate into wonderful patterns, swooping and soaring as one, is as close to magic as you can come without an iPad.
Or is it? It might look complex, but actually it’s simple. Birds in a flock are said to follow 3 rules:
1. Generally head in the same direction as everybody else
2. Don’t hit any other bird
3. Don’t be on the outside of the flock
That’s it. That’s all there is to creating a majestic flock. There’s a bunch of variations and additions to the above rules, but that’s the fundamental principle. Simple rules can lead to complex behaviours.
We see this pattern elsewhere. Conway’s Game of Life embodies a similar principle – incredible patterns that, in some cases, seem to replicate life itself, emerge from simple rules.
Increasingly I’m applying this principle to the gamification of learning. Complex behaviours grow out of simple rules. Find out what those rules are and engage people with the principles to reap great results.
The research I’m working on right now is showing the power of this approach. In a gamified collaborative learning environment, students earn points for making comments and contributions, allowing them to level up and access new content. When we’ve analysed the output of this content, we’ve found that those who comment the most generally demonstrate more critical thought than their counterparts. And those who demonstrate critical thought the most go on to score the best marks in the class, even when that assessment is quite separate to the learning environment itself.
Getting people to comment is a simple behaviour that can be shaped. You can also start to shape the form of these comments by rewarding people for “problem-solving”, “real-world application” and any number of other useful traits that start to show critical thought emerging. Facilitators have been doing this for years.
Gamification can’t make you creative, but it can help you to trigger the connections that creativity requires. Just remember: Simple rules, complex behaviours.
Watching the Olympics over the weekend I’ve been blown away by the talent, determination and discipline shown by athletes from all over the world. It led me to wonder how much of the skill on display is innate and how much is coached into people? By chance I’ve also just been reading a good book by ex-sportsman Ed Smith on Luck which gave me pause for thought last night.
Smith suggests that talent matters far more than most popular literature suggests it does these days. Books like Matthew Syed’s Bounce and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers have helped popularise the notion that great practice is what makes the difference – talent is irrelevant.
Smith’s counter is that this certainly used to be true. Twenty years ago it was possible for a professional sportsman to out-perform the field purely on the basis of the amount of quality practice they had put in. But it simply isn’t the case in professional sport anymore.
Usain Bolt gave us the perfect example on Sunday night. He’s the first to admit he doesn’t work as hard as others do in practice. But he’s just better; his performance is a part of his DNA. Had you looked along the line of fastest 100m final in history you would have seen that all the runners had one thing in common – their genes.
These athletes practice using the same routines and the same intensity. Unfortunately, Gold isn’t won by the person who works the hardest. They all work hard. Gold is won by the person who combines innate talent with intense practice. That they do the work is an order qualifier. That their bodies are just designed better for it is the order winner. We’ve seen this time and again this week – the pool, the rowing lake, the racetrack. Some people are just designed better for certain activities.
It was possible to witness this innate talent back in history, when nobody practiced seriously. As sports turned professional, so the playing field was turned in favour of those who practiced properly. Talent took a back seat for a while. Now that everyone practices properly, the tide has turned back in favour of talent winning the day.
I wondered where we sit in the world of work right now in this timeline. Do we see organisations succeed because their people are innately talented or because they practice more than their competitors? Have we reached the age of professional practice yet?
I’ve never been a big fan of SCORM as a standard. Whilst I can easily buy into the need for such a standard to exist, it’s always bothered me that we’ve been forced into reverting to type whenever SCORM comes into the debate. The philosophy forces one into creating packages of sequenced content for learners to play through. It’s like my worst nightmare of a classroom session; a fixed lecture where you get tested for rote retention.
Enter Tin Can. For those of you outside the loop, Tin Can is the name given to the latest iteration of the SCORM family. It’s not a progression of the SCORM standard, it’s a complete change in the underpinning philosophy. And it’s pretty exciting, which isn’t an emotion I often associate with SCORM.
There is a familiar side to Tin Can – that which allows content to talk back to a Learning Record Store (LRS). That’s not overly revolutionary and isn’t enough to redefine the standard on its own. What is much more like it is the “Statement Generation” end of the standard.
Let me give you an insight into the power of Statement Generation. At it’s most basic, Tin Can produces statements about what a learner did: “Joe completed the Activity”. So far, so familiar. But extend this outside of Courseware, into everyday working life; “Joe checked-in at the call centre”. And now, use it in a more social context: “Joe was insightful about Performance Management”. I can do the latter because Joe can contribute to a knowledge environment and his contribution can be rated by his peers. And using Tin Can, I can know this.
Using this sort of technique Tin Can aligns itself well with the notion of Big Data in the workplace. Talent Management systems are lining up to try and change the way we do business by offering a depth and detail of analysis about workplace performance that we’ve not seen before. But, for me, there is still a challenge in how this data gets collected in the first place. Surveys, 360’s and other feedback tools have a place, but they aren’t frequent or detailed enough to really capture the picture of who ‘I am’. Tin Can experiences could offer this level of detail. And because the statements can be generated behind the scenes and reported back to a central place, there’s no overhead in doing it. We’re all going to get tracked a lot more in the future, but it won’t be about completing courses, it will be about how we go about doing our jobs on a day-to-day basis.
In short, I think Tin Can offers a glimpse of the future; a part of a long chain of systems and technologies that underpin the 2020 workplace. With players like Oracle acquiring talent management companies like Taleo, we’re seeing a clear appetite for data companies to take this challenge on. I’m backing Tin Can to help us take our next smallest steps towards this future.