How Knowledge Workers like to learn and implications for BIM and LMS design

I found out last week that the abstract I submitted to Moodlemoot AU 2013 had been accepted. The talk will attempt to outline what I’m hoping will be my primary line of research over the next couple of years, which is probably going to be something like

  • How can the design of institutional e-learning tools be improved to support teachers and students to learn?
  • If this is done effectively, what happens?

The focus on institutional e-learning tools is mainly one of self-interest. I have to work with these tools in my current position and I want better tools. If my research can help my teaching, then it’s two birds and one stone.

In an earlier post I gave an initial idea of the “knowledge” problem that is one area with potential for improvement. i.e. most of the existing e-learning tools do less than a stellar job of helping teachers and students develop/access the sort of knowledge needed to get the most out of e-learning.

This morning, first Stephen Downes and then Steve Wheeler took me over to Jane Hart’s 5 characteristics of how Knowledge Workers like to learn at work. A post that describes findings from a 2013 “Learning in the Workplace” survey with 600 respondents from 46 countries. The image below summarises the 5 characteristics.

These characteristics may offer suggestions about how e-learning tools can be better designed to help teachers and students.

In the flow of work and other characteristics

The first characteristic is “In the flow of work” which Hart describes as

Workers don’t want to leave the workflow unless it is absolutely necessary for them to do. This means EITHER physically to go to a classroom OR virtually to work on an online course for an extended period of time (i.e more than about 10-15 mins) and/or which is more than a couple of mouseclicks away. (Taking a course at your desk, doesn’t mean it’s in the workflow!) Workers prefer to learn as an integral (NOT an extra) part of their daily job and not separately from it, either.

This resonates with me. For better or for worse, when I’m currently teaching “in the flow of work” means within my Moodle course site. The Moodle course site is the learning environment I work most in. If I want to learn – be it something about the students in my course or some new pedagogical strategy or technological technique – I would prefer it to be in the flow of work. i.e. in the Moodle environment. When I’m using BIM (or any other tool) I want it to be able to help me learn about my students, their learning and how I can improve it. I don’t want to book a session with an instructional designer or attend a scheduled training session. Raising the questions of what shape might this take and how might you do it?

The remaining characteristics offer similar suggestions. In particular, Immediately

Workers want to be able to find answers to their learning and performance problems as soon as they encounter them

which has some overlap with the above.

Socially suggests knowledge workers want to learn from others, as they work both internally and with external networks and communities. Are there any e-learning tools (within an LMS) that allow teaching staff to connect with a network of other people using the tool? To compare and contrast how others are using the tool and learn new ideas about how the tool might be used.

4 thoughts on “How Knowledge Workers like to learn and implications for BIM and LMS design

  1. Couple of quick thoughts. Universities are necessary infrastructure for an LMS. The LMS was (as I vaguely recall) an attempt to deal with mass – i.e. large numbers of students. This urge goes back a long way ..PLATO etc. Hart’s intent is good but does not go anywhere near enough. All we have done with IT and Ed thus far has been old wine, new bottles. Which to me is maybe rather than investing a lot of eggs in one big basket with largely predictable upside why not put a few little eggs (skunkworks-style) in radically different baskets (here in am channeling Taleb) – lots of little experiments- and you could get the kiddies to do some with/for you. Eddison built something like 1,000 light bulbs before he hit on it. I’m not sure looking for more effective candles will be that satisfying in the long run. :)

    1. It’s the numbers that are in part driving this line of interest. Numbers matter and make a difference. When you’re teaching a course with 300+ students there is a need for “administrative” support. Without it – much like my experience this semester – the workload is much worse than it should be. At the moment, the LMS is really the only institutionally available tool that can provide that type of support. So in short, I need to fix aspects of the LMS so I can make my life easier. But in doing so I also hope to help others.

      But I also think that by doing this there’s a chance of highlighting the limitations of current practices in concepts that are currently understood by these folk. Hence the connection with the acknowledged problems of the sector – poor quality, high workload etc. Almost a case of having to hit the Zone of Proximal Development for the higher ed community in order to help them learn. Move beyond the ZPD and there’s no chance of them getting it.

      Beyond making my life easier, BIM is also a chance to move beyond the LMS. It’s based on the idea of the loosely coupled gradebook idea from Jon Mott. The LMS provides the admin staff (which student is which, and recording grades) while we do the interesting stuff out on the broader web. As such, BIM becomes as the enabler for more interesting things. For moving beyond old wine in new bottles to enable the exploration of entirely new beverages.

      My hope/plan is that once the administrative foundation is in place, BIM can be used to explore, amongst other ideas I haven’t thought about yet, ideas similar to those behind Stephen Downes’ grsshopper and edufeedr. More importantly, how can I learn from other people who are using BIM and have interesting ideas and make changes to BIM quickly?

      But it’s more than the tool, it’s also the “how” around it. More to the point, solving some of the problems around the “how” as currently practicsed. Two particular problems I’m interested in are

      1. How to work around the enterprise IT processes of an institutional LMS so that BIM development can be more emergent.

        And perhaps in answer this figure out some ways to enable a more “little eggs” approach. e.g. I started the process for having BIM installed on the institutional Moodle instance 2 or 3 months ago. Still not there and there’s a question of whether or not it will get installed prior to Semester 2. When it does get installed, I’m unlikely to be able to get it changed during semester. This prevents learning.

      2. How to gather and share ideas with a potential BIM user community spread across institutions.

        e.g. If good learning arises from a CoP/network of people, but only when the participants are actively engaged. How can I create a CoP of BIM users so we can learn more about where BIM should go in the future?

      Actually, this reminds me of an earlier post about changing teaching from inside-out or outside-in. I think the following quote from that post links somewhat with Taleb’s “skin-in-the-game” thoughts and part of why I’m interested in developing BIM as part of the LMS

      As I said above, this problem is a complex one. Based on the above diagram, the best type of solution arises from immersion in the problem. The problem is that most universities are attempting to solve this problem by analysis.

      which in turns draws on a quote from from Donald Clark about Rittel

      This is because as Rittel (1972) discovered — the best experts within these types of environments are those affected by the solution — since they are the only ones to have experienced the complexity of the problem, they are the best experts for helping to improve that environment.

      Thanks for the comment Chris. This has forced me to think a little bit ahead of myself and re-find some earlier thinking that will help inform the presentation.

  2. Thank you for the gracious and detailed reply. I do get the point about the institution paying your salary etc. but in reality I’d be surprised if anyone (of the managerial colour) in “the institution” actually appreciates/understands what it is you are doing. It’s easy to sit outside and not have to worry about 300+ students but I’d still want to argue that working inside out is a bit like running a marathon towing a tractor. Hence the little eggs line, the genuine importance of thinking skunk works. I’ll email a piece I’m trying with a class who are designing a professional resource. They have the classic education mindset – just build the thing and that is it, don’t worry about the audience too much etc. The one off approach to teaching anything that largely informs the way things get done in formal ed settings. The piece is from May, M. E. (2009). In Pursuit of Elegance. Why the best ideas have something missing. New York: Broadway Books. To me (yes safely remote) the Blackall question is still inside out. There is nothing wrong with that but you end up still mired in the same mindset of the problem.

  3. Pingback: Which Moodle (or other LMS) tool is best at support and training? | The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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