weeknotes [11072014]

I’m just getting ready for for two weeks holiday starting today. Over the last couple of weeks, my time has been spent on:

supervising Masters students on the dissertations with most aiming to complete by the end of this summer
working with three part-time students as they’re just about to start their dissertations
developing ideas on a new course involving what is, I think, an innovative structure. More to follow on this after the summer
reading up on discourse analysis for my PhD studies.

Once I’m back from my holiday, in addition to these activities, I’ll also be concentrating on preparations for teaching on courses on two online courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments. I’ll also be redesigning a course for a different programme on Managing Organisational Learning & Knowledge (MOLK).

 

So, back in two weeks feeling fresh and energetic (I hope)

Idea development

Thinking through and research notes on a new project idea:

Notes and mind maps on ideas for a new project

weeknotes [27062014]

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been:

- Attending a seminar by Geoge Veletsianos on educational agents
- facilitated a workshop discussion on the internationalisation of higher education following a talk from Alison Phipps. This was a challenging talk on the dominant discourses found in university internationalisation strategies in general that reflected a broadly colonial sensibility presenting the educational institution as filling in a blank ‘other’. As a response, Alison suggested a consciously co-generative and collaborative approach to education with a focus on the quote “nothing about us without us is for us”. So the challenges seemed to be about breaking down the boundaries of the institution as a place where learning is delivered to learners in a form decided on by the institution but rather about developing practices of learning that “attend to” a multiplicity of voices and languages, race, inequality, oppression and expression. How such approaches can develop in the context of a university and its attendance to processes, standards and quality is the key question. The discussion component of the day was fairly brief but focused largely on internationalisation as an organisational culture issue with progress perhaps to come from *100 small changes* of habit and practice.
- related to this seminar, was another internal seminar labeled as learning from review and focused on developing the academic literacies of students as they transition in to (UK) higher education, between different stages of their education and onward as lifelong learners
- presented on some aspects of my research here
- contributing to the development of a couple of project ideas on course design and on professional learning but early days on both of these
- my main area of teaching and learning is in Masters’ dissertation supervision

MOOCs automation, artificial intelligence and educational agents

Geoge Veletsianos is speaking at a seminar hosted by DiCE research group at University of Edinburgh. The hastag for the event is #edindice and the subject is MOOCs, automation and artificial intelligence.

[These notes were taken live and I've retained the typos, poor syntax and grammer etc... some may call that 'authentic'!]
 
George began by stating that this is an opportune time for the discussion as MOOCs in the media, the developments on the Turing Test and MIT media lab story telling bots used for second language skills in early years or google’s self-driving cars. Bringing together notion of AI, intelligent being ets.
Three main topics: (1) MOOCs as sociocultural phenomenon; (2) autonomation of teaching and (3) pedagogical agents and the automation of teaching.

MOOCs: first experienced these in 2011 and Change11 as a facilitator and uses them as object of study for his PG teaching and in research. Mainly participated as observor/ drop out.

MOOCs may be a understood as courses of learning but also sociocultural phenomena in response to the perceived failure of higher education. In particular, MOOCs can be seen as a response to the rising costs of higher education in North America and as a symptom of the vocationalisation of higher education. Worplace training drives much of the discussion on MOOCs as illustrated by Udacity changing from higher ed to training provider and introducing the notion of the nano-degree linked to employability. Also changes in the political landscape and cuts to state funding of HEIs in the USA and the discourse of public sector ineffieciencies and solutions based on competition and diversity of provision being prefered. MOOCs also represent the idea of technology as a solution to issues in education such as cost, student engagaement  and MOOCs as indicative of scholarly failure. Disciplines and knowledge of education such as learning sciences not available many as knowledge locked-in to costly journals, couched in obscure language. MOOCs also represent the idea that education can be packaged and automated at scale. Technologies seen as solutions ot providing education at scale, including TV, radio and recording lectures etc. so education is seen as content delivery. 
Also highlighted that xMOOCs came out of comp sci rather than education schools and driven by rubics of efficiency and autonomation. 
Pressey 1933 called for an industrial revoluation of education through the use of teaching machines that provide information, allow the learner to respond and provide feedback on that learner response. B.F. Skinner also created a teaching machine in 1935 based on stimulous/ response of lights indicating whether a response is correct or not. 
Similarly MOOCs adopt similar discourses on machine learning around liberating teachers from administration and grading to be able to spend more time teaching. So these arguments are part of a developed narrative of efficiency in education.But others have warned against the trend towards commodification of education (Noble 1988) but this commodification can be seen in the adoption of LMS and “shovelware” (information masquarading as a course).
Automation is increasing encrouching in to academia via eg, reference management software, Google scholar alerts, TOC alerts from journals, social media automation, RSS feeds, content aggregators (Feedly, Netvibes) and programming of the web through, for example, If This Then That (IFTTT). 
As a case, looks at the Mechanical MOOC that are based on assumptions that high quality open learning resources can be assembled, that learners can automatically come together to learn and can be assessed without human involvement and so the MOOC can be automated. An email schedular coordinates the learning, OpenStudy is used for peer support and interactive coding is automatically assessed through CodeAcademy. So attracts strongly and self-directed and capable learners. But research incates the place and visibility of teachers remains important (Ross & Bayne 2014). 
Moving on to educational agents as avatars that present and possibly respond to learners. These tend to be similar to virtual assistants. Such agents assist in learning, motivation, engagement, play and fun but the evidence to support these claims is ambiguous and often “strange”. In the research, gender, race, design and functions all interact and learners respond often based on the stereotypes used in human interactions. The most appealing agent tending to have a more positive effect on learning. Also context mediates perceptions and so how pedagogical agents are perceived and understood. 
The relationship between the agents and learners and their interactions is the subject of a number of studies on topics of discussion and social practices. Found that students and agents engage in small-talk and playfulness even though they are aware they are interacting with an arteficial agent. Also saw aggressive interactions from the learners, especially if the expert-agent is unable to answer a query. Students also shared personal information with the agents. Agents were positioned in to different roles as a learner companion, as a mediator between academic staff and learner, as a partner.
So social and psychological issues are as important as technology design issues. So do we need a Turing test for MOOC instruction? How we design technologies reflect as well as shape our cultures. 
//Ends with Q&A discussion

Open online spaces of professional learning: searching for understanding  the ‘material’ of Twitter discussion events

Here are the slides from my presentation to the Social Informatics cluster group meeting of 13 June 2014.

Abstract:

Recent years have seen a growth in micro-blogging discussion events intended to support professional learning (McCulloch, et al, 2011; Bingham and Conner, 2010) communities. These events often take place on Twitter and are open to anyone using that service. The synchronous events are organised through the convention of hashtags (#) in combination with a shortened name as an explicit mechanism to aggregate contributions and enable open interactions (Bruns 2011).
This presentation will explore an initial investigation of two of these Twitter discussion event communities that both target corporate learning and development professionals. The overall study is concerned with how social discourses within a specific context emerge as sense-making and legitimation strategies around particular practices (Phillips and Hardy 2002: 25) and so will employ a multi-modal discourse analysis approach (Levine and Scullion 2004). However, the data from these Twitter discussion events does not have a transparently coherent structure as discussion sequences run coterminously and interrupt one another (Honeycutt and Herring 2009). So, with the purpose of “making sense of the data”, this presentation outlines the approaches used in identifying and analysing the key patterns of participation and structures of the Twitter discussion events. The descriptive statistical approaches suggested by Bruns (2014) are used to analyse the Twitter events and to discuss the limits of such analysis with reference to recent debates on the nature and status of ‘data’ in digital research (boyd and Crawford 2012; Baym 2013). The extent to which this kind of analysis can reveal the power and participation strategies of Twitter users in these events will be discussed.

LinkedIn network map

This is a very short post on my LinkedIn network mapLinkedIn network map

The identification of three distinct clusters of contacts is interesting and (kind of) makes sense. What is particularly useful is identifying the links between clusters that ‘should’ be stronger. In terms of developing a professional personal learning network as part of a personal learning environment, LinkIn maps  look  useful as a visual “sense-making” tool and for identifying your network’s strengths and weaknesses. Next is to attempt to work out why some components of my networks look weak, if these weaker areas can and should be strengthened and, if so, how?

UFHRD 2014: 6 June, key note on Exploring HRD Wendy Ruona

The talk aims to discuss the identity of HRD and on its values and practices and whether it should professionalise;  exploring the border zone of sociology of knowledge and landscape of the professions; and in searching for a frame for further conversation and development of the ideology and culture of HRD.

HRD has a strong sense of identity: “we know who we are” as human and organisational development (Hamlin & Stewart 2011) identified common core themes of developing knowledge, skills and competence along with work-related systems and learning in work. Furthermore, the debates on learning and performance are replicated in the literature but that is combined in many definitions so that debate appears to be resolved.

HRD struggled to identify the phenomena of study with an ideology of why we’re interested in the phenomena. The construction of HRD has been validated in both practice and research since 1989 with McLagan’s HR wheel which is research based rather than being a conceptual definition.  Gosh et al 2013 reviewed four journals over ten years and identified training & learning as key themes of the field.

But by positioning HRD as about both individual and organisational development generates a complex and dynamic subject discipline in “the meat grinder”. Also as HRD emerged from training there is a struggle to integrate OD and training and a question on whether this integration is really being explored  in depth.

In relation to this is the question of whether HRD is a generalist of specialist subject. So should HRD programmes include instructional design learning technology but this pushes against the limited time available on programmes against the breadth of subjects to cover. This pushes HRD towards generalisation and may disadvantage student in the job market as they lack of specialist knowledge and skills. This issue is reflected also in research in HRD that lacks a unique disciplinary frame – research could ‘fit’ across many domains of the social sciences – and this breadth may also be shallow compared to other disciplines.

There has also been the emergence of national HRD asking questions on the boundaries of HRD into workforce development and national policies.

The second question is whether HRD is a profession as a self-controlled occupation, that the identity of professions is more concerned with power of control over the work (Friedson 2001). So lawyers and medics control their work. So is HRD specialised, has formal education, executive jurisdiction, sheltered position and an ideology of doing good.

The audience feedback on these characteristics:

- is HRD work specialised: our work is diffused across performance management, quality improvement, change management but there are some areas of specialised practices. So are there specialisms within the umbrella of HRD but are these specialised enough? But is there advantage in being in the space between professions.

- we don’t have executive jurisdiction as the client controls our work

- we don’t have sheltered position as other communities of practice encroaching into the HRD ‘space’ such as change managers, OD, learning design. HRD is seen as a sub-set of HRM

- formal training by occupation: yes,  but in multiple locations across business schools and in education schools and that space in HE is small and tenuous. Also training is not required to practice HRD nor to be successful in HRD

- an ideology of doing good and quality work which also has an altruistic component as contributing to something that society values. While we espouse this, there is a tension with the lack of executive jurisdiction as well as the difficulties of what *is* good work.

So we’d have to conclude that HRD is not a profession.

Are we a discipline? That is constructed by academia as a “branch of knowledge” and we probably are a discipline by the newer and looser definitions. HRD has an identity, cultural attributes, shared objects of study and disciplinary stance along with artefacts of journals, conferences etc. But HRD is not a strong discipline. Using Becher and Trowler (2001) schema we are more fragmented, permeable, unstable and complex.

Also raising the issue of the relationship with human resources (HR) as HRD/ OD ascended the corporate ladder to be more strategic and so converged towards HR. This was validated in a 2008 study with a strong emphasis on internal  consulting to help managers solve people problems. So former management consultants are getting these strategic roles which further dilutes the occupational identity of HR/D.

HRD also relates closely with other specialisms including HR; OD; instructional design, etc……

The issue of professional identity is increasingly important and the social construction of identity should be more central to professional education in HRD. Practitioners experience persistent identity struggles as eg, asHR, or a consultant or your knowledge is too broad and too shallow.

If professional identity is a choice in a pluralistic world then how are we preparing our students for this? Especialy how are we supporting students to act as boundary spanners and integrate new knowledge while maintaining a professional identity.

Future paths for HRD:

1. that we narrow and consolidate back to training and learning

2. focus on the integrated T&D with OD

3. different stance and give up the quest to be a profession and acknowledge there is no such thing as a HRD frame and so expect our students to be boundary spanners across professional domains. We should focus on the discipline of HRD as practice rather than a profession.

Q: on spanning between HE and practitioner?

Comment: that we are already heading down the third path of giving up on being defined as a profession. HRD is a network of networks.

But there is an increased recognition of the value of learning and development specialists including instructional design by businesses. Also recognising that OD is more integrating with concerns of individual learning and development.

A further reflection is that newer scholars have been overly concerned with disciplinary ‘neatness’ rather than entrepreneurial boundary spanning.

UFHRD 2014: 5 June, key note on HRD research and design science, Prof Eugene Sadler-Smith

Back at the UFHRD conference and the post-lunch key note address.

Change dthe title to “(Quite) grupy old men, mars bars and epistemology”. Noted a slide from a talk yesterday as a list of critics of HRD: the grumpy old men including “Sadler-Smith 2014″!

Looked at the issue of relevance and rigour in HRD and critiqued by academics as overly descriptive, needs ot be evidence based and criticised as ambiguous over goals and how to achieve them. But these issues have been present since the foundation of HRD academic journals. It is time to find a solution to the double-bind of relevance and rigour.

Could design science be a productive line of inquiry to resolve some of these issues in HRD research.

Design science positioned in terms of explanatary sciences and field problems and artefacts. Looking to SImon’s work on ‘.sciences of the artificial’. Simon distinguishes between explanatory sciences that describe, explain and preduct the natural and social worlds. While design science is concerned with developing actionable knowledge for designing solutions in the real work (field problems). But these interact, eg, Newton’s second law (explanatory) is used in air travel / engineering (design science), or at the Forth Road Bridge as a solution to the field problem of trains crossing the Firth of Forth. Engineering is a design science as is medicine and more recently in education and management. Leads to the question of what are the field problems in education or management, eg, teaching complicated problem-solving, how to plan for complexity/ uncertainty.

In the case of the design science perspective for HRD, what might be the field problems of research and professional practice? But proactice can be seen as a distinctive component from the research where practice is applied knowledge.

Which brings us to the issue of the artefact. Artefacts have a purpose in addressing a field problem and so are moulded to the context, eg, sunglasses moulded by sunshine. But what artefacts does HRD produce (eg, learning materials, procedures, products…) as central to the process of design.

It is also worth noting that design science is not ‘mode 2′ research as design science is concerned with the product of research, nor applied science and not action research but can be related to all of these.

How to do design science:

1. design proposition; 2. design science logic; 3. testing the logic and 4. applying the logic. The design proposition depends on a logic pf prescription (in this context, use this intervention to generate this desired outcome by achieving a specific mechanism). Creates a logic of Context, Intervention, Mechanism, Outcome (CIMO). Management and HRD literature tends to focus on intervention and outcomes and so ignores the generative mechanisms as these are grounded in explanatory science (as well as decontextualised). It raises the question of what is meant by theory in a CIMO logic.

In the application of the CIMO logic, multiple interventions are often required. This fits well with HRM in terms of strategic HRM/D discussions of bundles of interventions/ practices. Eg, Hodgkinson and Healey (2008) used psychology theory to develop design propositions for scenario planning.

Simon: the essence of the design problems resides in assemblages of components.

Testing the CIMO logic depends in locating generalisations valid across different contexts and is pluralistic in termsof methods. In education, use design based research, using a VLE in science education to promote complex inquiry skills – generates generalised findings and falsifiability.

HRD research and design science – is it of any use? Since 2007 there have been some papers referring to design science in the HRD journals.

But management academia privilege the eexplanatorysciences over design sciences (Van Aken 2005). Design science may assists HRD in overcoming issues of relevance to practitioners in the production of actionable knowledge.

The epistemological implications of a design science in terms of what knowledge is and how it might be created – is there a specific type of HRD knowledge and theory to be produced. Researchers should co-create with practitioners on developing design propositions and that interventions are tested in multiple contexts.

UFHRD 2014: 4 June, parallel session on Theory & Foundations of HRD

We’re in to the next parallel sessions and again I’ll be taking short notes on these.

Discourses in HRD: Complexity, Continuity and Contradictions, Jean Kellie, Brian Milsom (University of Hull). The research was framed by the integrationist agenda of HRD with HRM and a functionalist approach around effectiveness and unitarist approach the deproblematises the ‘fit’ between the individual and organisation. The alternative is a critical perspective (Garavan 2007; Valentin 2006) drawing attention to the different meanings attached to HRD by different stakeholders. Researching HRD professionals and the discursive devices used in the promotion of HRD in organisations and how this is influenced by dominant discourses within organisations and this may result in competing and complementing discourses and how public and private discourses on HRD may be reconciled.
The research used 20 semi-structured interviews. Found evidence of competing discourses including tensions between organisational and individual discourses. In particular, linking identity troubles centred on the discursive practices of the HRD practitioners.

A Question of Identity: The Meanings of Identity and the Significance of Identity as a Theoretical Foundation for HRD, Russell Warhurst (University of Chester and Aalto University Finland). The study focuses on Management Development (MD) which is a major area of HRD activity as an empirical study on identity work. Brown 2014 meta-analysis of identities in organisations and much research in identities is on identity as an outcome of HRD interventions.

There are massive problems in issues of definitions of professional identity. This research adopts a constructivist perspective with identity as a project of becoming and identity work and hence identity shift. Identity is formed through discourse “it is through narrative that we define ourselves”.

Through the analysis of interview data, a sub-group of “higher than average” learners demonstrated considerable personal learning and team and organisational learning. These managers displayed certain distinct characteristics: strong sense of managerial sense – a differentiated sense of self; secure sense of managerial self – claimed selves to be creative change agents; evidence of self-doubt questioning their capabilities; and strong commitment to future managerial self – strong commitment to their managerial careers. These four facets can be understood as a precursor to an unusual appetite for learning and as new resources for identity work.

Gold and Holman (2001) management education should concentrate on the significance of identity for readiness to learn.

Q on whether found evidence of earlier identities that echoed forward to their managerial identities. Non-higher learners tended to maintain their earlier professional/ specialist identities.

UFHRD 2014: 4 June, parallel session on Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation

We’ve now moved to the parallel sessions and I’ll be taking short notes on these.

We’re starting with Lynne Booth, Michelle Blackburn and Simon Warwick (Sheffield Hallam) on the effective use and assessment of web-based collaborative learning. The learning intervention was in the context of a UG programme on business and human resources and the development of a first year course. Also positioned in the context of a institutional emphasis on employability and the student experience to develop tangible evidence of the HR knowledge of students. So the course was based on the production of HR websites by the student groups using Google Sites so outside the VLE but able to use Sites templates.

While group work was popular but not for assessment due to social loafing (and emphasised by employers) so generated a way of differential marking. Groups were self-selected by should be mixed gender and mixed culture with an aim for authentic learning to enhance employability.

The websites were tone developed as a response to a development need identified by a fictional HR manager by email.

Students also had to create a academic reflection on the sites produced.

Students tended not to react to formative feedback but did appear to have a positive effect on placement rates but was difficult to mark. Little evidence of social loafing.

There remains an issue on scalability and support from learning technologists for staff and students. Also, all other modules use more traditional assessments.

Placing the Transfer of Learning at the Heart of HRD Practice with Vivienne Griggs, Dianne McLaren, Barbara Nixon, Joanna Smith of Leeds Met but the research involves both Synaptic Change Ltd and Connecting Housing on testing a transfer of learning model. The research on the model is framed by issues of alignment between L&D and business strategy as well as the use of big data in evaluation of L&D. The model was based on the importance of the line manager in L&D in embedding training and development outcomes in BAU. Also sought to embed evaluation as a process in L&D interventions.

A key focus was to define success criteria for the individual, the trainer, the line managers and the organisation which can be a challenge.

The training was on having difficult conversations which was followed by stakeholder focus groups and interviews on how effective the model was seen for transferring and embedding training and learning. A stakeholder approach including the trainees in defining success criteria was important in the overall success of the intervention. However, there was little preparation by line managers for the transfer of training. Line managers seemed disengaged from the use of the training but peer support was effective. A trainee comments that they would want their manager involved!

There is an issue of scaling the process to larger organisations. Further development to involve sustainability of impacts and supporting peer-support.

Return on Investment: Contrary to Popular Belief, MOOC’s Are Not Free with Marie A. Valentin, Fred Nafukho, Celestino Valentin Jr., Detra Johnson, John LeCounte (Texas A&M) started with a introduction to MOOCs and the research questions on the true costs of MOOCs and the direct and indirect ROE based on Human Capital Theory. The research seemed to be

MOOC providers making revenue from credits; certification; but also recruitment services pay a fee for data on users, text book sales by linking the course to the text book; selling data to third parties and claims for HEI recruitment to mainstream programmes. This was a work-in-progress and was very much orientated to xMOOCs and the VC-backed US MOOC providers.