Category Archives: research

What is wrong with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’

Last Friday I attended a Digital Cultures & Education research group presentation by Sian Bayne on her recent article What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’?

These are my notes taken during the presentation and then tidied up later – so they may well be limit, partial and mistaken!


16th century French cypher machine in the shape of a book with arms of Henri II. Image from Uploadalt

While Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is a widely used term in the UK and Europe, the presentation positions TEL as an essentially conservative term that discursively limits what we do as researchers and researchers in the field of digital education and learning. Sian’s critique draws on three theoretical perspectives:

* Science & Technology Studies (STS) for a critique of ‘Technology
* Critical posthumanism for a critique of ‘Enhancement
* Gert Biesta’s language of learning for ‘Learning

For Technology, we dont tend to define it but rather black box it as unproblematically in service to teaching practices. This black-boxing of technology as supporting learning and teaching creates a barrier between the technology and the social practices of teaching. As Hamilton & Friesen discuss, two main perspectives on technology as either as an essentialist perspective of unalienable qualities of the technologies or we treat it instrumentally as a neutral set of tools. I both cases technology is understood as being independent of the social context in which it is used. Hamilton & Friesen argue we need to take a more critical stance especially in terms of technology as the operationalisation of values and to engage in larger issues such as social justice, the speed of change and globalisation, the nature of learning or what it is to be human.

By using the term, Enhanced, TEL adopts a conservative discourse as it assumes there is no need to radically rethink teaching & learning practices but just a need to enhance of tinker with existing practice. So enhancement aligns with Transhumanism – a humanist philosophy of rationality and human perfectibility where technological advances remove the limitations of being human (Bostrom 2005)
Critical post-humanism (Simon 2003) is a philosophical critique of the humanism of the Enlightenment and its assumptions on human nature and the emphasis on human rationality. arguing that these assumptions are complicit in dominatory practices of opporession and control. The human being is just one component in complex ecology of practice that also includes machines, non-human components in symmetry. So post-humanism is more about humility and appreciation of that our involvement as humans in our context is complex and inter-related and interactional. Yet TEL buys into a dominant Transhumanism emphasising the cognitive enhancement of the mind and so could include the use of drugs as a ’technology’ to enhance learning. The Technology Enhanced Learning System Upgrade report.
Transhumanism positions technology as an object acted on by human subject so ignoring how humans are shaped by and shape technology and does not ask Is ‘enhancement’ good, who benefits from enhancement and is enhancing is context specific? It is argued that TEL could learn from the post humanist critique of Transhumanism

The ‘problem’ of Learning draws on Gert Biesta’s writing on the new language of learning and more specifically, the ‘learnification’ of discourses of education. This involves talking about “learning” rather than “teaching”, or “education”. Learning as a terms is used as a proxy for education that takes discussions away from considerations of structures of power in education itself. So learnification discursively instrumentalises education – education is provided/ delivered to learners based on predefined needs rather than needs emerging and evolving over time. So learners are positioned as customers or clients of education ‘providers’ and TEL gets bound up with this neo-liberal discourse/ perspective

So the label of TEL tacitly subordinates social practice to technology while also ontologically separating the human from the non-human. The TEL discourse is aligned with broader enhancement discourse that enrols transhumanism and instrumentalisation so entrenching a particular view of the relationships between education, learning and technology.

Rather, education technologies involve complex assemblages of human and non-human components and as practitioners and researcher, we need to embrace that complexity. Posthumanism as a stance, is a way of doing this and understanding learning as an emergent property of complex and fluid networks of human and non-human elements coming together. In posthumanism, the human is not an essence but rather a moment.

Unbundling higher education

These are my notes from a seminar by Amy Collier, Stanford University  titled The Good, the Bad and the Unbundled on 27 August 2014. These notes were taken live and then cleaned up a bit, links added etc. but they remain a bit partial and sketchy in places.  For a more thoughtful and reflective take on the presentation, see Hazel Christie’s post here. Amy’s own post on her visit  can be found here.

The presentation is looking at this emerging phenomenon in the US Higher Education sector and the possible lessons for UK Higher Education.

Amy has been at Stanford for two half years working on MOOCs and on supporting the increasing interest in online learning at Stanford from a position of a weak tradition of online learning. Her role initially focused on the operational aspects of course design. She now has developed a more strategic role asking what they’re doing, who is being targeted and why adopting online learning.

Unbundling is an increasingly prominent topic in US  higher education. It should also be noted that unbundling has a long presence in UK HE in particular through the Open University.

The Unbundling idea has taken hold in the US as part of a wider discourse of ‘disruption’. The US has a weird love affair with the term ‘disruption’. This love affair is based on a ‘dis-ease’ with how things are currently done. Higher education is ‘broken’ and should be disrupted and that disruption is often undertaken through unbundling. Yet, that discourse of  dis-ease with a broken education system is often promoted by others as means to sell ‘solutions’.

Unbundling is the separation of ownership of infrastructure and processes of service provision to gain efficiencies and savings. So unbundling involves the compartmentalism of components of HE that are then outsourced to other providers rather than the traditional model of being provided by a single institution.

As an example, the music industry as traditionally produce a bundled product such as the album, but then iTunes disrupted this product by allowing the purchasing of single songs, users creating their own playlists, etc… Apple and iTunes allowed us as customer to do things with the purchased products independently of music businesses. This development lead on to Pandora and Spotify and took place within a discourse of ‘freedom’ and ‘access to artists’ and hence as the democratisation of the music industry. Similarly, we’e seeing an emerging discourse on the democratisation of higher education in US.

So what is the problem? What is lost when we unbundle? In the case of the music industry, we can see a counter-trend with the return of the cassette as a ‘product’ as a piece of art that cannot be unbundled (popular in Portland – who knew?), it is a single, indivisable and cohesive piece of art. Similar examples of rebundling can be seen in the examples of free music when you buy phone X or in playlists created by Pandora. So unbundling and then rebundling leads to a loss of control and more importantly, a loss of a sense of the whole – replaced by another interpretation of that whole – the art of the album. Also, while obscure artists can be found online they don’t have the sales volumes to make money through these unbundled services.

How does this apply to HE? Returning to the notion of HE as broken is “disaster porn” such as the  IPPR report, An Avalanche is Coming. The IPPR report cites the diversity of pressures on HE in terms of purpose, funding, public policy in the context of a globalised economy where HE is no longer fit for purpose. HE should, therefore, look to technological solutions and these are to be found in the private sector.

A particular recent emphasis is on questioning the value of university, is it worth going? The degree is dead, reimagining higher education. Jose Ferriera (at Knewton) claims bundling works to trick people in to believing a service is worth more than it is and hiding the real cost-benefit.

Unbundling in HE may involve splitting: content; social networks; accreditation; delivery; testing; and research (see Henry Brady, UC Berkeley). But what are the tensions then between economic efficiencies and the holistic integrity of education?

MOOCs have inflated this discussion of disruption and unbundling. Clay Shirky argues that HE is being, and should be disrupted and, returning to the music industry analogy, the “MP3 is our MOOC“.

And we can see examples of MOOCs unbundle accreditation from HE now. The American Council of Education is offering credientialisation of MOOCs through member HEIs so separating/ unbundling the delivery and accreditation of courses. Antioch College told its own students that they could receive credit for MOOCs thereby unbundled content, credit and, in this case, the tutoring and support of learning.

But the concept of unbundling has been going on in HE at least since the 19th Century, for example, in unbundling academics from the pastoral roles.

The problems of unbundling:

While a lot of the authors of the disruption discourse make this comparison to the music industry, as George Siemens states, education is a social and cultural as well as content ‘industry’. In taking that perspective, a number of problems with, or questions on, unbundling can be identified:

1. Who, how and what of rebundling? Who does the rebundling and what power are they taking through rebundling? Things that get unbundled tend to be rebundled with a change of ownership and control and what does this mean, for example, on the student experience?

The Minerva project provides access to higher education at reduced cost by focusing on (transferable) skills rather than content/ domain knowledge. They rely on MOOCs for domain knowledge for introductory courses. So Minerva are rebundling MOOCs provided by others while focusing on project-based and experiential learning..

A dark-side of this is that there will still be very bundled education institutions and there is a danger that these highly bundled experiences become the expensive premium service for an elite minority. So the unbundling and rebundling ‘disruptions’ will increase the divisions on access to high quality education.

So, while it remains the case that for some students the unbundled experience may be what they want and need, a key question remains that if unbundling is about raising access to HE then who for and to what form of HE?

Also, bundled and unbundled experiences collected data. HEIs are generally trusted to handle data with care and respect but what happens when services are unbundled and rebundled with the concomitant opportunities for the commercial exploitation of student data. For example, the backlash on the recent Facebook experiment was not just against Facebook but also Cornell University for their role in analysing the data.

2. Impacts on teaching and other staff.
We can see the unbundling of the academics’ role eg, in support development of student social networks, advising, admissions, instruction design,teaching, research etc . especially to para-academics, but this is problematic if you view the academics’ role as holistic.
In the case of MOOCs, courses are being designed by people who may not deliver/ teach on them. But this approach can also be seen in the development of Online & Distance Learning (ODL)  programmes from the 1990s as they considered how learning technologists interacted with academic staff. Different models of ODL can be seen:

(i) craft model where faculty did it all; (ii) collegial model where academics helped each other; and (iii) where a virtual assembly line was created the produced a course for  academics to deliver. The craft model is where academics identified themselves as autonomous experts whereas this identity was lost in the assembly line model. So unbundling also affects academic self-identification.

But why is an integrated faculty role of value? Because it engages academics in their work and highlights the integrative role of research and teaching. On the other hand, unbundling does allow faculty to focus on individual areas of strength – why force a shy researcher in to teaching?

There are other models such as Patricia Ianuzzi’s (University of Nevada) team-based model involving the co-production between academics and para-academics of student experiences.

3. the lost art of the University: what happens when unbundling leads to loss of serendipity and synergies of the bundled student experience?

On a positive note, unbundling may provide opportunities for the redesign of HE and to challenge assumptions of the institutions.

Examples of redesigning rather than unbundling has changed HE
1. domain of one’s own at the University Mary Washington as a push-back against VLEs and MLEs. Each student was provided with a domain for students to use any tools they wanted and use for their learning. This initiative allows students to experiment with online learning both personally and in groups. Another initiative is Thought Vectors at Virginia Commonwealth University enabling student learning on open websites.

2. the Stanford 2025 project involved both students and staff to consider the redesign of Stanford for 2025. For example, redesigned away from semester and academic years to a much more flexible programme structure built around micro-learning opportunities as Paced Education. In effect this is unbundling the curriculum and is being implemented through The Impact Lab. This social innovation is focused on the food system and involves students researching (immersion), prototyping and piloting implementations of interventions in the food system.

The key point of this talk is to examine the issues and opportunities in the unbundling of higher education.

Q: Can you separate the neo-liberal drivers of the rise of idea of unbundling and the more positive opportunities of redesign? How suspicious should we be of unbundling in HE?
A: I’m very suspicious mainly because I work in Silicon Valley and see unbundling projected as way for start-ups to access investment and government  to ‘solve’ higher education through the private sector.

Q: Can you comment on the adjunct faculty in the US as it appears to be linked?
A: Unbundling the faculty role leads to the deskilling of the faculty so seeing rise of adjunct faculty as having very specialist skills along with precarious employment positions. See the alt ac movement in US (alternative academic).

Q: Comments Music Industry to suggest that senior managers saw that the internet would change their business but didn’t know how to change. Also, the UK has the experience of the OU for the team development of courses. Finally, HEI is very diverse but that is hidden to many of us. Some HEIs rebundle through eg, accreditation of prior learning (cites military in US as example of this)
A: RPEL is really important. A key danger of unbundling is that it imposes a monolithic view of HE and that a sense diversity is lost.

Q: Interested in your views of a model from Cornell University of a faculty housing model of free housing if you live with the students as a rebundling of student services?
A: Stanford has strong ethos of living on campus and the creation of a learning community.

Q: Who is the customer and what is the product? Are students viewed as a product and society the customer?
A: The student as customer is a strong aspect of the unbundling discourse. People have changed their ideas of education as a public good and the promotion of citizenship – now less of a priority given the end of the Cold War.

Q: Worried that there may be an oversimplification of a good or bad unbundling and whether there is a need for a bigger discussion on what the university is for?
A: I’m not opposed to unbundling per se but more discussion is needed beyond the binary of good and bad but that allows the challenge of the assumptions of educational institutions

weeknotes [25082014]

Over the last couple of weeks, my time has been spent on:

A picture of various draft word processed documentssupervising Masters students on the dissertations with most submitting last week

working with three part-time students as they start their dissertations

developing a couple of ideas on a new course involving what is, I think, an innovative structure. More to follow on both of these

piloting discourse analysis for my PhD studies which is both interesting and slightly overwhelming – I mean, how much data can I really use?

writing a couple of papers for (hopeful) publication

preparing for teaching starting in a couple of weeks on two online courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments

planning a Course for a different programme on Managing Organisational Learning & Knowledge (MOLK) that will be a blended Course starting in January 2015.

attended an interesting workshop on employability for postgraduate students as part of the Making Most of Masters project. The emphasis on employability is being partly driven by changes in the PGT market as student recruitment is counter-cyclical to the economy. Hence the market for PGT students is expected to become more competitive and requiring HEIs to develop key added-value offers to students which often revolve around issues of employability, employment outcomes and employer engagement.
The Making Most of Masters project started with mapping what work-based learning was already taking place, then defining a model for work-based dissertations and delivering and refining the model to finally generate a self-sustaining model. This is essentially a toolkit for running work-based dissertation projects.

The focus for the next couple of weeks will be on finalising the draft papers and preparing for the teaching…. and, of course, marking dissertations….

Idea development

Thinking through and research notes on a new project idea:

Notes and mind maps on ideas for a new project

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.


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.

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.