Category Archives: Uncategorized

e-learning resources

A couple of useful resources found this week:

Designer e-learning provides an  interesting list of resources for e-learning designers (not developers). The emphasis on design thinking competences is particularly interesting. Examples of deeper use of design thinking approaches to learning design would be interesting, especially in terms of ethnographic approaches to needs and uses analysis. This is also an interesting site for including a useful emphasis on UX in e-learning design.

Also, a useful resource on project management for instructional designers which provides a comprehensive text with videos

Future work and career planning

Came across an interesting post here on skills for employability from Lynda Gratton. The emphasis on deep skills does tie in with what I’ve been seeing in the local job market of generalist skill sets being desirable for more junior posts while “deep” skills are required for the higher value/ better paid jobs. Also, this finding does seem to suggest that the notion of the icicle based skill-set is currently less desirable than I previously thought. Or is it a question of presentation whereby an icicle person presents themselves as t-shaped (on the basis of targeting your application) yet the icicle skill-set remains desirable for the longer-term career as it enhances the individual’s adaptive capacity?

e-learning market

Clive Shepherd has highlighted the e-learning centre report on the market for e-learning in UK and Europe. A free summary is available here. As Clive’s post points out, the UK market is expected to grow by 4.76% to £472m in 2010 – slower growth but a bigger market than France or Germany. As a sort of comparison, Datamonitor recently identified the UK market for consulting services at averaging 7% between 2010 – 2014 and growth in the UK economy as a whole being around the 2% mark. Yet a recent report from Boston Consulting Group on e-commerce in the UK is interesting in that it finds that:

The U.K. Internet economy contributed £100 billion in 2009, representing 7.2 percent of U.K. GDP—more than construction, transport, or utilities.

and also predicts a 10% growth rate per annum up to 10% of GDP by 2015. So how well is the e-learning industry really doing?

A few other things to note on the report summary is the positioning of different facets of e-learning in relation to one another. In particular, that web 2.0/ e-learning 2.0 is placed (I think – but tell me if I’m wrong) on the broadcasting side of a continuum with learning at the other end while VLEs are placed more towards the learning end. This typology seems strange given the interactional nature at the heart of web 2.0 while VLEs, in my experience, tend to be used as course management systems, file repositories, etc. This highlights the difficulty of defining the e-learning industry. What software or SaaS should be included and, more importantly, excluded. Should Twitter or WordPress or Drupal be included on the basis that a lot of learning occurs through these tools that were not formally designed for learning purposes. While analysing the size of the formal e-learning sector as represented by VLEs, course management systems and formal learning content creators is a useful exercise, this is a very different proposition from mapping the economy of e-learning activities as a whole, eg, across the value chain. So it is possible, and possibly desirable, to see the “industry” as defined by formal providers declining while the scale and scope of e-learning activities continues to grow.

maturity or a loss of edge?

While I’m admittedly a bit behind the times, was intrigued by this piece of news that Nielson and McKinsey were coming together to form a joint venture

to create a new company today called NM Incite, which builds upon the industry-leading social media and online brand metrics, consumer insights and real-time market intelligence of Nielsen BuzzMetrics to transform business operations including product development, marketing, communications and customer service.

While obviously a sign of “maturing” of social media for business, there should be concern social media becomes part of the intelligence, market segments, metrics and management discourses that suggest procedure, process and control – rather than dialogues with and between different stakeholders that interact with and through an organisation. However, this will be interesting to follow for signs that such a venture is able to nurture the best of the Enterprise 2.0/ social business whereby the boundaries of organisation become blurred or disintegrate. These can be the boundaries between customers, suppliers, partners, distributers, advertisers or the internal boundaries, especially between silos of knowing. Or will we see the use of the “social” rhetoric as a veneer to traditional patterns of managerialism – lipstick on the face of the gorilla?

week(very-ish) notes [271010]

OK really monthly notes. The ‘joys’ or work have intervened so I’ve posted even less/ read even less and interacted with the world even less than normal. As you may guess, I use the term ‘joy’ quite incorrectly. Just for clarification, a change in job role has meant I’ve been head down and churning through bureaucracy for the last too many weeks. Not fun but will hopefully loose this role soonest.

As could be expected, there has been little progress on my PhD work of late but this will have to change as I have a progress board approaching. I’m looking at stringing together an Actor Network Theory inspired approach involving a combination of CMC interaction analysis of twitter based learning events with “following the actors” [micro-texts and people] through other online presences – as the ‘actants’ shift to more private realms then the research should shift from pure online observation to direct interviews of key informants. Currently grappling with some of the ethical issues here – when does virtual ethnographic observation become some form of cyber stalking?

While its an ambitious methodological project I think its realisable (or am I a fool?)! Even if I’m being a fool, its still damn interesting at this stage.

week notes [290910]

consistently intermittent on these notes.

It has been the start of term so I’ve mainly been heads down in work. The start of term has gone well with a good group of students who really engaged well in a series of preparatory activities. On reflection, we tried to do too much and will be looking to condense the experience in the future.

Have also been able to take forward some of the more interesting research and development work. The most exciting bits cannot be mentioned here yet. But a small team of us are close to developing a clear framework for the strategic development of our subject area in the university combining mode 1 and mode 2 research, continuing professional development delivery and a postgraduate programme predicated on socio-material approaches to learning and knowledge. To operationalise this framework appears to be becoming the major focus of my work for the next five years or so.

My PhD research has been pulled back on track – i really needed some help on that as i went through a definite year one wobble! More on this to follow soon.

A frustration has been, for want of a better expression, the institutional drag on doing the work. In particular, the limited capacity to deliver a plethora of small to larger scale changes, along with internal political posturing has been a difficulty. Universities really are strange places, fearful of change but very sensitive to personal opportunities for advancement or threats to status. Very different from my previous experiences in other sectors and something I’m still struggling to work out how i can avoid the negative fall out from such a culture while driving forward on the type of work I see as valuable.

transforming education

An interesting post from Lars here on disruptive innovation of higher education. An interesting read and makes a strong case for the two year undergraduate degree. Especially as the traditional academic year structure is based on pre-industrial labour requirements (see Simon Jenkins in The Guardian), the argument for the two year degree appears stronger.
Structurally, higher education appears financially unsustainable and systematically inefficient. Highly paid academics develop the product as in course content, deliver the content and are responsible for a high proportion of administrative support for the course. At the same time, career development in many Universities is largely based on research activities and outputs. So a major barrier for implementing the two year degree would be academic staff as their careers are based on research, which requires time…. the long holidays have a purpose…
So there would appear to be two clear solutions. To change the link between research and career development, which is the case with many newer Universities – arguably they have a stronger record in teaching quality. Or employ a smaller number of well paid academics employed in research and course development and less well paid teaching staff responsible for delivery (as I understand it, the Open University is broadly based on this structure). Yet would this be acceptable for the average student with expectations of University involving being directly taught by the ‘famous’ professors and engaging in intellectual debate at the cutting edge (the fact that a degree is still engaging in the building blocks of knowledge far from the cutting edge doesn’t feature in this fiction)? So Universities are caught between efficiency/ effectiveness drivers versus meeting customer expectations …

[intermittent] week notes [28082010]

Its been a difficult few weeks of ball juggling. As part of getting my contract renewed I’ve taken on the role of Director of a postgraduate programme. This is alongside leading the revision of this programme for a new approval Board in early 2011, existing teaching commitments across two programmes, dissertation supervisions and my own PhD (progressing at a snails pace). While alot of the work is interesting, a fair amount is not very engaging to say the least. What I find amusing (not in a good way) is that I’m currently completing tasks that eight years ago when I earned almost half what i do now, my then line manager would have told me I was wasting my time and the company’s money (that was in a social enterprise, now I’m in higher education, no one seems too concerned about the waste!).
Having read this from Tony Hurst can only feel humbled, a bit lazy and realising there must be a trick to this academic life I’m really not yet getting.

On the meaning of a case study

I am currently trying to draft a research framework for my PhD and especially what might be the basic unit of analysis.

Ragin (2000) in discussing case orientated research (COR) raises the key question: a case of what is being researched? In turn, this problematises the notion of a population in COR. One approach may be for case populations can be defined by the research question which in turn highlights the interplay of population definition and causal validity. For example, using Orr’s (1996) analysis of work there may be two approaches to a COR ‘population’: (a) work as a series of employment relations and (b) work as day-to-day activities. My study is interested in work as (b) so not necessarily bounded by particular organisation specific employment relations

Howard (2002) discusses field settings as specific organisations or physical spaces but also as ‘nodal events’ that are socially significant to a community. His research focus was on a specific professional community. Maier & Thalman (2008) discuss the impacts of web 2.0 for knowledge workers in terms of deinstitutionalisation through, for example, individualisation and interaction. The implications of these arguments for case study research that focuses on informal learning practices in the workplace is that a significant proportion of such learning is supported by the individual’s own networks of contacts and trusted sources. Organisational boundaries are arguably less relevant, and access to data ‘held’ by the organisation may provide only a partial picture in the area of interest. Rather, informal learning may be better understood through a focus on ‘nodal events’ that can be seen as being interactions occurring within and between communities and/ or networks.

But this raises further issues of how to enter and/ or bound a network? What is or is not a network? Employing some aspects of Actor Network Theory, how tentative, dynamic and unstable can a series of connections be while still a network?

Howard, P.N. (2002) Network ethnography and the hypermedia organization: new media, new organizations, new methods. New Media and Society. 4 (4), 550 – 574
Maier, R. and Thalmann, S. (2008) Informal learner styles: Individuation, interaction, in-form-ation.
Orr, J.E. (1996) Talking About Machines: an ethnography of a modern job. New York: Cornell University Press
Ragin, C.C. (2000) Fuzzy-set social science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

week notes [02082010]

Its been a difficult couple of weeks waiting to see if my contract would be extended while piling up a back log of tasks that all had future pay-offs. Not exactly motivating to get going on it must be said.

But now my contract has been renewed for a 12 month period. Relief as the jobs market remains pretty poor but some concerns as well (I’m sure a few years ago I’d have been more resilient than am now?): mainly I have to impress and make myself indispensable while growing the interesting aspects of the job and keeping an eye on other opportunities. In terms of the last point, I think I’ve neglected developing my own profile and will need to address this over the next six months or so.

So the next week is a combination of head down and catching up along with a hefty amount of planning the next 12 months so I have a few more opportunities than i feel like I do at the moment.