Collaborative knowledge buildingby Stefan Morcov
In modern organizations, stakeholders frequently switch roles between trainers and trainees. They contribute to eLearning content as much as they benefit from it. Staff needs to learn and adapt fast. They cannot afford to take the long time-offs required for traditional training; instead, they need to find exactly the right piece of content needed on the spot. In operations management terms, we may call it Just-in-time (JIT) Learning¹.
Welcome to TALE: Tremend’s Agile Learning Environment
Agile stakeholders approach
Traditionally, complex projects are managed through systematic stakeholder management processes. At the same time, innovation is born out of loose, self-organized, complex teams, that exhibit chaos characteristics and experience emergence and black-swan phenomena ² ³. In fact, in order to be innovative, creative and changeable, a system must be taken away from equilibrium and should make use of disorder, irregularity, and difference for driving change ⁴.
TALE supports the creation and management of loose communities (or circles) of knowledge – formal or informal centers of expertise, with common interests related to exchanging information and building knowledge. They are moderated rather than managed; they function based on positive bottom-up motivation, reward-based, rather than coercive, task-based. The members of such communities act both as trainers and trainees. More importantly, the communities act as collaborative eLearning and knowledge authoring teams.
From the technical point of view, the main building block for managing the communities of knowledge is Drupal, integrated with the other components of TALE, especially with Moodle, knowledge sharing tools (Atlassian Confluence, Google docs, Google wiki sites) and collaboration tools (Slack, Skype, Hangouts, Trello, Git, Bitbucket).
Agile content authoring and knowledge-building process
TALE supports both:
- Authoring specialized eLearning courses;
- Building a semi-structured knowledge base.
The preferred authoring methodology is based on the Successive Approximation Model (SAM) Instructional Design Approach. SAM is more agile compared to the classical ADDIE (Analysis Design Development Implementation Evaluation). Authoring specialized eLearning content is done using specialized tools such as Captivate or Articulate.
Generic knowledge bases support building indexed semi-organized searchable databases, out of many small heterogeneous pieces of information, in general format, including basic text info, small graphic and small video content – bits of information, also named nano-learnings or micro-learnings. The pedagogic principle behind is nothing new – it is a basic pedagogical principle, often forgotten, that content must not be fancy, but it needs to be effective.
The collaborative content authoring process and platform are built and deployed on agile principles and use agile principles for content authoring as well. We propose agile project, planning and release management tools such as Jira with its Kanban boards; Articulate 360; CI/CD platform based on tools such as Jenkins or Bamboo to support an overall agile development process to all content authoring sub-processes; including design, storyboarding, development of complex multimedia eLearning content, translation, localisation, maintenance, continuous build, testing, integration and deployment. We make extensive use of fast prototyping, rapid delivery cycles, and design thinking.
The preferred tools for collaborative authoring are Articulate or Captivate – these support both the development of rich interactive courses as well as minimalistic courses, allow for interactive collaborative reviews and recording screencasts.
The collaboration platform to support the collaborative authoring process is Drupal.
Collaboration, planning, supporting agile development, management of agile sprints and releases for authoring content collaboratively is based on the Kanban board principle, with a multi-dimensional matrix of dependencies between deliverables and stakeholders involved in the process.
Agile eLearning content
TALE’s agility goes well beyond content authoring or platform deployment processes. We propose that end-deliverables should be an agile product: agile content and agile learning.
Our focus is to support the delivery of granular pieces of information that are proven to be more easily digestible by today’s users, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of the platform and learning process. We propose therefore to move from the traditional 4-8 hours long courses, to small pieces of information, accessible when needed.
eLearning has long been dominated by the Reusable Learning Objects (RLO) philosophy to enhance agility ⁵. Our TALE philosophy acknowledges the power of SCORM and its RLOs. We respect the need that our platform and content should comply with SCORM, as well as with other established and reputed interoperability and packaging standards, such as IMS, xAPI-API for LRS integration, CheML, MathML, etc. But the RLO paradigm has shown significant limitations and did not deliver on its promise. The RLO is intrinsically simply not agile enough for today’s learning needs. Adult learning requires micro- or nano-bits of information delivered and digested on-the-spot, Just-in-time.
Also, as mentioned, while eLearning has long been associated with highly interactive and rich-multimedia content, it is time to revert back to basics: eLearning is learning. Our UX and UI philosophy is fit-for-purpose.
eLearning thus reverts to basic paradigms: Covey’s “Begin with the end in mind” ⁶, as well as Occam’s razor principle of simplicity, in order to design, develop and deploy whatever type of content that supports learning and knowledge building, in whatever form and format best suitable.
Agile learning delivery
Learning delivery is traditionally a unidirectional process, from trainer to trainee with feedback loops for monitoring, evaluation, and improvement. In today’s organizations, the barrier between trainer and trainee is not always clear. Agile stakeholder management means that trainers become trainees, and trainees become trainers, in collaborative learning environments.
- The key stakeholders, i.e. the Who’s, are thus agile.
- The delivery, i.e. the When is agile: the platform allows for trainees to access content whenever they need it.
- The location of delivery, i.e. the Where, is agile. Trainers and trainees must access the content and platform from anywhere, with particular emphasis on mobile platforms. 75% of employees use mobile learning and 99% of mobile learners believe the mobile format enhances their learning.
Our preferred learning delivery platform is Moodle.
We integrate into TALE video/audio conferencing, screen sharing, app sharing and whiteboarding, such as Slack, Skype and Hangouts, productivity tools such as Menti.com for quick, live surveys; Workflowy.com and Minutes.io for collaborative notes and minutes of meetings; Intervals Online for task management.
TALE is based on off-the-shelf components and Tremend building blocks – a library of software assets built over 14 years to accelerate development, deployment, and adoption. It is grounded on Tremend’s agile philosophy and uses our Innovation Framework.
Let us create your own TALE.
¹ Riel, Margaret (May 24–26, 1998). “Education in the 21st Century: Just-in-Time Learning or Learning Communities”. Presented at Challenges of the Next Millennium: Education & Development of Human Resources. The Fourth Annual Conference of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research.
² Floricel, S., Michel, J. L., & Piperca, S. (2016, Oct). Complexity, uncertainty-reduction strategies, and project performance. International Journal of Project Management, 34(7), 1360-1383
³ Taleb, N. N. (2007). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Random House
⁴ Stacey, R. D. (1995). The Science of Complexity: An Alternative Perspective for Strategic. Strategic Management Journal, 16(6), 477–495
⁶ Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. New York: Free Press, 2004