Organizations exist to create value. Value is created through acquiring resources and transforming them into products and services that have a greater worth than the sum of those resources. In short, organizations exist to create.
Due to the increasingly profound degree of social and technical change occurring today, businesses are looking to leverage every bit of competitive advantage. Subsequently, organizations are re-examining all aspects of their business model, including the fundamental question of how they create value. As a result, many organizations are placing a much greater emphasis on the need for innovation as a business strategy.
For a strategy in which a reliance on innovation to be viable, businesses must have the competencies in place which support it. However, many may be ill prepared and unable to fully appreciate the level of commitment this change represents. What is emerging is a creativity skill gap which businesses need to address.
In order to address this need, universities have been broadening their curriculum to include courses in Organizational Creativity as part of their business school programming. Given that this is an emerging development, universities, like businesses, may also find themselves ill-prepared in this regard, while on the other hand, for those universities who can offer such programs, it can be a significant advantage.
At the same time learners and educators are increasingly turning to elearning as a mode of educational delivery. Elearning is defined as the use of electronic resources to create learning experiences of which there are general five varieties: stand alone courses, learning games and simulations, mobile learning, social learning and virtual classroom courses (Horton, 2012. p. 2). Thus, it is incumbent upon educators and instructional designers to consider how to teach creativity through elearning.
There are a number of ways in which information can be presented to facilitate learning. While the different approaches emphasize some facets over others, they all share certain things in common: a concern for organizing the material, delivering it, and managing learner engagement. (Clark, 2015). Regardless of the strategy employed, the overarching consideration is that an analysis of the audience, subject matter, and delivery must align to support learning objectives.
The instructional designer has two main concerns, the message, or content, and the medium, the way in which the information is conveyed. The information processing model of communication states that communication is a process in which information is encoded, transmitted, received and then decoded. A breakdown in any of part of the sequence means that what is communicated may be misunderstood, if understood at all. Good design affects the way in which content is perceived by the learner (Nokes & Sappington, 2010). There is no one best way to present information. The best way is the way that optimizes the effective and efficient transfer of learning. What works best depends on a variety of factors; the nature of the audience and the subject matter being among the most important.
Learning activities fall into three general categories: Absorb activities, Do activities and Connect activities (Horton, 2012. p. 67). Generally, these activities form a hierarchy of learning exercises which begin with “absorb” activities; those that present information to be “absorbed”. Absorb activities are followed by “do” activities. At this stage, students engage with the information by applying it and/or practicing it. Lastly, Do activities conclude with “Connecting” activities. Connecting activities encourage the learner to link the new material with their current knowledge and experience.
In regard to these learning activities, elearning is no different. There still need to be things to absorb, do and which facilitate the the assimilation of the material; to connect to. However, the nature of elearning presents unique challenges, and opportunities. One must give greater consideration on how the material is presented, while, conversely, the use of technology in an elearning environment provides access to a wide array of new tools with which to do this.
The previous submission here explored these elements; the use of new technologies to present information. However, learning is not complete until the new information is effectively assimilated into one’s mental paradigm and results in new behaviors. In addition, one must also consider the role of assessments in an elearning modality. Again, we find that the nature of elearning provides new challenges and opportunities in this regard.
Connect activities integrate what we are learning with what we know (Horton, 2012. p. 163). Connect activities are important because they provide learners with the opportunity to apply what they are learning in situations they encounter at work, in later learning efforts, and in their personal lives (William Horton Consulting, n.d.). Connect activities include such things as:
As mentioned, assessment is yet another consideration. In this regard, a test is anything that measures the students performance against outcome measures. The evaluation process measures what changes have resulted from the training, how much change has resulted, and how much value can be assigned to these changes (McArdle, 2011).
For instructional designers and educators assessment data is important to ascertain if the learning program is effective and provides insight into the need to make changes as necessary in the course. Assessment is also important for other Stakeholders, such as employers, for example. In this regard, employers want assurance that the outcomes and benefits to be measurable to justify the capital commitments. Lastly, assessment provides feedback to the learner which may further facilitate the learning experience.
Contemporary thinking in instructional design suggests that the design phase of developing an instructional program should begin with a consideration of how to assess outcomes in light of the terminal goal (Gardner, 2011). Thus, while summative assessments often occur at the end of a learning activity, from an instructional design perspective, the consideration given to assessments should occur contemporaneously with the development of goals and objectives.
On the other hand, formative assessments, those which are embedded throughout the program of learning is important for learners, serving as a guidepost on where they are in their learning journey. In this regard, tests and assessment are often used as teaching activities rather than a true measurement of performance and that often informal practice may be sufficient to teach (Horton, 2012. p 216). Thus, one must examine why assessments are being used as the instructional design process unfolds. One must ask themselves why are they testing and what is being measured?
A proposed, draft, elearning module follows below. It reflects one narrow element, that of team decision making, of a larger program in managing organizational creativity. A work in progress, its development to date includes “absorb” and “do activities”. Connect activities will include guided research and discussion boards. With respect to assessments, best practice suggests sprinkling tests or quizzes throughout the learning activity, while varying the form and type of assessments (Horton, 2012). As the project develops, it is envisioned that formative assessments will include computer graded quizzes at the end of the Introductory unit about organizational structures and the module about integrative behavior. The assessments will have a variety of questions, including multiple choice and true/false, among others. A written paper will serve as a summative assessment.
The goal of a course in managing creativity is to help make the organization more successful by improving its ability to innovate. The overall learning objective is to teach the the skills necessary for managing creativity to organizational leaders. In this regard, the managerial skills which foster innovation are a unique set of interpersonal skills which are often not covered in sufficient detail in a business school curriculum, but which are increasingly in demand. Elearning is an opportunity to meet this need. To this end, we are developing just such a course, the beginning of which follows. As progress occurs, updates will be provided. The intention here is to create a series of demonstration learning modules to serve as a proposal for the creation of a full-fledged university course in Managing Organizational Creativity.
While interpersonal conflict may be inevitable in the workplace, solutions exist. It is in the best interest of all stakeholders, management, leadership and employees alike, that conflict is resolved in a timely and effective way. Developing conflict resolution skills in front-line managers is a key element of any strategic plan for better management of the workforce.
Given that such an effort represents a significant commitment of organizational resources, the effectiveness of management development programs must be evaluated to ensure an appropriate return on the investment. Many organizational leaders find that the standard training formats are ineffective because they are too costly and too time-consuming. Even more critically, managers cite that the training which is available isn’t focused enough to their needs and there is a lack of connection between what takes place during training and the job.
Through a consideration of best practices in instructional pedagogy, design, and delivery, a more effective method of training emerges. This paper argues that a three-tiered approach to training - an elearning program, followed by a classroom presentation and, lastly, a brief period of on the job individualized coaching - represents one of the most effective and efficient programs for developing conflict management skills in the workplace.
This four-part blog series has been examining the importance of Instructional Design principles to the emerging knowledge economy. As noted in part one of this article, the role of the instructional designer is to organize the information in such a way as to most efficiently and effectively facilitate the learning of the material by the learner. While not all aspects of working with knowledge and information are about learning, the underlying process – the transfer of information – is the same regardless of how the information is finally consumed. Given this, there is much value to be derived in applying instructional design practices to improve the transaction of information on which this new economy is predicated.
The information processing model of perception identifies four components: the encoding, transfer, receipt, and decoding of data. Problems at any point in the process could mean that only partial or inaccurate information is received by the consumer, if anything is received at all. To ensure an effective transfer of information, Instructional Designers employee the ADDIE Model. This model begins with an analysis phase, examining the nature of the learner, the type of information and the context within which transfer occurs. Based on this analysis, the elements of Design and, Development is employed to ensure the successful Implementation or transfer. Lastly, there is a process of Evaluation to gauge how efficient and effective the effort has been.
Previous articles in this series have focused primarily on the design and development aspects of the ADDIE model; basically, the packaging, or coding/decoding and its transmittal. Another critical element involves examining WHAT is being packaged and sent. As John Dvorak, a contributor to PC Magazine, notes “On the Internet, bad information propagates fast and becomes fact” (Dvorak, 2014).
While it may be impossible to assess how accurate the information available on the internet is, studies show that a majority of people do not believe the information is reliable (For 53% Reliable Information, Click Here, 2003). As access to information becomes easier and less expensive, the skills and competencies relating to the selection and efficient use of information become more crucial. Capabilities for selecting relevant and disregarding irrelevant information (Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development, 1996).
Management information system experts identify that good data is:
The conclusions we draw about the validity of information are influenced by how the information is presented. A major concern today is copyright infringement. With so much easy access to so much data, plagiarizing the work of others is easier than ever. Thus, there needs be an even a higher standard to ensure authenticity and a more careful review of the information’s ownership. Moreover, supporting one’s comments and opinions with credible sources, lends a higher degree of credence. Using authoritative resources enhances the professionalism of the presentations and the credibility.
In this regard, once again, the Instructional Designer can play an important role. The instructional designer is responsible for accurately evaluating the “authority, credibility and value” of informational resources (Larson, 2014. P 225). Research doesn’t end with the identification of resources, one must also ensure that credible resources are used. The first thing to consider is the voracity of the site providing the information. There are many sources of information, but not all of them are trustworthy. If the site is credible then the information it provides will be more authoritative. Examples include library sites offering peer reviewed journals, government affiliated sites and websites of professional organizations, to name a few. However, even from these sites the quality of the material needs to be evaluated carefully. Some key things to look for include:
Some consider all writing a form of argument in that no matter what it is you are writing, you’re trying to persuade your audience to care about what you have to say (Online Writing Lab, n.d.). There are many ways to persuade someone to see your point of view, ranging from deception, to emotional appeal, what Aristotle called Pathos and Lagos. However, credibility, ethos, is built by applying your own expertise or citing that of other, credible, sources, which Aristotle believed the most persuasive of the three approaches.
There is little doubt that the internet has changed the world. It is perhaps the most prominent indicator of a new age in human development, socially, creatively and economically. However, it is, by nature, a chaotic and somewhat uncontrolled environment. Many issues confront users of the web for the dissemination of information. With so much available, it can be difficult to connect to that for which you are looking. Data needs to be shareable and digestible. While the World Wide Web provides an unimaginable number of possibilities, many of which may not yet be realized, this also attracts nefarious people with malicious intentions. Thus, we find a proliferation of computer viruses, data theft, copyright infringement and “fake news”.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time on the internet is probably familiar with the common “meme”, usually an often-used photograph with a pithy saying along with it. The word “meme” was coined by English Biologist Richard Dawkins in 1986 to refer to describe how ideas can propagate, even replicate themselves, much like a virus; discrete units of ideas (Gleick, 2013).
For much of our history memes spread by word of mouth but today, they have “staying power”, attaching themselves to other media, such as those found in computer servers and satellite signals. Like biological genes, the analogy on which the meme concept was based, “memes have effects on the wide world beyond themselves” (Gleick, 2013).
In this way, memes jump from person to person, until whole populations are affected. While memes, like viruses, may be benign or cause illness, the ideas they convey can take on a life of their own. Therefore, in the professional realms of our modern information-based economy, we need people, like instructional designers and others, to examine what is being passed along and how it is being transmitted, to ensure the most effective and efficient dissemination of accurate information, for as the old saying goes: “garbage in, garbage out”.
Dvorak, J. C. (2014). Internet of Failings. PC Magazine.
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Sanjay, M. & Joseph, P. (2014). Management information systems in the knowledge economy. India: Prentice Hall.
Larson, M. B. (2014). Streamlined ID : A practical guide to instructional design. New York: Routledge.
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In the Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, the main character, Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised on Mars, is capable of reading two books at the same time. Having tried this once when cramming for exams, I can tell you it might work for a human raised on Mars, but it didn't work for this human. For as a teacher once said to me, the mind can only absorb what the bottom can endure. The moral here is that there are limits to how much information people can take in at once.
The ability of people to process information is limited by attentional resources. That is, through selective attention, humans select a limited amount of sensory input to process while other sensory input is neglected (Wahn & Konig, 2017). When the brain gets too much information, it can cause one to miss things otherwise noticed or be unable to commit information to long term memory. There is a good deal of research to support the idea that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia stems from an inability to effectively screen sensory input. Schizophrenic patients show a peculiar deficit in screening and processing of incoming sensory data. They are overloaded with data (Ghadirian, 1976).
The information processing model of communication states that communication is a process in which information is encoded, transmitted, received and then decoded. A breakdown in any of part of the sequence means that what is communicated may be misunderstood, if understood at all. In an economy which is predicated on the ability to effectively work with information, an appreciation for how much data a person can process at once is critical. Information overload can make people be less creative, more anxious and less productive (Ryder, 2011). Further, one needs to be aware of how to best present information in a way that it will be perceived and correctly decoded by the receiver.
In this regard, we need to consider not only the content of what is being communicated, but how it is communicated. The medium employed in conjunction with the content can help facilitate how the information is perceived and needs to be an integral part of the overall communication strategy (Larson, 2014).
Fortunately, there has been a good deal of research to help guide communication and instructional design choices. Of particular relevance here is the field of Gestalt Psychology. Research reveals that the principles of grouping, proximity, similarity, spatial arrangement, and symmetry, among others, play important roles in perception (Wagemans, Elder, Kubovy, Palmer, Peterson, Singh, & Von der Heydt, 2012). Even the use of color has been shown to affect emotional responses in the viewer (Liqiong & Poole, 2010).
Applying the aforementioned principles to communication and instructional design has resulted in the acronym, C.A.R.P. which reminds designers to consider such as elements as:
The human mind actively seeks out certain patterns and ignores others. Humans prefer those environments that are most favorable for understanding, with respect to legibility and sense (Liqiong & Poole, 2010). The purpose of good design is not about decoration, but rather about making communication as clear as possible. What we are striving for is attention and valence, with respect to the receiver (Liqiong & Poole, 2010). By this is meant, attracting the audiences attention and then keeping it. To do this requires engaging the person’s senses, intellect and emotion. Thus, good design is an art as well as a science.
Wahn, B., & Konig, P. (2017). Is attentional resource allocation across sensory
modalities task-dependent?. Advances In Cognitive Psychology, (1), 83.
Ghadirian, A. (1976). Sensory perceptual limitation in schizophrenia. Psychotherapy and
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Ryder, B. (2011, June 30). Too much information. The Economist. Retrieved from:
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Heydt, R. (2012). A Century of Gestalt Psychology in Visual Perception. Perceptual
Grouping and Figure-Ground Organization. Psychological Bulletin, 138(6), 1172–1217.
Liqiong, D., & Poole, M. (2010). Affect in web interfaces: a study of the impacts of web
page visual complexity and order. MIS Quarterly, 34(4), 711-A10.
Versluis, Martin. (2014, October 13). Using CARP graphic design principles for better
instructional design. The International Institute for Innovative Instruction. Retrieved
It wasn’t too long ago that the employment landscape was a fairly simple affair. Some people worked for themselves while the majority of people worked for someone else. At the height of the American Industrial Period, say, right after World War II, unemployment was low, blue collar jobs were the norm, women were consigned to limited gender-specific roles and one could expect to retire after 25 years of dedication to one employer.
Over the past five decades, however, the economic model in most developed nations has pivoted away from an industrial model and entered the Information Age. This transition has been characterized by an increased outsourcing of manufacturing to developing countries and a subsequent growth in the service sector. The value creation process in such an economic system is based not on material inputs, but rather innovative and creative ideas. Labor in this paradigm does not work with tools as much as they work with knowledge and their product is information.
These social and economic changes have prompted some to state that “The Job” is dead. Dave Maney (2013) writing for Forbes Magazine states “The notion that most of us will earn our living in the future through an employee/employer relationship is headed for the scrap heap of economic history”. He explains that employment is nothing more than a series of relationships and agreements, which now, in regard to the employment of labor is changing as quickly as the marketplace.
Researchers conclude that soon will be working in a variety of “micro-careers” if we are not already there (Maney, 2015). The new “job” will be a series of short-term engagements. In a sense, we will all be consultants and self-employed. An article by Economist Magazine reports that the number of union workers had declined significantly, while those classified as temporary workers has, conversely, increased (The Economist, 2014).
For these reasons, education will become increasingly important. Knowledge workers will no longer be able to rely on the platform of a bachelors degree to earn a competitive wage. The need to learn will now be constant across one's career if one hopes to survive this brave new world. Researchers are already seeing a substantial gap in wages between educated and less educated workers and that gap is only expected to increase (The World Bank, 2001).
It used to be said of University Professors that they had to “publish or perish”. This impetus has now been transferred to most sorts of jobs in the knowledge economy. The implication for the rest of us looking to make our way in the world is that we need to be better educated, more specialized and constantly learning. Knowledge is the currency in an information economy.
Reflecting this trend, over the past forty years, there has been an increase in enrollment among institutions of higher education in developing countries. The provision of educational and training programs is becoming big business, not just in the developed countries but across the world. The global market for education is estimated at more than $2 trillion a year (Moe, Bailey, and Lau 1999). While one-third of the global market is in the United States, a sizable 15 percent is in developing countries and transition economies. Corporations too are spending more and more on training to become competitive in the global knowledge economy (The World Bank, 2001).
Preparing workers to compete in the knowledge economy requires a new model of education and training, a model of lifelong learning. It includes formal and informal education and training programs provided in a variety of modalities; from podcasts to online courses to courses “onground”. Not only is the way education is delivered is changing, so is the content. The new economy requires task-specific skills, as well as a focus on developing decision making and problem-solving skills (The World Bank, 2001).
The good news is that access to information is now nearly ubiquitous. Mobile devices and the internet means you can learn whenever wherever. The bad news is that the World Wide Web is a bit like the Wild West, in that there is no law and order to police the quality and veracity of information. As such, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish real information from “fake news”. At the same time, the effectiveness of learning has much to do with the way in which the information is presented. The mind seeks patterns in the world and tends to ignore that which is disordered and lacks context. Internet vernacular has actually coined new terms to describe this tendency of the internet: “Info Dump” and TL/DR (Too long, Did not Read). It’s not enough to put the information out there, it has to be organized.
It is becoming increasingly important that someone vets informational resources and packages it in a useful and efficient manner. Enter the Instructional Designer. The role of the instructional designer is to organize the information in such a way as to most efficiently and effectively facilitate the learning of the material by the learner. If knowledge is the currency than Instructional Designers are akin to bankers in an informational economy. This is underscored by the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for instructional designers to increase 10% over the next 10 years, an increase greater than average (The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016).
In a series of 4 installments over the next 4 weeks, this blog will examine the role of instructional design concepts as a cornerstone of the educational system upon which our emerging knowledge economy is predicated.
Maney, Dave. (2013, April 5). The Death of Jobs. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from:
Maney, Kevin. (2015, June 4). The Full Time Job is Dead. Wired Magazine. Retrieved
Economist Magazine. (2014, December 13). The Future of Work: There is an app for that.
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The World Bank. (2001). The Knowledge Economy and the Changing Needs of the Labor
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-