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.