Some of the problems we can anticipate post COVID (for learning and working)

As someone who has long advocated for remote working and has worked on distance learning programmes (in various formats) for a while it feels like a hollow victory that the world has finally come to terms with these concepts only through forced circumstances.

So knowing what we know about remote learning and working, what problems can we expect to see post-Covid when the ‘non believers’ want to return to their old ways:

  1. Content management (or lack there of)
    • I’m sure there are thousands of learning pros, knowledge management and IT professionals currently having palpitations about the volumes of “stuff” currently being produced. This will include a lot of video content, either as videos or recordings of webinars/meetings.
    • Short term, they will be putting a strain on many organisation’s hosting arrangements but, longer term, risk becoming a big issue. Questions that will have to be asked include:
      • “How much of that content is exposed in the ‘correct’ places?” (vs hidden via email or other sharing)
      • “How much will be lost when people leave (for example due to auto deletion of OneDrive or other systems)?”
      • “How must has simply been posted once and instantly becomes both ephemeral (for example lost a long way back up a scroll in social media or Teams) but at the same time a permanent record of that meeting or activity which may be needed in the future for audit, court cases or more?”
    • For someone who was had roles particularly focused on digital content, especially in late 2012 and early 2013, I am of course more than happy to help if you are trying to get your head around this! Remember when we used to specifically refer to this stuff as UGC. Oh those were the days!
    • Also probably a good point to say I really do not recommend recording all your meetings – no matter what some vendors might say!
    • The “stop to think” tagline for my Learning Reducer idea is key here – many people have simply not stopped to think how to deliver online. The drive has been a continuation of service to parents, children, employees, etc. rather than thinking about the best way to layout and distribute content that minimises learning load. Universities “pivoting” (as seems to be the term of choice) are kind of okay with this as they will typically have set out resources on a learning management system already and just amend delivery. If this is good practice remains to be seen, not least through research comparing outcomes to previous years.
  2. Ignoring health and safety, worker rights and more
    • In a crisis it is probably fair to expect people to work from home in difficult conditions. However, if that is the new norm for your workers they should be supported with appropriate supplies – not least a decent chair. I gave up a properly ordered chair when I left a role in 2018, it was amazing and I had not appreciate previously how much that contributed to my back problems. Working from home should not (primarily) be a cost saving exercise by cutting office space.
    • The issues have also shown the lack of efficiency in many systems – not least education. If millions can join a single P.E. lesson why do we have 1000s of teachers creating their own resources? The content management mess is unlikely to be fixed in a way that encourages greater sharing and use OER and thus we will not have gained the economies of scale that organisations should have. This is in part teachers fighting against the machine – trying to avoid the inevitable decline in their responsibilities that will come through smarter AI, VR and other tech. They need to position themselves as guiding agents for learners, facilitators as the corporate world would call them, and not content producers – how many will be able to ‘pivot’ to expound rather than deliver remains to be seen but we can expect ongoing debate about the balance of teacher vs tech vs parents/guardians/environment. Whilst the role of the teacher is being appreciated like never before by parents locked away with their children it is also exposing the high volume of baby-sitting that makes up a traditional ‘teaching’ role. How this works out with the restrictions teachers unions have managed to secure (in the UK and beyond) will be interesting to see.
  3. Messy ecosystems
    • An attempt at an audit within my own team shows about 30 different apps, websites and other services requiring logins/passwords. Now, I think we are past everything needing central IT support, however, the consumerisation of IT has undoubtedly led to a mess of SAAS and cloud platforms with resulting difficulties. As some point these will need to mapped out for clarity (if only for succession and handover purposes).
  4. Sorry, the world HAS changed
    • Millions of people are being exposed to a different way of living (the shock of which has surprised me – see my comment here) and much like when the men returned from the wars of the past we will find that many things will have changed. There will be many who expect more flexible work schedules, school children who find the remote experience more useful for their study (more focus, less bullies, etc.) and more. How organisations and educations systems respond will be very interesting.

Some of the positives though will include that many educators who previously avoided tech in their lives have now had to crack on and make do. Whilst their current experiences are no doubt often not based on good practice or the research it should at least be easier to push on with appropriate technology enhanced learning in the future.

The obligatory end of decade post

Well we’ve reached the year that many an organisation had set as the future – the year for ‘visions’ and forward planning – yep, it’s 2020 time. So with our ‘2020 vision’ hindsight here is a look back at the last decade – the 2010s:

My own decade

Looking back at 2010 it does make one feel a little better about life in that I, personally, have at least achieved a few things…

In terms of career moves I have followed perhaps an odd path but it has followed trends in technology, not least the rise of Web 2.0 in the mid to late 00s leading me into working on eLearning, LCMS and other more general L&D areas since.

(Learning) Technology

Brandon Hall actually recently had a webinar on LCMS platforms and there do remain arguments for them, at least in theory (see image below). I thought this was interesting given their ‘buzz’ certain seems to subsided (although 2020 will be a year where I do not make it to the Learning Tech show or BETT so I might be a little out of the loop).

The case remains for an LCMS

Back in 2009 my primary tech focus at work was on the learning management system (LMS aka VLE) and BBWorld 09 remains the last time I went to the USA – although the 2010s brought plenty of travel to Canada and elsewhere. On the LMS front it is pretty depressing to recently see research and case study outcomes such as:

“the LMS implemented in the university is not being utilised to an optimum level”

Source: Implementing Adaptive e-Learning Conceptual Model: A Survey and Comparison with Open Source LMS (https://online-journals.org/index.php/i-jet/article/view/11030)

Yet more depressing in the above article is the ‘solution’ to the problem – namely to be “adaptive” by classifying “learners into three main categories, namely, visual learner, an auditory learner, and kinesthetic learner.” Maybe by 2030 such lingering love for learning styles will finally be debunked and gone?

As mentioned on the Practical Ed Tech Podcast’s 12th anniversary edition – this has perhaps been the decade of the device shift with varying obsessions shifting between:

netbook > tablet > Chromebook

Personally, whilst I loved my Windows XP touchscreen netbook at the start of the decade, ultimately a powerhouse PC/laptop is really still the tool to have. Whilst Chromebooks have probably not picked up as much outside the USA their online-first style is probably suited for the 5G world we are moving towards (even if fast broadband for all will not be happening in the UK without a Labour government). I would argue that the reality is that little has been achieved by the focus on the hardware side, albeit that tablets/iPads have allowed for early applications of AR, there’s been little transformation of learning via these routes. Instead media consumption is increasingly easy and of course can be leveraged for learning but also offer us huge distractions.

In workplace learning we have seen various ‘buzz’ topics such as mobile learning, Tin Can, AI and social learning. All in all, these have probably been worked into most organisation’s approaches to digital learning, to at least some degree, even if not necessarily by the organisation as the digital transformation of learning increasingly sees it democratised and moved into the learners control (in a similar way to what has happened with IT in general).

Politics

In many ways this feels like a lost decade – regimes in some parts of the world have cemented their power whilst the UK has effectively stagnated on most measures. Overall, its a depressing picture and no surprise to see lots of people on social media welcoming the 20s as something that, hopefully, can be a fresh start.

The end of my decade: Lessons from Star Trek (TNG)

I’ve spent the last few weeks of the decade on a Star Trek The Next Generation binge – rewatching all seven series ahead of the launch of the new Picard show. TNG has a soft spot in my heart, after originally watching it in the post tea-time slot on BBC television with my family. I was always behind friends who had watched episodes on Sky but it was a show I have fond memories of.

Re-watching TNG there are lots of lessons that can be taken from it and doing a quick Google search predictably shows vast numbers of articles that are devoted to this in terms of ‘best episodes’, ‘best Picard moments’, etc. All in all there were some particular things that jumped out from my binge:

  1. Don’t be afraid to work ‘under yourself’ or hire an unexpected candidate. Jean-Luc Picard develops across the series into a wonderful character with a considerable amount of depth. However, it would surely have been easy for Patrick Stewart to turn down the role given his experience as a stage actor and that Trek has often been looked down upon (along with a lot of the rest of sci-fi). Having just also watched Logan you have to admire PS for taking on iconic roles and really running with them and making them his own. Many of us will find ourselves needing to work for money at times rather than for ‘passion’ or obvious career choices (personally I’ve worked in a call centre, Burger King, B&Q, Somerfield supermarket and other jobs because I needed the money and/or experience) – unfortunately it feels in 2020 that recruiters are too often looking for ‘perfect’ candidates and ignore the realities of people’s lives.
  2. 80s body horror and cultural acceptability. There are a few early episodes that are now very ’80s, particularly in special effects. A few of these are quite grim in the effects – raising interesting questions over what was appropriate for a family friendly show in the late 80s and early 90s and what you might deem appropriate today. Indeed this runs through other media from the time – for example violence in Spielberg movies and special effects in Indiana Jones and other media. Have we regressed here? What might be appropriate in developing workplace (learning) media? Would ‘not safe for work’ have changed too in that time? Similarly there are clear demonstrations of where what is culturally appropriate/correct have changed – for example a late episode about “North American Indians” (who have setup a settlement on a contested planet) would surely be “Native Americans” if written today – this goes some way to show how quickly things can change and that we should perhaps be less harsh (as a society) on those who perhaps do not keep up with changes to what is deemed culturally acceptable.
  3. Performance reviews – hated then, hated now? It probably didn’t feel like it when watched as a weekly serial but, watching in binge mode, it is surprising how often performance reviews are mentioned on the show. Almost universally these mentions are negative – and often tied to emotions around getting a promotion through the ranks. Clearly considering the corporate world’s ongoing challenges with talent management this is something that seems to have stuck around from the early 90s even if we’ve seen a decrease in focus on hierarchy towards matrix and other models.

MyAnalytics in Microsoft365: first impressions

Jumping on the data bandwagon (where ‘analytics’ seems to be the new ‘big’) Microsoft’s offering – MyAnalytics – was made available to me in my organisation this week (having previously been part of the ‘Delve’ branding).  Here’s Microsoft’s own introduction:

This data basically shows what you’ve been up to in Office365 – such as time spent in meetings, how much time you’ve spent in Outlook when you should be in “quiet” time (i.e. when you should be at home with your feet up), etc.

Aggregated, this data would be pretty powerful.  For the individual, at least for me, it seems to just reinforce what you probably already know – how quick you reply to emails, how much you work on those “quiet days” and who your “top collaborators” are.  At an aggregate level this covers some ground where research has been done in the past – for example the collaborators data is effectively network analysis and could well highlight other things that are happening in your organisation, for example the hidden influencers who are top collaborators but perhaps not in positions of traditional organisational power in the hierarchy/matrix.  Unfortunately this isn’t possible, albeit for understandable reasons:

Data privacy

None of a user’s personal information is shared with their co-workers or managers.

MyAnalytics adheres to compliance regulations, such as the GDPR.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/workplace-analytics/myanalytics/overview/mya-for-admins

I used something similar a while back at the desktop level that highlighted time spent in active applications – at the time it was nearly all Firefox and Outlook but also highlighted how much time I actually used Articulate Storyline and other things.  The Microsoft solution seems quite good in going beyond the desktop to the use of the services across devices.  However, for those with international roles the concept of working hours is, of course, very tricky.  Yes, you might ‘normally’ work 9-5 in Europe but those 7am calls with Australia would, from an Analytics perspective, count towards working outside your hours and cutting into “quiet times”.

For those really struggling with focus at work and allowing email to run their time, however, the data sets, suggestions and goal setting tools are likely to at least offer some help.  Nice list of what is included here.  Ultimately this can be useful for personal reflection, for example in agreeing outcomes as part of team behaviour change in improving work life balance.

10 years of Twitter

I recently received my “10th #twitterversary” email from Twitter and it made me reflect on my use of the platform.

I’ve never been a big tweeter, tending to use it share at events and also retweet/like things that I would later blog about from those same events.  Otherwise my use has been fairly limited.

Going back through my old tweets, tweet number one was:

That tweet is pretty indicative of my focus at the time – working with the Blackboard LMS/VLE and supporting users with/via free tech (like Screenr was).  In my early tweets, as with Screenr, there are a notable volume of dead-links – basically showing how Twitter is indicative of the web’s tendency for large amounts of redundant data.  The Blackboard focus includes plenty of early tweets from ongoing events such as #LondonBUG as well as historic date stamped hashtags like #BbTLC11.

More recently I have tried to shift from the work-only focus with an update to my profile (to include other interests like dog, football and gaming) to show more of my ‘personal’ side.  I’ve also written about being sucked into politics and tweeting about that – which obviously was not the intention ten years ago when tweeting new Blackboard resources!  Yet politics ‘sells’, considering my last tweet got 75 likes more than any other I think.

Do we just have to accept there is no going back ‘to the good old days’?

On many metrics the UK has flat-lined since the 2008 financial crisis, with arguably worse to come.

This week London and other cities have seen major protests from environmentalists.  So, do we have to accept that with climate change and other socio-economic crisis there is simply no return to the optimism of the millennium?

As an 80s child I perhaps feel this stronger than other age groups – having grown up in the mostly optimistic 90s with Cool Britannia, the end of the cold war, “things can only get better” and general optimism (even encyclopedia’s were optimistic bits of fun).  Yes, we had Captain Planet, Ferngully and other media warning us of the dangers of the future but overall I suspect there was far more cultural positivity than for those growing up now.  Current school kids have been globally connected from birth yet are seeing trade wars, cold (and hot) wars, migration crises and other threats to subdue their futures.

The Iraq War increasingly feels like the political turning point that was reinforced by the ‘credit crunch’.

If the future is indeed going to be bleaker then I suspect we need to relearn to ‘make do and mend’ – in this context I’ve recently been reading a lot about Jughad design.  I’m pretty sure this concept was new to me – although it has been used in the west for at least 20 years and there are a variety of books and articles on its application away from the Indian subcontinent.

At the same time we have to remember we have come along way and their are reasons for optimism – for that I would recommend the book Abundance that I have recently finished reading.