EDTEC 544 - Initial Analysis for BALE
EDTEC 544 Instructional Design Assignments - Spring, 2007

Initiating Memo

Initial Analysis

System Specification

Design Concept/Description of Product

Prototype Evaluation

Design Notebook

EDTEC Assignments Home

Building an Affordable Learning Environment (BALE)

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In the information explosion age, many small or medium size companies suffer from the poor managed information. Tacit working knowledge is continuing created or changed every day. How could they be recorded and passed around? The continuing changing new knowledge and technologies put heavier and heavier stress on every institution and individual.

Analysis of Problems and Opportunities

Educational Context

Tacit working knowledge is difficult to catch. It appears when people are getting more and more familiar with their works. To catch, restore and distribute working knowledge doesn’t need to invest in a costly knowledge management system. Open Source free tools allow users to create a learning site in several easy steps. This is the core knowledge that proposed product would deliver. Although anyone could search over the Internet and download lots of learning resources for Blog or Wiki, it takes a delicate design to make it an easy to learn and effective instruction product.

Learners

The proposed instruction product, BALE, aims at employees who possess grade nine or above literacy level. The perspective learners should also have basic computer skills, familiar with at least one word processor and are able to search over the Internet. The first tier learners are suggested to target at internal trainers of the institution because they usually have more than average competencies therefore they are likely to success in learning BALE and then, they can support other learners.

Instruction is Appropriate

Building a learning environment is a complex task. It can’t be simplified or deal with fast fixes such as job aids. A carefully analyzed and designed training program is appropriate and necessary. To make it an even better solution, a self-study instruction product is economical, practical, and feasible.

Justification for Using an Instructional Product

 Employee turn over ratio is one of the causes that make company training resource inefficiency. Company owner would prefer to adopt a self-study instruction product then instructor-led training in order to save money and time. Following advantages show the incomparable qualities of the instruction product:

  1. It provides asynchronous learning form. Learners can learn in office or at home, at their own paces, whenever they are available, and as many times as they want.
  2. User-friendly interface and multimedia learning resources make it an easy to learn instruction.
  3. It includes an assessment system that measures all skills and knowledge developed through the instruction. A conjunctive feedback system ensures that all questions occurs in learning can be answered on time. Rich connections links to related sessions or external resources over the Internet

Sources and Methods of Data Collection

Sources of Data

Four individuals, representing deliverer (trainer), learner (employee), policy maker (company owner), and subject matter expert (Open Source software instructor), were contact for this initial analysis. Sources of data include:

  •  An internal trainer of an IT consulting company (Role: Deliverer);
  •  An employee of an IT consulting company (Role: Learner);    
  •  A company owner of a training institution (Role: Policy Maker);       
  •  An online teacher and Blog hostess (Role: Subject Matter Expert).

Methods of Data Collection

Two rounds of data collection were conducted. The first round was exploratory interview. The trainer and subject matter expert were interviewed through Skype, the Internet phone. They both wrote their opinions on web questionnaire at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=946393420404  

The second round of data collection was systematic interview. It was done through online survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=794993420450 . Most of the questions are close-ended. Some of them included “Others, please specify” column to encourage survey takers to elaborate their opinions. Also, the researcher was online simultaneously to clarify each answer while assisting survey takers on technical problems during the process.

Findings

Description of Problem and Opportunities

Results from two round of interview revealed a strong motivation and demand for learning about how to manage working knowledge in companies from trainer, employee, and owner. Subject matter expert also praised the product idea. Following are important messages from participants:            

  1. Job oriented: Company owner stressed on this core focus. Employee also emphasized on job related learning.            
  2. User-friendly: User-friendly is a common concern from all participants. The product should not require for special computer skills, in the meantime, multiple media should be used to introduce contents.            
  3. Opportunities for practices: Employee and owner both showed great concerns on the utilization of learning. Each session should include at least one opportunity for practicing skills that just learned.            
  4. On time learning and feedback: Employee emphasized on the necessity for on time feedback.            
  5. Self-test assessments: Owner concerned about learning outcome while employee and trainers liked to have self-test assessments.

Learner Attitudes towards the Problems and Opportunities

The learner interviewed in this initial interview has worked in professional service companies for fifteen years. He said, most of the time, he had learned working knowledge by try-and-error and on his own. Sometimes manual and workbook were helpful. After so many years worked in the field, he began to feel that he has something to share with new colleagues and he wished that his predecessors have done the same for him. Although he had motivation to share, he strongly asked for a convenient tool that he could write and publish his passage easily. Currently, they use paper and pen to keep tacit knowledge but the paper was often disappeared after a short while, “Sometimes it only took one paragraph on sticker to describe a working knowledge”, he said, “If there was a system that I could write and publish just by a click, that knowledge won’t be washed away. I certainly liked to learn about it”; however, since he had very limited of time for extra learning therefore the instruction must be closely related to real world job responsibilities.

Learner Knowledge and Skills

Although BALE requires a Grade Nine literacy level, the initial interview takers, from professional service companies, were all college level. Both employee and trainer felt confident of their computer skills for taking a self-study instruction.

Learner/User Goals

The survey found that the drivers for learners’ interests in building a learning environment through BALE are the desire of improving their performances; the convenience of creating the content by themselves; and the opportunities of being recognized for their contribution to others’ learning.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Summary of Findings

A positive opportunity exists for QED to develop an instructional product that teaches learners how to build an affordable learning environment. Currently, companies have problems in managing working knowledge because the knowledge is often flown away when employee leaves the company. Since the cost for a proprietary knowledge management system is often too high for small and medium companies to purchase, BALE has great potential to generate revenue for QED. QED also has very good chance to benefit from post sales services because after taking the instruction and successfully setup their learning environment, and become habitual knowledge givers and takers, users will demand for more supports for their ever lasting learning needs.

General Recommendations

A web-based self-study instruction product appears to be a good answer to the problems and opportunities mentioned in the former part of this analysis. The product should cover how to use Blog, Wiki, and other software as well as how to integrate the software to build the learning environment. Step-by-step demonstration, supportive timely help and feedback, convenient in tracing back what have been learned, and instruments for outcome measurement are essential features to the product.

Goals

User Goals

The initial interview and survey uncovered that users like to learn how to build a learning environment in their companies because they have following goals,      

  1.  I want to be able to access needed information easily to improve my performance.        
  2.  I want to be able to save time and avoid the frustration of learning from try-and-error.       
  3. I want to be able to be recognized by supervisors and colleagues.  

Instructional Goals

In concluding findings from initial analysis, instructional goals for the proposed product should aim at achieving following performances within reasonable timeframe,   

  1. Learner will be able to start a new Blog as well as post given text and graph to Blogger.com. 

  2. Learner will be able to start a new Wiki, post text and graph as well as comment on others’ passages. 

  3. Learner will be able to start a bookmark management site in del.icio.us, create tags, and integrate information to Blog.

  4. Learner will be able to integrate Wiki and bookmark information into one page in Blog.      

  5. Learner will be able to create a group learning environment, similar to following picture, that
    -- includes roaster that leads to employee’s personal Blog;
    -- connects to Wiki discussion
    -- rolls employees’ bookmark from del.icio.us;
    -- shows new postings from individual Blog every day.

Appendix A:
Interview Questions & Answers

Exploratory Interviews

Trainer or Supervisor – Internal trainer of an IT consultant company

Q1: As a training staff/supervisor, what is the major problem for you in supporting employees to acquire new knowledge or memorize and apply existed knowledge?
A1: Finding a good knowledge management platform and let employees have the habits to preserve their knowledge.

Q2: What actions have you taken to solve the problems and how do they work?
A2: Instructor-led training; reading materials, such as workbook, manual, and etc.

Q3: Are there some kinds of knowledge management system applied in your company? If yes, what is the name of the product? How does it work?
A3: Yes, there is a knowledge management system in our company. It called e-Office. It can record the employees’ daily work and preserved what they have learned.

Q4: What are common problems you have in implementing a training program? e.g., What is the average response from employee in attitude? How supportive is your supervisor(s)? Do you usually get resources that you need?
A4: The employees always lack time to go to training classes or practicing their training homework.

Subject Matter Expert – Blog Hostess and Online Course instructor

Q1: What suggestions will you give for small to medium companies when they want to manage working knowledge organizationally?
A1: First, foster employees' willingness and skills to share their working knowledge by budget learning environment. After they become habitually consumers and contributors of the learning environment then consider to purchase a formal knowledge management platform if necessary. Do not buy expensive KM in the beginning.

Q2: How will you comment to a solution that uses Blog, Wiki, and other social software to build a learning environment or knowledge management system for small to medium companies?
A2: It sounds a good idea but it will require a good designer to come up with idea for how to integrate a solution. Also, the effort for guiding employee to use the learning environment should not be ignored. I suggest you begin with 'train the trainer' program. When internal trainers can master that solution, they can teach their employees.

Q3: What are your experiences in using Blog, Wiki, and other social software to teach?
A3: Excellent. Students showed higher enthusiasm in participating than I expected. But it took a good careful plan in advance.

Q4: What resources would you recommend?
A4: There are detailed tutorials in almost all social software and they are all easy to use. I think, for beginners, that will be more than enough. If more online media are required, http://cde.athabascau.ca/softeval/index.htm can provide a list of online collaborative tools. To get a practical idea about using social software to teach, here is a good one, http://parkinslot.blogspot.com/.

Q5: Who else should we talk with?
A5: Interview one or two other online instructors who use Blog or other social software to teach. They might look at the matter from different point of view.

Systematic Interviews

Trainer or Supervisor – Internal trainer of an IT consultant company

Q1: What efforts have been made for retaining and sharing employees’ working knowledge in the company in the past? (1- most often; 5- never)

A1:

  1. Formal instructor-led training – 2 

  2. Apprentice (senior employees teach new employees) - 2

  3. Documentation (update periodically) - 1

  4. Learning by doing (employees learn from practices by themselves.) – 1

Q2: To what extent does the following performance improvement aids work in your company? (1- Great; 5- No improvement)

A2:

  1. Lecture - 2
  2. Manual; Workbook - 1
  3. Training - 1
  4. Job Aid (checklist, stickers, posters, and etc.) - 1
  5. Knowledge base - 1
  6. Job description document – 1

Q3: To what extent does turn over ratio in your company impacts on your job responsibilities as a trainer? (1- Great; 5- No impact)
A3: Level of impact – 3

Q4: To what extent does training programs that are purchased from outside of the company meet your company's demand in term of content and timeliness? (1- Exactly what we need; 5- Least desirable)
A4: Level of suitability -- 4

Q5: How would you like to participate in a training program that teaches you how to build a learning environment with Open Source software? (1- Very much; 5- Barely)
A5: Level of motivation – 1

Q6: How confident are you if the training program mentioned in Item #3 is self-study software with all necessary information delivered through video, audio, text, and hyperlinks? (1- Highest; 5- No confidence)
A6: Confidence level – 1

Q7: How well do you think employees in your company be able to learn by self-study software by themselves? (1 - Very well; 5 - Bad)
A7: Confidence level – 2

Q8: What would be barriers for you to implement instruction product in your company? (1 - Worst; 5 – No problem)
A8:

  1. Budget - 3
  2. Support from supervisors – 1
  3. Lack of equipments – 5
  4. Resistance from employee – 2
  5. others – 4 (Can’t visualize outcome) 

Learner – An employee of an IT consultant company

Q1: How often do you feel that you need someone to tell you what to do with your tasks? (1- Very often; 5 - Never)
A1: Level of frequency -- 3

Q2: How often do you feel that you have something worth to share with your colleagues? (1- Very often; 5 - Never)
A2: Level of frequency -- 2

Q3: What would you like to do to get help if there is a learning system in house? (1- Important; 5 – Nice to have)
A3:
1        
Learning at the point. I learn when I like or need to learn. – 1
2        
Give me the right size of information that I need. Don't make long lecture. – 1
3         Easy to access. Take me only few clicks to get the information I need. – 4
4        
Less or no time limitation. Let me access the information whenever I need and on my own pace. – 4
5         Support by learning community. I can discuss with others on questions. – 1
6         Convenient in searching and relocating the information I used before. – 1 7         Others – 1

Q4: What would you like to do to share your knowledge with others if there is a learning system in house? (1- Important; 5 – Nice to have)
A4:
1.          
Easy to access - 1
2.          
I can DIY content by myself whenever I happen to think of some helpful idea. (DIY: do it yourself) ) - 1
3.          
Show my name on each information I contribute and measure my credit periodically. - 5
4.           Others – 1

Q5: Check all computer skills that you are familiar with.
A5:
1        
Use at least one word processors
2        
Type
3        
Browse / search over the Internet
4        
Access video / audio
5         Use Wiki

Q6: To what extent do you like to learn new software to manage your working knowledge, such as how-to, never-forget, this-work-best, and etc. (1- Very much; 5 – Barely)
A6: Level – 1

Q7: What are your major concerns when use self-study instruction software?
A7:
1         Don’t know how to use technology (user-friendly) - 4
2        
New concepts - 1
3        
Take too long to go through - 4
4        
Too many new terms - 1
5         Not related to my work – 3

Company Owner – the owner of a training institution

Q1: Do you feel necessary to manage working knowledge, such as "how-to", of your company? (1 – Very necessary; 5 – Not necessary at all)
A1: Level – 2

Q2: What kind of knowledge do you like to manage?
A2:
1        
How-to for critical positions
2        
Job supportive knowledge
3         Other (please specify): New knowledge and skills

Q3: How would you like to invest on managing working knowledge for your company? (The numbers are estimated unit of money required for that item.); (1 - Most desirable; 5 – Least desirable)
A3:
1        
Instructor-led training (cost: 10 unit-dollar) - 4
2        
Workbook (cost: 3 unit-dollar) - 3
3        
Self-study instruction product (cost: 3 unit-dollar) - 2
4         Ongoing learning environment (cost: 4 unit-dollar) – 1

Q4: How would you like to have a self-study instruction product for your trainers and employees? (1 – Very much; 5 - Barely)
A4: Level – 1

Q5: What consideration would prompt you to choose an instruction product for building learning environment?
A5:
1        
Content focus on performance improvement
2        
Measurable learning outcomes
3        
Learning at home
4        
Affordable low cost
5        
Reusable
6         Other (please specify) - All learning content should be closely related to the learners' jobs.

Subject Matter Expert –Blog Hostess and Online Course instructor

Q1: For an instruction product that teaches learners to build learning environment with Open Source software, what contents and features are most useful for the instruction product?
A1: Blog Wiki RSS Podcast practical examples for integration those software Step-by-step demonstration Index for key concepts and processes (so that learners can trace back) Other (please specify) - Video clips; collaborative word processor.

Q2: What information resources are available for the learning mentioned in Item #1? Please specify name for each content in text box.
A2: Online resources Audio or video resources Other (please specify) - 1.Virtual learning environment in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_learning_environment 2.Blog help, click "take a tour" http://www.blogger.com/start 3.Google doc tutorial http://www.google.com/google-d-s/tour1.html 

Manager of Educational Facilities

Q1:How have employees of the company managed their working knowledge?

Q2: As a manager of educational facilities, what common barriers have you seen from past learning programs in the company?

Q3: To provide a self-study instruction product for your colleagues, what features are most useful to support their technical skill level?

Appendix B: Interview or Survey Data

Following table presents demography of survey takers and their responses to questions (motivation, confidence, and barrier)

Position

Personal Information

Motivation to Use Product

Self-Confident to Technology

Top Barrier for Applying instruction

Trainer

Female

Age: 48

Bachelor

Very Strong

Very High

Support from supervisor

Learner

Male

Age: 35

College

Very Strong

High

Literacy

Company Owner

Male

Age: 54

Bachelor

Very Strong

N/A

Budget

 

Appendix C: Subject Matter Resources

  1.  Key Characteristics, Wiki. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 25, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki#Key_characteristics  

  2.  Take a Tour. Blogger. Retrieved February 25, 2007, from  http://www.blogger.com/start  

  3.  Google Docs & Spreadsheets Tour. Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Retrieved February 25, 2007, from http://www.google.com/google-d-s/tour1.html

  4. Callahan, S. (2006). How to Use del.icio.us to Foster Collaboration. Retrieved February 25, 2007, from http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2006/11/how_to_use_deli.html  

Supplementary readings:

 Stafford, T., & Webb, M. (2006, July). What Is a Wiki (and How to Use One for Your Projects). Retrieved March 4, 2007, from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2006/07/07/what-is-a-wiki.html

Appendix D: System Diagram