Learning Design


Ok. You already have some individual craft, know-how, or professional expertise. Excellent! And now you want to work with others, in bigger projects, ones that can really make the world a better place. You want to learn collaborative design. Great!

Now, if you have a short list of ways for learning, please check those ways against these criteria. If you are not satisfied with the results, then please check out our newest course "Designing with Others".

1. Is it Constructive?

Does the short-listed learning path depend mostly on looking? Is it based on videos, slides, and web browsing? Collaborative design is not done that way, nor are projects that make a difference. If the learning isn't constructive, it isn't relevant to collaborative design. In short, it isn't cogent for you. Designers need to listen and observe, no doubt, but they learn best by making things that make a difference outside workshops. In Cogent Language courses, participants construct work products that can make a difference in their worlds: models, prototypes, plans, or decisions.

2. Is it Cooperative?

Is the learning path that you are looking at private? Is it chiefly "self-directed"? Fine, but collaborative design and careers that depend on it are all about cooperating in real time with other people and organizations. Participants in our courses take on the challenges of collaboration under time constraint, a challenge that is often called "leadership".

3. Is is Cumulative?

Is the learning path mapped out simply by topic? Hmm. Does it build on previous work? Does it incorporate the work of others? Does it accumulate team knowledge in a concrete product? If not, then what, please, is its connection to collaborative design in the 21st Century? The practice today is built on the ability to progressively elaborate work in a team context. In Cogent Language courses, the main learning activities are not topics presented by the instructor - they are tasks that participants do. Task sequences build on previous tasks and topics, with participants incorporating the work of teammates and accumulating knowledge in concrete products.

4. Is it Fast?

Is the learning path that you are looking at "at your own pace"? Okay, but fast companies move at internet speed, and it is no accident that many collaborative design practices surging in importance now are in sync with the agile mindset and agile project managment. To bring participants up to speed quickly, all Cogent Language courses move fast. For individual review and follow up – at "my pace" – our workbooks provide templates for continued learning, including references to the PMBOK® Guide and other fast company resources.

5. Is it Visual?

Does the learning path look mostly like bullet points and paragraphs? Does it sound mostly like expert talking heads? Not good. Lots of language tends to slow things down and muddy them up.

Collaborative designers aim to prototype – to evoke sensibly – their systems in focus and/or ways forward. In short, they aim to "show". This is not only because we are immersed today in our visual SNS, smartphones, videos and TV. Professional co-workers in global organizations often do not speak the same first language. This is why, for collaborative design work, they rely less on prose and grammar, and more on lucid, logical models.

It is thus no surprise that conventional, project management work products such as WBS and Gantt chart are visual systems models. So are agile's burn down charts and Kanban boards.

In Cogent Language offerings, explanations and task work are set out by way of diagrams, tables, and other structural models corresponding to those used in the operating world of collaborative design and global projects. In the tasks, participants (and instructor) are typically using or making visual systems models, on whiteboards, mobile devices, or prototypes, in appropriate media (including just plain paper).

6. Is it Personal?

After starting down the learning path to collaborative design, will you have meaningful choices about the selection, sequence and scope of your learning activities? Or is your path unitary and pre-determined? Not good again.

If the learning isn't personal, it isn't cogent. Project based learning in design should give you significant choices about what topics you want to focus on, what you want to design, and how. How else can your learning stay connected with your ideals and realities?

"Buy-in" drives motivation and learning. It comes largely from participants having meaningful options about topics and participation. "Getting their way" is not a distraction or side-trip. It is skin in the game that accelerates learning and improves the design work that people do.

For this reason, participants in Cogent Language courses need not move in lock-step. Rather, multiple learning paths are offered. You have meaningful choices after you sign up about specific topics and learning activities. Class size is small so that the facilitator can serves as coach, helping each participant and/or team along a learning path fit to the goals and constraints that they have.