The Institute for Technology and Social Change is a private company based in Washington, D.C. Its web site offers a course catalogue focused on technological innovation. Timo Luege is a communication specialist who has spent the last seven years working for the humanitarian and development sector, a period during which large-scale disasters intersected with the rapid rise in mobile communication. Starting on Monday, he will be delivering TechChange’s course on technology tools and skills for emergency management for the third time.
In this interview he answers the following questions:
- What will I be able to do after taking the course that I couldn’t do before?
- Why should my manager pay for this, or at least support me?
- Why should my staff development or HR people support me to take this course?
- How will this help me to deliver for my organization – or to find my next job or mission?
- Humanitarian training focuses on technical skills, yet everyone recognizes the need for critical thinking and analytical skills. Do you think that your course can help with these and if so how?
- Is TechChange accredited and, if not, why not deliver this course through a traditional university?
- How does a communication specialist become an online instructor?
- What is your experience of teaching online?
Timo assisted in teaching the first iteration of the course before taking the helm, and dedicates two full weeks to preparation for the course. This is especially important as he covers fast-changing topics. A number of guests are invited to deliver online presentation and contribute to discussions. Although there is no group work, there are many opportunities for interaction. The learning environment is a custom-built job on top of WordPress. The cohorts are typically between 20 and 30 learners, with a broad diversity of people and countries represented.
From my vantage point, I connected with Timo to chat about this course which I found profoundly interesting for reasons that should not surprise regular readers of this blog:
- It aims to offer most-current knowledge in an area of innovation where the “half-life” of knowledge is short (and in fact Timo mentions that he finds it necessary to thoroughly update his content each time he runs the course).
- It has been developed outside of in-service training and of traditional universities, with knowledge based on practitioner expertise acquired through experience
- It is offered by a private company, leveraging relationships to the technology, humanitarian and development sectors.
On the other hand:
- It is neither open (free) nor massive (and doesn’t try to be), and therefore difficult to scale up.
- The pedagogical model appears to contain some elements of constructivist and experiential learning, but still appears very focused on information transmission.
- The value of the credential remains to be demonstrated with respect to applicability to work, performance outcomes, and recognition by HR departments and managers.
- It is unclear if or how learners interact during and after the course to form a knowledge community.
- The cost structure and business model are difficult to determine without first chatting with the TechChange team.
Please note that I have never taken a TechChange course and have not (yet) met their team, so these are only my first impressions, from the outside, looking in.