Mission accomplished

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

We won. The former school teacher and humanitarian trainer who argued vociferously that nothing would ever supplant face-to-face training is now running a MOOC. The training manager who refused to consider e-learning is now running a distance learning, scenario-based simulation. People he trains are now working remotely – and a simulation, dirt-cheap and run by e-mail, is closer to modelling the real world than is the artificially and unrealistically “safe space” of the high-cost, low-volume training room. Work went through digital transformation before “training” did. The old-school learning and development manager is getting certified to run webinars. Through practice, she has surprised herself by how much she feels when running a session. A digital course run ahead of a face-to-face workshop mobilized ten times as many (people), for ten times less (money). Course participants produced tangible artefacts, directly applicable to work, through collaboration and peer review. And they did not need to …

Minecraft learning science

Insomnia against the grain – and putting Bloom to bed

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Summer 2016, Day 1. “So, that puts to bed Bloom’s Taxonomy… that reliable workhorse,” sighed C. “What do we use in its place?” “We don’t”, answered the Walrus. “There is no successor to neatly replace Bloom’s. It’s still there – and can still be useful. It’s about changing the way we think and do the design of learning. Just look at how we are building our course in real time.”  And we are. Observing the accelerating flow of applications for the #DigitalScholar course is more than a spectator sport. It is turning me into an insomniac. It is about feeling who is out there in the interwebs, somehow ending up with a course announcement from a brand-new (read: obscure) foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland. Reading motivation statements, trying to figure out how they connect to boxes ticked… It is on that shifting knowledge landscape of what is shared, across time and space, that we are sculpting the experience we …

Old cash register (Andrés Moreira/flickr)

Inventing by investing in new business models for humanitarian training

Reda Sadki Education business models, Thinking aloud

Through research and broad sector collaboration, a consensus has emerged on the recognition that uneven quality of personnel is a major limiting factor in humanitarian response, and that serious effort is needed to address the global gap in skills and build capacity of countries and local communities. At the same time, there is growing recognition that existing models for learning, education and training (LET) are not succeeding in addressing this gap, and that new approaches are needed. Structured learning has long been assumed to be an expenditure and, for a long time, remained unquestioned as a necessary investment. Yet learning advocates increasingly find themselves in a defensive posture, in part due to the complexity involved in correlating education initiatives with measurable outcomes for a cost centre. However, new business models point to education driven by demand that can not only cover its own costs but generate revenue to be reinvested …

Peter Paul Rubens. From 1577 to 1640. Antwerp. Medusa's head. KHM Vienna.

Experience and blended learning: two heads of the humanitarian training chimera

Reda Sadki Design, Events, Learning design, Learning strategy, Thinking aloud

Experience is the best teacher, we say. This is a testament to our lack of applicable quality standards for training and its professionalization, our inability to act on what has consequently become the fairly empty mantra of 70-20-10, and the blinders that keep the economics (low-volume, high-cost face-to-face training with no measurable outcomes pays the bills of many humanitarian workers, and per diem feeds many trainees…) of humanitarian education out of the picture. We are still dropping people into the deep end of the pool (i.e., mission) and hoping that they somehow figure out how to swim. We are where the National Basketball Association in the United States was in 1976. However, if the Kermit Washingtons in our space were to call our Pete Newells (i.e., those of us who design, deliver, or manage humanitarian training), what do we have to offer? The corollary to this question is why no one seems to care? How …

Speaking of effigies (Dayna Bateman/Flickr)

Make a wish

Reda Sadki Learning strategy, Thinking aloud, Writing

Is the CLO really the ‘fifth wheel’ in the organizational strategy wagon? Learning leaders tend to roll their eyes upward in sour-faced agreement about ending up as an after thought – after strategic alignment has been completed everywhere else in the organization, or being considered as a support service to enable and implement rather than a partner. So, what to wish for? First, I would wish for an organization that is mission-driven. This is what everyone wishes for, of course, so let me try to be specific. The mission should inspire, giving everyone something to strive for, to encourage people and structure to reinvent themselves to face global complexity – with clarity that reinvention is a constant, not a one-off. It would require strong leadership, not command-and-control, but modelling the values and practices of the organization and the acceptance that uncertainty requires calculated risk-taking, now and tomorrow. Such distributed leadership requires a strong, vocal chief executive attuned to the …

Pyramide d'abricot à La bague de Kenza (Paris)

Bite-sized update: higher education in fragile contexts, discovery without analytics, and the epistemology of learning culture

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud, Travel

As much as I wish this blog could document my reflections as I read, research, speak, and listen… it cannot. Knowledge is a process, not a product, in this VUCA world we live in. I know that I am doing too much, too fast, to be ale to process everything. Accepting this is part and parcel of navigating the knowledge landscape. So here is an incomplete round-up with some schematic thoughts about where I’m headed. Higher education in fragile contexts as a wicked problem: Most ed tech conferences I’ve attended are mostly male, and tend to focus on the education of those least-in-need. Inzone’s workshop on education in fragile contexts was at the other end of that spectrum, with a diverse team of scholars and practitioners coming together to tackle wicked learning problems such as how to ensure access to education for Syrian refugees in Turkey (access), what to do when refugee camp conditions are such …

Young man at a vocational education and training center, Marrakesh, Morocco. © Dana Smillie / World Bank

Making humanitarians

Reda Sadki Learning strategy, Thinking aloud

The industry to tackle growing humanitarian and development challenges has expanded rapidly since the mid 1990s, but not nearly as fast as the scope and scale of the problems have spiraled. Professionalization was therefore correctly identified as a major challenge of its own, with over a decade of research led by Catherine Russ and others clearing the rubble to allow the sector to make sense of what needs to be done. The bottom line diagnosis is a now-familiar litany: a shortage of people and skills, lack of quality standards, inability to scale. Despite the growth of traditional university programs to credential specialized knowledge of these challenges and how to tackle them, young people armed with multiple masters find that they really start learning upon entering their first NGO. They face a dearth of entry-level positions (sometimes spending years as “interns” or other forms of under-recognized labor) and discover professional networks closed to them …

Contradiction – Kyoto Train Station (Stéfan/flickr)


Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

4:35 p.m. “My working hypothesis is that the learning that matters is mostly incidental and informal.” “Maybe,” he smiled. “Yet, my conviction that we need to explore this is grounded in my formal training in knowledge management.” 5:17 p.m.  “When we are under-funded and overwhelmed,” he sighed, “is just not the right time to go off on a tangential project!” “I won’t argue with you. Let us go through with it to determine how useless it is to trade short-term survival tactics for long-term strategic thinking.”   Photo: Contradiction, Tokyo train station (Stéfan/flickr).  

Boats on the sea shore

Who are we and why are we talking?

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

As learning leaders, we share a personal passion and commitment to solving wicked problems. We recognize that no one organization can solve these problems alone. We use our talent to advocate for new ways of doing new things, both inside and outside our structures. We see continual learning as the key to preparedness in a hyper-connected VUCA world. We believe that creative, collaborative, and networked business models are needed for both communities (“resilience”) and businesses (“sustainability”) that serve them (including humanitarian organizations) to survive and grow. The small farmer or grocery store perspective is the community-based perspective. Sustainability is the business. The point of our continued conversation is to determine how we can move to collaboration and action. Photo: Boats on the sea shore (Despite straight lines/Flickr)

TRS-80 Pocket Computer

The Law of Halves

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

How many people do you need to recruit ten thousand learners? The preliminary questions are: is there an established network of learners? This requires that learners are connected to each other, and not simply end nodes in a pyramidal structure. And, do you have access to the network? These questions may be answered empirically. Publish your course. Build it and they may come – through the network. This is the value proposition of the MOOC aggregators: sign up for one course and you become part of its network. Expect to receive frequent communication as the aggregator’s value to the institutions who feed it content depends on its ability to convert one course enrollment into a lifelong pattern of registrations. What if they do not come? Much seems to depend on the level of computer literacy. If your target learners are computer software engineers, offer a relevant, quality course and they are likely …