Subject matter experts as a learning problem

Reda Sadki Writing

Copenhagen. I chat with two “learning consultants”, whose job it is in their respective universities to help faculty improve how they teach. Much to my dismay, I understand that their role is perceived as being about the adoption of new tools (“Should I use Adobe Connect or Zoom?”). Yet they are a case in point that learning technologists provide a rare opportunity for university faculty to think through how they teach. In such institutions of teaching and learning, guess who is paid more? Cue Felder’s infamous quote: “College teaching may be the only skilled profession for which systematic training is neither required nor provided – pizza delivery jobs come with more instruction.” Subject matter experts are a problem. They are expensive. If they are good, they tend to be too busy to contribute. They often confuse knowing with teaching. Their best intention is to transmit what they know. They are …


Reda Sadki Writing

We struggle with the measurement of learning. Elaborate frameworks compete for attention. The sophistication of complexity theory or fractals, the business speak of ROI, levels, pyramids, concentric circles… every learning guru peddles a model to describe and diagnose the effects of what we try to do – and what learners actually do most often on their own. How can we possibly describe the complex chain of correlation and causation between a learning intervention or incident and an outcome? Is there an important distinction separating knowledge or skills “transfer” from the progression to implementation and, ultimately, impact? How much of a difference can we actually make on performance outcomes or human capital development, when so much is related to the environment’s learning culture? I described a few of the outcomes we are observing for our most advanced global programme. Learners are transmuted into teachers, leaders, and facilitators. In some countries, learners are …

Humanitarian Leadership Academy merges with Save the Children UK

Reda Sadki Writing

I asked three questions, four years ago, as a sympathetic observer eager to see a learning organization – launched with much fanfare and 20 million British pounds of DFID support – help improve humanitarian work. Never really got an answer. Until today. It turns out that the Humanitarian Leadership Academy is being absorbed into the UK’s largest international NGO. (Save the Children originally lobbied for the Academy’s startup funding and hosted it, yet never entrusted the Academy with its own training…) The Academy consistently touted the snake oil of gamification or fads like the “Social Age” under the guise of “innovation” (often seemingly for its own sake), fig leaves for a startling lack of strategic thinking and an eerie vacuum of learning leadership. Never mind the questionable donors, it is now clear that the Academy’s roots in charity and “free training” made it mission impossible to not just explore but …

The next big thing in learning

Reda Sadki Writing

Will it be virtual reality (VR)? The promise of immersive, experiential learning is tantalizing. What about artificial intelligence (AI), if only to relieve humans of the drudgery of the more trivial part of assessment and feedback? Will neuroscience lay bare cognitive process? What if the blockchain stored distributed learning records? How about building a successor to creaky Moodle? Predicting the future tends to be a losing bet. In the past, for example, some learning gurus bet on gamification. That went nowhere fast – although the humanitarian sector is still figuring this out. Some learning leaders see innovation where others see obsolescence or transition. In 2018, one learning leader specializing in innovative educational technology still included MOOCs as a “brand-new” innovation… Such predictions all miss the point. Here is why. They overwhelmingly focus on a specific technology and its transformative potential, in the eyes of its proponents, for education. The biggest …

Partially-melted chocolate

Hot fudge sundae

Reda Sadki Writing

Through their research on informal and incidental learning in the workplace, Karen Watkins and Victoria Marsick have produced one of the strongest evidence-based framework on how to strengthen learning culture to drive performance. Here, Karen Watkins shares an anecdote from a study of learning culture in which two teams from the same company both engaged in efforts to reward creative and innovative ideas and projects. However, one team generated far more ideas than the other. You won’t believe what turned out to be the cause of the drastically disparate outcomes.   I recorded Karen via Skype while she was helping me to perform my first learning practice audit, a mixed methods diagnostic that can provide an organization with new, practical ways to recognize, foster, and augment the learning that matters the most. Recognizing that the majority of learning, problem-solving, idea generation, and innovation do not happen in the training room …

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 …

Lenses rainbow

Unified Knowledge Universe

Reda Sadki Content strategy, Learning design, Learning strategy, Writing

“Knowledge is the economy. What used to be the means has today become the end. Knowledge is a river, not a reservoir. A process, not a product. It’s the pipes that matter, because learning is in the network.” – George Siemens  in Knowing Knowledge (2006) Harnessing the proliferation of knowledge systems and the rapid pace of technological change is a key problem for 21st century organizations. When knowledge is more of a deluge than a trickle, old command-control methods of creating, controlling, and distributing knowledge encased in a container view do little to crack how we can tame this flood. How do you scaffold continual improvement in learning and knowledge production to maximize depth, dissemination and impact? A new approach is needed to apply multiple lenses to a specific organizational context. What the organization wants to enable, improve and accelerate: Give decision makers instant, ubiquitous and predictive access to all the knowledge in …

Pietro Perugino's usage of perspective in the Delivery of the Keys fresco at the Sistine Chapel (1481–82) helped bring the Renaissance to Rome.

Vanishing point

Reda Sadki Published articles, Writing

Two parallel lines look like they eventually converge at the horizon. Technology’s chase for digital convergence, say between television and the Internet, raises interesting questions of its own, starting with what happens at the ‘vanishing point’ – and how to get there. How about publishing and learning? Semantico has a blog post based on John Helmer’s lively chat with Toby Green, OECD’s head of publishing, and myself. Yes, publishing has already been transformed by the amazing economy of effort of technology. Now it is struggling to find meaning in the throes of the changing nature of knowledge (as it’s locked in, so to speak, by its container view of knowledge). In the past, an ‘educational’ publisher was a specific breed and brand. In the hyper-connected present, where knowledge is a process (not a product), publishers who have already transformed themselves at least once (that is, they are still around) now have to consider how to …

City view of Beirut, Lebanon on June 1, 2014. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Scaling up critical thinking against extreme poverty

Reda Sadki Events, Interviews, Learning strategy, Writing

In three years, the World Bank’s e-Institute enrolled 50,000 learners through small, tutor-led online courses and webinars. Its first MOOC, run on Coursera’s platform for four weeks, reached 19,500. More MOOCs are in preparation, with the next one, based on the flagship World Development Report, launching on June 30th (details here). However, the need for scale is only one consideration in a comprehensive strategic vision of how learning innovation in all its forms can be harnessed to foster new kinds of leadership and accelerate development. In this candid conversation recorded at the Scaling corporate learning online symposium, I asked Abha Joshi-Ghani, the World Bank’s Director for Knowledge Exchange and Learning, to present some early data points from the Bank’s first MOOC, situating it within a broader history of engagement in distance and online learning. Joshi-Ghani describes the partnership, business and production models for its pilot MOOC. She also shares some early …

Opencast Mine / Tagebau - Garzweiler / NRW / Germany

Opening workplace learning

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud, Writing

For organizations, the paradigm of workplace learning remains focused on internal development of staff, on the premise that staff need to be learning to improve, if only to keep their knowledge and competencies current. In the past, education advocates struggled to gain recognition for the need to continually learn in the workplace. Opening workplace learning was difficult to justify or finance due to the economy of effort required to deploy educational activities. In today’s hyper-connected world, organizations can no longer afford to restrict their educational activities to their own staff. Nor can they rationally allow for such activities to be limited to ad hoc face-to-face ‘trainings’ that do not scale. They need to reach their target audiences through education if they want the knowledge they produce to have more than superficial impact. This is part and parcel of sustainability. Closed learning restricted to the workplace is the knowledge economy equivalent of strip-mining. Photo: Opencast Mine, Germany (TablinumCarlson/Flickr).