Pros and cons of online courses

Reda Sadki Writing

“Please, I need someone to enlighten me on the pros and cons of online courses for active learning and professional development.” There is quite a bit of contextual information missing to decode what is really being asked. We only know that it is an individual professional from an anglophone country in Africa. Still, I can think of at least three ways to answer this question. Answer #1. Wrong question. This is the wrong question. Pros and cons depend on the quality of the pedagogy, the teaching and facilitation team, the resources, technologies used, context, learning and learner objectives… everything except the medium. Review a course against criteria like the above, not as an abstract consideration. Define your own goals. What are you hoping to achieve? What is the relationship between perceived quality and cost? The residential experience is still perceived as the gold standard for education. And it tends to …

Inside a lava tube on Hawai'i (Personal collection)

Ashes to ashes

Reda Sadki Writing

L&D is dead. Pushing us down the blind alley of technological solutionism, the learning technologists have demoted learning to tool selection. Microlearning reduces the obsession with knowledge acquisition from a one-hour video to 60 one-minute videos. Gamification is lipstick on the pig of behaviorism. xAPI and other “X”-buzzwords are just the latest tin con by desperate LMS vendors. Fantasizing that VR or AR will save us perpetuates the persistent confusion between tools and process. As ‘learning leaders’ we are condemning ourselves to irrelevance by chasing ephemeral fads, investing in empty gimmicks, and embracing bearded gurus spouting non-sense. ‘Learning in the flow of work’ is a successful consultant’s buzz word, but will not help us any more than 70-20-10 did. Leadership ‘development’ remains about pampering a few executives old enough to appreciate cushy hotel and conference rooms. Kirkpatrick died, replaced by a coterie of rabid Kirkpatrick wannabes frothing at the mouth …

Diving platform on Graveyard Hill in Kabul from TV-Hill, Afghanistan. Sven Dirks, Wien

The significance of digital platforms to the business

Reda Sadki Learning strategy, Thinking aloud, Writing

Business gets done by groups in workshops and meetings and by individuals in private conversation. There is an undeniable cultural advantage for diplomacy that comes from looking your interlocutor in the eye. Emerging digital platforms are in the margins of this business. The pioneers are creaky in their infrastructure and, ironically, playing catch-up. They have long lost the initial burst of enthusiasm that led to their creation. Yet they are still here, alive and kicking with funding that can support, in principle, their reinvention. For this, they need courage and creativity, especially if they function in a bureaucratic environment. Then there are new platforms in search of purpose and the users it would bring. Sometimes, it is the other way around. No platform is perfect. All of them have strengths, experience, insights, and the potential to be more in the future than what they are now. Some have already achieved …

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 …