... of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.
Another way of putting it might be: If you think making a business plan is just filling in the blanks, you're in for a surprise.
Awkward Beginnings I began this journey really about halfway through my online course in Training and Assessment. Accredited Online Training offered a Cert IV course for about half of the least expensive classroom price. It was more attractive to me since I have done a lot of work online as a researcher and web designer.
After finishing all the modules online, AOL wanted me to send the two tapes: one of me training; another of me doing an assessment. Finding a digicam or camcorder and a few mock trainees proved to be problematic. After borrowing a camcorder for three weeks, then a digicam for a couple of weeks, I finally seduced a few friends into a computer lab to produce the training video.
What I produced was a perfect example of how not to train anyone. My friends came in with bags of potato chips, soft drinks, and sandwiches, then spent most of the time kidding around. If I had sent that tape in, they'd blacklist me from the profession!
First Lesson learned: If it's important to your business, get it for yourself.
The second lesson I'd learned long ago: When in doubt, fall back on your strengths.
I contacted a tutor at AOL and asked if I could produce a website to train and assess instead of a video. Since they'd been struggling to establish the credibility of online training, that request was enthusiastically granted, with a proviso: Add an Introduction to the course including the requirements of the Australian ANTA (now a part of DEST.) -- No problem. After all, it just meant putting in more content from the course.
So instead of a pair of training videos, I produced a website that introduced the goals and requirements of my course, a few pages to illustrate a couple of different ways to design and present material, and an assessment page.
Simple, effective and it got me three emails with words like "superb" and "excellent" all over them.
The course had contained links to hundreds of pages of background reading.
Since this was going to be my new profession, I read everything I could find on it. Learning styles, instructional design, different categories of training/education, the psychology of learning, etc. I must've spent 3 months moving from one site to another. I was so engrossed in the readings that I forgot to keep working on the course! -- Suddenly one day an email came in telling me that I was not suited to the demands of an online course!I had to quickly reply and promise to get back to work.
The reference links contained readings that fascinated me. I've always been an amateur artist, a talent that proved valuable as a web designer. This was a new perspective on creativity and design. Not just sharing your own perceptions through art, but a practical application of the psychology of expression: designing a learning experience.
I was so engrossed in exploring ideas and trying out things, taking different tests and evaluations. I found out what sort of learning I am: INTP -- meaning I intuit from what I read, and learn verbally. That was not a surprise.
What was a surprise was seeing how many different systems of training existed.
My previous experience as a trainer had been limited to producing a few office procedure manuals from screenshots pasted into a Word file. Illustrated step-by-step instructions for a specific purpose.
I've been to dozens of professional seminars. They're intense, fast-paced learning. You absorb rather than memorize. You're expected to have the background to be able to handle the pace. There is no mercy. You have too much to cover to wait for stragglers. They just have to take notes and catch up later.
The Cert IV course was advanced vocational training.
In vocational training, the responsibility for learning rests with the trainer. Grades don't count. Your job as trainer is to get the people competent on the material. -- That's almost the opposite of the goals of academics, where it sometimes seems the professor or teacher is trying to find ways to trick the students.
Vocational training is a Pass-Fail system for the student and the instructor. If the student fails, so does the instructor. The instructor's job is to impart competency to the learner.
This is where I realized the Performance Criteria I was responding to in the Cert IV course failed. The questions were about nuance, not strictly substance. I found myself answering one question completely, then copying and pasting parts of that answer into 7-20 other questions in the module. Of the other students in my starting group, I was the only one who completed each module the first time through. The other students were taking an average of 7 to 22 attempts at the modules. (more on this later)
I came to understand that there were two strategic categories of learning: vocational and academic.
Academic training has a different goal and focus. It trains the mind to discern meaning and nuance.; to derive that meaning and nuance from a range of materials. Vocational training, on the other hand, defines and limits the meaning and nuance to explicit goals and requirements. An education is the combination of all the person's experience, training, and schooling.
An academic teacher will find the demands of vocational training frustrating; and vice versa. A teacher presents the material to the student in a number of different media. It is up to the student to learn. The student is graded based on a scale that may describe as much talent and nuance as skills and specific knowledge.
I found myself attempting to employ labels to try to get a handle on the concepts. Commonly used terms -- teacher-student, mentor, facilitator, learner, and others -- were used interchangeably in context. (As I'm doing here.)
Education was both the whole of learning; and the goals of K-12 schooling. Training was anything that could be described as Pass-Fail, whether that meant the requirements of a specific job or training the mind to academic work. A number of other factors come into play quickly: technology, age, social norms, expectations, etc. And then there are the types of assessment: formative, summative, and holistic. The resulting morass further defines how Learning Management Systems are designed -- and becomes ever more problematic.
That was about where my mindset was after finishing the Cert IV course.
The Moodle Moot in Adelaide brought these ideas into sharp focus. It was a gathering of educators: teachers, professors, trainers, businesspeople, advocates and proselytes. And as the interests played out before me, I tried to focus on gathering some perspective on what role I might find in this global game.
Since my focus is technology and my strong suit is analysis, I was drawn to the pre-conference high-availability server presentation. (In fact, I didn't see my hotel room til noon, and then only had a few minutes to admire the comfortable room and hot tub before returning for the second half of the presentation.)
I've always enjoyed the rarified atmosphere of new ideas, new challenges, and new concepts probing for their own place in a competitive environment. At the Moot, ideas swirled and roared around me like the boiling purple clouds in Oklahoma before a tornado. Here were programmers who were dreamers, educators and scholars wide-eyed at technology, tough-minded businessmen awkwardly presenting their products, school administrators who became technology advocates, and young minds enthused with the fire of vision. Here were the gnomes, and elves, and trolls, heroes and hobbits of a new world.
(this story continues..)