Final Project: Rational and Method — Bob

I suspect that most academic libraries struggle with similar problems, limited permanent staff, multiple locations, extensive hours of operation, and many part-time student employees with frequent turnover, and schedules that do not overlap with supervisors.   The work consists of customer service, technology support, providing directions, basic research assistance, and building security.   Our part-time employees consist of traditional age undergraduate students.   Colby is a highly selective liberal arts college — accordingly our talent pool is a good one.   However, these young adults have little previous job experience, and while they have good work ethic developed in schoolwork and sports they often struggle to transfer that to the workplace.   While we have tried hard to make “workplace expectations’ more transparent we still have more work to do in this area.   One way to do this is to move a portion of our training to our Learning Management System.

Online instruction and e-Learning tools are increasingly being used in the academic setting for faculty to deliver course content; however, most libraries have yet to apply the advantages offered by these tools to employee training. This case study from the University of Arizona Libraries (UAL) presents the challenges of sustaining traditional training approaches and the steps to develop an online training program, including identifying specific competencies needed to create effective online training, an approach to prioritizing where to start your program, and requirements for training platform selection. (See and Teetor 2014)

Therefore, the project for this course is to create a blended learning environment for our training purposes.   While online presentation is important, what is really at stake is creating a multiplier effect that significantly increases our training contact hours with our employees while not increasing the number of our supervisory staff nor significantly increasing their workload.   An important technique is creating a “flipped workplace’ so to speak.   The Flipped Learning network website offers a straightforward definition on their homepage.   “Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.’   There is however, the question of how much content and what type of content moves to the “individual learning space.’   Likewise, what are the expectations, and motivations, and reasonable limits to pushing workplace training into the “individual learning space’?

Since the workplace already consists of a “dynamic, interactive learning environment’, there is an inherent logic to this configuration of employee training.   “Transformative learning involves ‘reflectively transforming the beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and emotional reactions that constitute our meaning schemes or transforming our meaning perspectives’ (Ally 2008).   In the case of our professional demeanor unit, the question becomes — what behaviors, performances, or changes in performance and behavior would convince me that learning occurred because of employee’s interaction with the resources in the unit?

In this unit, employees learn skills and practices of workplace professional demeanor.  First, what do we mean by “professional demeanor’?   A definition of “demeanor’ lists, conduct, behavior, appearance, and deportment as key elements — we modify that by setting it in the professional circumstance.   Really, these skills and knowledge are assumed in many workplaces but we have learned over years that we cannot assume this; we have to make these expectations explicit.   Therefore, this unit will cover:

  • library mission, vision and values,
  • work ethic,
  • workplace appearance,
  • basic workplace communication
    • phone
    • written
  • basic customer service

The selection of Moodle for a presentation format is because it is the college’s LMS.   Alas, I cannot simply link to this presentation as it is behind Colby’s security protocols.   So instead I have provided a screen-cast “tour’ of the unit, linked here.
Library_Customer_Service_–_Professional_Demeanor
Where Moodle is Colby’s LMS, our student employees are already familiar with it.   The use of our existing online training/reference manual linked from within the LMS creates a feedback loop for our employees reinforcing our instructions to use this resource as they try to answer customer questions or engage in review to reinforce training.   The use of “question and answer’ forums is also an important tool within the LMS.   Specifically this type of forum requires a participant to post before they can see co-workers posting.   I am hopeful this will help us avoid superficial engagement, for example, “I agree with Sally.’   Another tool used in this unit is Lynda.com this because of our campus subscription to this resource.   Leveraging this reduces the amount of content we have to create from scratch.   Certainly, there are costs and benefits to outsourcing training in this way.   We will seek feedback to understand these tradeoffs.   We will pilot the content with our seniors this year.   From this, we learn about the usefulness of the content and about the assignments themselves.   Indeed one possible scenario is after our seniors “take the course’ we give them the keys to the kingdom, give them “teacher’ status, and ask them to help us re-write the weak sections.   We will also implicitly certify that they do not leave us without exposure to these key workplace skills/knowledge.

A recurrent question both from my direct reports and from the instructor of this class has to do with — what gives us some teeth?   — “teeth,’ meaning both requiring participation and assessing learning outcomes.   One way to give the online instruction “teeth’ is for me as the Assistant Director of Customer Service and Administration to be the main instructor.   Another is to grade the course like a graduate course, A, B, F.   This has some logic because although this grade will not show on their transcript “grading’ is an experience this demographic is familiar with and driven by.   Once we have all employees, returning and new hires, through the training the number of participants will drop to between six and twelve.   Frequency will be at the start of fall and spring semester.   One element of this is simple participation — does the employee do what is asked?   If they refuse to participate, they are showing a withdrawal from the workplace much like absenteeism.   Absenteeism is addressed, though progressive disciplinary procedures.   Probably, I might weight non-participation in online instruction differently from missing several shifts, none-the-less both are unacceptable behavior and addressed with the same protocol.   Additionally, each year employees receive evaluations.   One aspect of this is participation is training.   Our move into the online environment simply provides one more piece of evidence for these conversations.

I see two opportunities for assessment.   First is in the LMS as they work through the assignments; second in the workplace as they do their work.   I care most about their demonstration of learning in the workplace.   I think that constructivist theories are also important in thinking about the learning we are encouraging and our assessment.

Inquiry and community were at the  core of John Dewey’s educational philosophy and  practice. Dewey (1959) believed that an educational experience must fuse the interests of the individual and society,  that individual development was dependent upon  community.  He  believed the essence of community was the organic fusion of the public and our private worlds. He also believed that the process of inquiry  went to the heart of the  educative experience. For  Dewey, inquiry involved the generalization  of the scientific method to practical problem solving and worthwhile learning. It defined the relationship between thought and action. For Dewey, inquiry was also an essentially social activity.  Dewey believed that through collaboration that respected the individual, students would assume responsibility to actively construct and confirm meaning. It is this collaborative constructivist approach that is worthy of further exploration in online learning. (Swan 2009)

This online presentation creates a site for community and practice of peer feedback.   This is important in all workplaces simply because learning occurs at all levels of the organization.   If this learning is not shared, the organization is vulnerable.   However, it is very difficult to create a culture of trust and respect in the workplace.   There is no single right answer to creating trust and respect just many approximations.   I hope that forum discussions in the LMS about shared learning can be part of these approximations.   Another element of using the forums as a public display of learning and requiring peer-to-peer commenting is practice with accountability (“teeth,’ as it were) to each other, not just to the supervisor.

Regarding the mission, vision and values section, I am looking for employees to understand themselves as part of a larger organization and part of an important mission.   Another aim for this section is to create some context for our work.   I think such understanding makes the work meaningful rather than rote.   Regarding the work ethic unit there are specific behaviors that could change because of this learning, for example, timesheets completed with greater accuracy and timeliness.     This section as drafted has eleven learning outcomes hence our hopes for it is significant (in truth, some of these outcomes may have to move to other instructional activities).   Some of this is about reliability creating trust and respect between employees.   Some of it is about accountability creating self-awareness about performance and knowledge in the workplace.   Finally, some of it is about choosing to do the right thing in the workplace.   Regarding the appearance section, first, we are not requiring a particular dress code instead, rather we are suggesting one, by setting the mark for business casual, we will likely achieve smart casual.   That said assessment could be defined in behavioristic terms — that is if we see employees more frequently in appropriate clothing and less frequently in inappropriate clothing then we have achieved a change in behavior.   For our purposes in the workplace that could be enough.   Finally, all of these issues and matters pertain to the last section about workplace communication.   If we have done a better job of creating knowledge, we will see among some of our employees an improvement in how they answer the phone and transfer the calls.   Some will require additional feedback as they develop skills and some will require additional motivation for us to see this improvement.   For us the improvement will look like answering the phone and transferring calls professionally and correctly.   In addition, notes left for us regarding customer problems that the student employees had to refer will be more complete and legible.

In conclusion, I think we have made some progress in identifying skills and knowledge we all too often take for granted and assume that our student employees will value and demonstrate.   I think there is a coherence to the content and sequence of the instructional unit.   However, it is only through usability testing that that will be confirmed.   Rather more likely is that some sections will be modified significantly after testing.   As mentioned, we will pilot this unit with our seniors this spring.   One of the open questions is do we march through the unit, five weeks, at the start of the semester?   Alternatively, do we spread the unit across the entire semester?   The former solution has the possible problem of overwhelming a new hire, the latter runs the risk of losing impact as the students shift to doing their schoolwork and losing efficacy in the workplace — we need the employees to do the work well immediately.   I am not as worried about requiring participation as some of my direct reports.   Nor, am I worried about having the employees doing some or all of the work during their regular shifts.   That said I perhaps should be listening to them more closely — only practice will show.   I have felt distanced from the student employees as my job responsibilities shifted to an administrative nature.   I am hopeful that I can reconnect with them through “teaching’ this unit and helping them see that these workplace fundamentals are important to us, but more to them.

Ally, M. (2008).  Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In  Anderson, T., & Elloumi, F. (Eds.).  The theory and practice of online learning  (2nd ed.)  (pp. 15—44). Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.

Andrew See & Travis Stephen Teetor (2014) Effective e-Training: Using a Course  Management System and e-Learning Tools to Train Library Employees, Journal of Access Services,  11:2, 66-90, DOI: 10.1080/15367967.2014.896217,  https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15367967.2014.896217

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C.  (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivismin Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.

5 thoughts on “Final Project: Rational and Method — Bob

  1. Owen

    Bob –

    Fantastic learning unit. This is an example I will share with following cohorts and my peers in the design community. I like your idea of having students (seniors) continue to flesh out the weak sections. This is sort of a high level reflection assignment and will be beneficial to them as they move on to even more professionally demanding circumstances in life.

    “I care most about their demonstration of learning in the workplace”…interesting. I think this is what we as educators *should* mostly care about. Actual learning outcomes as *applied* in life. The challenge we all face is how to abstract those to the confines of an educational experience (a semester for instance). In a way – you have the luxury of an ongoing learning environment much like a residential facility or something.

    I enjoyed your discussion about the timing challenge – and how you close with a student learning centered priority.

    Very well done.

    -owen

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Final Project: Rational and Method – Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655 – Scholarship

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    Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

    Referring to the last days, this could only be speaking of a cashless society, which we have yet to see, but are heading towards. Otherwise, we could still buy or sell without the mark amongst others if physical money was still currency. This Mark couldn’t be spiritual because the word references two different physical locations. If it was spiritual it would just say in the forehead. RFID microchip implant technology will be the future of a one world cashless society containing digital currency. It will be implanted in the right-hand or the forehead, and we cannot buy or sell without it. Revelation 13:11-18 tells us that a false prophet will arise on the world scene doing miracles before men, deceiving them to receive this Mark. Do not be deceived! We must grow strong in Jesus. AT ALL COSTS, DO NOT TAKE IT!

    “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).

    People have been saying the end is coming for many years, but we needed two key things. One, the Third Temple, and two, the technology for a cashless society to fulfill the prophecy of the Mark of the Beast.

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    “EITHER HUMAN INTELLIGENCE ULTIMATELY OWES ITS ORIGIN TO MINDLESS MATTER OR THERE IS A CREATOR…” – JOHN LENNOX

    We all know God exists. Why? Because without Him, we couldn’t prove anything at all. Do we live our lives as if we cannot know anything? No. So why is God necessary? In order to know anything for certain, you would have to know everything, or have revelation from somebody who does. Who is capable of knowing everything? God. So to know anything, you would have to be God, or know God.

    A worldview without God cannot account for the uniformity and intelligibility of nature. And why is it that we can even reason that God is the best explanation for this if there is no God? We are given reason to know or reject God, but never to know that He does not exist.

    It has been calculated by Roger Penrose that the odds of the initial conditions for the big bang to produce the universe that we see to be a number so big, that we could put a zero on every particle in the universe, and even that would not be enough to use every zero. What are the odds that God created the universe? Odds are no such thing. Who of you would gamble your life on one coin flip?

    Is there evidence that the Bible is the truth? Yes. Did you know that the creation accounts listed in the book of Genesis are not only all correct, but are also in the correct chronological order? That the Bible doesn’t say the Earth was formed in six 24-hour days but rather six long but finite periods of time? That the Bible makes 10 times more creation claims than all major “holy” books combined with no contradictions, while these other books have errors in them? The Bible stood alone by concurring with the big bang saying, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); and says our universe is expanding, thousands of years before scientists discovered these things. Watch a potential life-changing video on the front page of http://WWW.BIBLEFREEDOM.COM with Astronomer(PhD) Hugh Ross explaining all these facts based on published scientific data. He has authored many books, backed even by atheist scientists.

    Jesus came to pay a debt that we could not; to be our legal justifier to reconcile us back to a Holy God; only if we are willing to receive Him: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).

    God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him, through faith, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus says if we wish to enter into life to keep the commands! The two greatest commands are to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and your neighbor as yourself. All the law hang on these commands. We must be born of and lead by the Holy Spirit, to be called children of God, to inherit the kingdom. If we are willing to humble ourselves in prayer to Jesus, to confess and forsake our sins, He is willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who keep asking of Him; giving us a new heart, leading us into all truth!

    Jesus came to free us from the bondage of sin. The everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels due to disobedience to God’s law. If we do the same, what makes us any different than the devil? Jesus says unless we repent, we shall perish. For sin is the transgression of the law. We must walk in the Spirit so we may not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, being hatred, fornication, drunkenness and the like. Whoever practices such things will not inherit the kingdom (Galatians 5:16-26). If we sin, we may come before Jesus to ask for forgiveness (1 John 2:1-2). Evil thoughts are not sins, but rather temptations. It is not until these thoughts conceive and give birth by our own desires that they become sin (James 1:12-15). When we sin, we become in the likeness of the devil’s image, for he who sins is of the devil (1 John 3:8); but if we obey Jesus, in the image of God. For without holiness, we shall not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

    The oldest religion in the world is holiness through faith (James 1:27). What religion did Adam and Eve follow before the fall? Jesus, Who became the last Adam, what religion does He follow? Is He not holy? He never told us to follow the rituals and traditions of man but to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). There are many false doctrines being taught leading people astray. This is why we need the Holy Spirit for discernment. Unlike religion, holiness cannot be created. It is given to us from above by the baptism of the Spirit. Jesus is more than a religion; He is about having a personal relationship with the Father. Start by reading the Gospel of Matthew, to hear the words of God, to know His character and commandments. Follow and obey Jesus, for He is the way, the truth, and the life!

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