Guest Blog written by Jillian Bichanich
I recently took my second Coursera course, “Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part II,” and am pleased to say that in today’s blog I will be able to cover two topics that both will be helpful for managers of eLearning. First, another review of a Coursera MOOC. Second, a review of the topics and ideas covered in this course—all which focus on the people of a business.
I want to start by saying that I think it’s incredibly important for one to try and further his/herself through avenues of professional development. Especially when these avenues are free to the end user, like this MOOC was, there really isn’t any excuse. I encourage aspiring managers, and current managers alike, to look into the business courses offered either through Coursera, edX, Udacity, NovoEd, Udemy, or the many other MOOC providers that are out there and see what courses are available for you to continue to improve your techniques and work. After taking this course, we at Web Courseworks plan to have a small study group of managers review the materials and collaborate to determine ways to improve both processes and managerial skills within the company. Other companies may want to look at similar processes.
If you haven’t yet read our last blog post, A Review of a Coursera Course, and if you do not yet know what MOOCs (Massive open online courses) are, they are college level courses open to the public for either a minimal fee, or mainly for free. As reviewed in the last post, I gave Coursera four stars in providing high-quality higher education learning online. I am also glad to announce that it was not just the course on Gamification that set a high bar. The course on business growth provided by the Darden Graduate School of Business from the University of Virginia was just as informational and interactive. The lectures were well filmed and the courses were well-designed and well produced.
The content provided in this course was phenomenal and I would definitely recommend it to any managers of eLearning, or managers/entrepreneurs otherwise. Truth be told, the focus of the course actually lies on entrepreneurs, but I am thoroughly convinced that most, if not all, of the items covered applies to both.
So, what was covered? What pertains to eLearning management? What can I share with you?
Week one was devoted to the concept that entrepreneurs must grow along with the business. It talks about the fact that growth requires the right people, and furthermore the right “hiring, training, and retaining of high performance employees.” Ed Hess, the professor of the course, describes a set of transitions for the entrepreneur (or manager) in the topics of leadership. What are they? Well, in matters of leadership, going from a doer, to a manager, to a leader, to a coach/mentor. Hess talks about learning skills and improving the skills that you have, and using those to then teach others. You may begin in a position in which you have to keep “doing,” but if the company is successful and finds itself growing, you as a manager need to evolve to do the “leading”. One must learn to let go and delegate, allow your employees to fail, but continue to give them the tools to succeed.
Week two explains the concept and methods to gain high performance and high employee engagement. Hess again reiterates the importance of hiring “the right people.” Whether these employees may be programmers, project managers, or members of your sales team, he highlights that skills are not always the most important thing to take into consideration. Does the applicant fit into your company culture? Is he/she positive? Will the hire help you be positive? Most importantly, do they want to learn? If you are going to evolve into a coach/mentor, then you need to be managing people who want to be coached.
Weeks three and four continue to talk about creating a system of growth, one that functions independently only to better the system as a whole. The units discuss building a senior management team and how much a company can lose when the hiring process isn’t a company focus. He talks about the need to fear complacency within your team. He tells us that as a business grows, it needs to change and that you can have high performance players, but not necessarily selfish “stars” because this can destroy the company culture.
So again, I encourage you to participate in this course the next time it is offered through Coursera. Hess presents case studies of management in nursing facilities, restaurants, and medical machinery and these same ideas/concepts of growth and change apply to management in eLearning as well. Coursera continues to provide a quality level of online education, and as members of the eLearning realm, we should reward a company when they can show us “best practice” in many different areas.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
A Lesson for all eLearning Practitioners
My blog team recently completed a Coursera MOOC (Massive open online course) on the concept and practice of Gamification. If you haven’t yet been introduced to MOOCs, they are college level on-line courses offered for free from major universities. Coursera, specifically, offers numerous courses in a wide range of topics that are mostly free to the end user/student. To give you some history on Coursera, it was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, both computer science professors from Stanford. Coursera works with universities to help promote the university’s top professors and introduce students to content that they may otherwise not have had access to. Coursera has been funded by over 20 million in venture capital which has enabled the creation of very high quality online learning experiences for millions globally. Overall, Coursera provides a high-quality higher education distance learning experience. The features of the Learning Management System (LMS) help create a user-friendly experience. The course design is an outstanding example of best practice. This combination of well designed courses within an elegant website system should do much to promote advancement in distance education using the Internet.
Usually, online courses are delivered through a Learning Management System. Coursera successfully created a user-friendly system that is clean and doesn’t bog the learner down. They track course progress with easy-to-view progress bars and use a simple, clean design that is far superior to the typical LMS that often has user interfaces (too many buttons and/or features) that get in the way. The site views as a stripped-down version of a typical higher education LMS and only allows the students the ability to see their courses, the course catalog, and their course records which holds the statement of accomplishments; Coursera doesn’t overwhelm the user with unneeded functionalities. The Coursera site in general gets five stars from our team here at Web Courseworks.
Colleges and universities do not typically use such well-filmed/designed video as lecture. Instead most colleges videotape an actual lecture. Coursera sets a high bar for recording the “lecture” portion of the class. The lectures include an embedded, well-produced, close-up video of the professor (who is already “a star” in the field content) talking directly to the learner. This method does well to capture the professor’s personality, and it furthers to generate the feeling of an improved face-to-face classroom experience. These lectures are shot well, which is usually expensive to do. Because of this, these courses are generally superior to most online classes for the production value alone.
The courses are well defined instructionally. Parallels exist between classroom learning and the way that Coursera’s online courses are designed. Check marks show for completion, material is exposed to the learner as weeks progress, and the syllabus is at the top of the menu for easy access to course expectations. Furthermore the lectures are rich with examples and are graphically enjoyable. The professor uses a pen to draw on the slides in order to emphasize certain points and theories. This helps to create a real feeling of “being there.” Arrows and highlights on screen draw attention to areas that the learner should focus on. Content is sufficiently organized in scaffold fashion to move the learner from basic introductory material to more advanced material, in due time. If you want to learn more about how the content is produced, check out this video.
Coursera has done a good job at including learner activities to promote content retention and retrieval. Questions are embedded into the lecture so that the user has to stop and think about what content/information has been relayed. The course utilizes discussion boards in which classmates can discuss particular aspects of the class. Usually courses include quizzes, tests, and/or written assignments with peer evaluations. The lecture/learning activity combo is well through out. Ample opportunities are provided for the learner to apply the knowledge learned in the course.
Methods of Motivation
Part of Coursera’s success comes from the motivation behind self-directed learning. In recent years, studies argue that self-directed learning gives students better ability to learn because they can control the flow of their experience. A second method of user motivation is a passion behind furthering one’s knowledge, and furthermore, learners get substantial resume builders, as well as an elevated status once certification is attained. The courses take genuine hard work so employers and traditional schools will recognize the value.
Why is Coursera as successful as it is today after other attempts failed over the last decade? Well, larger technical improvements like high bandwidth have allowed for easy access to the internet on most everyone’s home PCs, work PCs, or mobile devices. Most importantly, the classes are instructionally designed and executed with high production values and delivered within a user friendly web site. This venture in distance education is a lesson for all of us who create eLearning! It is indeed “best practice.” With the rise in universities that are signing on, the inclusion of some courses that give actual credit, and with the already current 3.2 million users that have joined Coursera, there isn’t anywhere to go from here other than up. Bravo to Coursera!. Thank you for improving the quality level, building a new business model, and for ultimately kicking all distance education programs forward.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
My Interview on the May 17th Excelsior College Games Symposium
As a follow up to last week’s post on Excelsior College’s coming up webinar on games in education, I was happy to speak with Mike Lesczinski on my thoughts about this year’s symposium topics. Prepared for answers, Mike asked me to share my favorite aspects of last year’s session, where I fall on the topic of gamification, how I believe colleges/universities should be using games in education, as well as much more. If you would like to hear the full interview, I encourage you to visit Excelsior’s page, otherwise, I have went ahead and given you the highlights of my thoughts here.
First of all, I would like to say how much I appreciate what Excelsior College is doing to bring awareness to games in education. It is pretty incredible when a smaller college is able to create an event that is not only expected to bring a lot of interest from a certain professional realm, but furthermore, that can bridge the gap between different types of thinkers with different passions. Though I feel that I fall in the middle of the spectrum of the educational and business minded professionals that have interest in games and simulations, it is interesting to think of the specifics that drive these professionals to encourage game use in their separate communities. In both aspects, it is important to think about HOW we can take aspects from let’s say, video games, and apply them to real world needs and problems, instead of simply, WHY it can be effective. Furthermore, with the expense that is tied to video game creation, how can we effectively build engines/tools that will allow us to build more serious, immersive games, on a budget. The question that needs to be answered is: “How do we incorporate what video games do well…in a cost effective manner?”
So what’s the solution? Someone needs to apply for a grant, and then use that grant to look at what tools exist to build games. I believe that the most important aspect of a game is the systems thinking, the branching, the tools…where do these come from? The subject matter experts. We, as game designers, need to separate the programming and coding from the content development which is just as important, if not more important. Figure out how to write a really amazing branched scenario that students can experience either in class or online. Use this scenario to connect to real life situations, so that students can produce a solution/answer to the problem while playing. The more your content reflects realistic problems, the more the solutions and/or consequences will speak to and engage your learners.
These ideas are reflected in a recent ethics simulation that our company, Web Courseworks, Ltd., had created for the National Court Reporters Assocation. NCRA came to us with the question of how they could attract more members, and then they needed to focus on what the game was going to be about.
Currently, the biggest issues facing court reporters are the ethical behavior and decision making that takes place in the field. Again, though, the first problem was how to attract people to their association. The reality behind games right now is that there is a lot of buzz around them. They draw attention and therefore, they become something good to embrace.
So, to close, I’m incredibly excited for this symposium. Excelsior College is not only bringing together academics, but also people from the private sector. The panel should be informative and engaging, and I’m grateful that I get to be a part of it.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
May 17th On-line Panel to Discuss the Role of Games in Education
This coming May, Excelsior College will be hosting a webinar on games in education. I am extremely honored to have been chosen to be part of the panel that will get to discuss this topic and will hopefully be part of a team who can help determine and share what we can learn from using games in education.
While attempting to get a larger idea of who will be at this webinar, as well as the specifics of what will be discussed, I was very thankful to be able to speak with David Seelow, Director of Writing Programs & the Online Writing Lab School of Liberal Arts Excelsior College. David gave great insight on numerous aspects of not only the symposium, but eLearning, games, and higher education as well. The highlights of his interview include:
- Discussion on the importance of exploring alternative learning methods that leave the traditional lecture mode of delivering material
- Theories behind using games as motivators, methods of recognition, ways to engage social involvement and cooperative learning
- Information on the topics and bios of myself, Ben Devane, Dr. Joey Lee, Professor Lee Sheldon, Dr. Tobi Saulnier, and finally, Clark Aldrich, the panel speakers
- Seelow’s opinion on who will be attending the symposium
- The symposium framework/agenda for May 17th
Interviews of the panel members that were conducted by Excelsior College will appear online in the college’s blog forum. Mine should appear sometime this week!
For full interview read on.
1. What are the highlights of this symposium and what can be learned from attending?
The purpose of the symposium, “Games and the Curriculum: Towards a New Educational Model” is to explore alternatives to the traditional lecture mode of delivering curriculum and also propose new ways of designing curriculum that engage 21st century students. Public schools remain in a state of crisis wrapped up in the vestiges of the No Child Left Behind legislation and test taking mania engendered by those policies. Test taking thwarts teacher creativity and stifles student development. Higher education inherits the problems of secondary education and must find ways to engage and retrain students over the course of a student’s academic career. Furthermore, distance education has arrived and more and more traditional institutions are going online witnessed by the emergence of MOOCs. Online education demands more engaging curriculum sprung free for the lecture center’s professorial wisdom and what Paolo Friere called the banking model of education, i.e. the teacher deposits knowledge in a passive learner. Today’s learner must be a producer of knowledge and a critical thinker.
Games contribute to student development in learning in a number of new ways. Let’s begin with motivation. In Glued to Games, Rigby and Ryan evidence the motivating, near addictive power of games to attract and retain student attention. Students spend hours at a time engaged with video games. Wouldn’t we all like to see that motivation applied to course work and social problems? A second major principle of game based learning is the room for exploration. Games allow learners to fail in a safe environment and then learn from their attempts without the fatal consequences of failing a test. Related to this exploration, is the scaffolding built into most games. Early levels of a game tutor the learner in how to play the game. As the student moves up various levels of the game, the learner meets and exceeds progressively harder challenges giving the student progressively more achievements and recognition. This builds learner self esteem and reinforces motivation. In a sense, this game based design operates that educational psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development” whereby students are pushed to their outer limits or stretched to learn to their fullest capacity. This principle contradicts the dumbing down of curriculum we so often see today. Learners like the challenge and the accomplishment of meeting a series of challenges.
Likewise recognition, when I watch a golf tournament I am preoccupied by the Leader Board posted around the golf course. Who doesn’t want to be recognized? It makes us feel good. What about fun? Games are a blast. How many students consider their classes to be an exhilarating experience? Many games developers like Ralph Koster have argued for the centrality of fun to the game experience, and I would like to see a curriculum infused with fun. We first learn about the world through play, why should we stop having fun when trapped in a row of seats in the classroom or stuck to our couch in an online class? The need to spring out of our seats leads to another fundamental principle of game based learning- projects and problem solving. Quest to Learn (http://q2l.org/), partial brain child of gaming expert Katie Salen now at Depaul University in Chicago, is a school in New York City based entirely upon game development and project based learning that has transformed education. Games, including puzzle based games, require problem solving and few skills better prepare students for the workplace then problem solving skills and strategic thinking.
Finally, I would mention social involvement and cooperative learning. On one hand games thrive on healthy competition, and, on the other hand, they often involve large social networks and group knowledge bases. As a professor, I often see students struggle to produce a few written pages, but you look at the public forums supporting World of Warcraft (e.g. WOWWiki, http://www.wowwiki.com/Portal:Main) and you’d be amazed about how much knowledge learners produce for each other. Ideally, this knowledge is shared in an open, global environment and Excelsior College (www.excelsior.edu) like other institutions, is committed to Open Educational Resources and the democratization or open access to learners worldwide.
These are just a few of the things participants will learn about and discuss during the webcast. Of course, the best thing about symposiums is the potential for new knowledge to emerge from the interaction of such superb panelists.
2. Can you give further insight to as why you are excited about the speakers/panelists?
Yes, Excelsior College is thrilled to have such a distinguished mixture of experts from both the corporate and academic world to talk about game based learning. I can only touch on a few areas these experts will speak about. Let me start with your own expert Jon Aleckson. Jon’s model of micro collaboration in MindMeld (http://www.mindmeldbook.com/) is a model for 21st century thinking. In online learning, collaboration is critical. The professor is no longer the be all and end all of the college learning experience. At Excelsior Colleges, our online courses require at a minimum the close collaboration of instructional designers, subject matter experts, and program directors (we are kind of like project managers). Hopefully, Jon will speak about the indispensability of collaboration in online game development.
Ben Devane, a leader at the Digital Worlds Institute (DWI) at the University of Florida (http://www.digitalworlds.ufl.edu/), is a young innovator with many creative ideas. For instance, he currently runs a special project teaching middle school students programming skills used in game development. The involvement of higher education in the public school system is a great leap forward in preparing our kids for the future. In terms of higher education, Ben has been involved in a Gaming Against Plagiarism initiative (http://blogs.uflib.ufl.edu/gap/). In this initiative, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, librarians played a critical role in content development. Plagiarism is a national epidemic and an innovative approach to plagiarism prevention is something most people want to hear about.
Speaking about public education, Dr. Joey Lee teaches at Columbia University’s Teachers College in the Games Research Lab, the country’s premier teacher training college (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltASfvmmxZs). Dr. Lee leads two fascination projects that employ games to teach real world problem solving skills. One project involves motivating students to become scientists and the other “greenify” project helps students use gamification skills to address climate change (see Gamifying Education at http://www.gamifyingeducation.org/about).
Switching back to higher education, Professor Lee Sheldon, is co-director of Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)- http://www.hass.rpi.edu/pl/gaming one of the nations leading game design programs. Lee is a true pioneer in games and higher education. At Indiana University he first developed an entire course based upon a game. In other words the course is managed like a game. He has extended this work at RPI and recently published a tremendously innovative book entitled The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game (http://www.amazon.com/The-Multiplayer-Classroom-Designing-Coursework/dp/1435458443).
All progressive educators will be keen to learn about Lee’s successful experiments in transforming the classroom experience.
Back to the corporate side of things, Dr. Tobi Saulnier, CEO of 1st Playable Productions, LLC (http://1stplayable.com/) in Troy, New York is a tremendous entrepreneur and leader of women in business. Tobi is currently working on a very low budget writing games for Excelsior College’s Online writing Lab. This game will be housed on the Owl but downloadable for mobile devices and integrated into a pilot study with five community colleges. This is a step toward the design of games to support the need for improvement in student writing across the country.
Finally, and, in some ways, most importantly, our expert moderator is Clark Aldrich (http://www.clarkaldrichdesigns.com/). Clark is a leading national force in online learning (e.g. Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction), the design of simulations, and a genuine voice of education reform (see the Unschooling Rules Project). In addition to his extraordinary work in education, Clark has been a long time leader in corporate training. I want to point out that when I say curriculum and education, I also refer to training curriculum in both the corporate and military worlds. Workforce development and military training are vital components in the country’s overall educational purpose. Clark brings a national reputation to the symposium.
3. Why should people attend this year’s Excelsior College symposium addressing the role of games in education?
I believe I have answered this in my extended response to your previous question. In summary, people will learn a variety of innovative ways to reinvigorate the curriculum at all levels of the education system. These ideas are cutting edge and point to the future of 21st century learning.
4. Who do you expect to be there this year?
Ideally, I would like to see a large cross section of people from the education and gaming world. I certainly expect all faculty and administrators interested in distance education and online learning, advocates of the Open Educational Movement, instructional designers, and progressive faculty interested in new teaching strategies and pedagogy. I also hope to see a number of creative minded students both online and in person. Finally, I hope to make some initial inroads into a corporate audience interested in cutting edge training models and maybe some military education specialists who have long been supporters of simulations as learning tools. Eventually, I really want to bridge the public education audience and professional development administrators. Perhaps, next year we can aim for a small international audience.
5. Any additional information you may want to add?
Only that Excelsior College, like all our panelists, is committed to Open Educational Resources and the global sharing of knowledge in a cooperative fashion. We all know that the great universities like Stanford, Harvard and M.I.T. are now involved in sharing resources but we want to show even small colleges can make large contributions to education.
6. Could you describe the tentative schedule/bullet points of the topics you will be discussing?
I would like to suggest we adhere to the original design of symposiums articulated by Plato thousands of years ago. A group of distinguished experts address a common topic in a limited time frame. The discussion is spontaneous and flows like an intelligent conversation. I would expect, such a vibrant conversation will touch on some of the topics I alluded to earlier:
- How to reinvigorate the higher education curriculum
- Game Based Learning Pedagogy
- Games and educational reform
- Best Practices in curriculum design
- The future of online learning
- The value of collaboration
- The classroom as a game
As stated in a recent blog post of mine, I was able to attend ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference in Colorado Springs March 10th through the 12th. Furthermore, I presented a session with a friend and client of ours, Bill Schankel, CAE from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and am excited to say the session was well received. Our session, “Game On! The Power of Online Games and Why Associations are Playing Along,” seemed to spark interest amongst participants in the possibility of using games and simulations to educate and motivate. Even better, after the conference, Bill found out that their Tech Tower Trivia game (created by Web Courseworks) won a Gold Circle Award for Innovative Communications that will be awarded at their Membership, Marketing and Communications conference this coming June.
Interestingly enough, Matt Riley of National Court Reporters Association was also in attendance at Great Ideas and raved about the 2000 or so members who have played the game “Courting Disaster,” which was also created by Web Courseworks for NCRA to simulate the unique challenges that court reporters may face in day-to-day interactions.
What’s the point? Gamification is sweeping the eLearning nation. Beyond our session at the conference, Marsha Rhea, talked about Gamification as one of her five big ideas on transitioning to a new learning culture for associations. She talks about learning through games as helping to provide more self-directed learning to an association’s members.
Some notes on Marsha’s ideas: While mLearning (mobile learning) goes without saying, it is a great idea to look at content as a positioning statement for your association. Tying your identity to your content and vice versa can serve numerous purposes within your association. Also, while everyone keeps talking about MOOCs and their impact on eLearning, I’m looking for the first association that requires the completion of a MOOC to satisfy a training course. I’ll keep you updated on this, though, as I have enrolled in a MOOC on Gamification myself, that starts this coming Monday!
Disclaimer: Web Courseworks develops and offers custom serious educational games and simulations, as well as our learning management system, CourseStage, and a hosted, development tool for creating and publishing courses, CourseCreate.
I must admit that I was pretty excited to receive a copy of Jeff Cobb’s new book, Leading the Learning Revolution, in the mail recently. While not necessarily association, or even eLearning specific, Jeff drives home the point that the Learning Revolution is here, and that it’s time to capitalize on it. Although this book will definitely be used as a business class textbook (especially for online courses covering distance education), it reads more like a smoothly written New Yorker article. As an “education entrepreneur” I see the many potential ways businesses, associations and educational institutions can profit and grow because of the need and current focus on lifelong learning. This book might show you the way. I have a great deal of respect for author Jeff Cobb and this review will most definitely expose my personal bias.
In the books introduction, Cobb challenges readers to become involved in what he considers a revolution and asserts he has the road map to follow. Ingredients of this road map include: how to assess the market, creating the business model, appreciating pricing strategies, tips for designing the product, ideas on mastering the tools, well applied marketing concepts, and understanding sustainability and leadership. Let’s evaluate how well he navigates these business concepts.
Fully Understand Your Market: Chapters 1 and 2
Why should you enter the learning market? Cobb gives you the rationale and footings in Chapter 1. He outlines the changes happening in the world and their effects on the business of education. By focusing on the economy of learning, the recent transformation of technology, the ease and accessibility of technology, mass audiences created by the Internet, and other specific topics that relate to the learning industry, Cobb relays why learning is an opportunity open to success and profit. In Chapter 2 Cobb begins the journey with tips on evaluating the need. He teaches the reader how to make a market assessment, the four steps to do so, and why you should never stop assessing and testing. Check your theories, and then recheck them. Highlight new needs and uncover both allies and competition. Although easier said than done, I agree with Cobb that it is the foundation from which to build from and that leveraging the Google Keyword Tool is where you should start digging.
Determine Your Business Model and Positioning: Chapters 3 and 4
Cobb delivers several compelling stories, some personal, to help you discover a model that you can be passionate about. Thinking deeply about the four business models he details is worth the price of the book. These models include: P by power of two communities, Flipped, Virtual Conference, and Massive. In order for any model to work, you have to apply strategies to stand out, to bring something valuable to the customer. Cobb sites the Steve Jobs theory: figure out what your customers need and want before they can. Get started by determining how you are going to stand out from the competitors. In Chapter 4, Cobb highlights that no matter how perfectly you are doing something, there will always be others trying to do it too. It is imperative to stand out among the crowd. He gives tips to be “unique,” “memorable,” and “remarkable.” And he suggests yet another tool, the Accelerant Curve, to plot out your very own value continuum when considering pricing strategies.
Design and Develop Learning Experiences: Chapters 5 and 6
There is “educational junk” available online that may not be worth the free admission. People are hesitant to even give out an e-mail address in fear of one more daily e-mail flooding their inbox. Create something worth viewing. Chapter 5 teaches the basics of instructional design. Cobb highlights “Seven Rules to Teach and Facilitate By: Position it, Prune it, Chunk it, Stimulate multiple senses, Remember to repeat to remember, Make it active, and Share the responsibility.” Can you do it? He’ll tell you how in Chapter 6. It is here that Cobb shares inexpensive tools that help when developing content.
Stay Connected, Promote, and Convert: Chapters 7 and 8
Build a strong audience so that when a new learning need arises, you are automatically the one people go to. Embrace the process of searching for needs in the industry continually; stay attuned to the needs of your customers. If lifelong learning is what Cobb is talking about, you can’t stop after development of one good product. To be successful, be able to change. These are the topics of Chapter 7. What to do once you’ve mastered these skills? Promote. Chapter 8 teaches you how to leverage your efforts and convert prospects to customers.
Execute for Impact and Change: Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 9 and 10 teach you to first do and then lead. While some are able to create great plans and ideas, it doesn’t get them anywhere until they take those ideas to action. Don’t get held up in the “next-big-thing” problem—always wanting to create what the newest demand is. Develop a product and make it better. Consistently think about the larger market and how needs will evolve over a lifetime. Give learners the power to decide what they want and need and who they will reach out to in order to fulfill these desires. As Cobb puts it, “We’ve got a revolution to lead.”
What to do now?
Jeff Cobb’s book, Leading the Learning Revolution, provides step by step advice to begin a business in the education market online. The cost of entry to take advantage of the growing need for life long learning continues to drop. Getting on the road to success takes only a quick read of this book and the decision to passionately apply its advice.
Part 2: Let’s get Outlook Savvy!
In my last post, I admitted I had a problem with email organization. After invoking my blog co-writer’s help last week to point out ways in which I could take control of my email addiction, I have begun on the path to an empty inbox. This week, I have asked her to focus more on the technical tools that could help someone with an email addiction—and to include other organizational tools of Outlook that can help keep someone on task. So without further ado, here is Part 2 of “Tips for Taking Control of Your Email Addiction!—Let’s get Outlook Savvy!”
In the last post, I reviewed ways in which email was both beneficial and taxing. I recommended ways to organize your inbox so that one could live a healthier email lifestyle. This time, I would like to go over the technical resources mentioned in Outlook 2010 for Dummies that are available to people who want to not only organize their inbox, but organize their day-to-day activity as well. Here are nine more steps to an organized, stress-free work day.
Step 1: Use the Task feature. When you open an email, if you can take care of it in less than two minutes, then do so. This includes the option of forwarding an email or a task to delegate the item to someone else. Delete it after it’s done or if you don’t need it anymore. If the email lists something that you need to take care of later, then convert emails to tasks that will show in the side outlook panel. You can do this by simply dragging an email into the task area. Then move your email into a correct folder, or delete it. This will reduce the email in your inbox, but remind you of action items that you need to take care of.
Step 2: Create Search Folders. Search folders do not actually move email, they are instead designed to help you search for emails that may cross folder categories. They are home to a single designation so that you may easily find what you need. You may want to create search folders for unread mail, mail flagged for follow-up, important mail, mail from a specific person/group, etc.
Step 3: Use Rules. Rules are a great way to organize your inbox. Setting up a rule allows Outlook to act on its own and move messages into folders that you may need, but don’t need to read as they come in. These come in handy with daily status update emails, material review, reports, new job applicants, etc. This may also come in handy if you are trying to divide one email account into numerous purposes (e.g. if your job revolves around different groups of contacts which are completely unrelated).
Step 4: Filter your Junk Email. Whether you want to use Outlook’s spam feature, or invest in one of the numerous other antispam software, it really helps when you get the junk mail out of your inbox. Even if the spam filter can catch half of the junk email that comes your way, that can be an incredibly large amount of email you don’t have to look through and delete. Put this filter into use sooner rather than later.
Step 5: Time to Archive. Though it is smart practice to save most emails sent and received, Outlook tends to slow down when too many messages are stored. A way to get around this is to archive often. Archiving is a feature that is built into Outlook to help you store items that you don’t often need, but may need to refer to in the future. All of the emails can be saved to a folder or network instead of in Outlook’s folders. Set up an auto archive that archives emails from six months ago or later.
Step 6: Use Conversation View. Though not everyone will love this technique, it is an incredibly handy tool to clean up your inbox. If you set your inbox to show conversations, Outlook will group together all emails that have the same subject. This allows someone to look at the latest entry in a conversation thread and see the other emails that were sent before it. This grouping can clean up your inbox greatly, as one conversation group will take up one line, but could have numerous emails in it.
Step 7: Create and Use Quick Steps. Beyond the six existing quick steps, you can create more from the templates in Outlook. Quick Steps can be set up to show buttons of actions you often take while in your mail. Examples of this could be: move to a specific folder, new email to…, to manager, etc. They are intended to give you quick access to specific actions/tasks that you often use on a day-to-day basis.
Step 8: Organize Contacts by Specific Categories. No I don’t mean “Work” and “Personal.” I mean organize your contacts by specific conferences you may have attended and the people you met there, or staff under specific clients. The more specific you get, the easier it is to find someone…especially when you can’t remember one’s name, but you can remember where you met him/her.
Step 9: Flag your Contacts. Most people are aware of the mail flagging feature to remind you to follow-up or review an email later, not everyone is aware that you can actually flag contacts as well. If you right-click a contact that you want to flag, you can choose an option called “Follow Up” and then select the date that you plan to meet/speak with them. This is an extremely valuable tool and can save you time when creating reminders for yourself.