Still hanging on in there…

October 4, 2008
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I’ve had little time this week to keep up to date with the detail of CCK08, so the Daily has been essential in highlighting some key discussions and it provides me with plenty of food for thought. Here is a summary of the themes that have stood out for me…

George commented on how different places within the course are now looking very different in style and content due to the presence (or preferably absence, in my opinion) of “trolls” – a great term which is described by Wikipedia as “a person who is deliberately inflammatory on the Internet in order to provoke a vehement response from other users”.

He notes that discussion lists are particularly vulnerable to trolls because of their visibility to the group as a whole, whereas the author of a blog has more control over content and a more limited range of readers. This means that course participants dipping into a few different blog contributions will get a very different mental picture of what it is all about than those who are exposed to the vitriolic machinations of a few over-exposed trolls on the discussion board. On the positive side, though, the discussion board can also highlight great threads such as this one for a wide audience.

On a different issue, Jason Green posted an interesting comment about how online discussions could help to break down the traditional boundaries between students and tutors which he summarised as “Teachers who try to join the informal network are seen as usurping student space, while learners who try to insert themselves in the formal network are seen as ‘usurping teacher authority’ (if it’s done without the teachers consent).” Comparing student behaviour in the classroom and in online discussions is something that I will be experimenting with in my own classes this term.

I’m continuing to find useful tools that people on CCK08 have recommended. The most recent is Clustrmaps which shows where a blog’s readers originate from on a map of the world.

Finally, an observation on lurking. At an early stage of the course it was stated that a much higher percentage of people would merely extract information from others than would provide observations or resources of their own to the group. Perhaps a way to redress this is to emphasise the benefit that sharing can bring to the ‘sharer’ as well as to the ‘sharee’. As Andy McKiel notes:

“I discovered I learned differently when I shared and tried to articulate what I thought were important elements in an article or blog post. Sharing isn’t just about helping others. It’s also about helping ourselves to understand a concept in a more complete manner.”

I’m buzzing with ideas and on a roll for next week now….


Reflections on week one of CCK08

September 13, 2008

I’ve spent quite a bit of time surfing around CCK08 this week, and for me the highlights so far are:

  • Finding some very knowledgeable and helpful people (and sheep!) to learn from.
  • Playing with some great new tools as recommended by the course leaders or participants, for example Bubbleply (to add comments to videos) and Wordle (colourful word clouds)
  • George’s expression ‘the digital love-fest’ which is surely a key word to end all keywords and will do wonders for our Technorati status J
  • I also liked the way Antonio Fini turned his learning from the week into a story which was an entertaining and  non-threatening way of presenting some quite heavy material.
  • Observing the range of online communication skills (or lack thereof…) on display. It’s amazing how quickly you can get a sense just from a few words on a blog or forum if someone is helpful, knowledgeable, being constructively critical, likes the sound of their own voice too much, or is just plain rude…. one of the findings from our Punch Above Your Weight project was that people who were effective face to face networkers were also good communicators online, and it seems that the converse may also be true…

A lot of people have commented on the volume of material to plough through – this was not too much of a problem for me because I really don’t care if connectivism is a theory or not (sorry Stephen and George!) so I have skimmed many of these discussions. My interest is in finding out how learning and teaching are changing in our networked world, and what this means for how we can structure and conduct our courses to engage with our students most effectively. Looking forward to week 2…

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First thoughts on the value of CCK08 online course

September 6, 2008

Wow. Recent postings suggest that 1700 people are now signed up to CCK08 from all around the world. Thanks to The Clever Sheep, you can see at a glance where we all hail from. The focus of the course is on how effective learning takes place in a networked world, and by actively participating in the experiment we get to experience such ‘connectivism’ for real. I’m particularly interested in how we can use new tools and techniques to improve the learning experience for our students who are about to begin their traditional ‘chalk and talk’ University courses, and what we need to change about the way in which we organise ourselves and perform our role as tutors.   

Even just reading all the introductions and blog postings from everyone is impossible. While I’m used to running online courses with large volumes of time-critical postings, this is on a different scale entirely. My proposed strategy for managing time while maximising the benefit from the course is as follows:

1.      Dip into recent postings and comments a few times per day via the RSS feeds which I’ve pointed at my Google page.

2.      Write up my thoughts and key learning points as I go along on this blog

3.      Skim the reading list rather than get left behind (even the pre-reading consists of 4 hefty pdfs, 50-70 odd pages long…)

4.      Remember that term starts in a couple of weeks…

Let’s see how it goes…

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on what I’ve learned so far:

The ‘digital divide’ is now less about access to the web and more about whether we understand how to participate. Those who have the skills, time and confidence to navigate the chaos will gain access to new opportunities, find audiences for their work and enrich the lives of others. The rest will not – because they will be trapped on the wrong side of the divide.


We are moving away from a world in which an ‘elite few’ produce content for students to passively consume, towards one in which everyone has a more active stake in shaping the production and updating of that content. This ‘participatory culture’ has low barriers to expression and civic engagement, and strong support for creating and sharing the material, facilitated by a tutor acting as informal mentor rather than expert gatekeeper to pre-set and ‘approved’ content.


Learning in a networked society involves understanding how networks work and how to deploy them effectively, whether the task be to complete an assignment or  dissertation, obtain a new job, promote a business or build a personal brand.  It involves understanding where information has come from and when to trust (and when not to trust) others to filter and prioritise relevant data.


Food for thought…

e-learning as it should be

September 5, 2008

I’ve joined this free online course and will be reporting on progress via this blog over the next 12 weeks. It is run by the University of Manitoba in Canada and called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, exploring the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. The course outlines a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future. Watch this space… 

Advisory Board May 2008

May 21, 2008

Welcome to the Advisory Board Meeting!

May 21, 2008

watch this space later today for video and pictures of the event…

Jackie’s employability presentation

October 11, 2007

September 28, 2007

Further to our discussions the other day, you may be interested in the  following article by Alison Maitland from yesterday’s FT: Tailored careers can be just the job

“Flexible work arrangements have been used by organisations for more than a decade as they try to retain valued employees and respond to demographic and social changes. These efforts, argue the authors of this new book, turn out to have been no more than sticking-plaster solutions to fundamental cracks in the traditional career model.

Just as Gary Hamel, in his new book, The Future of Management , says we need innovation in how we organise work in the 21st century, so Cathleen Benko and Anne Weisberg, two Deloitte executives specialising in talent management, argue that we need a radical overhaul of how we organise careers.

They cite seismic forces affecting the workplace: an ageing workforce, more women in employment, changing family structures, more men experiencing work/life conflicts and a new generation of workers intent on career variety and achieving personal goals.

Retaining good people has become a priority for employers. Flexible work arrangements, however, are short-term fixes rather than long-term solutions to employees’ changing priorities throughout their careers.

The book charts how Deloitte in the US came up with the idea of “mass career customisation” as an alternative model – one in which all employees tailor their work and careers to their own and their company’s needs over time.

The firm borrowed from mass product customisation. “If you can customise jeans or sneakers, then why couldn’t you customise careers?” it asked. The benefits ought to be similar. For “increased profit margins, customer satisfaction and long-term brand affinity”, read “greater employee retention, satisfaction and loyalty”.

Thus the new model encourages employees to choose from a menu of graduated options in four areas: pace of career progress (ranging from “accelerated” to “decelerated”); workload (from “full” to “reduced”); location and schedule (from “not restricted” to “restricted”); and role (from “leader” to “individual contributor”).

It sounds complicated. But the authors say it formalises what some organisations already do informally. At Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency, employees have continuing career conversations with supervisors and team members, and many executives accelerate or decelerate their careers over time.

There is bound to be scepticism. Some will doubt whether companies or employees have the commitment to maintain this kind of dialogue, or whether there is still any mileage left in the notion of loyalty and lifetime contracts.

Deloitte can fairly claim to have a track record in this. In the early 1990s it embarked on a drive to retain and promote women, whose high turnover was costing the firm millions of dollars a year. As Douglas McCracken, then chairman, chronicled in Harvard Business Review in 2000, analysis of the causes showed that women were mainly leaving for jobs that offered them better options – not just quitting to raise families – and that younger men were less willing than older ones to sacrifice their personal lives for higher pay.

Since then, the percentage of women in senior jobs has increased. But problems still plagued the firm’s flexible work offerings. Few partners or principals were prepared to use employees who worked flexibly on client engagements. Talented employees were leaving, uncertain about their future “career-life fit” with the firm.

Will the new model work better? It is too soon to be sure. But pilot results have been encouraging. Many managers fear that offering so much choice will open the floodgates for reductions in workload and travel restrictions. In fact, many Deloitte employees, especially those under 30, turned out to want to step up the pace of their careers.

The authors say there was no negative impact on careers, and no decline in client service standards. Career conversations improved, people were more comfortable knowing what options were open to them, and productivity increased.

There is much to commend this book, despite its unattractive title and overuse of acronyms. Mass career customisation is referred to throughout as “MCC”, which to many British readers is shorthand for the Marylebone Cricket Club.

What the book lacks is an international perspective. This would have allowed a useful comparison with innovative ideas from other countries. There are similarities, for example, with new models of work that emerged from the Equal Opportunities Commission’s recent Transformation of Work investigation in the UK.”

Summary of our discussions

September 26, 2007

Hi, thanks for coming to the meeting yesterday. As promised, here is a summary of our discussions to date. It would be very useful please if you could incorporate the verbal feedback you gave us yesterday into your comments, to help us with the new course approval process.

The ‘big picture’ – a changing environment for marketers:

  • what is real and what is rhetoric in the new language of marketing?
  • what is the impact of emerging far east markets as both customers and suppliers?
  • what are now the viable alternatives to mass marketing and how can effective change be implemented?
  • how can PR be managed effectively in a networked world?
  • what is the likely impact of new and pending legislation on marketing activities?
  • how can new web-based tools be utilised to research your customers?
  • how can marketers achieve a more effective appreciation of finance and statistics?

The topic areas we considered to be most applicable to cover in our new executive courses are:

  • capturing data
  • manipulation of data and the value of data
  • achieving customer insight
  • the role of new media
  • lifestage marketing – engaging with different demographic groups in a meaningful way
  • viral marketing in the networked era
  • marketing metrics
  • value for money marketing
  • delivering the customer value proposition
  • multichannel marketing
  • web analytics   


Our meeting on 25th September

September 25, 2007