Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Learning Management Lexicon Redux

In an article I wrote earlier this year, I described some key concepts to improve the lexicon for learning management. One of the concepts I discussed was that of a "learning profile". In that article I defined a learning profile as a distinct collection of learning activities, and I discussed (briefly) their many different shapes and sizes — necessary to satisfy a diverse range of business, institutional, and government needs. Unfortunately, it is a term that comes with a lot of unwanted baggage.
Increasingly, we have found the term "profile" problematic. It is used so many different ways by so many different people in so many different contexts that it begs constant interpretation. Worse, when people use the term "profile", whether in conversation or in writing, it tends to imply a rather narrow definition — one that carries limitations and constraints which our solution simply doesn't have. In other words, we sometimes discover there are unspoken assumptions about Shift iQ: that it can't be used to manage some of the very things for which it is best-suited. We interact with a wide variety of organizations, including educational institutions, large corporations, and government agencies... and our use of language seems to become more more important every day.
So what did we decide to do with the term "profile" in our own lexicon for skills development planning and management? First we gave a lot of serious consideration to finding a good replacement. Then, when nothing satisfactory presented itself, we made the simplest possible decision: we removed it.

Elements and Compounds: A helpful analogy

Learning activities can be managed in Shift iQ at any level of detail, matching whatever level of sophistication best matches the activities of the organization using it. One organization might require extremely high-fidelity technical competencies in order to comply with regulatory activities. Another organization might require only loosely-defined job descriptions. In both scenarios the fundamentals remain the same.
Consider an analogy. The periodic table of elements identifies atomic elements: indivisible units of matter. We can use elements to create compounds. For example, we can create a very simple compound like salt using two elements: sodium and chloride. We can also take elements from the same periodic table and use them to create a very complex compound: like a grand piano, or a hospital, or a space shuttle.
We take the same approach with learning activities in Shift iQ. A learning activity might be a specific fine-grained technical competency like this:
Able to competently and independently perform the following radiological procedures: adult and paediatric fluoro studies, lumbar puncture, as well as image-guided venous and arterial access.
Or, a learning activity might be a coarse-grained job description:
Able to use radiology equipment including x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, PETs, and CTs to diagnose diseases, injuries, and other disorders in patients.
Or, a learning activity might be something in between:
Phlebotomy Assessment Checklist for Venipuncture
a) Organizes supplies and selects appropriate tubes before going to the patient's bedside[Successfully Completed][Not Completed]
b) Examines appropriate areas for most prominent vein and applies tourniquet tightly[Successfully Completed][Not Completed]
c) Appropriately cleanses puncture site[Successfully Completed][Not Completed]
d) Correctly anchors vein and ensures the needle is bevel side up[Successfully Completed][Not Completed]
As you can see, learning activities can be 'elements' or 'compounds' — or even 'super-compounds' assembled from a combination of elements and other compounds.
Learning activities can (and should) be planned and developed and managed at whatever scope and scale best suits the organization. They can be nested like the layers of an onion, or levelled like the rungs on a ladder, or organized into formal hierarchies like a scientific taxonomy, or networked like the pages on a web site with interconnecting links to define the relationships between them.

Occam's Razor: The simplest solution is often the best solution

It's simple. Learning management begins and ends with a learning activity. Set the expectation and then build the skill to meet that expectation.
With Shift iQ you:
  1. Define a skills development plan in terms of organizational expectations, industry best practices, and/or government regulations
  2. Deliver those expectations to the individuals within your organization (specifically) and within your industry (generally)
  3. Provide the knowledge and the tools people need to follow your plan, building and improving their skills
  4. Track and measure progress made by individuals, teams, departments, organizations, and industries
... all in one place, and within a framework that is simple to understand and flexible to meet the needs of a changing environment. You can imagine the possibilities, of course, with endless scalability and extensibility at your fingertips.

Boxes inside boxes inside boxes...

Can we use Shift iQ to manage occupational profiles? Yes, absolutely. Just remember: an occupational profile is itself nothing more (or less) than another learning activity. Depending on the needs of your organization, this might take the form of a simple 'elemental' learning activity — or it might take the form of a complex 'compound' learning activity assembled from collections of subordinate activities.
In fact, we can use Shift iQ to manage any number of compound learning activities, including competency assessments, learning curriculum milestones, national occupational standards, job positions, career progression ladders, accreditation programs, and formal academic certifications.
Remember that learning activities can be shared, too. This enables teams and departments and organizations and governments to manage sets of common 'shared' expectations (in addition to unique 'private' expectations), with regard to their skills development. After all, learning activities which have been satisfied in one context and in one environment might be equally applicable in others.
So, is Shift iQ still an LMS? The short answer is still Yes... more than ever. In fact, our customers tell us this is true in a way that simply doesn't hold for any other learning management system on the market today.

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