August 13, 2007

15 ideas to develop education

We are in the middle of an era, during which transformation, change, innovation, development, and continuous competence development are important for companies to handle professionally. Due to the rapid transformation in and across more industries in the global economy, the effective use of new knowledge is increasingly seen as the key to economic success.

Here are some ideas to develop education. Hope you’ll get inspired to try out some of them :-)

Idea # 1: Involve education participants using internet communities

Doesn’t learning happen all the time - from the moment a person wakes up in the morning until he/she falls asleep at night? In other words, don’t we need to take more advantage of the fact that learning is not limited to what happens in a classroom within a certain time frame – and, consequently, speed up the use of collaborative tools? Another reason why we need to use blogs, wikis and other collaborative tools to an extended degree is that books are increasingly outdated, when they enter the market. That’s how fast things are moving at the moment..

Many of those young people who will enter higher education in ten years will never have known a time when they did not have access to the Internet for learning. So how about making internet available for free in schools - perhaps even in entire cities, thereby improving conditions for economic growth.

Several schools adapt to this important trend. Here are some examples:

* Use of podcasts:

* Use of LiveChat:

* Use of wiki:

Idea # 2: Involve education participants using learning goals

Education is about transformation – about changing the way you think and act. To achieve good results in this transformation process, it is important that students have the opportunity to learn anytime, anywhere, and at a speed which fits their individual situation. Being very dependent on, for example, time and place of classes, it becomes harder for a person to learn efficiently.

Collaborative tools help solve that problem, and setting learn goals does too. Suggestion: Let each student make his/her own learning goals as well as concrete actions that he/she needs to do in order to reach the goals within a certain time frame. During that period, the teacher and/or fellow students can act as coaches – helping, supporting, and guiding the student to reach his/her goals. This initiative promotes self learning / self management. It makes the individual student responsible for his/her own learning and makes him/her become better at individually acquiring the information he/she needs to solve future assignments.

Idea # 3: Involve education participants using facilitation techniques

Increasingly, people do not want to just sit in long rows and watch/listen – like at church.. They want to actively PARTICIPATE. For example, besides only being consumers, people want to participate in designing/making the products we buy. In education, the participation trend is also flourishing – not least because it accelerates learning. Students are now active participants and therefore in a much more equal relationship with the teachers, who will, besides being experts, not least become good coaches and facilitators.

Here are a couple of concrete facilitation initiatives to make people participants and thereby speed up the learning process:

* After a 15-20 minute presentation of a concrete method/model/tool, invite people to discuss, for a couple of minutes in groups of 2 people, what you or another expert have presented. The idea is that more learning will take place, when people express their own thoughts/ideas/working experiences and apply what has been presented.

* After a 15-20 minute presentation, make a short reflection assignment. Ask participants to think about, for a couple of minutes, what they found important in the presentation and write down a few of their thoughts.

* Give feedback to learners to learning when they work on different assignments.

Idea # 4: Involve managers in the education of their employees

Role modelling is very important for learning. Therefore, try to get the manager of the person, who is participating in the competence development program, involved. Encourage him/her to coach his/her employee – for example using collaborative tools. The employee can then talk to the manager about what he/she learns. And the manager will learn just as much by talking to the employee about what he/she has learned. That will speed up learning and business development.

Idea # 5: More ideas for involving businesses in education

Here are some ideas for schools to get businesses and schools to work closer together – thereby creating more value:

* Invite employees/managers from various businesses to be on the school board.

* Invite managers from different businesses to teach management in the schools. Let them tell about their experiences.

* Invite managers and/or employees from companies as well as other external individuals to share ideas and experiences with students – for example on blogs and/or LiveChats.

* Make learning camps in companies. Example: At a "health camp held at a pharmaceutical company" the following people could participate: Students from various schools, employees/managers from pharmaceutical companies as well as employees/managers from hospitals, fitness centres, and/or nutrition companies.

* Close down the so-called “teachers’ room” at the school. Encourage teachers to spend time with learners/education participants, when they are physically at the school.

Idea # 6: Present efficient methods/models/tools

Make short and concise presentations of, for example, 15-20 minutes during when you present efficient methods/models/tools that the students easily can apply at work to solve concrete problems/challenges. Also, invite students who have core competences and strong interests in a field to make presentations for their colleagues.

In addition, ask learner/education participants to improve the methods/models/tools presented as well as work on develop their own theories, ideas, and concepts. Why? Because existing theories focus on the past and because you will, through this initiative, help participants to also develop innovative competences.

Idea # 7: Make education authentic by working with practical problems from the companies the education participants work for

A lot of what is taught in many schools is theoretical. Here's an idea to complement theories: Try and solve, together with the students, practical problems/challenges that they and their colleagues are faced with at work. Example: In groups of, for example, 3 people, let 2 people be “consultants”, who analyze the problem, that the 3rd person presents to them. In addition, let the 2 “consultants” give input to solving the 3rd person’s problem. During the exercise, the teacher can coach/support/help/work together one or more groups.

Idea # 8: Organize classes / learning groups with participants who have different competences and come from different cultures

Diversity in class has several advantages. For example, it's more realistic: Projects, that companies run, involve people from different functions and companies, and are increasingly of international character. Project participants come from different cultures and therefore think and act differently in different situations. This fact makes diversity in class very interesting.

When students with different competences work on analyzing and solving problems, they will – because their colleagues think differently than they do – be challenged a lot. Solutions will, due to the differences in thinking, most certainly also be more innovative.

Here’s a concrete idea related to health care education that maybe could make the process more valuable for all participants: Let physician-students work together with, for example, nurse students, design and architecture students as well as business students.

For additional inspiration about the need of bringing more creativity into education, have a look at this video:

Idea # 9: Globalize education

The globalization of the world’s economies is putting pressure on companies offering competence development products to work across national borders.

Using collaborative media such as, for example, blogs and/or wikis, as well as inviting people who come from different cultures, are 2 ways to globalize education. Another way is communicating on the website in English – thereby attracting an international audience.

Idea # 10: To education participants: Find out what your learning style is

People learn differently. Do you learn better by reading and writing, by hearing, by seeing, by doing, or in other ways? To speed up the learning process, try to do different things to find out how you learn better.

Idea # 11: To education participants: Do not stop learning after getting your diploma

Once upon a time, people finished education in their early 20’s, then started working and retired in their early 60’s. This career and education model does not work very well anymore. Today, many people keep on working on various assignments more or less until they die – thereby staying mentally and physically fit. In addition, we learn new things every day throughout our lives – and thereby become more competent solving new assignments. Life long learning.

Idea # 12: Offer shorter, tailor-made programmes for businesses and lifelong learners

More and more companies have corporate universities. Participating in corporate education is efficient, because training in context is better – and perhaps also cheaper than, for example, enrolling into an MBA program which, at many schools, is often very expensive. This trend forces schools to work much closer together with companies and develop tailor made competence development programs.

Another very important trend is the ageing of the population in many OECD societies. Longer working lives with more career changes will be an important force for change at schools that need to continuously develop flexible programs that adapt to continuously changing demands for learning.

Idea number 13: Make names and titles at schools more “business like” in order to facilitate integration with different businesses that students work for

Here are some ideas to how you could make names and titles at schools more business

* Instead of working with words such as “program” and/or “institute”, how about using words such as, for example, “project”?

* Instead of using the words “Dean”, “Rector”, “Professor”, “Chair” etc., how about using words such as, for example, “CEO”, “Project Manager”, “Facilitator”, “Coach”, and “Participant”?

* Instead of using the word “student”, use, for example, words such as “education participant” or “learner”.

Idea # 14: Organize schools in projects

How about turning education programs into projects and/or turning schools into companies built around competence development projects? Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Make the organizational structure less hierarchical
- Instead of giving departments/functions (what many schools call “institutes”) narrow responsibilities, how about working more in cross functional projects that deal with interdisciplinary aspects? For example, write a book together using a wiki.
- Instead of isolating communication within departments/institutes/divisions, how about communicating across functions as well as through all hierarchical levels – for example using blogs? Thereby, you use and continuously develop competences of each other.

2. Make work less standardized
- Put less focus on rules, procedures, guidelines etc.
- Put more focus on what is new, different etc. – thereby accelerating what the school is there for: To help people develop competences. Let students and teachers/coaches/facilitators be free to try out new things, implement new initiatives, new thoughts.

Idea number 15: Change assessment from “assessment of learning” to “assessment for learning”

To learn more about this, have a look at this 40 minute video by Graham Attwell. It's a good investment to watch the entire video.

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