SIMNET Weblog

November 5, 2008

CCK08:Paper #2 From an Industrial to a Knowledge based Economy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Frank Polster @ 1:09 pm

I would assert that the migration from an industrial based economy to a knowledge based economy has basically caused a shift in training and education and therefore the roles of instructional developers and educators have shifted. I would further assert that in a knowledge based economy, education becomes more of a valued proposition with increased importance spanning the lifetime of the individual and not just during the first 12-18 years. If you believe that learning is a life-long endeavor and not confined to the first 12-18 years of your life, then it follows that the expansion of training and education opportunities, both formal and informal, are likely to occur and grow in importance in knowledge based economy. Affordance of these opportunities will cause shifts – as technology improvements enable free (or more affordable) opportunities and access to training and education across the entire continuum of a life-long learner. I would suggest that the open source movement, the open course projects, the Open University project, the open text book project, connectivism, etc. enabled through Web 2.0/VTEs/PLEs technologies are the leading affordance indicators.

I am reminded of the anecdote I noted in my first paper based on a keynote address by Chris Dede at the 2007 Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning – “Emerging models of learning/teaching via cyber infrastructure” . He had a story that I thought that was appropriate. His daughter was about to enter college and she asked him what she should major in. He thought it was a gratuitous question since he was paying the bills but he surprised her by saying I don’t care what you major in. He continued to say, that whatever you major in, it ought to be something that machines don’t do well (e.g. history, English).
Chris had earlier discussed the need for literacy’s that provide you with the skills for problem finding (not solving) which are (1) expert decision making and (2) complex communications. His example on expert decision making was taking a car to the dealership and finding that it still doesn’t work after the machines performed all of their diagnostics. That’s where the mechanic/expert decision making came in and the problem finding. Problem finding in a knowledge economy will come from a person’s ability to navigate through that connected network of people and appliances. The shift for instructional designers and educators are centered on this knowledge worker literacy’s. The complexity and interdependencies of these literacy’s will require a more interdisciplinary approach in education and research projects seeking to understand the hows and whys.

I have noted a shift in some universities which have implemented this interdisciplinary approach in dealing with the complexity of the domain, both for instruction and with research projects.  The Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University,  as an example of a domain, has a faculty and research team with members from the School of Education, Department of Speech and Hearing, Instructional Systems Technology, Computer Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Human Performance, Mathematics, etc.
Since learning is a life long pursuit on the part of a knowledge worker, we see shifts occurring in the Governmental and Corporate institutions as they attempt to adjust their formal and informal training and education programs to meet the needs of our knowledge economy – existing within a complex and often chaotic environment. It is from this side of the continuum that this paper seeks to describe role changes, impediments to change, and current trends.

As within the university domain, structures within the governmental and corporate environment are transforming to a more interdisciplinary approach. The emphasis on people has led to development of Human Capitol strategies that have drawn training and human resources departments closer together, jointly focusing on performance measures, competencies, training and education enablers, accession planning, on-boarding and recruitment, etc.  Within both governmental and corporate structures you see the trend of adding to the C -level staff (COO, CFO, CEO, etc) a new position called the CLO, Chief Learning Officer (as well as the Chief Knowledge Officer and even Chief Education Officer, as listed in the Wikipedia entry for C-level officers). The elevation of learning to the executive management level of these structures is not only an indicator of the importance of learning to the “bottom line” (i.e. ROI) of the endeavor but also an indication of learning taking a more integrated position in the operating structure of the organization, providing value, innovation, and solutions to complex corporate problems encountered by the organizations.

For governmental and corporate educators and instructional designers, the last ten years have seen an increase in the investment and development of online content (courseware, reference material, job aids, electronic performance support tools, etc.), the development of both brick and mortar and virtual corporate universities, and the implementation of Knowledge Management to capture both the explicit and tacit knowledge of the institution.
Whether these investments have provided a positive Return on Investment (ROI) is still generally unknown. There are a few documented cases of ROI showing increased human performance and corresponding increased sales attributable to a human capital strategy of on-boarding and training. The training and educational trend now is more of a blended learning approach, utilizing both face-to-face classroom and virtual learning activities. What is also clear is that the use of technology to enable online learning activities is often a complex process beyond the talents of solely an instructional designer. In most cases an interdisciplinary team approach is the norm, with a project manager, instructional designers, game designers, instructors, script writers, graphic artists, videographers, editors, system administrators, computer programmers, etc. This interdisciplinary trend is likely to continue along with the issues of high cost, a lack of simple, standard tools, and lengthy developmental cycles. The addition of new Web 2.0 technologies could offset some of these issues by leveraging the corporate workforce both as participants and creators of content. However, the tension of control and structure to minimize risks, both in governmental and corporate environment by imposing security constraints and the protection of corporate intellectual property rights, are issues that are diametrically opposed to the current open environment of the Web that has enjoyed a “rip, burn and mash” approach to content creation.

The centrality of the instructional designer or an “instructor-centered” instructional approach has shifted over the last decade to accommodate the literacy’s of a knowledge economy. A knowledge economy requires skills for problem finding (not solving) and requires skills for (1) expert decision making and (2) complex communications. The emergence of connectivism, Web 2.0/3.0, PLEs/VLEs, etc. afford and enable this shift toward more user-participation in learning / co-creation of content, and at the same time pushes the corporate and government toward investing in projects with a positive ROI.  One result is that the “value” created by this shift is measured in knowledge – instead of physical output as before (during Industrial Economy), and it likely requires an interdisciplinary instructional design approach.

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