Learning and Teaching Have Changed Forever

Learning and Teaching Have Changed Forever

For some time, the education world has been struggling to maintain itself in the face of the obvious need to make changes. Normally change is an evolution not a revolution. However, the competing interests feel very much comfortable with how things are operating. The Teachers Unions, The School Boards, the State Bureaucrats and the Federal Government were very much into the status quo. BUT. The Students and their Parents, who I believe are the customers of the education business were not.

Then came the Pandemic.

All of a sudden, the students and parents were in the same place at the same time and both parties could see how and what their children were being taught. The parents didn’t like what they heard and saw with the material and the methods with which their children were being taught. They then started to show up in larger numbers and more regularly at Parent Teacher Meetings and School Board meetings. And they made themselves heard. The School Boards didn’t like this one bit, imagine the parents interfering with what the Boards were doing. Their expertise and authority were being challenged by these unruly parents who were demanding answers.

Then the National School Board Association wrote a letter to the government of the United States complaining about these parents and even going so far as to call them terrorists. Imagine calling your customers terrorists? My intent is not to get into the weeds of politics with this introduction. It is simply to provide the background to a subject that I am very passionate about and want to discuss with you. Each person on the planet should be able to receive a good education.

Learning takes on what I believe are four major methods: classroom, webinar, internet-based and self-study.

The classroom will never go away. There is a real benefit to having a person who knows how to teach and has subject matter expertise sharing that knowledge with willing and able interested people. We have learned a lot about classroom learning. The fifty-minute class is changing. The material is being delivered in smaller chunks. Statistics are showing that this has an extremely positive impact on learning and retention.

The webinar is a tool that I am not particularly fond of as a teacher. I cannot see the students. I don’t get the feedback that I am used to in the classroom on each individual’s understanding about what I am talking about in the session. However, when it comes to product knowledge and other very specific learning, they are a terrific tool. I have always liked to have one of the employees conduct this training. The employee doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of their peers. So, they really learn the material. Each session is done by a different employee and as a result we improve the skills and knowledge of the complete team of customer service employees.

The internet-based learning programs have become a serious and growing concern in a relatively short period of time. You can see that major United States Universities, Harvard and MIT and Georgia Tech to name a few, have their complete curriculum available for online learning. Specialty businesses have arrived from The Khan Academy to Coursera and many others there are learning opportunities online that will be here for the rest of time or until the next major disruption.

Self-Study will always be here as long as there are people who want to learn. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and pastimes. You can transport yourself to any era and any area on any subject in the world and beyond between the covers of a book. We still have a Reading List on our Consulting Website until the end of this year at under the tab Reading List.

Katy Tynan, a principal analyst at Forrester Research recently made the following observations. “Prior to the Pandemic, there was an overemphasis on formal learning as a delivery mechanism. Formal, classroom-delivered training was easy to plan and deliver, but organizations didn’t always see the intended results.” Haven’t most of us felt that way at one time or another about classroom training?

Tracy Malcolm, a global future of work leading at the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson goes further. “Organizations are starting to pursue learning in new forms, and certainly at a new pace, where it’s much more frequent learning opportunities. The formal training itself is certainly bite-sized, so that it can be consumed more quickly. And the pace of learning increased.” At the same time, we are now flooded with a massive amount of student debt. The largest single debt in the country.

There are many voices starting to sound similar alarms.

When we started with Management Training at Quest, Learning Centers, we did the same thing as most other teaching or training business did. Our classes spanned two days in locations that were easily accessible to our client base. Sixteen hours of training. We built the classes to cover sales, operations, assets and leadership. Four hours for each of those areas and two subjects in each four-hour time block. The students would come in from their dealerships the day before and spend two nights in hotels and pay for their room and board as well as the tuition cost of the classes. We got very good response and also very good reviews of the content and the way we taught. We built eight such programs.

We started to notice a problem with our teaching, or more appropriately the learning and retention of our content that the students experienced. They would get back to the company and be caught up instantly in the old routines to the point that they were not able to implement any of what they had learned. We had too many people working in the business and too few people working on the business.

Our sponsors and clients were noticing similar things and wanted to approach the teaching from a different perspective. Thus, the webinar was born.

The webinar did not require people to travel or stay in hotels or eat meals in restaurants. It was cheaper. It also was shorter. The webinars that I conducted typically ran between forty-five minutes and an hour. The vehicle for teaching and by extension learning was changed. It is shortened, which leads to measurably more learning and better retention. Further, the employee was not taken away for two days at a time. But the teacher didn’t have the same tools to evaluate the learning of each student. We changed the delivery methods on our webinars and using a computer driven projector that I could operate remotely and turn off the slide presentation and walk in front of the camera and talk to the audience directly. They could see me and my antics. I was transitioning to Hawaii at the time so I started to wear Hawaiian Aloha Shirts. Many people have commented on those shirts in that they were annoyed when I wore the same shirt more than once.

We moved away from webinars in 2015 and converted all of our learning programs to the internet starting in 2016. It has been a much larger job that I had anticipated. With our two-day programs and the structures that we used, we had three separate programs; What it Looks Like When it is Right, Reaching Market Potential, and Performance Excellence. So, we had six discrete classes for each of the four disciplines. Twenty-four classes for parts, and service and product support selling and marketing.

The first order of business was to research and select a “Learning Management Software.” This was not easy nor were we very sophisticated or knowledgeable about what we wanted and needed. Needless to say, we are on our second LMS. We make mistakes like everyone else.

Then we had to determine how we wanted to build the classes. That is our wheelhouse. Caroline has a Master Degree in Education and I taught people how to teach at McGill University in Montreal. We built our classes to start with optional reading material, then a mandatory pretest to gauge the knowledge of the student before they start the class. The subject specific material we created covered in the range of 125 to 160 slides each one of them with audio tracks. We then embedded film clips to highlight key points and material. Further we added quizzes to break up the learning. We put about ten quizzes into each of the programs. Caroline then put all of this material, the slides, the audio tracks, the film clips and the quizzes into the form of a video. That allows the students to stop and start or go back and forth to review the material. We wanted the students to learn, to understand the material and become more knowledgeable as people both personally and professionally. Then we added a final assessment. This was a twenty-question assessment of the knowledge and skills of the students on that specific subject class. They had to obtain a score of 80% on this assessment in order to pass the class and earn their certificate. However, before the students can get their certificate, they have to provide us an evaluation of the class through a survey. Finally, they can print their certificate which will also show them how many CEU’s, Continuing Education Units.

We now have one hundred and eight subject specific classes, and we will continue to add classes as they are requested. Each class is reviewed monthly for adjustment based on the surveys and the assessments results. For instance, if a majority of the students get the same wrong answer to the same question, we review that section of the class to ensure that it is not our teaching that is at fault. If it is the material that is causing the problem, we make adjustments.

Another interesting aspect of our work is the feedback that we receive constantly about what our customers want and need. They tell us what they want. And we listen. Do we ever listen.

When we built the classroom material, we used voice recognition software and I dictated to the computer. It was like I was teaching in a classroom. In the nineties the voice recognition software was not at all at the same level as what it is today. I would talk to the computer and go away. Thirty minutes talking forty minutes doing something else while the computer continued to convert my voice to a word document. Once I had the classes built, I invited people for whom I had a lot of respect and asked them for their time in a classroom with me to see what I had created. I wanted their objective evaluation of what I had done. From that platform, my background and experience in the business and in teaching, complimented with the experience and knowledge of the very generous people who helped put the final touches on our work and created Quest, Learning Centers. I will never forget what those people did to help me. You know who you are and I thank you sincerely.

Over the years our twenty group facilitation businesses first with Insight, M&R, Institute in partnership with Malcolm Phares who started the “Twenty Group” concept when he was VP of Dealer Development for PACCAR, and now with The Capital Goods Sages, in partnership with Dale Hanna of Foresight Intelligence has provided invaluable discussions and debates with experienced executives on their dealerships. This provided learning opportunities for me that was also invaluable.

Since 1980 our consulting business has afforded me the opportunity to work with hundreds if not over a thousand dealerships around the world. I have been provided an opportunity in my business life that few others have been given. As I have said to many people over the years. “If you play two rounds of golf everyday for six months and you don’t get pretty good at it, well someone is trying to tell you something. I have learned something from each consulting engagement and each of the twenty group meetings and from a large number of very skilled people in our classes.

Over the past fifty-two years we have had over twenty-five thousand students either in a classroom or a webinar or an internet-based class. I have learned a lot from the interaction with all of these people.

Yet even with that background and experience we are in a constant state of looking to get better at what we do and how we do it. We offer blogs, podcasts, newsletters and audio learning on a complimentary basis as a means of transferring knowledge to interested people. We have a group of people as Contributors helping us. These people are an invaluable help to us. They are Thought Leaders who are challenging the status quo and the world in which we live as well as experienced executives and influencers. We are grateful to each of them for everything that they do for all the employees in the Product Support world.

One of the changes that we see being beneficial is to have training going on continuously for everyone. We advocate that each employee in the Product Support world who leads people or touches customers have one skill assessment tied to their job each year and take at least three classes each year to improve their skills and knowledge. “You need to have regular reinforcement of what you’ve been learning” so says Wayne Vascio, Professor of Management at the University of Colorado. He continues “You use it or you lose it.” “Simply doing it one-off or learning a skill one time and then not being able to practice and use it on the job, is a recipe for skill decay.”

Another thing Caroline is taking us to is the fact that passive learning is not sufficient anymore. She gets that from her continuous learning for her teaching job and her education. I am excited about it. She caused us to put the quizzes into all of our classes. She is pushing to have optional Zoom meetings with people who have taken the same class with either Caroline or me leading the meeting. We talk about the subject specific class that they took and provoke discussions in a group setting. We are exploring having chat rooms for people who have taken classes with us where they can reach out to others in the Product Support World. Even going so far as Gamification of the Learning Experience.

One of the other things that has become painfully clear. There is an expression “those that cannot do, they teach.” This has never been a good idea. Over the course of my career at two different CAT dealers I was a Parts Manager, a Service Manager, I established the first Product Support Selling function, I designed buildings and dealer facilities, I was a Data processing Manager. I have walked the walk I don’t just talk the talk. The teacher has to know what the employees do in their jobs. What are the challenges and the obstacles to the job? This is not an abstract experience. We are even exploring, in some cases, having the employees training each other. This is invaluable in other ways as well. Everyone finds out who the best is at a particular subject or task.

Over the course of our fifty-two years in the industry, and the wonderful training I have received myself and the people from whom I have been able to learn from I am very humble and extremely grateful.

We will continue to keep you posted as we continue to change and adapt to the new realities in education and learning.

The Time is Now.

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If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Caroline Slee-Poulos shares the importance of planning in “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going.”


I promise you I’m not trying to make a reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” Although the title of this post is part of a quote from the story by Lewis Carroll, Yogi Berra had his own ending to the quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going you might end up someplace else.”

I think that most of us like to be able to see the path ahead of us: personally and professionally. When it comes to the professional aspects, I have found that quite a few people overlook education.

Of course, for several years, the only focus on education was a large push for every child to attend a 4 year university program after secondary school. I like to think that we know a bit better now – education is never “one size fits all” – but only time will tell. When the 4 year program was the focus, career training, employee development, and trades were pushed to the side. This was a short-sighted approach, at best.

Those of you who have already taken a class or assessment with us know that we are focused on functional education: giving you rich content in bite-sized pieces, leaving you room for the full schedule each of you live everyday.

In my last post I wrote about learning objectives, as it helps to know what you will get from a particular class or program of study. For this post, I have some thoughts on goals.

Ron has mentioned more than once that many high school graduates think of their graduation as the opportunity to put school behind them. That should never mean that we have left learning behind, though.

In that vein, I would encourage you all to make a list of your professional goals:

  • where do you see yourself in 1 year? 5? 10?
  • do you have a pathway to reach those 1, 5, and 10 year goals?
  • does your employer have goals for you or your role within the company?
  • do you know what those goals are?
  • what is your area of greatest strength?
  • what is your area of greatest struggle?

Write down your answers to these questions. Take some time to consider where it is that you are going. Education, training, and mentorship are all tools that can help you get there.

With a new year ahead of us, I would urge you to start executing plans towards those goals. Ron always says that “the time is now.” He is absolutely right. Now is the time to shift from ideas to reality.

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Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere

Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere

In tonight’s post, Caroline explains some of the elements that take place behind content creation in Universal Design and the Classroom of Everywhere.

One of the downsides in education is that we love, and I do mean LOVE, our buzzwords. We really do like to assign a catchy name to our processes. Tonight, I want to break down one of those key names and bring home what it can mean for you.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be simply explained as flexibility. It is flexible in the way that students can engage, in the way materials are presented and made available, and in the way that students demonstrate their knowledge. This is part of what we bring to our students today. There are three main principles in UDL: multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of expression. In other words, a class is designed with the student in mind. This can be a paradigm shift for professionals: we don’t tend to think of ourselves as students, more as experts in our respective fields.

Continuous improvement comes with lifelong learning. It transforms you from being a professional exclusively, into a student at the same time.

The classroom is whatever you need it to be because this classroom is everywhere.

But when you set your own time aside to commit to your professional development, you want to be intentional about your classroom. Are you at work, immersed in the content you are studying? Are you at home, finding a quiet corner – or trying to – in order to focus on your class? Do you want or need a formal test before you select a course of study? Do you prefer to assess yourself and analyze your own skills?

These elements of your learning are entirely within your own control. When you sign up for one of our classes, we try to bring that element of choice and control to you as you study.

When you learn, when you set goals, you always need to consider, as Ron says “what’s your why?” In the classroom of everywhere, we try to answer the “how” for every student.

I invite you to explore our classes, our assessments and spend some time reflecting on your professional goals.

The time really is now.

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Up-Skilling Is Not Just a Buzzword

Up-Skilling Is Not Just a Buzzword

I remember when most people used to think that when they left school, their learning was complete. Whether that was High School, Technical School, Junior College or University. As a teacher, I taught education, in other words I taught people how to teach. I used to tell my students at University that when they graduated and went out into the world – that is when their learning really started. I always told aspiring teachers that one of our primary goals as teachers, is to teach people how to teach themselves.

With the world we live in today that is truer than ever. The younger generations are much smarter, at their ages, than we were at comparable ages. They know a lot more about things and subjects than my generation did. (I learned how to wire Unit Record Equipment – almost an analogue computer.) One of the biggest differences that I see is that they are impatient. Today a lot of older management view that as a negative quality. I view that as a positive. If these younger employees are not learning and growing their potential, as employees, they do not want to stay around. I really admire that quality. They have a need, if not a thirst to learn. They want to continuously improve. They want up-skilling.

The moves us directly into our term for today: up-skilling is not just a buzzword. This is the term that explains that the skills of the employees are being constantly improved and enhanced, they are being up-skilled. That fits perfectly into our view of learning. First take an assessment and understand your individual strengths and weaknesses. Take classes, address your weaknesses, and fill in your skills gaps. Get Up-Skilled. And that never ends. There is always something more to learn.

We provide dealers and employees Learning Paths. They are based on Skill Levels reported in the Job Function Skills Assessment. Those Skill Levels: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert allow us to recommend subject specific classes to allow the employee to improve their skill level. When used in conjunction with an annual performance review, dealerships are unlocking the potential of each individual employee and enhancing their company value to the workplace.

Never forget that talented people serving your customers are your heroes. Neither forget that the talent pool available to us is shrinking. The competition for these talented people is becoming fiercer that at any time I have seen. I don’t believe that this will become any easier, in fact I believe it will become more difficult. If you want to be able to attract, hire, develop and retain your workforce you must have a solid foundation, skill set inventories and career path opportunities, for each individual employee. You also need to be able to discuss with them their specific career path and what is necessary for them to be available for promotions and other opportunities in the company. Do you have these skill set inventories in place? Do you know the individual skills required for each job function? This is that solid foundation that is required. Do you have it in place? Should you?

The choice is yours. I would urge you to consider that the consequences are significant.

The time is now.

The Innovative University

The Innovative University

This blog title is the same as a book by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring published earlier this year. Clayton Christensen has been lauded many times as one of the best thinkers on the planet by Forbes and others. He came to my attention a long number of years ago with a book titled: How Will You Measure Your Life.” You should read it; it will provoke serious thinking.  Dr Christensen left us in January R.I.P.

The Innovative University was published in 2011 but it is very appropriate today.

But let me start with the theme of customer service. Schools are no different than any other business which is supplying a product or a service to a customer. In the Industry in which I spent my career, the Construction Equipment Industry I wrote often in my monthly columns about customer service. I would like to highlight some key points on customer service from a book titled “The Discipline of Market Leaders” written by Michael Treacey and Fred Wiersema. They focused on three areas: –

  1. Operational Excellence

Offering attractive pricing as well as convenience and reliability

  1. Product Excellence

The result of product of service performance excellence

  1. Customer Intimacy

The use of “micro” marketing to work with smaller segments of the market.

Educators need to pay more attention to these three items.

In the customer service world, there is a long-standing perspective that says “if you are going to be mediocre – stay mediocre – don’t confuse your customer.” Well let’s apply that to education. How consistently does the customer get a “consistent” offering of learning? So there is the first question to be answered? Who is the customer? In the Innovative University they say it is “Alumni and State Legislators. I say it is the Students and their Parents. The second question is – What IS a learning offering? What are the schools teaching? It used to be that schooling was put in place to provide professional personal development to students to prepare them for a career. That the career would be contributing to society and provide productivity and profitability for the employer. Is that what we are dealing with today?

The total student debt in the US in 2019 reached an all-time high of $1.41 Trillion.

One of the interesting aspects of education in this “disruptive world” is that although we have seen many new “entrants” to the learning platform we have seen very few “exits.” The book used as the title of this blog had a goal “to inspire today’s higher education community to do what it did in the late 1800’s when Harvard and its ‘peers created a new model of higher education.”

So, let’s take a deeper dive into education. To start with education is typically the largest discretionary item on the budget of the states. In most states it is on the chopping block or at least subjected to large tuition and other related costs for the student to pay. Are we getting our money’s worth? Are we getting work ready people with degrees? I won’t answer that question as I think it is quite obvious as to the answer.

Over the years we have seen some dramatic changes in education. In 1929 – 1930 there were 248,000 public schools.  In 2015 – 2016 that number dropped to 98,000. Elementary schools have changed their approach with Middle Schools and Junior High Schools but the total number of secondary schools has remained relatively constant at 23,900.

After secondary school society has been pushing everyone to get a college degree. Vocational and Technical Schools are also in the teaching business. This type of learning typically leds to job-specific certifications – “job ready” graduates. This sector of the education world is growing at an ever-increasing rate as technology becomes more embedded in more and more jobs. An Education World article “What Happened to Vocational Education (and why we need it back) states that about 70% of High Schools students attend College. However, of those who attend college 40% of the students don’t complete their schooling. And on top of that 37% of the currently employed college graduates are employed doing work that only a high school degree is required.

Clearly these facts are telling us something.

One final note is to be made. Benchmark Assessments, form Common Core standards, to SAT’s and ACT’s everyone seems to be focused on college readiness. More recently you are seeing Colleges drop the need of SAT’s and ACT’s. The SAT, Scholastic Aptitude Test) was introduced by the College Board in 1926. The SAT was originally designed NOT to be aligned with a high school curriculum. In 2016 that was changed. Now it is tied to Common Core.

The scores have changed over the years. Combined Math and Reading/Verbal scores have changed. In 1972 it was 1,039 – In 1982 the score was 997 – In 1992 it was 1,001 – In 2002 it was 1,020 in 2012 it was 1,014. Reasonably consistent. The changes made make comparisons between the old scores and the new scores very difficult.

It is now clearly recognized that there is a need for a radical review and redesign of the learning process. The Internet and On-Line learning have shown that quite effectively. This pandemic, however, has caused some hesitation. Many schools simply went to “Zoom” or some other technology tool and taught the same material in the same manner with the same teachers as if they were in the classroom. That is not a workable answer. Parents across the country in surveys are expressing their opinions on this and those opinions are not favorable.

For “Learning Without Scars” we use skills assessments extensively. They are specific assessments to a specific job function. We have “Skill Levels” for each job function based on thousands of assessments being completed. We categorize employees as having four levels of skills; basic, intermediate, advanced, and expert. We provide specific classes within “Learning Paths” to allow the employees to improve their skill level. We are providing the employees the opportunity to improve their skills and as a result improve the opportunities that they have for their careers.

The US has a high preponderance of the schools for higher education in the world. In 1990 Henry Rosovsky, former Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences wrote that “Fully two thirds to three quarters of the best Universities are located in the United States.”  That is still true. In 2010 the academic ranking of World Universities listed seventeen US Universities in the top twenty globally and thirty-six of the top fifty Universities in the world.

Those results show that we do know how to do it. However, we have work to do. It is time we had a comprehensive review and redesign of some of the foundation building blocks.

The Time is Now.

Who Is Your Customer?

In Business – Why are you here?


I had an interesting conversation with Caroline, my daughter, yesterday. Caroline is a teacher, and a very good one. Of course, I am going to say that but it is very true. She teaches in an extremely underprivileged community where a very large percentage of the student body who are English Learners. Further, as with the majority of the students in our region, they rely heavily on the food programs available through schools to be able to have a meal each day. With many agricultural jobs, we see very hard-working families who still need the extra resources. A difficult situation to say the least.

We were talking about education and how this current situation, with the country closed down, is going to affect the future of education. My granddaughter goes to University, it is closed and her classes are all being conducted virtually: even the labs, as she is in the sciences. My grandson is in High School and all his classes are done virtually. My daughter teaches High School and she teaches all day, every day, virtually. Imagine that, would you? They are all in school and no one leaves home.

This is what I have been talking about since the early 2000’s. From the Khan Academy, to every major University, to IT training, most everything that anyone wants to learn is available on line. AND for the most part it is free. At Learning Without Scars we have provided a learning platform for individuals who want to improve their skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, that is not everyone. Being optimistic I believe that more people, particularly the younger generations will change that and that they will constantly be striving to make themselves better. Of course, the world has to catch up. In order for online education to succeed, our students need to have access to a decent connection to the online world. That is still not true in many parts of our country today.

Which brings me to the customer and my conversation with Caroline. The end customer of education is society. School is the vehicle which every community uses to develop the people that will create the social and economic activity that will better society. BUT, the primary customer of the school systems, of education, is the student and their family. Too often that fact gets lost in the bureaucracies of the education community: the Federal Government, which does not have a role in education enumerated in the Constitution; the State Governments, who have primary responsibility, the School Boards with elected Administrators, many of whom have never taught in a classroom in their lives, municipal governments, who receive the taxes to pay for schools and on and on. Who is thinking about the customer here? Of course, it is the teacher. But who supports that teacher?

Now look at your business. WHO is YOUR customer? That should be a very easy question to answer. I would like you to think about that for when we come out of this economic shutdown. WHO is YOUR customer? Is it the person coming in to order parts? Is it the person who calls to schedule maintenance or a repair on a machine? WHO is it? In many of these cases it is an employee of a business who uses equipment. But one more time please – WHO is the CUSTOMER?

I am hopeful that every distributor and dealer will come to a different conclusion than what has been true the past three to four decades. I am hopeful that they will begin to operate in a radically different manner than they have recently. I am hopeful that the employees will be given more and better tools to serve the machine owners. But then again, I am an optimistic person.

Things won’t be any different coming out of this economic shutdown unless we make them different. And that means some serious thinking about WHO that CUSTOMER really is that you are serving.

The Time is Now.

The Times We Live In

The Times We Live In

I have just finished an incredible book by a man I consider to be one of the best thinkers on the planet today. His name is George Friedman, and the book is “The Storm Before The Calm.” With everything going on in the world today I thought it would be appropriate to introduce this book.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I would like to change that. I disagree. I believe that the only thing that we have to fear is the unknown. With the worldwide fear associated with the novel Coronavirus infecting more than a hundred nations I believe a great deal of the panic surrounding this virus is more about the unknown than anything else. In our lifetimes, we have not experienced this type of emergency in our country.

This is where Friedman’s book comes in. He talks about two major cycles in the history of the United States: the Institutional Cycle and the Socioeconomic cycle. One typically spans eighty years and the other spans fifty years. In the 2020 – 2030 decade both of these cycles, for the first time in our history, occur within the same decade.

Today we live in highly polarized times. In my recollection, there used to be a time when two people, or groups, of differing political leanings could talk to each other. Now, it seems as if everyone is in their own echo chamber. The political parties continue to create “identity” groups and we are labelled with “derogatory” labels if we don’t agree with the other side, no matter what the side.

Most of you are aware of the challenges facing the educational community today. There is huge student debt, supported by federal government guarantees. There is elitism at the major Universities. There are professors who are grossly underutilized. There is almost too much happening. Into this world comes internet-based learning. This is the arena in which we are directly involved at Learning Without Scars.

Friedman puts forward a very interesting thesis regarding the future state of education. It is both timely and well worth the read. I trust that it will provoke some thinking for all of you.

The Time is Now.

Making Education Relevant

Making Education Relevant

Sebastian Thrun viewed by many as the father on internet-based learning notes that only 10% of the online students actually complete the classes when they are free. So now he charges for his courses.

Although the results on completion are much better when the students have to pay something, I believe that it misses the point.

How do we get each individual in the world we live in today to want to invest in themselves, to invest their time, in making themselves better? How do we get people to want to spend time on their own professional and personal growth?

We are moving rapidly to, what I call a “Self-Led” world. It is conceivable that with AI and all of the advances with technology that 50% of the population will not have any work to do. We will need to be “Self-Led” internally motivated if we want to be able to have some sort of societal contribution.

I hope you enjoy this next film.

The Time is Now.

Books and Reading #MondayBlogs

Today for #MondayBlogs, I want to talk about books and reading and their ability to bring about dramatic change.

Learning is undergoing a radical transformation, although you wouldn’t know it looking at our present school structures and systems. You are seeing the internet transforming schooling. You have the Khan Academy changing the early school years and EdX transforming the Universities of today.

The standardization of curricula designed to create efficiency and accountability may fail to tap the intrinsic motivation of students. It may feel especially restrictive to those who have an intense drive to learn, their intellectual wings constrained by too much structure. Innovators and other change agents are not much interested in the standards applied to schooling.

Innovators wanted to dive deep into topics of their own choosing rather than follow the path of a syllabus. They exhibited a true love of learning – even if they had no love for school.”

This is from Melissa A. Schilling, the John Herzog professor of Management at NUU’s Stern School of Business who is the author of “Quirky: The remarkable story of the traits, foibles and genius of breakthrough innovators who changed the world.”

She also notes the power of reading and of books.

“Their stories (the innovators) also highlight something else: the power of books. Books may not seem as glamorous as recent technology-enabled alternatives like videos and webinars, but few learning vehicles can rival what can be delivered with a book. It is far easier to customize how one consumes a book than a video, lecture, or in-class discussion. These latter alternatives are great complements to books, but not substitutes. You can skim sections of a book to see its overall structure; you can study some passages intensely, re-reading them if you want, and pausing to contemplate. You can also easily move back and forth between text and diagrams in whatever pace and pattern works for your learning style. You can take a book home and read it in bed, or out to a park or coffee shop. This is more important than may at first be obvious; some people function better with some level of background stimulation while others require a setting with as little background stimulation as possible. Allowing people to choose is important. And when a book sits on your shelf, it serves as a visual placeholder that reminds you of its content (a large advantage print books still have over digital).”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that every serial breakthrough innovator I studied had an outsized appetite for books. Books enabled them to choose the areas of expertise they would develop, and to circumvent barriers that might have held them back.

A few blogs ago we exposed to you the reading list from our consulting web site and also the articles we have written over the past twenty-five years. Have a look and do some reading. It will help in your personal growth which is, after all, our goal at Learning Without Scars.

The Time is NOW.

Learning #MondayBlogs

Education has undergone many changes over the years.

From the 1800’s to now learning has changed dramatically. From the days of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, the heroes of teaching and learning we have been on an interesting road. The quality of education has appeared to be based on the number of PhD’s on the faculty. Nobody talked abut the quality of the TEACHING. That has been one of the flaws of the education system.

In the 1960’s Clark Kerr gave a series of lectures at Harvard that were put into a book called “The Uses of the University.” Harvard had created the “elective” system whereby the student chose the curriculum. This resulted in a lot of people who graduated with very little “learning.” Kerr developed the California system with the UC system on the top, then private Universities, then Junior Colleges. The UC system for the ‘smarter” students to the others at the private to the lower skilled to the Junior Colleges or Technical schools. Imagine.

Yet there still exists a HUGE hole.

Who is it that qualifies the teachers?

How do we measure learning?

Today we have HUGE student loan debt.

How did we get here? When I went to University I paid less than $500.00/year plus books and lab fees. Today we are talking about more than $25,000/year plus, plus, and I am being very gentle. This level of tuition inflation is becoming ridiculous.

There was something else going on at the same time. Parents in the US had been convinced that their children would be better served if they went to a University. They would make more money over their lifetime. As a result, less than 10% of the population had a bachelor’s degree in 1960. That passed 20% in 1970 then 25% in the 1990’s and over 33% today. At the same time, it is said that 50% of the technical schools in America closed for lack of attendance. Quite a commentary isn’t it?

Many ideas of how people think and learn are a mystery to most people. However, at a few Universities learning scientists and computer engineers came together and started to develop educational tools that could be far more effective in teaching and learning. Mark Kamlet, the provost of Carnegie Mellon University, opines that 25 to 50 Universities are the total of the Universities that will survive over the coming decades. That is because teaching and learning are changing. The current universities are creating their own destruction. They are conducting research and they are trying to make things better.

In 1955 Herbert Simon attended a conference at Dartmouth where he and a small group of scientists gave a name to a new field of research called “Artificial Intelligence.” Learning is not a matter of accessing information but rather a matter of organizing and making sense of it. Cognitive scientists started asking the fundamental question. “How do people think and learn?” It is clear that our brain is a very complicated tool. The importance of thinking patterns and expertise means that learning needs to be looked at in different ways. The trouble with this is that this making developing courses very difficult. It is not easy to simulate working environments. Believe me we are in that business. But that is where as a society we are going. The University of Everywhere is here now and will become even more significant going forward.

We are perpetuating the class society with our education system.

Clark Kerr institutionalized this within the California system. If you have access to money you can get into a different school. Not a good approach to anything.

The new barriers of entry should be based exclusively on ability. Wouldn’t that be a nice change? That is where learning Management Software is taking us. That is where non-traditional teachers are coming from. We have to be extremely alert to the changes in learning.

We are mindful of these changes and watch the result of the student assessments from our online programs, not just to evaluate the student but also to evaluate our ability to transfer information. That is where we all have to go. Making learning easier and more effective.

The Time is NOW.