Perpetual Growth of Leaders Through Lifelong Learning #MondayBlogs

Perpetual Growth of Leaders Through Lifelong Learning #MondayBlogs

Guest writer Virginia Cooper returns this week with another look at ongoing education in “Perpetual Growth of Leaders Through Lifelong Learning,” our contribution to #MondayBlogs.

In an ever-evolving world, the concept of lifelong learning stands as a cornerstone for community leaders. It’s not merely about the accumulation of knowledge but rather a continuous journey of personal and professional development. This article from Learning Without Scars aims to underscore the significance of lifelong learning for community leaders, focusing on how it can shape their skills, perspectives, and effectiveness. By embracing a culture of perpetual growth, leaders can better serve their communities and foster environments of innovation and resilience.

Enhancing Leadership Abilities

Strong leadership is not an innate trait but a skill honed over time. Lifelong learning plays a pivotal role in this process.

  • Adopting New Leadership Styles: Exposure to diverse perspectives encourages leaders to adapt their leadership style to different situations and individuals.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Continual learning fosters the ability to make informed, strategic decisions in the face of complex community challenges.
  • Emphasis on Self-Discipline: The essence of leadership lies in self-discipline. It enables leaders to model the values and work ethic they wish to see in their community.
  • Conflict-Resolution Skills: Learning about and experiencing various conflict-resolution strategies equips leaders to handle disagreements constructively.

Furthering Your Education

The pursuit of formal education, at any stage of life, can significantly enhance a leader’s expertise and credibility.

  • Online Computer Science Degree: When a person works to complete your online computer science degree, leaders are empowered with digital literacy, which is crucial in today’s technology-driven world. 
  • Interdisciplinary Studies: Engaging in interdisciplinary studies broadens a leader’s understanding of various sectors, promoting a holistic approach to community development.
  • Cultural and Ethical Understanding: Courses in cultural studies and ethics enhance a leader’s ability to navigate and respect diverse viewpoints and moral considerations.

Networking and Collaborative Learning

Lifelong learning often involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone to connect with others, fostering a network of collaboration and support.

  • Joining Professional Groups: Engaging with professional networks offers opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and shared learning.
  • Attending Workshops and Conferences: These gatherings provide a platform for exchanging ideas and staying abreast of current trends and challenges.
  • Community Engagement: Participating in community events and projects helps leaders understand the real-time needs and dynamics of their constituents.

Staying Abreast of Technological Advancements

In a rapidly changing technological landscape, staying updated is key for effective leadership.

  • Regularly Attending Tech Webinars: This keeps leaders informed about emerging technologies and potential applications in community development.
  • Hands-on Experience with New Technologies: Experimenting with new tools and platforms enhances a leader’s ability to integrate technology into community initiatives.
  • Promoting Digital Literacy in the Community: Leaders can advocate for and implement programs that increase the community’s engagement with technology.

Personal Development and Wellness

A leader’s personal well-being is integral to their effectiveness and resilience.

  • Mindfulness and Stress Management: Learning and practicing mindfulness techniques can help leaders manage stress and maintain clarity of thought.
  • Physical Fitness: Regular physical activity contributes to overall health, energy levels, and mental sharpness.
  • Lifelong Reading Habit: A habit of reading not only expands knowledge but also promotes empathy, imagination, and cognitive flexibility.

Lifelong learning is an indispensable tool for community leaders. It equips them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and perspective to navigate the complexities of leadership effectively. By committing to continuous personal and professional development and furthering their education, leaders can inspire change, foster community growth, and create a lasting impact. In this journey, the pursuit of knowledge becomes not just a professional obligation but a personal mantra for growth and resilience.

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How Does Someone in High School Know What to Do?

How Does Someone in High School Know What to Do?

Welcome back to our series on Lifelong Learning! The founder of Learning Without Scars, Ron Slee, is looking ahead to the future of education and the future of the working world in, “How Does Someone in High School Know What to Do?”

Caroline, my daughter, and I were having a conversation yesterday about Learning Without Scars and the needs of the people who were in school or working. It brought me to ask her – “how does someone in high school know what to do?” Her answer was the school guidance counselor, along with a program being implemented in her specific district (not nationwide). Through the program, students complete career profile quizzes to suggest careers that might suit their learning styles, interests, and strengths. From these career suggestions, students can explore the pathway to reach the career. I found that to be interesting and I pushed back with more questions. How does the advising aspect work with the guidance counselor? One of our good friends was a guidance counselor for most of her career in education in Canada. My grandchildren both accessed their guidance counselor. In the case of my grandchildren, it was more advice on which classes to take and why. I was wondering more about the guidance that the high school students received in their lives. On their individual careers. The question “what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

Earlier today I was having a Teams Meeting with Steve Clegg, from Zintoro, and John Carlson, from Reflective, and we got into the same subject. There were some interesting options we touched on. 

  • Some States are offering scholarships to high school students who want to take Advanced Placement or College classes. 
  • Many of the Deans and School Presidents I talk with indicate that there is a challenge with High school graduates going to university in several areas: – Critical Thinking Skills, Analytical Skills, and Communications Skills. 
  • Several mention the lack of Leadership Skills

John Carlson has been involved in continuous improvement engagements for many decades. He is a “Systems Thinker.” He has a product that allows an individual to do an evaluation of themselves and how they would fit into the world around us. It starts with an awareness evaluation, then they proceed to a “Gamification. tool” 

On another front David Jensen, Johnny Creek Consulting, has developed a “Tabletop Exercise” to assist with evaluating the match of skills and job function needs. Learning Without Scars has Job Function Skills Assessments. We are talking about developing a tool to assist students in high school to answer my opening question.

With the leadership of Steve Johnson, at Learning Without Scars we are developing a network of Centers of Excellence across the US and Canada to carry our classes and assessments for both the Academic Credit and Workforce Development programs in their syllabus. We have developed an intensive library of skills assessments for our classes as well as for our subject specific class reading lists and our homework assignments. This allows us to provide our students with the results that they obtain from increasing their skills and knowledge. With the changes in education continuing to proceed at an extremely fast pace we are looking at extending the assessment process to high school students. 


This group, David, Steve, John, and I are trying to tie the skills and performance of the employees with the performance level of the businesses that employ them. 

We have data analytics on the transactions of a business. Transaction level data. We have employee skills and knowledge assessments for those employees working in Product Support, the distribution side of the business. We have reflective analysis data on the probability of performance of employees in a business. Now we must tie all of this together.

Ross Atkinson, who keeps our IT and systems needs under control, works with our Learning Management Software, Litmos, on their reporting engine. Between Ross and Steve, we are building Portals for our Schools, Manufacturers, Dealers, Associations and State Certification programs to allow our clients, their employees, and students to be able to track their progress through our classes and assessments. 

I find this work to be especially stimulating. As most of you know I am personally invested in helping people find their potential and then providing tools to those people that will assist them to reach their personal and professional potential. It is in keeping with my constant pursuit to get better at what I do.

I grew up spending hours and hours in the swimming pool training. I got to be good at it. There is one profoundly serious lesson that I learned from swimming that has served me well in my years in the business world. You see, in swimming the competition isn’t the issue. Winning races isn’t the issue. Being better than your best time – now that is THE issue. Beating my best time finishing last in a race was a win. A HUGE win. 

I learned at an early age that competing with others was not that important. Sure, you felt good if you performed well. But the real competition is within yourself. We must constantly get better at what we do. I wonder who is passing that message along to the high school students that are about to embark on the journey of their lives.

The time is now.

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The Trends in Workforce Development for 2023

The Trends in Workforce Development for 2023

For this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, Founder Ron Slee writes about the trends he sees in workforce development for 2023.

At Learning Without Scars we believe that the leadership of business plays an essential role in helping their employees reach their personal and professional potential. In fact, we believe that it’s CRITICAL. To go further, employee development has been one of those “discretionary” expense areas in many companies. We completely DISAGREE with that.

It is the employees of a business that create the relationships with the customers on whom we depend for our success. Without talented employees who care about what they are doing it would be extremely difficult for any company to remain in business let alone succeed.

The first thing on our minds in 2023 is the rapid change of technology. This is true in many directions: 

  • how the equipment operates
  • remote tracking of the condition of equipment
  • process improvement
  • communications
  • business systems
  • artificial intelligence
  • virtual reality

According to a Price Waterhouse Workforce Hopes and Fears in 2022 one in five workers was likely to change their jobs from one employer to another.

In 2023 it becomes even more important that learning programs are critical to success. This involves the new skills that are required for the work. It also requires that we “upskill” many of the current workers to enable them to continue to be valuable contributing employees. Process improvement through business systems and the use of new equipment requires further training and learning opportunities. In this time of rapid change we need to be able to provide “stability” for the employees. They need to feel wanted and that their opinions are listened to by their team leaders. It directly relates to the culture of the business.

Melissa Daimler, the chief learning officer at Udemy says: “Learning is an ongoing process of building skills, experiences and knowledge through our work, NOT around or on top of it. A company is not automatically a learning Organization when it offers training programs. It may even be the opposite. True Learning Organizations are clear on their purpose, strategy and culture. They ensure the connection between those and the skills they are building.”

That is a tough statement to think through. It is a comprehensive and complicated issue. This is clearly something that must be created and implemented that is specific to a department within a company. Yet it needs to be in alignment with the company strategy and purpose.

Udemy Business learner data shows that many employees are seeking to learn personal skills that better enable them to be more effective in their jobs and drive business results.

That statement takes me back to the time when the “boss” used to tell me that they did not want to spend any money on their employees to make them better. All that would happen is that the talented people would leave and get a better job with someone else. My response was “So you want to keep the people that don’t know how to do their jobs then?”

To me what is interesting is that the “pandemic” pushed us forward to some future that happened much more quickly than we were ready to realize. It forced many people and businesses to reevaluate how they did things. Just look at the working from home situation.

In 2021 Deloitte Human Capital Trends identified “the ability of their employees to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles” as their top-ranked requirement to navigate future disruptions successfully. Now many of you will tell me that this does not apply to us. We are a local retailer serving a specific market of people. We just must be good at what we do and not worry about disruptions. They do not happen here. Really? So increasing interest rates don’t affect you? Or your business?

When we take our eye off the ball and just continue to do what we have always done we are at risk. The leadership of a business has a huge responsibility to provide a safe and secure place for talented people to work. Too many of today’s leaders are simply protecting the status quo and waiting for their turn to retire. They are forgetting their most important asset class. Their employees.

I often come back to my friend Alex Schuessler who created the phrase “paper to glass” to describe the changes with business systems. All we have done is replace a paper form with a screen template. We no longer write on a form we type on a keyboard. Things are just processed faster. 

Let’s look at what we believe are the most critical elements in employee development in 2023. As many of you know, or will assume, we talk to a lot of people in the education community. The same issues keep coming up. 

  • Personal Communication Skills
  • Leadership
  • Business Communications
  • Meetings
  • Management Skills

Similarly operational related skills and tools:

  • Project Management
  • Agility
  • Business Analysis
  • Critical Thinking

Let me wrap up this paper with some data obtained from Udemy Business. This is also consistent with the schools we are engaged with in the creation of our Centers of Excellence.

The Top Ten Used Business Skills:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Project Management
  3. Leadership
  4. Agility – a philosophy about delivering software
  5. Scrum – helps people and teams deliver value.
  6. Project Management Professional Certification
  7. Business Communication
  8. Business Analysis
  9. Meetings
  10. Management Skills

In closing, one of the metrics that should be in place with every organization is employee turnover. We are all exposed to this very difficult workforce that is in place today. There continues to be almost two jobs open, companies seeking to hire someone, for every person that is not working in America today. 

The primary cause of employee turnover continues to be the “boss.” We persist in resisting conducting performance reviews frequently enough, if at all. How do you stack up here? Have a look at your success in onboarding new employees. What is your turnover rate for employees in the first six months of employment with you? 

We have a lot of work to do in the area of employee development. We cannot continue to do what we have always done. That would truly be insanity.

The Time is Now.

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Web 3.0 Is Changing Education

Web 3.0 Is Changing Education

Guest writer Anna Horoneskul contributes to our series on Lifelong Learning with her blog post Web 3.0 Is Changing Education.

The evolution of technology has drastically changed the way we live, work, and learn. EdTech, in particular, has revolutionized the field of education, making it more accessible and convenient for learners of all ages and backgrounds. The emergence of Web 3.0, the next phase of the internet, has brought even more exciting possibilities for education!

Web 3.0 is based on blockchain technology where data is decentralized. It allows more security and transparency. Alongside, Web 3.0 enables absolutely new models of learning. 

One of the most significant advantages of Web 3.0 is the ability to create a decentralized educational system. Currently, the education system is centralized, with institutions and organizations holding the power to determine the curriculum and the delivery method. With Web 3.0, learners can access educational content directly from content creators, eliminating the need for intermediaries.

Another advantage of Web 3.0 is the ability to create secure and transparent educational records. With blockchain technology, learners can have a digital record of their educational achievements that is secure, and accessible from anywhere in the world. Thus, earners can be recognized for their skills and achievements, regardless of their geographical location or socio-economic status.

Web 3.0 also allows for the creation of more personalized and adaptive learning experiences. Currently, most educational content is designed for a broad audience, which can make it challenging for learners with different learning styles and abilities to engage with the material. With Web 3.0, educational content can be tailored to the learner’s individual needs and learning style. It allows a more engaging and effective learning experience.

Finally, Web 3.0 enables the creation of a more collaborative education system. Currently, learners are often isolated in their learning experiences, with limited opportunities to collaborate with peers or experts in the field. With Web 3.0, learners can connect with others who share similar interests and goals, creating a community of learners who can collaborate and learn from each other.

However, there are also challenges associated with the use of Web 3.0 in education. One of the main challenges is the need for digital literacy. Web 3.0 relies on blockchain technology, which is still relatively new and complex. Learners and educators will need to develop basic skills in blockchain technology to participate in decentralized education platforms. 

Another challenge is the potential for increased inequality. Educators and learners who do not have stable access to the internet and the necessary gadgets to participate in Web 3.0 platforms could be left behind.

Privacy is also a concern with Web 3.0. While blockchain technology is claimed to be more secure and transparent than traditional technologies, it can be put in danger too. Thus, learners’ personal information could be leaked or hacked. Recently, blockchain hacks have drastically increased as hackers have discovered that vulnerabilities do in fact exist. Since 2017, public data shows that hackers have stolen around $2 billion in blockchain cryptocurrency. However, Web 3.0 is still evolving and becoming more resistant to attacks.

To sum up, Web 3 is a wonderland where technology and education could collide and create a new way of learning and sharing information. As with any new invention, it should be learnt closely before taking a decision to use it. It also can take some time and effort to get new skills to navigate it and get adapted. But it is worth it!

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Operating a Business in the “Learning Space.”

Operating a Business in the “Learning Space.”

For the week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our Founder Ron Slee addresses the topic of operating a business in the “Learning Space.”

Our backgrounds, Caroline and I, are in education. More specifically in Classroom Face-to-Face Teaching. As teachers we are concerned with our students and their growth and learning in the specific subjects that we are teaching. We have tests, quizzes, and discussion groups to help us in tracking the learning levels and growth of each student. And, please, never forget that all of these different aspects of teaching allow us to understand what is working and what is not. Many people overlook that aspect of tests and report cards.

In the e-learning world there are many more challenges in the creation of products that will help in employee development. The first question we must ask ourselves is “does our current offering, the assessments, classes and lectures match what the market needs?” This is an ongoing challenge as the market is constantly changing. The question becomes “are we delivering the proper learning products to the proper people in a manner that they find interesting and productive?”

Of course, we have to first define our purpose which with us is very straightforward “We want to assist people in the identification of their individual potential.” However, as you will no doubt realize, that is a challenge all by itself. We also add that our goal goes further in that we want to offer products and services that allow each of the interested people to realize that potential.

That meant that we had to identify the specific aspect of the employee population that we could help with the most. Our conclusion was that we wanted to touch everyone who led people and everyone who interacted with customers or supported people who did interact with customers. That covers nearly everyone in the product support disciplines, the distribution channel, in the capital goods industry. We recognized that although there is different jargon and some different practices that most of the capital goods industries needed similar things. Construction, Agricultural, Light Industrial, Material Handling, Engine, On Highway Truck and Trailer, Marine are some of the industries we are focused on today.

We have a lot of operational experience in these industries and we have multiplied that experience with our large group of Contributors who contribute to our market with blog posts and podcasts and assist in our newsletters. These Contributors, all forty eight of them, have deep understanding of all aspects of the operations of dealers and distributors.

One of our challenges is to bring our product to the market. It is a rather daunting task to attempt to cover all of these companies by ourselves. In order to penetrate this huge market worldwide we have created a smaller group of specialists to help us. They are aimed at educators, the industry associations, the manufacturers of the equipment as well as influential dealers and distributors.

We first communicated directly with industry associations. This is, of course, where I was first teaching in the distribution channel, with the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED). I personally did all of their parts and service operational training from the early 1990’s through 2015. We did Parts Management, Service Management, Product Support Selling and Parts and Service Marketing training. We also provide training services to manufacturers, in some cases worldwide. Companies such as Caterpillar, Deere, Komatsu, Volvo, Ditch Witch and Vermeer to name a few. I also was involved in many industries convention and annual meetings. 

We recognized that we need to have a community of influencers. 

We were very fortunate to have the help of Steve Johnson. Steve, until he retired was the Vice President of the AED Foundation. This foundation was the area of training and employee development for the association. Steve has been in touch with a large number of schools across the US and Canada establishing, what he calls, Centers of Excellence. These are the schools that he has selected to represent Learning Without Scars across Canada and the United States of America. We are extremely excited about this aspect of our business. 

We have established two streams of learning products: one for academic credit and the other for workforce development. For the academic credit stream, we have created classes that will earn seven academic credits (that is fourteen classes as two of our classes earn an academic credit). For the workforce development stream, we have one hundred and eight classes; thirty-six for the parts business, thirty-six for the selling and marketing businesses, and thirty-six for the service business. We also have eighteen job function skills assessments for the workforce development stream. We are currently working with university professors to create a selection of Lecture Series. We hope to have the Lecture Service earning Academic Credits as well. There is a lot of work involved and a lot of effort put in by a lot of people. This is not an easy thing to get done.

One of the challenges for industry is being able to identify the individuals who are the best fit to help companies succeed in their businesses. Universities do this will various tests, such as the Executive Function Test. Businesses do this with various personality profiles such as Briggs Meyers, Personalysis, Caliper and many others. Associations do this with their individual “certification” programs. Manufacturers do this with their technician training and certifications.

As an Accredited Provider with IACET, The International Accreditors of Continuing Education and Training. We are the only ones in the world with this accreditation. We are going to be pursuing further accreditations this year to make our products even more unique to the marketplace. 

I hope this gives you a more complete understanding of the “business” we have been building for the parts thirty plus years. I would like to extend my thanks to all of the students, the more than twenty-five thousand of you, that we have had in our classes all around the world. I sincerely mean it when I tell you that this would not have been possible without the contributions that each and every one of you have made I the classrooms with me. Thank you all so very much.

The Time is Now.

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Learning Management Software (LMS) is a Critical Part in eLearning

Learning Management Software (LMS) is a Critical Part in eLearning

For this week’s blog post on Lifelong Learning our Founder, Ron Slee, shares the ways in which Learning Management Software (LMS) is a Critical Part in eLearning.

Building a series of learning products for academic credit and workforce development is our foundational responsibility. We attempt to keep up with the rapid pace of changes taking place in the educational world. That is keeping us very busy. From developing audio tracks to go with our recommended reading to closed captioning on our film clips and videos. From adapting to the class requirements for face-face time and homework to ensuring that adult education is not overpowering employees. We are remarkably busy. Without a Learning Management Software tool we would be at a serious disadvantage.

Many of you know that one of my educational foundations was Computer Science. I ran a couple of “Data Processing” department for equipment dealers. I also ran a software business when we first arrived in the US that served the equipment dealer world. So I was at one time quite familiar with how everything worked and what was required to use to get the best results. How that world has changed. It got to the point in the early 1990’s that I finally threw my hands up in the air and said that I would have to be dependent on professionals in certain aspects of the technology world that was coming out fast and furious. That is clearly the case with Learning Management Software. Our Job Function Skills Assessments, Subject Specific Classes and Lectures all need to have a platform which would allow us to offer our products to the marketplace.

If in our market we are serving the students at vocational and technical schools or even students enrolled in community colleges or public and private universities, time would not be so much of an element. The US Department of Education says that there needs to be two hours of homework for every hour of face-to-face earning. Many states have differing standards. As an Approved Supplier of IACET we have to have ten hours of learning to earn one CEU (Continuing Education Units). At Learning Without Scars (LWS) we offer academic credit classes to the schools and also to employees already in the workforce.

For the vocational schools our classes are built to provide six and a half hours of face-to-face learning and thirteen hours of homework. In this way two of our classes earn academic credits across most of the US. These classes are all for our “Centers of Excellence.” The CoE is a school that has agreed to take on the responsibility for a specific geography in the country. We aim to have ten in the US and three in Canada by year end 2023. Our CoE’s will have fourteen classes for the parts business and fourteen classes for the service business. Seven academic credits will be available at each of these CoE’s. 

For workforce development (WD) we have adjusted our classes as well to allow the same qualification for our classes. In this manner we are working towards having two classes earning an academic credit. This will allow all employees in the workforce to earn at a similar level to the vocational schools.

There are also significant changes in the attitudes and outlook of employees in the workforce. The role of the leader, the lead hands and foremen, the managers, supervisors and executives is more important that seemingly ever before. Litmos, our LMS provider, has indicated that 86% of employees would change jobs if the new job offered more opportunities for development. 45% of employees do not believe that their employer promotes a healthy work-life balance. Sixty-six percent of professionals said that there isn’t much support for those wishing to take on leadership roles.

It has become quite clear that the world is changing too fast for business to be able to keep up and develop their own training programs. The classes that many are taking today will be out-of-date by the time they complete them. That is a serious problem. Each of our classes, whether it be for Centers of Excellence or Workforce Development, ends with surveys for our students to let us know what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they felt was missing, and many other important comments for us. We take these comments seriously. We also receive statistical reporting on answers to our quizzes for reading lists, learning segments or homework. In this manner we are able to ensure that the homework is in fact completed. Many schools and businesses recognize that if they can obtain a class without having to build it themselves that they can better focus on their core requirement. That is true with schools as well. Teaching is a difficult profession. But ask any adult who their teachers were in grade school, or middle school, or even high school and they will be able to talk about them. Most cannot tell who was the Speaker of House of Representatives when they were in school. Who is more important? In my mind their teachers are more important.

At LWS we have built classes that we believe you will want to take. You can take them everywhere you are as long as you have a computer, tablet, laptop, or cell phone and an internet connection. We have tried to keep the classes as short as we can as long as they communicate and transfer the learning that is required. We are very pleased with how we have done over the past two years. We have made many changes and taken large strides in our purpose of helping people both professionally and personally identify and then realize their potential.

We extend to you our hand when you enroll and complete our learning products. Welcome Aboard.

The Time is Now.

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How Has the Internet Changed the Role of Education?

How Has the Internet Changed the Role of Education?

In this week’s post on Lifelong Learning, our Founder, Ron Slee, takes a deep dive into the worldwide web with, “How Has the Internet Changed the Role of Education?”

The Internet is transforming education by changing the way students learn and the way teachers teach. This is true in both public and private education. 

  1. Online learning: The Internet has made online learning accessible to everyone. Students can now attend classes and complete assignments from anywhere, anytime.
  2. Personalized learning: With the Internet students have access to a wide range of resources that allow personalized learning experiences.
  3. Collaboration: The Internet enables students and teachers to collaborate in real time from different locations, making it easier for students to work together on projects and assignments.
  4. Access to information: The Internet provides students with instant access to a vast amount of information, making it easier for them to research and learn about various topics.
  5. Improved communication: The Internet has made communication between teachers and students as well as between schools much easier and more efficient.

Overall, the Internet has greatly improved the education experience for students and teachers alike providing them with new tools and resources to enhance their learning and teaching experiences.

Learning Without Scars is a company that aims to improve the education system, by making learning a positive and enjoyable experience for students at schools or in the workforce. The company uses a variety of methods to achieve this goal. Reading material with audio tracks and quizzes; a series of segmented video classes using power point slides with text and audio tracks and strategically inserted film clips that are closed captioned.

Today there are a variety of companies providing Internet based learning. Kahn Academy for students from Preschool through High School through to EdX and Coursera for business applications. There is a lot available out there.

Our goal is to provide employees and students access to tools that can measure their skills and knowledge: the Job Function Skills Assessments. With these Comprehensive Assessments the individual has an opportunity to objectively measure their skills and knowledge and how it applies to their jobs. This is the first such assessment in our industry. This is viewed by the Workforce Development side to Technical and Vocational Schools to evaluate the needs of the employees working at businesses in their area that also are a potential employer for the students of the school.

We are experiencing difficulties, particularly with the group of technicians in dealers. Turnover rates are extremely high. A recent article in the New York Times by Christina Caron poses the question, “When is it time to quit your job?” The author covers the usual issues such as burnout. Burnout, according to Dennis Stolle, the senior director of applied psychology at the American Psychological Association is three symptoms; emotional exhaustion, negativity, and the feeling that no matter how hard you try you cannot be effective at your job.

There is another area of interest. Technicians have seen an amazing amount of change in the equipment that they perform repairs and maintenance. The job has become a serious challenge for advances in computers and telematics, allowing us to track the condition of equipment when it is working in the field using sensors everywhere. Many of the older technicians are struggling to keep up with these changes. In many cases a technician’s job defined who they were as people.

On the other hand, younger technicians, say under thirty-five years of age, are looking for different things in the workplace than the older generations. Laura Putnam, author of the book “Workplace Wellness That Works” addresses how the workplace functions. The younger workers want to have more control over how they work. They resist the old command and control style of leadership common in previous times. The employees are looking to organizations that support various aspects of wellness including physical, emotional, social as well as financial.

These younger technicians are leaving their jobs within six months at alarming rates. This is when the market is struggling to find qualified technicians to hire. Imagine spending all that time and money hiring someone and they choose to leave before they have been with you for six months. Billy Greenlee, Service Operations Manager/Rental Manager commented “I think retaining them becomes the next huge hurdle if you can get technicians on a good path. I’ve watched for years as my entry level techs start to mature it is all but impossible as a manager to bring their wages up, once they cross that threshold of being a “good” technician. It’s hard for a service manager to increase their salary to keep up with their market value when you start entry level techs at those lower hourly rates. I’ve been fortunate in my current position to not get pushback when I’ve gone to our ownership and request a 15-20% pay increase to bring my team up to their true market value as a technician. It’s paid dividends as most of my techs are at, or we’re just at, that transition point of being entry level to a seasoned tech. My other tool was moving to a rotating 4-10 schedule. But between those two things I have been able to keep my shop stable the last few years and get that return on investment on all of that education and training expense.”

Isaac Rollor recently posted a blog talking about technicians. He started as follows “Recently out of curiosity I used and searched “Heavy Equipment Mechanic.” For location I specified “USA.” Immediately there were 30,000 opportunities that populated my screen. Pretty amazing. Many of these job postings were urgently hiring. I saw many job openings for technicians at heavy equipment dealers. Isn’t it amazing that the focus of education for the past forty years has been on getting a University Degree? You will earn more money over your lifetime if you have a degree. Of course, they were making reference to high school graduation as the comparison. NOT technicians.

Bill Pyles took it further when we addressed the “On-Boarding” of new technicians. 

I feel it’s important to note that entry-level tech does not mean you’ve hired a technician to whom you can pay minimum wage for the next few years. The first two items a dealer needs are a developmental pay plan (earn while you learn) and a career-building training plan, from entry-level to Top Gun. Be sure part of the hiring process is a copy of your training and wage scale. Spend quality time with the new tech in explaining the “earn while you learn” approach. Remember, training never ends. 

Similarly, it helps to assign a “mentor” to these new employees. This is true whether you are hiring straight from a vocational or technical school or hiring a working technician. A mentor can be a great help in ensuring the new employees feel part of a team. An important member of the team.

I thought it would be worthwhile in Lifelong Learning to point out that it is not solely the responsibility of the employee to improve themselves through learning programs, but also how the business accepts new employees and how they are treated. One thing is certain: Technician turnover rates today are unacceptable. It is in every company’s best interest to address this issue soon.

The time is now.

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When Does Learning Stop?

When Does Learning Stop?

Tonight, our Curriculum Designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos asks the question many of you may be asking: When Does Learning Stop?

I’m not trying to be obnoxious when I say this: learning stops once you are dead.

As long as we are alive, we are learning and progressing. Even if the process of learning is not what you might think of as “overt” – i.e. in a classroom, from books, in front of a teacher – you are still learning as you go.

That learning can be lighthearted, or formal. If you think you are not learning, I would ask you if you have ever helped a child or grandchild work on a level of a video game. If you have, I can guarantee you that you were learning in that moment!

Humor aside, there is a vast wealth of research about the benefits of lifelong learning. Outside of the obvious professional benefits, learning is good for your health.

The Harvard Business Review has reported on this. As an English teacher I, of course, love the fact that they note that reading lowers blood pressure. They also cite neurologists who observe that learning (cognitive activity) can delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Learning does not change the disease, nor cure it, but a delay in symptoms offers a better quality of life to those with the diagnosis.

For many of us, we think of the formal education we have received in our earlier years as the model of learning. As you can see from my video game example above, learning goes beyond that classroom.

Picking up a new instrument, or spending time to learn new music are both ways of learning. Picking up a new hobby or craft are ways of learning. Developing a new habit – whether that may be a daily writing practice or reading practice – is another form of learning. Turning off the map program on your cellular phone and exploring an area with a map (or nothing but your sense of direction!) is still another way of learning.

What I am trying to demonstrate here is that our classes, which have moved away from the traditional in-person classroom, are part of a larger picture for your life. Yes, by continuing your education you are increasing your marketability and expertise in your field.

You are also improving your health and quality of life.

Isn’t it time for you to experience all of these benefits?

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The Structure and Development of Our Learning On Demand Classes

The Structure and Development of our Learning On Demand Classes

For this week’s installment on Lifelong Learning, our Founder, Ron Slee, is taking you on a walkthrough of the process that goes into the structure and development of our Learning On Demand classes.

Over our time in providing classroom teaching at Universities, High Schools, Business related Management Training, Webinars and most recently internet-based learning paths we have changed and adapted to the reality of the research provided to educators worldwide.

Research continues and learning results continue to improve for most. But it is indeed a challenge to both keep up and continue to be on the leading edge of internet based adult learning and the requirement of schools worldwide. One of our major advances in the past two years has been to develop segmented learning. We use slides with audio tracks and film clips in our learning videos. The students can go back and forth as often as they like. These segments happen in the range of ten to fifteen minutes of learning. At the end of each segment, we insert a “quiz” to evaluate both the student’s ability to understand our content as well as our presentation methods. 

Not surprisingly we have seen a significant change on how the student results have changed. The first time a student takes one of our classes the first segment the successful results might be about 50%. The send segment the success rate goes to 75% and from that point on the success stays above 90%. This is proof positive, in my mind, that the student pays more attention when they know there will be a “check” of their understanding of the material. It truly works and our results prove it rather conclusively.

Similarly, we added reading materials before the video learning segments. These reading assignments have an audio track with them so that we are ADA compliant but that also gives us a time check. We provide ninety to one hundred and ten minutes of audio with each subject specific class. Then we have three multiple choice quizzes for each reading assignment. This puts the reading portion in the range of two hours or more for each class. Again, research has shown that “scanning” reading material in a learning environment helps in the retention and understanding of the material involved. We are noticing the same thing when we have students taking more than one subject specific class as the scores are noticeably higher.

Recently, in the past two months we have added Homework to our classes. We provide more than five hundred pages of reference books for the student to read. With each of our reference books we again have what is called a “Check for Understanding.” Contrary to most education institutions we verify that the student has in fact done the homework. That is the purpose of our Check for Understanding. The homework with the reference books amounts to thirteen hours of time. This is in line with the Department of Education need statement that for each face-to-face hour of learning there needs to be two hours of homework. Each of our subject specific classes now consist of six and a half hours of face-to-face learning and thirteen hours of homework. 

That allows us to comply with the academic requirements of most states. Two of our learning on demand classes offered in vocational and technical schools, junior colleges as well as public and private universities offer one academic credit to students. This is what we offer through our Centers of Excellence across Noth America. For adult education, in the workforce development business of schools, we still have the shorter class options. However, we also offer a path for the students should they wish to follow the academic credit path.     

I have to admit that it is a lot of work to stay current with educational changes. Research continues to push educators to get better at delivering learning to students. That is our goal and purpose at Learning Without Scars. 

The Time is Now.

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Encouraging Lifelong Learning in Your Company

Encouraging Lifelong Learning in Your Company

Guest writer Steve Johnson contributes to this week’s installment on Lifelong Learning with his blog post, “Encouraging Lifelong Learning in Your Company.”

In my last article, I said to readers, “As a final note, make continuous learning intentional and give it high priority. Continuous learning is your responsibility, not the responsibility of your company, your supervisor or anyone else. To be able to effectively manage your career, you need to plan your future, that is, identify your goals and chart your path for reaching those goals. An important part of that path is going to be continuous learning. Plan your educational future now. In doing that, we encourage you to explore educational opportunities at Learning Without Scars for high quality industry- and position-specific education.”

Given the above, the smart company will still encourage and enable lifelong learning, as it’s in their best interests as well. Another quote from my last article, “At some point in the future, you could find out that management no longer feels you are relevant to attaining the company’s goals. You could find out that the job market feels the same about your resume.” One can say essentially the same thing about a company. At some point in the future, you could find out that your customers and suppliers no longer feel you are relevant to their futures. Investments in employee lifelong learning are investments in your company’s relevance, efficiency and productivity. They are crucial in meeting your customers’ needs, leading to higher customer satisfaction and retention. They are also crucial to employee satisfaction and retention.  Your investment in employees is a clear demonstration of how you value them.

Enabling lifelong learning in your company should be a part of your employee development program. If you don’t have such a program, you should invest in one. As has been said before, “What about the costs?” The usual and correct answer to that is what are the costs of not investing in employee development? Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas.

  1. Commit to lifelong learning as essential to your company’s ongoing success. For example, one company I worked for started by committing to a minimum of 80 hours each year of continuous education for each employee. Select a qualified employee and assign management of and accountability for the plan. Determine where you are now as a company and where you want to be in a year; and in 2 years or 3 years. The company plan must include specific actions, completion times and results expected. Establish a budget for continuous learning and the systems to support the plan. A company lifelong learning plan will require a system to archive records of educational achievements, support company award programs, facilitate human resource planning and develop individual future educational plans.  
  2. Employee participation is required for their own success, as well as the company’s success. For each employee, define specific learning activities, due dates, results expected. Incorporate short-term and longer-term measurable learning goals into the performance review process. Involve employees in the development of their learning plan; find out where they are and where they see themselves in the future. Make the connection as to how their learning plan relates to their own personal goals. Show employees where there is alignment with their learning plan and both their personal and company success.  It is important for the learning plan to be formally agreed upon initially by both the employee and the supervisor or company’s training representative.   
  3. Link learning outcomes to job qualifications and promotion opportunities; answer the employees’ question, “How can I get there?” Employees need to have a stake in their company as to their possibilities for personal and professional growth. Job design needs to show learning and knowledge requirements in terms of the steps involved in available career paths. This includes various types of organizational knowledge: company policies, financial, supervisory, managerial, human resources, federal and state laws and more. It can also include such things as technical knowledge, computer skills, accounting and financial skills, telephone skills, sales, customer service, group dynamics, and project management.
  4. In reference to the above items, immediate supervisors have a substantial stake in employee learning and development. Their success depends on their employees’ performance. Schedule regular supervisor-employee discussions for review of the individual learning plans in a non-threatening environment. Congratulate employees on their successes and deal with unacceptable results in an encouraging way. Discuss what employees see as obstacles to company expectations and how they can be overcome. Still, employees need to know what the company expectations are and that those expectations need to be met. 
  5. Incorporate different types of learning styles into employee education based on what is most effective for each individual. People learn in different ways such as visual/spatial, auditory/aural, or kinesthetic/physical. As much as possible, tailor learning experiences to the individuals being taught. For example, I’m no car mechanic, but for such subjects, I can learn and then demonstrate my competencies much better in a “hands-on” learning environment. For public speaking, I needed a fair number of live experiences to be comfortable and effective. For me, negotiation skills required both book learning and role playing.  
  6. It can be highly frustrating for employees who are sent for education in areas where they are already competent. Where you can, offer opportunities for “testing out” or demonstrating such skills and knowledge. You may also, however, run into situations where someone thinks much more highly of their competencies than is reality. “Testing out” can reveal the true situation to that employee. For some things where answers are “absolute” or factual, a written test may be most applicable. For other situations that are more situational or “gray,” discussions of performance in real business situations with a company supervisor or mentor may be more suitable. 
  7. Companies need to be able to recommend vetted and approved learning resources for employees to help “show them how to get there,” as mentioned in item 3 above. The company also needs to help connect employees with these resources based on their needs. Develop a library of books and periodicals that reflect best practices in various disciplines like accounting, finance, management, business law and others. The library can include manuals for common business software used. Materials that can support development of skills in project management, team building and the so-called soft skills should not be ignored. Include company hosted opportunities for group sharing and learning. For example, a company may want to bring in an outside provider where all employees participate in team building education. 
  8. Develop and vet a list of outside learning resources that employees can request from company management. These include technical courses, computer software, management training and many other areas where further education can benefit the company. With management approval, this can include tuition reimbursement for programs that provide skills and knowledge relevant to current or future job qualifications. Many companies also reimburse tuition for courses related to attainment of a certificate or college degree. If your worried on your ROI for such education, full reimbursement can be tied to an employee commitment to stay with the employer for a stated period of time.  

Rule number one for such lifelong learning programs is that you have to get started at some point. I encourage you to start by doing something now. At least formulate a basic plan. Give your plan the time needed to achieve expected results. Your plan will evolve as you determine what things work best in your company and the benefits become more and more apparent.  We encourage you to explore educational opportunities at Learning Without Scars for high quality industry- and position-specific education for inclusion in your lifelong learning plans.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.