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  • Mansour K. Mansour, PhD

Utilizing Emerging Technologies to Prepare an Agile Workforce: A Practical Approach

Introduction

“While 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020, at least 1 in 4 workers in OECD countries is already reporting a skills mismatch with regards to the skills demanded by their current jobs. Thus, enabling and empowering workers to transform and update their skills is a key concern for businesses and societies across the globe.” This argument is made by The World Economic Forum in a report published on July 27, 2017 and titled “Accelerating Workforce Reskilling for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


In a recent article named “Social Learning in the Social Enterprise” that I published on LinkedIn, I noted and made reference to the fact that much of what we learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what we learned 5 years ago is irrelevant.


It is becoming imperative to prepare our young generations to the ever changing job market and reskilling as well as upskilling of our current workforce. I argue that grit and learning agility are amongst the durable skills needed for survival in today's work environment.


Having made the argument of the need for agile learners, I will share with you below highlights of the competency and evidence based model that I designed and implemented on the Brightspace platform from D2L and recently presented at the D2L Fusion 2019 conference. This digital learning model supports very well the process of preparing our agile workforce for now and the future. It also applies to the pedagogy of varying learning types like blended learning, vocational & technical training, apprenticeships, co-ops, internships, professional practice, field experience, applied research projects, service learning, incubators & accelerators, and bootcamps, & hackathons. Please refer to the following resources for additional information on some of the future learning styles, the importance of partnerships between businesses and academia, and a real life example: John Baker’s (D2L President and CEO) Opening Keynote at Fusion 2019 | D2L - University of Memphis - Success Story


The Competency Model and the Brightspace Tools

The competency based model was designed and implemented on the Brightspace virtual learning environment (VLE) to support the UAE National Qualifications Authority (NQA) framework. This qualification framework utilizes a learning model based on the knowledge, skills, and application methodologies as depicted in Diagram 1 below. Other qualification frameworks like TAFE, City & Guilds SCOTVEC, ILM, etc … use similar methodologies and along with the NQA are competency/outcome based learning models that use portfolios as a major assessment tool.

The Brightspace virtual learning environment (VLE) from D2L is a rich platform with a variety of tools that very well cater for this competency model. Diagram 2 below shows the main Brightspace digital tools that were used for the purpose of this implementation. The following is a set of resources for more information on those tools: Oklahoma State University Brightspace Instructor Tutorials | Using Competencies, Learning Objectives and Rubrics for Degree Level Tracking | ePortfolio Introduction

As indicated earlier, this competency model utilizes portfolios as an assessment tool. Brightspace offers the ePortfolio tool and most recently the Brightspace Portfolio tool. For the sake of the model used in this implementation and presented here, the focus will be on the Brightspace ePortfolio. Diagram 3 below presents the ePortfolio tools and terminology. The following are resources for additional information on the terms and the utilization of the ePortfolio tool: Using D2L ePortfolios | ePortfolio Basic Guide | D2L ePortfolio Learner Guide


The NQA Qualification Structure and Process

Diagram 4 and 5 show respectively the QFEmirates Qualification Structure and the NQA assessment as well as the verification process. Use the following resources for additional information on the NQA qualification structure and process: NQA Qualifications Framework | VETAC system of qualified assessors, internal versifiers and external versifiers


ePortfolio Template and the Mobile App

An ePortfolio template was designed for this implementation and provided to the learners to help establish consistency that proved to be useful for all stakeholders including learners, trainers, assessors, internal verifiers and external verifiers. The model used for this implementation assumed one ePortfolio Collection per qualification unit for the purpose of organizing the evidence collected by learners as depicted in Diagram 6.

Two approaches are available within the Brightspace ePortfolio tool to make the template available to learners and both were used:

  1. Export the template where learners would import it into their ePortfolio

  2. Push the ePortfolio template to all learners registered in the course offering


The following collections and items were created and included in the template (your choices might differ based on your need and design):

  • One Collection per Unit,

  • ePortfolio Forms

  • Weekly Work Log Reflections

  • One Reflection entry per Day


Learners utilized the ePortfolio mobile app to upload their evidence of their learning during the on the job training. This implementation made it easy on learners where there was no need any more to carry all day a paper based portfolio document.


Change Management and Knowledge Transfer Plan

A number of steps were adopted to help manage the change introduced by this implementation where the paper based process was completely transformed into a digital one and managed online. Diagram 7 below shows the different components of the change management and knowledge transfer plan that was implemented. To help facilitate this change, the VLE implementation was integrated with social learning tools that allowed for professional development, sharing best practices, and building knowledge communities.


Implementation on Brightspace

The following is a summary of the steps that were implemented on the Brightspace VLE. Diagram 8 shows the process visually.

  1. Step 1: Administrator will create the ePortfolio template and push it to learners registered in a course offering (an alternative is to export the ePortfolio template and make it available to learners to export into their ePortfolio).

  2. Step 2: Learner will share his/her ePortfolio with assessor, internal verifiers (IVs), and external verifiers (EVs).

  3. Step 3: Assessor, IV, and EV review & assess ePortfolio content and provide reviews and comments. Initially and for the first offering, assessors manually marked competencies on the competency structure created for this training engagement on the Brightspace VLE.

  4. Step 4: Submit ePortfolio as an Assignment dropbox. NQA as the qualification regulator requires that registered training providers (RTPs) to keep the assessment documentation for a number of years for quality assurance purposes.


Lessons Learned and Implemented Enhancements

A general feedback session was conducted and feedback was collected after the first run engaging all the stakeholders. Diagram 9 below presents a summary of the enhancements introduced. The following is a list of enhancements that were introduced as a result of analyzing the feedback received during and post the session:

  • Activated the automatic sharing of ePortfolio items. Learners need to share their ePortfolio items for assessors, IVs, and EVs to view and review the evidence and provide feedback under the Explore tab of their ePortfolio. This new enhancement greatly alleviated the administrative overhead and allowed the learners to focus on the quality of the evidence.

  • Eliminated the ePortfolio Forms Collection and replaced by a new practice where forms related evidence are now added to the respective unit collection. So Health and Safety related form implemented on the Brightspace VLE as a survey is now added to the Health and Safety unit Collection.

  • Included instructions to learners for each collection so learners have a clear idea of the expectations.

  • Added instructions to assessors to the content part of the course offering so to help to standardize the assessment and evaluation process.

  • Replaced the one Assignment submission folder for all the collections with an Assignment submission folder per Collection. This new practice allowed for streamlining the process for easier management of the evidence.

  • Linked the Unit submissions to the Assignment folders with the Unit performance criteria (PCs) defined under the unit Competency structure and added a (Competent, Not Yet Competent) Rubric. This allowed for easier assessment process versus the manually marked competencies on the competency structure created for this training engagement on the Brightspace VLE.

  • Modified the Health and Safety Survey to better reflect the requirements.

  • Delivered training and support to learners and assessors to introduce the new changes as part of managing the change and the transfer of knowledge.

  • Provided amended learner and assessor guides to reflect the new changes and the new Brightspace VLE look (Daylight).


Conclusions

CBS This Morning reported on August 31, 2019 in an article titled “Expert predicts 25% of colleges will "fail" in the next 20 years” that Michael Horn, who studies education at Harvard University said, "I think 25% of schools will fail in the next two decades." He added "They're going to close, they're going to merge, some will declare some form of bankruptcy to reinvent themselves. It's going to be brutal across American higher education." This is another reason why universities and colleges need to rethink their learning business model. In my article here, I presented an outcome based learning model integrated with technology that is more flexible, affordable, and convenient that educational organizations might consider for their survival in the years to come.

The implementation presented in this article added value to the learning experience and allowed for a number of benefits like:

  • the technology allowed for a new type of evidence like videos, photos, links, etc …

  • a more streamlined and standardized assessment process

  • timely and speedy completion of the assessment process and publishing of final results

  • higher level of transparency across all stakeholders including the training provider and the quality governing body

  • in a nutshell, it resulted in an innovative learning experience that added value to the process and to all stakeholders

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