Encouraging employee collaboration

As I continue in my new role within the field of Knowledge Management, the topic of collaboration in the workplace has been increasingly important on my “radar”.

I have just read an article by Shawn Callahan from the Sydney Morning Herald, in which he emphasised the importance of collaboration in the workplace. With the use of the Cochlear Corporation as an example, Callahan argues that Team-based collaboration (made up of a tight-knit group who work to deliver a new idea) can provide organisations with real benefits.

One of the major benefits of collaboration within an organisation is that it increases employee job satisfaction. When people are encouraged to communicate their ideas, and have those ideas being valued and implemented within the organisation; employees feel more fulfilled and satisfied with their jobs. This benefit can then be directly related to an organisations profit margins, “…simply because happy staff provide better services to customers.”

On the Headshift Wiki, there is also an interesting viewpoint that collaboration and knowledge sharing is no longer so much about “knowing about”, but more about “knowing who”. The success of online social networking sites such as Facebook, enables organisations to consider how capturing data about a persons capabilities can increase collaboration within the workplace. In capturing this data, employees will find it easier in finding the ‘right’ person with the required knowledge and experience to collaborate with on a project.

The use of cheap social networking technologies such as blogs, wikis and forums allow employees to exchange and construct ideas that could really benefit both the organisation and the people who work for them.

Anti-Death by PowerPoint Presentation

In the last few years, I have heard various people express their distain of presentations that use Microsoft PowerPoint as a presentation tool. When I first heard of the term ‘Death by PowerPoint’, I was quite surprised; as I actually enjoyed the process of developing PowerPoint slides for my presentations. However, during the course of my university studies, I started to realise how boring PowerPoint presentations can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like PowerPoint…just not how it is being used by a lot of people.
In my organisation they have PowerPoint slides that are just made up of text; published on the Intranet site in order to present to staff, new initiatives undertaken by management. Even though this saves a lot of time, employees are left uninterested in the strategic directions of the organisation.

The eLearning courses that are offered in my organisation are also basic PowerPoint page turning programs, with multiple choice quizzes that are incredibly boring. This affects your attention span and leads you into a semi-conscious state at your computer. When you have completed an eLearning course, you are left feeling as though you have wasted hours of your time without learning anything.

Webinar software may provide a more exciting avenue for conducting eLearning programs, but that is heavily dependant upon the quality of the presentation, the presenter and how much freedom participants have in contributing. If all three of these factors are poor in the presentation, participants will be left bored and will not pay attention to the presentation.

Anyway, I just recently watched this great Slide presentation about this topic by Garr Reynolds. i hope you will enjoy it.

Building a Culture of Collaboration

I have just read a white paper article by Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk and Nancy White.

In this article, they have outlined what the word “Collaboration” means and the benefits of a collaborative workplace culture. They also outlined steps in developing an organisational collaborative culture.

As a person who is working in the field of Knowledge Management, I find the subject matter to be both interesting and important to me. From this article, I see that developing a collaborative culture is a key success factor in ensuring that a new Knowledge Management initiative is successfully incorporated into an organisation.

People like me who work in the field of Knowledge Management, can often fall into a dangerous tendency to equate organisational collaborative capabilities with collaborative technologies. Organisational collaborative capabilities is a lot more than just technology. It is about developing collaborative skills, practices and cultures that encourage people to actually collaborate. “There are many large organisations that have bought enterprise licences for products…who are not getting good value for money, simply because people don’t know how to collaborate effectively or because their culture works against collaboration.”

Second Life for Businesses?

I have just finished reading an article by Paula Gregorowicz about the possibility of adopting Second Life into an organisations Intranet System.

When I first read this, I thought, “pppssssfftt….yeah right. What the hell would that be used for?”

Some of you may be asking, “What is Second Life?” Second Life is “…an Internet-based virtual world. To be exact, it was inspired by Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash and the desire to create a metaverse or a user defined world in which people can interact, communicate, do business, and all the same things we do in the real world. It uses a client-installed piece of software that players (called residents) use to navigate this world and interact with each other using avatars (an image or model used to represent you) providing an advanced level of social networking.”

However, IBM are now planning to host Second Life on their own servers.

Gregorowicz explains that Second Life is starting to catch the attention of large organisations such as IBM because of “…the ability to use Second Life as a platform for a whole new Net — this one in 3D and even more social than the original — with huge opportunities to sell products and services…..Because of its 3D nature, it allows geographically distant people to not only attend meetings as a regular teleconference might, but also allows the personal and professional mingling to occur before and after the meetings as well, because you can interact in this virtual world much as you might when leaving the conference room with colleagues from a local meeting.”

However even though the idea sounds exciting, the viability of utilising such applications within organisations is yet to be proven.

Intranet Implementation

I have just commenced my role into Knowledge Management and as a part of that role; I am involved in the redevelopment of the Intranet site at my workplace.
I have just read a very helpful article written by Patrick Kennedy who has outlined a checklist as a “…starting point for undertaking an Intranet (re)design…”

The steps recommended are as follows:

1. Needs Analysis
In commencing projects of this nature, it is important to identify and communicate clear goals and objectives for the Intranet system. This involves analysing business objectives, the structure and culture of the business, staff needs and the current information management practices within the organisation.

2. Strategy and Scoping
In this step, available resources are identified; along with time frames. The strategy(s) of implementation are also determined in accordance to the cope and size of the Intranet system.

3. Research and Evaluation
Obtaining data and information regarding user expectations is very important in determining the structure of the Intranet system. Interviews, focus groups and workplace observations can provide useful data for Usage studies and Usability Testing.

4. Evaluation
Heuristic Evaluations (expert reviews) are also very useful in determining the most appropriate software package for your Intranet system. However, this is mostly used when implementing a new Intranet system. A Content Inventory can also be conducted in order to develop a record of all content within the organisation, assessing ownership, correctness of information, etc.

5. Information Architecture
In this step, information that exists within the organisation is then organised into category(s) and groups for wireframing and designing the new Intranet system structure.

6. Page Layout Design
Visual aspects of the Intranet system would be addressed in this stage of development. Visual hierarchy and usability layout development are key areas in this step.

7. Usability Testing
Usability testing should now commence in order to improve the Intranet system based on the recommendations from users.

8. Creative Design
Graphic Designers should then be utilised in order to develop creative design concepts, incorporate branding and style guides, design “comps” for each wireframe and assist in usability testing and technical build

9. Implementation
This final step involves the construction of html or even flash pages, backend programming and User Acceptance Testing.

The importance of Usability Testing when Implementing new systems

I have just recently read an article by Carol M. Barnum who is the Director of the Usability Centre in Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia, USA.

In this article, I feel that she has brought up very important points regarding the success of Implementing an eLearning Course, or in my case a Knowledge Management Service within an organisation. She suggests that the overall goal of usability tests should not be perfection, but improvement. To my surprise, Barnum has argued that focus groups are not an ideal way of determining the usability of software. She suggests that participants in Focus Groups “…do their best to express their desires, but these desires frequently turn out to be wrong in actual use of the product. The reason for this disconnect between wishes and reality, proven time and again in usability studies, is that users really don’t know what they want until they actually do something with a product.”

Barnum also states that expert reviews are an inadequate way for conducting usability tests. The reason for this is simple, experts who review software usually have the experience and mental models to know what to expect. This may result in having them identify issues “…that do not, in actuality, turn out to be problems for users. It’s really good at identifying the little things that can be annoying. It’s not so good at identifying ‘show stoppers’.”

Therefore, an effective usability test involves user experience. The result of the usability test (from a new user) should not be a measurement of success for the implementation of a new system, but a record of queries that help improve the system.

eLearning 2.0, What is it?

Hi there,

I have just finished reading an article by David Jennings, in which he discusses eLearning 2.0. While reading such an article, I realised that I have written about many technologies that facilitate eLearning 2.0, without really introducing what it is, or the common views about it.

According to Jennings, eLearning 2.0 is a combination of eLearning and Web 2.0. In order to help explain what eLearning 2.0 is, let me explain what Web 2.0 is.

Web 2.0 refers to the a ‘second’ version of the internet, in which users can find greater interaction and connectivity with people all around the world. Social networking phenomena such as Facebook, MySpace and Wikipedia are the most evident examples of Web 2.0.

eLearning 2.0 derives from these phenomena and refers to the knowledge sharing social software that aids eLearning. Stephen Downes’
explains this really well, and explains that eLearning 2.0 encourages users to have greater input into their learning. Whereas traditional eLearning designers view learners as passive absorbers of information, designers for eLearning 2.0 recognise the valuable input of learners themselves.

In eLearning 2.0, eLearning becomes less of a content delivery system such as a CD, to a platform in which learners can make connections, share discoveries and solve problems together. Software in eLearning 2.0 is more focused on content-publishing, which allow users to learn from the very act of reading, watching and listening a wide range of texts; and publishing their own reflections about the content on the web.

If you want to see some examples of technologies that fall into the eLearning 2.0 category, please see refer to the Web 2.0 link on this blog

How long should an eLearning course be?

Hi,

I have just read a pretty interesting article about the issue of time when designing an eLearning course. Too often than not, I myself have sat through compliance based eLearning programs that have gone way tooooo lllooooonnnnggg.

However, according to Chris Bennett’s article in eLearn Magazine, he identifies things that affect learners perception of elapsed time. He said to:

1) Make the topic as relevant to the learner as possible. This usually means profiling learners before designing the course.

2) Make the course as interactive as possible. This could mean allowing the learner to explore the course by linking various components, or making it totally interactive like some up and coming eLearning programs in Second Life.

3) Make sure that the eLearning program is of high quality. Learners will quickly notice the quality of the interaction of the program. Factors such as the logical organisation of materials and visual design pla a key part.

4) In order to reduce time, you can get the amount of content in a course, or better yet; conduct the course in individual modules.

Participate in a Virtual Community: Technology and Multimedia Options

Hi there,

As part of my university studies, I have had to complete an assignment that involved designing an eLearning course. As a result, I have now posted a plan for my Participate in a Virtual Community module, with another report outlining the technological recommendations for implementing such a course. The tabs for the respective reports are at the top of the screen.

I hope you enjoy reading it, and please comment if you wish to add something to what I have already done.

Thank You

What is Podcasting?

Hi there,

Today, I will now look podcasts as another form of technology that can be used for elearning purposes. According to wikipedia, a podcast is ‘a digital media file, or a series of such files, that is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers. The term “podcast” like “radio”, can mean either the content itself or the method or the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also termed podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster. The term “podcast” is a portmanteau of the name of Apple’s portable music player, the iPod, and broadcast: “pod” refers to iPOd, and cast to the idea of broadcasting”.

Podcasts can also be defined as an audio file which has been converted to an MP3 which can be downloaded onto a computer or MP3 player. The popularity of podcasts is its portability. Files can be easily transported from a computer to a portable device. Another reason for its popularity is due to the fact that the incredibly popular iPod utilises such file formats to store music and video clips.

Podcasts can be used in many different ways, such as:

1) Interviews
2) Music
3) Lectures
4) Radio programs
5) Special interests group reports
6) Recipe instructions
7) Political commentaries/propaganda

All of these functions are now being utilised in education.