Preparing your organisation for AI supported learning

Supporting learning with data is a process of using analytics to empower learning and making decisions based on data-backed evidence.

Smart new technologies, such as machine learning and data mining have made significant progress in recent years, and their impact is growing in many areas of life. The finance sector is a prime example of how data and machine learning are used to optimise business processes. The field of finance naturally lends itself to data. It runs on clear metrics and has precise targets for optimisation.

Organisational learning, on the other hand, is an example of a field with varied goals and fuzzy data. That is the main reason, the area of learning has largely been lacking analytics and data-powered decision making. However, technological developments are reaching a stage in which these obstacles can be overcome.

HR has a natural position to becoming a true leader in digital learning. This transition has started, and it will gain strength with time. The phases and tools of the process are described in Graph 1 and explained in the following text.

Graph 1. The phases of leading learning with data  

Scattered data
The data is already here, but where exactly?  

Most organisations already collect and hold massive amounts of learning related data. Digital platforms, online courses, tests, competence appraisals, self-reports, education feedbacks, and other similar systems produce a wealth of information. One of the key challenges is that data is located in multiple unlinked systems. To use this data, one needs to derive it from various sources and combine it manually. As a result, HR is left with periodically producing one-off reports with cross-sectional analyses about the current state of affairs.

Manual reporting, even if partially automated to reduce the amount of work, is not real-time. It focuses on a pre-selected set of explicit variables and is rudimentary and lacks the possibilities for insights compared to more present-day solutions.

 

Combined data and dashboards

Once an organisation combines its databases or builds interfaces for that purpose, more efficient data-enabled learning can begin to commence. Combining the learning management system, educational data, competency evaluations performance data brings insight into how all of these relate to one another. Ideally, this information is presented in a simple dashboard providing real-time analytics about learning and development. It can bring insights into where learners are spending time, what they are engaged in and what seem to be the evident obstacles for development. Correlating the educational variables with business results, such as sales data, provides ways to explore the progress and effects of specific programs or interventions.

For the most part, dashboards are still constrained with human deficiencies in decision making. They only show what they are planned to show. We are inclined to focus on the explicit relations between the most obvious variables. Many of the implicit reasons between causes and effects are hidden from a human investigator.

 

Predictive insights

Even with the ill-defined datasets related to learning and development, advancement in natural language processing and image recognition allow algorithms to make sense of contents and contexts in materials. That is, they can mine the data points for meaningful correlations that often escape the naked eye, such as finding relations between implicit, hidden variables, and draw on historical data and decisions within the organisations. They lack some of the pitfalls compared to human decision making and can outperform even most experienced human practitioners. An effective way to gain insights into learning data is merging the desired outcomes, such as sales results or customer feedback with the usage patterns in a learning platform. This highlights effectiveness of different ways of engaging with the learning possibilities offered by an organisation. The information can then be used to adjust the learning programs for future learners.

These systems can be assigned to identify learners who are not participating, or whose skills are in danger of lagging behind. They can also highlight some of the knowledge gaps or strengths within an organisation. In parallel with helping HR professionals, the same algorithms can be harnessed to serve the learners. Indeed, the next level of learning systems is that which can make accurate recommendations for learners, educators, and HR.

 

Dynamic, actionable recommendations

Web stores and social media are effective in making interpretations about our interests and recommending us products or services that appeal to us. This same technology can be applied to support learning. This enables an organization to deliver truly tailored recommendations for ‘just-in-time‘ learning and personalised training programs for each employee instead of fixed courses designed for the masses.

When a system has understanding about the needs, interests and learning activities of employees, it has a robust set of data to conclude from. It can recommend materials, activities and interactions to a specific learner based on identified needs. Further on, a learning platform can make accurate recommendations for future learners about which actions would be beneficial for them based on previous learners‘ activities.

The next developments in this process will be automated learning paths using materials inside an organisation and automatically providing appropriate tests to measure learning and motivation.

 

Conclusions

Digitalisation and data are not solutions to every problem. Leading with data is about developing new ways of operating. It is slow; it requires work and most of all, it requires a comprehensive understanding of current operations. The first step is recognising the current state of learning data in an organisation and designing the steps to take the process forward.

Data-driven systems do not replace effective competence management, but HR professionals that refuse to leverage available data for this purpose will be replaced by those who do.


This article was also posted on the latest EAPM Newsletter

Topi Litmanen

Dr. Topi Litmanen works as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He is responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of the Claned are based on latest learning research. Topi makes sure that Claned customers get the needed support for meeting their digital learning needs.

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Can you imagine a better Common Future?

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition invites you to envision a common future and win a chance to attend Winners’ Week in London.

William Arthur Ward said “If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

I would like to extend this thought to the following: if you can imagine it, then write it down so everyone can become part of your dream and share it.

Writing has powers beyond borders. It is said that “writing is a medium of human communication that represents language and emotion with signs and symbols.” We need writing to express our intentions, hopes, and emotions. It is also a tool to allow us to reach beyond our immediate communities, speak to the global audience.

In the modern time, writing has become an essential part of daily life as technology has connected individuals from across the globe through systems such as e-mail and social media. Literacy has grown in importance as a factor for success in the modern world.

Writing is more relevant as a skill than ever before. Through writing, we can communicate globally and reach out other people, societies, and cultures, and hopefully avoid misunderstandings.

With words, we can share our dreams for something better for all of us.

Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition: Towards a Common Future

Now, there is an opportunity for young people to write their dreams and hopes down by participating in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.

This year’s theme ‘Towards a Common Future’ and its topics ask young writers to explore how the Commonwealth can address global challenges and work to create a better future for all citizens through sub-themes of sustainability, safety, prosperity, and fairness.

How do you see it, what do you hope for, what do you see the potential obstacles and how we should overcome them. Your imagination is the only limit here.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s oldest schools’ international writing competition, managed by The Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. 

Every year, it offers youth aged 18 and under the opportunity to express their hopes for the future, opinions of the present, and thoughts on the past, through the written word.

All entrants receive a Certificate of Participation and one Winner and Runner-up from both the Senior and Junior categories will be invited to attend Winners’ Week in London. 

Past winners include author Elspeth Huxley, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mei Fong, and the Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong.

Senior Category: Born between 2nd June 1999 and 31st May 2004 (14-18 years of age)
Junior Category: Born after 31st May 2004 (under 14 years of age)

The deadline for the essays is on June 1st, 2018.

Claned is proud to support this important youth writing competition.

Let’s write.
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Competition instructions can be found here.
Global entries
Nordic-Baltic entries

Berit Virtanen-Thewlis

Berit Virtanen-Thewlis is Partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Claned Group. She believes in the power of lifelong-learning and its impact in bringing lasting fulfillment in life. She says “As long as I breathe, I want to learn.” She loves to write poetry and short stories would have loved to participate in the essay competition if there was a suitable age category available.

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Implementing 21st Century Skills: learnings from a Finnish Classroom

As a part of my studies in educational psychology, I spent five weeks teaching at a primary school in Finland. This experience gave me crucial insights about the role of technology and 21st-century skills at schools. Here are some of the key findings.

We are not born with digital skills

Even if teachers, students, and the parents shared the understanding of the benefits of technology in education, it does not automatically mean they are utilized. Very quickly into my teaching period, I understood that not all the students have the possibility to go online at home because not all the families have computers.

Also, not all parents have time or skills to support their kids in using technology. While some parents will turn over rocks for providing their children with 21st-century skills (including ICT awareness and capabilities), some families have to focus on performing the more basic daily routines.

Moreover, schools might have enough devices for just one class. Thus, only a fraction of students gets to use technology consistently. This makes me wonder what kind of ICT-skills can be acquired this way? Digital natives are not born with technological competences. Those skills must be learned.

On a more societal level I began to wonder, how can inequality be prevented, when other children get good transferable skills to make it in the working life from home, and others’ readiness relies on just a few ICT-classes? Naturally, the concern should be directed to the latter group and how to support the ones in it.

Phenomenon-based learning is demanding

In Finland, phenomenon based learning has received a lot of attention from teachers and schools. It is seen as a teaching method enabling 21st-century skills and is also part of the national curriculum in Finland. The purpose is to study complete entities in their real context cross-disciplinary, which helps to increase learning transfer.

However, teachers and students seem to consider phenomenon based learning fairly exhausting. This is the case although the ability to understand the big picture and see the relationship between theory and practice are essential elements of learning and recognized important. This only increases the need for support elements and activities for the phenomenon-based learning at schools.

So, how could we help?

Technology, for example, could be one support element, and with Claned, we could already do a lot. Technology and artificial intelligence could be utilized to suggest relevant study materials to students. With individual or group specific learning paths, we could help students to proceed project-like through the course period.

Automatic reminders, push-notifications, and gamification would pull the students back to study the phenomena at hand over and over again. The technology would support, keep on waking up interest and maintaining engagement and interest, even outside school time.

Besides using technology as a tool for learning, students would also learn about the possibilities of technology in a natural context, which helps to increase students’ ITC awareness and skills.

Yesterday vs. future work-life

Children want to learn and feel themselves as competent members of society.The children are our future and it is crucial that we support the teaching and learning of 21st-century skills both at home and at school.

Not understanding the importance of acquiring these skills and investing in them is a disservice that prepares our students for yesterday’s work-life. This will backfire in the future not only on an individual level but on the societal level as well.

What kind of experiences have you had regarding the use of technology in your class, and how could the learning of ICT-skills be supported best? We are keen to hear about your experiences. Please send them to solja@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net.

Solja Sulkunen

Solja Sulkunen works as Head of Customer Experience in Claned Group ensuring fast and easy deployment of the platform. Solja is there to help to build the best possible learning experience for all Claned users. Solja gets most excited when she can help people reach their brightest potential, and whenever there is time for play.

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Implementing 21st Century Skills: Status update from Finland

If you are working in the education sector, you probably have heard of 21st century skills more than once (or more than enough!). Sometimes the 21st century skills framework is promoted as a magical tool that fixes every learning problem there is. But as every teacher knows, the art of teaching requires more than just a framework. No matter how great a theory seems on paper, unless it is accompanied by a practical action plan, nothing will change (except the stress levels of teachers).

Before teaching can be reformed, there has to be a clear idea of what needs to be reshaped.

In the 20th century, teaching, learning and their outcomes were regarded rather linearly, locally and more predictably than today. You study what teachers tell you to study, you get a job, you stick with that job. It is not that this is the first time something is evolving or changing (though the school systems have remained fairly static), but the complexity and uncertainty of this century requires new approaches to teaching.  The framework for 21st century skills could be seen as a road sign that guides us along the path of transforming teaching.

Currently, many countries have, or are in the middle of updating their curriculum. In Finland, the new curriculum was introduced to schools one and a half years ago, and the first reports of its implementation are now out.

The cornerstones of the new curriculum are “transversal competencies”, the Finnish equivalent of 21st century skills (see the figure below). Finnish schools still teach core subjects like mathematics and biology, but the emphasis of learning is shifting from memorizing information to being able to apply knowledge, for example when solving problems or facing unexpected situations.


The Finnish 21st century competencies.

 

How well the new curriculum has been received by Finnish teachers and schools varies a lot. Some teachers feel that the new curriculum finally prepares students not just for school alone, but for life as well. Others are distressed that there is no time to digest and implement transversal competencies. The latest report on digitalization in comprehensive schools suggests that there is a lack of tools to help school principals lead the transformation and not enough suitable trainings for teachers.

The focus in transforming schools should shift from what a single teacher can do to what teachers can achieve together. There needs to be a common strategy that embraces collaboration among teachers. It would be unrealistic to expect that every teacher would master all seven competencies. Rather, the key is in combining teachers’ expertise and recognizing the competencies teachers already have.

In Finland, pedagogical professionals together with Microsoft have created a practical assessment framework to assist schools in developing their 21st century competencies. It offers a self-evaluation tool that helps teachers to find out how well they are implementing 21st century skills in their daily school work.

Moreover, an open and safe discussion should be organized among all the teachers and the principal regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the school. This way teachers can plan collaborations and combine their knowledge with their differently abled colleagues. Mapping out the overall strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to plan trainings accordingly and hire employees with complementary competencies.

Although Finland has defined its needs for 21st Century Skills framework to support its new curriculum, the framework is of universal nature and thus applicable outside Finland too. What are your experiences so far or thoughts on how to move forward here globally?

P.S. If you are interested in trying out the demo tool or knowing more, just send an email to petra@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net.

Petra Raivonen

Petra Raivonen works as a Project Manager in Claned Group and leads Claned’s pedagogical content creation and ground-breaking teacher training initiatives. Petra feels most inspired when she is developing learning and coming up with interdisciplinary ideas or silly stories.

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Are you forcing employees to learn?

Let’s play a game of make-believe first.

Imagine you are a manager of a large team and responsible for organising internal trainings. At the moment, your company is undergoing a profound transformation and employees are required to learn new skills and collaboration techniques. It’s your job to help them meet the goals and find a suitable online learning solution for your organisation. What kind of requirements would you set for your solution?

At this point, some of you managers would start googling reviews of different Learning Management Systems (LMS). But if you truly are looking for ways to support your employees’ learning, you shouldn’t start from figuring out how to manage learning. When organisations are considering getting LMS, they are sometimes looking for ways to make, or worse still, force employees to learn. The kind of learning that empowers your organisation to reach next levels, cannot be forced. How would you feel if you boss threw a pile of papers in front of you and said “LEARN THESE!”. If you wanted to keep your job, you probably would force yourself to memorize the contents. But at the same time, your motivation for diving into the topics would be permanently hampered.

This is one of the reasons why the whole idea of having a Learning Management System (i.e. a system for managing learning) is outdated. Of course ‘Management’ is just a word between ‘Learning’ and ‘System’, but it directs our thoughts to think that learning is something that needs a manager rather than a mentor . Even Wikipedia knows that LMS is a system for “the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses”. There seems to be little room for profound learning in that sentence.

To be honest, your company is not likely to find any easy fixes if learning is seen as mechanical and rather vertical development that can be scheduled to happen when it suits the managers. Even the most effective and supportive online learning system won’t get you far, if you have missed the whole point of learning.

It all comes down to whether we see learning as a process, where one reaches a preset level of competence. Or is it a process, where one strives to improve one’s performance in order to surpass oneself. And in the end, exceeding and improving is the only way for organizations to survive. As Oslon (2003) states, it is not the educator who can decide what the learners will eventually learn, it is the learners themselves. Try to remember the last time you learnt something that you regarded valuable or important to you. How did it happen? What were the factors that helped you learn in that situation?

In studies examining efficient teaching, researchers have found common factors influencing learning. Among these are the ability to engage learners, give meaningful feedback, welcome error and acknowledge the goals and ambition levels of learners in a supportive manner (Hattie, 2009). These factors are not only applicable to good teaching but also to an effective learning setting. Does your company welcome error? Do you remember to give feedback? Additionally, one cannot engage learners if the learning topics won’t matter to them. Remember to clarify the meaning and goals for learning: how does it benefit the organisation and also the individual employee? Why is it important to learn this and what difference does it make? If your answer to these questions is that it won’t really benefit the employees, don’t expect engagement from their side.

Also, let’s keep in mind that everyone won’t learn at the same pace and that learning is not linear. Thus, your solution should support individual learners, for example, through offering adaptive learning paths, rehearsal possibilities and ways to track learning. In this light “but how do I manage it” should be the last question on your list.

Olson, D., R. (2003) Psychological Theory and Educational Reform​. How School Remakes Mind and Society. Cambridge University Press.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge Ltd.

Petra Raivonen

Petra Raivonen works as a Project Manager in Claned Group and leads Claned’s pedagogical content creation and ground-breaking teacher training initiatives. Petra feels most inspired when she is developing learning and coming up with interdisciplinary ideas or silly stories.

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