Action Research Cycle 1 – Content & Benchmarking


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As part of the early design, we agreed that SB would point me to experts, to be Subject Matter Specialists and have each person or company be responsible for curating their area of expertise. This Social Network would be the responsible ‘Subject Matter Specialists’ (SMS) to advice on the content. I attempted to make this a game and solicit SMS’s. I began reviewing the existing library and discovered that there were thousands of discreet presentations and reports.



SB Library Search I am currently looking for SB to provide an intern or someone to organize content on SB’s end. For example, there are 270 pieces in the Library for Marketing & Communications, as well as 94 for Brand Innovation – totaling 364 pieces, which is just too many. WeFirst stated that they would also serve as the Purposeful Branding/Storytelling/Marketing Subject Matter Specialist, in an advisory role and make themselves available for ongoing consultation. What became obvious early on was that combing through and curating this amount of data to determine what was of high quality and what could be useful to insert into appropriate E-Learning platforms was going to be an overwhelming, timely and costly exercise and was not within the scope of my Master’s Thesis timing or level of effort. From the survey I sent out to see if I could engage SMS’s I only got 2 responses. In addition, I only found one Subject Matter Specialist at this time that was willing to put the time in to curate some of the marketing materials. Even then, they told me that they would only review 50 of the approximately 450 documents covering this topic. Our first decision was to focus only at this time on the Marketing and Brand Positioning area. The CEO of SB also stated with utmost clarity that this vertical should be the highest priority given that branding is core to SB’s purpose. Much of what I read during my literature review concluded that the best, most relevant and meaningful forms of learning occur when learners are passionate about the subject matter. It has also been my experience that when I care, I look for everything I can find. There are currently a lot of free and open online tutorials, webinars, and reports. I also found many sustainability and marketing communities that are also passionate about sharing knowledge, tips and getting better together. And, there are many individuals and authors, experts and academics that are seeking to get recognition online and become successful at their chosen pathways. I decided at this point that I might be able to narrow down our focus within this vertical by looking at what other Marketing and Brand focused organizations had done to date in the training space. I began this research in earnest. On February 26, 2016, at the request of the CEO, I held a small focus group with Jeremy Faludi (Minneapolis College of Art & Design and Autodesk), Jill Lindeman (WeFirst Marketing Expert) and Simon Mainwaring, (WeFirst, Author and Marketing and Branding Expert). Koann made an Executive call to use the Marketing and Brand Tracks as sample prototypes. She gave me several other experts to consult with including several of the Advisory Board members and other experts. I shared the ultimate goal with them, which is to build a Collaborative E-Learning Business Model using pre-existing content and focusing first on the marketing and brand positioning track. Also, the SB CEO had made some concrete suggestions. They shared some of their experience about the nature of Self-contained versus stand-alone pieces and Bootcamps for the Best. WeFirst worked with What did has they used stand alone units that fell into many subjects. They created discreet tracks and we might want to consider this model. They struggled with the search capacity of the site as well for some time. How can we define areas and tracks more clearly? It was my recommendation at that point that we go on SB website and look at current tracks/organization. We all agreed that today, it is not very user-friendly and represents a lot to sift through to possibly meet goals of SB Members which can be varied. There was also agreement that if some of the content is a couple of years old, it may not be relevant. It often depends on the reputation of speakers at times. The continuing challenge is to determine track(s) to prioritize, how to make the content accessible, user-friendly and relevant in this track and how to keep it all engaging. The group concluded that the kind of content is at most 1/4th to 1/3rd useful in terms of content creation and they believe what the student experience wants to be. Jeremy spoke a lot from his academic experience and said that students want, need and benefit from participating and doing homework, exercises, projects and games as a large part of experience beyond presentations, reports, and videos. Bonnie said that a lot of the research is showing that Video and Gamification are playing an ever-increasing powerful role and even traditional LMS systems are stating this and finding themselves outdated. In respect to curation, Jeremy suggested that we aim them towards 3 core topics – and then others as suggested. Jeremy – strapped for time and doesn’t have anyone else. Have more time over summer. There was a suggestion to look for some resources such as students or interns to spend some time with current content. In regards to repurposing, the group agreed that it should be done to some degree but then format guidelines are necessary at a minimum. Some editing is also necessary as much of the content could be stale/old/too long/irrelevant, etc. After having met with a Marketing, Branding and Advertising Executive I wanted to see how I could advance what one of the technology experts, Terry Ribb suggested on getting the expert and creating the framework for the content as the most important step before the technology. The challenge I found in my 2-hour discussion with him is that he must find a Business Model that works for him. He must protect all the Intellectual Property he has built and this makes it challenging to move forward. I am thinking the next step is to meet with the marketing execs from the Brands and see if they are the best to come up with the framework. I also met with FungAcademy and see if they can help on design and even platform technology front! It turns out that their solution is mainly being built for their own factories and their own customers and is very centered on the issues they discover in their audit processes. However, we all agreed that design guidelines and options need to exist and make this a useful and powerful tool that SB Members can not only benefit from but also track and measure results. This is what then became relevant for my 2nd action research cycle on Instructional Design. In conclusion, it is fair to say that key contributions from the SB CEO and my Professors forced me to focus and more importantly recognize that maybe I needed to pick one course and conduct a prototype and or shift my entire thesis statement to looking at the design requirements and the business model.