Friday, July 12, 2013

Support for Decision-Making with Empirical Data

Introduction

The previous post mentioned a vision for a family of interoperable products.  Further clarification of that vision seems appropriate.  First, do not assume that this is a pitch for “blended learning” technologies.  It is my opinion (based on more than 30 years of instructional experience) that the “B-word” has become a hackneyed aphorism for throwing instructional products on the wall and hoping they stick.  To quote the late General Norman Schwarzkopf, “Hope is not a plan.”  Neither is it likely to be an effective instructional approach.

Discussion

The NexPort Solutions’ vision for learning support seeks to provide trainers, educators, and learners with capabilities for employing a variety of effective instructional strategies to address learning-related problems and then guide those learning experiences to successful outcomes—success being defined as consistently performing a task to a valid standard (both individually and collectively).
That certainly sounds lofty enough.  But, when it comes to instructional delivery systems, what (or who) governs “effective learning strategies?"  What does that expression really mean?  Unfortunately, it usually means conforming to some system’s hard-wired approach to mediating instructional processes.  These systems attempt to prescribe learning solutions based upon the opinion of a consultant, advisor, a “guru,” or system architect.  In essence, such systems tell customers, “You must conform to my instructional approach because my developers believe that it is best (regardless of YOUR perceptions of what’s necessary).”  Shouldn’t the customer have a say in this process?

This is where NexPort Solutions’ agile philosophy becomes increasingly visible in its product vision.  The NexPort Solutions’ vision supports an empirically-based approach to integrating instructional products.  The vision is for a family of interoperable systems that provides multiple instructional capabilities, seamlessly interfaced, that allow the customer to choose from among them, and then provide systems for feedback that allows the customer to assess learning effectiveness based upon empirical evidence.  The availability of evidence upon which the customer can evaluate the effectiveness of their instructional approach, based upon the customers’ relevant criteria.

Anticipation of change is as relevant to instruction as it is to software development.  Instructional development is an iterative process—that is, the instruction is produced, empirical evidence is collected concerning the instruction’s effectiveness, and the instruction is changed to address deficiencies.  Additionally, instruction often changes over time due to changes in audiences, organizational policies, content, and budgets.

Conclusion 

Meaningful change requires well-informed decisions which requires empirical evidence.  NexPort Solutions envisions a system that allows customers to implement instruction according to their requirements, identify necessary changes, implement them with minimal difficulty, and then assess their effectiveness.


About NexPort Solutions Group 
NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.

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