Thursday, August 20, 2015

Interview with Braulio Perdigao, Petrolessons: Innovators in E-Learning Series

With the "great crew change" accelerated by the oil and gas downturn, knowledge transfer is more important than ever. Welcome to an interview with Braulio Perdigao, PMP, CEO/Founder of - the first knowledge marketplace dedicated to the oil and gas industry.

What is your background? What are your areas of experience?
I'm Brazilian and I've been in Houston for 15+ years. I have experiences in multiple industries:  over 7 years of experience in oil and gas, 6 of those at Petrobras, after that I also did communications and change management consulting for Exxon, Hess and BP.

I stay pretty busy, I'm the CEO/Founder of I'm also the chairman of Oil and Gas Entrepreneurs organization, we are over 460 members working on innovations for the oil and gas. In addition, I'm a member of the Change Management Association Professionals, Association for Talent Development and I'm a Project Management Professional (PMP).

Video Interview with Braulio Perdigao on LifeEDGE

About me and my experience that is relevant to this topic:
I came to the US in 2000 to go to school and ended up staying, I graduated from the University of Houston Downtown in Interdisciplinary Studies - that shows my multi disciplinary interest and experiences - Some will say I am ADD, I think I am just curious and ambitious and could never be in a box. I wanted to experience a little bit of everything. In my coursework I included everything from language development, business, psychology, education, legal, marketing, design - yes it took me 7 years to graduate! I've worked in education, travel industry, logistics, web marketing, creative project management, video/photo production and finally several roles in oil and gas (communications, risk, change management mainly).

Braulio Perdigao, PMP, Petrolessons
To be honest, I never really thought I would work in oil and gas, my relationship with the industry was basically filling up my car and watching accidents and explosions in the news. But I was very lucky to be recruited in 2008 to be part of a PMO working for a major project in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, when I accepted that offer, I was afraid that oil and gas would not be creative enough for me, I was completely wrong!

In that role, I was in charge of project communications, risk management and change management mainly (although I wore many hats). I was running countless workshops, project annual events, and one of the coolest projects was to produce a film documentary of our project which was a breakthrough project in the gulf (first FPSO in US gulf and at the time the deepest E&P project in GoM) we were exploring in unknown territory the Lower tertiary, so there were always a lot of that suspense of a new discovery. Well, doing communications for the project allowed me to get out of the office and really see and gain a tremendous appreciation for the industry. I was talking to leadership, engineers, going to vendors, going offshore, hanging from helicopters. It was by far the best experience of my life.

There are SOOOO many smart people and such a dynamic, complex, creative industry, and so many variables and so much risk it really blew my mind. I dare to say it is the most complex and dynamic industry. Most projects in O&G starts in the billions, take hundreds of companies to come together from around the world, it takes years and years to breakeven IF they are lucky because there are so many variables. So as a result and as I developed communications materials I was seeing how productivity and excitement in the office increased because now people could see what they were working on. I also thought how unjust the media and public perception was around oil and gas. So the initial idea was to create a portal like TED talks to oil and gas. I'm addicted to TED Talks by the way. I was still working for Petrobras at the time and developing the idea, doing research, interviewing people and working on Petrolessons in my off time.

The problem we are solving:
After a while I noticed the common thread around training, skills gap which in oil and gas is called The Big Crew Change. There is so much project intelligence that is lost, over 4MM professionals leaving the industry in the next 5 years and over 1.8MM coming in and there is a huge gap here. The knowledge gap in O&G is due to a hiring freeze between the 80's and early 2000's, and it represents a MAJOR challenge for the industry. Other factors: O&G projects count and depend on these expert engineers to are like birds migrating from one project to the next so a lot of project intelligence is lost and it costs a LOT of money. And now that the industry is in crisis, we just lost over 100K people that were laid off or got early retirement packages. So that knowledge gap is becoming wider and wider! It's estimated that it impacts 30% of projects worldwide, so that represents over 3 trillion in costs!

The solution:
Well, putting my background together, with advancements in technology, how easy it's become to produce video, the whole movement of MOOCs etc Petrolessons became a knowledge marketplace, so it's now an innovative platform with a B2C and a B2B offering. The B2C is a global platform available on that allows any professionals with experience in oil and gas, associations, training centers and universities to share their knowledge, build a reputation and make $. We aggregate and curate oil and gas knowledge from around the world. The goal is to be the number one platform for oil and gas knowledge online. At least 90% of each course is video based, they can include quiz and other interactive elements. They are mobile friendly so people can access courses on the go with a 12 month access window. We are working on a native app where people will be able to access courses even without wifi. Content owners make 70% of net revenue from sales of their courses. Even if they have other platforms they are publishing we can be an added channel and revenue stream as long as it's relevant to O&G industry. As for topics of courses think engineering, geology, subsea, facilities, wells, refinery, safety courses, but also think project management, business skills, cyber security,trading, leadership, HR, Supply chain, IT, finance, logistics, language, culture...all of these are very relevant. Because it takes a lot of parts to support the industry.

Since launching in Dec 2014, I've been focusing on building a library of courses that are relevant for O&G. I'm working with over 60 instructors from around the world, and several colleges and associations. And we have over 40 courses in post production now.There are over 150 people signed up representing all major oil and gas companies and service companies and this is very organic, I haven't really done much marketing yet since my focus now has been to build the library of courses.

What do you see as potential for companies?
The B2B offering is a private label version of the platform offered as a SaaS model to oil and gas operators and service companies where they can now capture internal knowledge create video courses and disperse to their workforce, they can also drag and distribute courses from the global platform. We can offer just the platform or offer a turnkey solution with our partners to identify gaps, build strategy and create courses. If companies are spending at least 1 million dollars in training we can generally save them 50% of training costs and do it 60% faster.

What are some opportunities for people who would like to share their experience?
Shout out to all Subject Matter Experts: many of you have been laid off and this is a great opportunity for you! Also associations and colleges, share your content beyond your members! There are so much knowledge that is silo'd and doesn't get enough exposure. Further, there are many people around the world who do not have knowledge readily available. Let's bridge the knowledge gap!  By going to you can start the process of publishing your course on Petrolessons and we help you in every step of the way. We help people DIY their courses or we are happy to partner and refer media houses to help create video content.

There are tons of bells and whistles to this platform that makes is super unique and relevant to the oil and gas industry.

I'm looking for content owners, experienced professionals to publish their own courses on Petrolessons and pilot companies for our B2B offering. Instructional designers, consulting firms working on this space as well as media houses should get in touch and see how we can work together.

For example, we are helping promote some of AAPG's e-symposia to help people learn about some of the resources that AAPG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) has available.

Do you see potential with STEM education?
I'm in talks with organizations that are working on STEM education so we can partner to share Oil and Gas knowledge and help folks appreciate the industry that is the source of everything we know today.

The mission and ambition is big! I think we can change the world by changing how training is done. Oil and Gas gives origin to most of the things that touches our lives today. From technology to food, living, transportation etc. Ultimately by helping companies produce oil more efficiently, less costly will help them lower costs of the supply chain, make operations safer, and everything down the supply chain will be optimized.
URL: and (this last one is for content owners who want to publish their video courses on
Media links:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Infographics as Working Memory Boosters & Engagers for Learning

Infographics can serve a unique purpose in an online course or training program in that they both engage learners and provide a very handy mnemonic which assists in the storing and retrieving of information.

Infographics are easily incorporated into courses, and can be deployed via social media and within learning management systems. Further, it is a simple process to store your infographic in a cloud-based repository such as SlideShare ( which allows links, embeds to an easily downloaded pdf, along with allowing you to share accompanying notes and information.

For an audio recording, click here.

Here are two examples which were used for the petroleum industry, where it is often challenging to communicate information cogently and without clutter.

Geology vs Engineering Reservoir Realities
 4 Considerations for Mature Fields

Working Memory and Infographics
Baddeley and Hitch (1974) described the mechanism used by short-term memory as a process they denoted as “working memory.” In their view, working memory is a process driven by the “central executive” which collects, temporarily stores, and directs data to the cognitive subsystems of the a) visuo-spatial sketch pad, and the b) phonological loop.

As a highly visual artifact with engaging and unique organization of visual information, an infographic is an ideal tool for facilitating the smooth functioning of working memory.

The central executive can easily incorporate a well-designed infographic in the visuo-spatial sketch pad, which is, in essence, the inner eye.  The visual spatial sketch pad not only functions in the retrieval process, it also is used in navigation – in locating spatially where information might be.

The central executive takes and replaces information in the visuo-spatial sketch pad, and then relates it to long-term memory. The central executive can move material back from long-term memory to working memory, so the infographic can be used not only to store new information, but as a memory-trigger to retrieve information from long-term memory.

Baddeley emphasized that the central executive also functions as a system to keep attentional processes engaged, and to continually organize and prioritize (McLeod, 2012). It can also relate processes together, so that a infographic that is primarily attached to the visuo-spatial sketch pad, also can be related to the phonological loop processes.

Guidelines for Developing Infographics for Working Memory

1.  Keep your information tied to one or two categories 
2.  Use a clear color scheme
3.  Avoid clutter
4.  Maintain a minimal main message
5.  Connect / refer to details (don’t include all the details in the infographic)
6.  Use colors, white space, lively design
7.  Use phone, tablet, and laptop-friendly hosting / delivery
8.  Make your infographic multi-purpose, reusable
9.  Encourage sharing / comments / collaboration

Tools for Building Infographics
Infographics were originally designed almost exclusively by graphic designers, but now there are a number of free and premium services that provide cloud-based services that include professionally designed templates which utilize unique graphics, layouts, and fonts.

Examples include:

Canva ( Templates and unique fonts / images for infographics and presentations.

Piktochart ( Templates, images for infographics, reports, presentations

PicMonkey ( Photo-editing that also includes a number of unique fonts, images, and clip art, and easy creation of collages that can also be designed as infographics

Final Thoughts
Infographics can be very practical as well as engaging and fun. For example, if you save them as a pdf files and print them out, you may use the infographics as a point of departure for an impromptu mind map.

The key is to design with an eye to inspiring and triggering thoughts – about the present, past knowledge, and collaborations. Used well, infographics can be an effective tool for deep learning.


Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In G.H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 8, pp. 47–89). New York: Academic Press.

Baddeley, A. D., & Lieberman, K. (1980). Spatial working memory. ln R. Nickerson. Attention and Performance, VIII. Hillsdale, N): Erlbaum.

McLeod, S. A. (2012). Working Memory. Retrieved from

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Interview with Rajeev PS, Blobeo: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Making effective, collaborative expert instruction and mentoring readily available is an ongoing challenge. Welcome to an interview with Rajeev PS of Blobeo, a new entity dedicated to facilitating the process of bringing together industry practitioners and those seeking practical knowledge.

1.    What is your name and your relation to eLearning?

My name is Rajeev PS and the Co-Founder of Blobeo.

I began my career in software and have progressed a lot. During my journey, I attended various trainings to acquire new skills, I learned many skills with help of my mentors and I have been a mentor to various developers as well. Of my entire career, I have noticed that my learning was effective when it was with a mentor than online reading or online videos or attending training. I heard the same thing loud from my mentees as well.  Then I took a step back and analyzed and found that there are two major reasons why this was the only effective way.

a)    One was because the online reading and videos were not interactive and didn’t hold my attention for long
b)    The other key reason is because my mentors were real practitioners where as the trainers in most of the cases were only teachers but not practitioners.

So I realized that my learning would have been quicker and effective if it was from a real practitioner who can offer me an interactive course. I wanted the same thing to happen to billions of people in my situation and up-skill themselves effectively. That idea motivated me to co-found Blobeo.

   Blobeo is built just with the vision to help every one learn a new skill or up-skill themselves effectively.

2.    What are some of the problems that need to be overcome in eLearning right now?

The traditional eLearning gained momentum primarily with its on-demand and self-paced nature, anywhere- anytime flexibility and its very low cost.  However, this poses the key questions:

1.    How many of them who register for eLearning courses really get to complete it – not more than 10%
2.    How effective is the learning experience? – Not really, as it is not interactive and engaging
3.    How much value I am getting? – Very minimal as the courses are more theoretical in nature and more of a canned content which is prepared to fit a variety of learner segments and interests
4.    Is it better to hear some real experiences from an expert/practitioner? - Makes a lot of sense as most of them are looking to apply the learning in their real life situations at work
5.    Is the quality of instructors being considered seriously? – Very limited visibility about instructors and in many cases it is not very significant as there is not any personal interaction

The next wave of online learning is starting with a mission of addressing the above concerns and Blobeo is founded to lead this change.

3.    What is Blobeo? What does it look like? How does it work?

Blobeo is a market place for learners to connect with instructors who offer interactive live online courses. This is a platform to learn from a verified expert who is an industry practitioner in his or her own area of specialization. No matter your age or profession, Blobeo provides a powerful open online eLearning environment for you to learn.

Any individual can design and offer a course on Blobeo, provided their qualification and experience in the subject can be verified. Blobeo's intelligent profile verification uses LinkedIn and other social platforms to validate an instructor.

If you love to share a piece of your wisdom, this open platform enables you to uncover your hidden tutoring talent and make it as a key income source. You will also connect with enthusiasts in your profession and outside, thereby building your personal brand.

Blobeo is more than teaching or learning online, it also establishes a ‘connect’. It is a blob for your future - next dream job, research programs, career guidance, homework support, technology advisory or even start-up mentoring.

4.    What is the ultimate goal?

Blobeo is established with a vision to take the online learning to the next level to make it more engaging, effective, serious and thereby meaningful.  With Blobeo, we will shift the eLearning to outcome-oriented and value-based learning.

5.    What makes Blobeo different?  How can it beat the competition? 

a.    Blobeo will focus on online live interactive courses than the traditional recorded eLearning classes
b.    Unlike the traditional eLearning marketplaces where wisdom is “sold”, Blobeo will help establish a connect between the learner and his instructor where the wisdom is shared and not repeatedly “sold”
c.    Blobeo will bring more discipline to the learning process by combining the benefits of traditional eLearning like flexibility and availability with lively, interactive and engaged learning

6.    Why not just use Skype for personalized tutoring and/or live coaching? Why does one need an LMS?

Skype or a similar tool is only a technology enabler for the learning process while Blobeo will take you through the 360-degree aspects of any individual’s learning process.

Blobeo will also have a robust technology platform for live audio, video, content sharing, collaboration and even recording.

7.    How do you assure quality?  How can you utilize social media?

The key aspect of an eLearning marketplace is the quality of the instructors and the courses they teach. Blobeo’s primary focus is to ensure quality. Blobeo’s intelligent profile verification uses LinkedIn and various other social media platforms to validate an instructor and also his expertise in the area where he or she is offering the course. In addition to this, there will be a 360-degree review and feedback mechanism to consistently monitor and improve the performance of the instructors and quality of the courses.

8.    What are your plans for the future?

Blobeo is built just with the vision to help every one learn a new skill or up-skill themselves effectively. The key aspect of our future plan is to facilitate connecting the desire with knowledge across the boundaries. We realize that each region/country is rich in wisdom and expertise in certain unique areas. There is a great opportunity to facilitate a greater collaboration in the education and up-skilling, which will benefit a larger population, and for better humankind

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Using Web 2.0 in Online Courses: Creating Mystery & Engagement with a Collaborative Story Line

One interesting way to engage students is to put together a PowerPoint presentation that can be shared via social media, and which gives the opportunity to create a response presentation, and which includes a mystery / adventure story line.

In this case, which was for a basics of petroleum geology course, I created a six-slide PowerPoint presentation which I shared using Slideshare.  The story is based on a real-life class action suit in Oklahoma that had to do with the underpayment of oil and gas royalties. 

The learning objective was to discuss royalty payments on oil and gas production. 

To build the presentations, I used photographs I took in Istanbul as background graphics. I used cutout figures from, and I modified graphics using  

I then uploaded it to, and I shared the link via an email announcement in the course, which uses Blackboard. I encouraged students to post responses in the Discussion Board area.

Here’s the concept and call for collaboration:

Incident in Istanbul: The Secret Files & the Case of the Underpaid Royalties 

Zounds! Maria has stumbled across secret files – they have information that shows that a midstream transportation company has been underpaying royalty owners by deducting line charges.
This could be one of the largest class action suits in her state’s history. But, she needs to explain the situation.

Help her explain what is going on and how oil and gas royalty owners are paid for production.
    Who is involved?
    Who pays the royalties? How much?
    How are the payments (and the deductions determined?
    When are they decided?)

We need your expert help! Please create a presentation that helps a royalty owner, or potential jury member (in the case of a Class Action lawsuit) understand what has happened, and also what kind of information Maria needs to collect.

This example was also used in an Instructional Design Certificate program (Rollins College) to provide an example of how simple storyline presentations can be used with Web 2.0 tools, and to boost engagement and collaboration.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Be a Decision Architect: Structure Your Mind, Your Processes

The basis of bad decision-making is human behavior.  But behavior is often simply reinforced by current decision-making processes. In order to break through, one needs to redesign the environment, and be the architect of the context and conditions.

That's a strong statement, but it's what John Beshears and Francesco Gino have asserted in their article, "Leaders as Decision Architects" which appeared in the May 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review. 
For Beshears and Gino, the most important elements for making sound decisions and doing it in a timely fashion is to create a framework that facilitates good decision-making. The most critical elements are the following:

1.  Motivation:  All members of decision-making team must feel motivated. After all, decisions involve risk and a sense of vulnerability. To overcome the inner resistances that may arise, it's important to make sure there are rewards, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Without good motivation strategies, and ones which are flexible and meet the needs of individuals, it's unlikely that the project will be carried through to fruition.

2.  Cognitive Bias:  Daniel Kahnemann and others have long demonstrated that what makes cognitive bias so insidious is the fact that it's invisible to us. So the first step is to recognize that there is bias. This often requires the view of a neutral outsider, since those within the organization are often afflicted with the highly contagious (but often useful) groupthink, or worse, folie a deux.  So, a neutral outsider can identify the presence of cognitive bias. Then, the challenge of further determining what kind of bias it may be, and then the underlying assumptions that allow it to exist (and which make it hard to resist or eliminate). We all have our pet ideas about reality and about identity -- and, they can be quite destructive. One of the most useful tactics is to gather evidence that denies / fails to confirm the preconceived notion. Disconfirming evidence needs to be plentiful and reviewed often, because those who suffer from cognitive bias tend to reject or discount evidence that does not align with what they want to see.

3.  Align with Decision-Makers' Best Interests:  Cognitive dissonance is one of the surest ways to paralysis, and yet it's surprising how many times people are asked to do things that are not in their best interests.  Often, too, individuals try to force themselves to do things that go against their own best interests as well. It's amazing how often we may be unaware that we're either asking individuals, team members, partners, even loved ones to do things that are not in their best interests, and then we exhibit surprise when there is resistance to the idea.

4.  Positive Emotions: Caring About the Outcome. It's hard to do something when you don't care. It's even harder if you feel aversion. So, whatever the decision is, the issue needs to be something that the decision makers care about, and their feelings must be positive.

5.  Redesign the Context.  This is where the concept of being an architect can really be useful. If you can change the structural environment in which you're making your decision, then you have a chance of seeing it in a new light. If not, you're likely to be impeded by resistance, bias, emotional blockage.

Finally, once the steps have been taken, it's important to focus on solutions. Instead of trying to implement or evaluate numerous solutions, the key is to find one and then try one's best to implement it. There will be variations in the ways in which the solution can be implemented, and it can be modified while in the process.

Beshears, J. and Gino, F. (2015) "Leaders as decision architects." Harvard Business Review. May 2015: 51-62.
susan smith nash, ph.d.
Leadership / decision-making are mission critical.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blended Problem-Based Learning: Finding the Best Blend

Problem-based learning has proved to be highly effective for careers and industries in which a great deal of hands-on learning / skills-based practice is required and also in team environments.

Examples include petroleum exploration and development, pipeline construction, manufacturing / processing, construction, medicine, pharmaceutical sales, allied health industries, and hospitality / tourism.

Outcomes are often measured in the ability to effectively and accurately perform tasks.

Keys to Successful Learning Program Design

The keys to successful design of a problem-based blended or 100% elearning program include the following:

    *  Definition of the outcome - the level of competency required by the skill or task
    *  Identification of a representative problem or task
    *  Determination of how to develop materials that provide information, conceptual underpinnings, and support
    *  Determination of the best ways to effectively collaborate, either digitally or face-to-face
    *  Identifying the limitations of the communications technologies and the learning management system
    *  Alignment of abilities of the team members, both in terms of the subject of the training and their technology skills / abilities.

Collaboration Materials and Methods

In a blended problem-based learning program that includes face-to-face with online learning, it is very important to determine the best blend of online and face-to-face. Generally, collaborative activities are done both face-to-face as well as online, but in some cases the collaborations take place completely online.

Collaborations can take the form of the following
    *  Collaborative forum
    *  Wiki
    *  Collaborative project
    *  Portfolio
    *  Gallery

It is important to find the best combination of synchronous and asynchronous communication so that joint work on the collaborative project is done in a way that is confidence-building for all the members of the team.

Good collaboration project design provides an excellent opportunity for assuring optimal conditions for learning as well as for building self-efficacy. Creating flexible roles and a wide range of topics also helps foster a sense of self-determination, which can be very motivating.

Building Block Process for Problem-Based Learning Design

Modifying the widely-used Maastricht University design (Schmidt, 1983) for blended solutions can be highly useful in order to avoid missing elements of content or process.

Seven-step process for developing materials / design

1.    Case:  Find the one that is most effective for the learning outcomes
2.    Define problem:  Within each case, find the core issue or problem
3.    Brainstorm:  Take a moment to start to uncover ways to solve the problem; this is an invention stage.
4.    Form possible solutions: After doing the  test them
5.    Define deeper learning objectives (metacognition)
6.    Self-study -- conduct research, work with group, use a "pull" model for information
7.    Collaboration / Synthesis: final outcome and/or assessment


Evaluating the learning situation in order to optimize the methods, tools, and materials in problem-based learning is very important. However, more important is the method in which collaboration takes place so that constructivist learning can be optimized. This paper lists a few methods and methologies.


Moeller, Stefan; Spitzer, Klaus; Spreckelsen, How to configure blended problem-based learning -- Results of a randomized trial. Cord. Medical Teacher. Aug2010, Vol. 32 Issue 8, pe328-e346.

Schmidt, HG. (1983) Problem-based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. CRLT Technical Report No. 16-01.

susan smith nash, ph.d.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Design for Learning in E-Learning: Making the Notion of "Quality" Concrete and Implementable

Design for Learning focuses on how to transform existing educational situations into desired situations where it is easier to achieve learning outcomes (Guislandi & Raffaguelli, 2015). The emphasis is on quality, and in doing so, the approach links the vision of how quality should be enacted in a program to the actual activities and procedures that are built into the learning program.

In the learning design, it is important to think of how the design of the course can affect ways of knowing, and also how to connect to improvements in practice.

Breaking Down "Quality" into Recognizable Elements

It is really all about breaking down quality into recognizable elements, and moving "quality" from an abstraction to something that can be recognized, measured, reviewed, and remediated (McNaught etal, 2012).

1. System: Make sure that the system used in learning is of high quality.  This means that it is necessary to review the learning goals and the potential users of a learning system (whether it be a learning management system, or a LMS-free approach) to assure that it can deliver what it needs to deliver.

2.  Experience:  Make sure that the learner / user experience is a positive one, and that it is friendly, not just for the learners, but also for the facilitators.

3.  Culture:  What are the institutional values? How and when are certain high-quality elements perceived?  What is the definition of quality?  How does it extend to a sense of respect for diversity, as well as efforts to build an authentic structure that can help learners and facilitators feel confident about their ability to achieve the mission of the organization and their goals as they relate to the institution.

4.  Flexible and Forward-Looking Vectors of Communication and Change:   Be willing to adapt existing structures to ones that are more flexible, and which accommodate changing technologies and locations. Ideally, learning organizations should be able to accommodate and even welcome individuals in all situations with a minimum of disruption. Further, the quality elements should extend to encouraging experimentation and innovation, with a high tolerance for failure (and success, which can bring about its own stresses and stressers).

University Degree Programs / Field Research Courses

Here's a concrete example. Let's say that we are a geology department in a state university, and we have a number of field courses. We've been intensely impacted by technology, not only in the way in which we communicate our findings, but also in the way in which field investigations are conducted.

We require all our graduate students to go out into the field and map outcrops and retrieve samples. However, our administration as well as our insurance providers have recently pulled the plug on the way that we were doing things in the past. They claim that there is not enough quality control in the design of the courses, so what the students bring back from the field are of dubious quality. Worse, they're considered dreadfully unsafe; only last month one student tumbled off a cliff and impaled herself on a cholla cactus. She was alone, and it was a minor miracle that she made it back alive. One might say it was only sheer luck that the escarpment was only 15 feet high, there was a ledge that partially broke her fall, and the cholla cactus plant was small and it broke apart upon impact. The weather was chilly and wet, so she was wearing pants and rain gear, which help minimize the impact of the cactus spines.

cholla in bloom - photo by susan smith nash, ph.d.

Details and luck notwithstanding, what happened to her was a clear indication that the department needs to go back and revisit Design for Learning and look at the four criteria:

1. System:  It's possible that the system itself is not giving people an opportunity to plan their research projects well. There may not be effective templates, and it may be important to customize the approach, given that each student's research project will be slightly different.

2.  Experience:  What is the user's experience? For the female student who fell down an escarpment and impaled herself on cholla cactus, it's less than ideal.  But it could have been worse.  Her experience in the field should not be confused with the learning design; the design should be developed so that she had a positive experience in planning and implementing her learning program.

3.  Culture: If the culture of the organization puts a high priority on eliminating all risk and all potential exposure to liability, then they may lose students. They will certainly lose innovative impulses, and many of their creative, inspired (and inspiring) thinkers will be drawn to different places, where they will potentially contribute transformative breakthroughs which could tangibly / substantially positively impact the institution itself and affect its persistence / viability.

4. Flexibility:  Communication could be improved. How about requiring digital inspections before going into the field and maintain an archive of photos of the sites (all of which are geotagged) and the gear.  Also, it would be possible to use low-cost satellite phones if there is no cell phone coverage. It's not always possible to work in teams, and so it's necessary to at least have a digital nanny.

Conclusions & Observations

Design for Learning articles are often cloaked in rather obtuse language which can be less than concrete. In order to really grasp the importance of the concept and the potential contribution to an organization, to learners, instructors, and a community, it's important to look at case studies. The concept of Design for Learning does, in fact, provide a powerful mechanism for operationalizing "quality" by breaking it into observable, measurable actions and by providing a platform for dissecting case studies with the idea of incorporating them in one's own learning programs.


Ghislandi, Patrizia M. M.; Raffaghelli, Juliana E. Forward-oriented designing for learning as a means to achieve educational quality. British Journal of Educational Technology. (Mar2015)  Vol. 46 Issue 2, p280-299.

McNaught, Carmel, Paul Lam, and Kin Cheng. (2012)"Investigating Relationships Between Features Of Learning Designs And Student Learning Outcomes." Educational Technology Research & Development 60.2: 271-286. Professional Development Collection. Web. 11 June 2015.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hed Kandi Sayulita Beach House: Travel-Tourism Economic Development Using Social Media

I love Hed Kandi’s chill and house mixes and eagerly look for them. They evoke a beach and surf vibe and even if I’m squeezed into an economy seat on a sold-out regional jet flight, I am immediately transported to gorgeous places and climates. 

For example, I imagine Sayulita, a bohemian coastal village in the Nayarit Riviera in Mexico close to Puerta Vallarta, famed for its surf and Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP)  competition in May.

In certain times of the year, Sayulita is a mellow place of pink sunsets and glassy waters.

sayulita, nayarit - susan smith nash, ph.d.

However, according to blog posts and reviews, Sayulita was pure enchantment 30 years ago, but has been sullied by crowds and poor infrastructure, as well as a failure to enforce sanitation laws.

This is disappointing to me, and I wonder how many others are like me – they’d love to spend an extended amount of time in a beach community, and perhaps even invest in a house or a business.

Accelerating Private Infrastructure Investment for Economic Development

Perhaps the problem is that of a lack of private investment for infrastructure which is uniformly administered by a board that follows an approved development plan.

sayulita sand tortugas - photo by susan smith nash, ph.d.

Personally, I think it would be a good idea to use templates already in place for development plans. For example, the “Pueblo Mágico” concept in Mexico has resulted in gorgeously maintained villages which are charming and clean. Examples that come to mind in the state of Jalisco are Tapalpa and Tequila.

It would be a good idea to share infrastructure improvements in order to encourage development via social media:
•    tweet new developments
•    post photos of prize winners on Instagram & share
•    use LinkedIn to connect owners of businesses / services
•    post videos of contests & the implementation of new infrastructure on YouTube
•    develop weekly shows to post on YouTube

While it might be tempting to try to shame people into not erecting fences that encroach on public roads, disregarding property lines, leaving piles of mangos and fallen branches to rot, and to letting their dogs run free in the streets and beaches, putting up ugly photos on the web is a very inadvisable strategy that will certainly have unintended negative results. It’s much better to encourage and envision positive change, and reward steps made in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Social Media Collaborative Digital Inspections for Optimizing Field Safety

 A common problem with field courses is the fact that safety is often viewed as a checklist and there can be a certain level of complacency. Given the ever-changing nature of field conditions and also the fitness levels of the participants, it is very important to develop an approach to safety that heightens engagement and also becomes collaborative and participatory. The result would be an elevated awareness and an emphasis on a culture of safety.

By leading by example and by emphasizing collaboration and teamwork, the field culture can be one of enthusiastic, engaged cooperation, which results in a sustainable, ongoing example of transformational leadership. Ultimately, the individuals will be safer and healthier, and the organization will provide an increasing number of opportunities for innovation and positive change.

photo by susan smith nash, ph.d. - volcanics near tapalpa, jalisco


The primary objective is to inculcate a collaborative, participatory approach to field safety that is ongoing and omnipresent. Further, it is structured around collaboration which helps reinforce constructivist learning.

This approach is also very motivating, particularly if some of the activities can be gamified and competition / rewards are incorporated. 


* everyone has a phone / handheld / tablet
* take photos
* highlight safety checklist items to do via social media collaboration
* ask everyone to open a Flickr or other account where they can post (can include privacy settings so it is not public) their photos
* or, alternatively, create a collaboration space in a discussion board, wiki, or other place where people post links or actual photos. Make it shareable only to members of the team and the host organization leaders


*  Make sure that the field guide is digital

*  Have a safety checklist
    * Initial -- vehicle, equipment, supplies -- used for the group
    * Personal protective equipment
    * Each stop

* Collaborative activities
    * Each person takes photo of checklist item and posts it (can do individually or collaboratively)
    * Each person takes photos of their personal protective equipment / checklist supplies  / items
    * Instructor takes photo of each stop the day or week before in order to "ground truth" the location for a review of conditions

* Gamification
    * Give stars for people who complete the checklist effectively and thoroughly
    * Have a contest for safety / health insights – who can identify ways to make things safer and to assure optimal health


Incorporating a digital inspection and also a safety / health optimization set of activities can turn a task that is often looked upon as compliance-based drudgery to something that is fun and ultimately a part of an integrated solution that achieves a culture of safety and health.

The facilitator should incorporate emulatory leadership strategies, and should lead by example. Further, the goal should be transformative leadership, which can bring about a sustainable organizational change.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hybrid / Blended Courses: Constantly Evolving for Optimal Effectiveness and Access

Blended learning can help overcome the limitations of face-to-face delivery. Blended learning can take many forms, and is easily adapted to specific needs and technical requirements. Incorporating elearning and mlearning (including synchronous and asynchronous), blended (often referred to as “hybrid”) courses can include face to face elements as well as a blend of different technologies and delivery modalities.

Types of Hybrid / Blended courses

Hybrid can incorporate a combination of F2F, elearning and mobile device-structured social media. 

Because needs are constantly evolving, and technology / access can be a moving target, the configurations of hybrid / blended delivery can be quite diverse. The can include:

•    Primarily F2F, with web enhancement

•    Primarily e-learning, with traditional LMS, with F2F facilitated discussion groups

•    Synchronous e-learning (webinars, etc.), with archived recordings, plus repositories with content, with learning “clusters” (small student groups that come together informally)

•    Conference with digital follow-up

•    Discussion-focused online, with readings / topic-structured forum, plus synchronous microblogging (tweets / chat)

•    Collaborative  project-focused online course with portfolio, plus synchronous microblogging (tweets / chat)

susan smith nash, ph.d.
Blended learning encourages dynamic collaboration.

Best Approaches

The philosophy of learning in blended courses is learner-centered, with an emphasis on making sure that there is a great deal of learner engagement and collaboration. Most blended courses are most effective if they are problem or project based, with very clear outcomes that require the application of knowledge and skills.

•    Pull not push content
•    Problem or project-based focus
•    Emphasize tangible, measurable outcomes that require collaboration
•    Optimize engagement via collaboration

Materials for Maximum Effectiveness in Hybrid / Blended Courses

It is very easy to overwhelm learners with too many instructional materials, that can range from digital texts to videos / audios / graphics / presentations. It is a good idea to look at materials from the point of view of how they would be used in conjunction with the collaborations and outcomes.

Further, it’s a very good idea to keep in mind that the core philosophy of blended courses has to do with constructivism, which involves optimizing collaboration and cooperation. Further, with a problem-based approach, the materials can be arranged in order to facilitate the outcome.

•    Digital readings that encourage active reading via collaboration / comments
•    Building blocks
o    Skills
o    Concepts
•    Collaborative activities that result in a tangible product / outcome
•    Shared experience / stories
•    Scaffolding points consisting of ways to identify relevant and useful prior learning

Conclusion and Example

Here’s an example that help us bring the approach into focus.

Let’s say that we want to develop a plan for analyzing the lithium content in different salt lakes, ranging from Utah (Lake Bonneville) to Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni). We will develop teams and each will be tasked with finding the best possible possible processing approach.

We’ll divide into groups and there will be a clear outcome, which will be fairly easy to complete because it’s a template.

However, analyzing and organizing the information is not so easy. That’s where the teams come in. It’s also where the design needs to help the teams attack information overload and get the information that they need, and then to discuss / work / play with the information.

So, clearly it’s necessary to find out where the students are, what their backgrounds are, and what kinds of technologies are available to them.  Then, knowing something about their background will also help.

The hybrid approach will need to be flexible in order to build on the strengths of the group. Then, when the outcomes are drafted, it would be good for the other teams / team members to be able to see and review each others’ work.


Gerbic, Philippa. (2011) Teaching using a blended approach - what does the literature tell us? Educational Media International. Sep2011, Vol. 48 Issue 3, p221-234.

Ghislandi, Patrizia M. M.; Raffaghelli, Juliana E. Forward-oriented designing for learning as a means to achieve educational quality. British Journal of Educational Technology. (Mar2015)  Vol. 46 Issue 2, p280-299.

Moeller, Stefan; Spitzer, Klaus; Spreckelsen, How to configure blended problem-based learning -- Results of a randomized trial. Cord. Medical Teacher. Aug2010, Vol. 32 Issue 8, pe328-e346.

McNaught, Carmel, Paul Lam, and Kin Cheng. (2012)"Investigating Relationships Between Features Of Learning Designs And Student Learning Outcomes." Educational Technology Research & Development 60.2: 271-286. Professional Development Collection. Web. 11 June 2015.

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