In 2005, Reuters challenged us to join a unique collaboration with Development Dimensions International (DDI) to create focused, flexible and repeatable professional development for their First Line Managers based on supported learning in the workplace. First line managers are pivotal within Reuters in motivating front line staff and meeting the needs of customers and middle or senior managers.
We responded by designing six interactive learning modules, derived from the Open University Certificate in Management and covering topics such as Knowing Your Team, Delegating and Recognising Difference, blended with a series of discussion forums. We called it The Management Challenge Online (TMCO), a ten week online management course for cohorts of up to 30 participants from loose geographic areas (EMEA, Americas and Asia, in Reuter’s case) who might move around within or across areas over its duration.
How it worked
For a Reuter’s cohort, the ten week online course begins in the week following their attendance at a residential three-day training school delivered through our collaboration with DDI.
Participants use a development template as an action planning tool to personalise their course, creating a series of work-based tasks based on needs in their immediate working environment. Nine discussion forums are rolled out with various collaborative activities to help participants draw out best practice in the workplace.
The focal point for each cohort is the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which is supported by email and teleconferences with a coach, who also provides individual feedback on assignments at the close of the course.
Course completion is recognised by a small local ceremony for all those who have completed the minimum participation requirements, and submitted an End of Course Assignment (ECA).
What’s different about TMCO?
The TMCO style of learning effectively combines different modes of delivery, models of teaching and styles of learning, and is founded on transparent communication amongst all parties involved with a course. It follows a best practice route by providing well-structured intensive instruction in the classroom followed by an online course to embed learning more deeply.
What’s in TMCO?
The six learning modules are its foundation stones. Reuters and OU identified key topics as:
- Knowing Your Team
- Delegating Effectively
- Managing Key Relationships
- Recognizing Difference
- Projecting Yourself to Others
- Managing Complexity
Material for the modules was taken from The Open University MBA programme and adapted to fit a self study format. Each learning module is a compact learning experience taking approximately 20 minutes.
The first section is an overview. The penultimate section shows the Summary and Learning Outcomes and in the final section the participant can take a short self assessment quiz.
The remaining sections combine learning objects. An object may be text-based, a diagram, an interactive diagram or an interactive tool. Each object contributes to the Learning Outcomes and has a clearly defined purpose in the learning process. Together with the core text they provide a coherent and seamless experience for the participant.
How is the course model evolving?
TMCO has continued to evolve. The most recent development is the addition of teleconferences midway in the online course, where participants have the opportunity to share their reflections on how they have developed their practice since the residential course, how they are implementing the learning from TMCO and what topics they are focusing on in the ECA.The next step is to take the course into virtual worlds and the social networking arena. In fact, participants have already created a TMCO alumni on Facebook.
Second Life offers a mature alternative or complementary option to face to face tuition, with opportunities for collaborative and community-based interaction and learning in a situated constructivist environment. A Second Life activity programme element for TMCO is being developed to offer additional engagement for a significant number of participants and enable them to explore their learning in an immersive environment.
What have we learned?
TMCO was, in 2005, a pioneering collaboration in workplace e-learning. Early cohorts provided invaluable feedback enabling the course team to identify and model what, where, when and how individuals were choosing to access and use the course. The team moved the course into a new environment and capitalized on their experience to date by revising the activities and course support in line with their understanding of participant behaviour and expectations. TMCO has since developed into a thriving, exciting, stimulating and successful course. The TMCO team has established a strong model for best practice, and the team continues to assess and evaluate the success and impact of the course and to search for new opportunities to challenge, engage and satisfy participants.