The power of connection

The power of connection

EdTech experts and authors Terri Givens and Andrea Clarke discussed how to create connection in an online environment on Day 3 of the Victorian Global EdTech and Innovation Expo 2021.

During the third day of the Victorian Global EdTech and Innovation Expo 2021, three EdTech experts addressed the importance of trust and connection in online learning. 

They explored the changes brought on by COVID, how to build trust and connection between learners, how engagement is measured online, the responsibility of workplaces in individuals’ education and more.

Barbara Harvey, Learning Designer at Cahoot Learning, moderated. She was joined by two panellists:

  • Terri Givens, author of Radical Empathy, Founder and CEO at Brighter Higher Ed
  • Andrea Clarke, author of Future Fit, CEO of FutureFitCo.

Here are the highlights of the session:

The changes brought on by COVID and the importance of connection online

According to Andrea Clarke:

  • We need compelling content to connect.
  • Leaders must help people connect with themselves and sign up for ongoing learning to stay current and create more value for their company and community.
  • It shouldn’t take a crisis for us to innovate, but it did.
  • She had been talking to clients about the benefits of EdTech since 2013 (staff engagement at scale, no travel, low cost), but only one big company had gotten on board.
  • Now everyone is on board due to COVID, but we need to get major organisations thinking at a real innovation level.
  • While it was hard to measure engagement levels with face-to-face workshops, we see a whole different level of engagement online, so it’s a change for the better. 
  • The classroom setting is just about dead. The only reason to be in a classroom is for purposeful collaborative learning, in kindy to Year 12 and an MBA. 
  • We can’t ignore the data we’re seeing come out of the last 12 months where large-scale groups have gone online. We have to use it because it’s changing lives.
“We’ve seen the future of work move forward six years in 60 days according to McKinsey.”
Andrea Clarke, FutureFitCo

Terri Givens explains that:

  • When she started her company two years ago, she wanted to make training more accessible, affordable and scalable.
  • Now she wants to reach more people with her message of radical empathy to help them learn how to connect even through COVID and online.
“In the EdTech space, there needs to be more of a focus on connection. What is the data telling us about how we connect with people when we’re online?”
Terri Givens, Brighter Higher Ed

How to build trust and connection between learners

Terri Givens says that at Brighter Higher Ed:

  • A storytelling approach helps people make connections by telling and understanding their own stories. This approach develops empathy.
  • Facilitators can then come in and help people build those connections through a variety of activities. There are plenty of tools, but they all come down to helping people learn how to tell their stories.

Andrea Clarke agrees and adds that at FutureFitCo:

  • They hold live events with women from all over the world and everyone shares their stories. They’re vulnerable and honest and feel psychologically safe to do that. The shared sense of purpose brings them all together.
“We’ve seen in lockdown a higher sense of engagement because people want to connect and they’re willing to make more of an effort.”
Andrea Clarke, FutureFitCo

Noteworthy outcomes in online learning programs

At FutureFitCO, says Andrea Clarke:

  • They do an exercise that involves people recording themselves saying what they’re known for at work, what they want to be known for, describing themselves and so on. This helps people connect with the value they bring. After recording it as a voice clip, they do a one-minute video. Most people are uncomfortable with public speaking and they’ve seen great outcomes with this program. They recently had 20 out of 28 very senior managers rate the program 10 out of 10.
  • The program has an impact on what they take back to their teams to empower them to be more efficient, have more empathy, be more effective in the workplace, and connect in with their colleagues and customers in ways they haven’t done before.
“Nothing feels better than seeing results and feedback come in at scale and consistently that just blow your mind. I’ve been facilitating for 10 years and I’ve never seen results like this.”
Andrea Clarke, FutureFitCo

Terri adds that at Brighter Higher Ed:

  • They’ve had some great successes with people coming back and telling their stories within the radical empathy framework. There was an Asian American man who was afraid of someone on the street that he thought might be violent against him. But when he thought about it from a radical empathy perspective, he put himself in that person’s shoes and decided they might not be a threat.
  • This man internalised the tools he learnt online, applied them in his daily life and came back to tell the story about it. 
“It’s not all online or all in life – everything has to be intertwined. It’s that intersection of the different components that really leads to learning and growth.”
Terri Givens, Brighter Higher Ed
Terri Givens speaking at expo

Andrea Clarke strongly agrees with this and points out that learning over the course of a couple of weeks is a far more logical way to deliver and implement change than being in a classroom where loads of information is dumped on people in one day with the hope that they will retain it.

“What we’re asking people to do is to embed new behaviour and embed new habits when they go outside, when they turn their computers off.”
Andrea Clarke, FutureFitCo

How engagement is measured online

Andrea Clarke says that:

  • If you join their Communicate with Impact program, they will track your every move online. They can’t measure engagement unless they understand how many posts you’re writing and responding to, whether you’re watching all the videos, and how many transactions and exchanges you’ve had with a cohort. 
  • For HR managers, they’re able to rank the level of engagement from the most engaged to the least engaged in the cohort. That’s helpful because businesses want to know who the high performers are when the boss isn’t watching and who needs help on the lower end of the scale. 
  • Cahoot has artificial intelligence that alerts them to any issues (for example, if someone hasn’t logged in for a day) so they can jump in and respond.
  • They can send businesses full reports detailing the completion rate, how many are using the skills they learnt and who are the most engaged learners.
“It’s really helpful for businesses… [that we can] demonstrate that engagedness… [that we] are having an impact internally on the business and the behaviour of employees. It’s an exceptionally helpful piece of reporting.”
Andrea Clarke, FutureFitCo

Terri agrees and says that:

  • Cahoot data analytics are so important to their clients to help them understand what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Data also helps Brighter Higher Ed understand where people are and aren’t engaging so they can update their materials.

How to connect formal education to the workforce

According to Terri Givens:

  • In higher ed, internships and co-curriculars should be integrated into the classroom rather than seen as something that is done outside of the classroom. 
  • Some companies they work with allow students to take on actual projects which is an extremely effective way to learn.
“Project-based learning [is something] we need to be focusing on more. I teach a class on immigration politics and rather than just saying, ‘Learn all these bills and laws,’ I can say, “Here’s a project. Put together a proposal for your head of state. Write a brief about how they should improve their immigration policy.’”
Terri Givens, Brighter Higher Ed
Andrea Clarke speaking in Expo

“You’re handing the responsibility to the learner. There’s no presenteeism when you have to turn around a project in real-time, on a real subject and on a real story. That’s so empowering… it builds [the learner’s] confidence. It’s game-changing work.

 

Andrea Clark, FutureFitCo
 

The responsibility of workplaces in an individual’s education

Terri Givens says that education and workplaces are intimately linked. She explains that:

  • Employers need to understand that they’re responsible for the ongoing development of their employees. We talk about lifelong learning and employers are part of this process. Companies such as Amazon are joining with universities to further their employees’ careers.
  • She’s a huge fan of micro-credentials that focus on the skills students learn. They can show those off to their employers and ask for more development in those areas.

“We want our employees to grow, to learn, to be able to create an inclusive workspace, to be recruiting people without discrimination.”

 

Terri Givens, Brighter Higher Ed

Andrea Clarke agrees and adds that:

  • Businesses need to be intentional and purposeful about how they upskill their employees. So many businesses spend hundreds of thousands into the millions of dollars on rubbish content and expect people to self-pace through a program which isn’t effective.

“When people feel invested in, it changes their entire attitude towards their business… Businesses have a responsibility, and they can’t skirt that responsibility by going for the cheapest option or an option that’s not well-researched with no data and no track record of changing behaviour and empowering the learner.”

 

Andrea Clarke, FutureFitCo
 

Full Transcript

Barbara:

We’re about to have our plenary discussion today called The Power of Connection. Our guests are Terri Givens, author of Radical Empathy, and Andrea Clarke, author of Future Fit. We’re going to talk about how we can create connection in an online environment. How can we create trust and how can we build connection at scale? If I could bring Terri and Andrea to the main stage. Hello, welcome. If you could tell us a little bit about who you are, what you’re doing, and why you do it, it would be great. We’ll start with you, Andrea.

Andrea Clarke:

My name’s Andrea Clarke and I’m a recovering television news reporter with an obsession for technology and training, and so the EdTech space as it turns out is the happiest space that I’ve been in my career. I’ve had a fairly nonconventional career, 10 years in Washington D.C. covering major breaking news stories for Thomson Reuters, Al Jazeera English, and The Seven Network. I also worked on the advocacy movement to help save Darfur. I was their communication director, and I also worked in humanitarian aid, working on projects to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve had this very nonconventional career path which has led me to helping people grow their careers. The common theme through my entire career so far has been wanting people to reach their potential and wanting to grow careers. In some ways, it’s not surprising that I’ve ended up in the most progressive form of education that we see.

Barbara:

Terri, let’s hear from you.

Terri Given:

I’m here from the other side of the world. I’m based here in Menlo Park, California where it is Wednesday afternoon. And I just want to also do my land acknowledgment, which we are on Ohlone land here. But I started out as a Professor of Political Science many years ago, and I’ve had a career as a Vice-Provost and a Provost, and most recently, I decided to leave higher ed for a bit and start my company Brighter Higher Ed, which is EdTech adjacent because we use educational technology to provide faculty development and support for faculty and faculty leaders to basically improve higher education. I think that we need strong leaders in higher ed and that we need leaders who really understand the nuts and bolts of administration much better than we do now.

But also, I’m the author of Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides which is where my heart is right now because, of course, we’re having a lot of racial issues here in the US and around the world, and so my goal there is to help people understand how they use empathy to not only to understand other people but to take action and create change, and most importantly, build trust.

Barbara:

We not only have two incredible women that are doing fantastic work in the EdTech space, but they are bestselling authors as well, and I really recommend both of their books. I’ll put it in the chat, Radical Empathy and Future Fit. I do feel like I have insider advantage here where I’ve worked with Terri and Andrea in their courses, and I can say what they do is transformative learning. They’re really changing lives with the learning that they do, that they’re asking people to come in and question their beliefs and question who they are, and then really finding new ways to forge forward.

Barbara:

So, the question is how has that done online? How do you create connection and change online? So, we’re going to have an open discussion over the next 40 minutes. We’re going to talk about change, and connection, and trust. But we’d also like to hear from you. How are you creating outcomes with connection?

Andrea Clarke:

To me, connection is everything. Belonging is everything. I wrote a book called Future Fit. It’s about how to stay relevant and competitive in the future of work. I wrote it two years ago before COVID, and it’s all about the eight of the human skills that we need to upgrade in order to stay current and stay employed and stay job secure. The connection piece starts with having compelling content that’s relevant to the audience now. And I think that our role as leaders, both in the EdTech space and across the business community and other communities where we deliver work, is to encourage people to really engage and mobilize with the fact that active learning has to be part of our career path.

It’s no longer that we’re getting our degree and then going into the workforce. Our career spans are much longer and the use of our skills are becoming shorter. So, I believe our role as leaders is to really help people connect with themselves and connect into that desire to be that best version of themselves, which means signing up for ongoing learning in whatever capacity that is. The connection piece for me starts with that. It starts with ourselves and that desire to stay current and to help create more and more value for the business and the community that we work in.

Barbara:

You’ve worked face-to-face and online. Have you seen a shift in the appetite for learning in the corporate space? In the workforce space? Have you seen a change over the past two years?

Andrea Clarke:

Well, I think that it should not take a crisis for all of us to innovate, but it did. And we’ve seen the future of work move forward six years in 60 days, according to McKinsey. Now, I’ve been involved in EdTech since 2013. I’ve been talking to clients about it every year up until COVID. Imagine if you’re an HR director and I say to you, “I’m going to engage and mobilize your staff at scale. No one has to travel. It’s not going to take any time out of their workday, and it’s going to cost you a lot less.” What a sales proposition. What a value proposition. But I had one major Australian business say yes before 2019. I had one early adopter and that was Telstra.

I’ve been talking to clients for many years about this and because my goal was always to reach more people, have more impact more often, and I couldn’t do that doing a hundred flights a year. I knew that there was a better way to do things. And I knew that the audience trend was going to swing. I mean, obviously, I thought it was going to take five to 10 years, but COVID accelerated that. It threw all the apples out of the apple cart and everyone’s had to rebuild better. And I think for corporates, we can’t talk about innovation and we can’t give lip service to all of these buzzwords and not actually do anything about it.

We’re all converted, but we really need to get major organizations thinking along the real innovation level because now we’re in this extraordinary moment where we see much higher capability lift. This is far more effective than any face-to-face workshop I’ve ever run, and I used to run between 50 and 65 workshops a year since 2010. That’s a lot of face-to-face time, but I was never able to measure engagement properly, and I was never able to get a real sense of connecting with the introverts in the room who would never put their hand up to ask a question.

But online, we see a whole different level of engagement. This is a win-win for everyone involved. But as I say, it should not have taken a crisis to get motivated about this. Cahoot have been doing this for 15 years. I’ve been involved in EdTech since 2013-ish. It’s simply a matter of looking at our audience and predicting, forecasting. It’s that adaptive mindset piece. It’s literally engaging with the change that’s going on, getting activated around that, letting go of doing things in that old school way. Now at least, we’re all in this really awesome space where we all have an opportunity to lift everyone around us at scale a lot more easily than we used to.

I’m going to be controversial and say in my experience, I believe the classroom setting is just about dead. The only reason I think we should be in a classroom is for purposeful collaborative learning, and obviously, that’s Kindie to Year 12, and also I think an MBA. I’m looking at doing an MBA. I want to be in the classroom for some parts of that. I really do think with the data that we’re seeing come out of the last 12 months where large-scale groups have gone online, we cannot ignore that remarkable data that we’re seeing. We can’t ignore it. We’ve got to use it and run with it because it’s changing lives, and as you say, it is transformative.

Barbara:

Terri, what are your thoughts around what Andrea is saying in terms of the transition to online learning, and in terms of the connection? 

Terri Given:

When I started my company two years ago, my whole thought was we want to bring this kind of training to be more accessible, affordable, and scalable. Right? So, the same things that Andrea is talking about. And my motivation at the time, obviously, before COVID, was that there wasn’t enough access to this kind of training, first of all. More people needed to have access to it. And when I looked at what was out there in the market, these face-to-face trainings were incredibly expensive and they still are because some people are trying to transfer that from face-to-face to online. And so, I think it’s a matter of, for me, of wanting to reach more people. And for me, both in education and in the corporate space, it’s about accessibility and being able to bring my learnings about radical empathy and so on to a larger audience.

When I initially started this work many years ago, it was all about face-to-face. I was going to conferences. I was working with people, coaching, and all of that. And now that I have this book out, I really want to make sure that we can make this accessible to a broad range of people. The connection there is that we can bring this message of radical empathy to people to help them learn how to connect, even though we’re in this COVID space, even though we’re online. The last two years I’ve spent a lot of time learning about all these different possibilities in terms of utilizing educational technology and I have to give a shout out to Cahoot because I’ve found that that platform is just so useful for the kind of training and coaching and work I’m trying to do because we looked at a lot of different platforms.

In general in the EdTech space, there needs to be more of a focus on that connection. What is the data telling us about how we connect with people when we’re online? I’ve also been very interested in those discussions and online learning, of course, is huge right now. I think it was going to happen even without COVID. Obviously, COVID has sped it up, as Andrea has said, but I think that we’re learning that there can be that connection online and that’s the big difference.

Barbara:

Anthony said this morning that we don’t need more isolation. And the scaling doesn’t guarantee the connection. So, I think we’re all really interested in how you build that connection between the learners and how you build trust. I can help out a little bit with some of the Cahoot techniques as we go. But what are some of the mechanisms that you can use in terms of delivery in the work that you do? Because for both of you, this is not training. This is not training, going in, learning. This actually involves people connecting with each other at quite a deep level, and being able to do that where they don’t know each other and they can’t see each other face to face. Perhaps we’ll start with you, Terri. How would you do that? How do you build trust with the learners? Is it perhaps the facilitators and so forth? How do you do that?

Terri Given:

Well, it’s a combination of things, but I really take a storytelling approach and I try to get people to connect not only with telling their story but understanding their own story. So, I think that storytelling approach helps people to make those connections, to use empathy, and to somebody maybe they don’t know or haven’t seen in person before. By using stories, we find that people are able to figure out what those connections are. And then the facilitators can come in and help people build those connections in a variety of ways. We have all kinds of activities. One of my favorites comes from design thinking and getting a group together to do the post-it note exercise, and things like that. I think there are lots of tools out there. And for me, personally, it really starts with being able to use storytelling, but also help people learn how to tell their stories.

Barbara:

We had a live chat with Andrea a week ago and somebody asked, “Where are you at 10:00 AM on a Saturday?” It was a group of women from all over the world, and I sat there, and I was connected to a woman in Nairobi who was doing her washing, like, “Oh, that’s my Saturday morning.” But it was the connection of our stories that led us to feel like that.

Andrea Clarke:

I was out looking at lipstick at 10 o’clock in the morning. That is such a great example of how sharing our stories and being vulnerable and being honest but feeling psychologically safe to do that. It’s really remarkable how these really simple moments and activities can… And this sense of shared purpose brings us all together because these women are in 33 different markets around the world, living very different lives and very different degrees of isolation and lockdown. I feel like we’ve seen in lockdown a higher sense of engagement because people want to connect and they’re willing to make more of an effort.

Barbara:

Can you tell us a little bit about some of the outcomes, like maybe something that you’ve been really proud of? What are some of the great outcomes that you have seen in your courses or in online delivery?

Andrea Clarke:

We run a program with Cahoot, and I have to say that the Cahoot platform has totally changed my life and my entire business model. It is superb when it comes to delivering the kind of content that we do. So, communicating with impact really deals with our reputation capital and understanding our story, and then understanding how it is that we speak with credibility. A couple of pieces in that exercise, recording your voice. Unless you’re Morgan Freeman, you do not like hearing the sound of your own voice. So, it’s a really awesome exercise to get people to, first of all, step through what they’re known for at work, what they want to be known for, how they would describe themselves, and we help everyone refine that because we need to be closely connected to the value that we bring. Otherwise, we don’t reach our potential or feel like we belong. Then we ask people to record it on a voice clip, and we step up the risk factor and eventually ask people to deliver a one-minute short report on video.

Now, these are exercises that for us might seem comfortable. But for the majority of the cohort, this is really stretching them. People are very uncomfortable with public speaking, and they’re very uncomfortable with the realization that there’s no handballing the opportunity to speak these days on camera. So, I see wild outcomes with this. We’ve just run a cohort through this the last three weeks, and the capability lift was 34%, and we had 20 out of 28 very senior managers rate the program 10 out of 10. That’s been the highlight of my year so far because you know that you are having an impact on the way people behave, and you’re having an impact on what they take back to their teams to empower their teams to be more efficient, have more empathy, be more effective in the workplace, and connect with their colleagues and customers in ways they haven’t done before.

The outcomes are to me startling, and it’s that feeling that you get where you’re in the right place, that nothing feels better than seeing results and feedback come in at scale and consistently that just blow your mind. I mean, Barbara and I talk about this offline all the time. Do you see this in the report? Did you see that? Did you see this comment? I mean, I’ve been facilitating for 10 years and I’ve never seen results like this. So, it really is a great opportunity for all businesses to take a much closer look at what’s going on.

Barbara:

I think we’ll talk a little bit more about that essence of trust because when you’re asking people to put themselves on the line like that, to do something that they’re very uncomfortable with, and as we all know with learning, to have great learning and great growth, there is an uncomfortability. There’s a point in the course where there’s that tension and they have to overcome it. There has to be a huge amount of trust in the course and with the cohort. It’s quite nuanced, and I think we can talk a little bit more about that. So, Terri, can you share with us some outcomes that you’ve experienced recently or something you’re really proud of that happens in your learning and in your work? Because I know it’s incredible work, so there’s probably hundreds of examples.

Terri Given:

One of the ones I’m most proud of recently is, with the radical empathy framework, we were working with the group and it was the fact that people have been coming back to our discussions and telling us stories. One gentleman who happens to be Asian, and as you know, we’ve unfortunately been having issues with violence against Asian Americans here, even here in the San Francisco area. And he told a story about how he was at his house and he walked out, and he saw somebody, and he was kind of nervous about seeing this person. But then he thought about the radical empathy framework. And he said, “Well, if I think about this from a radical empathy perspective, maybe I don’t see this person as dangerous or as a threat. And so, I put myself in that person’s shoes.”

And so, I feel like even though we’ve been online throughout this entire process, he’s still managed to internalize, really, the things that we’re trying to focus on, and he used it in his daily life. That is the proof in the pudding, when somebody can come and use storytelling and tell us a story about how they utilize the tools we’re providing them in their daily lives.

Barbara:

Would you say then the concept of online learning is limited because really we’re asking people to step away from the computer, step away from the screen, and apply that learning into their life?

Terri Given:

It’s not all online or all in life. Everything has to be intertwined. In some ways, we’re living our lives online. Right? It’s that intersection of these different components that really leads to the learning and the growth.

Barbara:

And what are your thoughts on that, Andrea?

Andrea Clarke:

I agree with Terri. It’s absolutely the blended approach. What we’re asking people to do is to embed new behavior and embed new habits when they go outside, when they turn their computer off. And that’s what we’re seeing, and we’re giving cohorts plenty of opportunities to reflect on what they’ve done in the past and whether that is necessarily relevant or moving them forward and helping them grow. And so, embedding new behaviors over the course of a couple of weeks is a far more logical way to deliver and implement change than being in a classroom where we just dump loads of information on people in one day and hope that they retain it. It’s just crazy.

As a learner myself I’ve done some really awesome executive education programs, but I wasn’t at the time allowed to record them, and I asked to record them, but that wasn’t part of the deal which is fine. But the downside is, in that case, you invest a serious amount of money and you walk out not necessarily remembering all of that granular detail that is a thread that keeps everything together. So, I think that there’s something incredibly valuable that we need to acknowledge about embedding behavior as we go through the program.

Barbara:

I have some questions here from the audience. Sophie Highlands is asking Andrea, “What tools do you use to measure engagements in a workshop?”

Andrea Clarke:

Sophie, if you were joining my Communicating With Impact program, I’m tracking your every move online. Sorry, but I just am. It’s for the best interest of everyone because we can’t measure engagement unless we understand how many posts you’re writing, how many posts you’re responding to, whether or not you’re watching all the videos, how many transactions and exchanges you’ve had with a cohort. So, we gather an engagement number from that. It’s granular detail. And for HR managers, we are able to rank level of engagement from the most engaged to the least engaged in the cohort, and that’s helpful because businesses do want to know who the high performers are when the boss isn’t watching, and they do want to know who needs help on the lower end of the scale.

But Cahoot has basically artificial intelligence that alert us to any issues so we can jump straight in and respond to that, and we certainly are alerted if someone hasn’t logged in for a day or two. We can follow up with that person to see if everything’s all right and whether or not they need any help. So, the measurements are granular. The measurements are all the data points you would expect. Anything that can be measured online, we are measuring. Barbara, do you want to add to that because I know that you know the back end a bit better than me?

Barbara:

Yeah, that’s right. We look at learner engagement as well. So, we measure how collaborative you are being. It’s not just about your own learning journey, but it’s how you’re contributing to the community of learning that you are part of. And I think that’s quite unique to what we do and we can keep an eye on how the progress is going.

Terri Given:

This is why we wanted to go with the Cahoot platform, because these data analytics are really important to our clients to understand what’s working and what isn’t. Another important component of it is that we want to know where people are engaging and then are there places where people aren’t engaging as much, and that can help us to update our materials, and have that feedback as a constant loop where we are seeing what’s going on with our learners.

Andrea Clarke:

We’ve made minor adjustments, but we can change things on the spot, so it’s really important to get those data points. For businesses who engage us, it’s a wonderful thing for me to send them a one-page infographic that says you’ve had a 100% completion rate. You’ve got 100% of your cohort already using the skills, already applying the skills that they’ve learned in the program. You’ve had a 34% lifting capability. These are the most engaged learners. So, it’s really helpful from a stakeholder reporting point of view for businesses to have that so you can demonstrate that engagement. You are having an impact internally on the business and the behavior of employees. It’s an exceptionally helpful piece of reporting that I certainly have not been able to deliver pre-Cahoot.

I was able to measure the longitudinal data around who got promoted, and we had like a 40% promotion rate within 12 months of communicative program, but we weren’t able to really dig down into the data that I think is critically important to major businesses when they’re deciding how they allocate funding, who they allocate it to, and how frequently they offer those upskilling opportunities to their staff.

Barbara:

We have another question. This is from David Link. “Keen to understand how we connect formal education to the workforce. What is the transition process?”

Terri Given:

When I was at Menlo College, one of the best programs we had for that was internships. I really wish that more of us in higher ed would see internships and co-curriculars as something that is integral. It’s not something you do outside of the classroom. It’s something that can be integrated into the classroom. And we worked with some great EdTech companies that were developing programs with companies here in the Bay Area that would allow students not just to do internships, but to take a project that this company needed to work on. Our marketing class would take on a project and actually work with a real issue from a real company. That’s the kind of thing I want. Basically, project-based learning. I hate to say it’s a no-brainer, but I mean, it really is.

Those kinds of tools we need to really be focusing on more, and I wish more institutions in higher ed were doing that. There are a lot. I don’t want to say we aren’t. I’m a political scientist. I can announce I’m heading back to the classroom this fall at McGill University. I teach a class on immigration politics. So, rather than just saying, “Okay, learn all these bills and laws,” I can say, “Here’s a project. I want you to pick a head of state from around the world. Learn about their immigration policy. I want you to write a policy brief about how they should improve that.” And they’re developing a skill. They’re having to do a project for a client. They’re having to write. They’re having to learn something about the background. So, they’re learning how to do research.

To me, it’s very simple to take this kind of project-learning approach, and then if you make it collaborative. I’m very involved in these discussions, and for those who aren’t on Clubhouse yet, I encourage it because we’re having these discussions all the time on Clubhouse. And one of the things we’re talking about is the fact that these connections between the classroom and the future, not just the future work or work today, are so critical in that there’s so many tools out there to do that. We just need people in higher ed to be more connected to what’s working and what isn’t. And so, I think that is happening but it’s an ongoing process.

Barbara:

Andrea, do you have any thoughts on that?

Andrea Clarke:

Terri has just reminded me that I failed journalism at university, but I was the only journalism student who actually had a career in the real world in journalism for 15-plus years. So, I was itching to get into a newsroom to get my hands on that project work. We all learn differently and there are many of us who need that opportunity to get their hands dirty with the real work and get onto the project. And I’d like to be a student in your immigration policy class, Terri.

It’s such a high-impact way of learning and you’re handing the responsibility to the learner so there’s no presenteeism when you have to turn around a project in real-time, on a real subject, and on a real story. And that’s so empowering, and what that does to a learner is just it builds their confidence to deliver more and more in ways that they choose to. So, it’s game-changing work.

Barbara:

Sophia Highlands asked a really interesting question about what is the responsibility of workplaces in an individual’s education, like at the graduate level. And interesting, I know that Terri’s doing some amazing work with her Radical Empathy programs now with this appetite for change. So, what is the responsibility for learning? What is the responsibility for social change? Where does that fit now?

Terri Given:

I’m rubbing my hands because it’s what I’m working on. The education system has a certain responsibility, but I think what Andrea and I are getting at is that it’s like this, right? I’m putting my fingers together because there’s education on the one hand, and then there’s the workspace, the employer. And the employer needs to understand that they are responsible for the ongoing development, and we talk about lifelong learning. It’s so important that employers understand that they are part of this process. That’s why you see employers like Amazon and others joining with Arizona State University, others joining with Southern New Hampshire. All these different institutions are reaching out to employers and saying “Yes, if you’re a barista and you want to move up in the company, you’re going to need a degree.”

I’m a huge fan of micro-credentials that focus on what skills you learn in a class. So, if I’m teaching a class, I want to be able to give my student a micro-credential in what you got in research, in writing, in policy analysis, whatever it may be, but then they can take that micro-credential and when they’re with their employer, they can show that off and say, “Okay, I need more on this front.” If the employer is connected with the providers that can do that work, DEI, social justice, that’s the stuff we’re working on, and I know there’s a huge number of employers who are interested, but we have to be doing it in the right way.

I was just talking with a group about how employers tend to focus on liability and how to make sure my employees are not going to break any laws or anything. That’s not the approach. The approach is that we want our employees to grow, to learn, to be able to create an inclusive workspace, to be recruiting people without discrimination. But you can’t do it by saying, “Here, watch this two-hour video and then go and do your recruitment.” Right? We all have to learn these processes. And that’s why I believe my radical empathy approach is so critical, and then Andrea’s approach is so critical for people who want to move up in a corporation. So, yes, employers have 100% responsibility when they’re in the education system, that’s where it has to be, but it has to also be happening in the workplace.

Andrea Clarke:

But let me be controversial and say businesses have got to get their shit together. You cannot get your internal people to build a system and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, and then no one logs in because that’s what’s happening everywhere, and I hear this all the time. You’ve got businesses spending hundreds of thousands into the millions and buying content, which is basically rubbish content, and expecting people to self-pace through a program. It’s not effective. And can you tell? I get emotional about it because it’s not effective. You’re spending money in resources that could be so well-placed if you had a considered strategy, and if you had a partner like Cahoot or whatever institution you want to partner with, but be considerate about it and be intentional and purposeful about how you’re going to go about upskilling your employees because there are many reasons why people leave businesses. Number one is that they don’t feel acknowledged and they don’t feel that they’re being invested in. In my experience, when people feel invested in, it changes their entire attitude towards their business.

Businesses do have the responsibility and they can’t skirt that responsibility by just going for the cheapest option or going for an option that’s not well-researched with no data and no track record of changing behavior and really empowering the learner. It doesn’t make any sense. But there’s a lot of money being spent and it is going to pure waste. And that’s frustrating from an educator’s point of view because you can see the alternative. The alternative is so much more powerful and long-term, and then the retention in business is high because you don’t have people saying, “Well, is something better on offer down the road because I might step into that business?” And the war for talent is real.

When it comes to ongoing learning, the person who is dedicating the most is the high-end and highly-skilled knowledge worker, who’s a freelancer because they trade on their knowledge being current. Now, we are all high-end, highly-skilled knowledge workers, and we should all be trading on our knowledge being current. If the business is not going to invest in us then we can’t ignore that for 12 months. We’ve got to spend on ourselves.

Barbara:

Andrea, you have closed the show.

Andrea Clarke:

I was promising myself that I wouldn’t swear, but there’s so many big businesses making big mistakes around their L&D strategy, and they’ve got to have people in the business that understand and acknowledge the power of EdTech. It’s as simple as that.

Barbara:

I couldn’t agree more and I agree so much. It’s about intentional learning. It’s got to be thought through and curated, and so forth. Well, thank you both for an incredible discussion. Thank you, Terri, Zooming in from the States there and Andrea, I’m sure everyone would love to hear more from you. You can join them on LinkedIn and Clubhouse and all the great places where great minds meet. Thanks again for joining us today, and I’ll see you soon.