New Series: Network Centred Collaboration!

This month I am focusing on the benefits of Online Champions of Change! I have some reflections to share with you and some information on what I know about current Online Toastmaster Champions and how to develop a network of future champions.

Reflections of a Flexible Learning Leader

Phase One: E-learning

All good things come to those who wait! Yes, sometimes it takes considerable time in waiting for larger organisations to change. E-learning was one of those changes that took place in the years 2005 to 2008 in Australia and took about three years to embed into the Australian Adult Education environment. Just before that change was implemented the Australian Flexible Learning Framework initiated a Flexible Learning Leader program that enabled a cohort of over 200 trainers from Universities, TAFE, Industry and Community Education, to research, explore and build strategies for embedding e-learning. They were known as the Flexible Learning Leaders (FLL). My turn as an FLL, began in 2002 and my focus was on developing e-mentoring strategies for e-learning teachers.

As the Flexible Learning Leaders program completed and reflections of its success were commissioned,  I joined a team of four authors to create the paper called:

The impact of e-learning champions on embedding e-learning in organisations, industry or communities” – learn more by viewing.

The major findings from that research was:

The impact of e-learning champions

This study concurs with the literature findings that e-learning champions aspire to:

  • change attitudes towards e-learning
  • build e-learning capacity among as many teachers, trainers and learners, where possible
  • influence their organisation to adopt processes that will sustain e-learning and build the organisation’s reputation in e-learning.

The E-learning environment grew from those beginnings and Australia is now leading innovation in E-learning. The Flexible Learning Leaders are still actively supporting e-learning in their learning institutions.

Phase Two: E-portfolios

In this phase in Australian tertiary education the adoption, implementation and embedding of e-portfolios for teaching and learning emerged as the next strong contender for sweeping changes in the industry. The e-portfolio movement is still thriving today after ten years and also has its fair share of champions.

E-portfolios Australia grew from those beginnings and I was very proud to have been part of that initiative.

ePortfolios Australia is a professional network which aims to support the use of e-portfolios in Australia and beyond through professional development activities and the sharing of resources, ideas and practice.

The contributions from e-portfolio champions across the world continue to inspire new learning and assessment strategies in adult training through the embedding of e-portfolio systems and practices.

Fast Forward to Toastmaster Online Champions

I consider myself as one of the champions for online training within the Toastmasters Education program. I have explored the development of online training in different formats: from running live webinars, creating video tutorials for user training of easy-Speak. I have also developed online club officer training strategies for online clubs and instructional designed self-paced online courses  – one to help the easy-Speak Community. I am just one of many who champion the growth of online strategies for improvements in the Toastmasters experience.

Online Training Champions

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There are a number of Toastmaster Online Training Champions who are exploring other strategies such as webinars for Mentoring, Social Media, Club Management, Club Officer Training and many more. Yet others provide regular Podcasts, Video Tutorials, and the use of a wide range of e-learning tools for education. Another specialist online club is beginning to attract Global Online Trainers.

The journeys of these ‘early adopters‘ provide a wealth of knowledge and wisdom in best practice for those who come after them. They are not funded or supported officially in their roles, they are doing this voluntarily for the benefit of others, to help cope with change. In my view, they too are champions,

Network of Champions

Just imagine what else may be achieved with a special ‘advisory group‘ commissioned by World Headquarters  to explore the future potentials for online training. A current network of online champions is emerging from groups of online Toastmaster leaders.  ‘Action teams‘ are exploring the realms of Education & Training Online for online clubs.

This is one of several teams which are part of the network, a group of experienced Online Club executives and members, who seek to liaise with WHQ at Toastmasters International about how best to support members of chartered online clubs and potential online clubs. Yes a group of champions leading the way and providing advice on the change from land based club management to online club management! Explorations of online club officer training is part of that.

Pathways Champions

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There is now a need for personal skill development programs to help Toastmasters participate in the changed Pathways Education program. Pathways Guides are being enlisted to support Toastmasters who participate in those programs. The Guides themselves will undergo personal training about the Pathways program and how best to support members in clubs across the Areas in their Districts.

These Pathways Guides will become the champions for the Pathways program and assist in the implementation and embedding of change within the individual journeys for club members.

Their championship is supported by the Chief Ambassadors for the roll out of Pathways in each district. Each will continue to liaise with the Program Quality Directors in each district, as the roll out continues over the next year or so. This is the embedding process!

Another group of champions.

What have I learned in my online journeys?

I learned how to be an effective e-mentor for teachers. I learned how to implement change in adult learning institutions. I learned a great deal about change in large educational organisations through my work as an e-mentor for trainers in Universities, Technical and Further Education Institutions and Community Colleges. I also realised early on, how important it was to build a cohort of champions to assist in the process of implementation and embedding of change.

I can now use my reflective practice and knowledge gained to propose a rationale for Toastmasters to build their own network of Online Champions. I began this week to consider the characteristics and tasks of champions from my Flexible Learning Leadership program and how to transform them for use in the Toastmasters environment.

What are the characteristics of an Online Training Champion?

  • skilled in online training
  • willing to share their expertise with passion and enthusiasm
  • learner focused and able to communicate effectively with all kinds of people
  • able to provide tailored e-learning messages, solutions and advice
  • enterprising and willing to solve problems: small/large; technical/non-technical
  • open to scrutiny and willing to adapt as new information comes to hand
  • persistent and model their actions on core values of integrity, respect, excellence and support
  • communicate a commitment to promoting online training and the use of technology to provide educationally sound and reliable teaching and learning solutions.

What activities do champions undertake?

Good practices by online training champions to facilitate the uptake of online training and e-learning include:

  • developing a strong understanding of facilitator, trainer and learner needs through active listening and relationship building
  • offering e-learning solutions that are contextualised to the user’s needs and build on their current skills and knowledge
  • monitoring the preparedness of learners to include e-learning in their practices
  • transferring e-learning know-how in small chunks
  • supporting learners on their e-learning journey
  • building confidence through mentoring strategies
  • improving learner outcomes based on feedback and their own research.

We now have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in starting, chartering, managing and maintaining online clubs embodied within our network of Online Toastmaster Leaders.

It is time to focus on how to model, implement and embed online training strategies into our Online Clubs. We need Online Training Champions!

Next blog posts in the series:

Network Centred Collaboration

  1. How to develop Online Training Champions in Toastmasters Clubs
  2. How to develop Champions for Change in our Toastmasters Clubs