#HEdigID, Digital Literacy, Professional Development

#HEdigID Chat no. 13: Living a Purposeful Digital Life

It’s almost impossible to not have any aspect of your life be in the digital. An increasing number of digital objects, environments, and applications often consume our daily lives. Whether it is a text message, calendar notification, online bank transfer, a voice-assisted inquiry, a “like” on social media, or ping from your smartwatch, technology impacts and influences how we live, work, and play. It is not about unplugging or walking away from a device, as the online and offline experience goes beyond a single location or scheduled time. Digital dualism, the belief that online and offline are separate and distinct realms, is no longer feasible in the lives we lead. Also, digital dualism presents a false dichotomy of spaces and real/virtual; in particular, the digital interacts and influences the offline realm, and vice versa (Suler, 2016).

This ubiquitous digital life is seamless as technology is more accessible and just over 50% of the world is now online. Thanks to broader networking abilities and “smarter” mobile/computing devices, our connection and interaction with information, media, and society are constant. Recently, Mozilla released the 2019 Internet Health Report (SPOILER ALERT: The Internet is a bit under the weather.) to identify these issues and needs around:

  • Privacy and security – how safe is it?
  • Openness – is it open?
  • Digital inclusion – who is welcome?
  • Web literacy – who can succeed?
  • Decentralization – who controls it?
  • Participate -10 minutes to a healthier internet (action!)

In listening to the summary of this report on on CBC Spark, I think that Mark Surman, Mozilla‘s executive director, left some room for hope at the end of the interview. It is really up to the collective us, web developers, engineers, government, and society, as what we need to think about broadly for how we engage in the web. On a bright note, Internet health is now a mainstream issue that we are having conversations about to understand what can and needs to be done for the future of the web we want to be a part with Surman’s call to action:

“…how we do design this stuff? We still have the rule of law. We still have governments that we can actually decide where to take this. We’re at that kind of a juncture right now, and we can also govern it stupidly. And so now is the time for engaging in really thoughtful, hard-nosed investigation of what we want the digital society to look like..”

Bringing these issues to higher education, we often direct these concerns towards the support digital literacy among our college/university learners; specifically how they are using technologies, devices, and platforms. We should not assume competence of digital abilities for other campus stakeholders (e.g. staff, faculty, administration, etc.) without understand if/how they are being supported as well. I get that clutter, optimization, and being intentional are pillars of the digital minimalism book by Newport (2019); however, I think his solutions and strategies come from a point of privilege and lack of experience of actually using the digital platforms or social media sites. If you never had an account or you aren’t actively using a social media channel for your personal/professional life, how can you tell others to use these less if it’s a vital tool of their digital life? There is nothing wrong with finding focus and doing deeper work — I fully support that. But, I think there needs to be a balance and compromise with how we navigate the landscape of our evolving personal and professional digital lives. Constant connectivity, emerging technologies, and increasing expectations for life online will not disappear, so we need to figure ways to manage and survive.

Next week (May13-19, 2019), I am teaching this OLC Workshop: Developing your Digital Presence & Taking Control of your Online Identity, which means I will ALSO be facilitating a Higher Ed Digital Identity (#HEdigID) chat next FRIDAY (May 17th) on this topic:  Living a Purposeful Digital Life. Join us for the ALL DAY (slow) Twitter conversation using the hashtag: #HEdigID If you’re not into tweeting, you can still SHARE and RESPOND to the same questions/prompts that I will be adding to this open Google doc soon: http://bit.ly/hedigid13

Here are a few QUESTIONS to get you thinking about HOW and WHERE you live your “best digital live” these days for Friday’s (May 17th) #HEdigID ALL-DAY discussion:

  1. What digital spaces and/or social media platforms are you most “present” on these days? OR Where online do you want to be more active on? How can others connect and engage with #highered professionals (staff, faculty & administrators), in general? List WHERE and WHY you are an active participant digitally these days and living your “best life.”
  2. What online NETWORKS and COMMUNITIES do you often connect with to find other #highered professionals with similar interests/research/work? This could a platform you go to learn, share, or promote your practice/teaching/design/scholarship. SHARE any groups, hashtags, podcasts, blogs, websites, etc. you follow and connect with.
  3. Using digital spaces and social media to share our professional work forces us to differentiate between our ‘private’ and ‘public’ lives. The reality is, this is much more complex as we share our personal and professional lives online. What CHALLENGES or RISKS concern you most about being a ‘public intellectual’ online in #highered?
  4. It’s so easy always be connected — online or to our technologies — so, how do you take time to UNPLUG or DISCONNECT when you need a break? Share how you digitally detox and/or tend to your well-being when you need to escape the digital grind.
  5. What is one piece of ADVICE or a SUGGESTION you want to seek from or offer other #highered professionals related to “living your best digital life” on social media, online, etc.?

Join us for the conversation next week, and in the mean time — tell me:

How do you live your best digital life (with purpose) these days? 

Updated May 19, 2019: Twitter ARCHIVE from chat: #HEdigID Chat Transcript, No. 13: Living a Purposeful Digital Life (05.17.19).

Higher Education, Learning, Learning and Performance, Library, Online Learning, Professional Development

Why Can’t Learning in the Analog and Digital Just Get Along?

It’s the end of the academic term (well, almost, I’m still wrapping up my grading), but I have been thinking a great deal about learning, how we learn, and the modes of learning for both my students and professionals this semester. Back in March, Joshua Kim posed a series of questions related to the higher education conference learning that goes on, and questioning how we might need to rethink our own professional development for learning:

  • What if the way we think about professional development for learning professionals is actually holding back the learning profession?
  • What if what we really need is to create new knowledge?
  • What if what the learning profession really needs is original scholarship?
  • What if the resources, time and energy we devote to attending large professional conferences would be better spent in small-scale convenings, where the goals of scholarly productivity are foregrounded above all others?

These questions resonated with me, my friends/colleagues often ask if I will be attending an upcoming conference or event so we can meet up. As a professional with minimal funds for travel and also little interest in attending conferences during the academic term (I teach A LOT of learners during the two long semesters – Fall and Spring), many are surprised to hear I am not going to be at these events as I value professional learning. In the last few years, I have notices that I am not learning very much at conferences on site at these events. To clarify — I DO participate in valuable discussions, debates, and banter with peers at these events, but I’m not sure the format of a typical 2-3 day conference with keynotes, workshops, lecture presentations, academic papers/posters, etc. in a 2-3 day format is not how I WANT to learn.

Sure. I miss the connections and socialization within the profession at these conference events, but really, my learning and development is on-going and more tailored to what I need and want to learn about. These days, I think there are SO many ways to engage with professionals and gain the knowledge I am looking about — that I have not been interested in figuring out how to build a budget for one event. Sometimes I follow and read through a conference backchannel if I can’t physically attend; however, lately, I’m not sure I’m really missing out on anything. I think the biggest loss of not attending might not actually be the learning, but the networking and professional socialization that comes with the analog format of most conferences.  Also what is often lost in these large learning events, is the knowledge creation and sharing beyond a time, location, and date to a broader audience — that comes with “the common is a faith in the power of convening. And, in particular, a faith in the power of convening at scale” (Kim, 2019).

I think there are SO many ways professional to learn, develop, and gain knowledge in higher education. I typically find ways to learn from my peers and gain insights into my field through:

  • Books I borrow from the public & university library – I read A LOT!
  • Hashtags I search/follow/chat with on Twitter based on topics I’m interested in
  • Peers and colleagues work I follow — especially those who tweet, podcast, blog, and share in open access ways online
  • Journal articles and conference proceedings (ones that are publish)
  • PODCASTS! Like books, I listen to and learn from a wide variety of episodes, including the growing number of higher ed-focused podcasts, available on-demand, for download, and/or streaming. I guess I also create a couple to learn from as well e.g. @BreakDrink & @InVinoFab
  • LIVE/ARCHIVED web stuff: Webinars, web-events, broadcasts, YouTube live, Virtually Connecting sessions, etc.
  • Local events and happenings around DFW — at my campus, at other campuses, and general MeetUps or events. This even includes things posted on my local neighborhood network, NextDoor.
  • Subscriptions to learning, like this yearly membership I have to MasterClass.com
  • Open educational resources (OER) — e.g. MOOCs offered by FutureLearn, Coursera or edX and other OER repositories
  • Listservs and Google Groups — yeah, I still learn news, information, and find opportunities on these emailed spaces.
  • Library or research workshops at UNT Library like Software Carpentry for R and Python to tool up on a skills, platform, or research method.
  • Formal university courses. I take advantage of that staff/faculty discount at my own institution to take a non-degree course (I’m working on this certificate now).
  • Friends, colleague, and peer suggestions for learning and training — they just know I like learning, and what might peak my interest, in general. So I welcome referrals and suggestions for any of the above — and I get these often.

Beyond professional learning conferences, this sentiment also present with the work I do in the online teaching/learning domain. At our colleges and universities (at least in the US), there seems to be more value placed on the analog vs. the digital work we do on campus. If I am not physically “present” somewhere, how can the work I be doing the same as my colleague? What does a lecturer do who does not actually lecture? Good question, let me tease this out a bit as a couple of recent reads around digital minimalism and revenge of the analog has peaked these thoughts.

Over the past five years, as a full-time non-tenure track faculty member, I have been involved in a great deal of teaching/learning as a lecturer (who might not actually lecture). My work involves instructing face-to-face (F2F), online, and blended learning university courses and also designing learning/training on digital platforms AND within new physical teaching spaces. This has been fun, as I try to apply what I’m learning and discovering in my own research/learning (see list above) to re-tool how to best design these educational experiences digitally (like others who move to online teaching). That being said, when talking to some colleagues, I do notice the embedded bias for the “traditional” teaching methods (e.g. sage on the stage, chalk n’ talk, talking-head expert, etc.) for what it means to be present on a campus as a faculty or staff employee.

Looking back, I suppose most of my own experience as a learner involved F2F means of instruction, student support, and interactions. Before finishing my PhD, I had a number of F2F and blended courses I taught or had been enrolled in myself. Part of the assumption of online teaching comes with the culture on campus and the expectations of what an online course will entail for the learner. For F2F courses, I think there is less pressure to have your entire curriculum prepared, available, and online at the start of each semester. A professor or instructor can just show up and talk (on or off topic) based on what might be loosely included in the course syllabus or schedule that day, often without any concern for lecture capturing, archiving, and transcribing media (audio or video) of their presentation. As a F2F instructor who teaches on campus, there is no need to be explicit in detail for assignments, or itemization of instruction on projects, tasks, or activities for learning. Students attending these courses on site can ask immediate follow up questions before, during or after scheduled class time. Additionally, students feel a rapport or social presence with the in-class instructor that is different those educators they might have online (not always, but it often it is so). These interactions to learn with peers or through impromptu discussions in class, does not require a script, plan, or set outline of pedagogy when comparing it to the defined structures of an online course.  Then there are other F2F learning experiences when faculty stick to the scripted presentation/lecture with minimal interaction or engagement.

Since my faculty role has primarily involved designing and delivering online learning, I have been a fortunate to lecture and capture lessons on video/audio, augment how I offer student support in office hours, create useful learning materials beyond a textbook, create social presence for myself and learners in these courses, and be mindful of making my educational resources accessible in a variety of different formats considerations for multiple formats. This reflection of my teaching online is constant and helps me to improve how to make concepts and learning relevant for my students.

For learning, it does not have to be a THIS or THAT debate. When it comes to the digital or analog practices, I think there is value in both. Like making a mix tape of music or playing a vinyl record, I take the skills of searching, listening, finding, and curating my music on Spotify playlists digitally. I don’t think I could do one well without the other. The skills for learning design offline apply to how I think about my online curriculum. Both should exist — it’s not an either or when it comes to the analog and digital experience for learning. Our college/university campuses and our professional associations could use a healthy smattering of both. We need educators, administrators, instructional designers, and student support services that are versatile in both digital and analog practices. I think teaching online, over the past few years, better informs my pedagogical preparation and considerations for how I design and deliver learning. Whether it is an in-person conference workshop or an online week webinar, I think the pedagogical experiences help to merge my digital and analog practices. It’s marriage of both skills sets to reach a variety of ways to gain knowledge and learn.

We will never change how we create and share knowledge, or learn new ways to do things, unless we change our professional practices. The model of conference learning is fine to socialize and network with the select few who can afford to attend the conference; however, I would challenge the number of professional associations I am/have been a member of to think about how to BETTER share and TRULY scale knowledge in a manageable way, specifically:

  • How are these learning artifacts archived beyond the dates and locations of these events?
  • Are there ways to share knowledge and learning that we need to start modeling for professional learning, training, and development of our own?
  • How are professionals who do not attend engaged and encouraged to understand the value-add of these learning experience or resources shared from the in-person meetings?
  • What was can data be managed and learning objects be curated to organize what was shared, learned, and presented at these events?

I don’t have the answers to these, but I think this is worthy of further discussion and consideration. I know I would be willing to support and work with professional associations/organizations who would like to consider how to effectively organize their own digital libraries for learning, knowledge sharing, and advancement of the field. Let’s chat.

Podcast, Professional Development, Training & Development

Pod Save Higher Ed: Resources For Podcasting

This month, I have found myself sharing more and more about how we can think about social, digital tools to tell our stories in higher ed. There are many ways to share our experiences and highlight the amazing things students, staff, and faculty are working on at and beyond our institutions. I have found podcast hosting/producing to be a very rewarding experience to support my own learning and development. There is no shortage of knowledge I have not learned from podcast guests, the research of topics, and the notes for each episode  I have hosted – thanks @BreakDrink & #InVinoFab podcast!

Digital storytelling has the potential to cultivate agile learning and kick start creativity in our college/university pedagogical practices and research projects. With a growing population tuning into podcasts (at least 44% have listened to a podcast, and 26% are monthly listeners in the US in 2018), this storytelling medium is on the rise. Podcast creation and listening has increased for a variety of reasons: access and portability to listen on a variety of devices, a way to fill the daily/work commute, the growth of smart speakers, and the increasing mention of new and interesting fiction and nonfiction series that have reinvigorated podcast listening (thanks, Serial, Season 1).

Podcasts offer both information and entertainment outlets for listeners to tune in anywhere, anytime they want. This on-demand, audio content allows the media to be streamed or downloaded, and offers listeners a way to participate in the slow web movement.  Instead of a quick like, comment, or post we typically experience on social media or online, podcasts provide a longer form, intimate experience and connection with the hosts and ideas shared. This longer media format often offers deeper insights, showcases personality and personal styles, and helps to interpret current projects and experiences from this audio narrative. With a wide variety of creative formats (e.g. interviews, commentary, panels, storytelling, etc.), podcast episodes can vary in time, style, and approach. The audio medium of the podcast lets you decide the frequency, distribution, and how you will produce the topic. Additionally, you can include resources for listeners to access further information through episode details, resources, show notes, and transcripts.

I think MORE of my college and university colleagues should consider exploring podcast creation to share personal stories, thoughts, and reflections on the work we do. For higher ed, the podcast medium allows for hosts/producers to extend knowledge to a campus community, academic discipline, and practitioners who want to engage deeply on specific topics, ideas, trends, and/or issues. To plant the podcast production seed, I thought I’d share a few podcast planning/development resources I’ve been curating from a recent workshop I facilitated, called Pod Save Higher Ed. Here is the podcast planning and brainstorm resource guide to be downloaded (as a PDF file) shared under a Creative Commons license:

https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7228223.v1

I wish I had a quick “how to,” accessible guide to for higher ed podcast hosting and producing when I first started in 2010 (as Jeff and I lamented about in a past BreakDrink episode). This is a quick OVERVIEW of useful curated podcast resources, tools, tutorials, and suggestions I hope will help you if you are currently podcasting and/or considering to start your own podcast:

http://bit.ly/podsavehighered

There are SO many ways to produce a podcast these days. This open document is a space to SHARE and LEARN about HOW higher education professionals create, make, produce, and host their own podcasts:

http://bit.ly/behindthepodcast

Take a LISTEN to podcasts for and created by higher education professionals who want to share resources, ideas, and aspects about their own work:

http://bit.ly/higheredpodcasts

The time for higher ed professionals, practitioners, graduate students, researchers, instructors, administrators, and more to gain a share of the podcast ear. Higher ed hosts and producers, it’s time to raise our mics and let our tales be told through podcasts. Go ahead and launch the podcast you have always dreamed of creating now! I hope to listen to your pod story soon, @LauraPasquini

p.s. Be sure to share your podcasting story and let others know how/why you started your own podcasts OR how podcasts help you in your professional life in higher ed: #PodSaveHigherEd

Reference:

Pasquini, L. A. (2018). Pod Save Higher Ed: A Resource Guide To Inspire Storytelling & Podcast Making in Higher Education. figshare. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7228223.v1 and http://bit.ly/podsavehighered

#HEdigID, Open Education, OpenAccess, Professional Development

#OEweek: Openness in Higher Ed

Being a networked practitioner and scholar in higher education does require some level of openness. We are seeing colleagues share their work and perhaps even a bit about themselves online. Being an open higher ed professional (e.g. staff, faculty, or graduate student) does take some willingness to share a bit of what you do in the area of teaching, research, and service. Today academics and professionals on campus operate in a world that is more open, with regards to how we are networked and sharing with technology. Connectivity is a vital part of scholarship and practice, teaching/learning in digital environments, and how we work in higher education. Researchers and early career scholars require access to digital databases, online repositories, academic journals, and effective teaching/learning tools. Practitioners and administrators are finding value in open educational resources to scaffold student support services, improve instructional design, and enhance organizational planning. It is through transparency and accountability, that a growing number of scholars and practitioners openly contribute to their discipline, share practices about their functional area, find connections and collaborations with peers, and, most importantly, share public knowledge beyond the university/college.

Open Education Week (#OEweek) is this week, March 5-9, 2018. For more information, events, and resources: https://www.openeducationweek.org/

By participating and sharing in the OPEN, we are all contributing Open Education Resources (OER) and participating in The Open Movement.  Here are just a few (of the many) ways “openness” is impacting higher education:

Join the conversation on Friday, March 9, 2018 for the

Higher Education Digital Identity Chat (#HEdigID) No. 2: Openness in Higher Education

 

Learning, Performance, PLN, Professional Development, Reflections, TBT Posts

Ode to Hashtag

Dear Hashtag,

I am SO sorry I missed your 10th birthday. With the start of the new academic term and a number of paper deadlines, my attention was elsewhere. I know. No excuse, right? But, can you please forgive me? Wait — I know how to make these belated wishes better!

To honor your decade of existence on social media and everyday conversation,  I decided to get creative with your birthday gift. I am truly grateful for the communities you unite, the awareness you share, the conversations you thread, and the subtle way I can give my tweets/posts/texts more meaning.

Ode To Hashtag

Hashtag, hashtag

We adore thee

Signal events and,

Tags for news

Tweets unfold like stories before thee

Link us to interests we so choose

Twitter chats used for work and play,

Say so much in just one little tweet.

Symbol of meaning is here to stay

Pound sign in speech is hashtag sweet!

 

Tweeters unite in hashtag chorus

140 characters: “Trends for you”

Blue bird, Larry, is tweeting o’er us,

Hashtag use connects us too.

Post composing, humor we’re sharing

Ideas in the midst of memes,

Protest tweets or GIFs of caring

Hashtags filter social streams.

Thank you for all that and all you have done this past decade.  You have contributed so much more to my life than I can ever thank you for — keep up the great work!

Your friend,

Laura

p.s. Here are a few throwback posts where I give you an honorable mention, as well. A toast to you! #cheers

Learning and Performance, Networked Community, Professional Development, Virtual Communities, Workplace

VOTE for our PanelPicker: #NSFWatSXSW

Employees in today’s workforce have either grown-up balancing their “screen time” or have embraced the power of digital tools to enhance communication, collaboration, and workflow. Social and digital technologies have been at our fingertips for just over a decade in our occupational lives. Exposure to social media or mobile applications does not mean new professionals or veteran employees are digitally savvy at simultaneously negotiating their online and offline self. Our social networks have expanded beyond a collection of family/friends and now branch into industry groups, professional networks, and online communities connected to our career.  The expression “in real life” or “IRL” no longer applies, and what we do inside the screen does impact our working lives. What happens when these digital networks witness behaviors or interactions that are unwanted, inappropriate, hateful, and not suitable for work (NSFW)?

#NSFWatSXSW: Your “Professional” netWORKed Community:

http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/77084 

Our digital communities and online networks are witnessing unwanted behaviors and reactions.

“Online communities form for personal enrichment, professional networking, and social learning. How do they help or hurt individuals, organizations, and industry? What challenges and barriers arise for community organizers? When it comes to the workplace, what happens when our online and offline life converge? Implications for both individuals and employers will be discussed.”

Being exposed to these virtual spaces and places does not mean employees or employers know how to simultaneously negotiate what happens when these online interactions impact the offline work environment and potentially impact their career advancement. The WEF Future of Jobs report (Leopold, Ratcheva, & Zahidi, 2016) listed complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity at the top of the essential skills list for work in 2020; however, digital literacy training and preparation in post-secondary has not fully prepared learners to contribute (Alexander et al., 2017) and meet the technology needs of industry.  As we think about the future of jobs and job training needs (Rainie & Anderson, 2017), it is critical we address these networked behaviors and consider the skills required to cultivate a productive digital ecosystem that is able to go to work with our employees.

In our PanelPicker session, we want to share implications and strategies for supporting professionals in a networked space for the INTERACTIVE: Workplace track. We want to discuss how these networked spaces and, perhaps not NSFW online interactions, impact the future of work, by discussing:

  1. Why do networked communities matter for professional practice and industry?
  2. What are the benefits and challenges in these professional networked communities?
  3. How do we (employer’s, employees, or industry) deal with these digital communities or networked professionals in the workplace?

Please join the online community opportunity to VOTE and COMMENT on our idea, and others! The opportunity to source the most creative, innovative and appropriate for the South by Southwest (SXSW) 2018 event is yours for deciding. The community voting will close on Friday, August 25 (11:59 PM CT). Please take a minute to VOTE for OUR PanelPicker!!

#NSFWatSXSW

Your “Professional” netWORKed Community

 http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/77084 

References:

Alexander, B., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., & Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). Digital Literacy in Higher Education, Part II: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief. Volume 3.4, August 2017. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Leopold, T. A., Ratcheva, V., & Zahidi, S. (2016, January). The future of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. World Economic Forum.

Rainie, L., & Anderson, J. (2017, May 3). The future of jobs and jobs training. Pew Research Center.

Book Review, mentor, mentoring, Professional Development

#BookReview: Mentoring Programs That Work

One of my research projects I am currently working focuses on professional mentoring, specifically mentoring experiences for professional learning and development offered by professional organizations/associations. Over the past couple of years, I have been fortunate to speak with a number of higher education professionals who have been part of a formal mentoring program, either as a mentor or a learner (a.k. a. mentee, protege, or leader). It has been great to learn about their how mentoring has met their professional development needs, helped to meet career goals, and navigated both personal/professional situations faced in the workplace.  As I finish a few more interviews, I hope to wrap up data collection/analysis to share findings/implications of mentoring experiences later this year — I promise. Part of this research design includes understanding how professional learning organizations/associations structure and administer mentoring programs for its membership. In speaking with mentoring participants and coordinators from a variety of mentoring programs that serve higher education professionals (Thank you: NACADA ELP, ACPAgrow, OACUHO, and NASPA Candid Conversations 365), I hope to offer insights and practical implications based on these mentoring experiences.

In my literature review, I stumbled upon, Mentoring Programs That Work by Jenn Labin, which was recently published by the Association for Talent Development. Based on my own thread of scholarship, I wanted to review and learn what suggestions this author had to provide based on her experiences in mentoring programs in a variety of industries.Although each mentoring program will have its own objectives and unique needs for participants, one constant component across all programs is the need to form connections to support an effective mentoring relationship. Mentoring relationships will be the cornerstone for skill development, personalized learning, and knowledge acquisition within any professional domain. Unlike typical educational training programs or professional development/learning, mentoring programs are more uniquely tailored for talent development needs. That being said, I am not sure we put the time or effort into preparing mentors and learners who enter this type of learning and development program.  I agree with Labin’s sentiments: “Mentoring programs are important.” Mentoring is an individual, learner-driven experience where proteges work with mentors to create a learner-focused solution. Mentors can support learners to acquire a specific knowledge domain, scaffold professional work situations, and develop tacit skills required to advance in their career field. Labin (2017) believes most mentoring programs fail if their goals are not aligned to talent/professional needs, inability to scale and sustain initiatives, and/or as a result of little stakeholders involvement or championship. I am sharing this brief overview of this book, as I think it has practical solutions for managers or program coordinators who want to develop (or improve) a successful mentoring program, while also supporting the mentoring experience and empowering mentors with tools they will need for this type of professional learning.

This book presents practical ideas and examples to outline the AXLES Framework for developing mentoring programs. The AXLES approach is similar to the ADDIE model for designing learning solutions, which will be familiar to my instructional designers or training industry colleagues. Labin introduces the components of AXLES in the introduction chapter of her book (2017, p. xv-xvi):

  • A = Align to Purpose: define the intention/goals of the program; identify critical questions for program success, and establish strategic partners within the organization to support the mentoring program
  • X = Design the Experience: identify the mentoring program structure, schedule, participant matching, and expectations; what are the deliverables, outcomes, and lifecycle of the program you want to design?
  • L = Launch Your Program: this is the implementation of the mentoring program (initially or annually); Will you have an orientation meeting, agenda, or focused platform/communication method to get the program going?
  • E = Evaluate Effectiveness: What will be the types of measures or metrics for the mentoring program?; identify program success from both narratives of participants and potential data collection with milestones and participant input
  • S = Support Participants: design and develop resources, webinars, videos, or other performance support aids to scaffold mentor-learner interactions; these could be a participant playbook, monthly meeting agendas, or even conversation guides/resources for discussions to encourage connections for these mentoring relationships

Mentoring is defined in a number of different ways, and the approach for a mentoring experience will be individual and unique depending on your organization/institutions needs. Chapter 2 helps to identify both the direction and talent development gaps you would like to address within your own mentoring program. This foundational chapter requires readers to identify the purpose, success measures, and the focus of the program by examining both the learners’ (protege) benefits and mentors’ benefits for involvement. A mentoring program could be developed to meet technical needs or to transfer institutional knowledge, or it might be created for talent development/growth of professionals within your organization. Identifying the objectives, purpose statement, and the “role of mentoring” will be a critical phase for those constructing this type of training design.

Chapter 3 offers suggestions for mentoring program designs. For the practical organization of a mentoring program, you are encouraged to outline questions for planning the program structure, identify the program schedule, consider how to conduct participant matching, and describe how learners and mentors will participate in the program. The considerations for “cultural alignment” were addressed early in this chapter, as this type of professional development might be executed differently based on the organizations need and its learning culture. A mentoring program structure type could include traditional or 1:1 mentoring, reverse mentoring, mentor-led (group mentoring), peer-led (mentoring circles), or a hybrid of any of these formats.  Additionally, this section of the books helps readers to consider the schedule length, entry, and programmatic features, such as the matching process for mentoring and potential technology solutions for support. The last stages of design decisions required for planning mentoring programs involve the learner and mentor engagement, specifically participants entry and exit into the program and outlining operating directions, guidelines, and expectations to create successful mentoring experiences.

Chapter 4 and 5 offer insights and practical suggestions for launching and evaluating a mentoring program, respectively. I appreciated the potential suggestions for professional learning opportunities, such as communication preferences, setting goals and development plans, skill-building workshops, and other resources that could be curated for a mentoring program (e.g. icebreakers, readings, teambuilding activities, conversation topics, etc.). For evaluation purposes, Labin (2017) mapped the Kirkpatrick Four Levels of Evaluation for review of a sample mentoring program and offered strategies for how qualitative and quantitative data might offer measurement insights during a program review. Potential metrics for success could be conducted by observation of performance improvement/changes, case-based examination of the mentoring relationship, individual development plans/goals met, reflections or narratives shared in milestone reports, and engagement of mentors and leaders within the organization.

Regardless of the industry or occupation, I think mentoring program administrators/coordinators will find Labin’s book both informative and practical for designing a comprehensive mentoring program that supports productive mentoring experiences. There are a number of suggestions for defining effective mentoring behaviors, onboarding participants, engaging in regular skill building and/or learning activities, and considerations for how to engage participants throughout a mentoring program experience. Administrators of mentoring programs will gain a number of valuable ideas for communication planning, participant recruitment, mentor-learner pair matching, supporting mentors in their role, potential ways to report and offer metrics for program measurement, learning material development/maintenance, dealing with issues, and supporting participants throughout the mentoring program cycle. I appreciate how each chapter offers applied examples of mentoring perspectives from learners or various industry leaders, and the end of each chapter offers key insights, exercises, and questions for individual reflection and potential team discussions. Additionally, there are a number of support resources and example materials in the appendices of this book to help guide mentoring program development.

Reference:

Labin, J. (2017). Mentoring programs that work. Alexandria, VA: Association for Talent Development Press.

*Full disclosure: The book, Mentoring Programs That Work, was sent to me by @ATD Press to read and review. As this is a valuable contribution for mentoring program development to support professional learning and development, I am more than pleased to offer this review on my blog. Thank you!”