Posted July 18, 2008
I think a critical tool to have in building and proselytizing learning 2.0 tools is a key metric. This metric would be used to guide building decisions and to measure success.
In the book “Good to Great”, an important event in the transitions of good companies to great companies was identifying a key metric or denominator as the book calls it.
The process of picking and using this denominator served as a mechanism to push deeper understanding of the company’s economic engine. The companies asked themselves this question “If we could only pick one and only one ratio — profit per x — to systematically increase over time, what x would have the greatest and most sustainable impact on our economic engine?
Wells Fargo went through this process during bank deregulation:
“Consider Wells Fargo. When the Wells team confronted the brutal fact that deregulation would transform banking into a commodity, they realized that standard banker metrics, like profit per loan and profit per deposit, would no longer be the key drivers. Instead, they grasped a new denominator: profit per employee. Following this logic, Wells Fargo became one of the first banks to change its distribution to rely primarily on stripped-down branches and ATMs.”
Because Wells Fargo understood their key economic drivers, they were able to a) encapsulate this logic through identifying a new denominator and b) use this logic to make many highly successful changes.
So my question is what are the key drivers of BYU’s (and other school’s) learning engine? What denominator or key metric offers the best insight as we plan / build / measure / proselyte new online technologies in education?
My suggestion would be conversations on learning topics per student per day.
I love Robert Scoble’s (social media figure) goal to have an interesting conversation every day. Conversations with others seems an important key to learning almost anything.
My best educational experience by far here at BYU was the Information Systems Junior Core — It’s 24 credits over two semesters. I was placed in a group of four and spent eight hours a week sitting next to my group members. Almost all of our projects were group projects and those that weren’t we often ended up working together anyways. Everything about the core was designed to push us students to talk to one another. A mailing list was set up for the ~110 students in the core. It saw heavy usage with students asking / answering questions about all sorts of class / ISys related questions.
The effect of all this was conversation, lots of it. Because of these conversations (and great professors / projects) I learned far more and I had much more fun than in other classes here. We talked so much about ISys / non ISys topics that many of us became good friends. I looked forward to class because I was going to see my friends.
By comparison, in most other classes I learn in isolation. I don’t get to know other students very well so I don’t talk much with them about the subject so I learn less and the class is much more boring.
My take on all this is we learn best with friends who are striving to become what we are striving to become.
Obviously not every classroom experience at BYU can hope to replicate what’s done in the ISys Junior Core but I think much could be improved. The types of assignments given (e.g. more group work) and the integration of social software tools that make it easier for students and professors to connect online and offline would do much to help more conversations happen at BYU which would dramatically increase the quality and quantity of education.
What do you all think?
Kyle Mathews lives and works in Berkeley building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter