Training

Catalog of Available Courses and Workshops

Below are the titles of seven online courses and/or workshops that are available from Lowther7, LLC Catalog descriptions, learning objectives, and details for each are provided separately following this listing.

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Available online or by appointment.

Embracing Sustainability in the Workplace

Online only - Instructor-led.

Simple LMS for Firms and Associations

Available online or by appointment.

Cyber Security for Small Businesses

Available online or by appointment.

Overview of Managing Projects

Available online or by appointment.

Developing Online Courses

By appointment only - Instructor-led.

Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Description:

This workshop provides practical approaches and tools addressing your firm’s professional talent development challenges. Using a 7 step methodology we will address the why, how, and what to do for staffing development. The workshop will cover areas such as graduate development curriculum, technical skills, client presentations, project management, leadership development, and on-boarding, as well as requirements for licensure and certifications. This workshop addressed the "how-to's" about developing and implementing an effective internal firm-wide, professional training and development program.

Knowledge Level:

This program is structure for Practitioners and Advanced levels. This program is for everyone within the firm responsible for effectively matching people to resources needed to achieve the team member’s professional goals while achieving the firm’s strategic and business goals.

Course Design:

This 8 hour workshop is designed to be delivered on-site. This program has been successfully delivered in a firm with multiple offices using a blended delivery approach. The program allows for Q&A and includes a personalized plan of action.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this program you will be able to:
1. Identify 2 performance elements of your in-house education program in terms of the firm's strategic and business goals.
2. Determine appropriate development method(s) of your firm’s unique technical or design educational content to advance your firms agenda.
3. Differentiate the most effective delivery method(s) for your firm’s top development priority.
4. Define 4 criteria for use of a master evaluation tool that will guide you in continuously improving your program.

This Course is recommended for:

* Individuals and project teams to supplement a design firm's internal curriculum.

Faculty:

Thom Lowther, Ed.S. Has been involved with the professional development of A/E and design professionals for more than 20 years. Thom is currently the owner and CEO of Lowther7, LLC, a small Veteran owned training and consulting firm. Thom has served as the Senior Director of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education System (CES). He managed the AIA/CES Firm Leadership Symposium series and the AIA/CES Award of Excellence program. He served as staff liaison on the Advisory Panel for Professional Development of the Union of International Architects. With the AIA, Thom worked with 43 state licensing boards to establish mandatory continuing education requirements for architects and engineers. As Vice President of Education at the U.S. Green Building Council, he was responsible for the oversight of LEED related education for design professionals. Following the USGBC Thom was the Americas Region, Learning and Development Associate with the global engineering and design firm, Arup. Thom is a contributing author to the PSMJ Resources monthly newsletter and a Jury member for the 2015 & 2016 LearningElite Awards sponsored by CLO Media.

On-site minimum of 10 participants required to book this workshop.
Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Simple LMS for Firms and Associations

Many LMS systems add confusion

Description

The Simple LMS is based on the philosophy: start as simply as possible and grow as needed with just the features and structures needed. Thus, the Simple LMS is a bare­bones LMS system created on a capable and scalable CMS (Content Management System) platform.

A simple LMS can be built on Drupal 7, and so has hundreds of available modules that can be easily added, as needed, for functionality and expansion. Drupal is also easy to customize (using PHP and CSS) for features and functions that are too custom to be already available as modules.

This start-­simple philosophy assumes that three areas will all be growing and developing together, over time, at a rate dictated by the will and resources of the company:

  • the development of in-­house custom courses and materials;
  • the development of in­-house staff dedicated to staff development and company learning; and
  • the development of company policies, learning metrics, and process for learning paths.

Starting as simply as possible means that the company’s needs and direction will determine the growth and development of the LMS to match.

Knowledge Level:

This course is intended as introductory, and does not include any tutorial content for using specific LMS.

Program Design:

This instructor led session is designed to be delivered on-line in a 1 hour time frame, or in-person in a 1.5 hour interactive format. While there will be time for questions about specific networks, the focus will be on understanding the fundamentals, functions, comparing and contrasting various networks.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this program you will be able to:

1. List pro's and con's between a simple LMS and a feature-loaded LMS.

2. Explain the difference between SCORM import and export capabilities.

3. Outline a LMS policy for your organization with reasons for each decision.

4. Complete research for designing a simple LMS for your organization.

This Course is Recommended:

• Available online for individuals or small work teams.
• For Regional, State or local association events.
• To support a firm's or organization's internal curriculum.

No participant minimum required to book this session.

Faculty

Katin Imes is an experienced software developer, project manager, and a UX/systems designer. His passion and mission is creating access to the skills, tools, and knowledge that let people thrive in the Information Age. Specialties include: social networking software systems, online courses and LMS (Learning Management Systems), CMS (content management systems), online communities, e-commerce, Drupal, and Open Source. He has developed and managed web systems since 1996, the earliest days of the web, including server operations, hosting, security and encryption, e-commerce, and advanced back-end functionality.

Contact us about your session questions today; we're happy to help!

Gamification: A fad or the future?

Photo of individual participating in online game.

On the professional LinkedIn group, Learning and Development, Eng-Sing SOON from Singapore initiated a discussion by asking if Gamification was a passing fad or the future of learning.

It was not surprising that the discussion quickly jumped towards defining what gamification meant.
Kenneth Camel from New Zealand stated first with, “The process of gamification means using gaming techniques in developing learning events, not necessarily making a game out of learning. Gaming techniques use engagement, teaming and communication to reach an objective. This brings different types of learners together to solve problems (scenarios, role playing and practice). The techniques have been around for a long time. (war gaming, D&D, board games, learning maps, lean manufacturing).”

Jack A. Loganbill from the Unisys Corporation was quick to note that he found that there is a wide difference in opinion of what exactly gamification is as it applies to training. He went on to responded to the question by asking the question “Is it turning the training into a game? Or is it applying gaming attributes the principles that make games so attractive, to the training.

For those who read my recent blog, I too have noticed that when working with different organizations I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So I opted to simply used Wikipedia’s definition. “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

Personally, I think Katin Imes, from Expedition 21 Media, Inc. provided one most clarifying definitions when he stated, “I want to point out a word-transformation that is happening. The term "gamification" means really different things in different domains. The current term is "on fire" in sales, media, online "customer engagement", and corporate offices but there it means:
- adding track able, effectible metrics to simple customer actions
- presenting those metrics to the public or to a subgroup in a themed, "fun" way that provides competition or rewards
- providing prizes, rewards, freebies, or recognition awards to the highest-metric participants.”

“When a learning professional hears gamification in a sense of applying it to training or learning, the term is much more to do with providing exercises ("games") that directly include the skills or knowledge being learned to be applied in a system ("rules") that provides a clear outcome ("win or lose", "measurable benefit or loss", "rank"). Quality games provide problems or resource situations that cannot be solved well without the skills or knowledge being learned, and allow participants to experiment and "tweak the dials" to experience the outcomes and effects of different strategies and factors or sequences.”

Once you settle on a definition for the term “gamification” you can go back to the question that the title asks: Gamification: A fad or the future of learning? Hopefully your interest has been peaked. There is a general consensus developing among those participating in the discussion on the LinkedIn Learning and Development Group that you can follow. I however will not provide a spoiler.

Gamification as a Situational Learning Tool

Photo by by azwaldo

The use of games or gamification for learning enhancement is not new in education. During the past few years however, there has been a renewed interest in gamification due largely to the new technologies that has become available. If you Google “gamification” it displays more than 700,000 results. Unfortunately too many people create educational games so that they can demonstration a technology rather than because it is the correct tool to improve or increase knowledge or a competency. Before selecting any delivery tools consider context and learning situation.

Working with several different organizations this past fall I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So for those of you reading this blog let’s establish a common definition used by Wikipedia. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

In the January 2015 issue of Chief Learning Officer is an interview with Jake Orowitz, Head of Wikipedia Library. In the interview Orowitz explains how Wikipedia uses gamification for situational learning to onboard volunteers, sharing the process related to editing material.

There are several interesting business case studies that use Gamification to enhance learning. For Microsoft the situation was to create a bond between the consulting business’ senior managers and to use the opportunity for content delivery and learning, bringing management up to date on the vision, financial results and strategy for the year. A full gamification solution considering context and situations was designed to motivate participation in the event, measuring engagement with the content presented and creating team spirit within the ad-hoc teams formed during the process. As a part of the process the tools to deliver the content were selected using mobile phones and tablets.

Another situation called for improving a course designed for those learning how to specify building materials for the new LEED MR Credit: Building product disclosure and optimization credit, under the Health Product Declaration (HPD) option. A collaborative team between Expedition21Media.com, Lowther7, LLC, and GreenCE was created to meet the challenge. It was determined by the team that a good way to increase learning and have participants better demonstrate competency was to imbed a mini-game in the course at a point after students learned how to specify building materials. To see the results for yourself play the free version of the LEED Materials Credit mini-game!

For the last three decades the popular workshop, the Accounting Game was offered by Educational Discoveries, Inc. and Professional Training International. The situation called for assisting non-CPA’s to understand basic accounting and balance sheet practices. The one day, on-site workshop used a simple lemonade stand business simulation format.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog post, the use of games or gamification for learning is not new to education. One of my first graduate courses was how to create and use games to promote learning, develop skills, and improve competencies. Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter have written a book entitled, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Wharton Digital Press, 2012).

Through Wharton – University of Pennsylvania and Coursera, Kevin Werbach, offers the free course, Gamification. It is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course teaches the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.

Overview of Managing Projects

Photo by T. Lowther, Biltmore, Asheville, NC

Description:

This is an overview that takes a fresh look at the demands and obstacles that design professionals will encounter when they work on their design projects. Savvy professionals with a desire to gain general knowledge and a understanding of project management will be better equipped to address the challenges arising out of new technologies, new codes, and third-party rating programs. Prepare for an hour of learning that can assist in managing the intricacies of projects while protecting profitability and reducing risks. If you are serious about changing your professional behavior you can finish the course with your own plan of action and a network of others with similar interest.

Knowledge Level:

This program is an awareness level program.

Course Design:

This program is designed to be delivered on-site or online in 1 hour. This program has been successfully delivered in a firm with multiple offices using a blended delivery approach. The program allows for Q&A and includes a personalized plan of action.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this program you will be able to:

1. Describe why Managing a Project is important to you as a professional using concepts expressed in this presentation.
2. Identify the project knowledge area where you have been the most successful and explain why.
3. List the project knowledge area where you need the most improvement and explain why.
4. Develop an action plan that includes how and when you will act to improve in the project knowledge area that you will identify as needing improvement.

This Course is recommended for:

* Individuals and project teams.
* Regional, State, and local association chapter events.
* To supplement a firm's internal curriculum.
* A product or service manufacturer'€™s internal staff training.

Faculty:

Thom Lowther, Ed.S.
On-site minimum of 10 participants required to book this session.
Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Develop and Manage Your Own Personal Professional Curriculum

Graphic of a simple curriculum model

Let's start by clarifying that discussing professional curriculum here IS NOT about obtaining quick, technical skills, topic knowledge, or short term learning. Rather, when discussing professional curriculum here IT IS intended as a long term approach to obtaining knowledge and skills with expected outcomes. Usually I suggest that my clients consider at least a 3 -5 year curriculum plan that is reviewed annually.

As a professional development coach, the initial question that I ask my clients, Why do you want to do professional development? Among the more common responses I hear: "€œI need to complete my CEU requirements."€ Usually the individual is referring to a state mandatory continuing education (MCE) state license requirement. They may also need to fulfill CE requirements to earn or maintain a certification - such as LEED. Many respond that they want to stay current within their practice. The important first question of "€œwhy"€ helps the individual better understand their own motivating factors behind pursuing professional development. It also provides direction related to curriculum content and selecting the appropriate delivery methods.

The second question that I ask is "What?"€ By coming up with the answer to what and why, it will help you to create your curriculum outline. Your curriculum should be structured to include the key elements, skills and courses that you intend to pursue. Below is a sample outline of what key elements a professional curriculum might include. (Note: You can substitute by filling in any profession below where indicated)

Core Areas: The general area of focus within the practice of .

Performance Domains: The key areas of practice in the field of including the specific aspects and activities of professional practice.

Curriculum Proficiencies: The skills and abilities needed to perform professional service. What the needs to know to perform successfully within a given area of practice.

While you are considering the elements, skills and courses consider too, your competency level in each. Will the subject and content be new to you? Are you a beginner looking for introduce and awareness material? Are you a practitioner with experience but looking for something new? Maybe you are an expert and have mastered the material and now want to compare your knowledge to your peers.

Below is a sample list of skills and related subject that an A/E/C design professional curriculum might include.

Critical Thinking: Research, data analysis.
Project Management: Project operations, project controls, project delivery.
Practice Management: Business administration: Financial, legal, HR, marketing.
Communications: Written, oral, graphics.
Professional Service: Management Administration, strategic planning, ethics, values.
Technical Skills:€“ Systems technology, BIM, auxiliary/support software.

The third question that I ask is "€œHow?" How would you prefer to acquire the knowledge or skills that will provide the professional knowledge and skills that you are seeking? The answer(s) help the individual to design and shape their own curriculum plan. There are a myriad of options available. Take into consideration of your subject competency level. Then match that to the knowledge delivery methods that that you most enjoy using, that are practical for you, and/or they are affordable. An awareness level program may be as simple as watching a YouTube video or a university open source learning module. For more in-depth knowledge try working with a mentor, a tutor or on-the-job experience. You may find that taking classes on-site, online, or a blend of the two works best for you. Or you may enjoy attending special workshops, symposiums and professional conferences.

There are several methods to track your progress. You can develop a simple spreadsheet. Some of the online education providers are now providing a tracking service if you take their courses. Many firms have a tracking system as a part of their LMS for their employees. And if the record keeping becomes too complex or you just don’t have the time, there is at least one small company that provides a records tracking service for design professionals.

As a final thought, I generally have my clients develop an action plan that addresses how they will meet and manage their curriculum plan. Consider adding this feature to your performance appraisal or having a peer review if you are a single practitioner.

Developing Online Courses

Description

This workshop covers the nuts and bolts of getting your first online course developed and deployed, including:

  • components and costs
  • evaluating staffing requirements
  • structure and design
  • course conversion (from live format)
  • options for audio and video production
  • testing and assessment online
  • platforms and server options
  • getting feedback
  • mastering revision cycles
  • licensing and profit projections

You'll leave this live workshop with a complete development plan and timeline for at least one of the courses you'd like to put online. Our experts will walk you through the entire process, helping you make decisions while supplying you with data and how it applies to your situation. Learn about a breadth of approaches and case studies from others in the workshop as they build their course development plans alongside you.

Knowledge Level

This is an awareness level workshop. We encourage instructors at the practitioner and mastery level with little or no online experience to participate.

Workshop Design

This is an instructor led course designed to be delivered either on-site or via web video conference in 4 or 8 hour time frames.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this workshop you will be able to:

1. Describe the various operational and material components of an online course.

2. Determine which online system features would be incompatible together and which would be appropriate for a given course.

3. Research and evaluate various platforms for online presentation and course management and determine a good fit for your project.

4. Create a course outline action plan specific to your organization, including estimated budgets.

This Workshop is Recommended:

• Customized and available online for small teams.
• For Regional or State association events.
• To support a design firm'€™s internal administrative and instructor training.
• To support a product or service manufacturer'€™s administrative and instructor training.

Faculty

Katin Imes
Minimum of 8 participants required to book this session.

Watch for our annual offering of this workshop on the west coast. Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Strategy

Photo of Strategy Outline

I have been designing and managing organization-wide professional development programs for years. Early on I figured that to reach high standards I should try to model my programs after some of the best in the business, so I would regularly pull ideas from different industry award program guidelines and applications. The various awards programs used buzz words and phrases like: Excellence; quality and total quality management (TQM); the customer is always right; best practices; and elite programs.

In part two of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment guidelines presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for establishing and operating an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms’ professional education department. The recommendations provided are organized in a manner that should be used as general guidelines to establish, organize, and manage the organizational structure of the firm. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill or professional program.

KEY 1: Strategy:

Overall, work to gain a commitment at all levels of the firm. Building a successful program needs senior level support. It needs senior management’s involvement in creating and sustaining the firm’s educational direction, performance, and focus. And it should include the development of a strategic process that ties education into the overall business plan of the firm.

Key 1 examines senior management’s involvement in creating and sustaining the firm’s educational strategy, commitment, and support. This section provides recommendations for long-term education and professional development planning and program development.

Leadership Involvement
1. CEO/executive team leaders set direction and seek future educational opportunities.
2. Leadership set performance expectations and metrics.
3. Leadership reviews the education program's overall performance.
4. Leadership takes into account the educational needs and expectations of all key personnel.

The Firm'€™s Strategic Education Plan:
5. Describes how the firm’s professional development strategy aligns with the firm’s business strategy and objectives.
6. Uses key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the learning strategy. (Ex: forecasts, models, projections, etc.)
7. Outlines educational expectations, including options to seek new educational opportunities and/or prepare for new requirements.
8. Explains the process for analyzing the cost benefit of education investment for the firm.
9. Clarifies the firm’s approach to coordinating knowledge sharing efforts with the delivery of education.

Sources:
Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice of learning and development.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program – Planning and Performance Projection

Photo of staff reviewing graphs

Planning and performance projection is the critical third step to building a successful professional development program. This step should be based upon the results your needs assessments and analysis. At this point you develop measurable short and long-term educational goal with performance projections of key education results that tie into the overall business strategy. If you have not already done so at this point, be sure to develop a realistic budget that supports your project.

Continuing in part four of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for shaping and managing the organizational structure of an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill, or professional program.

KEY 3: Planning and Performance Projection

Here we examine the firm'€™s planning, support and performance projections. This section examines how the firm identifies, develops, and supports program designers and faculty. Key 3 also takes into consideration how the firm effectively collects and reports information about activities and participants.

Planning Process
1. There is an established organizational planning process leading to the implementation of learning solutions and educational programs. As appropriate this process includes on-the-job support where and when your L&D customers need it.
2. There is a process that addresses how technology supports the learning evaluated, improved, and kept current with changing business needs.
3. There is a process involving how to use key information in the determination of learning objectives for learning and knowledge sharing activities.
4. There is a short-term planning process leading to necessary adjustments of educational programming, staffing, and delivery.

Human Resources
5. There is a process to identify and involve key personnel in roles of program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
6. There is a process to train and support key personnel to serve as program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
7. There is an established process that ensures all appropriate staff is kept current of all requirements, regulations, and laws related to course content.

Performance Projection
8. There are identified metrics used to assess the effectiveness of your learning solutions that are updated annually.
9. There are short and long-term projections related to desired key education results.
10. There are short and long-term projections related to performance and/or benchmark data that can track improvement.
11. At least some of the short and long-term projections for the education program reflect measurable goals.

Program Tracking & Maintenance
12. Detailed summaries of all revenue and expenses related to the overall program are maintained and evaluated on a scheduled basis.
13. There is a process that ensures that program standards are maintained when partnering with other organizations.
14. There is a process for compensating and recognizing individuals and groups who help reach the education objectives and for those whose performance improves.
15. A process for tracking and reviewing the education program marketing results - internal and external.
16. There is a process for tracking, reviewing, and improving the program content and offering new educational activities.
17. A process is in place for recording and filing required designations for activities, such as Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW), LEED, ISO, ANSI, Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE), PDH, state license etc.

Sources:
Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice learning and development.

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