Tag Archives: training

My maiden MOOC

MOOC Introduction to Forensic Science

MOOC Introduction to Forensic Science – ToDo list for week 2

The future of learning is changing. Now that MOOCs, Mass Open Online Courses, are almost getting main stream, I decided to take one myself. What will happen if you’re eager to learn and have unlimited choice? You can find a MOOC via a directory and can sign up in a jiffy. The FutureLearn.com platform is easy and anywhere to use. A new world opens up to me.

MOOCs, Mass Open Online Courses, are the new way of learning. They provide a self-study framework in an area of interest in and you can learn on your own pace. No more obliged presence in an auditorium where you’ll fall asleep, but everything via the Internet.

I had already heard of MOOCs via a colleague of me, but somehow never took the dive to start one. When browsing social media and in the mood of new year’s resolutions, I came across some interesting free MOOCs (Essential Business MOOCs For January). Even if it was free, there was still some sort of threshold for me to start. What happens if I quit? Will I be put on the black list? Can I attend another? The same colleague assured me it wouldn’t be a problem, as about 90% of the participants quit during the MOOC. Indeed, 90%, he said, but don’t ask me (or him) for the statistics. Anyway, I decided to give it a try to see where I ended up.

MOOCs? Dime a dozen

As I’m quite late joining this trend, I was astonished by the number of MOOCs there are available. Only via the “Essential Business MOOCs for January” link I found many others, ranging in many different areas of expertise and hosted by many different colleges and universities. I decided to go for “Managing People – Engaging Your Workforce” at the University of Reading, a course for when you would take up a leadership role. Hosted on the FutureLearn.com platform. The course takes 10 weeks and requires 4 hours per week.

While browsing the directory on the FurtureLearn platform, I saw another interesting course “Introduction to Forensic Science“, a topic which looks interesting to me, but where I (except for the CSI TV-series) have no feeling whatsoever with. The course takes 10 weeks, requires 3 hours per week and I can start right away.

First experience

The FutureLearn.com platform feels refreshing and new. I’m easily registered and can immediately start my “Introduction to Forensic Science” MOOC. For the “Managing People” MOOC I have to week another week because it’s not started yet.

Week by week

The course is divided up in weeks and the weeks into small learn nuggets. These nuggets are reading material, videos, exercises, assignments, opinions, open discussions. The teachers regularly request to voice my opinion in the comment box and I’m impressed by the thousands of comments in an open discussion. To avoid a too theoretical approach on the subject, the teachers created an exercise with a crime to be solved, based on a real case. It’s that good composed that I feel like a true CSI officer solving a crime.

After the first week of the “Introduction to Forensic Science” MOOC, I must admit I’ll never look at a CSI episode in the same way again. It’s clear that fiction and non-fiction are two worlds apart.

When I complete the assignments before the end of the first week, I have to take a small test and pass without a flaw. Only 2 left to wait for week 2 with the next assignments, exciting!

Anytime, anywhere

As said earlier, we don’t need to be in a dusty auditorium somewhere, everybody learning at the pace that the professor maintains. Via the FutureLearn platform I can learn anytime, anywhere. It’s possible to read an article on my smart phone on the bus, view a video on my PC during a lunch break and go through any of the materials with my iPad on the couch. Talk about flexible…

Social media

The course encourages using social media to talk about the topic. The “Managing People” MOOC even provides guides for setting up Facebook groups, using Twitter and using Google Hangouts.

One of the open discussions for the “Introduction to Forensic Science” MOOC is hosted via Google Hangouts and directly connects me and hundreds of others to a professor in Scotland. During his explanation we can up and down vote at any point in time. No worries, if you cannot use Google Hangouts, everything is also streamed via a YouTube channel!

What’s in it for me?

After each MOOC you get a statement of participation and if you pass the exam (if any), you can get a statement of attainment. Of course the exam is taken at your home and you have full access to the Internet. And of course you have to pay for the statements. I’m not sure if I would take (pay for) such a statement, because to me the added value is more into what I learned.

I wonder if I’ll keep up for the whole 6 and 10 weeks of both MOOCs and what stays in my memory after a hard day at work. To be continued!

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10 tips for teachers

Are you working as a teacher? Do you like to teach & help others? Here are ten tips to help you further.


At work I was asked to share some tips about teaching (and as extrinsic motivation a talent assessment toolkit, the “Talentbox” of Luk Dewulf, was promised). I’ve been teaching since I was a student and continued teaching (in evening school) during my work. I offer these 10 tips from more than 5 years experience in evening school.

  1. Your talents may be unknown territory for others. Be aware of this.
  2. It’s ok not to know the answer to every question. I always say: “I’m not a robot”. Admit that you don’t know, commit to finding an answer and stick to it.
  3. You’ll meet students with different capabilities. I’ll try to diversify by:
    1. Providing regular and advanced exercises.
    2. Letting the best students help the others (in preschool it’s called “mini teacher”).
    3. Giving slower students more guidance.
    4. Stimulating working in peer (if possible).
  4. In courses that take more than one session, start the next session with making a “live” mindmap with the students to recapitulate the topics of last time.
  5. If you ask a questions, use the silence. Avoid answering yourself, even if it takes long.
  6. In courses that take more than one session, facilitate an evaluation after the first session. Ask if the current format (theory, exercises, review) is suited. This way you give the students the chance to determine the flow of the next sessions. Remark: the typical course if evaluated after the last session, but the participants have no incentive to participate because the only benefit is for the students of the next course.
  7. If you have a know-it-all among your students and he’s exhibiting it, use him as specialist. Let him explain parts of the material, ask for his experience and/or pass on questions you get from the group. Make him a contributor instead of a blocker. Remark: this is valid for a “her” to 😉
  8. If you want somebody to contribute “more” than the other students, don’t surprise them during the course, but ask them on beforehand if they’re ok with it. Eg. when you want somebody from the legal department to elucidate something.
  9. Add a fun element to your course (voting, video, sound, game, assignment, …).
  10. Murphy is always present during your lessons. Make sure you test your equipment before the sessions starts. Keep a local copy of your material on the hard drive (instead of the network drive).

Do you have more tips to share? Please add them to the comments. Your feedback is appreciated!

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Dealing with a customer complaint

Customer complaintDuring a training I gave, I was suddenly interrupted by a participant with a rather harsh remark:

“What is this all about? I thought we were here for X, but all I can find in the slides is Y! I expected to learn about X”

I was actually startled. A lean as we try to work, we did a Voice Of the Customer (VOC) survey in advance to check which topics they wanted to discuss. We didn’t receive much response, but with the answers received we composed a slide set which was suited for purpose.

The remark triggered me to react rather defensive:

“The main topics and objects were spread way in advance and you could decide for yourself to participate or not. Further, we did a survey in the week before this training and it was possible to add topics to the agenda. You do are in a training about X, you know.”

The remarks of the participant were taken along in the remainder of the training, but it kept me wondering if it was the best approach to address the issue. I will use the benefit of hindsight to reflect on the issue.


With the remark of the participant I was driven out of my comfort zone. I felt almost personally charged at in front of the group. I actually was attempting to let the participant understand me instead of trying to understand him. So I broke an important rule:

            Seek first to understand, then to be understood. (Steven Covey, habit #5)

While I was studying on the topic of customer intimacy, it became clear to me: I didn’t put myself in the position of the customer. Even if you do a VOC survey in advance, the customer can still be unsatisfied and express his opinion or complaints.

Power to the customer

A customer complaint is actually a very powerful thing to work with, but it isn’t that easy.

The literature learns us:

  • Listen. Seek to understand.
  • Put yourself in the position of the customer.
  • Don’t defend yourself.
  • Reformulate the complaint to check if you’re on the same page.
  • Give priority to the customer and his complaint.
  • Find a solution together.

This fits the nonviolent communication framework very well. We learn there:

  • All human beings share the same needs .
  • All actions are attempts to meet needs.
  • Feelings point to needs being met or unmet.

If we put it in steps:

  1. State the observations that you would like to talk about.
  2. State the feeling that the observation is triggering in you. Or, guess what the other person is feeling and ask.
  3. State the need that is the cause of that feeling. Or, guess the need that caused the feeling in the other person, and ask.
  4. Make a concrete request for action to meet the need just identified.

So if we would apply it to the situation, it could have gone something like this:

Participant: “What is this all about? I thought we were here for X, but all I can find in the slides is Y! I expected to learn about X”

Teacher: “I notice that you’re very interested in X. Do I understand you correct that you expected something else?”

Participant: “Yes, I didn’t come for Y, but for X.”

Teacher: “I feel a little uncomfortable because I really tried to adjust the course to the needs of the groups. Which topics and viewpoints do you want to see discussed in group?”

Participant: “I certainly want to know how to apply X in the context of Y.” 

Teacher: “I agree, it looks interesting to me too to take that angle. Is it OK for you that we continue further and take these topics along and apply them where possible?”

Participant: “OK, thanks.”


With this approach we combine handling a customer complaint with the lessons learned from the nonviolent communication framework. We’re not pushing the customer away anymore, but we’re trying to understand his needs and make sure they are met. Further, we just defused a potential harmful situation in front of a full class room.

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