Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Designing an Innovation Course: Part 1 - Needs Assessment and Proposal Development

My students in the Australian Computer Society's "New Technology Alignment" (NTA) on-line postgraduate course are now up to week 3 (and doing well). At the same time I have been looking at designing a more general course, provisionally called "Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship in Technology", to be offered on-line, initially for students in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Canberra. I am doing the design as as assessment for a course Instructional Design. This series of postings are excerpts of some of that material (which is therefore a little more verbose and academic than otherwise required for a workplace design exercise). Previously I looked at existing Canberra courses in "Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship in Technology Course Proposal".

Steps in Instructional Design

First a needs assessment will be carried out, followed by a proposal for what is to be developed. These first two phases will be followed by creation of one of the learning objects for the course.
An "Innovation ACT" competition was established at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra in 2008 (Blackhall, n.d.). The competition, now supported by the University of Canberra and the local Canberra government (the “ACT Government”), has the aim of providing):
  • “Entrepreneurial education via seminar sessions ran parallel to a university semester
  • Entrepreneurial experiences within a competition environment that allows students to test their ideas.” From Innovation ACT (2014a), emphasis added.
The Innovation ACT competition provides students with handbooks and templates, students attend presentations, prepare their proposals with the help of a mentor and then pitch their ideas to a panel of judges (InnovationACT, 2014b). Prasad (2014) discusses the history and educational role of such enterprise competitions and categorizes it as an “action learning” pedagogy.
While popular with students and having an educational role, the Innovation ACT competition is not part of a formal educational program and so is not evaluated as to its educational effectiveness and students do not receive credit for participation towards their studies. This document discusses how to design an on-line course which students could take in conjunction with Innovation ACT and similar competitions, as part of a university degree program. The course would be designed to fit with postgraduate certificate and degree programs in the computing discipline, as that is to author's discipline area.
Kakouris (2009, p. 231) argues for an ADDIE model (Anallise, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate) is suitable for providing on-line entrepreneurial education, emphasizing guidance, communication and peer support. They argue that the DE teaching material can be used to implement Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction: Gain Attention, Inform Learners of Objectives, Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning, Present the Content, Provide Learning Guidance, Elicit Performance (Practice), Provide Feedback, Assess Performance, Enhance Retention and Transfer to job” (Gagné (1965) cited in Kakouris (2009, p. 233)).
      1. Is a Human Tutor Needed?

Kakouris (2009, p. 233) assert that the DE system can act as a “virtual educator” without a human tutor. More recently replacing the tutor with an automated system has been attempted with a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on entrepreneurship. Al-Atabi and DeBoer (2014) report on an entrepreneurship MOOC conducted with 1600 online student in 115 countries, plus 60 on-campus students. The online students formed teams and under took group projects. In addition to videos, the students received points from peers and badges to provide them with feedback on progress. Al-Atabi and DeBoer (2014) noted that the completion rate for online students was 25%, which is higher than a typical MOOC, but was far lower than the 90% completion rate for the students undertaking the same course on-campus.
Neck, Greene and Brush (2014) point out the role for the instructor to “facilitate engagement in creative processes” for higher level skills. As the course under development here is intended to be part of a conventional university degree program, a completion rate of 25% is unacceptably low. It is therefore proposed to take a middle path, having on-line materials, but facilitated by a human tutor, to achieve a completion rate comparable to face-to-face courses.

Part 1: Needs Assessment

      1. Needs assessment approach

Smith and Ragan, (2005, pp. 43) suggest that an ID needs assessment should first establish if there is a need at all. They outline a cycle of needs assessment, design, production, implementation and evaluation (Smith and Ragan, 2005, pp. 44), while advocating the evaluation plans actually be constructed during the needs assessment phase. This may be unrealistic where the need for a course has not yet been established and so work on evaluation would be wasted if the course is never run.
Smith and Ragan, (2005, pp. 44) divided needs assessments into three model types:
  1. Problem Model: As Smith and Ragan note, it is necessary to determine if there really is a “problem” and if a cause it the best way to solve it. In the case of an unsolicited new course on innovation, the problem model is not as applicable, as there is no current group of employees to canvas. As the aim is to have students go out and create new companies, there are also not employers to consult. The Innovation ACT competition is part funded by the local government, which has in an economic development strategy to foster new industries, a “culture of entrepreneurship” and encourage startup firms to provide employment (ACT Government 2013). The ACT Government might therefore be consulted about the problem of educating innovators.
  1. Innovation Model: This approach looks for changes in the students, the education system or the environment. The innovation model would seem apt for a course in innovation: students are less likely to want to simply get a job in a corporation and instead want to set up their own company. The approach of involving students in an innovation competition working on a real world project is not new in the Australian education system (along with e-learning and e-portfolio systems which make it easier to offer such education), but not widely used. However, the reduction in the available of jobs for life has required graduates to be more entrepreneurial, being able to take on new roles and even invent a job for themselves. Thompson and Kwong (2013) found that “enterprise education”, designed to develop entrepreneurial skills, in UK schools had a “direct positive relationship with entrepreneurial activities and intentions”. This indicates that students will respond positively to such education and an introductory course on innovation with lead to the student doing more such work.
  2. Discrepancy Model: The discrepancy model, as described by Smith and Ragan, (2005, pp. 45) , does not start with a new need, but as a check to see if an existing course is meeting the already established requirements. This applies to an innovation course, as some such courses already exist, along with externally set skills requirements. The analysis to be carried out therefore incorporates some elements of the discrepancy model, at least to say what is wrong with existing courses and so why a new course is required. With this the requirements will be listed and how well these are met with courses, to determine the gap.
      1. Scope and extent of the need

a. Who to query. As there is a question over the popularity of the existing course, the first group to survey are potential students. It would be simpler to have access to students currently enrolled in a program of study (as they are easy to access). But it may be worthwhile contacting those who have not been attracted to programs, perhaps via a professional body, such as the Australian Computer Society and Engineers Australia. These bodies could also asked as to the need. Innovation organizations, such as the various “co-working” offices and “hacker” competition providers may be of use. In addition experts in the field can be consulted, as Dr. Lachlan Blackhall, founder of Innovation ACT (Blackhall, n.d.), who has worked on engaging students with real world problems (Smith, Brown, Blackhall, Loden & O’Shea, 2010).
b. How to Query. An on-line survey instrument could be used to collect information from potential students. This could use multiple choice and rating questions. Interviews could be used with organizational representatives. However, they are unlikely to agree to a formal social science style of interview and a more informal approach may need to be used.
c. Type of questions. Reimers-Hild and King, (2009) proposed six questions for entrepreneurial leadership and innovation in the context of distance education. These could be applied more generally for questioning potential students and employers about innovation courses:
  1. How entrepreneurial is your organization?  On a scale of 1-5, would you classify your organization as a 1 (not at all entrepreneurial) or a 5 (extremely entrepreneurial)?
  2. How are administrators, instructors and learners in your organization learning to be more entrepreneurial? 
  3. Developing a global mindset throughout an organization characterized by risk taking, innovation and change should be encouraged, not discouraged. …
  4. Is innovation a priority?  On a scale of 1-5, would you classify your organization as a 1 (not at all innovative) or a 5 (extremely innovative)?...
  5. In what ways can your leaders share the vision ... Can they use both face-to-face and online methods?  Can they use both individual and large group settings?...
  6. How can you institutions connect employees and learners with their passions and their personal vision of the future?...
  7. What is your organization doing to develop and leverage the human and social capital of its administrators, instructors and students?  …”
From Reimers-Hild and King , 2009 (emphasis added) .
d. Other data sources. While the sources discussed above may be of some use, the primary source of information will be preexisting skills definitions and syllabuses. In particular Australian computer science degrees are accredited by the Australian Computer Society (ACS, 2014). The Society promotes the use of an internationally standardized skills framework and courses are required to be “aligned” with the framework (IP3, 2015). It would therefore be appropriate to based the course on the most appropriate skills definitions in that framework. McEwan (2013) discusses the use of SFIA skills definitions (SFIA Foundation Ltd, 2015) for university courses and note it is particularly useful for fast developing new job categories (SFIA is also part of the ACS/IP3 framework). McEwan proposed the use of SFIA level 5/6 for Masters-level courses and 4/5 for Honors-level. They also found that one SFIA skill was insufficient for a typical university course and used two. In this case McEwan (2013) aligned a course with skills “Emerging Technology Monitoring (EMRG) and “Innovation(INOV).

Alongside the university system, Australia has a system of Vocational Education and Training (VET), which as Mazzarol (2014) points out, has been active in offering courses in entrepreneurship for small business. Some universities have associated VET Registered Training Organizations (RTOs) to deliver such courses, at a lower qualification level than their degree programs.
The VET system has a national database of standardized skills sets, make up of units of competency (Australian Department of Industry, 2013) and a database of preprepared learning objects (National VET E-learning Strategy, 2013). A search of the training database for “innovation” found a “Managing Innovation Skill Set” BSBSS00014, “Innovation Leadership Skill Set” (BSBSS00008) with units of competency “Establish systems that support innovation” (BSBINN501A), “Foster leadership and innovation” (PSPGOV604A). However, of the ten courses listed in the training database with the word “entrepreneurship” in the title, only two are currently offered, a Graduate Certificate and a Diploma of “Entrepreneurship for Food and Wine”. This indicates that perhaps the demand for such courses at the VET level is not a strong as Mazzarol (2014) suggests. A search of the database of learning objects found three relevant entries: “Communicate information and ideas”, “Plan for change” and “Manage emerging challenges and opportunities”. These may be of some limited value in the innovation course for low level skills, as may the units of competency.
The intention is that students can optionally undertake an innovation competition, in particular “Innovation ACT” alongside the course. Therefore the content of “Innovation ACT” will provide more detail as to the need.
      1. Need and Causes

The Australian Computer Society already offers an on-line innovation course: "New Technology Alignment" NTA, (ACS, 2013). However, NTA is intended for employees of corporations to identify innovations within the organization. The need is to address the aspirations of students to set up their own enterprises working on their own products, rather than working for a corporation. This is in part by an innate wish to innovate and partly due to the difficulty in finding worthwhile (or any) employment in a corporation. Segal Quince & Partners (1985) argue that the growth of start-up high technology businesses around Cambridge from the 1980s was in part due to students who wanted to maintain the Cambridge lifestyle and, with the lack of alternative employment, were forced to setup their own business. The ACT Government (responsible for Canberra), is implementing a similar strategy by funding Innovation ACT, to encourage students to stay in Canberra and set up a business, rather than move away after graduation. The proposed course would teach the students skills needed to set up a business in Canberra.
What is Available: The University of Canberra (UoC) and ANU both offer innovation courses in Canberra. UoC have courses as part of the Bachelor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (University of Canberra, 2012b). A typical unit is “Managing Change and Innovation” (University of Canberra, 2012a), offered in blended mode (on-line content with on campus attendance of up to thirty nine hours). ANU has "innovation" courses in business and engineering programs: “Entrepreneurship and Innovation” MGMT3027 (ANU.n.d. b), “Innovation and Commercialisation” MGMT7165 (ANU.n.d. c), “Engineering Innovation” ENGN3230 (ANU.n.d. a), “Technology and Innovation Management and Strategy” MGMT7106 (ANU.n.d. d). However, these are courses have largely the format of a conventional lecture and examination based university program, are not integrated with an innovation competition and not aligned with external skills standards.
What is desired: A course which is delivered on-line, can be used alongside an innovation competition to provide the student with more hands on-experience and aligned with external skills standards to provide an industry relevant and preferably global qualification.
Cause of the Needs Gap: The Canberra university courses are designed to fit within conventional classroom teaching techniques and program structures. The student is assumed to undertake their academic study at the university, receive a university qualification and then move to employment, most likely at a corporation or institutional setting.
      1. Potential solutions

One solution to the problem of including innovation in a university technology program is the “New Venture Design” course for engineering and business students at UBC (Kruchten, Lawrence, Dahl & Cubbon, 2011). Since 2003 UBC's final year engineering and business students have had the option to work in mixed teams on an entrepreneurial venture. Teams of six UBC students produce a prototype and business plan. The students are provided with conventional lectures and lab work activities. Teams can optionally enter external innovation completions in Vancouver, or elsewhere. This approach solves the problem of providing students with academic credit for innovation competition, but duplicates the activities of the competition, increasing resource requirements and student effort. Also the use of conventional lectures and labs limits the course to on-campus students.
a. Instructional solutions: On-line course materials and forums for students to help form their teams can be provided. Quizzes and large assessment items, which follow the sequence and content of Innovation ACT (and similar competitions) can be provided. One issue concerns scheduling. Ideally students would be able to commence the course at any time, to suit the competition they were intending to enter. However, as such competitions depend on the students forming a team and this could be difficult to schedule within the course. An alternative strategy would be for the students to undertake the course self paced, with or without, their team. Another alternative is to have the course in a set program term and not closely align it with the competition. This would cause difficulties where the student submits competition materials as part of their assessment, but the competition and assessment deadlines do not align.
b. Non-instructional solutions: An alternative to a full course would be to rely on the competition materials and process to provide the entire learning experience and have the student submit evidence for assessment, as a form of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This would require the student and/or the assessor to check the competition covered the syllabus (and used the same terminology) and the materials produced were suitable for assessment. Also there would be the difficulty that innovation competitions are almost always entered by teams of competitors, and are assessed exclusively on the team product. It is therefore not possible to know what contribution an individual team member made. This might be overcome by having the student keep a diary with their contributions during the competition (submitted via an e-portfolio system) and with some form of test (such as on-line quiz).

Part 2: Proposal Development

      1. Components of the course

Course description: "Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship in Technology" is a new course to for students to develop the capability to identify and develop new technology based business ideas. Students will learn to identity strategic uses for information technology, applying systematic investigation, analysis, review and documentation to take an idea through the stages of development and proposal. Students are encouraged to take part in Innovation ACT, or a similar innovation competition, and submit their competition materials for assessment.
Learning Outcomes
After successful completion of this subject students will be able to :
  1. Investigate a strategic application of IT.

  • Propose new ways of conducting business using IT.

  • Skills Alignment:
    1. SFIA Version 5, Level 6: Business analysis BUAN, (SFIA Foundation Ltd, 2015)
    2. SFIA Version 5, Level 6: Innovation INOV, (SFIA Foundation Ltd, 2015)
    Course components: The major topics (based on Innovation ACT, 2014) are:
    1. Business Model Thinking
    2. Stakeholder Engagement
    3. Concept Generation
    4. Value Capture
    Activities are:
    1. Contributions to on-line forums/exercises for ten weeks (assessed at 2% per week for 12 weeks, with the best 10 counted),

  • Mid semester assignment: “Investigation of a strategic application of IT”. Individual work of 2,000 words, plus references 40%
  • End of course deliverables: A business proposal. Students are encouraged to undertake the work as part of Innovation ACT, or another innovation competition. However, the activity must take during the semester. May be performed in a group of up to six with all receiving the same mark. Up to 2,000 words, plus references, 40%.

  • The Innovation ACT Business proposal consists of:
    1. Business Model Canvas: One page diagram of the business model, using the IACT Business Model Canvas template, or similar (about 5% to 6%).

  • Executive Summary: One page text summary of the business model (300 words, about 5% to 6%).
  • Canvas Report: Five to eight page report on development of plan (this is equivalent to 1,500 to 2,400 words of assessment, about 30% to 50% of the assessment)
  • Continuation report: Detailed plan outlining funding requirements and proposed expenditure (Assuming 5 pages, that is 25% to 30% of the assessment).
  • Pitch: Notes and visual materials for a five minute presentation. A video of the presentation can also be provided, but for academic purposes, the assessment will be based on the notes for the presentation, not the presentation itself (assessment 5% to 10%).

        1. The learner population

    The learner population for this course would have a degree in computer science, information technology, software engineering or other technology discipline. The students would typically be enrolled in a postgraduate certificate or degree program (usually a Masters by coursework) at an Australian higher education institution. Students would be in a city where they have access to an innovation competition (such as Innovation ACT in Canberra). Students would be expected to have experience at using a computer and the Internet to be able to undertake an on-line program. They would require sufficient communication skills in the language of instruction (English) and to work in teams. As Blair and Hoy (2006) point out “... an online community doesn’t happen by sheer virtue of creating discussion forums and requiring weekly postings ...”. Also the innovation course will be a form of group Problem Based Learning (PBL), which can be subject to dysfunctional group interaction and high cogitative load (Hung, 2011). However, it is not clear if any additional skills can be asked of the students, beyond written and computer literacy.
        1. How the course will be delivered

    The course will be delivered as in online DE format as a 12 weekly units using non-real-time (asynchronous) delivery. Course notes will be provided an an e-book, with additional readings (and videos) and weekly exercises to complete. Forums will be provided for student interaction with each other in groups and with an instructor, via a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle. An e-portfolio system (such as Mahara) will be provided for students to collate their project material. No real-time (synchronous) activities will be provided, due to the difficulty of supporting these and of students in different time zones participating.
    Students will be expected to undertake team activities, and optional participation in an innovation competition, without further support from the course (organizing their own meetings and any telecommunications required). Materials and exercises will be designed in accessible web formats suitable for mobile devices. Suwantarathip and Orawiwatnakul (2015) report success delivering small exercises to students using mobile devices.
    Feedback for low level tasks will be provided by small automated weekly quizzes, to assist students with terminology. Van der Kleij, Feskens and Eggen (2015) note the importance of feedback in a computer based course. Students will also receive weekly feedback and a mark from the instructor, but this will be of necessity a brief few sentences. The mark will be based on an average of peer assessment collected by the LMS and then vetted by the instructor.
        1. Example Content

    What is Innovation?: Unit 1 (What is Innovation?) provides some terminology and concepts, before the students start to think about what project they would like to work on. The primary reading is Moore (2012). Students are also introduced to the on-line discussion forums at this point and do an icebreaker exercise to become antiquated so they can then form teams in the next unit to work on a project. This fits in the course's aim of bridging theory and practice, individual student study and group project work.


    This document provides the first two steps in instructional design (ID) for a new course "Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship in Technology" to be offered on-line, initially for students in Canberra, Australia. The aim is to provide a formal masters level course to complement competitions, such as "Innovation ACT", catering for students who have ambitions of becoming entrepreneurs. A needs assessment, after Smith and Ragan, (2005, pp. 44) was provided and the limitations of existing courses discussed. An on-line course is discussed (noting the limitations in the fixed term based course format). A brief description of one unit is provided. This will be fowled in a separate document with creation of one learning objects for the course.


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