TechSpan Academy

TechSpan Academy provides online training for high demand industrial skills.

The American economy is in the midst of a major restructure. Amid that huge shift a “Blue Quadrant Revolution” is under way.

The “Blue Quadrant” is where blue collar meets technology. It is the new, high tech factory floor. It is highly specialized processes that require highly specialized skills.

TechSpan Academy is the heart of the New Blue Quadrant.

Training for High Reliability

If we get this wrong, people may die.

Some people go to work every day and face the reality of life and death.

Maybe more than you think.

The High Reliability Organization

In 1984 Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe set out to explain why some organizations – really, what we would call “teams” today – work in the face of catastrophe every day, yet make relatively few mistakes.

Their work spawned the idea of the “High Reliability Organization.”

In High Reliability Organizations things have to be done right or people face the risk of injury or death.

Weick and Sutcliffe studied some “usual suspects:” aircraft carrier crews, nuclear power plant operators, air traffic controllers.

No question about it: In every one of those cases, failure can have literally fatal consequences.

Using those standards, we can apply “High Reliability” to a fairly wide variety of tasks, functions and jobs:

  • Any place in the health care delivery system where drugs are dispensed.
  • The emergency OR
  • “Flame jumping” firefighters
  • Ambulance crews

Who Is “High Reliability”

Notice the difference between “…any place in the health care delivery system where drugs are dispensed…” and “nurses.”

Although nursing is an undeniably important and task-specific function, using “people may die” as our standard for High Reliability shifts the application to only those interactions where people may, in fact, die.

The point? Not everyone is “high reliability.”

No disrespect intended to those of us whose workday may not involve staring into the abyss of death. But “high reliability” is a very outcome-specific concept.

It applies only to those tasks, jobs and functions where failure creates dire consequences.

The Nature of Dire Consequences

We’ve focused so far, perhaps morbidly, on the highest levels of danger people may encounter in the workplace.

Our purpose, though, is to train our concentration on outcomes.

We do this because it is very likely that someone in your organization operates somewhere in the “highly reliable” zone and you may or may not be aware of it.

If we simply crew “circles of reliability,” you could affix the various functions in your organization accordingly.

A “circle of reliability” might consist of concentric rings organized in the order of descending consequence. The closer to the center, the more dire the consequences and thus the more reliable the operator.

Ranging out from the center, we might have:

  • Loss of life or injury
  • Exposure to excessive liability
  • Economic or financial loss
  • Damage to public reputation
  • Minor embarrassment

You can intuitively see that the closer to the center of our circle, the less frequent the event. The further out, the more frequent.

Even in high mortality organizations like the military, the incidence of death is much lower than that of minor blunders or inconveniences.

Training for High Reliability

We begin this conversation about reliability at a fairly high level, and for good cause.

Training for high reliability is a very specialized activity that probably differs from any learning or training you’ve done (unless you’ve trained carrier flight crews).

It involves:

  • Evaluating reliability in jobs, tasks and functions
  • Creating a “Reliability Framework” for your organization
  • Developing training around the “Reliability Framework”
  • Managing carefully so you don’t wreck “High Reliability” teams you’ve worked so hard to create

High Reliability Resources

Our High Reliability White Paper
High Reliability Training in Bullet Points
High Reliability Training Video

College is expensive. Degrees may or may not guarantee success.

Yet learning is abundant. Opportunities are everywhere for those who keep up with the pace of change.

Need a degree? Consider an accelerated bachelors program.

Or want to check out an alternative to a degree? Our new Baccalaureate Charter is based on FREE Open Courseware Courses.

Check out

Open Courseware Registry – Coming Soon

Great colleges are making their courses available for free.

The only problem: You can’t get “credit” for them, or apply them toward a degree.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get recognition.’s Open Courseware Registry will provide a registration, tracking and documentation platform for free, open courses.

Learners will enroll in courses via the open courseware provider schools, then use OWI tools to complete, share and validate their performance.

Course Development

Courses for Practical Skills, Training for Great Businesses and Careers

As the pace of change in society, business and the economy accelerates, the time frame available for learning compresses accordingly.

At one time it was perfectly viable to be “educated” over the course of a four year degree or two year graduate program. Now, especially in technical fields – or fields strongly influenced by technology – information is updated so rapidly, the longer programs simply cannot keep up.

In addition, career shifts and emerging opportunities often require a rapid redeployment of skills, talents and capabilities.

The short course form – sometimes blended into certificate programs – has emerged as a practical, powerful resource for on-the-fly learning.

Chasmiq Learning Method

Shorter courses mirror shorter attention cycles and shorter efficiency measures. Learners need practical, relevant, actionable material quickly, served with a minimum theory.

Rule 1: Practical application first. Theory follows.

Especially in the “on ramp” technical areas where we specialize, taking the first step into a new area or discipline can be very challenging. For some, it may even be intimidating.

Our “challenge loop” method integrates contemporary brain science with classic psychology to provide intrigue, achievement and reinforcement in lesson-based exercises.

Rule 2: Challenge, resolve, then activate.

Once learners start up the “on ramp” to a new skill or competency, there is almost always a “dip” in the path. Discouragement sets in, uncertainty abounds.

Good lesson design helps learners power through these inevitable obstacles, moving as quickly as possible up the “passion curve” toward their new skill.

Rule 3: Move the learner to passion-based achievement as soon as possible.

The proprietary Chasmiq learning method is designed to help boost learners past the “learning chasms” that stand between them and the better future they hope to achieve.

We bake it in to every course we design and deploy.

Our Current Course Inventory

The following courses are in the development process and are available for license.

– Advanced Fabrication
– Business Intelligence Simplified
– Practical Math for Manufacturing
– Production Supervision
– Transportation Automation
– Writing for the Now Media

Others are in the pipeline for later in the year.

License Fee: $4500.00 (US) up front. 10% of generated revenue, with price approval.

Partner With Us

We invite inquiries from partners who may have a platform for deploying these courses.

We partner with college and university continuing and professional education departments, course platform providers and individual training organizations to license and deploy courses.

Custom Course Development

We do provide custom course development and deployment services, including course materials, support and assessment instruments and learning management system integration.

Fees: Course development fees start at $1500.00 (US) per course module, 3 module minimum.

Contact us to start a conversation.

Dropping Out Is Not The End

…It’s just the beginning.

Dropouts still pay a social price for choosing to leave school early. Yet the very schools they abandon have in far too many cases already abandoned them.

We will not “fix” the “dropout problem” by sending dropouts back to school. If school was effective for them, they wouldn’t have dropped out in the first place.

The only realistic option for dropouts – and for those of us in society who care about them – is to help them create new paths, new options, new direction.

Fortunately, we live in an age and economy where it is always possible to start anew. We believe the future is bright for dropouts, and we look forward to helping them create new paths.

We love dropouts.

High school dropouts. College dropouts. Grad school dropouts. Corporate dropouts.

We love people who make their way in the world without the “officially sanctioned” diploma or degree.

We love people who “opt out” of kissing the corporate ring and instead do something worthwhile.

We love GED test takers.

We love self-starting entrepreneurs.

We love self-directed careers.

We love people who make their own way in the world.

Have you dropped out? Of anything?

Us, too.

We believe in dropouts. We believe in you.

Join us in the DropOut Zone.

Training for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet

The top 10 “in demand” jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.

This trend will not reverse, or even slow. If anything it is accelerating. Most of the future’s best, most  important and most interesting jobs haven’t been created yet.

Our mission is to provide skills training for those jobs.

Impossible, you say? How could you possibly provide training for a job that doesn’t even exist?

We believe the future exists in the trends of today. The seeds of future careers exist in the breathtaking innovations exploding all around us.

Specifically, we’re watching 4 very dynamic areas of our economy and society:

– The Internet and Computing
– Automation and Robotics
– Life Sciences
– Energy, all types, but especially alternative

Check out our CareerGrid for more detail

How do we do it?

We focus on technology. Every industry is in the midst of  a profound updraft in technology. Even old school “low tech” industries are being  revolutionized by digital technology and automation.

We focus on science. Physics, chemistry and especially biology have jumped out of the textbooks and into the mainstream of 21st century life.

We focus on energy. Every aspect of life is fueled by some form of energy. In the 21st century, those forms are getting cleaner and more sophisticated.

Finally, we focus on craft. Every person has a unique contribution to make, based on finding and honing their personal craft.

We create programs that help people hone skills (their craft) in areas of emerging technology – computing and communication, automation, biosciences, green energy.

Our programs are delivered through partnerships with established schools via our Renescience Institute.

And they are offered free of charge through our network of microschools, in which we provide “School as a Service.”

Finally, for those who think the high tech economy has left them behind – no matter their age – we provide an “onramp” to tech skills through our TechSpan Academy.

The OnRamp

Sometimes it seems like today’s tech-centered economy has an express lane.

Those with in-demand high tech skills and specialized knowledge drive it while everybody else sits mired in a traffic jam of shrinking opportunities.

The difference is access to an onramp: Of high-value skills, niche opportunities, and an independent mindset.

Those in the express lane got there somehow. They took an onramp at some point. Their education or skills or their choices got them into the express lane.

There’s no reason you can’t get there, too.

But it’s not easy. The express lane requires specialized training, technical knowledge or specific skills. Most people zooming toward the future have paid their dues along the way.

Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get “express lane” training or knowledge or skills in school, no matter how long we went.

And now, maybe we don’t have the resources to go back to school. Maybe we don’t have time. Maybe we’re already paying off student loans. Maybe we just figure we don’t have the “knack” for the high tech economy.

It’s Not Just You
It’s a very real issue, not only for those stuck in traffic, but for the economy as a whole.

Imagine what would happen to a traffic jam if a bunch of people suddenly switched onto the express lane.

Traffic in the “old” lanes would lighten, things would eventually start moving faster, and those left in the “old” lanes would get where they’re going faster, too.

Getting more people into the economy’s express lane is the answer to solving our economic traffic jam.

The OnRamp
One of the biggest problems job seekers have these days is finding an onramp to the 21st century economy.

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented burst in technological and scientific progress.

Communication. Computing. BioScience. Automation. Energy.

In all these areas, and probably many more, we are zooming into the future at a breathtaking pace.

People who can participate in these industries – or find ways to serve them – put themselves in the express lane of the new economy.

Problem is, it can be very hard to find a good onramp. If you tell yourself “I’m not a programmer.” Or, “I hated high school biology.” Or, “I’m terrible at math.” It can seem like jobs and opportunity in “new” skill areas zoom past in the express lane while you wait in traffic.

And if you’ve never considered yourself good at science or technology, it can seem like the barrier is just too high.

You Can
But don’t give up. The onramp to your 21st century career might be closer than you think.

You see, we’ve spent almost 20 years looking at, thinking about and tinkering with the way people learn hard subjects.

What we’ve discovered: Beyond “learning styles” and “learning strategies” and all those ideas the gurus throw around, there’s a very simple truth:

You can learn anything – anything – if you break it into small enough chunks.

That’s not big news. People have talked about “chunking” their courses and training content forever.

But we’ve also discovered that the size of the chunks matters.

Small chunks at the beginning, then bigger and bigger until you can handle full scoops.

It’s like feeding a baby. You don’t start by shoving half a carrot in her mouth, right?

You start with a tiny spoonful, then another and another. VERY soon, you’re using a much bigger spoon, then all too soon, you’re feeding her full-blown carrots.

We believe the same thing is true of learning anything. If you can puree and liquefy the first few lessons, very soon you’ll be eating carrots!

OnRamp Jobs
Everybody has to start somewhere, even if that somewhere is “over.” Coming soon from Canis Learning Systems, OnRamp Jobs, a job board dedicated to entry and re-entry level jobs for those with onramp skills.

How do you get onramp skills?

Along with some very, very bright learning facilitators, we’ve discovered the big problem people have when they take on a big subject:

Somebody tries to feed them carrots too soon.

It’s really that simple. Pick up a programming book some time. Even a “dummies” style book or one specifically directed toward beginners.

Those suckers are huge!

And they’re packed dense with information that, frankly, isn’t useful to you. It’s theory or background knowledge.

You might need it some day. But not on the first day you’re learning how to program.

We’ve figured out that the onramp to technical skills is flat so that people can get on and pick up speed. Too steep and nobody gets going.

We’ve discovered that the onramp to technical skills is smooth, so that people can focus on just moving forward. Too many bumps and people get thrown into the ditch.

And we’ve discovered that the onramp to technical skills is straight, so that people can keep their eyes on the road. Too many sharp curves and it’s too hard to navigate.

We’ve created a set of “pretutorials” in high tech areas with the idea of making it easy for beginners to get onto the onramp.

How Pretutorials Work for You
Our pretutorials are built around a series of very brief, very focused lessons that have you actually practicing the skills you’re learning.

In the coding pretutorial, for example, you’ll learn to code by coding. Will your code be simple? Of course it will, at least at first. But you’ll be very surprised and pleased at how quickly you improve.

Same for our automation and biosciences pretutorials. (Coming soon.)

Look, it’s not your fault some teacher tried to shove an entire biology textbook down your throat. Or that some math teacher couldn’t explain *why* you’d need geometry or algebra some day.

Technology skills are the fuel to get you into the economy’s fast lane. If you didn’t get properly prepared in school, it’s not too late.

Our pretutorials can help you make up for lost time. And our programs can help you quickly prepare to tackle the 21st century’s career challenges.

(OnRamp photo credit:

School As A Service

What is the role of a school in an age when knowledge is everywhere?

Historically, “school” has been the physical and sociological place where a society educates its next generation.

School was a place where children and young adults went to be taught those things they would need to know in order to survive and thrive in the world they would inhabit.

  • Schools were storehouses of knowledge.
  • Schools were platforms for experts with rare insight and wisdom.
  • Schools were arbiters of success.
  • Schools were repositories for records of accomplishment – or the lack of it!
  • Schools were trusted to award meaningful credentials, so as to stratify the worthy.

School’s Role in the Information Age
Suddenly, we find ourselves in a world absolutely awash in knowledge. In emerging technical fields especially, the sum total of knowledge can double in less than a year.

To remain the “storehouse of knowledge,” schools would need to constantly update and revise their curriculum, almost to the exclusion of any other activity.

It simply isn’t possible.

The knowledge is available, it’s just not possible to disseminate it fast enough through the “school mechanism.”

  • Yet there is still a huge need to organize knowledge, to sift high quality providers from lesser.
  • There is still a need to provide structure and pace to learning experiences.
  • There is still a need to assess.
  • There is still a need to report, to endorse, and to provide meaningful, real credentials.

The Open Source School (or School As A Service)
School As A Service (SchAAS) consists in 3 fundamental activities:
1.) Provide a conceptual and digital platform for learning.
2.) Source the finest teaching available in the cloud.
3.) Award appropriate credentials.

1.) The conceptual structure for learning involves the lesson flow, clarity and assessment process for a course or learning event. The digital platform is software that facilitates these processes.

2.) The best teaching is in the cloud. It is free and widely disseminated via services like YouTube, SlideShare and their ilk. But there is a lot of flotsam and jetsam out there, disguised as teaching. SchAAS is about finding and presenting only the best.

3.) The best credentials are not necessarily awarded in class or after a series of classes. The best credentials are direct recommendations, referrals and references from trusted sources. SchAAS makes it possible for peers, external experts, partners and other leaders to validate actual, real knowledge and skill.

Our SchAAS Projects
So far we have launched 2 SchAAS projects, with many more in the works:, where students can learn application development for free.

Ames Media Institute (, for free film making and digital media courses.

School Bus photo credit:

ReneScience Institute

Study something closely enough and it becomes a science.

Give a subject your tightly focused, undivided attention, and it will open up to you at the granular level of a science.

The topic doesn’t matter. We focus on technology, but you could just as well study “the science of acting,” or “the science of archery,” or “the science of needlepoint.”

Inquire, explore, experiment, adapt, rinse, repeat. Anything that lends itself to the scientific method can be treated as a science: It’s time to renew our studies as “science.”

Through the ReneSciences Institute (RSI), we provide highly focused, very specialized learning programs in technical niches.

We make it possible for their students to study at the level of science.

In the process, we prepare students to participate in a “craft,” an area of specialized study they can apply to their own personal interests and abilities.

In RSI, we are helping solve one of education’s biggest problems. We are helping students learn to actually DO something.

That’s science!

Earth photo credit: