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the analyst’s corner

The world turns

Perhaps it really is time to let go of training and embrace learning David Perring T

echnology is relentless. It is a constant source of innovation in the way we work and the way we learn. Sometimes it’s subtle, often it’s transformational.

Look at your own training department, for example. How much as it been affected by the adoption of e-learning over the past 5 to 10 years? Whilst technological innovation sometimes passes

us by, for most the changes have been massive. And I’m sure, as a learning technologist, you’ve been instrumental in making those changes happen. Learning technology and the rise of a more digital working culture has seen many move away from delivering only traditional classroom events to diversifying their entire learning offer. For many it saw reductions in the headcount of face-to-face trainers, the ubiquitous use of self-study e-learning, the introduction of virtual classrooms, the adoption of blended learning and a much wider diversity of learning channels. Then, in addition to this we’ve also seen the rise of the 70:20:10 learning model - a reminder that learning in the workplace is, has, and will always be an essential part of the learning mix. “Learning” is the critical word here. In a way that, maybe 10-15 years ago, “training” was the key word. Indeed the vast majority of corporates relabelled their training departments years ago to learning and development, or as a corporate university perhaps. Much as we may think that changing our name will help us redefine what we do, often the training mentality has never really left us. We have amazing new capabilities, but in reality we still do things the old way. We adopted technologies in a way that enabled

us to do what we used to do, but through a new channel. In that respect, I’d argue that perhaps 99% of what money has been spent on, invested in the name of e-learning hasn’t actually been e-learning at all. What it has been is e-training. We just package our old courses using the old models into a new format and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong. Actually, e-training has been amazingly transformational and for many incredibly effective. It enabled scale, reach and personal impact in a way that face-to-face training and print world never could. It liberated time and space for people and (with my tongue partly in my check) has occasionally actually been useful to learners, but equally quite often brain numbingly dull. (I’m sure we’ve all sat through that compliance course.) This underlying mentality of training delivery is not a failing, but a positive reality. It means learning/ training departments marshal their resources to create and deliver training outputs. And you could hardly call being delivery focussed a weakness. Could you? After all – we are all measured on our outputs – aren’t we? So, all is right in the world? Maybe, but I’m not so

sure. The world does seem to be turning again just like in the early days of online learning. And as it turns I believe, for one, that it’s an opportunity to start to embrace learning, as much as we have never let go of the training part of our identity.

A number of emergent/disruptive trends such as MOOCs (massive open online courses), social, collaborative learning, reverse pedagogy, gamification are building some momentum and new exploration

What we need to develop are new learning design skills and learning roles. Without them we will never create a total learning ecosystem. And our glass will only be half full.

e.learning age april 2015

that in many ways gets to the nub of what relabelling ourselves to learning only partly achieved. It’s the realisation that enabling the frameworks, contexts and behaviours of organisational learning were always L&D’s responsibility. And that delivering outputs as a department is only really part of the answer. After all – in truth – it’s the outcomes not the

outputs that were most important. And that enabling and supporting social learning,

including the “open ended-spirit” of building new expertise which was at the heart of the original vision of MOOCs, as well as the underlying philosophy of reverse pedagogy, is potentially one of the critical tools that help us realise we can both deliver training and radically enable our organisational learning. I’m not advocating that we all rush and ditch our training mentality. This is not an either/or game. We needed to execute both flawlessly. Be a department that delivers training and facilitates organisational learning. The trouble is, just as 10 to 15 years ago it was not enough to just have face-to-face trainers in order to start to deliver e-learning and blended learning, I’d argue it’s not enough now just to have instructional designers or e-learning developers who know how to design an e-learning course. What we need to develop are new learning design skills and learning roles. Without them we will never create a total learning ecosystem. And our glass will only be half full.

Developing those new skills takes time and experimentation to get it right. It also requires an innovation plan, to help prioritise and acquire the expertise needed. And if reverse pedagogy and open social learning are a priority for you, perhaps you also have the opportunity to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ to quote Ghandi. You can do this by building your new skills and by using techniques to eat your own dog food, or brew your own champagne.

David Perring is director of research at Elearnity @DavidPerring


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