Friday, January 14, 2011

Lessons Learned from the Past Year

The ASTD Learning Circuits Blog (moderated by Tony Karrer) poses a monthly "Big Question" and asks learning professionals to share their insights on key topics. The Big Question for this past December was "What did you learn about learning in 2010?" Two of the contributions really resonated with me. Ryan Tracey's polemic against online courses and Jason McDonald's advocacy of slowing down for deeper learning hit home for me as I have been coming to similar insights myself lately.

Why Must So Much Learning Be Force Fed Via Courses?

Online courses must die! This is the deliberately provocative title of Ryan Tracey's submission to the Big Question conversation. His thesis, in a nutshell, is that not all eLearning in an organization needs to be experienced via courses. It is inefficient, not always effective, and wasteful of developers' and learners' time to have courses on every conceivable topic. Just because we have easy-to-use rapid course authoring tools for eLearning does not mean we have to use these in every instance. Most learning of simple content, processes or tasks can better be handled via easily-accessible job aids or focused learning objects/applets.

Tracey calls for the creation of Informal Learning Environments (ILEs), that are essentially searchable knowledge repositories of PDFs, audio clips, videos, slideshows, case studies, etc. Learners pull what they need from this repository as and when they need it, and also have access to experts and peers via blogs, wikis, discussion forums and social bookmarks.

Tracey also advocates for a separation of content (whether in the form of courses or other types of supports / resources) and assessment. His mantra is to "informalise learning, formalize assessment." The idea is that learners can access learning any way they choose, and, when ready, complete a formal assessment exercise to prove their competence in various areas.

Let's Slow Down

Jason McDonald's big insight in 2010 was that to accomplish any kind of deep and meaningful learning we need to slow down. Multi-tasking and being constantly hyper-connected via email, texting, tweeting, Skyping, Facebooking, etc., is not conducive to deep, reflective learning. Modern life has left us too scattered and our attention torn in 10 different directions. It is not surprising that we sometimes find it hard to internalize new learning (whether from a course or in the ways noted by Ryan Tracey above).

This is why McDonald urges everyone to try, every once in a while, to be consciously in the moment, and focused on one thing to try to fully comprehend it and to apply this learning in your life and/or work. The key is to tear yourself away from your laptop, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, etc. once in a while and to think about one thing at one time. Go off to a quiet corner and read that book, research report, user manual, job aid, etc. Some of my best insights come to me when I am out walking, bike riding or cross-country skiing (sans Blackberry). I will subconsciously process something I learned earlier that day / week / month, and come up with a new way of looking at a particular challenge. The mind is clear and can work efficiently when off the "grid" for a bit.


So if you are a learner yourself, or organizing learning for others, remember that not all learning need come packaged in a course, and give yourself and your learners the space and time to process and internalize that learning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers Rick, I'm glad you appreciated my post.

I hadn't read Jason McDonald's article, so thanks for drawing it to my attention!

1:20 AM  

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