Monday, October 4, 2010

elearning - Its not about the technology it is about culture and effectiveness

Over on Linked In there has been an ongoing discussion about why elearning has/has not been successful in the Learning, Education and Training Professionals Group . After 6 months of posting and a lot of merry go round responses it is clear to me that learning professionals embrace an enormous bias towards their role and the value they feel they provide. This more than anything has me thinking whether people really understand the value of elearning done well.

It would appear that there is still a lack of understanding of the value that particular pieces of courseware provide. Most organisations have realised that off-the-shelf courseware is only effective in providing training on ‘standard legislative requirement’ - type of subjects, and not for conducting core "competitive adavantage business training. For the same reason that you can’t buy your organisational strategy off-the-shelf, you can’t use off-the-shelf courseware to implement core development for the organisation.

But the more critical issue is, the first-learn-then-work paradigm is out. We just don’t have enough time. We learn mostly when we work, and we work while we are still learning. Honestly - what do you do when you are trying out a new software? Do you search for a manual? Call 24/7 Helpdesk support? Or would you press F1 for help? In adult learning, cognitive goals are always application oriented’ we don’t have any 3- hour exam to sit for. Real life is our examination room! We need both explicit and tacit knowledge when we need it - on demand.

It is about learning to be more effective in today’s complex knowledge economy - an ecosystem that is continuously changing and evolving. Learning is not a system, which can be installed and be done with. Much is said of the learning organisation and what this means for organisational performance. Learning organisations = nimble and productive organisations. If elearning is done well it should produce this agility in employees. Workflow learning comes to mind!?

The primary aims, for effective use of elearning, for todays learning organisations should be:
  • Making explicit knowledge visible and accessible - on demand.
    The computer’s memory is much more efficient than ours. They, not us, should handle complicated explicit knowledge. Not convinced? Try this -13 x 21=? Reaching out for your calculator - aren’t you? Well that’s what I mean. Memorisation is what you do in primary school, not in business.

  • Capture the complex changes of the business context as soon as possible.
    Tacit knowledge is hard to gather; there is no single magic trick, which can perform the task. My experience tells me that blended formal and informal tacit knowledge gathering works best. However, elearning provides the best mode for timely dissemination of this knowledge.

  • Disseminate the knowledge seamlessly.It’s not to make every bit of information available to all. Please don’t throw the drowning man another wave of information. Make relevant knowledge readily accessible for knowledge workers, knowledge that directly or indirectly affects their functional priorities. But ensure your instructional design caters for learning and assessment. You need to know it is working or not working to improve.
Implementing a culture of knowledge sharing and an atmosphere of continuous learning is admittedly, the most important and daunting task of all. Now some people will argue semantics in terms of deinition etc but that is exactly why the debate is happening over at the Linked In group. The paradigm that is corporate learning and development is shifting. I do not pretend to know what it will look like in the future but do know that it requires the fundamentals or the basics in place to be successful and elearning is dependant on an organisational culture that embraces learning as part of work.
As Peter Senge suggested:
"At the heart of a learning organization is a shift of mind –from seeing ourselves as separate from the world to connected to the world, from seeing problems as caused by someone or something ‘out there’ to seeing how our own actions create the problems we experience. A learning organization is a place where people are continually discovering how they create their reality. And how they can change it."
elearning needs to provide this for individuals and thus for organisations.


EJ said...

I agree with your post. corporate learning solutions like elearning should focus on content and delivery.

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