Posts Tagged learning

The #1 Challenge: Clinging to the walls of the classroom

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For as many decades as companies have invested in training, that training has primarily been delivered in the physical classroom.  This requires recipients to put aside their usual work activities for a few days and make the trek to sit in such a classroom with a group of peers for a day or two to receive their training.

Technology has massively and unprecedentedly changed the world in which we now live, work, and play.  Encyclopedia Britannica, which was the primary source of knowledge for many since the late 18th century, ceased publication in 2010.  People now instantly network, chat and collaborate with others around the world using handheld devices.  Individuals can learn, using those same handheld devices, about almost anything through YouTube and user forums across the internet, regardless of time and place. So, why do so many people still think of the physical classroom as the way in which to deliver training, or at the very least the benchmark to which other modalities should aspire?

Let’s examine the efficacy of the classroom.  The traditional classroom forces us to batch up the training into a linear stream of information that will be passed onto recipients all at the same time, at the same rate, over a few consecutive days.  During this time, trainees don’t have the chance to reflect on new ideas or to try new approaches.  We know that most of the trainees won’t have the chance to apply anything more than a small percentage of the content within a matter of a week or two, and we also know that if they don’t, then the chance of doing so at a later date are equally small.  As well, many of the trainees, if asked at lunch on the first day of training, how the course is going, will answer that “it’s a bit slow, they have learned nothing new, and are hoping that the pace will pick up”.

The ROI from the majority of traditional classroom training is surely extremely low when we look at the total cost and time versus the actual impact on performance.  Yet, many cling to the walls of the classroom refusing to believe that technology enabled training alternatives will be effective.  When you consider this in the face of how people are living and learning in today’s technology enabled world, it seems nothing short of ludicrous.

So much can be gained by understanding the three primary reasons for this reluctance to change and by overcoming them.  These reasons are:

1. Resistance to Change

People are always resistant to change.  The FAX machine was patented before the telephone but it still took decades for faxes to replace Telex’s.  As another example, not every organization will accept signatures electronically and still insist on a FAX. We have to treat the transition out of the classroom as a significant exercise in change management.

2. Re-architecting Training

Training courses that have been designed for the classroom are exactly that.  They are optimized, and indeed compromised, for classroom delivery.  They tend to be continuous and linear streams of information delivered within the confines of time and place.  This is not the starting point for technology-enabled training. If all we do is take a program designed for the physical classroom, and try to deliver it through a technology based medium, we are almost bound to fail.  Training must be rethought, re-architected and redesigned for technology-based delivery.  It can, and indeed must, be delivered in short learning experiences; it should be integrated with application; it should enable collaboration and discussion; and it should deliver the training when and where it is required.

3. Quality of Content

The final reason we cling to the walls of the physical classroom is simply because it keeps our trainees captive.  To put it bluntly, the training is either so poor or the trainees motivation towards the training so weak, that we have to hold them captive to administer it.  Of course you may have the physical body captive but there is no guarantee that the mind is there.

We must fully embrace new technology enabled training opportunities.  As L&D professionals we are not leading the way, we are playing catch up to where the world already is.  But, we must take on responsibility for the change management, for re-architecting our learning programs, and for ensuring the relevance and quality of the training to the learner.

 

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The Pendulum Has Swung: Reflections from Learning 2011

I have dedicated the last four days to participating at the Elliott Masie Learning 2011 conference in Orlando, Florida.  I was there to present on the ROI equation when moving to live virtual training, and to provide a somewhat provocative point of view on maximizing the investment on the training dollar.  As Florida is a long way from home, I decided as I was already there, to make full use of the learning opportunity and attend as many sessions as I could.  I thought it was worth sharing my overall impression: the pendulum has swung!

From participating in a wide variety of training and learning conferences over the last few years one would gain the impression that just about everyone out there is engaged in a self-guided exploration of learning, connected with video to various and numerous communities via their iPads and socially, technically, and happily learning everything, anywhere at any time.  Not that this isn’t a grand vision, but – as they say – are we there yet?

Without doubt we live in a changed world where technology has impacted just about everything that we do, and how we do it.  However, over the last few years the emphasis at so many learning events have been about the technology and a variety of “hot” topics including social media, mobility, gaming, micro-learning etc.  From what I observed over the last few days, the pendulum is swinging away from a focus on the technology back to what can be done to enable the learner to learn.  Now the answer to this question involves, almost certainly, the use of technology, but the point is that it’s about the learning and the learner, not the technology itself.

Masie himself underscored this in a session he led. Certainly no luddite himself, and clearly a visionary in the learning space he used the term “chatter” to describe the phenomena we have seen.  He encouraged delegates to “look beyond the chatter.”  Starting with social learning, let’s understand that this is not only something that is not new, but the original way in which humankind learned.  He pointed out that there is 40+ years of research that states we learn better when interacting with others.  The point being, let’s not believe that social learning is new, let’s look first at where and how we can use social learning to bring value to the learner and the organization.

Masie went on to share how he, just a few years ago, was declaring the future of learning being in Second Life, or at least the Second Life environment style where we all interact in a simulated 3D world with our own personal avatars.  He invested $65,000 on an island, only to find it was a perpetually deserted island.  A great example of the “technology first” way in which it is all too easy to get caught.

If we then look at how we have such powerful technology tools for delivering training over the web. We can once again get caught up in the technology and deliver, albeit cheaply and quickly, some very poor training very poorly over the web.

For the sake of our learners and the organizations we work for, we have to look past the chatter.  We have to understand the real training needs of the communities we serve, and then enable a continuous and blended learning environment to support them using the most effective delivery methods and learning approaches – regardless of the technology.

When one of the last keynotes was given by Sharon Begley, the journalist who has just authored Brain Freeze, stated that multi-tasking is proven not to work and we need to turn off all the electronic interruptions we have from our iPhones, e-mail, and messaging, I knew that the pendulum had swung.

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