Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, ThirdForce Services and HR Director
There was a time in the dim and distant past when we used the term “learning” as a single noun. Now of course we talk about “traditional learning”, “e-learning”, and “informal learning” and I have now seen the term “social learning” used in at least two recent articles I have read.
So I’ll start by sticking my neck out and define learning as “the acquisition of skills, behaviours and knowledge and values”. That seems to fit well with the Wikipedia definition and if that is the case, there can be little doubt that the way we learn has changed dramatically. For example, it is a proven scientific fact that wild rabbits have larger brains than tame rabbits. Why? Because tame rabbits spend all day in a closed environment and are fed lettuce leaves by their owner. Wild rabbits have to work things out for themselves and forage for food in a dangerous environment.
So should we send people on training courses and “feed” them information or should we put them in cross-functional project teams, let them try things out for themselves and coach them through the inevitable mistakes and encourage them to join forums and discussion groups?
I firmly support the latter approach because I believe that we need to breed “wild” managers and leaders who can think outside the box, operate in difficult, highly competitive environments and yet still survive and develop. However, that approach throws up serious challenges for anyone involved in the e-learning arena . The danger is that e-learning simply becomes an electronic version of traditional learning techniques and we end up feeding juicy pieces of e-lettuce into the open mouths of our baby rabbits.
So if e-learning is going to continue to be of value, it needs to adapt to encompass the new world of social and informal learning. It will no longer be relevant simply to expect learners to sit at a computer and work through a “course”.
I believe that such a change in approach is possible. For example, we can include e-learning content within a wider Talent Management system which can capture informal learning interventions and link to social networking sites and e-portfolios. Looking for some extra support? Tweet for information, join a Linked-In discussion group, undertake a project in your e-portfolio and get feedback from your on-line tutor. That’s real learning – not just lettuce leaves.