eLearning has been with us in one form or another for at least the past 50 years, maybe longer.
Probably the first player on the enterprise eLearning block was the University of Illinois’ PLATO learning management system, built in 1960 to deliver training through user terminals. Some would argue that quite a few of today’s LMS offerings haven’t advanced a great deal from PLATO. They serve up content and track activity. There is a better way – Social Learning.
In July Charles Jennings (http://charles-jennings.blogspot.com/)
hosted an eLearning webinar below is a synopsis of his presentation. We need to re-think our approach to eLearning. Not so much about eLearning as an approach in general – there’s plenty of evidence that it can be an effective way to assist and speed development – but we need to think about HOW we are employing and deploying eLearning. There’s clearly room for improvement there.
The question is this:
Where do current ideas about eLearning fit into the ‘new world’ of work and in the new world of building workforce capability in the 21st century?
A great deal has changed since the term eLearning first entered the vocabulary in 1999 and since web-based courses and modules started appearing in volume in the early 2000s. We need to rethink eLearning in light of these changes and other changes (like Social Learning) that are only now starting to impact the world of work. I’m sure most of us are aware that the major challenge for learning is no longer about ‘content’ or ‘knowledge’ (if it ever were).
We can find content whenever we need it. Our lives are inundated with content. We may not have great filters for content – that’s the real challenge – but there is no doubt they will arrive in the next few years. The need now is for other skills such as critical thinking and analysis skills, creative thinking and design skills, networking and collaboration skills, and, across all of these, effective ‘find’ skills.
Obviously the need for content won’t go away completely, but we know that content is of greatest use when we can access it in the context of a specific challenge, not when we’re provided it in a class or an eLearning course and try to remember it until we take the end-of-course test - content is (almost) all. So we need to replace content with context – learning through doing, rather than learning through knowing.
That is why social learning is such an important element in learning and needs more focus. It is not just ‘social’ for the sake of being social. Workers will want to co-create. Lots of the learning content of the future will be generated by people who are doing the work rather than by specialist training instructors and learning specialists. Learning professionals need to think about how they can facilitate and support this, rather than creating the next greatest content-heavy eLearning package. Instead they need to think about helping workers make connections and building communities where they can mine their own learning.
Workers will also expect their learning to be more personalized and available in a self-service mode so they can get what they want when they want it and where they happen to be. That means Learning professionals need to consider new channels for learning.
We also know that most learning doesn’t occur in courses or events. It occurs in the workplace, in bits-and-pieces. It occurs through watching an expert, or through a conversation we have with colleagues or a manager, or when we make a mistake and have the opportunity to reflect on how we’d do it next time, or in one of many other ways. Designing for learning in this environment is altogether different – and often a more ‘messy’ and complex matter. But outcomes are likely to be better. People are more likely to retain the learning they achieve through experience. And this type of ‘informal’ or workplace learning has been shown to be generally better received, more effective and less costly than its formal counterpart.
Those Learning professionals that understand and respond to “social learning” will be able to demonstrate greater impact.