At 12:49 on Wednesday 6 July 2005, I was travelling in Staffordshire to a training venue listening for the imminent announcement of who was going to ‘win’ the Olympic Games for 2012. Now, I’m not a big sports fanatic but I couldn’t help but join in very excitedly with a big ‘WHOOP WHOOP!’ as Jacque Rogge made the announcement ….. LONDON!
Seven years later and it’s nearly here and Olympic fever has begun. But along with the kudos comes chaos. Now we’re hearing about all the disruption the Games are going to create. It’s already started with Olympic organisers creating an Olympic route network meaning roadworks.
With the disruption to day to day business with journeys to work affected, higher than usual annual leave requests, pressures on transport systems and road networks, the advice given in the ‘preparing your business for the games‘ LOC publication to businesses is:
Millions of additional trips are expected on public transport and the road network in London and the UK … This could potentially disrupt your employees’ journeys, business travel, deliveries/collections, and the operations of suppliers, other contractors and freight. To keep your businesses running, you should aim to reduce the need to travel and make essential journeys at less busy times or by using different modes or routes.
Over the past few months several delegates on my courses have talked about their organisations being encouraged to allow staff to work from home where they’re not needed to be in the office/building.
Of course, this doesn’t just mean problems for day to day working but also day to day training/learning. Fortunately, if key people in these organisations are on the ball, they will see there is a way around some of this disruption. Where live conversations are needed to take place, whether it’s to discuss on ongoing project or as part of a planned training course, we have the technology. We’ve been communicating via e-mail for years.
The concept of collaborating remotely is not new but we’ve yet to embrace the live online environment. Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown. Perhaps it’s bad experiences of them in the past. But now – and I mean now and not in a few months time as an afterthought – is the time to make the most of the technology at our fingertips and start working (and learning) smarter. If we start investigating as soon as possible how best to engage our live online participants (audience is too passive a word), we’ll be on the winning team by a long shot.
On 7th January, Clive Shepherd announced the advent of his new book The New Learning Architect. I waited impatiently for it’s arrival later that month and promised a review. I wasn’t disappointed – not that I thought I would be – and dipped in and out of it when time allowed. This didn’t do it justice and before writing the review, needed to give myself dedicated time to read it all through in a shorter time. Even now, I know I’ll enjoy reading it all over again and still take more away.
I reviewed his Blended Learning Cookbook 2nd edition where I predicted that his new work would likely take blended learning to a new dimension. Boy did it ever!
Clive starts explaining why a ‘learning architect’. “An architect is someone who creates the plans from which others build” and likens a learning architect to that of a building architect. Building Architects designs “environments for living” whereas the learning architect designs “environments for learning”. Although they wouldn’t necessarily become involved in building the environment they would have to have detailed knowledge of current research to design suitable and safe environments. Not only will they have to meet the brief but consider the needs of the inhabitants.
Clive affirms what it really means to be a learning architect. We hear of the responsibility they have to advise and consult with the client on what would be most appropriate, drawing on their expertise in adult learning theories, brain science and learning technologies. Learning architects, he says, are not order takers – order takers are builders not architects.
The New Learning Architect reflects on how there has been a battle between delivery options in the past where you either had to choose between one or the other e.g. classroom v eLearning; formal v informal and people were firmly footed in one or other of those camps. What this book clarifies is that there is no need to choose sides. Each would work with not against the other where appropriate and towards one goal. It is the learning architect’s role to establish, based on the situation, how these options would work together.
Clive investigates when formal learning interventions are more or less appropriate and under what circumstances the learners can take more responsibility for their own continued professional development. We also see how we can provide opportunities for them to become more self-directed and independent. He goes on to explore the various contexts in which learning will occur:
The book also explores why it’s important to look at these contexts from two perspectives – top down (directed from the organisation) and bottom up (directed from the individuals) and why there is a place for both perspectives in learning at work. This book will guide you to establish what types of learning contexts will be suitable for your particular requirements, what types of top down or bottom up approaches to consider.
Whole chapters are dedicated to each of the four learning contexts in which Clive provides examples of various learning activities and media tools, when they are best used and when to avoid them. He also explores them from each perspective.
Clive discusses how important it is for people to be motivated to learn and that when breaking down the barriers to access resources, people will learn when the need arises. We also hear that it’s down to the good design of the instructional methods rather than the delivery medium that will ensure success.
In a recent article in the eLearning Age about the 702010 framework, John Helmer calls for a template or a model to help L&D professional implement informal learning and until there is one, informal learning will be more style than substance. Well, The New Learning Architect does just that. Here L&D professionals can take Clive’s four contexts for learning together with his explanation of top down and bottom up approaches as that model.
So who is this book for? Well, I would recommend this book to anyone who is remotely interested in improving results and investing in the development of a workforce whether a large multi-national or small business.
I recommend this book to all those senior managers and CEOs who call for courses (eLearning or otherwise) as panaceas. This book will help you establish whether there really is a formal training need and help you seek advice from your learning and development professionals so that the most effective and efficient solution to a business need is put in place.
If you are a more experienced learning and development professional; if you have benefited from the Blended Learning Cookbook and already implemented some successful blended courses, this book will guide you beyond training and help you take learning into the workplace. It will help you explore and employ informal and social learning methods. It might also encourage you become more architect than builder by advising rather than taking orders from those who don’t know any better.
And if you are new to learning and development then this book will be a welcome guide taking you through the different learning contexts and providing your with lots of examples and case studies.
The New Learning Architect is available on Kindle and from Lulu. Oh and Onlignment will be reviewing individual chapters inviting open discussion too. It’s probably the cost of a couple of drinks or a cinema ticket but could be worth £1000s in improved results.
Since the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition, there have been some great blog posts pondering on the results and looking to the future. I was also interested in the short Voxpops interviews (Voxpop1, Voxpop2) with a selected few from the event. The question posed to interviewees was “What changes would YOU like to see in L&D for 2011?” I was going to do a short review of what people said in their interviews but instead thought I’d just capture the main points in the Wordle you can see above.
It’s interesting that the advice for L&D is to focus on the learning, the learners, the business goals, performance based. Surely that shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone and it’s a shame that we needed reminding. There was a lot of references to the learning being effective. Quality certainly should be at the heart of developing our staff. In order to produce quality learning we need to make sure the learning is relevant, learner-centred, bite-sized with plenty of practical application and which can be assessed in a more realistic method that handing out quiz questions no matter how you dress them up. It’s our responsibility to help people learn to do their jobs well which has a direct effect on the bottom line. We shouldn’t be teaching them how to pass tests – where’s the learning in that? Give them work-based projects instead. Help them feel they are contributing.
At the same time as calling for more effective learning, there was also a call for it to be more efficient and to make use of more online learning. The danger of taking our effective courses online is we may leave out what makes it effective in the first place. That’s all the learner-centred stuff. The conversations, the group work, the feedback, the questioning, the collaboration. Where will that all go? So they become efficient but now their ineffective. Efficient without efficacy actually leads to more inefficiency. Without good quality learning, people won’t learn well (or at all in some cases). So what happens? They make more mistakes in their work and/or have to retrain. If they retrain using the same ineffective materials as before, what’s going to happen? Yep – a never ending circle.
What’s encouraging is the recognition that training – the formal stuff – is only a small part of the development of individuals in the workforce but it’s what happens after they’ve had the formal training that really embeds the learning. We’ve heard a lot about formal training accounting for only 20% of our knowledge on the job. The rest being attributed to informal learning. However, there’s a little more to it than that as Clive Shepherd points out in his ‘The New Learning Architect’ but performance support will be the cement that makes the learning stick after the formal events have long past.
What I also found interesting from the Voxpops (considering we were at a the Learning technologies) conference was the low key references to using technology for learning. Oh yes, there was a whole floor at least dedicated to technology but when speaking to the L&D people not the vendors, there was little emphasis on using new media or more technology in their solutions. James Clay’s post ‘Focus on the technology or not’ puts it brilliantly. He says:
… it is vital that practitioners are aware of the potential and availability of technology. When they know what is available and importantly what it is capable of then they can apply technological solutions to their learning problems.
L&D should more than capable of designing an effective solution that meets adult learners’ needs but a more efficient delivery means the more likely it has to include new technologies thus creating a huge skills gap. It’s no longer about content versus technology but about content AND technology. In this media filled world where people are always connected and will find it very difficult to avoid using technology to communicate, work, rest and play we can no longer separate the two. We need to think of the technology as the enabler. L&D really need to become more tech savvy and keep up to date with research. They need to try things out and exercise their creation and innovation muscle. Think about using technology not normally considered a learning tool for a learning activity (see Milo). I know we shouldn’t try and shoe-horn a particular piece of technology into a learning solution just for the sake of it but if people are already using the technology in their working or personal time, isn’t it about time we can help them continue to use them for learning.
To quote again to James’s post:
you have to start from somewhere and by explaining the potential that learning technologies offer, you are starting from a good place that will open minds to future potential and possibilities
Overall, the message I got from listening to the VoxPops was that following a logical blended approach to designing learning solutions in organisations is definitely the way L&D can become more than just the ‘training department’. L&D can become the cement that holds the organisation together by becoming more cultivators of learning. Helping learners learn for themselves and providing more performance support. By increasing their knowledge, understanding and skills in using new media tools for more efficient delivery of learning, L&D will ensure their longevity in the organisation by becoming an integral part of the bricks and mortar. Organisations will pay a high price if they don’t invest more in their L&D professionals.