Monday, November 7, 2011

Evolution of learning... Moving towards informal

One of the conversations I had at #DevLearn's DemoFest last week was indicative of the evolution we are starting to see in #eLearning towards more informal learning... but first let me try to describe DemoFest to set the scene.

Picture a ballroom with about 80 small tables with 4 chairs around each one. At each table a presenter has a +/- 6 min. presentation to share with whomever stops by to listen. The ideas were incredible, so was the noise level! LOL!

One of the presenters discussed his attempts to use more social media and collaboration in the trainings he conducts for his organization. He was talking about a recent incident where a colleague came to his desk and he videotaped her explaining how she had used a learned skill and then taken it further. He wanted to encourage more such sharing and said "but then I will be out of a job" meaning they won't need a training department anymore. I replied, "No you won't be out of a job, but your job will evolve. Your job will be in each of the departments rather than being a separate training department."

This was an idea I heard many times at DevLearn. We need to evolve training and make it more job-embedded, more collaborative, more just-in-time. The piece which may still be holding that back from happening is the fear expressed in the statement, "but then I will be out of a job."

How do we help people understand there will always be a need for training/trainers/educators as we move towards more informal learning? What does this evolution look like?

There was another piece to my discussion with that same presenter. He wanted to encourage more sharing and collaboration so I asked how he validated people who did share. I pointed out that he validated the person when he videotaped her and shared her idea. One of points made in Lisa Chamberlin's (AKA @chambo_online) presentation about the MarshU blogger development program "If you build it will they blog" was how much adults in the workplace still want to be recognized. At MarshU badges for completion of the program were highly prized. I was thinking of these badges when I asked the DemoFest presenter how he validated people in his organization. Such a simple idea but people want to be recognized!

I am also thinking about how informal learning relates to eLearning in general whether it is K-12, higher ed, or enterprise. I have no huge Aha answers to share, just lots of questions! These are not the last musings on this topic by this still ignorant author!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shhh An Academic Went to #DevLearn

Don't tell any of the attendees at #DevLearn2011 but there was an academic in their midst this week! In fact, I was warned in advance not to "act like an academic." Since I profess right from the title of this blog to be ignorant, I decided that this was yet another area of my ignorance.

Truth be told though I wasn't the only academic at #DevLearn! We were however a minority population and we shouldn't be. This is one of my big takeaways from a wonderful conference! I have a whole series of takeaways and Aha's to share.

For those who are not aware #DevLearn is one of a series of conferences put on by @eLearningGuild #DevLearn has the well-deserved reputation of being the foremost, and the edgiest, conference on eLearning.

The underground definition of eLearning is corporate eLearning, aka The Training Department. One of the major buzzes throughout the conference was how to make training more informal, social, just-in-time, experiential, collaborative...
Hmm! Wait a minute, I hear a lot of these terms when talking about how to make K-12 and higher education better. I am sure though there is some big difference between the corporate and the academic versions of eLearning.
So I kept my mouth pretty much shut and continued to listen. In one of my first conversations a gentleman was talking about the conversion of his face-to-face (f2f) two day 8 hours/day training into an online format.
Those who know me well know that the term conversion is a hot button. I firmly believe eLearning cannot be "converted" from f2f. Courses, training, whatever you call the learning events, must be engineered completely differently than f2f trainings if they are going to be effective.
This gentleman went on to say that converting the trainings into 8 hour online sessions wasn't effective for the facilitators or the learners. He was looking to chunk the content more, stretch out the training, give people time to absorb the information and practice the skills.
Sounds a lot like teaching best practices in general. In fact his f2f sessions would probably be a candidate for chunking the content and giving folks time to practice the skills. But once again, I was thinking like an academic. I nodded in agreement but didn't once mention pedagogy or learning theory or brain research but he sure could have used some of that knowledge about how people learn.
There were many such times throughout the conference experience. I left Las Vegas yesterday thinking...
  1. K-12 and higher education are doing a LOT of eLearning. They should be at this table in eLearning Guild, and at #DevLearn talking about and thinking about how people best learn online.
  2. Corporate eLearning and instructional designers could learn a lot from "academics" and academics can learn a lot from corporate folks. We should be encouraging this conversation, not discouraging it.
  3. eLearning whether it is corporate or academic is still, despite all the talk about informal learning, organized around training events. Call them courses which are a semester long, or an 8 hour 2 day training (both are training events), there is very little true informal learning happening.
And shhhh I am told that a certain Russian educational theorist... by name Vygotsky, was mentioned in a Friday morning presentation. I saw it on the Tweet stream! I guess I am not the only one who needs to not "act like an academic!" Vygotsky... Vygotsky! Still laughing!

This ignorant academic has more insights about #DevLearn, informal learning, how people learn. Stay tuned!