Moving Beyond the Classroom

Moving Beyond the Classroom With Executive Education
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

Last April, HBS prof Dorothy Leonard invited John Seely Brown, Peter Senge, Chris Dede, and others to an Adult Learning Workshop to inquire "to what extent should the traditional face-to-face classroom experience serve as the model for online programs."

The recap and conclusions fill two interviews, a white paper, and half a dozen video clips. I enjoyed the three-minute video clips, especially the irony of a talking head telling us that talking head video has no effect.

The conclusion is that "we need to think differently about the flow of learning." Classroom and distant learning each have their place, and it's not imitating one another. We need more than repackaging; we need entirely new perspectives of how people learn.

Here are three kinds of distance learning:

  1. desktop delivery
  2. virutal reality
  3. ubiquitous computing -- overlay reality with virtual pieces
These are wildly different environments, a lot more to deal with than mere online learning.

Marrying Distance and Classroom Education. If we were really clever we would think about taking advantage of both. You heard in the workshop some of the things that are advantageous to the technology side besides the obvious advantages of asynchronicity and not having to travel. Mediated work, for example. [Increasing] the kinds of people who will feel comfortable contributing. Probably a greater ability is…to deliver materials that can be experienced at different levels.

Mentoring—Using the Voice of Experience. Cognitive science shows us is that there are limits to how fast you can drive the learning. A lot of expert knowledge is tacit, and that makes it difficult to transfer because people can't always articulate all they know. That's why they'll resort to stories or rules of thumb and so forth. But again, that's why it's important to work together on things rather than to just tell people what to do.

Earlier related articles:

Working Paper: Transferring Expertise in Startup Companies: Forlorn Hope?

Ways of Learning

Learning in Action, 12/2001. "The most effective learning strategy depends on the situation," writes David A. Garvin. "There is no stock answer, nor is there a single best approach." In Learning in Action, he illustrated the diversity of learning organization strategies with examples from several organizations, including L.L. Bean, the U.S. Army's Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), AT&T's Bell Laboratories, the Timken Companies and General Electric's Change Acceleration Process (CAP).

Manager or Mentor? Why You Must Be Both. HBS professor David A. Thomas hates the word "mentor." In his opinion, it's as empty a buzzword as "coach." What Thomas prefers, he explained to the group, is the more tongue-twisty but precise term "developmental relationship." But what exactly is a developmental relationship? It pivots on the experience that an individual has when they're engaged in their work, he said. That experience can be heavily slanted along racial or gender lines, he added, offering an example from his own life to illustrate the point.

Posted by Jay Cross at December 17, 2002 03:20 AM | TrackBack

Small world! This morning I got a note from my pal Brian DeLacey, Dorothy Leonard's research associate, pointing me to the above and inviting my comments. I wrote:

    Your research conclusions are converging with industry's.

    You are spot on about the difficulty of starting with online (nobody home) and that some people are stronger contributors online than off (introverts to the front of the class).

    The "hybrid" will become a conglomerate. In short order, we'll stop this talk of in-class versus online in favor of streams of learning that contain both of these plus Senge's sims plus Google plus inhouse Google plus collaborative work environments and more. It's blended like you'd get out of the bass-o-matic, not a neat layer cake with alternative bands of online and off.

Posted by: jay at December 17, 2002 05:07 PM

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