At work we learn more in the breakroom than in the classroom. We discover how to do our jobs through informal learning -- observing others, asking the person in the next cubicle, calling the help desk, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal learning - classes and workshops and online events - is the source of only 10% to 20% of what we learn at work.
Yet corporations, non-profits, and government invest most of their budgets in formal learning, when it?s apparent that most learning is informal. This stands common sense on its head. It?s the 20/80 rule: Invest your resources where they?ll do the least good.
Informal Learning -- the Other 80% is the theme of the May 16th meeting of eLearning Forum. We'll offer numerous suggestions on how to leverage informal learning. I need a little help fleshing out our agenda. Specifically, I'm looking for:
A report from Learning & Training Week from my pal Rick Huebsch, the head honcho at Open Minds Learning.
Winding up here in D.C. Wanted to report back about your request to look for social software/informal learning information. I was very surprised to find only one session about Learning Communities and none specifically about the topic of informal learning.
I have been attending conferences about eLearning for the past five years. I guess I am discouraged because I see that presenters are not focussing on the value proposition that eLearning offers. From the session topics it is clear that technology and business issues are still driving the definition and implemention of eLearning. Many, many sessions about LMSs, ROI, content migration, eLearning strategies, etc. Other sessions were neutral and provided little direction about the psychological or educational rationale that should underlie blended learning solutions. Most demonstrations showed the learner operating in isolation. I did not hear but one presenter discuss the social needs of the learner or the relationship between learning and potential communities of practice, purpose, expertise or interest. Only one presenter, Paul Clothier, provoked his audience to think of eLearning as an opportunity in increase the quality of interactivity, but his demonstrations did not show the relationship between the learner’s experience with interactive digital learning in isolation and his application to his job or his relationship with his colleagues.
Several presentations discussed informal learning in the context of discussion blended learning models. One speaker from SkillSoft, Dorman Woodall, probably came closest to addressing informal learning in his session entitled “Blending Formal and Informal Learning for Performance Impact.” He talked about eight key learning steps from formal to informal learning, presented six blended learning models involving formal (self-paced) and informal (collaborative) methods, and provided some examples. One of his slides was particularly useful in representing support for formal and informal learning. He showed this on an axis, the y as depth of the learning application, the x axis as time. It shows that the more integrated formal and informal training methods, the deeper the learning application. All of this was presented in 45 minutes, so it was cursory at best.
The one session about Learning Communities was led by Andy Snyder. He advised that we should be moving from the information age, (ease of access to information) to a people-centric model (fostering relationships). eLearning, he posited, provides a stepping stone to learning communities that can enable transition of formal learning to informal learning. He kept his presentation at a high level, so he did not delve into the hows and whats of informal learning.
So I propose that the eLearning Forum focus one of its sessions on the topic: The value proposition that eLearning in fact provides and the technologies and models that enable this proposition.
Jay again, wondering who these people from the conference masthead are and why the center one appears to be pressing the enter key upside down.
Please add your two cents about Learning & Training Week as a comment.
Insider: Did you hear? e-Learning is Dead. That's right... dead. Shot down in the prime of its life. Six feet under. Kaput.
Jay: I presume they mean this , which was part of my Eulogy for eLearning presentation.
Insider: A few weeks ago a few of our industries infamous "thought leaders" announced that the term "e-Learning" was dead. On the "Ins and Outs" lists, it was in the "outs" column. Their reasons included 1) the death of the dot-com era, 2) failed e-Learning projects, and 3) the suffering of e-Learning vendors....
No, what I really said was that eLearning would go on because it brought too many benefits not to. But..."eLearning" is a marketing term, an attempt to get under the halo of eBusiness, and that it has outlived its usefulness as a marketing term because many senior managers consider it a fiasco.
Insider: .... But Insider argues that we shouldn't toss away a perfectly good term. Think about it for a moment...
I go further out on the limb than that. I don't think learning is an easy sell in the executive suite. They're called executives because they want to execute. We need to position what we do as the key to execution.
Insider: The term "e-Learning" has served many of us really well. For one thing, it is a term that CEO's, CIO's and CFO's understand. Granted they may not entirely get the big picture of the breadth and potential of e-Learning, but they know the term. Remember, they actually sat up and took notice of our requests to fund e-Learning initiatives, even if only because Wall Street took notice too. This was a good thing! It was the term "e-Learning" that opened the discussion about how we can create substantial and sustainable organizational value.
"Was." Past tense. In today's lean and mean economy, executives pay for performance. They often defer maintenance, including maintenance on human capital.
Insider: Another reason to keep the term "e-Learning" is because it is easy to remember and our students "get it". Those of us in the training/learning industry get really caught up in the "performance improvement", "knowledge enhancement", and "productivity accelerator" terms, but our students and their bosses are really much more responsive to a simpler term. "E-Learning" fits the bill. When they hear the term, folks know that they are going to use technology to get the information/learning/training they need to do better on their job. And that is all they really care about.
If eLearning were synonymous with performance improvement, I'd be a happy camper. The most popular title at ASTD Press is Telling Ain't Training. You know what? Business people do not care. Better numbers will make them happy whether they result from training or telling or taking smart pills or prayer. They want performance from their workers. (We're the only ones who call them learners.)
Insider: While we have had ups and downs, I have not seen a better term appear to replace "e-Learning", and until I do, and until the hundreds of thousands of people developing e-Learning and the millions using e-Learning stop using e-Learning, I think I will stick by it for a while longer.
We agree on this. I haven't come up with a replacement. As I said, I'm working on it. I no more relish changing the name of eLearning Forum than you guys want to rename the eLearning Guild.
This is about all I've got to say on this issue. We have bigger fish to fry than semantics.
While I enjoy sparring with my friends at eLearning Guild, I am a big fan. If you didn't get eLearning_Insider in your email today, you probably haven't upgraded your membership from Associate to Guild Member. For $99, it's a great deal.
Our attitudes about learning seem to slant too far toward numbers & mechanics or too much toward people & relationships; a good balance is rare. In late 1998 we were headed to the numbers extreme. Web-based learning was going to cut costs, eliminate jobs, reduce face-to-face meetings, automate training, and boost ROI. Having found that you can only take that so far until it bites back, in 2003 the pendulum is swinging back into the extreme people-side. The focus is shifting from mechanics to community, connections, collaboration, social software, faith in worker self-determination, mentors, and coaches. In sum, the pendulum is still swinging to extremes and overcorrecting on its return.
Learning Objects are creating more buzz now than in 1998 but they are hardly new.
Learners weren't being treated as customers fast enough for my taste, so Lance Dublin and I wrote a book about it to try to speed things up. Most organizations have yet to buy into this concept.
No one talked about Web Services in '98, but it was no secret that interoperability based on the notion of XML was on the way.
Well, okay, not all my predictions come true. If you, too, drank the dot-com Kool-Aid, you'll remember when the sky was the limit, Moore's Law applied to everything, and Wired magazine could pass for truth.
Most of my uncertainties in 1998 remain uncertain today:
By now, I expected us to have recruited our corporate "village elders" as mentors.
My vital questions in 1998 were:
Jay in 1998.
Our host, Tom Hill, is Program Manager, Advanced Learning Technologies, Hewlett Packard Education & Training Center, NonStop Enterprise Division, and a long-time member of eLearning Forum (back when we were the Silicon Valley eLearning Network).
Tom explained that our topic is the future of eLearning, but not the close-in future one can predict through extropolation so much as the future five years from now when things will be really different.
Jerry Neece comparing early eLearning to our microphone holder constructed of Bic pens and Scotch tape.
Jerry Neece, an eLearning pioneer in his years with Sun, noted that Mosaic is celebrating its tenth birthday this month! For many of us, this first browser was the wake-up call for the idea that marrying technology and education could yield tremendous results. Yet eLearning has failed to live up to the promise. Why?
The future is promising because of such things as:
- Open architecture based on J2EE, modularity, and learner-centricity. MIT is offering a free LMS. U-portal is free, developed by colleges, now 500 institutions. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of engineers are working on these open systems. Web standards such as SOAP, XML, UDDI, etc. mean that engineers can work on a module rather than the whole enchilada. For example, Villa Nova University, has tied together registration, the grading system, and student information to provide professors with a composite class list (with photos) and a single interface for attendance and grading.
- More personalized learning enabled by identity management, profiling, and quality of service. Adaptive, based on learner’s historic behavior. Rank-ordered list of what I need to know (based in part on what I already know).
- More standards, leading to reusable learning objects, giving increased quality at lower cost
- Paradigm shift: learning comes to you rather than you to the learning. Take the mountain to Mohammed.
Trace Urdan, Research Analyst, Think Equity Partners
Trace Urdan joined us by phone, identifying three seismic shifts in eLearning:
1. shift of training responsibility from corporations to individuals
volatile employment conditions, labor a variable cost
proven benefit of credentials and degrees – the boost pay and are portable
rise and redefinition of trade schools, e.g. University of Phoenix
web-based degree programs
EDS, IBM, Thompson making their moves
Farm out what you don’t understand well
3. disintermediation of content development
companies will roll their own
steadily advancing power of tools
Wayne Hodgins, Autodesk futurist, phoned in from a car hurtling along an L.A. freeway. Wayne starts 3-5 years out and tries to go out another 50 years. Our world is speeding up. Like driving, the faster you go, the further ahead you have to look. Wayne shared three alliterations with us.
Small, smart, standards
No one is thinking small enough
How small? So small it’s never used by itself
This maximizes flexibility in reassembly
Low level of intelligence we gain thru pattern recognition
Substitute proactive for reactive
Subjective metadata – gathering peoples’ opinions
Use this for predicting what people will and won’t like
NetFlix can predict how you’ll rate a movie
Standards are a long haul but an important one
Progress is being made. XML, XMS derivatives, RSS, SOAP…
MOTO = metadata, objects, taxonomies, ontologies
Personal, proactive, performance
Teacher for every teachable moment
“When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear” (Confucius)
Key on the proactive side
We have set our expectations way too low
Results and performance are what matters
Readiness to respond to the unexpected
Business trend: performance-based contract payouts
Content, collaboration, context
Current content sucks. Neither compelling nor relevant
New kinds of content, e.g. visual language, Scott McCloud’s comics, simulations – compelling, not entertaining
Collaboration -- check Wikipedia, 100,000+ nodes generated by readers
Once you start to provide enabling things, responsibilities shift to the users
Customers will develop the taxonomies and vocabulary
Peg Maddocks describes the changes at Cisco.
Peg Maddocks told us about her exciting new assignment at Cisco, working in a new business unit, Learning Strategy and Development.
John Chambers recently observed that Cisco "was not flying in formation," i.e. the company was trying to tackle too many things in too many ways. Peg's new group was established to create a unified learning strategy for all of Cisco. One of their objectives is to enable employees to move around, cross-fertilizing the organization. To pull this off, Peg foresees creating common learning models and supportive business processes, taking a user point of view, and making content interoperable across all Cisco divisions. New eLearning business council has SVPs; they will make decisions about learning strategies.
Tom Hill described trends he's seeing at Non-Stop University.
Tom Hill talks about trends at HP Non-Stop.
Overseas online learners are two to three times more active than the typical North American.
90% of content champions are from Europe
Caution: don’t be America-centric
Economic – MIT Technology Review says next major information technology corporation may come from India
Realtime, around-the-world financial markets
Strategically, you’re either selling the product or building it
Collaborative – increase engagement, two-way, organic. Nurture -- you can't force it.
Agents – learner controlled, centric
Mentoring – accompaniment, great book on this: Working Wisdom
Self publishing – user contributions
UI – fewer steps, clicks, and pain; “more dashboard” but make it a customizable dashboard
Anxious User/Customer (no travel, fewer offices, more products coming out)
IBM – I’m by myself. (Gerstner). We live in a technology envelope. More high touch coming.
Self-efficacy. Managing my own learning, Flow
Iterative – spiral, adding to mental map.
Katie Povejsil debriefs the discussion groups.
The Technology group wanted an expert voice in the ear that follows them around. Social network analysis will help pinpoint expertise. For the next five years, most knowledge will still come from people. The Learner group figured that everyone will be a learner; the term will lose meaning as learning becomes part of the tapestry of life. The Content group foresees a shorter distance between SME and learner. Already, knowledge centers (think call center for learning) are being established in India.
Our next meeting, on May 16 at the Microsoft Campus in Mountain View, will deal with informal and social learning. Google will be joining us, along with leaders of the social software movement, edu-bloggers, and a new technology. You'll need to sign up early since attendance is limited to sixty.
This is only a prelminary report of our April meeting. This is what I would have blogged live if HP had Wi-Fi in the classroom. Mentorware is creating an electronic summary for the eLearning Forum archives. The results of our pre-meeting member poll are already there.