The field of training doesn’t change quickly. Even though technological innovation occurs at rapid speed and new learning theories emerge from cognitive research, large and entrenched training organizations move like slow dinosaurs.
It’s up to learning experience designers and developers, as well as trainers, educators and instructors to move us toward a more enlightened path that meets the needs of learners in today’s world. I’m voting that these four big ideas can propel us forward, hopefully sooner rather than later. Which big ideas do you favor? Comment below.
Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital world, where information is constantly changing and updating. Developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, this big idea is based on networks and on community, which is defined as “a clustering of similar areas of interest that allows for interaction, sharing, dialoguing and thinking together.”
Connectivism stresses that learning often occurs in loosely defined environments and is found in varied digital formats. Learning is enabled when an individual engages with community because information is distributed across networks. And because information is continually in a state of flux, the ability to seek, find and appropriately filter information is more important that what the individual knows.
When we acknowledge how much learning occurs through connected communities, it opens the door to rethinking traditional approaches to eLearning— at least in some domains. Perhaps it will mean enabling and supporting communities with common interests, breaking down superficial walls to encourage collaboration or documenting organizational knowledge for sharing. The possibilities for implementing connectivism are great.
Collaborative learning—acquiring knowledge and skills through working with others—goes against the traditional model of pushing instruction on to audience members. This big idea assumes that learning is active, social and constructive.
Collaborative learning works in both structured and unstructured environments. In more formal learning, it often starts with a problem that needs to be solved. Collaborators develop a shared understanding of solutions through research, discussion, conversation and creation. This facilitates higher-level cognitive skills, because learners are creating something new together. Unlike traditional eLearning, learners are not isolated from each other.
In an unstructured environment, collaborative learning occurs naturally, by observing and working with others and through social media platforms. In your world, a focus on collaborative learning could involve adding discussion capabilities to online courses, providing times when experts make themselves available for online chats or promoting the co-creation of wikis for learning.
3. Situated Learning
This model, developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, proposes that effective learning occurs through the same activities, context and culture in which it will be applied. Further, that learners take on the sensibilities and beliefs of the community of practice in which they immerse themselves, so that enculturation happens seamlessly. This contrasts with the traditional approach to learning, which typically occurs separate from where the learned performance will take place.
Although situated learning theory may resemble the apprentice system, it goes beyond that. There is not one master, but a community—a variety of experts and workplace situations in which learning occurs.
This is another big idea based on the value of learning through social community. In terms of eLearning, hybrid approaches that allow for social contact can fulfill this approach. Using sophisticated simulations and 3D immersive environments could also work. Situated learning will push training designers to find ways to ensure that employees can stay informed, keep their skills current and know the right questions to ask when solving problems.
4. Informal Learning
This big idea is based on the fact that people are naturally designed for learning. Infants and children are compelled to explore, discover and experiment; adults learn more outside of structured programs at work, home and play than through formal means.
Informal learning is a self-directed and intrinsically motivated engagement for acquiring skills and knowledge. People set their own goals and the satisfaction comes from being able to do something new. As Jay Cross, proponent of informal learning says, “Informal learning often is a pastiche of small chunks of observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation. Learners are pulled to informal learning.”
In the workplace, informal learning is accomplished by creating an open atmosphere that encourages sharing. It happens by encouraging discussion and conversation, implementing in-house social media technologies and fostering communities of practice. Because more learning occurs informally rather than formally, it’s wise to encourage it.
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