4 Big Ideas That Will Change The World Of Training

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.

1. Connectivism

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.

For more on Connectivism:
George Siemens’ Connectivism Site
Description of Connectivism
Design to Thrive: Creating Social Networks and Online Communities That Last

2.Collaborative Learning

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.

For more on Collaborative and Social Learning:
Interview with Jane Hart
Social Media for Working and Learning
The Social Enterprise Blog

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.

For more on Situated Learning and Immersive Environments:
Situated Learning by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger
Your Brain On 3D Learning

Learning in 3D by Karl Kapp

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.

For more on Informal Learning:
Interview with Jay Cross
Informal Learning by Jay Cross

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  1. @mmeveilleux (Ingrid) says

    This post really delivers on its title. These are four important ideas that are currently shaping and I hope will continue to shape the world of education and professional development. I hope that as educators we will work to nurture these ideas with care and attention and not take them for granted.

    With point #1, Michael Fullan might point out that connectivism in itself is not a good enough goal for professional development but connectivism with a moral purpose. Also, we want be aware whether we are cultivating lateral or vertical networks and not limit ourselves only to one or the other or our PD will not be as rich nor its effects as far-reaching.

    Wonderful reading and thanks for the links!

  2. Jody Urquhart says

    All 0rganizations move like slow dinosaurs. The average 26 year old has better technology in their own personal use than at work. it used to be the other way around. When I was young ( yikes, i hate that i just wrote that)i used to go downtown so I could use my dads office fax machine, speaker phone or photo copy machine. Now I can buy these technologies so easy and cheap!

  3. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Jody,
    Thanks for your insight. How true! … It used to be that a perk of working in an office was the technology. Now, many people have something better at home. Still, prob depends on the office.

  4. erin conery says

    I really like how connected each of these ideas really are. While taking slightly different approaches, they are all based around the idea that we learn best with others – with a community. Starting with the Connectivist idea that learning is distributed across networks and occurs when people engage in communities, the collaborative approach to community learning shows how that community can be structured or unstructured, the situated learning belief narrows down that learners must be engaged in the community in which the skills they are learning will need to be applied, and the informal learning approach narrows down further to the idea that learning occurs best in a community that encourages sharing.

    As a designer, I see these four ideas working in collaboration – almost as a continuum. That the most successful learning environment takes this approach from a collaborative training experience, balanced with situational opportunities to refine knowledge and practice skills in the real community they will be used in, and then exiting that training path into a community that continues to support informal learning.

  5. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Erin,
    Thanks for your insightful comment. I like the way you placed the ideas on a continuum! Your approach could be helpful for anyone designing learning experiences.

  6. Teena Yauilla says

    Finally, finally…developers, website designers and IT folks are head of the class. We are positioned to teach and train now with all of the new technology; of course we have a better understanding of how devices and technology work. I love it but the problem is that it is so overwhelming for your typical person to grasp. Teaching and learning is definitely at the next level and it is only going to get more techy than every! There seems to be a large audience that needs to learn new ways to grow their business. We are focusing on teaching all ages. Feel free to contact us about our Social Media and Training Coaching series. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Alex Oxborough says

    I was surprised to see that the four gamechangers you point out are all the essentials of learning a new language 1. Connectivism- engaging with the learner’s interests to motivate 2. Collaborative learning- flipped classrooms 3. Situated Learning-linguistic and cultural immersion 4. Informal learning- having fun in that language.

    I may be biased, but I believe learning a language gives you a toolkit to learn anything. Perhaps all knowledge is a language? Learned by rote its use is limited, if it is assimilated properly its application is infinite.


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