Drowning in learning projects… What do we do?

I’ve been thinking lately about a problem many of my peers are facing;  Drowning in too many formal learning projects.

I’ve grown quite abit over the years in regards to methodology, tools and concepts. The are many coping mechanisms organizations can choose to apply.  Rapid design philosophies, project management tools and organizational structure are basic and you are crazy to not research and apply them.  Doing things how you are, however, you really need to ask yourself one vital question:  “How will I cope with double the number of these projects?”

The answer is inevitable.  You won’t.

I’ve always been drawn to technology.  I love the innovative spirit inherent in it.  It’s fun when you can use the medium in the message too.  Creating learning for an organization’s products carries a sense of urgency, a wide range of topics and is just cool.  But pool that with all other new hire programs, leadership programs and procedural training and you sink into deep water.

The first thing a learning practitioner NEEDS to truly accept is there likely won’t be a lull.  For a successful company, there is rarely the mythical “breather”. There is a good reason for this, and it’s no accident.  There are innumerable articles on the GDP growth %, population growth, new businesses and economic competition.  You can refer to comments by Ray Kurzweil or look at articles around Moore’s Law.  We are growing, our products are growing, exponential innovation is seething around you.  Welcome to the 21st century.

If you hold to the sales pitch you made when justifying the need for a corporate learning department to the executive leadership, you committed to support that growth, those new employees and the product’s customers and do it economically.  Oh crap?

In reality, you are genetically in good shape.  We’re doing amazing things as a species because we are adaptable and inventive.  This has to be fostered in the learning processes and solutions as well.  Being mired in “the way we do things” creates behaviours that not only do not support that natural growth of our products and economy but are doomed to failure.  How can any of these organization, living in the world mentioned above compete?

I think it’s important for organizations to start to think lighter.  Rather than build based on tradition or comfort level,  take a good hard look at whether an ILT or eLearning is really required? Informal approaches like collaborative communities, virtual roundtables and moderated text or audio discussion forums can hit the mark just as well if not better, and take half the time to create.

For several years there have been active discussions around how employees today learn 90% of what they need on the job from informal sources.  Yet most organizations still allocate the great majority of training budgets to formal eLearning and ILTs.  Therefore segregating the learning teams to focus on the arguably least impactful elements of an employees growth.

There are several reasons organizations do this, all good battlefronts for you to fight on:

  • Evaluation – Adult learning education programs drill in the need to evaluate learners.   I myself leverage and find comfort in the Kirkpatrick model.  But evaluating informal material can be a challenge.  You might need to instead lean on performance shifts and trends rather than individual resource impact.  This can be tough to explain and sell to an executive team but is a worthwhile exercise to explore together.
  • Revenue – Some organizations sell their learning products.  Formal learning is an easier “package” than the informal.  Why not provide a formal/informal package that has both that easy to price ILT, but has templates  for customers to self manage wikis, blogs or discussion forums.  Or add a professional service to moderate it for them (a value add with expert advice FAQs?)  This can be both revenue generating and sellable.
  • Infrastructure – No tools to support informal learning?  Today, there are so many tools available free or at minimal cost.  Options that allow for a range of hardware, can be cloud based, integrated with enterprise or standalone and have a variety of security options.  Assess and plan your need and start digging.

With informal approaches time is spent on the knowledge areas and the engagement, not creating a ton of expensive, slow to produce “stuff”. You can still apply adult learning principles but its so much less overhead.

For example:
Consider having trainers do a webcast via tablet or smartphone rather than an ILT.  Make them agile, product experts rather than chain them to a room. You can then record and post it to your LMS and have an ID organize the discussion into a blog that is logically formatted, searchable and learners can comment on.

Creating an interactive structure, knowledge rich and engaging content that has the right technical depth doesn’t have to mean deployment of a formal package.  Instead linking together content with a logical structure (wikipedia?) can enhance or replace formal material to support an organizations growth with quick, accurate and impactful projects.

Projects that you will be able to manage easier and still be able to breath.


About Andrew Ambrose
I am passionate about the learning longtail for formal and informal learning solutions, leveraging social media and networking technology for learning projects, innovation through mLearning, collaborative learning and applying solutions that fit within the learners personal learning environment.

One Response to Drowning in learning projects… What do we do?

  1. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

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