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Ideas for Personal Learning in Organisations

I read this morning a post from Helen Blunden which inspired me a few suggestions for L&D.

Helen ends her post on “we now know that learning is personal so how do you design experiences that allow people to learn in this manner?”

When I reached this line I though for myself, what would I do and I came with this post:

A bit of context to start

I’m not an L&D practitioner, I’m not a specialist in learning but I built learning organizations and developed team potential.

Learning from the manager point of view

So the ideas I share here are from my position of manager. I have one more advantage. I’m a curious person, I worked in many different fields: vineyards, bottling industries, automotive, plastic, software, construction, ship building and I was always keen to know how the work is done down to the craftsmen.

Learning is personal

For me, Learning is more than a hunger to learn to the awareness stage. be informed, learned from the best, take dives in knowledge, share as you learn. That’s what I call the academic stage. For me knowledge is more than absorbing material, it implies applying, taking the needed hours to stretch until it’s almost painful but I finally get the gist of it. Repeat until it gets into my mind, settle there and become part of me. Later I put it to work and it becomes part of my everyday actions. That’s how you become good at coding, in marketing, in cooking. Occasionally I reinforce it, reflect on it, sharpen the saw. I can’t separate it anymore from what I knew, what I inferred from it, what I changed and adapt to my case and understanding. This means it becomes hard to share because it’s no more isolated, outlined and chunked. Did I became an SME?

While I imagine for IDs most subject matter learning stays in the white room. Knowledge gets in, in a clean space, it’s being analyzed, learned, dissected, chunked, discussed and stored on a shelf. When an occasion comes to share this knowledge it suffices to go back to the shelf, draw the box, rummage a bit in it, extract pieces that seem relevant and serve it packaged. The problem is that for most workers/learners this is only the beginning. They need to be able to apply it in a productive way. They need the material and to sweat on it. Note there are also cases where simple recipes are sufficient. In this case, we are in a pure KM scenario, no learning takes places.

Now if you go to learners and tell them it’s personal, the game changed and you can’t keep the above rules. L&D need to let go control on learning. Compliance and regulatory will stay, of course, I’m talking about everything above. Personalized is something done for you, personal is something you do for yourself and keep the control on ( Stephen Downes). To match the personal of Learning with a personal learning process we need to put the worker in the driving seat of his learning.

L&D becomes more organizers of Knowledge transfer and a support team.

Everybody can design instructional material

I’m sure of this but I know it’s controversial. It will take time.

The rule is no more to curate (how could you?) but help curation (like a librarian would do), not to inquire and build courses but assist, help SME’s build short courses on some topics that you would later organize so that learners can pick and consume in a personal way. SME’s can’t build courses? why? Learning Design is not a secret science. It’s like coding and everyone want to learn to code. Everyone wants to write a blog, design infographics. The obstacle is mostly to make this skill available to the largest group and make the tools easier to learn. If ID tools were more standard, easier and straightforward everybody could use them. This is a place where deep learning could help a lot.

Not learners but adults

In the personal learning age, Learners are adults and want to tap directly from the source, drink from the tap, not from a bottle mixed with the dehydrated knowledge. What they want are the keys, the map and the skills to learn themselves.

A scenario

I have now a few questions I imagine a team member in tech company would ask and what are the responses I imagine the L&D would have.

Q: Where is the minimal formal knowledge I need to ingest first? make it easy for me to take bites by bites during my breaks, waiting times or low energy times. This means that proven learning paths are broken into pieces, classified and made accessible to everyone. No barriers, no preregistration, content can be taken offline on their one device: a car, a phone, a watch. Obviously, this defies design intensive experiences.

A: “We prepared a collection of cheatsheets, on job aids but start with this Wikipedia page on TDD, next this 2 blog posts, and a nice takeaway prepared by your colleague last year. Next, this MOOC is cool but it’s 5 weeks and start below your competencies, this one is not starting before 6 months, this book is too old, this one is too complex. We’ll go and find some more alternative if it’s urgent.”

Each resource must be tagged by the competencies required, gained, time, modality. It’s learning curation based on validated learning paths. A search engine and go! A configuration engine can do the rest of the work.

Q: Who are the knowledgeable people sharing the most up-to-date stuff on this that I can follow. How do I connect with them (blog, social media, TED, Youtube). For professionals, it can be private resources, suppliers sites and learning material.

A: “If you want to learn design for coders we located this guy who shares his ideas on his blog, his twitter account is ________ and he is willing to engage if you have questions. Here there is a newsletter group, as slack etc..”

A: “you can also watch the TED videos of Z it’s very clear but you will not be able to engage with her unless you join a course. It’s quite expensive we don’t have the budget for it.”

Q: What can I try, how can I have my hands on? How to try safely, could you help me get into a position where I can try without risks of being harmed if I fail? It could be a simulation cabin (for pilots), a test virtual computer to install and try new stuff (for DevOps), a free service where I can learn a new app and decide later, a blanket statement to cover me for my hierarchy.

A: “We have a test machine line in this location. Next time you go there for a course we arrange you to get extra day to give it a try”

A: “If you apply in your workplace take this extra precautions, sign this form and declare yourself as a learn by doing learner on this day. It has been agreed with managers that this will cover you against possible fireback, drops in productivity.”

Q: How can I get further, what others did to learn more. Could you suggest me stretch assignments that I could merge into my current job, to continue learning by doing while staying reasonably productive ?

A: “Do you want to learn TDD? this is a roadmap made by a colleague of you: next time you start a new module, start by the spec and empty code, next time you have to fix a bug that keeps coming back, try setting up a mockup case to stabilize the use case.”

what do you think

Did I just repeat things everybody knows and applies for years?
Could you use one of my ideas?