Developing flexible modern content

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Over the last several weeks I have been participating in Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning group. This weeks task is to look at developing flexible modern content in the workplace.

So what does this mean? In Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning she identifies that technology and web is enabling new ways of learning. That people are becoming more self directed to solve their own learning and performance problems and this approach is very different from traditional learning approaches. Modern content is continuous, on demand, bite sized, on the go, social, not designed, serendipitous and performance orientated. Read more in chapter 2 of Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning – A resource book for L&D.

I agree with all of Jane Hart’s observations on the characteristics of modern learning. Here’s a personal example of modern learning in action. My husband recently built a pizza oven at our house. He had never laid a brick and is a bus driver and stay at home dad by day. He did not go on a pizza oven building workshop, nor did he get tutored or mentored on how to build pizza oven. Instead he was self-directed in his problem solving and researched the web and found websites and Youtube clips with how to build different types of pizza ovens. He took bits of information from different sites, sometimes commenting and asking the bloggers specific questions. He trialled techniques and went back to research when more info was needed. From this he built his own customised pizza oven, in his own time, that met his own specific needs (i.e. fitted in the limited space and used the fire bricks we bought cheaply). His performance was measured through the results – which I must say are delicious!

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So how do we bring this modern learning into the workplace? It is such a contrast to what happens within workplaces as most view that learning can only happen and be believed to have happened if it is delivered to the staff (workshops, online courses, programmes etc). Completion and attendance can be checked off and the job of learning is done – then we move onto the next learning job.

To embed modern learning into the workplace is mostly a change of mind set and usually this is required first from the Learning and development departments that are wedded to courses and outputs. Learning and development departments need to take responsibility with showing the workplace ways people really learn and embedding this in practice. Learning is a continuous process not a one off event, a one-off training event will do little to solve performance problems.

Curating content and communicating resources to staff members is one way in which modern learning can be brought into the workplace. Here’s a blog on how I’ve started doing this in my workplace – learning resources from content curation. Why would we not point staff to useful bite-sized resources that they can pull and utilise as they need it? Why not even follow up on ‘learning events’ with curated relevant content? I know some excellent learning resources that would be useful for all staff such as Lynda.com, Tedtalks, Mindtools and many more. Why not promote these resources to all staff then they too can be familiar with resources that can help them grow?

Working as learning consultants rather than just learning deliverers is another way in which to build continuous learning practices into teams and management, teach the skills and practices around learning rather than just the content. Building new attitudes and culture towards workplace learning means that learning can be viewed as a continuous, embedded and forever improving approach to work performance.

Does this mean courses are bad and shouldn’t happen? I think no, courses (elearning or facilitated) will always have a place – just a smaller one. They shouldn’t be the automatic first or only offer of help from L&D. And when a course is deemed an appropriate learning response it needs to be more than a one-off event. Courses can and should be supported by other techniques such as learning plans, curated content, self-directed research, social learning and learning communities. The course anatomy will also need to adapt, for example, small bite sized chunks are more suited to modern learning now than a week out at a workshop.

How do you see flexible modern content? What are you doing your workplace to move towards this? I’d love to hear your thoughts…