Yesterday, Simon Jones wrote a piece where he wanted to defend classroom based learning. In it he writes
And here’s the news – learners actually like “old fashioned” classroom based training. They value the time away from their daily role to concentrate on a topic; they normally have intelligent questions about the subject matter and can see how they can apply it to work situations; and they like the fact that they get to meet colleagues (or in certain instances people from other businesses) and can get to know them in a non-pressured work situation.
It’s a valid point of view, and raises the very challenge of what learning looks and feels like in the modern age.
With models like 70:20:10 becoming more popular amongst professionals, it’s quite likely that what hasn’t been articulated well enough is that models like this aren’t advocating that face to face training shouldn’t be a learning solution. What models like this are advocating is that in providing a learning solution, there are a good many ways in which a learner can access and receive that learning, and as experts in learning, we need to understand what these alternatives are, how to make them happen, and how to support the business we’re working with to keep those solutions.
There was an article from Think With Google I read yesterday which shares insights into what people search for on YouTube. It’s a fascinating read as it shows that at home people are watching videos on topics like making food to DIY to braiding hair. They’re receiving knowledge at their point of need. It’s not too much of a hop skip and a jump to take those insights and realise that workplace learning needs to head in the same direction. Workers don’t want to wait for a training course to learn how to do something, when they can easily search for it and gain insights immediately.
What this means for face to face learning sessions is that there’s more pressure on making them valuable events for people to spend their time at. Yes, learners are there to learn from experts, but they’re also there to learn as adults. That means designing sessions which allow for debate, discussion and insights from peers as well as from the experts. It also means allowing for learners to access content in their time, not just at designated times.
Do people still enjoy attending a live training session? Of course they do. As a species, we are social beings. We can’t not enjoy being in the company of others (regardless of comfort levels), and we will always seek to engage and interact with content of interest.
Live training sessions fail to be useful when people attend training that is not relevant to them, not helpful to them, and little effort has been made to understand what their actual performance need is.
Recently, the guys at Looop wrote a white paper on the Empowered Learner, which I highly recommend reading as it clearly states how learners are now better able to use technology to support their learning at the point of need, and how organisations can adapt their learning offer so it’s more responsive. I’m going to be writing more about this white paper in another post.
Simon is right,
…properly designed, my observational evidence with a number of diverse businesses is that it is still an effective way to deliver training, and should still be an important part of the learning and development “mix”.
Face to face delivery of learning isn’t going anywhere, and it doesn’t need to. It has its role and people are very used to receiving learning in this way. Technology, though, is providing better ways for people to access learning, and that “learning mix” has to include face to face, digital and social methods of delivering learning solutions.