Myths of Learning laid bare

During this time of COVID-19, it is sharply calling into question many workplace practices and beliefs.

Roles can’t be fulfilled from home? Except, everyone who can, is. It’s going to play havoc with leaders and managers who believe that if you’re not “present” you’re not “working”.

Roles that weren’t given to disabled people due to the above myth? No basis for that belief anyway, and in this crisis, highlighting that disabled people could always have been given those roles, that they could work from home, and they can be productive and contributory.

Working from home can’t be successful? Except, everyone who is able to, is showing just how successful it can be.

Flexible working requests that can’t be met? Why couldn’t they be met exactly? What was the genuine reason?

We have made decisions about a lot of working practice on nothing more than false narratives. More fool us.

And in the world of Learning, a lot of our practices and beliefs are having lights shone on them like never before.

In-person training / Instructor-led training is the best form of learning design and delivery. Uh-huh. Except, now we can’t deliver in this way, what is the next best form of learning?

Virtual training / webinars are inferior. Are they? Why is it that all these trainers and consultants whose business was primarily about them in-person, are now moving to virtual / webinar platforms?

Virtual learning platforms can’t deliver great learning experiences. Except, we’ve now got all those same trainers mentioned previously, who would confidently decry the utility or effectiveness of these platforms, suddenly all become advocates and experts in the tools. Where was that advocacy before COVID-19?

When you’re in person you can support individuals when they’re struggling with learning concepts. Because apparently facilitators/trainers are experts in reading body language and expert at responding to people’s needs. Maybe they are. This can be done digitally. Quite effectively, too. Fundamentally it’s about the design of the learning session. How are you designing the learning experience so you can support learning in that direct way?

Digital learning is too hard. Except YouTube remains one of the most production platforms in the world and people use it everyday for their regular problems. Is is that digital learning is too hard, or is it that people haven’t had the will to learn the skills they need?

Transforming in-person training to virtual training is easy. I remember when people made the same assumptions about how e-learning was going to revolutionise accessibility of learning. If your assumption is that you can deliver virtual training in similar ways to in-person training, you’re about to experience an incredibly sharp learning curve. You’ll probably write a blog post or two about it.

You can’t really make a business out of virtual learning. I would strongly encourage you to seek out both Jo Cook of Lightbulb Moment, and Catherine Nicholson of The Virtual Training Team. They have been leading on this long before COVID-19 concerns were a thing.

Virtual training is cheaper than in-person training. Listen, if you’re a client and you’re suggesting this, then go have a word with yourself. You are still gaining the full experience, qualification, intelligent, smart human being delivering your content. Don’t be a dick about paying less because it’s digitally led. Honour the consultant. Pay the right fee.

If learning isn’t being “delivered”, what’s the role of the L&Der? Interesting how conversations of performance support / performance consultancy have been going on for years, and now we’re questioning if delivering on learning needs analyses was the right approach. What about in-the-moment needs that can’t be met by learning design? When a manager needs to address a performance gap, what should they do? When the product manager needs to collaborate virtually, how can they be supported? When the sales leader needs to deliver a plan for the next 2 months virtually to their team, what do they need? How do we ensure staff are remaining compliant with mandatory care requirements when they are overworked and overstretched so much that they have zero time or energy to complete e-learning?

This is a good time for L&D to really examine its accepted practice and really try to understand how to support their respective businesses/clients in more acute and exploratory ways. Yes, a lot of in-person stuff has been ripped away. The fundamentals of what L&D can do and deliver remain true. Understand the business. Understand the tech landscape much better. There are experts in virtual learning we should be seeking out and enabling us to upskill. The more we hold fast onto the myths we’ve believed for years, the more we do a disservice to our profession, and keep ourselves in the past.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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