Modern Learning And Development
Thanks to how change is affecting the market, employees are required now, more than ever, to engage in continuous learning and development. You could call it a part of the job. It’s learn or live to see yourself replaced by someone else (hopefully not robots). The options do not look bright for those who’ve forgotten how to learn and do not know what skills are most prized today. We hate to break it to all the generations that barely escaped the benches of university, but modern learning does not yet imply intelligent machines; reading books and taking notes in your place. Although the methods have largely changed, learning is still a lengthy, sometimes dull process that requires practice to consolidate knowledge.
The good news is that the learning industry has no other option, but to adapt.
Forget about gray-haired professors that end their marathon expositions soaked in chalk powder. Today’s methods have been refined, learning has become a multi-billion dollar industry, and is no longer about sticking with academic traditions. High-speed Internet connections and generous bandwidths saw the rise of video and gamification.
Now, if you want to learn to do something simple, the first thing you do is a search for a YouTube video 😉
Not that you are incapable of going through written instructions, but there is something about video presentations that makes them easier to digest. That is obvious in situations where theory needs some real-life examples to put to work all those fancy words. However, employees seem to have better learning outcomes even when videos are just someone reading a script. It all comes down to the way information reaches us and impregnates the mind. Spoken information comes packed with non-verbal communications and has an obvious contribution in enabling better focus. Millennials also talk about gamification when they express their learning needs. Do not worry. It does not translate as a type of learning where you play all the time, instead of studying. Instead, it means that learning has to be both entertaining and engaging to be worthy of one’s attention and produce the desired results.
Young learners also appreciate when the platform they are using is trimmed down and as easy to use as possible. Although technology savvy, the sheer number of apps and software they use on a daily basis makes it discouraging to add another one.
The future of learning is in mobile platforms, and it is evidenced enough by looking at commuters enslaved by their shiny screens. At least some of them are engaging in a form of modern learning that is light and concise enough to make its point in between two consecutive subway stations. Others play CandyCrush.
Today’s crusade is against the overwhelming amount of information assaulting us from all directions. Choosing a course for employees or even the level at which to study has become a nightmare, navigation through treacherous waters that can easily shipwreck curious minds on endless paradise islands of redundant information and useless skills.
The temptation to learn things that suit your ego, rather than you real career needs is huge!
Everything is painted in flattering terms and has all the nice credentials that ultimately convince you to add it in the shopping basket. Although online learning enjoys unprecedented levels of popularity, there’s a counter-current to go back to the old fashion classroom, despite the higher costs attached. Many companies expose their employees to a batch of game-like video tutorials, before sending them to play pupils again and consolidate on what they learn with an irreplaceable, live Q&A session.
Modern Learning and Development (L&D) is carefully constructed on adult learning theories and focused on how to design the courses better for a mature audience.
The biggest and most important of them all is tapping into prior experiences. Adults are less prone to giving their consent on following a course – unless they can relate to it! That can happen either by borrowing the foundations of prior knowledge and experience or by reviving an old interest.
Adults need an answer to the big “why” attached – Why should they learn?
As we all know, time management was less of an issue back when we were children. We sat quietly and offered little resistance when teachers force-fed us with various disciplines that did little to help us later.
An adult has to be convinced that what he/she learns serves a purpose, and then has to find a source of motivation that would keep the engine running in the long-term.
Today’s learners are bombarded with too much information for them to retain the abilities of the efficient learners they were back in childhood. Stuff presented in a boring package only adds to the background noise and has slim chances of remaining engraved in memory!
That is why modern learning needs to employ “aha moments” to captivate the audience and not deliver its educative message in vain.
Traditional school systems employ a pixel-by-pixel, piece-by-piece way of introducing information. It is the student’s job to assemble the big picture. That does not work when your audience is made up of adults that need seat-belts to keep them in place after a long day in the office. You need to flash them the big picture from different perspectives, link the dots, travel on shortcuts, and make a massive use of lateral thinking to compensate for the short attention span and limited patience.
Educators should remember that most employees prefer to learn by doing and achieve the best performances when the subject is of immediate concern to them and when it triggers a problem-solving mechanism. “Push the button and see what happens” has become somewhat of a norm when it comes to learning how new technologies and new devices function. No Millennial will ever take the up a User’s Manual and read it from one end to another while saying three Hail Mary’s before executing a command!
The new learning paradigm requires pupils to be less afraid of making mistakes and reserving an important part of each lesson for dealing with things that went wrong.
More and more companies embrace a “user experience” approach to the workspace. The same applies when it comes to employee L&D. It needs to be easily relatable, shareable, stand out as up-to-date and efficient, and it needs to enforce the notion of it being a meaningful use of time. Newer generations have less and less patience, and instant gratification is one of the things they are after.
Modern learning needs to tap into the trophy room and bring into the open premature results one can contemplate for motivation and use to give the experience positive feedback. Customization is also a power word for modern L&D. Today’s learners extract a sense of comfort when they are met with options. It gives them the feeling of control, of shaping their future and making personal choices.
Modern learning that takes place in the workspace is very different from the individualistic pursuit of school. Those who walk the trail of personal development through learning are encouraged never to hike alone. Boredom and lack of motivation can work to get one lost despite the abundance of materials and all other favorable conditions. That is exactly why the most connected human societies were always the most developed. Isolation can indeed foster incredible results, but one needs to be a genius to surpass collective brain power put to work. Social learning starts at a very basic level. Employees committed to the same learning goal assemble into something that mimics a classroom. They relate to the common courses they tackle, are compelled to share their results and, thus, end up motivated to achieve better. You could see it as very similar to the way papers are peer-reviewed. Forums, blogs, internet messaging groups, and even basic social media – all favor an environment that enhances speed, efficiency, user engagement, and a free flow of creative and innovative ideas. And yes, you also get to waste your time with the occasional joke and spam that inevitably clutters, such social channels.
Learning through social technologies works for most professions, but not for each individual out there.
It is of especial importance in domains that rely on precedent and where similar problems are repeatedly encountered. Law and programming are just one of the few that come to mind. Here it would be entirely counterproductive to reinvent the wheel. Social learning also raises the ethical aspect of sharing or not sharing your competitive edge. Exploiters often sit silently behind the curtains of forums and exchange groups, contributing with nothing – but making use of anything that crosses their paths. They work against the very principles that got such communities rolling – someone decided to share his/her insight and thus put the snowball in action. Being connected to social learning circles is particularly important in industries where change happens at a neck-breaking pace. One cannot grasp the direction of change without witnessing the big numbers of followers lining up behind a trend.
When discussing Modern Learning & Development, one cannot stress enough the importance of learning objects!
Such an entity is like a book chapter that includes content, practice, tests, and evaluation; it presents the backbone of every recently developed course. Obviously, it is more than packing raw information, fictional exercises that have nothing to do with real life scenarios and tests meant to keep you scratching your head. Learning objects need to be designed with maximum attention so that they grab learners’ and put forward an obvious goal. Such units need to be self-supporting, but also easy to assemble into bigger pictures. Modular design is another poster child of our modern times. Learners want something that brings no headache – in terms of scheduling and forecasting the date of completion.
Of course, no one wants a Freudian figure asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions about your relationship to learning – this is an employee’s biggest nightmare, second only to answering such questions with a lie detector attached. Modern L&D relies on a superior understanding of the underlying mechanisms that push an individual to acquire knowledge and skills.
The bottom line is that we all learn for different reasons.
Some did it because they feared higher authorities. Others learn to satisfy a savage inner critic who never backs down. Few had the circumstances to engage in learning as a result of pursuing their genuine interests. Such scenarios are just a few underlying the emotional spectrum attached to learning. While ruminating on the F you received in the 4th grade is entirely counterproductive now, spending some time to see yourself retrospectively can turn you into a better learner!
Learning and Development are processes.
Although it is very fulfilling to greet the successful completion of a course or a module, one must keep in mind that they are merely goal-related post marks you need to assess success and formulate conclusions. Everything that you acquire is a bit of sediment that slowly sinks to the bottom of the seafloor. Where it will land and what new relief it will form is up to you. Sometimes learning is in itself a black box. You do not get to see with increased precision what happens in between you taking a seat and wiring up for input and the expert you become in time.
It is better not to think – how the human mind operates such a distillery. Modern equates change, and change is uncomfortable unless you agree with yourself that it is welcome. Embrace the new paths of learning and development and become a better, more skilled worker!
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