Beyond the Course

I was asked to speak at a conference in Edinburgh organised by a smart British e-learning company called Brightwave  and jointly run with Sky. What intrigued me, initially, was the title:  Beyond the Course.  Particularly as Brightwave is at the epi-centre of e-learning course development.  It is their lifeblood.  But it, like many other developers, is getting out from under that yoke. Sometimes the pre-digested, heavily developed and neat, complete set of course material that is plonked onto a Learning Management System creates entirely the wrong message about learning.

It was a fascinating day, as idea, followed case study, followed comments from the 100 or so delegates. My ten thoughts on getting beyond the course:

  1. Learning in organisations is all about impact not consumption.  If you focus on impact, the learning experience goes well beyond the content.  It starts before the learner begins the programme and it continues after the course is complete.  If you are serious about wanting to transform business, then you have to transform the ‘dollop of learning’ mentality that is portioned controlled and as dull as school dinners.
  2. Give people what they need rather than what you think they need.  Put them in control of their own learning destiny.  If you begin with that end in mind, the refined and finished course cannot begin to address the multifaceted needs of the target group. There has to be flexibility, open content that can be picked at and a support infrastructure that works.
  3. Enabling knowledge sharing is a critical role for L and D.  Huge learning gulfs can be bridged if someone has easy access to the right information or the right person at the right time.
  4. Curation is as important a role as creation in a world where information proliferates.  Discovering what is out there is one thing; working out what is most valuable and making sure that this is available in the best way possible for potential users, is entirely another.
  5. Technology really enables all of this. But there is no one, simple technology that can be recommended, as the choice of technology depends on the organisation, its IT infrastructure. and its willingness to embrace new ways  of doing things.  Cheap applications may be freely available but inappropriate.  Enterprise software is more complex and expensive but is locked, securely behind a firewall and integrate with other existing products.
  6. Content is not only text.  Video scenarios from BP, demonstrated at the conference, illustrated the issues round working in Global teams better than pages of text or hours of lectures.
  7. Blending online and face to face or, if that is impossible, synchronous and asynchronous learning is a critical skill that needs to be acquired.
  8. Building a portfolio of resources is more fun, faster and more effective than developing a coherent single course package. BUPA’s introduction to the Healthcare industry learning package is a collection of resources with no pre-ordained ordering of content. It an excellent example of applying a magazine logic to what could have been a pile of dry learning modules that would probably have been ignored.  Not only is the content helpful but the way the content is presented says something positive about the company for any new member of staff.
  9. Any development team must take into account the users’ view. Going it alone in isolation is no longer acceptable.  Governance is a big issue, programmes need sponsorship and ownership throughout the organisation.
  10. It is a seismic shift, but we seem to be moving from courses that focus by definition on inputs, to learning which is all about outputs.

The conference really hit a complex nail firmly on the head. The message on display was widely embraced with little pushback from the assembled group. I think that something quite important was going on in Edinburgh that day.

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