Ten Steps to Building a Great Learning Environment

Blog post from the LSG Online Conference Presentation on 26th June 2011.

This is a summary of many of the great points included in the chat box where there were several hundred comments, together with the ten key steps that formed the back bone of the session. There were too many people making great contributions to thank them individually but you know who you are and I appreciate your active engagement. All part of that great learning environment!

What are those ten steps again:

1. Move away from only focussing on the delivery of the course

Generic skills like agility; sympathy; communication and reflection should be included that build on the values of the organisation as a whole. Creativity should put ahead of compliance. But remember that learning is one way of improving performance, link to the other ways be aware of the complex interaction between work and learning.
There is an EU Project on reflective learning

Develop or make available resources rather than courses. Or develop apps rather than courses.

Comment: “A challenge is the “training” market – providers are interested in selling courses; L and D buy a “solution” – whilst courses may be needed, we have to think about application and embedding learning – just in time, mentor support, exchange of ideas etc. but this needs structuring and recommending”

Jane Bozarth’s book on Social Media for Trainers helps with ideas on extending learning.

2. Create spaces for people to gather

You should try to recreate the homeliness of a great face to face engagement. People have to feel comfortable and relaxed. Options for learning from structured to unstructured and from synchronous to asynchronous.
It is important to establish an agreed code of conduct in terms of behaviour. Get people out of their work teams and in to Communities of Practice and encourage learning to be pulled in from outside. Build models to ensure knowledge transfer and engagement with the bigger picture. Blend work and learning: tell stories build myths; image the future.
Encourage people to think creatively within those spaces.
Try to build continuous learning rather than small stabs at courses for a tiny fraction of the time available at work.

Harold Jarch’e blog post on the power of external learning networks and communities of practice.

Build an ideas rich environment with a focus on continuous development and evaluation of that process so that it keeps improving.
3. Aim for pull not push

Quote from jay Cross: “We trust you, so we will provide resources and allow you to find what you want rather than push stuff down your throat. We will explain the story in a way that people can take personally and emotionally.” Taken from a conversation called:

The Dawn of Collaborative Learning

Build great learning experiences rather than courses and offer further, related learning opportunities.

4. Synchronous as well as asynchronous Allow participants to become friends in the virtual space. Blend the asynchronous with synchronous.

5. Focus on what you can do – you can always do something Just expanding the access to eternal networks encourages innovation or at least the flow of ideas. Read Euan Semple’s book in social networking or look at Euan’s Website.The book was reviewed here.

6. Follow-up. Never imagine learning finishes at the end of a programme

Always facilitate the taking of the learning back into the workplace, support and review impact. Start to focus on performance as a driver of competitive advantage. Not just skill development

7. Create an environment for questions and discussion

Help people and ideas to connect and share. Ensure knowledge enhancement in anyway needed.  This can be helped by trainers becoming more curators of other content not developers per se.
8. Business-results driven

9. Allow the user to define his or her own path (where possible)

10. Segmentation – split learning across themes/academies, but whatever you call it, it’s a place to belong

What are the components of a great learning environment? Points from the chat box
Permission to fail and no blame culture and unjudgmental
Safe to explore
With support readily available
Intuitive in terms of how you use it or access it.
Recognition of accomplishment
Freedom to experiment
User friendly and accessible
Relaxed and collaborative
High learner participation and where participation is recognised

For most companies, just implementing good usability and instructional design principles would be a monumental achievement!

NB PowerPoint is not the problem – no more than paper and pencil, or talk, or equipmen tis the problem – it is who has control – the learner or the teacher

Tools: Jive is an online collaboration tool.
Big Blue Button for running webinars inside a VLE like Moodle
Wallwisher for collaboration
OpenSim for a more immersive (and private) 3d world.
OR Hostavirtualevent.com
Julie Wedgwood‘s list of tools on her website
Voki – same features as xtranormal
Wordclouds via Wordle or Tagxedo
Use for evaluation: “I’ve used Wordle a few times to gather feedback from people – instead of just lots of 1-5 rating scales, asking them to sum up an experience in 1, 2 or 3 words and putting it into Wordle gives a good overview of how people found it.”

Debate on learning styles

Useful websites for creating courses.Useful Websites for Creating Courses

I hope that this answers Andrea B’s comment about not enough time spent on the 10 points!

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4 Responses to “Ten Steps to Building a Great Learning Environment” - Leave a Comment

  1. Hi Nigel – I totally buy into your Ten Steps. As head of a European learning technologies business I see international companies adopting many of these steps as they move from process-driven to business-led learning – where L&D supports business goals and growth. My take is that L&D should shift from creating training to creating knowledge sharing environments…

    • I think that if you start with the knowledge sharing mindset, all the things that you deliver as an L&D operation will be richer and more connected. Thanks for the comment.

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