Wednesday, January 19, 2011

E-Learning Doesn’t Work

Most discussion on e-learning is like analyzing a novel by discussing the font and typeface of the edition you are reading it in. This might sound exaggerated, but if you look at training and development departments in many large companies, you will find that the sourcing and creation of e-learning assets is the responsibility of the e-learning manager. Or outsourced to an e-learning provider. In other words, someone with an expertise in the media used in computer-assisted learning.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these people have a vital role to play and contribute profoundly to establishing on-demand learning in organizations. But take a step back, and consider another simile: would you stock a university library based solely on knowledge of the different media that the information comes packaged in?
What I’m trying to get at here is that, with the advent of e-learning, many organizations have lost sight of why learning is there in the first place.
Henry Mintzberg has said that the web alone misses something important – we need to bring important topics down to the workplace where managers work together and bond together. Using alternative channels shouldn’t mean excluding face to face. In fact, it should encourage collaborative learning.
Interacting with peers can be one of the most engaging and effective aspects of a successful learning experience. The workforce is changing, and as employees understand and use Internet-based technologies outside the workplace, they expect these technologies to be part of their professional experience as well.
As a result, the new generation of online learning programs must provide social learning tools that enable collaboration to be successful.
To take it a step further, the collaborative learning experience is greatly enhanced when leaders take a central role in it.
Leaders are uniquely positioned within the organization to provide the context and relevancy that is crucial to effective talent development. When leaders communicate the organization’s priorities and values during each learning interaction, the conversation helps drive enhanced business results.
So, to make e-learning work, it must be part of a larger experiential context that incorporates collaborative learning, using social networks, and driven by those in a leadership role. It must become part of the day to day work, not an entertaining distraction from it.