Do you remember those divisions at universities and colleges called “lifelong learning centers”? Their name was an attempt to remind all of us who had graduated and gone on to work that learning should never stop.
With today’s rapid, technologically interfaced work world, we now are reminded that education and training are an everyday occurrence and will never end. It is reported that technology-based independent learning now accounts for nearly one-third of all workplace education and training.
Employers will continue to place a high value upon those employees with college-level education. However, the challenge today is staying current. Today’s companies will place even greater value upon those employees who continue to learn required, updated knowledge and skills.
Our colleagues are probably the best teachers for cross-training transferable skills in the workplace because they have “been there; done that.” They have evolved along whatever skill, practice, or knowledge the learner needs to know. They remember what it was like when they did not understand or know how to do what they now do. Knowledge transfer will be a critical asset for companies to develop in the workplace.
Jane Bozarth, Ph.D., eLearning director, State of North Carolina, refers to this as “learning out loud.” Each employee must see him or herself as knowledgeable and with skill-based expertise. Instead of being considered just as repositories of knowledge, employees must realize the wealth they bring to each team and their organization and then teach what they know to others. We no longer can afford to hoard what we have learned and hold back from sharing.
SOCIAL COLLABORATION TOOLS
One way to make sharing of knowledge and skills both practical and easy is through using social collaboration tools. These online tools are essentially microblogs in format, i.e., proprietary systems such as Chatter or Yammer, and are accessed via browsers, desktop or mobile devices, and some by activity streams via social networking sites. A secure internal tool is usually the best way to go to overcome fear of being too open via social media. Microblogging, or short-form text updates, via the Web is a common strategy for keeping everyone up to date and allowing people to communicate ideas and collaborate on projects. These collaborative systems permit learning to happen in real time no matter where people are geographically located.
The benefits from online collaboration tools are that people are more reachable and can give immediate status updates, keeping all players up to speed. Customers’ needs are identified and met faster, and team members can be brought in to respond and solve problems quickly. And microblogging collaboration tools also help to reduce the number of e-mails, their redundancy, and the attachments that bog us all down. And some of these systems have within their structure community forums where individuals can come together to crowdsource the collective wisdom of everyone online.
Flipped learning or teaching—also referred to as the flipped classroom—is another approach to learning in the workplace. This blended learning model enables employees to learn new content via online e-learning modules or from video instruction, and then apply instruction or complete homework assignments with an instructor providing more personalized insights and better transfer of learning.
Learning can happen on one’s own time and pace whether at work or at home. Returning to apply the information taught, or working through specific problems on the job with one’s peers or subject matter experts, it is a safe environment to make learning an exploration rather than a dead end.
As learning professionals, it is important for the flipped classroom approach to coordinate carefully the online learning and at-work application so there is a positive experience of how employees interact with the courses taken.
MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES
Another innovative learning strategy is MOOCs—or Massive Open Online Courses. Universities and academia have moved education and learning to a new level by taking instruction online to large numbers of students with open access via the Web and still providing interactive participation. Much of this interaction occurs through peer forums in community discussions and with instructors providing encouragement and assistance as needed.
The New York Times dubbed 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” which has become one of the hottest news topics in education. Most of these courses are presently free, and MOOCs have opened the doors of major Ivy League universities to the masses. These course have come about through well-financed providers working with leading universities, including Udacity and Coursera with Stanford University, and edX, founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
There are no statistics yet on differentiating whether learners are coming from workplaces or have a strictly personal interest. However, collaboration of universities with businesses soon must be on the horizon to keep our nation’s companies competitive.
Learning on the job has made drastic changes of late. As leaders and L&D experts, our job is to create the right kind of learning environment and provide the right learning resources to foster better workplace learning.
In so doing, we then will always be ready to educate the learners in our organizations.
Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.Rideau.com.