The Integrated Learning Manifesto

Learner needs must drive the LMS, not the other way around.

By Chris Frederick Willis, CEO, Media 1

Corporate learning has too long been dictated by old paradigms. Over the last decade, the focus has remained on saving cost and pushing knowledge to a global workforce through disparate learning events—courses. Today, a course may be delivered as self-paced online learning (WBT) or instructor led via a virtual classroom or Webinar, but the underlying learning model for most corporate learners remains the same as it has been for decades. When it’s time to participate in a learning event, learners visit a learning management system (LMS) as the enterprise learning hub. The LMS follows a traditional classroom model for registering from a catalog of courses, recording learner progress, and reporting to management.

Think about the last time you engaged in a learning activity at your workplace. Did the course give you what you needed at the right time? Did it clearly relate to your career, building on your existing skills, and moving you closer to completing a business requirement or meeting a personal career goal? Or did it feel more like something you had to do in order to check off a box on a list of requirements? Register. Complete. Move on.

Enter Integrated Learning
We at Media 1 believe effective learning needs to happen as a process, not a series of disconnected events strung together out of context. The time has come for a new, integrated model for corporate learning. Technology should provide a platform for seamlessly delivering carefully selected, timely, role-appropriate learning opportunities at the right point in career development. Learner needs must drive the LMS, not the other way around.
With that, we at Media 1 declare this first iteration of The Integrated Learning Manifesto:
I want to learn. I want to succeed. Help me by providing learning opportunities that are:

  1. Social. At home, I use social media sites to keep up to date with the latest in news and technology that affect my career. I post questions and get feedback and answers from my friends. I have much to learn from my managers and peers at work. It should be just as easy to reach out to them as it is to seek advice from my social network. Give me social media tools behind our firewall I can use to exchange job-related information with my coworkers.
  2. Relevant. I need to know how each learning opportunity applies directly to me and my role in the organization. If I don’t understand the purpose of a course or see what’s in it for me, don’t expect me to naturally engage with the material or automatically transfer what I learned on the job. Make it easier; help me put everything in context.
  3. Self-Directed. Recognize that I am engaged in multiple tracks of learning simultaneously. I have to meet a number of annual HR compliance requirements and keep up with general business initiatives and personal development courses. I am taking technical courses to master the ever-changing systems and tools I need to do my job, as well as courses specific to my role in the organization. To advance my career, I am enrolled in a management program. I want visibility and control over options within each of these various learning tracks, and I want to chart my progress through each curriculum.
  4. Integrated. The LMS is no longer the center of my learning universe. I also am learning through social media hubs and information portals. I make regular visits to various corporate sites and systems of which the LMS is just one. Please tie everything together for me and give me a simple, integrated path across the corporate ecosystem.
  5. Focused. Like you, I’m busy. When I make time for learning, my other responsibilities don’t go away. In the vast and ever-deepening sea of content and learning options, please don’t make me wade through an unwieldy content store or course catalog. Make it all available, but provide good filters to direct me to exactly the right learning from which we both will get the most immediate benefit.
  6. Timely. Make sure I have access to up-to-date, just-in-time learning and support for the things that matter today. Don’t try to cram a year’s worth of learning into a one-week “boot camp.” Six months from now, you’d much rather I look up and work to the most current process anyway.

Start Today
The goal of this Manifesto is to shatter old corporate learning paradigms and spark thoughts and conversations in new directions. Meeting some of these goals requires simple changes in the way we manage our current corporate learning environment—finding new ways to direct learners through our existing curricula and across systems. These short-term goals can be accomplished in the weeks and months ahead. Others require changes in policy or implementing new technologies; establish those as long-term goals, and start planning and working toward them one step at a time. There’s no reason not to start today.

Chris Frederick Willis is CEO of Media 1, a consultancy specializing in integrating people, technology, and performance to drive Human Capital Improvement (HCI). Willis is passionate about melding the best practices of multiple disciplines and the power of SharePoint™ technology to support integrated learning and talent management—developing innovative solutions for onboarding, sales, and leadership. She has led dozens of corporate learning projects from conception to delivery, and speaks and writes about the power of social media and collaborative technology to shape the future of learning. Willis holds a B.S. Degree in Arts & Media from Grand Valley State University. Her company, Media 1, has won numerous business awards, including 2009 Women Owned Business of the Year by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

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