Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is eLearning 2.0 Going to Replace eLearning 1.0?

Definitely not.

eLearning 1.0 (WBT/CBT) and eLearning 2.0 (social/informal learning) are two different solutions for two different workplace learning requirements. The former addresses specific performance-based learning objectives, whereas the latter caters to broad, unspecified learning needs. Although eLearning 2.0 has become crucial in the constantly-changing knowledge environment of today, it is certainly not going to replace either synchronous training (ILT) or asynchronous training (eLearning 1.0). There will always be certain learning needs in the workplace that would be best met through training interventions.

In a recent blog post Kevin Jones described training and social learning as subsets of a broader category, namely, workplace learning. Each of these subsets has a unique and irreplaceable role. Kevin's post has a nice graphic too.

As I see it, eLearning is a subset of Training is a subset of Learning is a subset of Performance Improvement is a means to the end: Accomplishing goals – in this case business goals, but more often personal goals.

There are many ways to learn. Training is one way. Whether that be eLearning or ILT (instructor led training). Other ways? Social learning (of course), job aids, experiential discovery, mentoring and a thousand other subtle ways.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trendy Terms

Time for some trivia. I present here the people who coined some of the most widely-used terms in the fields of information technology, eLearning, and knowledge management.

Tim O'Reilly

Web 2.0

Stephen Downes

eLearning 2.0

Andrew McAfee

Enterprise 2.0

Jay Cross

Informal Learning

George Siemens

(along with Stephen Downes)


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Value of Questions

No… this post is not about the question of values, just in case you are reading this post sleepy-eyed, but about the value of questions for knowledge creation.

As I was scrolling through the earlier posts in this and other blogs of mine, it dawned upon me that nothing springs my brain into an active mode better than an interesting question. Many of my blog posts were actually triggered by some thought-provoking question, posed online or offline.
...questions are the engine, the driving force behind thinking.
- Linda Elder and Richard Paul, The Foundation for Critical Thinking

I think question-answer forums and interviews are the two most effective tools for capturing tacit knowledge (or “knowledge harvesting”, if you like).

To give you an example, I tried so many times to find out which of the two expressions is correct - "a book titled..." or "a book entitled...", but never found an answer. I finally got the answer in a discussion board on the Internet. No book will give you this information - you can get it only in a question-answer format.

Another point worth noting here is that it is the way a question is framed, and not just the intention of the question, that determines whether it will get your neurons firing and elicit a good answer.

If, for example, someone asks you what (not who) is dearest to you, chances are that you will not be able to decide. But if the same question is posed as “What would you grab, if you could, if your house was on fire?”, most people would be able to give an exact answer.

Apin Talisayon, an online friend from the Philippines, has written an excellent post on the value of questions.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Technology is Game Changer

I have always considered technology to be the most potent agent of change in various fields of human affairs - administration, communication, entertainment, learning, etc.

Answering a question about the impact of technology on learning at
Linkedin, I wrote:

I disagree with the suggestions that technology is just a tool that aids learning, and that learning would always primarily consist in teacher-student interaction in classrooms.

That is of course true for children’s education, but, hey, children’s education is not just about learning; that is about the broader process of socialization.

I am a big believer in the impact of technology on learning or, for that matter, on most arenas of human affairs. When the technology of 'writing’ was developed in the remote past, it revolutionized not only learning but the whole human civilization. The arrival of calculators rendered rote learning of number tables unnecessary and anachronistic. I have no doubt that computer and web 2.0 technologies are going to completely transform learning, especially adult learning.

As I was reading George Siemens’ article on Connectivism, I realized that many of the processes previously handled by our brain (such as memorizing, number crunching, data analysis) can now be outsourced to, or supported by, technology. Thus, in George Siemens' words, “Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains.”

Isn’t it revolutionary?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Education-Training Distinction

Learning objectives are something I first encountered when I entered the world of corporate training. During my academic life I never learned anything carrying the 'GPS navigator' of learning objectives. But in the world of corporate training, everything starts and ends with learning objectives.

As I was reading a
blog post of Supriyo Chaudhuri, an online friend, it dawned upon me that actually it is learning objectives that distinguish training from education.

Supriyo's post posits this distinction, though without bringing in the phrase ‘learning objectives’:

…in my mind, education still remains distinctly different from training. Education is about broadening the perspective and preparing the learner with a wide variety of knowledge, so that s/he is prepared to meet the world half way and with an engaged mind. Training, on the other hand, needs to be narrower and deeper, focused on a specific skill, based on the assumption of certainty - we know what's needed - and the learner, in the end, should be equipped to carry out the specific task/ role that the trainer had in mind.

There are obvious overlaps. Like Management Education, where the whole thing revolves around an assumption of certainty of knowing what's needed. On the other end, this whole discipline of Leadership Training, which I am trying to get involved into, aims to prepare the learners with the uncertain, the unknown and the fuzzy.
In short, in another blogger's words, 'training' should ideally be aimed at immediate, performance-based use, while 'education' more broadly and abstractly is aimed at some unspecified future use. Yet another blogger says, "Training is outward performance focussed with measurable outcome and immediate applicability."

An old post by Harold Jarche also brought out this difference. He said that informal learning, facilitated by Web 2.0 tools, follows the educational approach, which is distinct from the training approach. These two approaches are complimentary, and both are required in today's work environment.

Blogs, wikis, aggregators, social networking software, etc. are great tools for informal learning. They help in the creation of personal knowledge repositories and communities of practice. They enhance "learning", in the social-constructivist sense that I always believed our education system should. Given their decentralized nature, these informal learning technologies do not provide the kind of data that a formal system, like an LMS or performance management system, would give.

I think that one of the problems with our education system is that there is too much of a focus on getting quantitive data, like testing. These functions are more suited to a "training" system, where the performance requirements are clear, measurable and observable. In education, the performance requirements are fuzzy. There is nothing wrong with either a training focus or an education focus; each one has its merits. The problem is when you try to mix the two. The arguments that I hear over testing or the adoption of blogs in the classroom seem to be the result of mixing a training systems design approach with a general educational approach. Water and oil.

If your organisation, be it a school or a company, has clear performance expectations, then you should use proven performance technologies, such as drill & feedback, performance support, or a wide variety of other interventions. On the other hand, if your objectives are educational in the broad sense, then forget about testing and controlling, and allow learners to explore and construct their own knowledge.

Informal learning, facilitated by the likes of blogs & wikis, works well for general education, and for continued learning outside of the "classroom". Informal learning (education in the broadest sense) is messy by its very nature. Training, such as how to drive a car, can use a more scientific method to optimize training time, achieve the desired performance and reduce the risk of accidents. Training and education can even use the same tools, like simulations, but not the same approach. Education and training are complementary, but distinct.
Geetha Krishnan also had a good post on this distinction: Education versus Training

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Curse of Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge... Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators. Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.

- Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, in an interview

Experts don’t know how they do what they do, by and large... expertise implies becoming so practiced that the process is inaccessible to conscious thought.
- Clark Quinn in a blog post
This is why experts (or SMEs) often do not make good trainers or instructional designers. They have a hard time putting themselves in the shoes of novice learners.

In training development, not knowing the content is actually an advantage because you have the "beginner's mind."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Are Organizational Learning and KM Converging?

Yes, organizational learning and knowledge management are indeed converging and getting integrated. Can you really distinguish between KM 2.0 and eLearning 2.0? Both have the same objective of creating an enabling environment for learning and knowledge sharing.

The University of Hong Kong recently launched a journal titled Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal "to publish latest and quality research articles in the multidisciplinary area of knowledge management and electronic learning". Further affirmation of convergence of the two disciplines.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What's Hot and What's Not

Many experts have expressed their views on the likely trends in the eLearning sphere in 2009. Following are the top three trends that emerge from their predictions:
  • Web 2.0
  • Mobile learning
  • Educational games (sometimes called ‘serious games’)