Saturday, September 29, 2012

Capitalizing on 7 Learning Modalities

Last week I had the opportunity to get into a dialog with my company's learning council about the future direction of our approach to workplace learning.  My goal was to get them to support the idea of using tools and technologies to foster more informal learning opportunities. Our learning council is made up of a group of senior leaders from each of our business units and some key functional areas.  They are all savvy, successful business men and women in their areas of expertise, but their knowledge of what makes learning effective is uneven.   My approach was to write and present a white paper to them on how to capitalize on the learning modalities that are currently available for use in our organization - including mobile learning and learning through social media.

I wasn't sure how they would react to this.  Like many companies, our approach to workplace learning has mainly been focused on using traditional delivery methods such as classroom training, webinars, and self-paced elearning. To set the stage in the paper and in our discussion, I started by talking about the 70:20:10 Learning Framework.   This was a good choice as it comes across as rational, logical, and easy to understand.  Next, we talked about the proliferation of mobile devices and the explosion social media usage over the last few years, drawing the conclusion that our employees are already engaged in these arenas and that to provide effective learning support, we need to be in there with them.

After setting the stage, we moved the dialog into discussing how we would use each of the seven learning modalities I included in the paper.  I arranged them along a continuum from most formal to least formal (as shown in the image above).  You could argue with my sequencing, but this worked for the purposes of my discussion.  In the paper, I covered each modality by describing its current use, benefits, drawbacks, and recommendations for usage in our future learning offerings.

Here are the seven modalities we discussed, with a brief line about how we plan to optimize each:

Instructor-led training (ILT) - to optimize ILT we need to make sure our courses are learner-centered and discussion-oriented, offering ample opportunities for practice and feedback.

Virtual Instructor-led training (VILT) - to optimize VILT we need to design full, facilitated learning experiences that may include multiple sessions, pre-work, assessments, interactive exercises and post work (not just have a subject matter expert talking over PowerPoint slides).

eLearning (CBT or WBT) - to optimize elearning we need to use story-based, character-driven, and game-based approaches that are interactive and engaging to motivate our learners to stay with them through to completion.

Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) - to optimize EPSS we need to provide relevant tools and place them (physically and contextually) where our learners are most likely going to look for them.

Podcasts and Videos - to optimize our use of podcasts and video we need to create short burst learning objects that address a single topic or specific objective.

Mobile Learning - to optimize mobile learning in the short term we need to post .pdf, audio and video files and take advantage of two-way communication opportunities; longer term we will work with an external partner and our IT team to create and support a mobile learning app.

Social Learning - to optimize social learning we need to create groups and/or topic archives based on areas of interest to our learners, focusing on information sharing, collaboration, and content co-creation.

All-in-all we had a great dialog.  Our learning council members were excited about the possibilities of mobile and social learning.   They recognize the power of embedding learning directly into the workstream: minimizing disruptions to productivity while our employees grow and develop their skills.