Learning Space Means Anyplace

24 Jul

Two related stories came to my attention today, and it put a frame around what’s been on the top of my mind lately: learning spaces.

The first story came from the heart (ehem… Hart) of the online learning world: The Centre for Learning & Performance Technology (@C4PLT). Jane Hart recently published her annual survey of Learning in the Workplace. For those of us in Training and especially in eLearning, the results should be a wakeup call. eLearning and formal training are not very highly valued.

From Centre for Learning & Perfromance Technologies, 2014.

From Centre for Learning & Perfromance Technologies, 2014.

The second story comes from the American heartland. Kansas City is constructing a new school, driven by an admirably forward-thinking school district. No lockers, no long corridors, scant few “industrial” classrooms with rows of desks, and fitted with “maker spaces.” What will students do in those spaces? The principal rather bravely answered, “Who knows?”

What both of these seemingly disparate stories illuminate is that our ideas about learning need to change. Learning is not an event. Learning is not bound by a specific space, or a specific time. Learning, be it for students or workers, formal or informal, is going to be learner-driven and anchored in creativity and connection.

Actually, let me restate the paragraph above: Not only do our ideas about learning need to change, our practice must also. In a world where information is plentiful and readily available, in which knowledge need not rely on few experts but the availability of the plentiful experienced, consideration for space should be one of our leading design factors.

Space is not bound by walls, media, platform or geographic place. Space is also not tethered to time. (OK, this is getting a little woo-woo for some, I know, but I’m almost done.) Learning space is about connection, conversation, trust and creativity. The reasons eLearning is failing in organizations is because learning is not an event, it’s a constant process that needs nurture and occasional direction. The reason it is failing in classrooms is because students have the answers at their fingertips, but lack the ability and creative license to ask the right questions.

Why aren’t most training and eLearning programs preceived as valuable? Because they don’t provide value, in part because they are not developed for the rigors of space and time.

It’s time to unleash the spaces – online spaces, mental spaces, emotional spaces – that will allow individuals to pursue their passions and organizations to follow where those passions lead within a broader, elastic strategic vision. (Wait, doesn’t that sounds kind of like Google? Yes, I guess it does.)

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