Tag Archives: e-learning

e-Liberate! Shall we agree to lose the e?

25 Nov


What does it mean to you? Check out the Wikipedia definition: Clear as eMud.

At some point in my career I was certainly an eLearning (e-learning? elearning?) professional, even an evangelist. Not anymore. Not that I think there is anything wrong with what eLearning has traditionally been, per se, but just that we have moved beyond the e’s usefulness as a signifier.

As I’ve argued on several occasions, learning is our job, and we all are swimmers in the vast digital sea. Whatever eLearning means to us insiders, a large chunk of our learners and sponsors(!) imagine
e-courses to be clicked through as quickly as possible (if at all) so work can resume. The saddest bit of all is that a good portion of well-intentioned practitioners also think that way about the products we develop.

The Zombie E has had its day, but it is time we kill it.  Jawboneradio via flickr (http://bit.ly/1CbhDCq)

The Zombie E has had its day, but it is time we kill it.
Jawboneradio via flickr (http://bit.ly/1CbhDCq)

However, the shift is underway. I see it in the conferences I attend, via the PLNs I find so valuable, and in noble efforts like the Serious eLearning Manifesto. We now speak of learning experiences, and programmatic efforts to capture and share informal, ongoing, and “back-channel” learning. Through xAPI’s positive influence (more influence than practice at this point), Twitterstorms and organized peer hangouts, the means for professional growth are expanding. We are grappling—and sometimes succeeding—with how to integrate all of our training and learning events under the umbrella of learning practice.

So, what does the e mean? I really don’t know at this point. I no longer think of myself as an “eLearning” professional, but as a learning professional. Courses (tethered to an LMS or not), blended learning, live events, social media feeds, WOL/Show Your Work opportunities, PKM practice—these are all levers to be applied as the learning, professional development, and organizational goals dictate.

Digital delivery, via screens large and small (perhaps “mobile” needs to go, too?), takes the lion’s share of our work. And when live events occur, we work to integrate and amplify the strengths of the two together. So, it’s just learning, right?

Well, then: It’s time to embrace the future by losing the e.

Learning Guild? Learning Manifesto? Learning Industry? Yes, that’s what I’m suggesting. We are learning professionals, implementing learning programs.

Who’d have thunk that AOL’s “You’ve got mail!” (never email) slogan was ahead of its time?

I very much welcome your thoughts, rebuffs, and ideas on this topic. Leave a comment here, or find me at @BenCpdx.

Communities of Practice: No more CoP out!

27 Mar

I’ve been thinking a lot about Communities of Practice (CoP) lately. In large part that’s because folks I work with keep asking me what I know about creating and supporting online CoP. My initial answer has been, “Um… not much.” Followed by the voice in my head with, “Why are you asking me about that?” and “That’s not an e-learning or instructional design issue.

But both on practical and philosophical foundations I now think I’ve been wrong.

While I may not have used the term community of practice in the specific way it is used by my current colleagues, it has been part of my work all along. Learning is social: Learning itself is an act of membership in a community in almost all cases. Adult learning is also practical: Learning becomes knowing, knowing becomes doing.

It turns out I do in fact know about these ideas.

When folks ask me about supporting an online CoP, they are really asking me about are better ways to share best practices, disseminate new ideas and tools, support learner-generated peer learning, etc. I get it now! What you are asking for is some kind of framework to engage practitioners (learners) to facilitate their own learning. Now, that IS an instructional design and e-learning issue after all. Indeed, a CoP can be seen as part of continuum:

indiv - cop continuum

In the end, we need to be more attentive to learning solutions and less to training and e-learning in isolation (despite what job titles may say). CoP are definitely part of a learning solution.

I’ve still much to learn about CoP practice (Cop CoP?!), and even more about the new learning cohort I’ve been asked to support. But, after a few weeks of confusion and angst, I am much more at ease with my ability to contribute the positive outcomes that I’m being called on to deliver.

So, questions about CoP? Bring them on and let’s figure them out together.

Is Constructivism the only path forward for adult learners?

18 Mar

Constructivism, wherein learners are best served by the ability to construct their own order, meaning and eventual deep understanding, has long been one of several competing (conflicting?!) learning theories.

However, with the rise of technology in learning–and all learning is technology driven to a large extent–we are seeing an ever greater emphasis on learners being the curators of their own learning paths. With the world awash in content, I hear more and more frequently from educators, trainers and e-learning SMEs that there is little point in creating new content on nearly any given subject when there are quite likely 10 easily found sources that have already done it better.

So, is the answer just to post links to existing content and let learners have at it? There are those who essentially recommend as much. Accordingly, the Internet becomes a constructivist paradise of learners connecting, synthesizing and creating new models in an ever-virtuous loop.

But I think most of us would agree that this assigns too much agency to the average adult learner: busy, distracted, and deep in the WIIFM learning mode. However, content creators have a valid frustration: “Hasn’t somebody already put together this learning path already?”

There is a middle ground: The trainer and e-learning practitioner as content curator and facilitator.

There is a lot more to be said, and in the coming weeks and months I hope to say some of it in these posts. For now, I just pose the problem: How do we effectively engage learners into wanting to become the self-directed learners that Constructivists say they should / could be?

From “Information Workers” to “Learning Workers”

15 Mar

(Adapted from the “About This Blog” page)


E-Learning Strategist: That is my job title, and it provides me with challenging and fun ways to synthesize my experience from Instructional Design, Teaching, Training, Adult Learning Theory, and E-Learning.

But I find myself begging the question constantly: What is e-learning?

Or to put it another way, since we all use technology everyday in nearly every aspect of our lives, from student to professional to citizen to consumer, in what significant way is “e-learning” different from simply “learning?”

If The Information Age began with the advent of computer-based jobs and grew up to be the world of instant information on any topic, anywhere, any time, then where are we now? I propose that we are entering a post-Information Age, and into a Learning Age. Our main task — as organizations, as professionals, as people — it to constantly learn, adapt and make sense of an ever shifting, technology-driven environment. It’s daunting, isn’t it?

We are, in essence, not “information workers,” not only “knowledge workers,” but learning workers.

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