The extended lock-down across countries has seen a spurt in the uptake of learning content delivered through various online platforms. The rush for individuals and corporations to embrace learning is an encouraging development for policy makers who have, for long, been urging the general public to embrace lifelong learning.
We human beings are constantly learning, sometimes for information or inspiration or sheer joy and sometimes because we believe learning may be essential for furthering or switching careers.
This may also be a good time to reflect if these learning activities actually result in tangible outcomes. For the purpose of this write up I am focussing purely on adult learners pursuing learning for professional reasons. Numerous studies have shown that mere provision of training, in whatever format, as a solution to address learning needs may not be delivering meaningful outcomes. To cite a few reports:
My hypothesis is that mere learning, by itself, may not help address this issue. To better articulate this, I would like to use the “Spiral of Expertise”- a framework my colleagues and I at AcuiZen Technologies have developed.
Organizations traditionally rely on formal learning (or relearning) as a solution to address developmental needs of personnel entering the workforce or due to new opportunities or changes. Individuals also acquire qualifications and certifications as a pathway to progress professionally.
Individuals however, do not develop expertise just by the formal acquisition of knowledge or certifications be it through classroom training or online learning or through a blended approach. They build expertise by applying the knowledge either on-the-job or in simulated environments. They also encounter problematic situations and in the process of solving those problems further develop their expertise.
Organizations that benefit from their learning investments facilitate individuals to go through the expertise loop several times over rather than looking at training as an end in itself. In practical terms, this could mean complementing the formal training with:
“Lifelong Learning” is all the more important in these challenging times. This does not stop with the provision and completion of training.
If we do not make the conscious effort to complement formal learning with suitable mechanisms to help learners enter and navigate the “spiral of expertise”, we could end up with great looking vanity metrics on parameters such as “quantum of training” or “number of certifications” but questionable metrics on the effectiveness of learning.
That would be status-quo and a squandering of the opportunity to embrace “lifelong learning” in its true spirit.
Would love to hear your thoughts and critical feedback on this subject.
This blog was originally published as an article in LinkedIn on May 29, 2020
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash