Idea Learning Group

"learning-library" Posts

Curating Content Through Instructional Design

Instructional design is at the heart of what we do at IdeaLearning Group, and the role is constantly growing and evolving. Gone are the days when instructional design simply meant writing some learning objectives and then putting a course together. We’re most excited about the content curation possibilities for elearning design.

As Connie Malamed described in her “Learning Technology Trends to Watch in 2012” blog post, “Instructional designers are often the proponents of innovation and the persuaders who convince upper management that interaction and collaboration will make for a smarter organization.” As learning and sharing become more social, curating content is an absolute necessity for instructional designers.

So what exactly does “content curation” mean in a learning context? It involves finding, organizing, and filtering content to optimize learning opportunities. In the not-too-distant past, when people needed to research something, they had to visit the actual library. Now close your eyes and think about something you’d like to research. Does an image of a paper-based card catalog pop in your mind? Be honest: it’s a Google search box that you see.

The problem is that as we wade through the rising waters of the digital era, we feel swept up in a tidal wave of information. We have access to incomprehensible amounts of data, all in an instant. Shanghai Web Design created this mind-blowing graphic that attempts to describe what can happen within a single minute online. 510,000 comments are made on Facebook. 25 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube. And 168 million emails are sent, all within 60 seconds!

IDs have always focused on creating the ideal context for learning. We organize and make sense out of complex information, carving out the essentials while whittling away the unnecessary details. But the difference today is incredible accessibility of information and the potential for easy overload. We see it as a quest: Instructional designers must step up as digital cartographers and help carve out the path to clarity!

Here are some strategies we use for content curation in our learning programs:

Bundle digital resources: While we may have abandoned the card catalog system, we still love the “learning library” metaphor. Learning libraries should be stocked with essential information that’s relevant to the learner. They should be easily searched, sorted, and offer the ability to download and print content on demand. (This concept even goes beyond formal online learning. Anyone can be an online content curator—see ScoopIt and Flipboard for amazing examples!)

Build custom paths of discovery: Off-the-shelf learning solutions are quickly becoming yesterday’s news. By offering a self-paced flow, custom content, and a highly interactive environment, the experience of learning is more engaging and relevant for the learner’s specific needs. We discussed this in more depth on our recent post about adaptive learning.

Invite sharing and collaboration: Knock down the traditional barriers! As people are becoming more social online, look for creative ways to allow learners to share their insights in (or even outside) a learning environment. Tie in blog posts and invite comments. Compile topical information and publish it as an online “magazine.” Ask learners to upload their own case studies or other content. Start a twitter hashtag for your topic.

The potential for content curation in instructional design is exploding. What strategies have your learned or used?

Creating a Productive Learning Environment

“Learning is experience, everything else is just information.” – Albert Einstein

 When we learn something new, it doesn’t usually happen on purpose. In fact, learning is often a result of observation, experience, or failure. Organizations can’t always plan for formal learning to take place. Employees must feel motivated and free to apply the information they’re exposed to in order for true learning to occur. The best way to encourage learning is to set up an environment that actually supports it.

Brain-based research tells us that pre-exposure to information, also called “priming,” makes subsequent learning proceed more quickly. At IdeaLearning Group, we recommend creating an environment at work that’s conducive to formal and spontaneous learning by making sure relevant information is accessible, based in a context that makes sense, and also easy to share with peers.

Ready, Set, Learn

We call this first phase of learning “Ready, Set, Learn.” When learners are immersed in a productive learning environment, they:

  • Are armed with techniques and resources to maximize their efforts
  • Understand the scope of their commitment
  • Start with the same baseline knowledge
  • Have the support and involvement of their managers
  • Can draw a clear line between course objectives and their professional success

According to an article published by Training magazine, “A productive learning environment must address the physical, cognitive, and emotional elements in that environment.” The article goes on to recommend, “Organizations also need to consider who is involved in employee training, as interaction and support are critical and play a direct role in learning uptake.” You can give people a stack of information with instructions to learn it, but they will likely never absorb the information without the appropriate context and support.

Create A Culture of Learning

On his Brain Rules website, Dr. John Medina discusses our natural inclination to learn through exploring. “Babies are the model of how we learn—not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion,” he says. “Babies methodically do experiments on objects, for example, to see what they will do.” So when you’re building a learning program for your organization, you can’t expect to force learning, but you can create a culture that encourages learners to experiment and apply information.

Try these best practices for tapping into your organization’s zest for learning:

  • Engage your learners immediately. Use stories, scenarios, and examples that speak directly to your organization. Learners should understand what’s in it for them right away.
  • Make blended methods of learning easily accessible. (Go way beyond PowerPoint.) Create a learning library, and encourage staff to explore and experiment with the material.
  • Appeal to a variety of senses. Use video, online learning, and audio along with traditional printed materials. Make it easy for learners to explore and share.

On his blog, informal learning expert Jay Cross sums it up this way: “Training is something that’s imposed on you; learning is something you choose. Knowledge workers thrive when given the freedom to decide how they will do what’s asked of them.” We couldn’t agree more.

The Difference Between Training and Learning and Why It Matters

When we started IdeaLearning Group, we asked ourselves this question: Do we want to facilitate training or learning? What is the difference between training and learning? We decided early on that we’re in the business of learning.

Although organizations often use the words interchangeably, we view “training” as the process of shaping into a desired form (like “training a plant”) and “learning” as the inspired process of acquiring knowledge and skills through experience.  It’s also sometimes used to imply a sort of mindless learning, training isn’t a bad word or concept. The problem is that it’s too restrictive. When we think of training, we think of adherence, testing, drills, exercises, and standards. When we’re being formally trained, we’re being groomed to perform according to a set of expectations.

“Learning” is a generous canopy. When we think of learning, the following comes to mind: thinking, exploration, absorption, creativity, purpose, education, curiosity, and growth. When we’re learning–formally or informally–we’re not only acquiring new knowledge and skills, we’re also blazing a new path by cultivating our own understanding.

There is a time and place for training. We view training as one component of the learning plan. For example, a company’s employees might need to learn about compliance requirements or processes. But to make the learning a comprehensive experience, we also must provide opportunities to modify behavior and on-the-job performance. There’s definitely an opportunity for skills training here, but learners also need to practice what they’ve learned and demonstrate their knowledge in meaningful ways in order to round out the learning experience.

Sometimes our new clients approach us with a solution already in mind. When one of our clients requested a one-day classroom training session about their confusing interview process, we helped them step back to discover the bigger picture. Our learning solution was a blended approach that included an online overview piece that prepared learners for a shift in thinking about how they interview and hire employees. It also included face-to-face learning, elearning modules and a robust learning library hosted on their intranet. Our solution offered so much more than “training”—it was a context-based, exploratory program that addressed not only processes, but also company culture, values and adaptability.

According to an article from the non-profit Computer Education Management Association, “Training is a core step in the process of learning, but it is not learning itself. Even training that leads to a proof of mastery or certification cannot be labeled as learning. To learn is to do, to apply, to morph and adapt to the knowledge or skill acquired in training to the circumstance.” So training is part of the solution, but it’s not the whole solution. Learning simply goes beyond training.

So what would happen if more training departments changed their names to “learning centers”? What if they renamed the “training toolbox” the “learning library”? For one, the focus would shift more toward the learners’ needs and perspectives.

“Training versus learning” is not just about semantics. Training is event-driven, and learning is about experience. We’d love to find out how you think of the difference between training and learning in your organization.

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CAREERS We always enjoy connecting with talented professionals in the learning and development field.
CONNECT 503.208.3256
LOCATION 2701 NW Vaughn St #103
Portland, OR 97210

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