Thursday, August 21, 2014

eLearning – Will Tools or Strategy Save Us?

Understanding what is possible leads to success!
A new learning paradigm is sweeping across all sectors of the economy and beginning to affect our lives in many unseen ways.  Two major factors are driving this change - the human factor which fuels our increasing need for knowledge, and the costs associated with delivering that knowledge. Our civilization and indeed our very social fabric have always relied on tools to solve such problems, while strategy has often taken a back seat. 

 Our history is littered with examples of technology that has proven ineffective until careful thought has been applied to their use. One such example comes to mind through the Department of National Defense (Canada) who designed ejection seats for early fighter planes that cut off the legs of the pilot if he was too big. I am sure each of us has been exposed to poor software design when we try and shop or buy something online…somehow the programmer always seems to be the designer of the interaction. All too often the end user is not consulted and the tools we develop fail to meet our needs because they do not consider or consult the end user- in this case “learners.”

 As might be expected, big business has always stepped in to leverage an opportunity; like providing a driver and a bus with no final destination or map to guide us. Learning Management Systems and Learning development tool sets are ubiquitous today …offering us the ability to deliver learning anywhere, anytime at low cost. Organizational administrators are tasked with the increasingly complicated learning demands - struggling to make sense of the technology and how to best meet their needs. Trying to filter through the avalanche of eLearning tools and promotions as many companies rush to meet the needs can be troubling. Little time if any is relegated to the idea of implementing a learning strategy first, before deploying a tool set.

Most organizations take one of two very different routes to achieve their learning goals. The first option is to try and understand needs and demands of learners from legacy learning experiences - and without conducting a thorough assessment of changing learner needs. This often results in re-purposing existing legacy information into useful learning by utilizing new tools sets such as Learning Management Systems, without fully understanding their impact.

The second and much more complex option is the “Strategy First Option” which involves seeking to understand current learner needs and learning organizational goals by conducting a more in-depth assessment. Understanding the nature of learners in your organization may include defining not only organizational learning goals but personal improvement and broader overall knowledge growth. Developing a strategy first option doesn't need to take a great deal of time and effort  but it does take some very specific thought. Laying out a plan that includes organizational learning goals, audience learning preferences, prioritizing topic development and putting into place the administration and promotional resources required to effectively implement a learning strategy over the long term will ensure success.

Once you have a strategy in place you can then begin selecting tools, topics and partners to develop and implement a learning plan that meets your organizational needs… but perhaps more importantly, in developing a strategy you have gained the trust of learners, created a framework for learning and generated awareness of the learning initiative.  

I am happy to share my strategy checklist - let's connect to explore the possible.  

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