Several years ago, a manager told a forum that his company’s attempt to consolidate dozens of training efforts was bogged down for three months while they struggled for a consensus definition of “e-learning.” Let’s not make the same mistake with Web 2.0, Learning 2.0 and informal learning. We need to clarify what these terms mean or abandon them.
It takes guts for a publication named Business 2.0 to announce that the term “Web 2.0” is headed for the dustbin. Business 2.0 doesn’t deny that the Web is morphing into something much larger. It suggests we call today’s Web by the name “Next Net.”
I’ll grant that it is tiresome to repeat the Web’s feature list. Some shorthand would be nice. Trouble is, terms such as Web 2.0 and Next Net would become obsolete before coming into common parlance.
This is the Internet we are talking about. The Net is the poster child for change. Ten years ago, there were 16 million Internet users. Today they number more than a billion. There are 30 million blogs, 60 times as many as three years ago.
My recommendation: continue to call it the Web. No one will ask what you’re talking about.
The term “Learning 2.0” is in the air. A year from now, soothsayers at symposiums will be sharing their wisdom that “as for Learning 2.0, it’s not the 2.0 that matters. It’s the learning.” Why wait? I’ll tell you right now, the 2.0 doesn’t matter. Learning 2.0 is a useless term. It does not add meaning to the conversation. It is unnecessary baggage.
Don’t get me wrong. Web services, openness and interoperability lay a foundation for learning a hundred times more effective than the learning we are accustomed to. The dream of workers, workflow and workspaces all humming along in harmony as nodes in a global network is delightful beyond imagination.
Better that we devote our strength to integrating learning into the emerging technology and business landscape than quibble about whether incorporating match-ups and wikis transform regular learning into Learning 2.0.
Before you know it, research houses will be selling magic quadrants for Learning 3.0 providers. Consultants will outsource only to Learning 4.0-qualified suppliers. Another company will counter with on-demand Learning 5.0. There will be Learning 6.0 special events and Learning 7.0 industry reports. And I will still be ranting that the emperor has no clothes.
My recommendation: Let learning remain learning. Don’t call it Learning 2.0 or, worse yet, “Next Learning.” You probably don’t want the title CL2.0.
Some people consider “informal learning” an oxymoron. Isn’t learning the antithesis of informality? How can you control something informal? Maybe they were thinking of informal “training.” That doesn’t make sense unless you’re applying it to a teacher who wears aloha shirts and flip flops to class.
Training is formally imposed. The word training derives from a medieval term meaning “manipulate in order to bring to a desired form.” Attending a training program does not mean learning takes place. You can lead a boy to college, but you can’t make him think.
You can coerce today’s knowledge workers into going through the motions, but you can’t control what goes on in their heads. You can set up conditions that foster learning. You can remove obstacles to learning, help people make connections and encourage people to learn by experimenting.
Training came packaged in training programs. What went into a program and how it would be delivered was a formal decision. Setting up a learning ecology, what I sometimes call a learnscape, gives free-range learners a place to discover what they want to know. If they learn through trial-and-error, by looking over the shoulder of a colleague or through reflection while driving to work, that’s informal learning.
My recommendation: Let’s keep informal learning until it’s common knowledge that informal learning is the primary way people make sense of the world.
Jay Cross is CEO of Internet Time Group and a thought leader in informal learning and organizational performance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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