I had a very interesting experience at a conference recently. I was attending the social hour and doing the small talk greeting thing. One of the participants at my table suddenly recognized me. He said, “Oh I know you; you’re the ‘I hate the classroom’ guy!”
I was fairly taken back by this. When I asked him to qualify his statement, he said I’m the guy who always bashes the classroom in my presentations when trying to explain the power of informal learning and/or performance support. I tried to explain that, first of all, I apologize if that’s how I’ve been portraying myself. Second, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The classroom is one of the most amazing, adaptive learning environments we have. I told him it’s not the classroom I hate. It’s what we’ve done to it along the way.
Let me explain.
As I travel around our industry, I hear two common themes: Learners are given less and less time away from work to learn, and that, with all of the amazing new technologies and methodologies available, learning needs to be moved out into the workflow in smaller sizes and more personalized ways. To meet these two objectives, we need to take a fresh look at how we’ve always done things.
No more blended or flipped learning. I’m not bashing these efforts, but they start at the classroom and work out from there. With that approach, we’ll never push the envelope, holistically embrace new technologies and methodologies, and the classroom will never be free to do what it does best. Let’s redesign learning from the performer and the workflow back.
What the classroom does better then any other learning environment — so far — is be highly adaptive, collaborative and safe. These are powerful things, things we rarely see exploited in the model. Instead, content dominates the outline, format and flow because we focus more on what people need to know ahead of what they need to do. Therein lies the rub. We rarely have a clear understanding of the doing, therefore we obsess on the knowing, leaving the classroom to be the catch all for everything.
If we scrap the model and design for performance and sustained skill first, our design and learning solutions delivery will be quite different. If we get better at designing tools for the workflow that make the most current, applicable information just two clicks and 10 seconds away from a performer at their moment of apply, the classroom becomes a much different place. If we can finally let go of content dominating the classroom, knowing that it’s available in a more effective and powerful way, we can finally redesign the classroom differently.
In this type of an approach, we bring people into classrooms to collaborate, problem solve, fail, succeed, help each other, and be guided rather then lectured at, subjected to death by PowerPoint and made to go through random practice activities that have little meaning outside the workflow. The classroom becomes a place to practice the tools of the trade of survival on the job.
These tools are experienced, practiced, pushed, challenged, embellished and synthesized so that they become intrinsic to the learner’s way of thinking, solving problems, applying knowledge and improving their performance over time. These classroom experiences can also be much shorter and more focused. The amount of content is reduced, and the valuable time left is replaced with everything I just mentioned.
Again, this is not about replacing the classroom. It’s about freeing the classroom to play a new and exciting role. One about enablement and enhancing the journey toward performance, a journey without a beginning and an ending. The classroom will no longer be a place that starts the journey. It becomes the place a learner moves in and out of when appropriate, in a more meaningful and focused way.
When the classroom is mixed with enabling tools like social media, mobile technologies, adaptive learning and performance support, it takes on a different meaning, design and significance. It no longer the tip of the sword, which is an amazing and freeing thing for the learner, the instructor and the environment.
Bob Mosher is a senior partner and chief learning evangelist for APPLY Synergies, a strategic consulting firm. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.