The formal learning toolkit

The new learning architect

Throughout 2011 we will be publishing extracts from The New Learning Architect. Here we bring chapter 7 to a conclusion:

Top-down approaches

Formal learning is most commonly organised on a top-down basis by employers for their employees. They have a wide range of options at their disposal:

Classroom courses

Outdoor learning

Self-study e-learning

Collaborative distance learning

Electronic games and simulations

Blended solutions

Bottom-up approaches

It might seem odd to conceive of formal learning interventions as being anything other than top-down, but there are frequent occasions when the initiative to undertake a course comes from the employee and not the employer. Principally this will occur when the employee wishes to obtain some form of technical or professional accreditation that will enhance their career prospects. Most employers operate some form of scheme to at least part fund these courses, sometimes with provisions for return of this subsidy if the employee subsequently leaves their job before a certain date.

Otherwise, formal learning that is initiated from a bottom-up perspective can take any of the forms described above under top-down.

Conditions for success

To enjoy success with formal learning it is necessary for the l&d professional to recognise the following:

  • that not all learning needs to be packaged up as a course – more informal approaches are often perfectly adequate;
  • that there are many approaches available for the delivery of courses, not just classroom delivery;
  • that sometimes no single approach will do the job and that a blended solution will be necessary;
  • that learning must be a process embedded in workplace performance, not an event;
  • that trainers are more likely to be effective as ‘guides on the side’ than as ‘sages on the stage’.

Coming next: We move on to focus on non-formal learning

Return to Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6

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About Clive Shepherd

Clive Shepherd has written 240 post in this blog.

Clive is a consultant specialising in the application of technology to learning and business communications. He was previously Director of Training and Creative Services for a multinational corporation and co-founder of a major multimedia development company. For four years he was chair of the eLearning Network.

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