So why non-formal as opposed to on-demand learning?

The new learning architect

Throughout 2011 we will be publishing extracts from The New Learning Architect. Here we continue with the second part of chapter 8:

On-demand learning is just-in-time performance support – it’s there when you need it. But, although performance support has many advantages, it is not a panacea. Alison Rossett and Lisa Schafer have identified four situations in which you need to have the knowledge and skills before you undertake the task:

When aided performance would damage credibility: There are times when you would look amateurish if you had to go seeking out information that others might expect you to know. The obvious example is when you are dealing directly with customers or clients. No-one’s going to be bothered if you have to obtain help to deal with an unusual situation, but they would be justifiably annoyed if, say, you were a sales assistant in a retail store and couldn’t operate the till, or were an electrician who couldn’t wire a plug.

When speedy performance is a priority: In some jobs, there simply isn’t the time to go tracking down the right information or asking for help. A lawyer may have time to consult the books, but an airline pilot needs to be able to respond to an emergency using their own resources; a business person may be able to consult with a specialist before determining a strategy, but a professional sportsperson has to be able to swiftly select the right tactics to deal with a situation that arises unexpectedly.

When novel and unpredictable situations are involved: Some jobs are relatively stable and it may be possible for an employer to prepare performance support materials or systems to cope with every eventuality. Many other jobs are much less predictable and it is vital for the employee to be equipped with the core skills and problem-solving strategies to deal with the unexpected when it occurs. Take the example of an investment banker: although much of their work might be routine, they have to be able to deal swiftly with crisis situations that sometimes have no precedence.

When smooth and fluid performance is a top priority: Performance support is disruptive – it interrupts the task and disturbs the flow. No audience is going to wait while a presenter consults Wikipedia to look up a fact or asks for help in operating PowerPoint; similarly a telephone sales representative will not want to keep the customer waiting while they consult with a colleague.

ReferenceJob Aids & Performance Support by Alison Rossett & Lisa Schafer, Pfeiffer, 2007

Coming next: Then why not formal learning?

Return to Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7

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About Clive Shepherd

Clive Shepherd has written 244 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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