Making transformation happen: building 21st century learning skills

Transforming l&d

In this series of posts I’ve set out a vision and strategies for transformation in workplace learning and development. I showed how this process must be clearly aligned to an organisation’s particular learning requirements (‘learning’), the characteristics of its people (‘learners’) and the constraints which govern its decision making (‘logistics’). The ‘three Ls’ inform and shape our transformation process starting with the creation of an overall learning architecture and a supportive infrastructure, and moving on, as I explained in my previous post, to include processes for performance needs analysis and blended solution design.

The final stage in the transformation process – and outer layer of the transformation wheel (see below) – is the development of the new skills required of the 21st century learning professional:

Thirty years ago, when a new teacher or trainer entered the profession, they would have a relatively easy task to familiarise themselves with the learning media then available: flip charts, whiteboards, overhead projectors, perhaps an early VHS player. It was achievable to learn how to use all these media, so everyone did. As the years have gone by, the pace of change has accelerated until now it seems that every year there is a slew of new technologies fighting for our attention. Quite simply, there’s now a major skills gap with many learning professionals inadequately equipped to use the latest tools of their trade. This may be because they have not been provided with adequate opportunities to acquire the necessary skills; in some cases it could also be a case of burying your head in the sand.

Creating digital learning content

Digital learning content takes a wide variety of forms, including tutorials, scenarios, podcasts, screencasts, videos, slideshows, quizzes and reference materials. In fact we are fast approaching a point at which all learning content will be digital and online.

The skills of digital learning content design are relevant to anyone with an interest in helping others to learn, whether that’s a teacher, trainer, lecturer or coach, a subject expert with knowledge they want to share, or an experienced practitioner who wants to pass on their tips.

Some will dedicate themselves to content design as their full-time speciality, but every learning professional should know the basics, just as in the past everyone would have been able to deliver a half-decent training session in a classroom.

Clive Shepherd’s book Digital learning content: A designer’s guide was published by Onlignment in 2012.

Delivering live online learning

Virtual classrooms provide a fantastic opportunity for any organisation that wants to get more training done more cheaply, particularly when participants are widely dispersed. Many of the skills of the classroom trainer can be transferred without difficulty to an online setting, but the experience can still be strange and sometimes a little daunting for those starting off as virtual classroom facilitators. Although formal training can be helpful, the main emphasis should probably be placed on lots of practice with the help of  a good coach.

Live online learning: A facilitator’s guide was published by Onlignment in 2010.

Facilitating connected learning

Since the advent of social media, hundreds of millions of people have been able to build and sustain their personal networks online. The emergence of smart phones and tablets has accelerated this trend by allowing us to stay connected wherever we are and at any time of day. Unsurprisingly, there is keen interest in bringing these advantages to the world of work, with obvious benefits in terms of learning and performance support.

Connected learning takes advantage of online networks and simple collaborative tools such as forums, wikis, blogs and social networks. It has its place in formal learning, within new blends that extend well beyond the classroom. But its major benefits will occur informally, as a means for on-going support and collaboration.

In some cases, learning professionals can just sit back and allow connected learning to occur naturally on a peer-to-peer basis, but there are situations where their skills in facilitation and coaching could prove really valuable. And novices will appreciate their help as curators who identify useful resources and put people in touch with others who can help them. But before they can do this, learning professionals must themselves become connected.

Coming next: A conclusion to the series

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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