Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

Why Workplace Learning Is Largely Learning 1.0

Michele Martin has been writing a string of posts about why workplace learning is largely using authoring and presenting tools – more like “Learning 1.0” types of approaches, while the educators are using more Web 2.0 tools like Wikis, blogs etc. She refers to Jane Hart’s Spring 2008 Top 100 Tools for Learning, a compilation of the top 10 tools identified by 155 elearning professionals, a list to which I also contributed. Jane and Michele make interesting observation about the differences between learning in corporate world and an educator’s world.

In the field of education, the onus of learning is on the learner. In workplace, the onus of training is on the organization and training department. If I don’t learn in university, it is my shortcoming. If I don’t learn in the workplace, it is the training department or functional head’s shortcoming.

In the corporate world, spending time on social networking sites is looked down upon (hmm... chatting with your friends?, wasting time trying to find a date, or using company resources to find a job are you...). IM, downloading/viewing videos on YouTube are considered a load on network bandwidth that can be done without. Podcasts are after all MP3 files that can’t be distinguished from music files, and MP3 downloads are restricted. In the educator’s world these tools help the teacher connect to many more students at the same time.

We still can’t measure the learning using Web 2.0 tools. The training department or functional head’s measure of success are the number of training days or number of elearning courses taken by employees. Productivity can be impacted in many ways and it is hard to measure the impact of learning on productivity. I am not sure how many training heads have productivity as a key performance measure of their role that they actually monitor. In the Educator’s world, there is no requirement to measure productivity. Learning is measured through exams.

I will also commit hara-kiri as a manager and say that there is actually lesser time available for using social networking tools and Web 2.0 tools for learning in corporate workplace. Using Web 2.0 tools and techniques requires some getting used to and requires more time. Somehow in the workplace, there just isn’t the time available required to truly realize the potential of Web 2.0 tools. So between gazillion transactions of workload, it isn’t easy to spend time on “learning”. Training is easier because it can be planned with time allocated to it. Educator’s world doesn’t seem to have the same time pressures of the corporate world.

There are also social pressures. Few of my colleagues/bosses wonder how I have so much time to blog and run a team blog, even though most of my posts are on the weekends, and running a team blog is something that a functional head should probably be doing. One my colleagues asked me, so what’s the point of all this blogging, wikis etc. Isn’t it easier to just ask someone in case you need help? And where is the time to read all the stuff... In the Educator’s world there are social pressures to use the tools. It is cool to be up to date with social networking and various other Web 2.0 tools. In corporate world you are expected to know all about them but not actually spend time on them.

With most companies struggling to find talent, struggling with attrition and shortened employment span of employees in a single organization, organizations are spending more on “training” and less on “learning”. Training is measurable; learning doesn’t quite seem to be so easily measureable. Can the organizations afford to take a chance that employees will “learn” on their own? Isn’t it easier that they just be “trained”? Sometimes I see the impact of this in employees not wanting to learn and just waiting to be trained.

While writing this post, I couldn’t help recall Geetha Krishnan’s post where he makes an interesting comparison between education and training.


Michele Martin said...

Manish, what a GREAT post--lots of food for thought here and I think you bring up some really great points, particularly that it's about "training" as opposed to "learning."

The irony, I think, is that if you look at the people who learn vs. those who want to be trained, usually it's the former who are your high performers. What would happen if companies got over this idea that everything can be quantified every step of the way and focused on outcomes rather than outputs? What if learning wasn't seen as yet another transaction, but as something to be infused throughout the day?

This is really a great analysis, Manish--thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is time some structured models are created for constructing and tracking teaching-learning in a 2.0 world. The next logical step should probably be to create/adapt teaching and learning "instruments" for training and for education that leverage this collaborative medium - and this in a way that directly links performance to learning.

Great observations, Manish!

Jane Hart said...

Hi Manish - great post.

Not sure I would agree though that if you don't perform well at university, it's your own fault. In many institutions, if students don't pass their exams, their teachers are considered responsible for it.

I certainly agree though, that organisations view social networking and other Web 2.0 technologies with suspicion.

As for measuring learning, I believe organisations shouldn't be measuring training/learning but measuring performance. After all, training/learning is only the means to an end, not an end in itself - and this is very often forgotten.

I'd be very interested to hear about the structured models "for constructing and tracking teaching-learning in a 2.0 world" that learnos (comment above) refers too

Claire Thompson said...

Makes me wonder if more companies will follow Google's lead with 20% time. Google engineers are offered 20% of their time to work on what they're passionate about. I'm not sure how Google measures the effectiveness of this time, other than by noticing all of the great products that are produced as a result of it :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi there, I have a health background but am currently in education. I have been bemoaning the fact that midwives(thats my profession) do not show any interest or enthusiasm for doing anything educational other than what they have to as a statutory requirement. I get so much from my blog, wiki, twitter account and so on - why don't the midwives do as I do?

One of the reasons is because social networking etc is embedded so thoroughly into my life - I teach it, research using it, research it, write with it, etc etc. Whereas, midwives are out there doing their thing and many cannot/do not even use email.

So I would go back to Michele's point and ask, how can we embed social networking in people's days and sell it to them as something that has value. cheers Sarah

Bill said...

Manish, I agree with and have seen and experienced many of your observations. Many tools I'd love to use and share within the workplace are blocked at the firewall. Managers are begining to appreciate their value but the learning curve can be quite steep.

Sarah, I'm also in healthcare (hospital based - Informatics RN working in the IS Dept)and there is a concentration on meeting regulatory requirements for "training". Unfortunately most of it is of the "text and test" variety (of which I am also guilty of creating). When it comes to clinical personnel like nurses, time to explore and learn on duty is a rare commodity. I'm trying to introduce the concept of web 2.0 tools and Personal Learning Environments as a personal professional development tool.

The Krafty Librarian blog (she's a hosptial librarian) has also expressed huge frustration at limiting communication and collaboration applications because of IS Dept concerns for network security. We tend to be extra paranoid about allowing access to anything that even might compromise integrity and safety of personal health information. While I understand the concerns it is still frustrating at times.

We will be installing SharePoint on our network soon and I hope this will be an good way to introduce collaborative tools. I'm pushing to keep the personal blog feature alive and have talked about using the collaboration tools as a means of creating asynchronous meetings.

I got here from Michele's blog. Looks like I've found another one to add to my feed reader!


Poonam Sharma said...


That is an honest post about workplace learning. Though I disagree it is my fault if I do not do well at college or school (I did well, by the way, just kidding)

You are right about societal pressures at workplace. I am an ex-NIITian, and when I was there, I never had any time to blog and read blogs. I discovered Web 2.0 after I left NIIT. The Google idea (http://specials.rediff.com/money/2008/mar/11google1.htm)of spending 20% of time on something I like is certainly an exciting thing at workplace.

Out of NIIT, I also feel management does impact if your training is good or bad. An experience to prove the point is written here: http://rapid-learning.blogspot.com/2006/02/update-from-astd-techknowledge_06.html

Dave Ferguson said...

Manish, I wonder if some of the "1.0" aspect of workplace learning isn't due simply to inertia, especially on the part of management. The higher up the management ladder you go, the likelier you are to find people whose model of "learning" is formal education in its most traditional form -- the instructor as the expert, the students as a kind of blotting paper whose job is to absorb.

I have found senior managers who opposed the use of job aids ("they're suppose to know these things, not use cheat sheets"), who disdain hands-on practice ("just give 'em the facts"), who exalt test scores to a form of sainthood without ever asking how the test correlates with on-the-job performance.

(The notion that not all useful job skills can be reduced to multiple-choice questions is not one that seems to occur often along executive row.)

If an organization seriously thinks that number of training days consumed or number of courses taken is a measure of success, then it likely confuses process with product.

Training (in the traditional sense) may be easier because "it can be planned with time allocated to it," but that doesn't mean it's available when it's needed, nor that it addresses actual needs.

And, if the organization isn't willing to seek out ways to expand the skills and the opportunities for its most important asset -- its employees -- then maybe it needs to work harder at understanding why there's attrition.

Jeff Cobb said...

Manish - Thanks for a great post. I think one of the core issues is that corporate training often needs to demonstrate compliance of some sort or mastery of hard skills, and 1.0 approaches are simply more reliable and proven for this, at least at this point.

There is also little notion of a continuing "liberal" education in the corporate space. I think it is this notion that leads to the idea of a learner in a university bearing major responsibility for learning. And it tends to pervade the culture of elementary institutions, in spite of all the pressures for test results.

Google's "20%" approach suggests an evolution towards a somewhat more "liberal education" philosophy in the corporate world, but having been someone who has struggled to build and maintain a small business (which we tend to forget most corporations are), I expect the Google approach will be the exception rather than the rule for a long time to come.

Viplav Baxi said...

Jane and Manish,

I have tried to further elaborate on what I mean by structured models for constructing and tracking teaching-learning in a 2.0 world. I would love to have all your thoughts! Please do read my response.


Manmeet said...

Manish, a lot of education also is 1.0. Just adding wiki and blogs to curriculum do not make it a 2.0 approach. And a lot of it is similar to corporate training. e.g the teacher driven model schools and "Subject Matter Expert" model in corporates.I think its a societal change where knowledge is assumed to be residing in a collective brain much like the traditional community based learning in India.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

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