The PESTEL framework mentions technology as one of the key factors impacting strategy. For many decades, the impact of technology was limited to better machines in factories leading to improved (lower cost, increased output, more throughput) production. The framework itself was, one amongst many available in management books and sometimes forgotten. The world has changed now and the framework’s come alive with technology impacting almost every aspect of our lives. Innovation has been driven by lower cost of manufacturing, higher computing power and access to funds by entrepreneurs working on new ideas.
Typical reactions to change have usually been reactive and the training world’s not been any different. Any change has its early adopters (called evolution in simpler terms!) and followers and it’s been the same in the training world as well. More and more curriculum has moved to the virtual world with apparent advantages. It’s made it easier for organizations to build or buy content at a lower cost, scale up quickly and deliver it to remotely located employees.
While costs have come down, we need to assess the impact. Through my numerous conversations with training professionals I have arrived at a set of principles that should help us leverage virtual learning, without diluting the benefits of traditional, face to face interactions.
Principle One – Don’t Ignore Kolb
Even after so many decades, Kolb’s experiential learning cycle remains, probably the most referred to Model in the training world. Humans have largely developed new things through a process of tinkering! From pre-historic times, when the best hunter in a tribe probably tinkered with the feathers on his arrow to make it go faster and more accurately, to engineers at Google, who could spend time working with ideas and tinkering, we have always developed through a process of doing things. Experiential Learning, is therefore something that Instructional Designers need to consciously build the into the learning experience. Concepts and ideas are useful, but need to be built upon with real, hands on practice and reflection in a group.
Principle Two – Remember Malcolm Knowles
Adults learn differently and learn best from each other and within the right context! Virtual Learning content and designs can sometimes run straight through, delivering the content in a series of Modules to the learner in the most efficient way possible. While these are undoubtedly efficient, are they as impactful as they could be if they were run in a face to face format in small groups? If not, then how can we learn from that experience and build those elements into our sessions.
Principle Three – Reflect on Bloom’s Taxonomy
Benjamin Bloom along with David Kolb and Donald Kirkpatrick have probably given the three most powerful frameworks to Learning & Development. Bloom’s levels help us visualize, design and deliver for impact; while the first two levels are simpler, it’s imperative that we design and deliver at all levels if the situation demands. This might not be easy in a virtual world, but the challenge sits with us as instructional designers and training professionals innovate with designs and approaches that make this happen.
Principle Four – Leverage Emotions & Empathy
Humans have evolved the fastest amongst all the species on the planet and one of the reasons we have managed this is our ability to read and work with other’s emotions. Research done by Dr V.S.Ramachandaran talks about mirror neurons — our unique ability to feel the other person’s emotions as they are going through an experience.
How are we tapping these emotions and empathy as we start delivering content via technology?
It’s imperative that people see, feel and experience each other’s emotions as they go through an experience. A virtual experience may take the human element out of the equation and might deprive us of our biggest strength. Ignoring that would be akin to ignoring the biggest lesson we have learnt from a million years of evolution.
The training world has adapted well to technological changes and undoubtedly there will be more changes in the years to come. The ball sits in our court as L&D professionals to balance efficiency, with comes with technology with effectiveness, which comes with design principles. It will not be easy but we need to use technology as an enabler for designing better interventions to deliver business impact.