a free monthly briefing on the knowledge agenda
|No. 56||December 2001|
E-learning: Which Side of The Coin?
One cannot help notice the increasing attention being given to e-learning. Interestingly, although this Knowledge Connections website is predominantly about knowledge management, one of the most popular pages remains Insight No.3 The Learning Organization (first published in 1995). In the report Creating the Knowledge-based Business (co-authored with Debra Amidon) we described knowledge management and organizational learning as being two sides of the same coin:
"learning comes through creating and applying knowledge, whilst learning increases an individual's and organization's knowledge asset"
Today, learning is a key feature in many KM programmes and practices, for example:
Yet in many organizations, training and learning are seen as quite separate from knowledge management (though I do know several where the KM programme now comes under the auspice of a corporate university). Some of this separation is historical, since the traditional view of learning is that it takes place in courses held in classrooms. For many types of learning this is increasingly unrealistic (how many of your senior managers go away on courses? What is the drop out rate of course or seminar attendees?). Enter E-learning.
The Contribution of E-learning
Read any literature on e-learning - especially vendor's brochures - and the following points are usually made:
So far, so good. Now take a closer look at what many suppliers of e-learning are promoting
Too often, they are translating the prevailing idiom of 'courses' into the new environment.
The Wider View
One of my early experiences of e-learning was in tutoring on what was then a highly innovative Open University course Managing the Competitive Environment. A key feature of this course - apart from the use of scenario planning to develop alternative future scenarios which was relatively new as a core management practice then, though more so now -- was the innovative use of computer conferencing (using CoSy software). In this several types of forums (or communities) were used to address several different learning modes:
Today, such combinations of content (course material, learning resources) and communities (student groups) are more commonplace in e-learning environments provided by many business schools.
From Whole Courses to Bite Sized Chunks (Learning Objects)
Such tools and techniques need to be adapted for the everyday working environment, not just for those who are embarking on an MBA or other courses. Learning and work are converging. Busy professions need learning in byte sized chunks - a help screen when using a computer application, one or two web pages when they need some specific guidance, a response. In other words, much on the job learning will take place in 2-3 minute chunks, not 2-3 day courses. Hence, there is a growing interest in 'learning objects', small self-contained modules of content to aid learning. Now look around and see how well all your learning material is packaged as objects for 'just in time' learning? Look also at your KM activities - are the outputs packaged in a way that others can also learn? Here are some things to think about:
One useful thing that e-learning does provide is a framework and set of tools to place learning resources and to think in a pedagogical way about learning. However, until E-learning tools (and some KM tools as well) moves away from thinking of it as simply repackaging courseware to making available learning resources in various sized chunks, in different formats to meet different learning needs and styles, then it will remain as something apart from KM - and that would be a pity.
Some commentators see the convergence of e-learning and KM as the Holy
Grail (see, for example, the interesting white paper of
brandon-hall.com 'Learning Management and Knowledge Management: Is The
Holy Grail of Integration Close at Hand?' -
Email: David J. Skyrme
© Copyright, 2001. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.
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