Learning, training, control and choice.

[Warning, this post is something of a stream].

“Control is to training as choice is to learning”.

This is a fair summary of how I saw the world of L&D on first entry about five or six years ago. Granted, this is an enormously simplified characterisation and I have variously agreed and disagreed with it over those years as I have learned more. Control and choice both have their place. Nevertheless I find myself agreeing with the sentiment more these days. Much of my time is spent at present redefining and representing digital content and services for people to use when learning. This activity is all focused on solving user problems and providing a user service. This is very different from conversations about training systems where process and integration loom large. (Calling them learning systems does not really change the point).

I will return to this theme again as it is a constant preoccupation. I find I am continually turning over the idea that learning mixed with technology is more successful than training mixed with technology. Training is not wrong or poor. But there are better ways. I will rehearse some ideas below. I think thus and in no particular order:

  • All the best digital products are at the command of their user (individual user), rather than a stakeholder
  • Well designed digital tools are managed to constantly develop to satisfy their users’ needs, their design is not finished
  • This last point is not true of training systems
  • As user needs change, a learning product will change to meet those new choices
  • This is not true of training systems
  • An LMS is a training system, not a learning system. It only really deals with one content format – the course.
  • An LMS is designed for assigning activity to a user – it is not designed for user choice.
  • A learner is trying to either find something out or get something done and exploring how to do that, this not always true of training courses.
  • Good digital learning tools allow users to work though a framework in their own manner (e.g. GCSE Bitesize curriculum revision content) – they are designed around user choice.
    • Lack of control does not mean lack of order or framework, this is important, if not vital, to learner success
  • There is nothing on the open web like an LMS – there seems to be little appetite to use them by choice.
  • Similarly, there is nothing on the open web like an “eLearning course” – there seems to be little appetite to use them by choice
  • There are myriad learning products available all over the digital landscape – we routinely chose them although they are not provided by learning organisations
    • (I am thinking of, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Worpdpress, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, iTunes, Evernote…I will not go on with this list).
  • As a point of principle, assigning something to someone means that the assingee is not a user – they are a recipient, or perhaps an operator.
  • A training system or tool is likely to be designed around the needs of stakeholders and corporate buyer needs – these needs may, or may not, be the same as the user
  • A (good) learning tool is designed only for a user
  • A good learning tool offers the learner (user) control and use of the data created in the product – it is the users’ data
  • This is particularly true of social products and services where individual identity, communication and collaboration create the value of the service
  • A good digital tool does not expose process to the user – nobody elects to run a process (someone else’s process even less so)

To repeat my caveat, control is neither bad or unwelcome. Sometimes it is necessary. It is overused and has become inherent to training systems, however. Choice is likely to be better at any time and learner behaviour is rapidly changing to expect choice to be primary.

One thought on “Learning, training, control and choice.

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