Jan 11th and 13th saw me sunning it up (figuratively speaking) in the stimulating setting of The Hindu Lit for Life festival in Chennai. A sumptuous spread of cerebral and endorphin-inducing fare, the subtext was learning, learning and more learning.
A forum for conversations, talks, and presentations, the overwhelming outcome was an exchange of ideas, facilitated by a structured social platform where you heard directly ‘from the horse’s mouth’ so to speak, were encouraged to ask questions and emerge from the auditorium more enriched/enlightened/entertained, courtesy the high calibre of the learning that one had just imbibed.
That is a strident example of the reach and power of social learning.
You, the members of the corporate workspace may be looking askance, wondering why we in the working world are blowing this social learning trumpet where learning is to a large extent still circumscribed by the training circumference. You may be asking yourself – can it be replicated, effectively, in the corporate world? And what happens to good old instructor-led training? And online learning, the ubiquitously-used learning at leisure and learning on the move with eLearning and mLearning? Does it have to be just the one way or the highway? Is there scope for co-existence?
And the resounding answer to that most vital last question regarding co-existence is: yes, yes, yes!
This thesis is especially relevant in the 21st century, where Millennials (Gen Y) make up the maximum numbers in any workplace, along with the significantly smaller numbers of Gen X and in some places a handful of the Baby Boomers, who despite their penury in sheer numbers are equally and vitally important to the life force of the organisation.
Instructor-led classroom training: This format is still viable, still effective and will endure. Here are some of the reasons why –
- Presentation of a large/complex body of material to a group of employees at the same time in a closed room, free from distractions (work interruptions, calls etc) except the class at hand, allowing for more focus on complex material.
- Individual attention, immediate help and support from trainer and participants including practice of the subject and solving problems right here and now.
- Multi-sensory experience (combination of visual, aural, reading, writing and kinesthetic components) that releases endorphins and creates an enriched, feel-good, adrenalin boosting outcome.
- Cross-functional learning enabled by presence of participants from different divisions within a company, leading to breakthrough problem solving and innovative ideas.
While the major and important data sets can be taught to employees via instructor-led classroom sessions, online learning modules serve the purpose to fill the tiny, yet crucial gaps to clear concepts and fit their busy working schedules. What comes to the rescue is eLearning and mLearning: Online learning is ubiquitous and here to stay. And why not when –
- Only online works for multiple locations, saving huge monies and time.
- How else can a busy executive learn when his regular hours are sagging with regular work; with online, he is self-directed and learns at his pace.
- Interactive/experiential learning via case studies, scenarios, virtual reality, 3D engage learner in a no-threat zone, enabling user to try and try again without fear of reprisal/peer pressure.
- Accessible, anytime learning on the mobile makes learning possible at the time of need, building learner confidence.
- Easily digestible mobile learning (offered in small bytes) avoids cognitive overload, improves retention.
A healthy co-existence of the above-mentioned formats is extensively used in organizations big and small, to formally “train” the workforce across all ages and groups.