A couple of posts on the blog Living in Learning made me think about what seems like a good proposal but one which would struggle in the constrained world in which I’ve been working. Here I’d like to describe the proposal and endorse it in theory, describe why it would be difficult in some business situations and ask if anyone knows of successful projects following these lines.
I found the proposals in these two posts on Gary Wise’s blog:
I’m sure I saw something similar on Clark Quinn’s site but haven’t been able to find it again.
We’re familiar with the argument that too much learning is aimed at the memorisation of information ‘just in case’ it will be needed. Much of the information will be forgotten not long after the learning intervention without deliberate steps to make it memory-friendly, including spaced repetation. We’re also familiar with the arguments in favour of ‘just in time’ performance support materials which are there in the workplace at the moment they’re needed. Without reiterating the whole of the articles the proposal is that you do your analysis and design, with the aim of producing a mix of learning and performance support, but that you pause before beginning the development of learning to create the performance support and then deploy it to the target audience.
Gary’s contention is that this gives the immediate win of helping to improve performance in the workplace, plus the opportunity to confirm or amend the definition of the problem, and very possibly to reduce the amount of learning that has to be built.
While I’ve had some minor success in arguing to project managers and SMEs in my previous company that performance support tools – checklists, organisers and quick how-to guides – can be an effective part of the mix, they’re usually considered an add-on to the ‘main show’ which is the slick, interactive elearning. In this approach the PS is centre stage and the learning is there to fill any gaps and to draw attention to the PS.[blockquote]We can still train but consider this potential outcome:
What if the performance gap that triggered the training request in the first place can be closed with a few well-designed … Performer Support assets?
OK, so I see the sense in this approach and I’d like to see it work – particularly as good PS has a simplicity and minimalism missing from most elearning.
The barriers I’d have seen in my previous employment would have been:
- we don’t have time to delay the elearning build until we try out the PS – the deadline is for delivering elearning by date x, not solving the problem by date x; we’ll get hammered if we don’t meet it
- the external supplier is contracted to produce an hour’s elearning. What if we ask them to create PS after we’ve signed off the statement of work? Won’t they charge the same for a handful of PDFs as they would for elearning, so we’d be getting less for our money
- is it in the suppliers’ interest to agree to such an approach upfront when elearning is their bread and butter?
- this approach includes an element of uncertainty – we try the PS then we decide what further work is needed. Neither side – the business or the suppliers – would want uncertainty
These are all symptoms of an outsourced, project-based order-taker culture. Some organisations may offer a friendlier environment. If so, I’d love to hear from you.
* almost forgot the acronym – Analyse, Design, Implement, Evaluate (the PS), Design, Implement, Evaluate (the learning)!