With today’s electronic age, often organizations forget about the importance of applying adult learning concepts. Instead, they begin to rely on electronic learning management systems to complete all the training for them for their resources. What they either forgot, or ignore, is that as adults our learning has evolved as we grew. What we must remember is that “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (McLeod, 2017).
So, what does that mean in the age of technology? It means that too often we forsake the ways that adults learn for the convenience of technology. As children, we were forced to sit in classrooms, read books, and do exercises. In many electronic learning systems, you sit, watch a slideshow, and then are expected to learn from it. But where is the experience of doing the exercises?
Over the past ten years, I have become a practitioner and believer in Kolb’s experiential learning theory. The theory identifies a four-stage learning cycle that involves concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Only when an individual goes through this cycle does effective learning occur. Within the four cycles, there are also learning styles that have been identified. These include diverging, assimilating, converging, and accommodating. So, what do these learning styles mean? It means that people learn in different ways. Diverging equates to feeling and watching, assimilating equates to thinking and watching, converging equates to thinking and doing, and accommodating means feeling and doing (McLeod, 2017).
The greatest success I have seen is when I incorporate three primary aspects into training: seeing/hearing, doing, and feeling. These are often lost when directing employees to an electronic learning system. They can see, they can read, and they can hear…but they cannot do or feel it. When learning something new as adults, it is primarily done through experiencing it. You also have to take into consideration the different ways that people learn. For me, to be able to sit down and experiment with it, to try it, is how I will learn and remember it. There are some people that can just sit and watch a video and learn it, but when it comes to applying what they watched, they may have some challenges.
Things to remember if your organization is looking at going to strictly an electronic learning management system:
- Human interaction is an important part of learning;
- Experiencing it plays a vital role in the understanding of what a person is learning;
- Not all people can learn from watching a video or slide presentation;
- Limits the participants from asking questions or furthering discussions; and
- It can teach an application, but not with the organizational processes infused, so it is left wanting.
Even as mentors, we need to remember that we should ask for the experiences that our mentees are experiencing and use this for the learning opportunities going forward. Whether in a formal setting, information setting, or just sitting around the office, we learn from our successes, and we learn from our errors. We learn from conversations with others, and we also learn from the missed conversations. By replacing that type of interaction, are we cheating ourselves of a greater learning potential?
Over the past twenty years, more and more research is also being done on the connection between culture, spirituality and adult learning. What has been found is that by really knowing who your audience is, can actually increase the learning experience. Spirituality does not mean religion; it means something very personal to each individual. Making the connection with a person can only enhance the learning and the teaching experience.
So, why have organizations moved to technology and seemingly bypassed the human interface? Is it because there’s no commitment needed on training space or personnel? Have they become too reliant on the electronic learning management systems? The answer will be different for every organization. What I can tell you is this…with every training I facilitate, I ensure that it is interactive, that I understand and know who is attending the training, that the training is providing something that they both want and need, and that the training is done in collaboration with the participant. Without this connection, the participants will more than likely leave the training, and not retain a whole lot.
Recently, I went through several courses looking towards obtaining a certification. It had a bunch of videos that I could watch and listen to someone just read what was on the slide presentation. What did I learn? That I needed to go through the videos several times before actually absorbing everything that was intended. This is not how training should work. Some of the blame must also be put on us, the people that are looking for ways without having to go to a classroom but then we need to understand that it may take several rounds before all the training takes.
Training should include doing, reading, hearing, and even feeling. If the participants are not wholly there, the learning will be less than optimal.
- McLeod, S. (2017). Kolb – Learning Styles. Retrieved from Simply Psychology: https://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html
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Author, Speaker, Project / Program / PMO Thought Leader
Over 20 years project management experience with a passion for helping organizations grow their PMO, their project managers, and their teams. My passion has taken me to the pursuit of a Doctor of Education, as I enjoy seeing the proverbial light bulb come on. I am a believer in continuous growth and improvement, and believe that an organizations culture and environment is what drives the growth of PMOs and all areas, and not the other way around.