The 2017 Learning Landscape research by Towards Maturity surveyed the views of over 10,000 learners, and almost all of them (well, 94 per cent anyway) said they wanted to be able to learn at their own pace, while 68 per cent said they wanted mobile access to learning.
Technology makes it possible to meet both these requirements, which is a fabulous step forward from the days of simply referring people to a catalogue of courses. There are two dangers here, however. One is that we may be tempted to believe that technology alone is the solution, and that there is no need for any other learning activity, a sort of ‘IT conquers all (and suits all learners)’ approach. The other danger is that of assuming that having brought the learner and the technology together, we can just sit back and let the learner deal with it all unaided.
To take the second risk first, we simply can’t shrug off our responsibility like that. In ‘Go Beyond’, the recently-published book which I wrote with Richard Scott, we emphasised that “΄self-directed’ should not come to mean ‘unsupported’“. The learner must have access to advice and guidance, otherwise they may become isolated and de-motivated. Not everybody is an IT whizz, and in any case, running through a list of Frequently Asked Questions, or watching someone else do something, to look for an answer is no substitute for being able to discuss something with a human being for many.
The adoption of ‘own pace / own place’ mobile technology would clearly suit many learners, as the survey reveals, but not everyone. We have a duty to ensure that other people are not left behind by being left to their own devices (literally).
The first danger I mentioned, i.e. relying on technology alone, fails to take account of individual learning preferences or their current levels of neuro-agility to respond to learning easily. We must put the individual learner at the very centre of everything we do. This strongly makes the case for personalised blending of learning. The individual creating a mix of activities offering the best possible match between their needs and the nature of the subject. Investing in the development of a blend of technological solutions and more traditional face-to-face methods is likely to offer us the best chance of meeting individual preferences. In our book, we distinguished the potential impact of improved sustained performance, and the type of learning and application complexity, as key to deciding the range of learning options provided.
Creating blended learning opportunities in this way may require those of us in People Support to play the role of curator or facilitator, rather than being directly involved in delivery. We need to be able to ‘let go’ to a certain extent, and to accept that the right solution for an individual’s needs may come from outside our own organisation, and beyond our own area of expertise. That’s not an admission of failure, it’s a sign that we are putting the learner first.
In the next blog we’ll explore the concept of personal learning playbooks further.