E-learning Curve Blog at Edublogs

E-learning Curve Blog is Michael Hanley's elearning blog about skills, knowledge, and organizational development using web-based training and technology in education

Entries Tagged as 'definition of learning'

Informal Workplace Learning: paradigm changes – more

April 2, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · definition of learning, informal learning, non-formal learning, nonformal learning, organizational development, organizational learning, workplace learning

I’m looking at some influences which are contributing to the emergence of informal and non-formal learning in the workplace. In my previous post on this topic, I outlined five change factors:

  1. Blended learning
  2. Talent management
  3. Web / Learning 2.0
  4. Knowledge centers
  5. Immersive learning simulations (serious gaming).

I will discuss the first three of these today.

Multiple-Channel learning or ‘blended’ learning is not a new learning approach, but it is becoming more common within training programs. Multiple-channel learning uses a range of learning modalities to train learners, as appropriate to the content and the context (see Figure 1). For example, a learning module might include some classroom learning, followed by some self-paced e-learning, with periodic online virtual classroom sessions for discussions. When learners reach a level of competence, they could be assigned mentors who work with them during their on-the-job training period.

forrester_blend Figure 1. Multiple “Blended” Learning Channels

However, no formula exists for a successful multiple-channel learning course. The question that a learning and development professional must ask is,

What instructional blend is going to work best, given the kind of students, the nature of the content, and the skills these people need?

Sometimes blended learning includes just two modalities, like self-paced online learning along with virtual classroom for discussion and interaction. Sometimes a face-to-face component is central, with synchronous and asynchronous instruction, mentoring, or community of practice used for review, collaboration, and support.

Increasingly, employers struggle to attract and retain the best talent. Enter Human Capital Management. Organizations need the ability to seamlessly assess worker competencies and to provide employees with learning experiences that will close knowledge gaps and enhance job performance. Learning doesn’t stand by itself any longer — it’s integral to the other components of human capital management (see Figure 2).

forrester_blend2 Figure 2. The Four Pillars Of Strategic Human Capital Management

But unified learning and talent management systems don’t necessarily integrate. Many organizations have embedded legacy point solutions for learning, performance, and compensation. These solutions do not integrate well, and this inhibits seamless movement of information. For example, once a manager conducting a performance review identifies one or more employee competency gaps, the manager should then have the ability (through integrated applications) to assign learning directly to an employee learning plan that will help close the gap.

Learning 2.0 is a trend in which employees take more control of their learning and knowledge gathering. They decide what they need, where to go, and how to find information from a variety of resources both inside and outside of their corporate intranet (see Figure 3).

forrester_blend3 Figure 3. Employees Drive Their Own Learning

To facilitate this, workers must have robust tools like expertise location, search, and instant messaging (IM) available to them, and they must know how to make the best use of these tools. A new mind set is required for Learning 2.0 to succeed. Many business leaders (and indeed HR departments) think of learning as classroom courses, even though most are beginning to grudgingly accepted e-learning as appropriate for certain kinds of training. Many people – especially those from a traditionalist or pre-digital era – are still skeptical about the place of informal tools in the work environment. The thinking goes:

Dollars allocated to learning are for formal courses, even though learning after formal college education takes place informally and non-formally.

Worse again, in certain “toxic” workplace environments individual or small group engage in the unsavory activity of empire building – where they attempt to gain control over key projects and initiatives in order to maximize their job security and promotability.

Empire builders hoard credit and prestige for projects, and knowledge-sharing is anathema to them. This approach prevents other people in the organization from contributing in a meaningful manner, and alternative or competing projects to address the project’s goals are destroyed regardless of their merit. The outcome of empire building is, inevitably, that the organization suffers as a whole, projects fail, and organizational goals are achieved only partially, inadequately, or not at all. This sort of behavior is very common.

The tender shoots of non-formal learning will inevitably be destroyed by the weeds of empire building. For non- and informal learning initiatives to be implemented successfully, environment of sharing, where employees are expected to share rather than hoard information must be formed.

More…

_________________

References:

Schooley, C. (2008) Informal Methods Challenge Corporate Learning [Internet] Available from: http://www.forrester.com Accessed 12 March 2009

[Read more →]

Informal workplace learning – influences and change factors

March 27, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · definition of learning, informal learning, non-formal learning, nonformal learning, organizational development, organizational learning, workplace learning

Many commentators, including Stern and Sommerlad (1999) assert that informal and non-formal learning

…have acquired visibility and saliency [because they] sit at the juncture of new thinking concerning the nature of learning about new forms of knowledge, about the transformation of the nature of work and about the modern enterprise in a globalized economy

(cited in Fuller & Unwin, 2002, p. 95).

As a concept and set of practices, ‘workplace learning’ has entered a period of political, economic and social transformation. Advances in technology, the demise of manufacturing industries and the growth of service sector industries, have led to changes in the meaning of the ‘workplace’ (for example, home-working (Felstead et al, 2000), working on-the-move (Felstead et al, 2005), ‘flexible’ working (Felstead et al, 1999); concomitantly, the shift towards new, post-industrial style workplace structures and practices,

have led to a new set of concept and practices surrounding ‘workplace learning.’ These include:

  • different workplace contexts
  • different workplace knowledge-sets
  • different workers

to those of the past.

Workplace learning used to occur in the classroom or via online ‘e-training courses.’ While this style of learning is still important for regulatory or compliance training, a strong need is emerging for informal learning that is more closely integrated with employee work. Examples include:

  • Some categories of business and technical training
  • Procedural learning
  • Deeper learning that requires concept development and interaction

Here are some reasons why this shift is happening:

Information / cognitive overload is affecting all workers. We can’t store all the facts, details, and data we need to do our jobs today, and more information is created every year.1 Thus, an important new skill is the ability to search effectively to find the information you need when you need it. It might even be information presented in a course that you took online a year ago.

Immediacy of information is critical in today’s workforce. With today’s fast business pace and emphasis on speed to market, employees may need to access a particular 5-minute piece of learning that will get them to the next step fast.2 This means that learning must come in smaller chunks that are only a click away. It also means that information and learning tend to blur in the work environment.

The Internet generation brings a different work style. The computer-savvy, 20-something ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2000) are very good at using technology to find what they want. They are impatient and want to access information resources quickly, and they assimilate and connect this information to their work. This workers prefers to drive personal learning, rather than simply receive information from an instructor.

Learning and development professionals need to begin working with lines of business outside of the traditional HR / Training orbit to ensure that the organizations provide a variety of formal and informal learning opportunities for employees. In some cases, the training department within HR organizes both formal and informal learning. In other contexts, HR handles formal learning, and individual lines of business handle the informal learning related to their specific activities (with consultation from learning professionals).

As well as these organizational changes, learning professionals must understand five key emerging trends:

  1. Blended learning
  2. Talent management
  3. Web / Learning 2.0
  4. Knowledge centers
  5. Immersive learning simulations (serious gaming).

More…

_____________________

References:

Felstead, A. and Jewson, N. (2000) In Work, At Home: Towards an Understanding of Homeworking, London: Routledge.

Felstead, A., Jewson, N. and Walters, S. (2005) Changing Places of Work, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2003) Learning as apprentices in the contemporary UK workplace: creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation, Journal of Education and Work, 16:4, pp. 407-426.

Lee, T. Fuller, A., Ashton, D., Butler, P., Felstead, A., Unwin, L., & Walters, S. (2004) Learning as Work: Teaching and Learning Processes in the Contemporary Work Organisation,
Workplace Learning: Main Themes & Perspectives Learning as Work Research Paper, No. 2.

Prensky, M. (200) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. [Internet] Available from:http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf Accessed 21 October 2007

Stern, A. and Sommerlad, E. (1999) Workplace Learning, Culture and Performance. Institute of personnel and Development, London.

[Read more →]

Informal and Non-formal Workplace Learning 2

March 24, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · definition of learning, informal learning, Michael Eraut, non-formal learning, nonformal learning, organizational development, organizational learning, workplace learning

Looking specifically at learning in the workplace, Michael Eraut in Non-formal learning, implicit learning and tacit knowledge (2000) makes a clear distinction between his interpretation of the term ‘non-formal learning’ and what others including Scribner (1988), Conner (2002) and Cross (2003) would call ‘informal learning’ – what Eraut terms ‘incidental learning’ or

the acquisition of knowledge independently of conscious attempts to learn and the absence of explicit knowledge about what was learned’

(Reber, 1993, quoted by Eraut 2000, p.12)

This is, he argues, because most workplace learning takes place outside formal learning contexts, and informal learning carries with it connotations of

so many other features of a situation, such as dress, discourse, behavior, diminution of social differences – that its colloquial application as a descriptor of learning contexts may have little to do with learning per se.

(p.12)

Not only does the term carry unwanted and confusing implications, but it is too vague to be of any real utility. For Eraut, an analysis of learning must focus on activities and the outcomes that that contribute to significant changes in capability or understanding. In a sense, Eraut does not define non-formal learning; rather, he defines the characteristics of formal learning (p.12) as:

  1. A prescribed learning framework
  2. An organized learning event or package
  3. The presence of a designated teacher or trainer
  4. The award of a qualification or credit
  5. The external specification of outcomes.

The implication of this categorization is that any learning that does not exhibit all of these characteristics should be classed as non-formal. Some reviewers (Colley, Hodkinson & Malcolm, 2002) make the point that Eraut does not make clear what the status is of learning in situations that meet some, but not all, of his ‘formal’ criteria. My interpretation of his characterization is that the very nature of a formal activity –

following or according with established form, custom, or rule

(Merriam-Webster Online, 2007)

validates Eraut’s description.

More…

____________

References:
Colley, Hodkinson, Malcolm (2002) non-formal learning: mapping the conceptual terrain. a consultation report [Internet] Available from: http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/colley_informal_learning.htm [Accessed 28th January 2009]
Eraut, M. (2000) Non-formal learning, implicit learning and tacit knowledge, in F. Coffield (Ed) The Necessity of Informal Learning: Policy Press. Bristol

[Read more →]

Informal and Non-Formal Workplace Learning

March 23, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · definition of learning, Eraut, informal learning, learning theory, non-formal learning, nonformal learning, workplace learning

One of the central components of the impact of learning (and specifically the development of information workers’ expertise in organizations) is the context within which the learning takes place. A central pillar of this discussion is the type or format of the learning taking place. In the literature, it is apparent that a dichotomy exists between the paradigms of formal, goal-directed training programs and informal – “learning at the watercooler” (Grebow, 2002) or what Michael Eraut (2000) describes as incidental learning that takes place almost as a side effect of work:

it is difficult to make a clear distinction between formal and informal learning as there is often a crossover between the two

(McGivney, 1999, p.1).

Another complexity in the discussion is where is non-formal learning located in relation to the diametric opposites? For much of the forty years since the term ‘non-formal learning’ was first coined (Coombs, 1968, p.1.) there has been a great deal of debate in the literature as to the nature of formal, informal and non-formal learning; the components of each of the paradigms, their boundaries and their overlaps. The locus of this debate is centered on arguments for “the inherent superiority of one or the other” (Colley, Hodkinson & Malcolm, 2002, p.2).

I support Alan Rogers’ (2004) view that a “new paradigm” for learning exists, in which “most programs [are] partly formal and partly informal” going from formal to informal and from informal to formal in both directions along a continuum (see Figure 1) . “Both forms of education are important elements in the total learning experience” (Looking again at non-formal and informal education – towards a new paradigm, 2004).


Figure 1 the Learning Continuum

Similarly, Hodkinson & Hodkinson argue that focusing on the extent to which learning is planned and intentional may be a way of by-passing the distinction between formal, non-formal and informal altogether.” (Colley, Hodkinson & Malcolm, 2002).

More to follow…

__________

References:
Colley, H., Hodkinson, P., & Malcolm J. (2002) Non-formal learning: mapping the conceptual terrain. a consultation report [Internet] Available from: http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/colley_informal_learning.htm [Accessed 28th January 2009]
Coombs, P. (1968) The World Educational Crisis, New York, Oxford University Press.

Eraut, M. (2000) Non-formal learning, implicit learning and tacit knowledge, in F. Coffield (Ed) The Necessity of Informal Learning: Policy Press. Bristol

Grebow, D. (2002) At the Water Cooler of Learning [Internet] Available from: http://agelesslearner.com/articles/watercooler_dgrebow_tc600.html [Accessed 30th February 2009]

McGivney, V. (1999) Informal learning in the community: a trigger for change and development NIACE. Leicester.

Rogers, A. (2004) Looking again at non-formal and informal education – towards a new paradigm [Internet] Available from: http://www.infed.org/biblio/non_formal_paradigm.htm [Accessed 30th January 2008]

[Read more →]

Is informal learning this year’s L&D Rubik’s cube?

March 19, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · bersin and associates, best practise, definition of learning, e-learning strategy, informal learning, non-formal learning

According to Josh Bersin (Informal Learning becomes Formal):

Clearly we have reached an inflection point. Where “e-learning” was the big craze in corporate training in the early 2000’s, and “blended learning” was the craze in 2003 and 2004, today, thanks to the slowing economy and the widespread availability of social networking and online wikis and portals, “informal learning” is the next big thing.

He continues:

And best of all, an informal learning strategy saves money. By empowering people to publish their expertise and learn from each other, you can cut spending on content development, external content, and formal training – focusing your energies on the “upper right” training programs in your organization. [his italics]

I’ve nothing against crazes.

Take The Watchmen. I’ve been a Watchmen fan since it was first published as a serialized graphic novel back in the mid-Eighties. I think it’s fantastic that thewatchmen recent movie has brought Alan Moore’s magnum opus to a whole new audience.

I’m sure I’ll be equally pleased when the movie version of The Ballad of Halo Jones and D.R. & Quinch are released, and there’s even more appreciation of the quality of Mr. Moore’s work. Oh… you haven’t heard of those then?

Here’s first the thing about crazes – the objects at their center have usually been around for a very long time before they enter the public consciousness. The Watchmen was first published in 1986. It is a troublesome work in many ways – it inverts the role of mythic archetypes (superheroes with all-to-human flaws), and it espouses a certain non-conformist approach that until recently had a value perceived to be inferior to traditional literary approaches – a “comics for kids.”

Yet I would assert that it’s very awkwardness has led to its longevity (if not it’s appreciation in the mainstream culture). When it was published, it was pretty much ignored – and it would probably still be regarded as a piece of interesting cult fiction if Alan Moore hadn’t gone on to write Batman: The Killing Joke, the inspiration for last year’s award-winning film.

Had The Watchmen less intrinsic value before it became a revenue-generating stream for a conglomeration of media production and distribution outlets like 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.?

No.

Here’s the second thing about crazes: they usually occur in ambiguous socio-economic situations (like a recession) when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, it can be said that individuals will deem the behavior of others as better informed. Crazes can lead to conformity of large groups of individuals in either correct or mistaken choices, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as herd behavior. Although informational social influence at least in part reflects a rational motive to take into account the information of others, analysis shows that it can cause people to converge too quickly upon a single choice, so that decisions of even large groups of individuals may reflect very little knowledge.

Here are some stats based on data from research taken from 800+ HR and L&D managers surveyed in 2008 by Bersin & Associates:

  • 78% of corporate managers believe that “rapid rate of information change” is one of their top learning challenges.
  • 80% of all corporate learning takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts, and managers (estimated data collected from over 1,100 L&D managers late in 2008).
  • Over 30% of all corporate training programs (ie. classroom or other formal programs) are not delivering any measurable value (data provided through the same survey).
  • Nearly all Millenial employees (under the age of 25) expect to find an on-demand learning portal (similar to Google and YouTube) within their employer’s environment.

Now lets look at some learning strategies and outcomes closely associated with very specific on-the-job learning and professional development needs of employees and line managers in a bank.

  • The sharing and exchange of knowledge, experiences, and good practices leading sometimes to the development of refined knowledge and approaches
  • Analyzing and developing solutions or major modifications to ideas and practices to increase value for the Bank and for clients
  • Integrating efforts across disciplines and developing joint ideas and products
  • Evaluating and reflecting on acquired knowledge, developing alternatives to existing knowledge, and generating new knowledge
  • Developing common frameworks, language or knowledge sets for mutual trust and joint efforts in development
  • Fulfilling a social need to be generative or for self-actualization
  • Increasing commitment, passion and honesty in participating in world development

These outcomes in the latter set of bullets align pretty well with the requirements of the former set, don’t you agree?

I think that they do.

Would you be surprised to know that the second set of points come from a paper called An Evaluation of Non-Formal Learning in Professional Technical Networks, 2000-2001 by Sukai Prom-Jackson et al, published seven years ago in 2002?

Here’s the last thing about crazes. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Now, informal learning seems to have emerged as the shiny new toy. It fits so well with social networking, Web 2.0, and asynchronous media delivery platforms. It’s primary value seems to be as a “money-saving strategy” (i.e. cheap), rather than for its effectiveness as a learning modality – and undertaken correctly it is a very effective approach to workplace learning.

But it’s is not this year’s novelty. Just like The Watchmen, it has been around for much longer than you may suspect. But you would not know it’s there if you googled Informal Learning; the domain characterized as “informal learning” by Bersin & Associates (and other organizations) is more correctly called Non-Formal Learning. What’s more, there is a solid body of research on the topic going back over forty years. In this context, reviewing the current crop of articles on informal learning is akin to watching people actually trying to reinvent the wheel.

Informal – non-formal – learning is a troublesome concept in many ways: it inverts the role of mythic archetypes (learners transferring knowledge and expertise outside of the context of a formal environment and without instructors), and it espouses a certain non-conformist approach that until recently had a value perceived to be inferior to traditional types of training.

Yet I would assert that it’s very awkwardness has contributed to its longevity (if not it’s appreciation in the mainstream training and development culture).

A little Learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

Pope, A. An Essay on Criticism, 1709

More next time…

______________________

References:

Bersin, J. (2009) Informal Learning becomes Formal. [Internet] Available from: http://joshbersin.com/2009/01/21/informal-learning-becomes-formal/ Accessed 15 March 2009

Pope, A. (1709) An Essay on Criticism.

Prom-Jackson, S., Bina Palmisano, M., Kategile Jackson, W., Novojilov, R., & Tena, M. (2002) An Evaluation of Non-Formal Learning in Professional Technical Networks, 2000-2001. WBI Evaluation Studies No. EG03-61, The World Bank Institute, Washington, DC.

[Read more →]

Is informal learning this year’s L&D Rubik’s cube?

March 19, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · bersin and associates, best practise, definition of learning, e-learning strategy, informal learning, non-formal learning

According to Josh Bersin (Informal Learning becomes Formal):

Clearly we have reached an inflection point. Where “e-learning” was the big craze in corporate training in the early 2000’s, and “blended learning” was the craze in 2003 and 2004, today, thanks to the slowing economy and the widespread availability of social networking and online wikis and portals, “informal learning” is the next big thing.

He continues:

And best of all, an informal learning strategy saves money. By empowering people to publish their expertise and learn from each other, you can cut spending on content development, external content, and formal training – focusing your energies on the “upper right” training programs in your organization. [his italics]

I’ve nothing against crazes.

Take The Watchmen. I’ve been a Watchmen fan since it was first published as a serialized graphic novel back in the mid-Eighties. I think it’s fantastic that thewatchmen recent movie has brought Alan Moore’s magnum opus to a whole new audience.

I’m sure I’ll be equally pleased when the movie version of The Ballad of Halo Jones and D.R. & Quinch are released, and there’s even more appreciation of the quality of Mr. Moore’s work. Oh… you haven’t heard of those then?

Here’s first the thing about crazes – the objects at their center have usually been around for a very long time before they enter the public consciousness. The Watchmen was first published in 1986. It is a troublesome work in many ways – it inverts the role of mythic archetypes (superheroes with all-to-human flaws), and it espouses a certain non-conformist approach that until recently had a value perceived to be inferior to traditional literary approaches – a “comics for kids.”

Yet I would assert that it’s very awkwardness has led to its longevity (if not it’s appreciation in the mainstream culture). When it was published, it was pretty much ignored – and it would probably still be regarded as a piece of interesting cult fiction if Alan Moore hadn’t gone on to write Batman: The Killing Joke, the inspiration for last year’s award-winning film.

Had The Watchmen less intrinsic value before it became a revenue-generating stream for a conglomeration of media production and distribution outlets like 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.?

No.

Here’s the second thing about crazes: they usually occur in ambiguous socio-economic situations (like a recession) when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, it can be said that individuals will deem the behavior of others as better informed. Crazes can lead to conformity of large groups of individuals in either correct or mistaken choices, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as herd behavior. Although informational social influence at least in part reflects a rational motive to take into account the information of others, analysis shows that it can cause people to converge too quickly upon a single choice, so that decisions of even large groups of individuals may reflect very little knowledge.

Here are some stats based on data from research taken from 800+ HR and L&D managers surveyed in 2008 by Bersin & Associates:

  • 78% of corporate managers believe that “rapid rate of information change” is one of their top learning challenges.
  • 80% of all corporate learning takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts, and managers (estimated data collected from over 1,100 L&D managers late in 2008).
  • Over 30% of all corporate training programs (ie. classroom or other formal programs) are not delivering any measurable value (data provided through the same survey).
  • Nearly all Millenial employees (under the age of 25) expect to find an on-demand learning portal (similar to Google and YouTube) within their employer’s environment.

Now lets look at some learning strategies and outcomes closely associated with very specific on-the-job learning and professional development needs of employees and line managers in a bank.

  • The sharing and exchange of knowledge, experiences, and good practices leading sometimes to the development of refined knowledge and approaches
  • Analyzing and developing solutions or major modifications to ideas and practices to increase value for the Bank and for clients
  • Integrating efforts across disciplines and developing joint ideas and products
  • Evaluating and reflecting on acquired knowledge, developing alternatives to existing knowledge, and generating new knowledge
  • Developing common frameworks, language or knowledge sets for mutual trust and joint efforts in development
  • Fulfilling a social need to be generative or for self-actualization
  • Increasing commitment, passion and honesty in participating in world development

These outcomes in the latter set of bullets align pretty well with the requirements of the former set, don’t you agree?

I think that they do.

Would you be surprised to know that the second set of points come from a paper called An Evaluation of Non-Formal Learning in Professional Technical Networks, 2000-2001 by Sukai Prom-Jackson et al, published seven years ago in 2002?

Here’s the last thing about crazes. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Now, informal learning seems to have emerged as the shiny new toy. It fits so well with social networking, Web 2.0, and asynchronous media delivery platforms. It’s primary value seems to be as a “money-saving strategy” (i.e. cheap), rather than for its effectiveness as a learning modality – and undertaken correctly it is a very effective approach to workplace learning.

But it’s is not this year’s novelty. Just like The Watchmen, it has been around for much longer than you may suspect. But you would not know it’s there if you googled Informal Learning; the domain characterized as “informal learning” by Bersin & Associates (and other organizations) is more correctly called Non-Formal Learning. What’s more, there is a solid body of research on the topic going back over forty years. In this context, reviewing the current crop of articles on informal learning is akin to watching people actually trying to reinvent the wheel.

Informal – non-formal – learning is a troublesome concept in many ways: it inverts the role of mythic archetypes (learners transferring knowledge and expertise outside of the context of a formal environment and without instructors), and it espouses a certain non-conformist approach that until recently had a value perceived to be inferior to traditional types of training.

Yet I would assert that it’s very awkwardness has contributed to its longevity (if not it’s appreciation in the mainstream training and development culture).

A little Learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

Pope, A. An Essay on Criticism, 1709

More next time…

______________________

References:

Bersin, J. (2009) Informal Learning becomes Formal. [Internet] Available from: http://joshbersin.com/2009/01/21/informal-learning-becomes-formal/ Accessed 15 March 2009

Pope, A. (1709) An Essay on Criticism.

Prom-Jackson, S., Bina Palmisano, M., Kategile Jackson, W., Novojilov, R., & Tena, M. (2002) An Evaluation of Non-Formal Learning in Professional Technical Networks, 2000-2001. WBI Evaluation Studies No. EG03-61, The World Bank Institute, Washington, DC.

[Read more →]

M-Learning via the iPhone 3 – some approaches and technologies

February 20, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · approaches to learning, charactericitics of m-learning, Constructivism, definition of learning, e-learning, m-learning, mobile learning devices

After yesterday’s excursion into sci-fi to show that the concept, if not the reality of mobile learning (m-learning) has been around for a good part of the last century, today’s post returns to the altogether more prosaic task of identifying the characteristics of m-learning. I think that the best way to approach this is to characterize m-learning’s parent domain, e-learning.

So, let me remind you of my favorite definition of the characteristics of e-learning and consider if they also apply to m-learning. In hiselTagCloud influential 2001 text E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age, Marc J Rosenberg argues that e-learning is based on three fundamental criteria (pp.8-29):

  1. E-learning is networked making it capable of updating, storage and retrieval, distribution and sharing of instruction or information. So important is this criteria that Rosenberg describes it as fast becoming an “absolute requirement” [his italics] of e-learning.
  2. It is delivered to the end-user via a computer using standard internet technology so that even though the definition of what a standard technology is may evolve as the internet matures, e-learning will be deliverable on that channel
  3. It focuses on the broadest view of learning: learning that goes beyond “e-training” (Beyond E-Learning, 2006, p.11). E-learning is at the core of the “smart enterprise – a high-performing organization that allows knowledge and capabilities, enabled by technology, to grow and flow freely across departmental geographical or hierarchical boundaries, where it is shared and made actionable for the use and benefit of all” (2006, p.39).

A discussion on m-learning then, must in part be dedicated to the technologies underpinning the broader e-learning domain. In this context, ‘mobile’ generally means portable and personal, like a mobile phone or media player. While ‘mobile device’ typically means PDAs and digital mobile phones, it might more generally be taken to mean any device that is

small, autonomous and unobtrusive enough to accompany people in every moment in their every-day life, and that can be used for some form of learning, for example an MP3 player.

(Kineo and UFI/Learndirect Mobile Learning Reviewed. p.5)

Many examples of learning with mobile technologies fit in to this description, and broadly speaking they all align to the “absolute requirement” to receive and transmit digital voice and data communication over a network – though not necessarily wirelessly, as we shall see).

According to a number of sources including Gartner (M-Learning Opportunities and Applications) and Kineo & UFI/Learndirect (Mobile Learning Reviewed) mobile handsets are, and will be the “dominant m-learning devices for some time: there were more than 1.2 billion shipped in 2008” (Gartner, p.6). There are five basic categories of devices:

  1. ‘Smartphones’ or Converged Media Devices (CMDs) have an identifiable operating system, are Web-capable and support installable applications, such as PDF and content readers. They are able to render a wide range of digital data types so they can act as sophisticated m-learning platforms.
  2. Enhanced phones don’t have an open operating system but have some audio, video and Web capability, and typically support simpler installable applications using programming tools such as Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME).
  3. Basic phones are low-cost devices that can support voice and text messaging
  4. Non-telephony mobile devices are audio/MP3 players and video-enabled media players, the dominant product in both markets belonging to the Apple iPod family of players.
  5. Hand-held games consoles are lightweight, portable devices include in-built screens, games controls and speakers. The dominant manufacturers include Nintendo (DS) Sony (PSP) and Nokia (N-Gage).

In 2008, CMDs were a growing minority, comprising approximately 15% of all devices shipped globally; enhanced phones made up a little more than 60%, and the remainder were basic phones. Of the potential mobile learning devices, mobile phones are clearly the most commonplace. According to a recent report by Strategy Analytics (cited in Mobile Learning Reviewed, p.4), there are 1.5 billion mobile phones on earth, with 10% year-over-year adoption expected through 2008. In 2005 the Financial Times reported that UK mobile phone penetration was about 86% of the adult population. By 2006, the penetration rate for Western Europe was reported as 100%, which means there was a mobile phone for every person in the population.

The media player market is one of the biggest IT success stories in recent years. The market 300px-IPod_Line leader is Apple’s iPod. Since 2001, Apple has sold over 100 million iPods worldwide. Many other players compete in the personal media player marketplace including Archos, Sony, iRiver, Creative, and Microsoft. While functionality varies according to manufacturer and brand, we can say that a media player is a portable mass storage device that allows content to be downloaded and used offline. Music storage is obviously their primary use, but their mobility and storage capacity makes them ideal mobile learning devices. A significant increase in the audio- and video podcast download market demonstrates that consumers have extended the potential of these devices beyond their intended capacity as über Walkmans.

Kineo (p.6) assert that:

The commercial market for MP3 downloads is highly developed, though monetizing non-music formats (e.g. podcasts and vodcasts) has proved more challenging. In effect the ‘book on tape’ market has jumped formats to become the commercial podcast market via iTunes and Audible.
The ease of providing podcasts and vodcasts for download has a potential cost advantage, as they can be downloaded for free (assuming the user is on a fixed price broadband line), unlike download or access to learning content via a mobile phone or CMD. Thus, mobile devices used for learning do not require continuous connection. Also, once on the iPod, learning content does not require internet connection for it to be accessed, so there need be no ongoing costs of access after initial download.

Given the almost ubiquitous nature of these devices, it’s not surprising that educators and organizations with an interest in distributing electronic learning content are now considering the potential for these devices to support a previously unavailable channel to communicate and transfer knowledge to learners.

More…

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References:

Jones, N. (2008) M-Learning Opportunities and Applications. ID Number: G00163293 Gartner Research [Internet] Available from: http://www.gartner.com (Subscription or purchase required) Accessed 17 February 2009

Kineo and UFI/Learndirect (2009) Mobile Learning Reviewed. [Internet] Available from: http://www.kineo.com/documents/Mobile_learning_reviewed_final.pdf Accessed 17th February 2009

Rosenberg, M. J. (2001) e-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age London: McGraw-Hill.

Rosenberg, M. J. (2006) Beyond e-Learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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M-Learning via the iPhone 2 – some approaches and technologies

February 19, 2009 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · 61393, Apple, approaches to learning, Constructivism, definition of learning, e-learning, iPhone, m-learning

In M-Learning via the iPhone 1, I started to investigate the characteristics of mobile learning by going back to basics, specifically looking at the technological and conceptual foundations of this domain: training, instruction, education and learning. Today, I’m going to begin in earnest by telling you a story about a book – a wholly remarkable book in fact, that was first conceived nearly forty years ago.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. And Remember…

H2G2_don't_panic

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the most successful book every written. A handy electronic reference book, its chief selling points are the words ‘Don’t Panic’ written in large friendly letters on the cover, and that it’s cheaper than its closest competitor, the Encyclopedia Galactica. The Guide’s reporters travel the length and breadth of the Milky Way, drinking heavily, going to lots of parties and generally having a great time. Their experiences, which include everything from how to mix the greatest cocktail in the galaxy to life on Earth (“mostly harmless”) is then passed on via the SubEtha net to every copy of the Guide, giving people the opportunity to misinterpret the inaccurate copy. Much of the guide’s content is plagiarized from the back of cereal packets, and some of it is just made up. Its most useful advice concerns towels.

Now I’m not going to labor the point about blogging (without the wild parties, sad to say), Wikipedia, and the SubEtha / world wide web “net” but here’s a description of the Guide itself:

image…A device that looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had… a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million “pages” could be summoned at a moment’s notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words DON’T PANIC printed on it in large friendly letters. …The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (pp.26-27)

Sound familiar? Of course it does.

image Man seeks Nokia charger for his retro cell phone

That was 30 years ago. Back in the future, we can say that the we live at a time where the socio-cultural, economic and technical foundations exist to change the way that we acquire learning and knowledge in as profound a way as the introduction of printing in Western Europe in the 15th Century. We can now potentially carry our knowledge with us without “several inconveniently large buildings” to carry it around in. The current generation of portable digital devices (including smart phones, PDAs, and media players) is that they can support a digitally-mediated, connected learning environment, providing a convenience of instant access to a range of people and resources, as well as the ability to process data in a way that wasn’t possible even five years ago.

Next time: The altogether more prosaic task of describing the characteristics of E-Learning as I understand them, and a context for M-Learning.

______________________

References:

Adams, D. (1979) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (pp.26-27) London: Pan Paperbacks

“Don’t Panic” image Courtesy British Broadcasting Corporation

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M-Learning via the iPhone 1 – some approaches and technologies

February 17, 2009 by Michael Hanley · 3 Comments · Apple, approaches to learning, Constructivism, definition of learning, e-learning, iPhone, m-learning

In my last blog post, I discussed how I had resigned myself to the fact that the Adobe Flash Player will never be deployed on the iPhone†. iphone_home_nofl

However, that is not much use if you, as an e-learning professional, have an audience for knowledge- and content delivery via mobile devices including the iPhone. In this series of articles, I will discuss approaches to delivering training via PDAs like the iPhone based on applications and functionality already available on that device. Let’s see what happens after that.

Let’s set the context. There are a growing number of extensions to the well-established core term ‘E-Learning’ including this list of candidates (compiled in 2008 by CramerSweeney):

  • C-Learning - learning via collaboration with co-workers and associates
  • M-Learning – learning via a portable digital media device
  • V-Learning – learning inside a virtual world (such as Second Life)
  • G-Learning – learning via computer games

The latest term I have discovered is Ubiquitous Learning, or U-Learning, first discussed by Gary Woodill in his excellent Workplace Learning Today column, who encountered the term in the title of a Masters dissertation called The dawn of uLearning: near-future directions for 21st century educators). Can we now take this trend to its logical conclusion and define

  • T-Learning – learning via reading educational books, academic and other Textual material
  • S-Learning – learning via lecturers & teachers Speaking
  • W-Learning – learning via the medium of pen, paper, and taking Written notes

alphabetti

[Image courtesy Flickr user tryingtimes]

‘X’ is one of the cooler letters – let’s have X-Learning. I’ll send a Mars Bar to the person who contributes the best definition of X-Learning.

Or should we stop. Now. Please.

In my view, each of these descriptors implies that the alphabetti-spaghetti of C- G- M- V-Learning activities are discrete verticals or silos, standing alone and untouched by their siblings.

Of course this is not the case: if anything, we can say that each of these terms describes a learning channel that relies on or emphasizes one modality of learning, but doesn’t – I would assert can’t – occlude other learning modalities.

So whither M-Learning among this cacophony of uppercase modifiers? Does what we commonly call ‘M-Learning’ deserve to be treated as a domain in it’s own right? Can we discover if there are any unique characteristics that differentiate learning via mobile technologies?

I think we need to take a step back. First of all, what is learning? I would assert that learning is

The acquisition of new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, preferences or understanding, and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The progress of this acquisition over time tends to follow learning curves. Learning is a Constructivist activity.

Harold Stolovitch puts it succinctly in his 2002 text Telling Ain’t Training when he says that “learning is change, adaptation” (p.18). According to the author, we use training, instruction and education as strategies to enable people to learn.

†Probably.

Apple has a habit of denying that they are developing a range of devices and technologies. Right up to the moment that Apple announce their newest gizmo / solution / partnership. Until 2009 this typically occurred at an Apple Expo event with Steve Jobs uttering the famous phrase “One more thing…” as the latest object of geeky desire walks up the aisle of the technological Chapel O’ Love.

Next time: What is E-Learning (Slight Return)

Coming up: What is M-Learning?

_________________________

References:

Nalder, J. (2008). The dawn of uLearning: near-future directions for 21st century educators. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. [Internet] Available from: http://www.scribd.com/doc/12398804/The-dawn-of-uLearning-Jonathan-Nalder-Masters-thesis Accessed 18th February 2009

Stolovitch, H. (2002) Telling Ain’t Training. ASTD Press.

Sweeney, J. (2008) Let’s Talk Terminology CramerSweeney Training Blog [Internet] Available from: http://www.cramersweeney.com/cs_id/trainingblog/ Accessed 17th February 2009

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The Mobile Segment of the Learning Marketspace – new report

July 23, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · content delivery, definition of e-learning, definition of learning, learning channel, m-learning

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a correspondent about my view on opinion might be on

mobile learning (m-learning) and mobile device adoption as an e-learning delivery mechanism in the future (video lectures, e-book reading, short message texting).

With the emergence of so-called ‘smart’ mobile devices including the BlackBerry and the iPhone, the potential to deliver learning content via this channel provides some tantalizing opportunities for learning professionals to enable learners access information on-demand – and for the first time – On-the-Go.

Now read on…

I’ve been reviewing some of the literature on this topic 360-MobileCover2008_130over the last number of weeks, but before I elaborate on my conclusions, The E-Learning Guild in their usual timely fashion have released their latest 360 Report on the topic. In the report, Steven Wexler et al (in a potentially contentious move) define Mobile Learning as:

Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.

(p.13)

My initial reaction to this definition is that it omits any reference to the acquisition of new skills, knowledge, or expertise via this learning channel. In my view this is a key aspect of any definition of e-learning; I elaborated on the topic in a series of blog posts at the beginning of 2008 (you can find out more by clicking here) when I endorsed Don Morrison’s definition of e-learning (including its subset m-learning) as:

The continuous assimilation of knowledge and skills by adults stimulated by synchronous and asynchronous learning events – and sometimes Knowledge management outputs – which are authored, delivered engaged with, supported and administered using internet technologies.

(2004, p.4)

As I said at the time, I’m open to debate on this definition, but I’ve still to find a more comprehensive definition of the discipline than the description as elucidated by Mr. Morrison.

But I digress.

The key findings of the E-Learning Guild research include:

  • About 20% of E-Learning Guild members use podcasts “sometimes or often”
  • 17% use m-Learning “sometimes or often” in their organizations.
  • Members with seven or more year’s experience in e-Learning use Podcasts one third more frequently and m-Learning 26% more often than members with six or fewer year’s experience.
  • Asia Pacific leads all geographic regions in m-Learning adoption, with 21% of members using Mobile Learning sometimes or often. Canada lags with nearly 11%.
  • 37.5% of Guild members completing the Mobile Learning survey indicate they plan to do more m-Learning in the next year.
  • Blackberry is the most popular development platform with about 47% of Guild members that plan to implement m-Learning targeting Blackberry devices. Windows Mobile is next with 27%, followed by the iPhone with 15%.
  • Over 80% of Guild members that have implemented m-Learning have seen improvement in learner/user access and availability.
  • Nearly 60% of Guild members that have implemented m-Learning have seen improved user performance.

More…

________________

References:

Morrison, D. (2004) E-Learning Strategies: how to get implementation and delivery right first time, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Wexler, S. Brown, J. Metcalf, D. Rogers, D. and Wagner, E. (2008) MOBILE LEARNING What it is, why it matters, and how to incorporate it into your learning strategy. [Internet] Available from: http://www.elearningguild.com (Subscription required) [Accessed 21 July 2008]

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