Hold On To Your Learning Caps

The Original Learning Cap

Grebow 11-12-2013Sometimes you’re researching different topics, and talking with different companies, and something amazing happens. It all comes together. I was looking into the impact of educational technology on organizations and had several calls with LMS and LCMS solution providers. I also spoke with the managers and directors of a number of L&D departments in large companies. When I was comparing my notes, the same phrase kept leaping up at me: Learner-centric. Whether it is central to the solution they are providing, or to the approach the company decided to take, it was the same story.

Here’s just a snapshot:

Learner-centric puts the needs of the learner at the center of every knowledge transfer. It assumes that learners know best what they need to learn, and that the learners need to be at the center of any course development or course update. Given access to the right educational technology, the SMEs (subject matter experts) are the people who, with some training on how to transfer their knowledge, can help develop content faster and more effectively than an instructional designer or course developer who needs to essentially curate, define, design and deliver the same content. Learner-centric is defined by a just-in-time one-to-one relationship. Learner-centric is the opposite of content-centric.

Content-centric is the model we’ve used since companies got too big to continue ye olde blacksmith or mason apprentice and guild model. It started with books. About 500 years later, in large companies, people specialized as instructional designers and course developers. They gathered content from the SMEs and others and followed several steps (mainly A-D-D-I-E) to build programs that focused the content into courses. Content was then delivered by an instructor. From flipboard to PowerPoint, chalk board to electronic white board, content-centric programs have remained unchanged for several hundred years. It’s a model that holds that one size fits all – one course can be canned and can teach many people what they might need to know. A one-to-many model. One instructor for many students. One off-the-shelf program for many students. It’s most apparent when we look at elearning. We took the instructor completely out of the picture, and ended up with nothing but content. At best it was a book on steroids.

Bob Dylan was more right than he ever could have known and yes, “the times they are a’changin.” The content-centric model does not work in today’s business environment. For lots of reasons. From the fact that we no longer have the luxury of time to gather information and translate it into course-speak, to the profound impact of educational technology that can take us much further than elearning and virtual classrooms. The technology enabled the learner to become the instructor, the reader to switch places with the publisher. Plus the needs of the learners changed. Their information consumption went from just-in-case to just-in-time, from one-size-fits-all to one-size-just–for-me. The model for delivering their content had to shift from content-centric to learner-centric.

As we start to come to the end of 2013, the direction corporate education and educational technology is pointing toward is a learner-centric learning organization. An evolution, driven by technology, from a centralized L&D Department commanded and controlled from the top of the corporation, to a decentralized Learning Organization in a learning culture where content is delivered by and for the learners.

There’s much more to come this year and beyond, and it’s going to be really interesting. I said this is just a snapshot. Stay tuned for more.


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