Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Learning Value Chain

Many people view learning as being just about knowledge transfer, from a teacher or a textbook to the learner. This is a common fault in e-learning, where this over-simplistic view of learning is often encountered. In fact, learning is much more complex: yes, we learn when we passively read something, or watch a video, or listen to a speaker. But we learn more when we get active, and this is especially true of learning for work, where the idea is to apply our learning, practice our skills, and develop new competences.

To illustrate this, the learning value chain is an idea I have developed from David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (1984) and Michael Porter’s Value Chain (1985). It identifies five distinct learning processes:

1. Knowledge acquisition, when learners acquire information and convert it to knowledge
2. Reflection, when learners apply knowledge to their work situation, and reflect on its impact.
3. Practice, when learners practice new skills or behaviours, either at work or in a simulated environment.
4. Interaction, when learners exchange experiences with other learners and synthesise new experience.
5. Escalation, when learners build on their newly acquired skills and behaviours to develop new knowledge, apply it, and develop new skills and behaviours.

In the learning value chain diagram, below, these five processes occur in a sequence, each building on the value of the preceding process. It is not essential that these processes occur in this order, but taken together like this, they add the most value. The diagram is completed by sample support inputs identified for each process, and by underpinning people management and development inputs, and formal and non-formal education and training inputs.

© Kenneth Fee. Please feel free to quote the learning value chain, or develop the ideas, as long as you cite the copyright of this author.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I’ve just read Practice Made Perfect by Roberto Moretti (published by Robert Salomone, 2009).

There’s a lot in this deceptively slim volume. It takes the familiar model of unconscious incompetence (we don’t know what we don’t know) to conscious incompetence (we know what we don’t know) to conscious competence (we can now do it, if we think about it) to unconscious competence (we can do it without thinking), and weaves a new thread through it.

Moretti’s five processes for efficient practice are practical steps to follow to move through the competence model, and as such are invaluable for those managing work-based learning, or anyone who wants to learn a new skill. They’re also a useful antidote to those who perceive e-learning as being simply about information transfer, as they explain what learning for work is really about – applying knowledge and developing your skills.

The five processes are:

Identification – where the learner clarifies what it is they are going to practice.
Isolation – where the learner focuses on an element small enough to practice to perfection
Reinforcement – where the learner repeatedly practices to get it right
Integration – where the learner links each practiced element of skill to another to accomplish more complex, or higher level, skills
Escalation – where the learner builds on the new skill to begin to tackle new skills

There’s a lot more in the book, which I’m pleased to recommend.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Learning more about e-learning

I've added a new feature to this blog. I’ve joined a community of e-learning bloggers connected via a site called eLearning Learning. Basically, this collates all of the input about e-learning from contributors around the world into one digest.

You’ll find a button about eLearning Learning in the sidebar towards the bottom right hand side of this page. All you need to do is click the button and you’ll be taken to the site.

You’ll also find a “Best Of” feed. You can subscribe to this, if you wish, and receive regular email updates selected from eLearning Learning.

I hope you find this useful.

Career Move

I'm giving up my consultancy business. I began Executive and Professional Development Ltd in 2005, when I left the eLearning Alliance, having undertaken very little consulting work prior to that. It's been varied and enjoyable, I've met many interesting people and undertaken some great projects. But the time has come for a change: I've found the fluctuations in workflow difficult to contend with, and the economic downturn hasn't helped.

For some time I've coveted a more 'traditional' learning and development role: I've worked as an old-fashioned training manager in sectors as diverse as engineering/manufacturing and voluntary/charitable; I've worked on the supply side of management development; I've been a consultant and writer; and I've been involved in e-learning strategy at a national level. But I haven't tackled a learning manager's role for a while, and its lure is irresistible.

I'm pleased to announce that I'm joining Volunteer Development Scotland, based in Stirling, in their new role of Learning and Practice Development Manager. Among my new responsibilities, I'll be looking at learning through the practice of volunteering, national occupational standards and professional awards in managing volunteers, and increased use of e-learning and blended learning. There's a big agenda, and I'm enthusiastic about adding value in VDS's programmes providing leadership, quality assurance, and resources for volunteering in Scotland.

I also intend to keep up my writing and blogging, and I look forward to growing my network.