Using Technology to Help Employees Learn by Doing
Online learning is growing by leaps and bounds, and it could be the answer to your company's ineffective and costly training program. Robert Schank, a leading e-learning innovator, has developed effective online courses for Harvard Business School, IBM, GE and Columbia University, among others, and has compiled his "e-learning by doing" approach in Designing World-Class e-Learning.
In Designing World-class e-Learning, Schank uses Web-based simulations and role-playing scenarios to explain how training can be less costly, more successful and more convenient for employees than other corporate training programs.
The Learning Environment
Designing World-Class e-Learning takes a close look at the essential components of the learning environment, what makes training work and the characteristics that make it unsuccessful. While exploring how the Internet can prevent or enable successful training, Schank discusses the future of training as well as education in general, and professes the merits of e-learning with real-life examples from IBM, A.G. Edwards, Wal-Mart and others.
Schank writes, "The amount of unnecessary or useless training that goes on in companies today is staggering." Included in this useless training, he writes, is computer training that does not take into account people's capacity to absorb information, computer systems' failures, and people's ability to learn how to use software on their own.
Instead, Schank believes in learning by doing, in the same way his grandfather learned how to fix watches by messing up a few watches along the way. Trial and error is Schank's preferred method, and his e-learning by doing method embraces it in every way, because he believes students are much more interested in learning (and remember more) when things mess up.
Stories and Simulations
Stories, simulations, goals, practice, fun and failure are the pivotal elements of a successful e-learning system. To help organizations resist reverting back to the old training that e-learning is intended to replace, Schank reminds them that people remember best what they feel the most. Dry, lifeless manuals are easier to forget than the emotional intensity that comes with simulated experience. And, if companies think their employees were born dumb, he says people only act like idiots because they have been trained to act that way.
Schank writes that, by using simulations instead of attending lectures, employees gain the experiences they will need when faced with difficult situations. Although e-learning can simultaneously train thousands of people all over the world, organizations should deliver it "just in time" because people will forget the skills that they do not use immediately. Confronting learners with hard problems and tough decisions can help them by placing them in situations where they can fail and obtain instructive memory for later use. Failing without consequence fosters creativity, and e-learning simulations are a great way to do this.
Other e-learning suggestions: Start courses with a bang to get participants' attention; use real experts in simulations; buy all the options when purchasing an e-learning system; and e-learning that improves the jobs done by many people is the most cost-effective.
After critiquing the bad e-learning offered by several big organizations, Schank highlights the strides in e-learning made by companies like First Union, GE, Deloitte, Cutler-Hammer and Harvard Business School. These e-learning programs introduce recently promoted supervisors to their new roles by explaining the resources available to them and providing advice about managing transition issues; give new supervisors hands-on experience with key skills that will be needed in a typical day; focus on skills needed to manage teams over extended periods of time; and provide focused practical skills required to manage employees' performance.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Schank has strong opinions about traditional learning models that fly in the face of what many teachers and educators have spent their lives trying to promote. His experience as an educator and e-learning specialist has given him the strength to stand up to popular misconceptions with contrarian wit and sturdy logic. Although he opposes many widely held beliefs about learning and education, he offers many new perspectives to replace the old ones, and many real-life examples to ground his theories with timely proof. His stories clearly emphasize the points he makes, and the working e-learning models he uses succinctly demonstrate proven methods of e-leaning and how it can be applied to a variety of situations.