This programme aims to explore the limitations of individualised learning at a time when organisations are growing and advancing the ways they use e-learning to develop their employees by improving workplace skills and performance.
The LinkedIn Annual Workplace Survey 2019 reported that 24% of organizational learning is now ‘pure’ online (this was up 5% on 2017). This may not seem like significant growth; but this will have a huge impact on hundreds of thousands of employees, many of who work in global corporates and the public sector, who will experience learning very differently in the future.
Making connections to the module theme of failure
My OER position paper explored a number of themes around failures of e-learning in the workplace, as explored in the module ‘Digital Futures for Learning’.
There were many ways to connect the theme of failure to my interest area and have myself returning to Carr’s article ‘In support of failure’ a number of times.
I strongly identified with her sense of being stuck – the doubt, the dread and the shame that comes when we feel we have failed at something. The strong reference to self-critique and reflection that can so easily become a negative, rather than positive force. Carr describes this as: ‘the affect-bearing concept that marks us as failure’. It’s a powerful reminder of the personal risk when innovating using technology as an enabler of learning.
In addition to personal interest, I’m also professionally interested in this topic. In my leadership development work we design programmes that encourage senior leaders to become more comfortable with the discomfort that accompanies failure. When introducing innovation, we talk about the risks of disrupting the status quo, and the resilience needed, both organisationally and individually to embrace this, and experience this as learning. In practice, this is less easy to embrace.
Development of the OER as providing the process for learning
Through my research for this paper, I came to better understand how much of this is deeply rooted in ways that workplace learning has, like all learning, become individualised. And more importantly, for the future, I wanted to better understand what this meant – how much of this could be related to technology? And how much of this was due to paying insufficient attention to pedagogy?
The failures I explored in my paper included the:
Failure of organisations to move beyond technology solutions for learning
Failure of organisations to provide inclusive e-learning tools and develop inclusive learning cultures
Failure of organisations to prepare learners for being more self-directed in the future
These failures can be understood by reflecting on the experiences of Melo et al (2019) who experimented with virtual reality in the humanities. They summarised this experience as: ‘cruel optimism’ that seems too often come along with educational technology, and the ways that the teachers are drawn into oversimplifying their pedagogical approach in order to achieve a technological objective.
Note: The term ‘e-learning’ is used specifically in this programme to describe online course content provided on a learning management system (LMS), requiring learners to independently work through the content. This was a deliberate choice to distinguish from the broader forms of learning encompassed by the term ‘online learning.’
Innovation in information and communications technologies has created many opportunities for e-learning in the workplace. Both the commissioning organisations and the employees have experienced many benefits. But despite this, there is a call from academics and practitioners alike to learn from the failures of the past and to be more vigilant in the future, as these technologies continue to advance, and shape and influence workplace learning.
Recognising the limitations of individualised learning
The application of advancing digital technologies has made big promises. For organisations, e-learning has been seen as an attractive way to create greater economic efficiencies: lowering travel costs, printing costs and other associated material costs traditionally associated with corporate training. Whilst at the same time, e-learning has promised to benefit individual learners; learning could be self-paced and interacted with individually, at any time (Kok, 2013).
While the economic and efficiency benefits are clear, what is less understood is how using technology to provide learning in the workplace has significantly improved learning outcomes, defined as on-the-job performance. Indeed, there are many who would argue that e-learning has failed to deliver on its promises, and has been over hyped, particularly by the vendors (Brown, Murphy and Wade, 2006).
Understanding the limitations of individualised learning
To explore the limitations of individualised learning, this programme is structured around four themes identified by Selwyn (2017).
Each of these themes enables us to acknowledge the limitations of individualised learning, and to consider this as a set of inter-relationships.
This is helpful to think beyond the forms of education and technology that are most likely to benefit individuals who already do well in terms of engaging in education and/or using digital technology. These themes serve as a useful reminder to challenge assumptions that learners are fully capable of navigating the complexities of technology enabled learning.
Why an OER bootcamp?
One of the biggest challenges I face in my professional work is designing programmes for people who are very time-pressed. I wanted therefore to experiment with my OER to develop a number of time-boxed sessions that provide greater depth of learning than a microlearning/bitesize session. It was also important that it could be completed in a flexible way.
Bootcamp appealed as a format – high energy, intense and taking an active learning approach. I have therefore aimed to present the key concepts so that readers can spend 5-10 minutes reading, before quickly moving to an activity.
I am really looking forward to getting feedback.