How Do You Believe Learning Happens?

It always amazes me when I attend eLearning conferences, read eLearning articles, or listen to technology vendors talk about eLearning, that the topic of how people actually learn rarely enters the debate. It is like having an 800-pound gorilla in the room that we choose to ignore. For me, however, getting at how people actually learn is at the heart of creating effective eLearning interventions. We ignore this gorilla at our peril.

For many in the eLearning field there seems to be an unspoken assumption that eLearning is about transferring information electronically from point A to point B, and then testing the “learners” on their ability to remember a certain amount of this information. However, as noted learning expert Roger Schank put it, “Knowing isn’t doing.” This is where so much of education and training goes awry… knowing something is nice, but the key is what is the learner actually able to do with this new knowledge? Can it be applied?

In the case of workplace training, can it be applied so that there is a measurable improvement in performance?

There are three important dividing lines in this debate about how learning happens.

1. What is your view of the learner? Is the learner a passive receptor of information, or an active creator of knowledge?

2. What is your view of learning technologies? Do you view technology as a delivery vehicle and broadcast tool, or do you view technology as the enabler of a learning environment / meeting place / network?

3. What is your view of interaction? Is interaction enabled via the mouse, or via the learner’s mind?

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