Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Learning in 2024: Same As It Ever Was

The eLearning Guild posed the question of: "What will learning look like in 2024?"  Of course I could be snarky and say well, learning is learning and that's an internal process that's been the same for thousands of years... but I know what they mean - How will the external influences on learning be different in 10 years.

On Friday they sponsored a Twitter chat (#LRN2024) which got me thinking of how difficult it is today to predict what will be in 10 years let alone in 3 months.  However, regardless of technology and methodology changes, I simply see learning going the way of work.

As the way we work changes, learning will follow suit or better -flow more within the work. Work will continue to change of course due in great part to technological advances and that technology will ultimately automate many tasks. The automation and outsourcing of work will continue and create increased productivity but also reduce the need for certain jobs.  The jobs that will be needed will require more emphasis on cognitive skills.  So rather than look ahead, let's do look back. And not just 10 years, humor me and think of where we have been as a species in say the last 10,000 years.

Thousands of years ago, during the Agricultural Revolution, I suspect the way most everyone learned was through Observation, Experience, Conversation and Reflection, what Charles Jennings has referred to as "Real Learning". This learning was individually and independently organized, and happened in the work. The tools for learning were the tools of work. Learning was informal and social, an outcome of the work itself. Later, in the Industrial Revolution, mass production was the work model. People were appendages of their machines and like mechanical parts bolted on, people were bolted to seats for uniform training - which was then mirrored in the academic settings. The products of industry were identical and so was the education. Organized learning shifted to formal and consistent because the work was consistent. The formula was still the same but the mixture was different - Experience, Practice, Conversation and Reflection was mostly managed by others. The time for each dictated and directed by instructors not the individuals.

So again, the work is changing. Rather than consistent and uniform, the real work of people will be inconsistent and growing more complex. Mass production remains but with fewer people and more machines. Machines will handle the simple rote work. The work that requires training, slightly more difficult, is increasingly being outsourced and likely too will be automated. The work then that will really propel organizations tomorrow is creative work, involving critical thinking and problem solving. Fast changes requires fast learning and that can't be supported by classrooms or elearning courses, it can't. The learning to support this will be highly independent and individualized. It will again heavily favor social and informal. At it's core learning will always remain with the same elements of experience, practice, conversation and reflection but like during the Agricultural Revolution, I see it more happening in our work and through and in the tools of our work. This will be critical, as the work of the future will be many people coming together for short periods and disbanding,  a swarming economy. The outputs or products and the collaborative knowledge will be equal in value as "learnings" will not reside in a summary document but in an ever evolving portfolio of various content types to be tapped into and continually added and edited.

Learning is still and will always be an internal process. What will change most will be where the dependency resides; no longer on the organization outside the work but once again upon the individual in their work.


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