Informal, Online Learning: The Half-Truths That Undermine Success

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Learning

Informal, Online Learning: The Half-Truths That Undermine Success

If you're like many organizations, you're exploring the possibilities associated with informal, online learning. After all, the promises associated with this instructional delivery strategy are exciting. Greater reach. Consistent messaging. Tracking and monitoring. Cost savings. Ability to scale. Instantaneous updating. And the list goes on. And, if you're like many organizations, after you began experimenting with informal learning, disappointment set in when you saw that your efforts fell short of expectations.

The half-truths about informal learning

Too frequently, informal, online learning simply does not live up to its promise nor its potential. And this is largely because of some common myths or misconceptions that we bring to our work in this arena. Our disenchantment boils down to handful of half-truths that many of us have bought into. And if we fail to consider the "other half," we may continue to sub-optimize the value of this very important learning vehicle.

Half-truth #1: If we build a repository with volumes of information employees need and put it at their fingertips, "they will come."

How many of us have heard some variation of this "Field of Dreams" sentiment? But the real truth is that learners may come if you build it. There is no guarantee! Unfortunately, many L&D departments and training vendors are banking on a grand cinematic fantasy when they transition large volumes of traditional classroom and other learning to these informal means.

But many of these systems are unwieldy and overwhelming to the typical employee, leaving him or her immobilized and unable to make the most of the tools and resources available. The blessing and the curse is that these online systems offer nearly unlimited space. It's hard not to be tempted to keep adding "just one more" great resource. Yet, if we want people to really use the systems and learn, less just might be more. No popcorn needed.

Half-truth #2: People learn best when they can control the learning-the time, place and even pace of it.

It's hard to argue with this. We ourselves know when we're going to be most receptive to new information. Being able to sync up the instruction with optimal timing can contribute to powerful results.

But, content alone (no matter how comfortable the setting in which it's delivered) may not be enough to change behavior or performance. People must also have the motivation and appetite to learn-maybe even more so when faced with engaging in a solitary learning effort. They need context and they need to understand specifically why this resource or activity benefits them. The learning system alone may not be prepared to provide this valuable information.

And you've likely heard the expression, "someday doesn't appear on my calendar." In the days of more traditional, old-school learning, there were deadlines to meet, classes to attend and sessions to log into. But in this brave new self-service world without temporal pressures to focus attention, it's easy to allow learning to drop to the bottom of a lengthy daily to-do list.

Half-truth #3: Today's employees are expert searchers and can find just about anything they need with the click of a mouse.

We've turned "Google" into a verb and most people in the workplace are relatively competent at finding what they need with a few keystrokes. The difference here is that employees don't always know what they need; and they certainly don't know what they don't know. Additionally, people require context to find and internalize what--from the vast array of resources-is going to be most relevant.

Add to that the paradox of choice: the more options we have, sometimes the greater stress and anxiety we feel. I think we can agree that today's employees don't need any more stress! And, unlike personal web searches where there is usually a personal benefit, employees need to understand what's in it for them to invest the effort to sort through, find and ultimately use new information, insights and learning.

Learn more half-truths, and a model to get past them

I hope you're ready to learn more because there are additional informal learning half-truths to explore (as well as a framework that helps organizations move past them).

Take a look at the webinar I did with Chief Learning Officer magazine where we examined:

  • A deeper dive on the above three half-truths, plus three more
  • The fix we'll use to bust those myths, which I call the 6 Cs
  • Some Q&A with myself, as well as Saba product expert Emily Manley, to help you make informal learning a reality in your organization

Be sure to check out the on-demand webinar today!

The Whole Truth About Informal Learning

Download this reference guide to the half-truths about informal learning programs and what makes them tick.

Read Now
Cover of the book
Cover of the book

The Whole Truth About Informal Learning

Download this reference guide to the half-truths about informal learning programs and what makes them tick.

Read Now

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