The Inconvenient Truth About Continuous Learning


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“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
Eric Hoffer

Here are the facts:

The vast majority of learning programs still rely on event-driven formal learning models. Formal and informal together are only a small part of the continuous learning experience. LMS and LCMS systems favor events which account for only a small amount of continuous learning.

The conclusion? Continuous Learning is the way we learn and grow, and because of the way we have learned to teach, it is still the least accepted and included way of learning in our schoolplace (primary and secondary) or workplace.

If it is truly the primary way we learn then it is incumbent upon us to begin to incorporate continuous learning into our programs starting in pre-school. How you ask? No longer difficult I answer. I recently wrote about Eddie Obeng who understands that all the rules have changed and that most of the world was “…asleep at midnight when all the rules changed.” We are still operating as if nothing has changed. So as to how we can easily create classrooms that have an online Community of Learners forum for sharing, exploring, discovering, asking and answering. Peer-to-peer and peer-to-mentor. as we move from one grade level to the next we can ‘graduate’ the Community of Learners to become a Community of Practice. Worldwide.

All schools worldwide have parallel ‘grades’ or ‘tranches’ for learning in the K-12 space. The fact is that we live in a digitally-connected global society. For starters there is no longer any reason to put learning into an small event-driven box (aka classroom). Students are already learning continuously and are also forming global Communities of Learners (CoL) and Communities of Practice (CoP). It’s time for the educational systems to get in sync with the students and support what they are doing.

Continuous Learning in the Corporation

The same is true for corporate learning only more so. Many of us have been talking about “informal Learning” for years (feels like forever actually). Well the continuous learner is all about informal learning. Perhaps if we shift the focus from the learning to the learner we can make some progress. Continuous learning in the corporate environment is critical to the increase of the Corporate IQ. And only the smartest companies will win in this new rapidly changing hypercompetitve flatworld. So companies MUST support continuous learning by creating the following:

Communities of Learners (CoL) that are networked together as they take a flipped course (assume companies and L&D organizations will be smart enough to learn that the flipped classroom enables learning far better than the disabling traditional classroom)

Communities of Practice (CoP) that the learners ‘graduate’ into to continue learning on a worldwide basis adding real world experiences into what they know and know how to do as a result of adopting and adapting the learning.

Rewards, certificates, some software that tracks the continuous learners – a Continuous Learning System (CLS)- so the company can see (custom or standard reports) how much learning is going on that today of which they are, for the most part, completely unaware.

What a waste of all that talent and learning! Here’s my experience. I once worked in a big blue-colored company and every year I was told what courses I needed to take. Well it depended on whether I had the time. If I was off being a good little billable employee, the course was a nice to take. Seems like I was always off being billable, and at the end of the year, the list of courses was replaced with another list that again went the way of  “I’m too busy making money for the company”. In the meantime I managed to take a number of online seminars, webinars, courses and go to a few conferences where I grabbed a workshop or two. I learned enough to realize I wanted to work in another company with more cutting edge technology and left my former company feeling blue. The company not me since I was all happy. The moral of the story is that the motivated interested curious continuous learner in me trumped the too-busy-being-billable proscribed learner and moved on. And no one in the old company had a clue.

Now here’s another scenario. The old company tracked my continuous learning as much as what they were telling me to learn. And lo and behold they found a new position for me that fit with what I was interested  in to take all the learning I had pursued on my own. They benefited and I helped them and me grow in a new area.

So let’s stop all the chatter about “informal learning” since it has no more meaning or relevance. We’ve talked about enough and nothing has happened. Let’s instead focus on the Continuous Learner as the Hero of the story and continuous learning as one of the the Great Differentiators between the individuals who are so motivated that they use their own time to learn and grow, and those that are just taking up office space. Between companies that have a lively and growing corporate brain and an increasing corporate IQ, and the ones that will soon be forgotten.

And you know who you are …

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