Category Archives: How People Learn

E-Learning: Does it Really Work?

I have been exploring using a Digital Learning system for my organisation. The drivers are simple: Reduce costs, especially printing and courier fees and assist with the learning that needs to occur in remote locations. It has been interesting journey in research and exploring this. In some respects, it has been incredible frustrating.

Traditional e-learning or CBT is a process that focuses on the individual learner interacting with a computer or passive sets of information that respond to triggers from the learner. All potential Artificial Intelligence potential aside, CBT is a passive learning medium. It is highly over-rated and the retention ability to create understanding of complex issues. The e-learning model is uses the presentation learning methodology; presenting information to the learner, for him or her to absorb.

The challenge with this model is that most technology solutions is that focus on either a passive learning mode or a presentation model of learning. I have explored some of the following technology options:
* Adobe Connect Pro (
* Moodle (
* Blackboard (
This list is relatively endless, the challenge is getting the right search criteria on Google 🙂

There is very little that I can see that uses a digital alternative to the facilitation methodology involving a learner driven process. I have seen a large amount of interaction around the use of Web 2.0 in Learning and I want to explore this in more detail.

I am still not able to answer the question around e-learning, as I cannot even test it properly yet. So I will get back to you on that one.

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Real Learning versus Traditional Learning

When considering the modern methods of teaching delivery in a corporate environment or even a tertiary institution like a university, it works on a simple premise: The All Knowing Lecturer / Teacher will impart his or her infinite wisdom on the dumb masses to absorb and regurgitate in a manner pleasing to the All Knowing One (AKO). Once the AKO has finished his or her diatribe, the mere mortals can ask questions. Some times you get a Wise AKO, who allows you to ask questions as they go along. Sadly, this anecdotal is really what happens. Some time you even get a PowerPoint presentation (or if they are really up to date; a Keynote one).

Interesting enough, David A. Kolb (, developed an experintial learning cycle which follows this process:
* You have a Concrete Experience
* You observe and Reflect on that experience
* As a result, you Form Abstract Concepts
* You then Test these concepts. by having another Concrete Experience

In a lecture-type environment, does a learner truly have concrete experience? Generally, the learner has to form the abstract concepts on his or her own. The effectiveness of this methodology can really be questioned. This is because the learner has to form a question out of the information thrown at them. This is the attempt at Reflection. The concepts are never tested by the learner. Therefore, you can argue that the learner does not truly learn anything.

In order to encourage learning, the questions should precede the content. By doing this, one begins where the learner is in the learning process. It also gives the learner an understanding of where to put the content.

Real Learning starts with the Question not with the Answer.

How People Learn

If you think back to university or even school; think about how you went about learning something. We have so many preconceptions around how people learn because of those experiences. We think we need to learn from the experts all the time; the teachers have to know everything! Is this really true?

Did you not also learn by watching someone and then trying it yourself? Did you not learn by figuring something out? (And then feel really pleased with yourself for doing so?)

In today?s society (especially at work), we expect people to learn really quickly, without guidance and get it right. These expectations are not necessarily appropriate because they are unrealistic.

People learn in a systematic way. That way or manner may differ based on a truckload of different theories, but everyone learns in a systematic way. There are some guidelines for the manner in which people learn; some would call them rules, but for me, they are guidelines.

These guidelines for the basis for all the work that I do. I try and never deviate from them:

  1. Learning is a skill. it requires practice. Some people learn quickly and are more talented naturally in this regard; others need some help. This is not about how ?bright? someone is. It is like everything, some people are good at it and some people need some help.
  2. Learning is an activity: Learning is not passive. You have to do things to learn. You cannot learn to ballroom dance, play football by reading a book.
  3. Learning is a social activity: We learn with other people. Think about school or university, or even at work: How many times have you asked the person next to you about something: ?How do I do that??, ?How does that work?? or ?What did he mean??
  4. Learning is messy and people need to be able to learn without feeling like they have to get it right first time. An advertisement in South Africa for a washing liquid said it all: ?No mess, no learning?. Therefore, we have to make space for learning and let people make (appropriate) mistakes.
  5. Learning always needs to begin at the starting point, but that does not have to be at the beginning. The best place to start (often) is the most important part or the foundation. Often we start at the history – to be honest, is it important that people know the history of the organistion in order for people to do their jobs?
  6. Learning changes the learner. When someone learns something, they change. They must change, otherwise they have not learnt anything. But in order for the change to be real, they must be able to practice their learning.
  7. Learning is about quality: Why is it we send the guy who cannot do things to teach others: Those who can do, those why can?t teach. Some say, those that cannot teach, consult. I have done both – what does that make me 🙂. It is paramount in the global skill shortage that the best facilitators and the best leaders should be preparing the so called next generation of workers!

Anyway, this is a start! There is loads more stuff, but I will try and make things manageable in terms of length!