The benefits of being an experimental learner

by L&D11 Nov 2016
Elliott Masie is the chairman and CLO of The Masie Centre’s Learning Consortium and CEO of The Masie Center – an international think tank focused on learning and workplace productivity.
In an article published in CIO, Masie outlined the importance of ensuring that learning professionals are experiential learners. 

He invites us to consider a metaphor that is relevant to this goal:

“Imagine eating in a restaurant where the chef never tastes the food. Risky, right? We all want our cooks to adjust, tweak and improve the cooking experience by tasting periodically.”

He says that the same concept applies to experimental learners.

“To be an experiential learner we must first consciously participate in and consume the learning and technology methodologies our organization is using,” he wrote.

“Every time I take a course or participate in an e-learning program, there are immediate ‘a-ha’s’ for me as a designer/producer. I understand the learner experience better, and I align more deeply to the learner’s needs and pressures.”

Masie added that as we consume our own learning experiences, we discover these key findings:
Sequences: Learners often don’t flow with the content sequence of a curriculum. The sequence defined by the subject matter expert may make sense on a chart, but not to a learner.

Learner knowledge: Often, our design targets a lower level of current learner knowledge, especially in compliance and regulatory training programs. Yet, as we take the programs ourselves, we can discover more efficient ways to leverage what our learners already know.

Timing matters: We often design around time durations that are rituals. Webinars should be 60 or 90 minutes. Classes should be one, two or five days. E-learning modules should be half an hour. Sadly, we often choose the time duration before we fully define the content or the learners’ realities.

Technology overhead: Is the technology easy to use and without worry, or does it create a time and effort overhead that blocks the user from concentrating on learning? Learning professionals must be innovative learners. 

As learning professionals in a field that actively experiments with new technologies, formats and design models, we have to be in a regular beta test for these new approaches. Some will stick with users, like TED Talks videos. Some will be cool and then recede in use, like MOOCs or Second Life. And some just popped on the scene and should be explored.

Here are a few innovations for you to check out:

Augmented reality: ‘Pokemon Go’ hit a viral nerve and tens of millions of people played with a mobile game that combined real camera shots, map views and challenges. Try out many augmented and virtual reality programs, and ask how they might be adapted for learning someday.

360 video: Make a video that has a 360-degree field of view, using simple apps or inexpensive cameras. Create a video of a piece of the office environment, for instance, and play with designing it in a 360, user-steerable mode.

Daily peer coaching: Pick a single topic or behaviour, and find a peer who will have a daily two-to-five-minute check-in with you on a new skill or altered business process. For example, shift your email handling mode and have a peer ask you about it every day at 4pm.

‘Learning professionals need to be continuous learners’
“Our professionalism should include a commitment to try, consume and experiment with current, evolving and innovative learning models,” he said.

“Learning theories must be matched by our own conscious experience as learners in every mode. Your learning ‘taste buds’ will be a powerful tool for learning improvement and excellence.”