In this series of posts I’ve set out a vision and strategies for transformation in workplace learning and development. I showed how this process must be clearly aligned to an organisation’s learning requirements, the characteristics of its people and the constraints which govern its decision making. These factors inform and shape our transformation process starting, as I explained in my previous post, with the overall learning architecture and the creation of a supportive infrastructure.
Architecture and infrastructure form the inner layers of our transformation wheel. We need to build on these by establishing new policies for performance needs analysis and blended solution design:
Performance needs analysis
An effective needs analysis process identifies gaps in performance which can be realistically addressed by learning interventions. It aligns these interventions with business needs and ensures that the right people are trained at the right time, in the right way and to the right extent.
That’s the theory. In practice a lot can go wrong, for example:
- You fail to understand the underlying performance issue, making it harder to establish goals or evaluate results.
- You jump to the conclusion that training is the right solution, when in practice there is no underlying problem knowledge or skills.
- You misunderstand the nature of the learning requirement and, as a result, make inappropriate design decisions.
- You fail to clarify the exact nature and composition of the audience, with the risk that the wrong people are targeted and efforts misplaced.
- You don’t get a handle on the logistical constraints, with the danger that your solution will fail to meet your client’s needs.
Blended solution design
It’s hard to achieve the outcomes and the efficiencies you require using a single learning method or medium. Today’s most powerful and scalable solutions employ a careful mix of social contexts (learning alone, one-to-one or in a group) and exploit the latest technologies. Making choices which satisfy the three Ls (the learning, the learner and the logistics) for the particular situation requires skill and balance.
We may consider ourselves lucky to have so many new choices in terms of learning technologies, and so many ways of combining these with traditional approaches. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that, when we’re faced with a huge range of options, we revert to the old familiar solutions. In other words, we carry on doing what we’ve always done. If we’re more adventurous there’s another danger – that we follow the trends and look for ways to innovate at all costs. We have a bundle of solutions and we’re desperate to find problems to match.
Again, the answer is a simple and logical process for making decisions on learning strategies and delivery media; one that looks first and foremost to meet the client’s performance objectives, but which also delivers in terms of the efficiencies all organisations are demanding.
Clive Shepherd’s The Blended Learning Cookbook was published in 2008. It outlines a process for the design of blended solutions that is used by many hundreds of learning professionals. A third edition is planned for 2013.
Coming next: Building the skills of the 21st century learning professional