Making transformation happen: learning architecture and infrastructure

Transforming l&d
In this series of posts I’ve set out a vision and strategies for transformation in workplace learning and development. In the previous post, I showed how this process must be clearly aligned to an organisation’s particular learning requirements (‘learning’), the characteristics of its people (‘learners’) and the constraints which govern its decision making (‘logistics’). The ‘three Ls’ inform and shape our transformation process, starting with the overall learning architecture and the creation of a supportive infrastructure:
Learners, learning and logistics shape your transformation process

Learning architecture

We are all learning machines, constantly adapting to the ever-changing threats and opportunities with which we are confronted. We learn through experience, whether consciously or unconsciously; we learn by seeking out the knowledge and skills we need to carry out our day-to-day tasks; we learn by sharing experiences and best practice with our colleagues, and by taking advantage of opportunities for development, both formal and informal.
The learning architect designs environments that enable specific target populations to take maximum advantage of all these opportunities for learning. To do this they need to understand the unique characteristics of their clients and the business challenges they are facing; they need to find just the right balance between top-down and bottom-up learning initiatives, between the formal and informal.
A learning architecture provides a blueprint for a working environment that supports and encourages learning. Just like the plans for a building, it looks to the long term, providing strength and stability while also providing plenty of scope for adaptation as needs change.
Clive Shepherd’s book The New Learning Architect was published by Onlignment in 2011.

Learning infrastructure

An architect’s plans go well beyond a specification for materials and dimensions; they also have to take account of the systems that need to be in place for the building to fulfil its purpose – the electrics, plumbing, lighting, security and so on. Similarly a learning architecture is just the starting point. To function properly, careful thought needs to be given to the learning infrastructure:

  • the computing devices available to employees, whether desktop, laptop or handheld;
  • the networks linking these devices;
  • the tools provided to support communication and collaboration, including intranets and extranets, social networks, email, instant messaging, web conferencing systems, forums, blogs and wikis;
  • tools to support the orderly management of documents and other forms of digital content;
  • tools that allow for quick access to information on-demand;
  • tools to track learning where this is required for compliance purposes;
  • tools, equipment and facilities for creating digital learning content.

Thought must also be given to the governance of organisational learning, bringing together learning professionals, senior managers and representative learners to review and approve strategic plans and to monitor progress. And implementing this strategy is likely to demand a rethink of the way in which l&d responsibilities are organised and distributed throughout the organisation.

The inner core

Architecture and infrastructure form the inner core of our transformation wheel:
Architecture and infrastructure form the inner core of the transformation wheel.
In coming posts, we will continue to add layers of detail, starting with the processes that need to be put in place for improved performance needs analysis and blended solution design.
Coming next: A process for analysis and design