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Lies About Learners and the Internet of Things


In a blog post for ATD provocatively titled “Lies About Learners”, Larry Israelite writes:

Our current learning approach is outdated. Now is the time to reinvent it. The global business environment is changing rapidly; access to sophisti­cated, social, digital technologies is increasing; and the digital generation’s expectations of how, when, where, and why work gets done are shifting. The learner needs to be at the center of our reinvention.

The first lie—or assumption—is that learners need a break from their hectic work setting, and thus need a peaceful and tranquil environment to soak in and apply content. Instructor-led delivery of training content continues to lead the way when it comes to formal programs, but most learners prefer an anytime, anyplace, any path, and any pace approach to learning.

The distinction Larry Israelite is making is the difference between “push learning” and “pull learning.” Traditionally, HR managers and training specialists have been given the responsibility to decide what employees need to learn, often with input from SMEs, and then they push that onto the learner through training programs. No surprise that employees, who are being told what and how and when they will learn, lack the motivation to develop new competencies. Retention of learning is low and application to the workplace is minimal.

Pull learning, on the other hand, gives employees control over what, when, and how they learn. An example of this kind of learning is KnowledgeStar™. This is an app and system for just-in-time learning. David Grebow describes it this way:

“The app is driven by iBeacon technology connected to any cross-platform internet connected device that can pull information from the cloud. The beacon goes on any machine or piece of equipment and sends out a specific signal when you get close. The app ‘hears’ the signal and calls the cloud for the information on that machine or piece of equipment. You get a tailored menu of information choices that could include safety checklists, operating instructions, functional specs, diagrams, and safety warnings. Whatever you need. Whenever that information is really needed.”

KnowledgeStar™ makes machines smart so that employees can pull information and instructions “…anytime, anyplace, any path, and any pace…”

The app and process is designed to do the following on-demand:
• Show employees what they need to know to operate the machine
• Tell employees how to use the machine correctly and efficiently
• Help employees be safe working with and around the machine
• Help employees complete and submit regulatory forms and checklists
• Show employees how to fix the machine if it is broken
• Show employees how to maintain the machine over time
• Provide employees with the schematics and diagrams they need
• Contact an expert or get emergency assistance if needed

And all of this is done using the method preferred by the employee. This could be text, sound, video, graphics – whatever is best for that employee to “pull” the information he or she wants.
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HR and training managers don’t necessarily need internet technology to facilitate pull learning. Action learning, coaching, experiments, and internships could be used for pull learning. However, internet technology continues to offer more and more ways in which employees can take charge of their own learning.

KnowledgeStar™ is one example of this.

Read more of Stephen Gill’s insights into corporate learning and training.

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