Moving Beyond E-Learning: The new mindset for Learning in the Modern Workplace

green-28036_640UPDATED 2 NOVEMBER 2014

Learning has long been defined as “knowledge and skills acquired through studying or being taught”. However, as learning animals we can’t help but learn! As children we learned instinctively from our parents and from our friends, and in the workplace we now learn from our work colleagues. In fact we learn everyday from everything we read, do, see, hear and experience – often without realizing it. And we also learn through our regular explorations on the Web and interactions with others in social networks. Of course, this is a different kind of learning but it is STILL learning – and no less powerful or important than the learning that comes from being educated or trained.

Some of the ways we learn.

  • We can learn intentionally (i.e. we set out to do so) as well as unintentionally (i.e. we can learn accidentally and serendipitously)
  • We can learn when someone teaches us as well as by studying something by ourselves or through self-discovery.
  • We can be told what and how to learn or choose what and how we learn
  • We can learn from information as well as from instruction
  • We can learn in order to prepare ourselves for a task or learn as we carry out a task
  • We can learn from the shared experiences of others as well as through our own experiences (of doing things at work or home)
  • We can learn something gradually and continuously over time or in a flash in an aha moment
  • We can learn consciously as well as unconsciously – in which case we won’t actually be aware of it happening
  • But only WE can “manage” what we learn – no external system can possibly keep of track all the conscious and unconscious learning that takes place in our brains.

Although education (ie being taught) plays a big part in the way we learned as a child, it plays a smaller part thereafter; most of what we learn as an adult happens through the many different types of non-taught experiences that we encounter everyday. It was inevitable that organizations focused on training as the main way to enable people’s learning in the workplace, since this approach primarily evolved from the education system. But the problem worsened when Training Departments changed their name to Learning & Development Departments, because in reality nothing else changed except the name! The focus still remained on creating courses and programmes to train workers. In fact, the whole “learning industry” revolves around education, training and courses, and indeed most “learning technologies” are primarily educational or training technologies. But as many commentators point out, in the workplace Learning =/= Training, and in fact Learning is the Work. In other words, learning in the workplace is not just about acquiring knowledge or skills through classroom training events or e-learning organized through the L&D department, but also happens

  • from the shared workplace experiences of others
  • from having quick and easy access to content and/or people when we need to solve a problem
  • in serendipitous, aha moments which can bring enormous insight into problems and issues
  • from a continuous stream of new ideas and thinking from other colleagues, practitioners, experts, thought leaders etc – both inside and outside the organisation

Much of this type of learning does already take place in organisations; and frequently happens when individuals and teams  use the Web to address their own learning and performance problems – and in doing so have a very different learning experience. So there is a huge opportunity for a Modern Workplace Learning Department to become much more involved and help other individuals and teams benefit from learning in this way, in particular by

  • helping them extract the learning from work
  • helping them share their knowledge and experiences with one another
  • helping them acquire the new skills to make the most of their time on the Web – so that they can bring fresh ideas and thinking into their work teams and groups.

There are already many Modern Workplace Learning practitioners who live and breathe this new learning mindset. They walk the talk and demonstrate the value of different ways of learning for themselves. In their organisations they are leading the change for a new learning culture and mindset that views Learning in the Modern Workplace as much broader than just training (as shown in the diagram below). For sure, it will be a big step for some organisations (and L&D departments and practitioners) to move beyond (the comfortable position of) directing and managing training and e-learning into (the unknown territory of) enabling and supporting (autonomous) knowledge sharing and independent learning of individuals and teams, so find out more about the new workplace learning landscape and how (you and your team) can move forward.

  • Moving Beyond E-Learning (online workshop) is a 5-week online workshop or 1 day private onsite event (or conference workshop) to help L&D teams consider their own approach to moving things forward in their organisation (It uses the guided social learning experience approach to do so.)
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Jane Hart

Founder at C4LPT
Jane Hart is an independent Workplace Learning Advisor, Writer and International Speaker. She is the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies and every year she compiles the Top 100 Tools for Learning list. Her new book Modern Workplace Learning: A Resource Book for L&D is now available. Find out more about Jane and her work at

74 thoughts on “Moving Beyond E-Learning: The new mindset for Learning in the Modern Workplace

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