I previously argued that social should be our first recourse in addressing performance and learning needs. Does that mean courses are then second? Let me suggest otherwise.
Once we’ve determined that social isn’t a solution to meeting the need, why wouldn’t we think of a course first? Partly, because courses should be expensive. But also, unless we absolutely need a course, we should look to performance support next. Frankly, the learner ideally gets the minimal amount of help to get past their current gap, and if it’s a bit of information or decision support help, why would you make a course if you can avoid it? It’s the least assistance principle (or “what’s the least I can do for you” :), only providing what they need to get back to work.
Another way to look at it is to think that we’d rather put as much information in the world as possible. We don’t want to try to put information into people’s heads if we can avoid it. It’s hard, and we’re not really good at it. We’re great pattern matchers and meaning makers, but really bad at remembering rote information or executing against rote procedures. At these times, a job aid or wizard is just the ticket.
Job aids should be easier to keep up to date, and wizards too ideally are editable. Eventually, they may become social too, as the Community of Practice takes responsibility for keeping them up to date, but I think that will likely always benefit from L&D facilitation. Facilitation increasingly will be the role of L&D, I claim, and this is part of that path.
If you can’t find a way that the network might provide the solution, and you can’t find a performance support solution, then you should consider a course. If it’s a skill shift that’s needed. But for agility, efficiency, and effectiveness, performance support should trump courses. Done right.
So, I’m claiming that our design process in many instances should be social first, performance support second, and formal courses last. What say you?