Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

23 January 2013

Old -> New

Clark @ 5:47 AM

My ITA Colleague Jay Cross had a hangout over the weekend and the conversation rolled around to the role of L&D in the new era (related to yesterday’s post). I’ve previously addressed how we can now be using tech for more of the full suite of performance, but it occurred to me that there are some ways we could and should be thinking differently about the ways in which performance can be supported. And while these old:new lists are fun and sometimes overdone, and these may have been covered elsewhere by others, it seemed reasonable to go through a few that occurred to me.

Courses -> Search

The first is that too often we think of courses, but what’s happening these days is that people are increasingly self-helping.  Rather than take a course ‘just in case’, they’re getting the help they  need ‘just in time’.  It seems to me that we should be focusing on making sure that learners have good search skills, and searchable and well-organized portals, to ensure searching success.  Whether you view it as performance support or a ‘teachable’ moment, the fact is that learners are self-serving, going for pull solutions more.  The goal is to support performers how they want to, and are learning, rather than trying to force them into our models.

Instruction -> Coaching

As social media is more available, people are more available, and people are often reaching out to others for support rather than courses.  Whether it’s a quick query through a microblog or a full blown video chat, people are increasingly reaching out to folks for help. This is similar to the courses/search above, but sometimes they go for content and sometimes for people.  Are you making it easy to reach out to people?

Development -> Mentoring

Rather than developing people through programs, increasingly people are looking for mentoring. Programmed development is like taking the bus, when mentoring is like having a chauffeur.  It may seem extravagant, but folks like to help, and increasingly having a program of ‘each one teach one’, where those who’ve benefitted from mentoring pass it on, is workable. With digital support, this becomes both a more momentary, and longer term activity.  It’s increasingly viable, so it should be on your radar.

Read -> Watch

It used to be that to the only way to find things out was to read the manual, or a step-by-step job aid. That’s no longer true, and increasingly it’s easy to create videos that show how to do things.  So, for example, it’s now easy to create software ‘walkthrus’, and it’s not just the L&D department that are creating them.  Learners are getting them through services like Lynda.com, and creating their own with screen casting software.  Not to say reading won’t continue to play a role for concepts, but for procedures, the context and dynamism makes videos powerful.  Are you supporting video/screen cast creation, hosting, and searching?

Test -> Simulation 

The pragmatic barriers to creating simulations are falling down, and we now know that knowledge test isn’t an adequate assessment of ability to apply. We no longer have to have separate summative assessments, as digital environments can store performance as part of a portfolio of ability.  Most importantly, we can make the practice environment much closer to the performance environment.  When we’ve determined a real skill needs to be developed, we can and should be looking at rich assessments of ability.

“’til they get it right” -> “’til they can’t get it wrong”

Coupled with the above is the notion that we can move from minimal practice that isn’t sufficient to develop capability and confidence, and start providing sufficient practice to ensure ability.  We need to be spacing it out over time, and ensuring real competence, not just until folks have had a taste of it, but inadequate to develop real capability.  If it matters, we need to match practice to task and learner, and we can.

Desktop -> Mobile

People are now going ‘mobile first’, as are companies like Google.  The reality is that the mobile devices are more familiar, and more available.  People are getting in the habit of getting their support through a mobile device.  And enterprise platforms are increasingly making that solution available.  Are you enabling your workers to meet their needs with mobile?

These are just a few ways we can, and should, be shifting our thinking.  I’m sure you’ve got more, and I look forward to hearing them.



  1. Well put, Clark! While I don’t thing the “old” is entirely going away, I think you have concisely captured how learning processes are evolving and expanding. I suspect these changes could be positioned as changes in what is popular – the kind of learning processes most often accessed.

    Perhaps one addition is ‘teacher to facilitator’ – our role as learning leaders is evolving from being experts communicating content to one that puts us more in the role of learning facilitator – facilitating learning through a variety of means, not just “teaching.” Another one may be ‘publisher to curator’ – rather than creating a lot of documentation, we are evolving ways to bring together some of the best material for our own use and for others’ use.

    A worrisome trend is ‘deep learning to bullet points’ – I worry that in our quest for just-in-time and easy access we lose the deeper meaning behind the bullet points (a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing).

    Comment by Catherine Lombardozzi — 24 January 2013 @ 10:57 AM

  2. Catherine, I think you’re absolutely right about teacher -> facilitator (tho’ somewhat implied by instruction -> coaching). We (the ITA) talk often about moving from instructor to facilitator. I’ll have to add it to my list, thanks!

    Comment by Clark — 24 January 2013 @ 2:08 PM

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