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Culture or technology: which is the bigger challenge for learning?

Learning Challenges

What are the biggest challenges in setting up a modern learning environment?  What obstacles must we overcome in successfully incorporating tools familiar to us in everyday life, such as mobile devices, short videos and social networks, and blending them with traditional techniques of classroom learning, mentoring and help aids?

Some recent articles have highlighted two challenges: the difficulties of managing new technologies and the need to change organisational culture.

Mobile Ready?

Oracle's Mobile Classroom White Paper, based on a survey of CLOs, highlights the benefits of making the classroom mobile and enabling mLearning, tapping into the increasing usage of smartphones and the willingness to use them for mobile learning e.g. in watching short videos.

To make use of learners' smartphones, organisations must be ready to adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy that allows their employees to use their own devices for business.  Many organisations are unwilling to do so, mainly for reasons of security and sometimes because of worries about reduced productivity as users could be distracted by non-business tasks.

So for mobile learning there is a mix of challenges - the technology to secure data when accessed on users' own devices and the cultural challenge of making workers more responsible for managing their own use of time.

Agile Enough?

In a thought provoking Learning Solutions magazine article on improving instructional design Megan Torrance looks at how agile project management can help to cope with the constantly changing demands in today's corporate world.  The agile approach breaks development into small stages, presenting interim results that can be quickly reviewed and modified to keep the design on track and to meet changing requirements.

Megan points out that such an approach allows better alignment with organisational and user needs. It requires "an organizational culture that supports learning by doing, constant experimentation, and high degrees of cross-functional communication", which is the reason it is not yet suited to many organisations.  Understanding the underlying technology of agile project management tools and using them for learning solutions presents much less of a challenge than trying to implement the tools when the corporate culture needs to change to support their use.

A mixture

The two examples above, of offering mLearning via mobile classrooms and of making instructional design more agile, show that the major challenges of implementing new learning techniques include both culture and technology.  In designing a learning environment or programme, both challenges must be assessed and a blended programme tailored for the specific needs of your organisation.  This is a subject to which we will be returning in future articles in the CLS "Blended Learning" series.

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