My recent posts on web/learning 2.0 technologies got me thinking about other technology waves that have rippled through learning and performance over the years. Since my first mainframe based e-learning project (ouch, that dates me), technologies from videodisk though PC-based, CD-ROM, client/server, and early web-based learning (web 1.0) have each had their day with associated evangelists and advocates. Here’s a slightly dated SRI chart mapping some of the technologies (I’m sure there’s something more recent out there, but the only thing really missing here is web/learning 2.0).
Each of these technology waves resulted in some great learning programs that improved performance. Each also resulted in very poor programs that set e-learning back and often hurt productivity more than improved it. Web 2.0 and e-learning 2.0 differ from past technologies in that they “generate” knowledge as much as they “transfer” knowledge. Whether generating or delivering knowledge, we need to keep a key lesson from the past in mind as we use new technologies for learning:
The purpose of learning in organizations is to change behaviour in ways that predictably improve organizational performance.
Technology cheerleaders and marketing forces for web 2.0/ e-learning 2.0 can distract us from that goal. Web/e-learning 2.0 allow us to communicate and learn in new ways and across boundaries that weren’t as easy not so long ago. But the simple act of blogging, twittering, You-tubing, posting and social networking may or may not aid productivity and performance depending on how it is used. Helping with decisions on how it is used is where the learning and performance professional can help. We shouldn’t simply join the technology boosterism surrounding any new wave of technology.
Working Backwards from Business Results and Outputs
When designing learning or performance improvement programs that may use web 2.0 we need to work backwards from business results and desired work accomplishments. I’ve always found the following “performance chain” from Carl Binder useful.
More information on the performance chain and the “Six Boxes” model mentioned on the chart can be found here.
So, is all the “behaviour” generated from Web 2.0 tools focused on improving business performance? Advocates make the assumption that it does. But there is room for some skeptism. Tom Davenport for example posted some concerns that generated some interesting comments. See his posts here and here.
It’s the performance, stupid
Web/Learning 2.0 can be a powerful learning tool, but to bastardize a well worn Clintonism…It’s the performance, stupid. When implementing a Learning 2.0 solution in your organization, be sure that it is clearly influencing desired individual and organization performance.