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Gerry Griffin

Skill Pill


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Talking Point: Is trust the future of learning?


So let’s start at the end.

The end point is about trust and about creating that trust within your environment.
But, you might ask, why should trust be a future thing when, in the psychological contract between employers and their employees, it has always been a precondition?
The issue is that there is only so much you can button down with contracts. You have to be sure that, when your staff member walks out of the door, they are going to retain respect for the organisation.
Trust also brings up the matter of loyalty. A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development a few years ago entitled ‘Gen Up: How the four generations work’ looked at the different generational attitudes, motivations and appetites of Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y towards work and the workplace.
The research indicated that Gen-Y – ie those born after 1980 – were more loyal to their own skills than to their employer. But the problem with this situation in a learning context is that it has to have trust as its baseline.
So let’s start at the beginning, with the idea that learning tends to be inefficient. UK organisations are estimated to invest about £39 billion in training and development each year.
However, employees undertaking face-to-face or campus learning can experience content retention decay of up to 90% over the course of 12 months – and it is inevitably unclear of what this remaining 10% of information consists. So the question is is how can we manage this decay more effectively?
The internet age
The answer lies in digital technology. Although the move to the internet age has had been much hyped and is littered with mismanaged expectations, one thing we know for sure is that it has been very successful in removing inefficient middlemen.
It has also helped to expose things that don’t carry their own weight. Take the music industry, for instance. Under the old business model, music was recorded, packaged up into a vinyl record or CD and transported to a shop.
Both the shop and the artist were then reliant on passers-by to pop in, browse and potentially make a purchase at a substantial mark-up.
Today, however, the internet has transformed the industry.
For example, smartphone users can now hear a song that they like on an advert, use the Shazam application to identify it and find out the track name, artist and lyrics. A recent partnership with Spotify also means that the track can be downloaded straight to their smartphone within seconds.
This shift has completely changed how music is delivered and led to the creation of new economic approaches. As the musician, Gillian Welch, ruefully acknowledged: “Everything is free now.”
While this may be somewhat of an exaggeration, there is no doubt that music prices have collapsed, leading to an inversion of traditional business models.
As a result, where live performances previously acted simply as promotional vehicles for a new record, records are now the primary promotional vehicle for live acts, which are the real money-spinners.
In terms of learning, meanwhile, as previously stipulated, UK organisations waste vast amounts of their training and development investment each year due to content retention decay. What seems likely, however, is that, as with the music industry, the increasing move to online will expose inefficiencies in the system.
A question of trust
What we’re looking at is a similar shift from cab drivers spending two to four years taking The Knowledge in order to navigate the 25,000 streets, 20,000 landmarks and 320 routes of London within a six mile radius of Charing Cross to introducing a satellite navigation system.
With a Sat Nav, all you have to do is input your destination and it will provide you with information about the quickest route. In other words, it could be described as learning-as-a-service.
For learning-as-a-service to occur, certain prerequisites are necessary, however. Firstly, you must have a mobile device with you at all times in order to provide access to the necessary information.
Secondly, the device needs to be both contextually- and chronologically-aware. Being contextually-aware means knowing where you are geographically and what environment you’re in.
Digital tools such as augmented reality can prove useful here as it can associate recognisable icons with a specific piece of content in order to enrich the learning experience. Chronological awareness, such as recognising whether it is morning or afternoon and then providing appropriate learning material on that basis, is also key.
But what has any of this got to do with trust? Well, it turns out that the real innovation doesn’t actually centre on tools and technology at all, seductive as they are. Instead it lies in moving away from the traditional ‘sheep-dip’ approach to learning towards a more user centric/driven style.
In practice, this means going against the grain and actually trusting individuals to diagnose their own skills gaps by educating them to take more responsibility for their own learning and the challenges that they face.
It also means starting to let go of tracking, assessment and all of those other tools that are used to control the learning experience. So, in ending where we started, we say again, it all comes down to trust.

Gerry Griffin is founder of mobile learning provider, Skill Pill.

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Gerry Griffin


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