Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Financial Investment

Should learning organizations make a financial investment in new forms of learning?

A fantastic comment by Bill Brantley on my post Metalearning:

Before you start defining metalearning, you need definitions for:

  1. formal learning
  2. informal learning
  3. social learning
  4. collaborative learning
  5. personal learning

that are more than just marketing buzzwords.

What is the difference between these five concepts? What are the strengths and weaknesses with each? How does one know when they are practicing one form or another?

Before you start shutting down training departments, hiring Chief Learning Officers, and coining an umbrella term for different learning methods, you need to establish what you are actually talking about and why it is preferred over other methods. And you need to back this up with some empirical data.

I would love to have a discussion with him because I think he's missing the point about the importance of metalearning and metacognition and their implications on learning organizations. 

Important Challenge

That said, he's expressing a really important challenge.  Before a learning organization recommends to make a financial investment in any of these methods, they really want to know:

  • What is it?
  • What will it cost and what's the expected return?

When you look at various training methods such as classroom instruction, virtual classroom, courseware, online reference, performance support tools, they all have fairly well understood size, shape, characteristics.  There's enough body of knowledge, history and expectation that you can safely propose financial investment by a learning organization in these methods.  Yes, your budget is being cut, but it's way safer to propose on-going financial investment in a tried and true method than it is to propose shifting budget to new methods. 

In Corporate Training, I suggested what might happen if you shifted budget right now without having a solid backup as wonderfully explained by Dilbert:



If we want to really change where learning organizations spend time and dollars, the key ingredient is to help get more concrete about these terms and to be concrete about financial investment proposals.

Not a Short Answer

I wish there were a set of business cases that we could point to that would exemplify what a VP Learning/CLO should be presenting to their executive team.  Why not?

It's partly that these kinds of solutions are highly fragmented.  Look at the breadth of Examples of eLearning 2.0.  Add to it all the investment that could go along with Tool Set and Work Literacy

What should a VP Learning / CLO present to the executive team?



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