Do you make teaching part of your learning strategy? Probably not. It might be on HR’s list of things employees at higher levels should do. But I’m not sure we take teaching into consideration as part of a learning strategy. The typical instructional design process separates these roles into subject matter experts and learners. It’s an efficient use of resources supporting a very process driven environment, but it doesn’t look at the entire picture of learning.
Learning is a Process
Learning is a long term process. We create training events often with the expectation that significant learning will occur immediately. Learning doesn’t work that way. The statistic most often reported is that on average your learners will retain only 10% of the content covered in your training event. That’s a not a very good ROI in any business. So why do we settle for it? There are many answers to this question. All having more to do with business issues than learning issues. But let’s hold that thought for a moment and just focus on teaching as a learning tool.
Teaching as a Tool for Learning
Instructional designers talk a lot about “engaging the learner”. I can’t think of anyone more engaged in the content than the instructor, can you? Could you design a course curriculum that includes teaching as part of the assessment? Sure you could. Maybe some of you do. There is a sense of accountability placed on instructors that is not placed on students. It’s that accountability to teach that creates the demand to learn.
Everyone should be expected to know their area of work well enough to teach it. And no, I don’t believe you need to reach expert status before taking on the role of teacher or mentor. You can either wait until someone perfects something before “allowing” them to teach. Or you could make them teach in order to speed their journey towards mastery. At a very high level within academia you may see this occurring. But what might this look like in a corporate setting?
Teaching Looks Different Today
In a 21st century business this does not look like a teacher in front of a classroom. Instead its asking the learner/teacher to create digital learning content. It doesn’t need to be the same for everyone. Let them choose. One may create a powerpoint. Another may record herself actually doing some aspect of the job. Another might write a story about someone who failed at doing the job. It doesn’t really matter what type of digital content they create. Just that they created something that can be shared and discussed. Imagine how fast your library of learning content would grow.
Okay so you may not think it’s worth the effort, time, resources. You may think that your employees need to just get to work as soon as possible. The firehose of information is good enough to get by on. And workers can’t be bothered by silly projects. You may be right. And perhaps todays’ workforce is not ready for that challenge. But I know the incoming generation of employees will enter your business with an arsenal of digital content creation tools and the skills to use them. They are not afraid to snap a quick picture and share it. They are not afraid of video-chatting from their mobile device. They are more than capable of recording video as easily as you and I whip up emails. It’s a different breed of employee coming your way. Why not take advantage of what they have to offer?
Embracing Employee Content Creators
This is a strategy that takes advantage of the natural changes occurring in your business. Whether you leverage your employees’ skills or not is a decision you need to make. If you insist on being the gatekeeper to all training and corporate knowledge, you will fail. There is too much for your limited resources to manage. While you struggle to manage the incoming requests, your frustrated stake holders and employees will begin to take matters into their own hands. This trend has already begun in the form of small teams “going rogue” and purchasing lightweight, easy to use, flexible, learning management systems. It’s just easier than wrestling with the bureaucracy of a big corporate enterprise training division of HR and their cumbersome systems.
It’s time to rethink how content gets created. Training departments need to loosen their grip on the training content creation processes. Since employees are getting more and more comfortable creating their own content we should find the opportunities instead of fearing the results. Making teaching part of your learning strategy is only one suggestion. It might work better in some areas of your business than others. It’s up to you to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You need to be okay with some early failures too. But know that you will find the right mix and once again be able to handle the multitude of training requests, and add value to the business.