Integrating Learning Into Work: Design the Context, Not Just the Technology

Integrating Learning Into Work: Design the Context, Not Just the Technology

Adam Neaman (Citadel Global Equities, USA) and Victoria J. Marsick (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4111-0.ch001


In this chapter, the authors argue for designing the context, not just the technology, of e-learning simulations (eSims). They examine the limitations of “pure” eSims (i.e., not involving human-delivered feedback) in light of design challenges for informal learning, and learning transfer, in today's knowledge-intensive work environment when solutions call for creative responses to messy, non-structured tasks in different organizational contexts. Authentic learning on realistic tasks is needed in the design of eSims in such situations. Neaman describes ways that directed performance support (DPS), an approach he pioneered, helps to overcome such limitations. He identifies a core set of DPS guidelines that others can use to adapt and utilize DPS designs in their eSimS. Using a system dynamics framework, Marsick discusses organizational barriers and supports that also need to be considered in eSim learning design for effective engagement and learning transfer.
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Simulations: A Formal Approach To Learning By Doing

Simulations are useful for developing many skills that are best learned in the workplace. One reason is that simulations embody implicit guidelines and rules that emerge through action. Tacit knowing (Polyani, 1966), which is fundamental to expert performance, remains below the level of consciousness and verbal expression in the course of actual practice—whether that practice occurs in “real” situations or simulated ones.

Marsick and Watkins (1990) defined informal and incidental learning in contrast to classroom-based, structured training. Control of informal learning choices rests primarily in the hands of the individual (Watkins & Marsick, 2014). It is stimulated and guided by intentions or interests, even though learners might not set formal goals or follow planned activities. Incidental learning, by contrast, is an unintentional byproduct of some other activity. It is organic, and acquired through action, often in interaction with others at work (Eraut, 2004; Marsick & Watkins, 2014). This recast perspective supports examination of ways that technology-supported learning has changed over time, and how it is being woven into the context of people’s work in ways that drive engagement.

Many theories posit that people learn by doing in cycles of action and reflection (Dewey, 1916, 1938; Kolb, 1983; Piaget, as cited in Gruber & Voneche 1977; Schön 1983, 1989). The authors argue that people naturally learn to do their jobs by doing them, not in a classroom. Bear, Tompson, Morrison, Vickers, Paradise et al. (2008) “estimated that informal learning accounts for up to 75% of learning in organizations” (as cited in Noe, Clarke, & Klein, 2014, p. 147). The learning by doing that naturally occurs in organizations is therefore an excellent guide for impactful learning design in organizations. Want people to learn accounting? Have them do the accounting for an organization. Want them to learn to facilitate meetings? Have them do that.

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