From remote training towards learning communities
Autopoietic systems introduced by Maturana & Varela are processes networks with a purpose and the ability to take actions to assure their persistence. One example: learning communities. And this is what a company is (especially if operating in the Knowledge economy). A company is a well connected relational network where knowledge flows. Not any company member must be an expert on every topic, but the company as a whole should assure it always acts wisely. This is a crucial starting point for an effective remote training strategy.
This system dimension must not be an excuse to neglect individual contributions such as divergent thoughts or workflows. Brilliant points of view, major breakthroughs, and imaginative ideas are likely to be outside of the mainstream boundaries, far away from truisms and outside of the comfort zone.
Connectivism. A learning model to support learning communities.
Connectivism learning paradigm is a good starting point for any distributed or remote training effort, especially in knowledge-intensive companies. If you want more details about connectivism you can follow the yellow lines: [ref , ref ]
- Knowledge construction takes place in individuals, but the training process is not an individual activity.
- Individuals cannot have the whole knowledge within a group.
- Learning occurs when nodes (specialized knowledge sources) are connected.
- Knowing where to find something or who to ask about is as important as knowing something.
- Dr. Karen Stephenson said “I store my knowledge in my Friends’. Brilliant.
Applications of connectivism to remote training and distributed companies.
Cool. Now, how can we map these theoretical assumptions and principles into usable directions for remote training?
- We need to make visible the right connection nodes in our training actions. Whether this is a person, a group, a documents repository – a blog-, a slack channel, or any other interface we use to connect specialized knowledge and or decision sources.
- Remote and distributed companies usually are knowledge intensive fast-paced environments where creation and learning are synchronously connected and often overlapped. We should encourage to create connections with other traditional functional areas, like marketing, support… but also with developers. Anyone could take part in the development cycle. So anyone should understand how to test new features or services that are being offered, how to give feedback or even how to effectively report a bug and correct it.
- We need to be sure that any trainee masters the required searching tools for the training topic. Both to find contents in repositories (blogs, documentary DB, relational DB, slack channels, other tools…) or the right contact person.
- We need to privilege connected/grouped learning over the individual when this is possible. This also means focusing on group projects or group assignments.
Constructivism. The individual dimension of remote training and learning.
As with connectivism, there is a lot of stuff you can google on the Internet about this learning model and the expected outcomes.
In a nutshell constructivism says that:
- The best way to learn is by doing. As knowledge is built by action a practical training session with exercises is way more effective than a talk.
- Real cases are the best exercises/assignments/projects you can use.
- The preferred strategy for knowledge creation from projects/assignments: a learning group where any diverse point of view is put in common and discussed in an open, horizontal scenario.
- There is not a teacher or trainer that knows anything.
- As a result, learners can teach the teacher. Let’s give the trainer the right to be able to learn from learners.
- Trainees are the owner of their learning process. They are the most interested in developing their knowledge, abilities or skills and who knows the best their needs so they must also take part in decisions about the training sessions.
- I love this: learning realizes you.
Distributed & remote training and constructivism.
Ok, so constructivism is the fancy choice. As a result, there are some direct impacts on our training strategy:
- Above all sessions should be as much practical as possible. Workshops better than Talks.
- Secondly, sessions -especially talk format- should be as short as possible. If attendants have internet access -so always- the limit for a unidirectional talk must be around 15 minutes (e.g. WordCamps talks are 20 minutes long, but if you can stick to the flash talk format, much better).
- Sessions should contain -when feasible- a project or assignments time. My approach is toward group learnings but this doesn’t mean they need to work synchronously in the project time. You can implement ‘a blackboard’ where all the trainees put in common their insights, finding or doubts so that they are reusable. To implement this blackboard I use a blog post with mentions (p2 theme).
- Learners should take part in session planning. They should express the skills they want to sharpen. This helps learners to be engaged as to mobilize attention and effort to go through the projects/assignments.
- When the session starts, trainers should animate a discussion to select the important key points to be covered. Learners would define this way their learning paths. In the ideal case, learning paths could be different.
- Training sessions should not be mandatory. The learner is the owner of their learnings. If we are planning sessions and no one wants to attend, the problem to fix is on the side of the session, not on the learners.
Any other point of view, approaches, discussions?
I hope these directions are useful to you. But disclaimer: They come from my experiences, for sure, so a limited angle: It would be great to read and discuss other perspectives. Eagerly waiting for them…
Raúl Antón Cuadrado