Disdaining terms that conjure the schoolhouse may be advantageous to corporate learning strategy. But learning leaders shouldn’t completely ignore what’s happening in that environment if they want their companies to excel, said Jim Leslie, CEO of Flipgrid parent Vidku.
K-12 education is all about building foundational skills. As students transition into higher education, they get into foundational skills specific to a field of interest. In the corporate environment, on the other hand, learning has historically existed for specific needs at the outset, to guide employees down a known path.
Content is centrally organized, Leslie said. It’s known and then distributed to the team. In these instances, the objective is to ensure that employees understand the learning material shared with them. That approach still has its place today, he said, but most learning and development strategies increasingly revolve around active social learning.
“The information is not just in one central location at the top of the organization, but is distributed among the entire team and has context globally at all lines of the organization,” Leslie explained. “What the company is trying to accomplish is to assimilate, analyze and share discovery around that distributed information.”
Essentially, learning expectations are different today and call for more active social learning, thanks to the accelerated pace of business and change. Traditional approaches that rely solely on rote memorization-type learning aren’t efficient if companies want to perform well on the global stage.
Lucky for learning leaders, Leslie said first-time employees are primed for active social learning and blended learning techniques thanks to experiences they’ve had in grade-school and university classrooms.
An evolving business environment is forcing companies to enable workers to be effective in a volatile, highly complex context that may not have a known, much less one single path forward. Given the overarching objective of many education systems — to prepare young people with critical skills they will apply later — Leslie said academic and corporate learning strategies are increasingly overlapping and will continue to do so in the future. He offered some parallels happening in schools that he’s also seeing in companies:
Developing individualized learning: Institutions are trying to meet students where they are. Whether at K-12 or university level, Leslie said instructors are helping students learn in a variety of ways: reading and writing, discussions, the arts and other vehicles for students to digest and understand, evaluate and internalize information.
Promoting civil discourse: “Students today either are currently or certainly will operate as adults within a global community,” Leslie said. Since young people will need to understand how to navigate and function with people who have different experiences and views from their own, schools are increasingly helping students learn how to explore different perspectives and essentially become global citizens.
This preparation has value on the business front and is increasingly perpetuated in corporate learning and development efforts. “A successful international company becomes successful because it is effective and connected to its market on a regional or local level,” Leslie said.
School teachers might not instruct students with that exact reality in mind, but Leslie said he’s seen high schools develop specific initiatives around civil discourse that prove more valuable with time for participating students. The programs might include the community within the school but may include sister schools or classes from different regions of the world to engage in the discovery of new perspectives together.
Valuing shared experiences: It’s one thing to learn a concept but quite another to look at it through the lens of someone’s personal experience, Leslie said. Whether in-person or with tools like Flipgrid, which allows a community of learners to have video discussions, students are encouraged to share their experiences on a topic and in doing so create greater understanding for themselves and their peers. Leslie said in moving away from an exclusively theory-and-memorization framework to one that includes learners’ personal experiences, teachers help students create a deeper understanding of a theoretical subject that now has color and context. And, when the information is more personally relevant to young learners, they are more likely to retain it.
That same thought process has similar value for adult learners. “Teachers are some of the most creative people in the world,” Leslie said of the schoolhouse and university parallels that learning leaders should think about as craft their own learning strategies and determine the most effective ways to engage learners.
He said the learning leaders he’s encountered often have an education background, and by and large already have a healthy respect for others’ experiences and approaches in the learning community, including those who teach children, teenagers and young adults. But as far as gaining exposure to these peers?
Leslie said learning leaders can follow teachers’ blogs, attend conferences that allow corporate learning leaders to see where innovation is happening, and follow news and insights from education technology companies.
Becoming engaged in this community shouldn’t be hard at all. “What’s really wonderful about educators is that when they find something new that works, they share it,” he said. “They don’t try and hold on to it as their secret; they want the world to know what’s working so that others can benefit from it as well.”
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.