In this series of five articles, i’m exploring a methodology for e-learning: Context, Demonstration, Exploration, Reflection and Footsteps.
In this final article, we examine Footsteps, the path that learners take out of the learning as they take what has been taught and incorporate the knowledge, skills and frameworks into their everyday activities.
It’s easy to end up completing a piece of e-learning, even enjoying it, without actually learning anything from it or, more precisely, without changing what we do as a result of it. Taking footsteps out of the learning can be a challenging process, as it means changing what we do, and change can be difficult.
There are many quoted statistics about how we ‘forget’ 90% of what we learn within minutes, but this is missing the point. Often we don’t retain lots of the details of what’s been taught, but what we do need to take away are concepts, frames of reference, new skills, specific knowledge and the ability to incorporate that alongside existing concepts, frames of reference, existing skills and knowledge. Learning is a process of taking our existing know how, challenging it, testing it and refining what we know ‘to be true’ to incorporate the new information.
Sometimes we come across new information and it changes what we believe to be ‘right’ or ‘true’, sometimes we reject it. Either is fine, we are discerning learners, and it would be a sorry state of affairs if we just took everything at face value, but when we identify something of value, be is knowledge or skills, we want to take that forward, to identify the footsteps out of the learning to incorporate that into our activities, beliefs, knowledge and so on.
There’s a typical pattern of activity that follows the completion of a piece of learning; academic interest, a desire to change, a lack of clarity about ‘what to actually do’ followed by being swamped by ‘business as usual’. It’s often not the case that people don’t want to change, it’s just hard to change what we do in our everyday jobs to enact that change.
We are highly adaptable learners, very efficient in our activities, with a tendency to streamline our work to be efficient. By efficient, i don’t necessarily mean in a manufacturing sense, saving money, but rather in a ‘path of least resistance’ sense, whereby we deal with things rapidly (even if not efficiently) and move on. Incorporating new learning can cause us to slow down. It can challenge how we do things, how we have always done things, how we think things should be done. Sometimes making the change can just seem too challenging, or the returns might not seem worth the effort. Sometimes people just can’t see the road forward. I might complete a piece of training that shows me how to be an effective influencer, but when push comes to shove, i might just drop back into my default ‘energising’ style.
We can do things in the design of our e-learning solutions to help this situation. Extending the learning is one obvious thing to do; taking elements and making ‘post course’ follow up material, things that can be done after the event. These may not be planned or scheduled learning events, but may be activities that we send to learners by email, out of the blue.
If they have watched two people conducting a ‘one to one’ meeting, and have, during the course of the e-learning, helped them to resolve some issues, we can revisit those characters later. Maybe they have a new situation that needs some action taken, a chance for learners to revisit skills that they learnt several weeks ago. Reinforcing the learning in this way can remind learners of the details of what they were taught, as well as giving them a highly applied context in which to practice it.
Footsteps can consist of a learning plan or agreed activities. Instead of us setting ‘learning objectives’ at the start of a course, sometimes i prefer to leave it for individuals to determine their own ‘learning plan’, enabling them to complete the learning, to identify the elements that will make the most difference to them, and then documenting their own footsteps. Recording and revisiting these with individual learners can be highly productive