‘Just in time’ learning is quite in vogue these days. I think it means ‘google it’. Instead of holding vast swathes of knowledge in my head and relying on my erratic memory to access it, i can just type it into the search engine when the time is right.
There’s an awful lot of information out there. Last week i wanted to know how to change the starter motor on a series 2 land rover. Googling it returned not one, but two different videos, as well as a host of forum posts and articles. The fact that, in the end, i just paid someone else to do it is irrelevant; these is a vast, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy style, repository of information out there, and it’s all available from my iPhone.
This is significant in terms of instructional design, training deployment and, indeed, how we work, day to day. In terms of business requirements, we have increasing demands for providing materials in this ‘just in time’ format. There is widespread recognition that individuals favour short, dynamic chunks of information in preference, or at least to supplement, more traditional training programmes.
From a technology point of view, the invasion of the iPad is rampant. Followed, no doubt, by a wave of successors, the initial impact is that there is a huge demand for quality content. Businesses and developers are seeking innovative and effective ways of utilising the technology, and the initial evidence suggests that uptake is extremely enthusiastic. We have seen uptake of iPad training Apps running at five times the level of iPhone ones.
The days of the encyclopaedia are gone: books still have a place, but anyone who thinks we can capture the definitive history of the world in a dozen dusty volumes is deluding themselves. Information is moving faster than the printing press and, questions of validity and Wikipedia credibility aside, we are struggling to keep up. If knowledge used to be power, then the power is now out of the bag, available to anyone with a mobile contract and WiFi.
Of course, there is more to ‘knowledge’ than information. Owning an encyclopaedia does not make you wise, and neither does a Nokia. The things we get from formal education and deep knowledge are still valid. You can’t easily learn analytical ability and critical reasoning from Google, although we shouldn’t sit too comfortably in our ivory towers. I remember reading about a boy in India who had completed a UK degree by distance learning, by the light of a single electric light bulb, studying into the night. In that case, the light bulb was the facilitator, the levelling technology. Today, the technology goes far beyond that. information from China is accessible to me in Bournemouth. Information from Nasa is on hand for me to access in an instant.
Our everyday activities and ways of interacting with information, participating in communities and engaging in debate are in flux. Just looking through the logs on my mobile phone, i see that i Googled six different things yesterday, from how to find a station through to the name of a musician and to try to solve a cryptic question.
If the way that we consume information is changing fast, then so it the way we produce and broadcast it. Micro blogging, macro blogging, Facebook and e-books are just a few of the myriad formats and infrastructures that we use.
It’s daunting for many, liberating for some, but however we feel about it, the online world is here to stay. It’s important that we actively seek out ways to improve the learning experience, think of innovative methodologies for training and assessment that work with all these audiences, from the nervous to the ambitious. The only thing that’s certain is that we can’t stand still.