Bye Bye E-Learning: Emergent Learning Paradigm More Important Than Digital Delivery Tools
You always hear educators discuss "rethinking education paradigms". But while it makes perfectly sense to find new ways to engage and connect teachers and learners, what is the right path educators should follow? Jay Cross shares his view in this article. Instead of still focusing on digital delivery tools, emergent learning seems to be the answer.
Photo credit: Mopic
Before the World Trade Center attack, the world was more predictable. Knowledge was power. Adaptability has now taken its place. Our requirements have changed.
Adaptability. This is the starting point where educators should begin reconsidering the role of the education system. In a wold where uncertainty seem to be the dominating feeling, it is crucial to get rid of all the pre-packaged theories and approaches in favor of new learning patterns that can adapt to different needs and situations.
That's why informal learning champion Jay Cross suggests a shift from "old" e-learning paradigms to emergent learning. In his own words:
Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex. Emergence is also what happened to that "utopian dream" of e-learning on the way to the future.
by Jay Cross
That future has arrived. Today a healthy percentage of learning in corporations is technology-assisted. At first we thought it was all about content, but context-free courseware failed for lack of human support. Pioneering online communities turned into ghost towns.
Then we realized that e-learning is a bundle of capabilities, not a silver bullet.
When e-learning technology supplements traditional learning, it usually saves time, money and drudgery. Properly implemented, e-learning is a powerful, cost-effective tool. No longer the "next big thing," e-learning has hit the mainstream.
Adaptability Is the Key
Before the World Trade Center attack, the world was more predictable. Knowledge was power. Adaptability has now taken its place. Our requirements have changed. Corporations and government agencies are on permanent alert. Networks have taken the slack out of the system. Timing is the critical variable. The performance metrics for troops on a plane headed to a new hot spot and for systems engineers countering a new competitive threat are the same: How soon will they be ready to perform.
Top-down, command-and-control organizations can no longer keep pace. Flexible hyper-organizations are sprouting up in their place. Teams, in-house functions, outsource providers and customers are linked in fluid, ever-changing value networks.
Resilient organizations copy the architecture of the Internet: lots of independent nodes with the ability to route around damage. People farthest from the center sense changes in the environment first, so managers wisely take control by giving control. Bottom-up organizations adjust to change as effortlessly as flocks of turning birds, while old structures are too rigid to change without sustaining damage.
This is shaky ground for the traditional training-and-development world. Biologists and complexity theorists have seen it all before.
Businesses are complex adaptive systems. In a complex system, independent pieces join together to form something entirely different and unexpected.
The best metaphor for a complex adaptive system is a living thing. Take a complex system apart, and you no longer have a complex system. As Verna Allee writes, "Cut a cow in half and you don't have two cows. You have a mess."
In their book, "It's Alive," management theorists Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer make a compelling case that business entities are living, complex systems. Many nodes-brains-come together to form something new-the corporate body. As my friend David Grebow says, it even has a Corporate IQ and, according to author David Batestone, a Corporate Soul.
E-learning vs Emergent Learning
Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex. Emergence is also what happened to that "utopian dream" of e-learning on the way to the future. Simple, old e-learning has combined with bottom-up self-organizing systems, network effects and today's environment to morph into emergent learning.
Emergent learning implies adaptation to the environment, timeliness, flexibility and space for co-creation. It is the future. We haven't figured it out yet. Or, from the perspective of complexity science, it hasn't figured itself out yet.
Why do I suggest abandoning a word like e-learning? A new term refocuses our thinking on the future. We've got to cultivate emergent learning. Emergent learning encourages experiment and innovation; e-learning fosters incrementalism and complacency.
Learning has become a core business process. Emergent learning enables us to push beyond the confines of e-learning to explore combinations with informal learning, storytelling, social network analysis, appreciative inquiry, workflow learning, conversation, contextual collaboration, organic KM, simulation, dynamic portals, expert location and blogs.
I foresee exciting times ahead.
Originally written by Jay Cross and first published on Chief Learning Officer Magazine on March 1, 2004 as "Emergent Learning".
About the author
Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, Web 2.0, and systems thinking. He served as CEO of eLearning Forum for its first five years and has keynoted major conferences in the U.S. and Europe. He is the author of Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance. Jay Cross currently helps teams apply informal / Web 2.0 learning approaches to foster collaboration and accelerate performance. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School.
Jay Cross -
Adaptability Is the Key - bornholm
Adaptive Systems - ssh
E-Learning vs Emergent Learning - Elena Volegzhanina
Reference: Chief Learning Officer [ Read more ]
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