How Learning Happens at Work

I find the topic Learning at Work extremely interesting. This post is my entry to Working/Learning blog carnival first hosted at Dave’s Whiteboard and then the second one to be hosted by Manish Mohan.

Thanks to Dave for introducing this and of course Manish for hosting this month.

Coming to the topic of discussion, I just finished reading Prof Karl Kapp’s book: Games Gadgets and Gizmos for Learning which has quite a few thoughts on how effective knowledge tranfser can happen at workplaces especially if the knowledge transfer has to happen from the Boomers to the Gamers ( the new generation).

The book talks about what Gamers would expect at work and how Gamers would want to learn at work.

This is just to indicate that it is very personal and subjective as to how an individual will want to learn at work.

For example some of my colleagues at my workplace prefer classroom trainings. They learn better when there is an instructor. There is no other way that they can learn.They need a teacher who can help them do their job.

But there are some others who learn very well on their own. These are the ones who love to explore and learn. They contantly google for information and hunt for videos in YouTube. They prefer online tutorials, wikis, blogs and cheat sheets. They do not mind making mistakes and this is the way they learn.

Most often in workplaces it happens that people are made to sit through classroom trainings when they just do not want to. There are also instances when people look for ample training and assistance at work and they are left to learn on their own.

Let me take an example here.

In a software company,  fresh technical writers are required to get familiar with a number of authoring tools like Dreamweaver, Camtasia or Framemaker.Some technical writers look for trainer led workshops with a systematic introduction to the tool followed by a demo and some exercises.

Some other technical writers would probably prefer learning the tool by themselves using online tutorials. They might love to learn the tool through trail and error.

This reminds me of the Microsoft Fligth Simulator that Prof Karl Kapp had mentioned in his book. In this game, he says you get no instructions to go about playing the game. All that you do is start playing the game and you learn from your mistakes on how to play the game better. Some people prefer learning at work in this fashion.

I guess people at work must be given enough freedom with respect to how they want to go about learning. Ultimately what people learn is more important than how they go about learning.

If people want assistance at work, give them all the assistance they need.

If people want to be left alone and learn on their own, encourage their spirit and willingness to learn and leave them alone.

Training programs or learning sessions at workplaces are mostly conducted as a formality or as part of a process.There is no meaning to learning at work this way.

Workplaces must create the right environment for the employees to learn and do their jobs well.

Employees must be encouraged to research and learn on a daily basis. Classroom trainings are not the only place where employees learn.

Learning at work must become a day to day activity.People must collaborate and learn to gain some value and improve the way they do their jobs.

E-learning, video tutorials, Wikis, blogs, instant messaging for professional purposes, cheat sheets must be encouraged and practised. Web 2.0 technologies are very effective learning tools at workplaces.

I use Web 2.0 technologies on a daily basis.

Being an Information Developer,  I need to constantly learn about new technologies.

I use Google, blogs and online tutorials to learn about new technologies. I hardly depend on anyone to tell me or give me information. I just need to know what to learn and I am on my way towards learning it. Be it a tool or application or some new technology I prefer learning things on my own.

Well, this was my point of view about Learning at Work.

I would love to know what others have to say about this topic 🙂


10 Responses

  1. Good thoughts. I think relevance is the key to real learning at work.

    Something that we don’t talk a lot about is the reality that a lot of “courses” are not geared towards learning. There’s a difference between a course that someone has to take and how people learn.

    The assumption is that because they take courses, they’re learning or inclined to learn from that course. That’s not usually the case. So we end up spending a lot of time and effort to create this costume of engaging elearning. If the course content is relevant, we don’t need to spend and much time and effort in making it engaging. I hear few complaints that google searching is boring. The reason is that people are in the mode of learning and looking for relevant data to support their needs.

    We need to consider that when we build our courses.

  2. Great thoughts Tom 🙂

  3. To reinforce Tom’s comments, I’ll quote G. K. Chesterton: there is a great difference between a man who wants to read a book, and a man who wants a book to read.

    Talking isn’t teaching, and listening isn’t learning. Sometimes, people who are already skilled in an area prefer highly structured, lecture-y classroom sessions. In part, these people believe that’s where learning happens. And in a way they’ve been conditioned to see a firehose of information as good.

    They can often remember and apply a good deal of this information, but I suspect it’s because what they remember already connects so closely to what they know, it’s not really learning something new; it’s a minor adaptation.

    More and more I also think that lower-level, more declarative knowledge — facts and figures — can be acquired more easily in a classroom setting, but higher-level, more integrated knowledge requires you to work with it and apply it. So I can learn, say, HTML and CSS and use these in an XHTML-compliant way, but that does nothing to make me a skillful developer in terms of a web site’s usefulness to my client.

  4. Hi Rupa-
    I think you’ve hit on a lot of key themes for successful learning at work…personal preferences, freedom, trust, culture, and variety. Some of these seem so common sense yet we still struggle with implementing new things. I like how you’ve mentioned generational issues but haven’t made any clear distinctions.

    Glad to have been introduced to your blog through the carnival.

  5. Hi Rupa, It was quite an interesting read. I enjoyed reading about your views on how learning at work should happen!

  6. Thanks for all the comments here 🙂

  7. I thoroughly agree! There is a place for the traditional instructor-led classroom, but that particular mode of delivery has never been one-size-fits-all.

  8. Hi Bowman,

    Thanks for your comment here 🙂

  9. Hi Rupa,

    It was really very interesting to know how learning happens at work place. Though there are people who learn by experimenting and by their own mistakes, an instructor led training has its own role. One major benefit of classroom learning is that you can learn from others questions to the instructor and classroom participation.



  10. Great post, Rupa! You have hit upon so many of the issues we all understand and grapple with in our workplaces. It is a chaotic constellation of personalities, techniques/tools and processes that we deal with. Learning is probabilistic today and shall remain so because of the number of variables involved. It would be great to try and apply chaos theories and see if we can discover learning patterns that are generally applicable in the workplace.

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