Two weeks ago I attended a conference entitled ‘Innovative Learning‘ held at Westminster. It was a mixture of people from higher education, further education and the corporate sector. There were also quite a number of people in learning and development roles in HR divisions. I didn’t learn anything massively new, but I did pick up a few pointers for the course I ran later in the week, for People Brands on Blended Learning. Working with Steve my line manager, we delivered a day long workshop for 4 staff in exchange for them running an away day for our team, to help us plan our re-structure. It was a great opportunity to put together a day long session on good practice in blended learning, the use of video and web conferencing and building a community of practice. We allowed plenty of time for discussion and activities, including a chance for the group to make a video, a screencast (using Screencast-o-matic) and to search around to find freely licensed images, audio and video.
But back to Innovative Learning, I discovered how extensively e-learning is being used in the corporate sector, largely it seems driven by the belief that it is cheaper and saves people taking time out of their job. I think there are some types of learning and development more suited to online learning, but overall I wondered if what really happens is people do their learning in their own time, rather like I do a lot of the time? If I think back to one of the most powerful courses I did, Springboard, I wonder, would it have been enhanced if it was delivered online or in a blended way? Having the four days at Springboard workshops was really important time away from the office. But I guess some of the activities I did between classes, could have been done online instead of in the workbook.
One of the innovations discussed at the conference was flipped lectures and we’ve seen a growing interest in flipping lectures at LSE in the last month or so. The process of delivering short amounts of content in video format which is watched before attending a class and then spending the face to face time doing something more suited to working in a group makes a lot of sense to me. But then I think talking is a really important way for me to learn. That brings me to the theory we presented to the People Brands group. We referred to the work of Laurillard (the conversational framework), Malcolm Knowles (andragogy) and Wenger (Communities of Practice) and I’ve never seen people so excited by learning theories! It emphasised the importance of having research and theories to support practice as a teacher. So many times people do something because of a gut instinct, which is often right, but it’s always good to have the theory to support you.
I attended Innovative learning, partly because we are taking on a new role in CLT for Innovation. It’s interesting to ask, what is innovation? How do you encourage innovation? And is innovation always the best thing to help learning? Sometimes you just need some good theory to back you up, a willingness to engage with your learners and good learning design, not the latest gadget!