Angels on the head of a pin?

In March, LCB asked where would workplace learning be in 10 years. I responded that work and learning would continue to be more integrated and later wrote that soft skills, especially collaboration and networking, will become more important than hard skills.

Saul Carliner just wrote long-live instructor-led training, opening with:

In March 2009 the monthly question on ASTD’s Learning Circuits blog wonders what training will look like in 2019. Nearly all of the contributors predicted the death of the classroom.

and concluding:

But one question still nags; if the evidence suggests that instructor-led instruction still has a long, healthy life (whether in the classroom or online), why do bloggers continue to insist that its death is imminent?

There were many responses to LCB’s question, and a good variety of views but I cannot find a single comment that explicitly says the classroom will die. Tony Karrer takes Saul to task on many points:

Long Live what?  If his point was only to say that people claiming the death of the classroom in 10 years are wrong … and that the classroom will still be around in ten years … then I agree.  But it just seemed that his argument quickly left that and into a bunch of dubious statements.

I would claim that it’s probably much more instructive to go look at some of the individual posts cited and make up your own mind.  And I would still ask you to answer the core question: Where will you spend your time?

Instructor-led teaching in a classroom is one approach that is used in both training and education. Classroom teaching methods have been developed over the centuries. Online instructor-led teaching is a more recent method used in training and education. However, training is not education and neither training nor education are learning.

There is evidence that people learn from formal training and education. Good training can help to acquire skills and knowledge. Good education can open one’s mind and help gain knowledge.

There is also strong evidence that people learn in informal and unstructured ways and some people will learn in spite of formal education.

If you’re in the teaching and training business, you should use the optimal tools and conditions for the circumstances. If you want to argue over the death of a tool-set, then go ahead.

If you’re in the human performance or organizational effectiveness business then you need a broader scope. For the most part, you shouldn’t concern yourself with the arguments of teachers and trainers, you just want people to perform their jobs, solve problems and find new opportunities. How best to support workplace learning depends on many variables:

  • Thinking of workplace learning as only applying what has been taught is extremely limiting.
  • Thinking of work performance as mostly dependent on training is also limiting.
  • Most limiting of all is too much concern over the delivery mechanism.

2 Responses to “Angels on the head of a pin?”

  1. Carol Whittington

    I agree with you and Tony, what’s important is not what tool is used, but what helps the person attain the skills they need to succeed at what they are trying to do. Whether that is a formal training with an instructor or a wiki full of best practices or a short elearning course, the instructional designer/human performance/org development person should be there to help with the success of the operation, not the specific success of the “training department” and formal trainings. If we have to change and adapt to the new world, then that’s what we need to do.


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