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What’s a good learning culture?

Where do you go when you need to learn/know something? Take a course? Google it? Go to the library? Approach a co-worker? The answer to this question provides much insight into how people are coping with high information levels and high knowledge needs…and how corporations and higher education need to structure their training.

Habits die hard, but my approach to meeting my information needs has really changed in the last several years. I take several formal courses each year, but I usually find my need for knowledge is satisfied in more informal ways. Depending on what I need to learn, here’s the process:

  1. Check the software help (if it’s a program or task relating to software)
  2. Google it
  3. Ask someone (usually listservs and discussion boards – sometimes talk to an actual person)
  4. Buy a book
  5. Take a course or workshop

Most training in workplaces is geared to courses and workshops…yet that is the last place I go for help. The only time I’ll take a course is if I have a severe knowledge deficiency. Generally, other avenues meet my needs.

How should learning environments be structured? Some thoughts (apply to both physical and digital environments):

  • A space for gurus and beginners to connect (provide mentorship)
  • A space for self-expression (blog)
  • A space for debate and dialogue (discussion forum/listserv)
  • A space to search for archived knowledge
  • A space to learn in a structured manner (tutorials)

The environment in which these spaces are created becomes a community. The community provides the trust, connections, and serendipity to meet knowledge needs and foster innovation that allows for knowledge creation. Knowledge management is only partially about capturing and sharing knowledge. An effective learning environment also creates knowledge.

I would love to see college courses structured to account for this manner of knowledge acquisition. When learning a completely new task, some structure of content is needed. As the learner grows in skill/knowledge, the structure should give way to increased support via forums of exploration and learner self-evaluation (i.e. what do I need to know? Where can I go to find it?). Year One of a new program should somewhat resemble courses (i.e. provide structured exposure to content)…but subsequent years should resemble the way in which knowledge will be acquired once in the workplace. As I’ve stated before: “Small communities of practice, loosely joined, are the future of effective, lifelong learning…”

The creation of a better learning environment isn’t really a difficult task. The tools exist (most with open source versions), the need is evident…the only thing needed is realization of the changing nature of learner needs…and the implementation of a community-focused, feature-rich learning environment (notice I didn’t say LMS…:)).

9 Comments

  1. What’s a good learning environment?

    More from elearnspace blog, What’s a g

    Monday, September 15, 2003 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  2. Good learning culture

    George has some great observations on what might make good learning culture.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003 at 4:09 am | Permalink
  3. teachnology wrote:

    What’s a good learning culture?

    \”Where do you go when you need to learn/know something? Take a course? Google it? Go to the library? Approach a co-worker? The answer to this question provides much insight into how people are coping with high information levels and high knowledge needs.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  4. So True

    A tremendous proportion of what I do as a teacher derives from my conviction that I’m not such a very important part of the process. I don’t mean to suggest that I don’t lecture, or give assignments, or those other teacherly things; b…

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003 at 2:20 am | Permalink
  5. What’s a good learning culture?

    In What’s a good learning culture? George presents a very informative and interesting personal experience about satisfying information seeking needs. Apart from the fact that "information need" seems to be used interchangeably with/for "…

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003 at 5:04 am | Permalink
  6. alison West wrote:

    Yes I agree but as both traditional tutor and student and distance tutor and student over the years I think it varies immensely according to the subject and why you are doing it. When I did management accountancy I wanted a very efficient and packaged form of learning and certainly did not want to talk to other people about it.
    However, doing women’s studies it made a huge difference to have at least some group or face to face tuition. What would be helpful is the emergence of agreement in the educational establishment about what subjects and bits of subject are likely in most cases to be best delivered by which method.
    The National Extension College has been running pilots to work out what online learning and support seems to work well and the categorisation you give in terms of spaces would accord with what we have found. Some students don’t like the more informal kind of chat, others do.
    All still in flux,
    Alison

    Thursday, September 18, 2003 at 9:08 am | Permalink
  7. LionKimbro wrote:

    # A space for gurus and beginners to connect (provide mentorship)
    # A space for self-expression (blog)
    # A space for debate and dialogue (discussion forum/listserv)
    # A space to search for archived knowledge
    # A space to learn in a structured manner (tutorials)

    We have all of this in the wxPython community. (http://wiki.wxpython.org/index.cgi/FrontPage)
    People aren’t used to the “self-expression” thing, but the rest are pretty firmly entrenched.

    Saturday, September 20, 2003 at 6:43 am | Permalink
  8. tze wrote:

    I think a space to manage one’s research materials is needed. It can be like a blog or small KM system, a systematic organizer for one to store and retrieve relevant info, urls. This of course, can be shared.

    Wednesday, November 5, 2003 at 7:06 am | Permalink
  9. Craig Godbeer wrote:

    I am currently researching my thesis, with regards to what a learning culture should be – best practices, and how is can be developed. Do you know of other sources of information, relating specifically to Learning Cultures, which I could get hold of?

    Thanks

    Tuesday, November 18, 2003 at 3:50 am | Permalink