Can Learning Really be Managed?
Organizations today can become very complex with overarching departments and internal hierarchies. When the number of employees increases to a critical mass, then systems are put in place to manage employees.
In fact, everything in an organization is managed by a system or structure.
Finances are managed.
Human resources are managed.
Facilities are managed.
Sales are managed.
And learning is managed.
But can learning really be managed in the same respect as the other departments?
Monitor Instead of Manage
Most people will concede that learning can be managed, but if you think about it for a moment, it actually becomes quite apparent that learning really cannot be managed in the traditional sense.
Sure, we have learning management systems, but all they do is manage learning content (much like a content management system expect with a specific niche). Truth is, we are constantly learning, it just isn’t always being recorded.
Instead of “learning management”, I believe that a more appropriate term is “learning monitoring”. Organizations often invest in systems that allow them to not only deliver content (or virtually manage it), but to monitor the learning behaviors of employees.
The technology often used to monitor learning is SCORM. But SCORM provides a rather narrow view of the entire learning picture. New protocols like Tin Can (Experience) API provide more insight and possibilities, but it is still very much in its infancy.
The reality is that we will never be able to fully monitor learning in a living and breathing organization, but we can see its “footprint”. If a robust elearning program is administered, then we can monitor the results – or the outputs – from the learning by tying it to something measurable.
This is why learning assessment theories, such as the Kirkpatrick model, are useful. While far from perfect, it allows us to monitor the impact of employee learning.
Understanding this subtlety in learning delivery will change your approach to elearning development, implementation, and (most importantly) assessment.