Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning Organisations...

Remember the Basics

It seems that whenever there's a new technology platform, learning organizations get so excited they end up forgetting the basics. As Second Life grows in popularity, companies cannot afford to make this mistake. As with any other training, you still must identify the purpose of the learning before developing a program so that purpose and design align.

"Our experience shows that when people complain about learning curve, [it's] not a complaint about learning curve, but a complaint about instructional design," said Alex Heiphetz, CEO of AHG Inc., which specializes in developing tools and simulations for training and education. "[Employees] do not walk into Second Life to learn how to walk [or] how to fly."

"They walk in to better their communication skills or to better their sales skills. You design [your training] to concentrate on the skills that people need in their workplace, not on the skills that people need to navigate in Second Life."

To flatten the learning curve in Second Life, provide your trainees with multiple ways of getting from one location to another. Eventually, through experience, trainees will pick up the basics for navigating in Second Life.

"If I walk into Second Life and I need to start a communication simulation, there are three ways I can get from here to there," Heiphetz said. "I can walk or I can fly - all things that require learning - or I can teleport there [by clicking a button]. You need to create simulations in such a manner that the instructional design will support the purposes of your training."

For example, in educating an employee about how to run an annual review, training should not focus on the basics of getting around in Second Life, but instead on that specific task.

"If you have an [employee] and you want to educate him or her about how to run an annual review, the training should not involve actions outside of how to talk to an employee, how to deal with difficult people or how to clam somebody down," Heiphetz said.

But there may be situations in which employees need to understand how Second Life works. And this is why it's important to identify the purpose of learning before creating a program.

"If the same employee is manning your recruitment center and there is a [prospective recruit], and your employee needs to talk to him and maybe show him something [in Second Life], Second Life skills would be much more important for your employee [to learn]," Heiphetz said. "You really need to concentrate on what you want to achieve."

Second Life has proven to be an invaluable resource for organizations such as IBM, Microsoft, Michelin and others.

"It's a fantastic platform for learning," Heiphetz said. "You can create simulations that immerse people in an environment, and the savings are enormous."

Lindsay Edmonds Wickman
[About the Author: Lindsay Edmonds Wickman is an associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine.]

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