Do you need a fix?

The fix I am of course referring to is the good old prefix, more specifically the prefix used to identify types of learning delivery methods. The most notorious being the ‘e’ in e-learning and more recently the ‘m’ in m-learning.

There has been debate for some time as to whether the prefix should be dropped as the blog from @donaldhtayor demonstrates. The blog It’s time to drop e-learning was first published in TrainingZone in 2007 and debate still rages within the learning community. A recent poll  and following discussion  “does the prefixing (pfxg) of ‘learning’ with ‘e’ and ‘m’ add real value or does it only serve to ring-fence them as ‘different’ to other types of learning”within the UK E-learning Group on LinkedIn shows once again that the community is divided on the subject.

The rationale for dropping the prefix is probably best summed up by the profile of Craig Tayloron Twitter;

 “Dreaming of the day when we can drop the e from elearning and the m from mobile learning & just crack on….”

I love the sentiment here from the perspective of a learner (or any appropriate name for a recipient of a learning solution / programme) as the e/m/c whatever prefix has little or no relevance to them and adds no value in terms of improving overall performance. From this perspective I agree that as learning professionals we should not use jargon or buzzwords and instead speak in a language that is relevant and easily understood by our audience.

  • You wouldn’t say “we’re going to provide you with some face to face training so you can do some social learning, you’ll do some collaborative learning and  an e-learning module then you will also get some m-learning to help you embed what they’ve learned”.
  • Instead you might say, “the programme will start with some group work and exercises, which will be supported by some online activities, resources and a discussion forum, we’re also going to provide some job aids that you can access on the go”.

We’re saying the same thing but using language that people will understand much more easily. It‘sour role to remove jargon and create solutions, campaigns and programmes that don’t focus on the manner in which they’re delivered but focus on the value they bring to individuals, teams and organisations. It is our role to help determine the right solution and where appropriate the right technology to meet the need and where possible develop a range of approaches that can offer much richer and more meaningful learning experience. Technology is an enabler here but should not be the focus, bottom line for learners is the WIIFM once again – irrelevant of delivery channels, how does it link to my role and how will it improve my performance.

So does the same apply if you’re a learning professional?

We are surrounded by different types of learning or rather different delivery methods with associated pedagogy that can create conditions / environments in which people can learn:

  • E-learning
  • M-learning
  • Online learning
  • Gamification
  • Experiential learning
  • Social learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • F2F learning
  • On-the-job learning
  • Action learning

Technology has had a huge impact in our profession and the way in which people can communicate, collaborate and share information but irrelevant of technology does the list above only serve to ring-fence the different types of learning?

Does the ‘e’ or ‘m’ add value or add confusion as after all it’s all learning isn’t it?

I think that this variation and depth in terms of the options available to us as learning professionals is something to celebrate. It’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning and makes the  learning profession an exciting place to be. Workplace learning is ever changing, ever evolving, we need to evolve with it and develop new skills and capabilities ourselves. We can’t be a “jack of all trades and masters of none”, we need to encourage and recognise specialisms and expertise in creating different solutions using different tools or supporting workplace learning in ways we’ve not been able to in the past.

Let’s not get bogged down with whether it’s got a prefix or not and spend another 5 years wasting energy on the debate. As long as WE understand it, it improves performance, makes sense and adds value to our customers – who cares what it’s called and let’s crack on.

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