(Priya Thiyagarajan, Deputy Head – Instructional Design with TATA Interactive Systems takes a pot at the Learning Circuits Blog’s Big Question for March 2008.)
My peer group is an organic encyclopedia. I sometimes fancy that among us, we’ll have the answers to most of the questions in the world—from the meaning of “hemi demisemiquaver” to the benefits of proportional representation in a democracy to the nuances of RFID implementation.
That’s because we are the Facebook-ing, Youtube-ing, Wiki-ing, blog-ing knowledge-age kids on the block. We are in the driver seats of those earthmovers that are busy flattening the world. Information is our faith and fodder.
Our intellectual biceps may be well developed, but it is debatable whether that makes us faster or more competent workers. Most of our knowledge is context-less, so many bits of data, pushed to us by a ubiquitous and aggressive web of new-age technology.
This is just the tip of the crisis iceberg. IDC reports that the amount of information created, captured, and replicated in the digital universe in 2007 was 281 exabytes (or 281 billion gigabytes), outstripping the knowledge created by all the books ever written by a few million times, its gargantuan appetite swallowing all the existing storage options. And it is only going to get worse. In 2011, there will be nearly 1,800 exabytes of information created.
Whither this information? What is the sane way of cataloguing, prioritizing, and processing this? How can this stupendous amount of data be distilled into something that can be useful and beneficial to us?
More importantly, are we left to fend for ourselves in this binary jungle?
IT service providers are definitely part of the rescue team, with their powerful, context-sensitive, and intuitive decision support tools that makes sense of this data. But what about enterprise support functions such as Learning & Development and Knowledge Management? Where do they stand?
Which brings me to the Big Question of the month from the Learning Circuits Blog: “What is the Scope of our Responsibility as Learning Professionals (for supporting Long Tail learning)?”
The primary responsibility, I believe, is to populate the Long Tail with “chicken soup” content.
“Chicken soup” courses are wholesome, healthy, without frills, and easy to digest. In a sea of bewildering information, they are the safe haven, dependable guys, curtain raisers, and anchors.
The key features of such courses are as follows:
- They are short.
- They are simple.
- They give a succinct overview of the facts/concepts/processes/principles.
- They have a sound instructional design foundation.
- The quality of content is high.
- They form the conduit for “deep dive” learning, if the learners so desire.
- They are easy and relatively economical to develop and maintain.
As I see it, the edifice of learning content in an enterprise needs to be modeled as follows:
Why should learning professionals be responsible for this, you might ask. What about Subject Matter Experts? What about the learners themselves?
The answer is simple: learning professionals have the necessary ID competencies to analyze, deconstruct, mould, and re-construct raw content into learning gold. They may not know how recidivists are dealt by Collections, but they sure know what standard to peg the course at, how much content is the right amount, where the interactivities could go, and what the learner should be tested on.
In addition to developing and owning the “chicken soup” content, I see learning professionals responsible for moderating, maintaining, and measuring the learning content of an enterprise.
I am not suggesting a police nation here. I see the learning professionals moderating the learning system for quality and relevance of content. I also see them facilitating participation in social learning.
As continuous improvement becomes a culture, learning professionals, in collaboration with SMEs, need to update learning content to make it current and useful.
Learning professionals should be responsible for measuring the effectiveness of learning out there, using parameters that are developed in collaboration with HR. This measurement will feed into the continuous improvement cycle.
To conclude, I view the role of a learning professional as that of a guide, who helps learners navigate through the tricky maze of information overload.