Posted in Blog News

It’s Learning, but not as we know it

I’m learning. Today I am on the train to London learning how difficult it is to fit my laptop, a cup of tea and my phone onto one of those flap down tables. Do the tables get smaller or the teas get larger? OK, this maybe a trivial example, but we are all learning all of the time and this applies to work as well as life. You may be learning something new from reading this blog, because the way we learn is changing.

Classroom based training is brilliant, there are some topics and concepts for which this is the ideal training medium, but there are also some where it absolutely isn’t – something learners and even the trainers would agree about.

Infrastructure Organisations are facing up to having their resources stretched and budgets squeezed at the moment. Unfortunately in the round of savings this can lead to some staff receiving no training at all. Recent research for the new UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac by NCVO shows that 18% of organisations provide no training at all for staff and of these 20% said that that training was too expensive or they had not money for training. Skills 3rd Sector research has found that 78% of the organisations they surveyed stated cost was a barrier to provision of training and 82% that time away from the office prevented more staff from taking part in it.


Clearly this is not ideal for any organisation, however it is something that local infrastructure bodies can potentially address through an increased use of digital tools. Not in isolation, but as part of a blend with more traditional styles of learning.

So I’m suggesting a few ideas and innovations in learning that are worth considering.

Some of them are available right now, some are emerging ideas and others, some say, are merely science fiction! Not all of these will sit comfortably with the traditional view of an infrastructure organisation and may involve a shift in culture of income generation. See what you think and if you are attending #vcsscamp on 25th June I’d really like to hear you thoughts on them.

  • Social Media websites are where many of your members and supporters already are. They use them to raise awareness, take donations and have conversations. So why not use them for learning – a 360° approach to learning. For example by using blogs and Twitter before a classroom session to prepare learners and then Facebook Groups, Podcasts or You Tube videos afterwards to offer speaker talks. An online peer support community for training can even be used to inform the next round of that course.
  • Research using the simple ‘hashtag’ (#) on Twitter has enormous power to bring together people who may not know each other but are interested in the same subject. ‘Tweet chats’ gather people around a shared interest. Groups of people talking about the same subject may highlight a gap in the training market.
  • Investing in e-learning brings big cost savings in the long term. It has a ‘bite-size’ format which means people can learn any time and anywhere. This is ideal if you have a large number of volunteers or remotely based staff to equip with skills for their job but the cost of releasing them from the office or paying for travel to a training venue is prohibitive. A system with learner management can even reduce the administrative time and effort of the learning provider.
  • Course content creation also doesn’t have to be the responsibility of a single person. Many e-learning systems allow for multiple course authors and the chance for people to collaborate on content development and to share the finished product with others. Training providers could also look at working together on systems that share unfilled training places for classroom based courses.
  • Give learners the ability to own their learning by creating a personal portfolio of transferable Open Badges to recognise learners formal and informal skills.
  • Acknowledge that learners have Talent and learning isn’t just for compliance purposes. Capture informal learning and build an internal Knowledgebank or public facing repository from experiences, actions and insight originating from an organisations’ most precious asset. It’s staff.
  • Spaced Practice is not a not a new term and some organisations may already offer it informally. Many learners adopt a ‘forgetting curve’ rather than a ‘learning curve’, so this concept built into some Learning Management Systems is used to reinforce knowledge retention. After a course has ended, learning can continue via a smartphone app, by SMS texts or through podcasts & video. Reminders and course snippets are sent at regular intervals when the learner is back at work or when they need them.
  • Augmented Reality software and devices such as Google Glass within 3 years will enable us to gather information and learn just by looking at objects or situations. The Internet of Things is where objects learn from their environment, e.g. a Refrigerator automatically ordering food or Driver-less Cars learning from their surroundings.

Whatever learning styles Infrastructure Organisations can offer, one thing is certain, the way we learn and the way we offer learning is fundamentally changing.

Learning should be something that is Social & Fun. Maybe we’ll see a shift in the function of our training teams from being providers and tutors to become Digital Learning Encouragers, sifting out the ‘Good from the Googled’ and helping learners build their own Personal Learning Networks. Setting out resources to just let people learn, whenever & however suits them.

That’s probably enough on your tray to think about for now … you’ll be pleased to know that wisely I didn’t buy a cake too as there just isn’t enough room on my tray either!

Leave your comments here, or i’ll see you on the 25th for #vcsscamp.



I've worked in the voluntary sector listening to people and helping them use technology for 17 years and believe strongly that people come first and technology second. My latest work is with Lasa helping older people's organisations small social chare charities use tablet devices for living well and develop their own technology plans & ideas. I'm always learning from people I talk to at meet-ups and bring experience of running the NetSquared Midlands Meet-up, VCSSCamp unconferences and many social media surgeries. I'm also the UK & Europe contact for the NetSquared Tech for Social Good meet ups. I connect people and communities to get the most from technology and the web. I like listening, linking and real beer & hate seeing the wheel being reinvented and sweetcorn.

2 thoughts on “It’s Learning, but not as we know it

  1. Hello!

    I like the idea of us doing things differently in terms of learning and how social media can play a part in this. I think we need a blended approach in order for everyone to benefit.

    It will be great the hear other people’s ideas as I think this is one area where things have been tried, been enthusiastically received, and then crashed and burned due to lack of take up or through a lack of confidence of using certain mediums.

    See you next week. Hope there will be lots of cake 🙂



Please join in the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s