Written by:

Holly Macdonald


April 15, 2010

I am working on several things which cluster around the theme of 21st century learning.  I’m developing workshops, helping clients craft  strategies, providing context in a variety of ways to other clients/peers/readers around 21st century learning, which also goes by “social media in learning” and “Web 2.0 to train, support and develop”.   

It has me reflecting.  What does 21st century learning strategy mean to me?  Is it all about technology?  Is it skills-oriented? Is strategy really that different now than it was in say 1997?

Here’s a pretty typical approach to developing a learning strategy:

  1. Identify the business drivers? – knowing why you are doing something is THE most important thing. What is the business case? – can you show that investments in staff will impact the business?
  2. Articulate learning governance – who are the key stakeholders and what is the decision making process 
  3. Why are you doing things a certain way?  For example, one organization I know has a value statement “We believe you can”, and for the learning team they analyzed their approach and programs from that “lens”, and discovered that actually there was not enough that they designed and/or delivered that had that message.  From the employee’s perspective mostly it was “we don’t trust that you can, so we will show you the only approved way in this full day onsite course and if you don’t do it back on the job, we’ll probably make you take a refresher course.” 
  4. What is your needs assessment approach (or what has your needs assessment revealed?) – what skills/knowledge do they need?  How can they best participate in training?  Do you have a blend of high tech and high touch?
  5. Translate to an actual business plan – do a work breakdown structure/swimlane flowchart – estimate how long it will take to do these things.  I think (although I’m no expert in this) that most strategies fail due to poor implementation, which requires diligent, rigorous planning.
  6. Technology plan/infrastructure – your strategy will have a tech component, natch, so how will you deliver? track? connect? design? What exists already?
  7. How will you communicate/market your strategy – someone once told me that you need to deliver a message 3-7 times in a variety of channels to ensure it gets through.  I don’t know if it is scientific, but it works for me and I have stuck to it like gospel ever since.
  8. Evaluation  – evaluate the process, the outcomes, the business impact, the inputs, the quality, quantity – metrics are your friend. 

So, my needs assessment process and output will look radically different today than it did 10 years ago.  Example, for output, I know my audience will use handhelds much more prevalently than before, so apps and augmented reality would show up.  They might live far, far away, so technical and performance support will be more important, as will constant accessibility.  But I might also have a demographic bulge to consider – will there be a mass exodus of senior folks or a trickle?  Will the Gen Xers get frustrated and all leave to become consultants (oh wait, that’s just me)?  Will those Millenials actually flit from job to job or is that a myth?

My technology plan will also include a more complex set of requirements.  My communication plan will have way more channels and will encourage two-way communications.  My evaluation approach will also have more options for collecting process related data.

But overall, the big elements (why and what) will still be the same.  The “how” will have more options and need more continuous improvement.  But, basic building blocks are still the same.  Whew, what a relief!