Learning Is Not a Hat: One Size Does Not Fit All!

Being that Mother’s Day is right around the corner, I wanted to pay tribute to my mother and the positive impact she had on my learning journey. Without her influence, I certainly would have gone astray – who knows where I would have wound up. Given my mom’s passion for education and learning, I was probably bound to attend the ASU-GSV Summit nearly two weeks ago in San Diego. It was a conference she would have loved to attend where great keynote speakers such as Michael Moe, Condoleezza Rice and Bill Gates shared personal insights on the challenges the education world faces today. The three-day EdTech focused event crystalized my long held belief that learning is not like a hat where one size fits all. Instead, each one of us has our own unique way of learning that unfortunately isn’t always addressed in a traditional classroom setting.

I’ll explain this concept a bit more by sharing the way I learn and how that differs from traditional training or education. Throughout my entire student life, I longed for engaging learning experiences where textbooks weren’t being shoved in my face during static lectures that found me confined to my school desk. Like many, I made it through college and got my degree, but to say I learned anything of value might be a stretch. Admittedly, I am one of those people that came out of the womb wondering “What’s in it for me?,” which is sometimes referred to as WIIFM. This mentality presented itself during my years in pre-school and has continued throughout my lifelong learning journey. For example, each time I am presented with information that interests me, I become immersed in the topic, and I work feverishly to review the content (be it articles, books, videos, games, etc.). From there, I attempt to apply my new found knowledge in order to determine the value of what I just learned. Can you imagine trying to train someone like me at a large company on compliance related topics with tools like video, lengthy e-learning programs or, heaven forbid, a power point deck? The likelihood of success on that endeavor would be less than zero because, unless forced to, I would never even click on the link to open the email that gives access to the training – let alone read and retain any of the content.

So the question becomes, how can an organization or educator transcend a model that assumes all people learn the same to one where the learner chooses their own learning path? To reference Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, it starts by recognizing that individuals possess different kinds of minds and therefore process knowledge differently. That being said, there is not one technology or learning platform that can do it all, including your LMS, MOOC, etc. Once an organization accepts this fact, it can then focus on providing learners with a wide array of tools and solutions so that each individual can create their own culture of learning. As you can see from the data conducted by Bersin by Deloitte in the chart below, the modern learner differs vastly from the one of former times. Therefore addressing this issue, while it may be daunting, is essential if companies want to close the skills gaps with their existing workforces versus recruiting new employees each time a need arises.

Average Learner's Day...
Source: Bersin by Deloitte

The good news is that there has never been a better time to look for alternative learning solutions as the investment in education technology has gone from a reported $550M in 2010 to $2.1B today. So keep your chin up, and remember that learning is not like a hat for one-size certainly does not fit all.