I’m not sure that there is much of 2020 that we will look back on in fondness, but I think those of us in the professional learning and development industry should at least be patting ourselves on the back. Let me explain…
When the lockdown was rumoured, the team I had worked with on and off for years gathered on a teleconference on a Sunday morning to check that they had everything they needed to start remote delivery of a financial adviser’s induction programme the very next day. We had collectively taken the decision two days earlier as we were confident that we already had the all the collateral and skills to implement this change. Five years earlier we had moved the 16-week face to face programme to one that was not classroom bound and included a blend of remote learning and trainer led sessions, including a number conducted over webinar. The learning had been modulised at the same time which meant each session was stand alone and therefore we could simply rearrange the programme’s timetable to meet the new requirements. The only thing the trainers were left with was getting to grips with is how to conduct effective role plays remotely.
what insight they showed by embracing current and emerging technology to change the traditional way of doing things.
Curiously, the driver for this change all those years ago was to make the programme more accessible; staying away from home for weeks on end no longer fitted with many potential recruits’ lifestyle and this new approach also meant we could train many more than the traditional face to face group in one cohort. Looking back, the stakeholder who instigated this change could never have predicted the events of 2020 but what insight they showed by embracing current and emerging technology to change the traditional way of doing things.
Contrast this to the education sector. My boys, who were in years 9 and 10 at the time, had no interactive or teacher led lessons during the first lock down. Whilst other schools were getting to grips with technology, their school sent out test paper upon test paper to sit. These tests couldn’t be completed online and so relied on parents having the facilities to print them off in order for their children to get their completed ‘tick’. The only way they could have their work marked was by sending the teachers photos of their work. Many couldn’t either complete the test as they weren’t able to print the work out or teachers couldn’t read what was sent back and so the learning all but stopped. And although during the second lockdown and continued intermittent isolation periods as infection levels rise in schools, they have finally started to issue Loom lessons and use Google classrooms, they keep the microphones muted and only communicate via the chat function. Their headmaster now speaks of his ‘blended learning’ approach like it is something revolutionary.
In our industry, we have been taking a blended approach to learning for years, using a combination of different media to get the message across as colleagues time out of the business became more and more restricted. We have also been making our learning assessible to all for years. We use videos, audio and interactive documents to help bring the message to life but also to accommodate those who finding learning a challenge. As a parent of a child who does have learning difficulties, I can tell you that is certainly not something that they consider on a regular basis during their lesson planning. Many of us are even starting to explore using Virtual Reality and gaming concepts as well to enhance the experience although the cost and lead time in this area is a bit of a blocker currently.
The narrative of adapt and overcome has been a common one of 2020. With our level of knowledge and skills, most colleagues only faced a temporary pause in their development if any break at all. In fact, many have used the time they have reclaimed from not having to commute to learn. For that, I think we should all be giving ourselves a massive pat on the back. I always try to seek the opportunity in every challenge; I think there is now the prospect to share our practises with the education sector, helping to revolutionise the education system and move that into the 21st century too.