Sketchnote about the future of learning. It is a venn diagram with the independent components of community, content, events, and the intent is to show all must work together in the future of learning.

Future of Work Is Nothing Without Consideration For The Future of Learning

Are people talking about the future of learning? I see lots of headlines about the future of work on the front pages of our newspapers. The covers of magazines on the end caps of grocery store aisles feature companies who just went all in on forever work from home policies. Email subject lines feature interviews with startup founders who are looking for talent outside of Silicon Valley. A quick Amazon search of titles related to the Future of Work features a PBS documentary available on Prime as well as an endless number of books on the future of work with publication dates ranging from long before the pandemic to as recent as November 2021. The future of work is a major topic of conversation.

And a conversation on the future of work without a simultaneous conversation on the future of learning misses the mark.

Get Focused on Learning

Professional development needs an update. It’s time to level up training and development, and finally put the focus on learning.

At Modern Learners, being focused on learning is central to our existence. We’ve supported hundreds of schools around the world in building strong cultures of learning. The forthcoming thoughts are not about the future of school or the future of education. We have seen our principles and our frameworks expand outside education because the concept of learning can be more universally applied.

We define learning as wanting to learn more.

Are you inspiring your employees, your students, your event attendees, or your members to learn more?If you don’t know, keep reading!

We’ll explore the sense we are making of modern learning in a post-pandemic era and the impact learning will have on the future of work.

The Three Components Crucial to the Future of Learning

Modern learning consists of three components. The independent pieces will become increasingly more interdependent as we move into the post-pandemic era. The components are:

  • Community: a group of people wanting to learn more and connect with others
  • Content: information made available in a variety of sources and a in variety of mediums that will serve as an anchor for learning
  • Events: gathering of people committed to learning more (online, in-person, or both)

Learning organizations understand the importance of combining community, content, and events in order to build a strong culture of learning inside learning organizations. Peter Senge defined what a learning organization is in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. He stated, “a learning organization is one where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

Learning organizations grow and develop their organization by nurturing their people. As a result, they are better positioned to innovate, remain competitive, and have strong relationships among the people in the organization.

The Components Cannot Stand Alone

In a pre-pandemic era, the components of training and development could stand alone. But if the goal is to embrace being a learning organization in the post-pandemic era, they can’t. During the pandemic, people in every industry were faced with a barrage of offers for free events and online courses. At first, many dove right in because they had a need to upskill fast. Now, heading into the third year of the pandemic, people are tired. Screen fatigue is real. Making sense of the one-off events is complicated. And, the logins for those online courses remain tucked safely away in the email inbox never to be seen again. And more than anything, people are craving connection and a sense of community.

If organizations want to get a return on their investment on learning, the components must be seen as interdependent parts of the whole. When making decisions about professional learning opportunities, people must understand the best experiences will contain all three components: community, content, and events. The ones that don’t contain all three components can be left unopened in your inbox.

This is The Problem When Components Stand Alone

It’s not until one experiences the synergy of the components working together in tandem to create joyful learning experiences can one see the problems each component faces on its own.

Content alone:

Commissioned blog posts and highly produced video content placed in a fancy online course that is held in a super sleek learning management system are great. Usually they have high quality graphics, vide animations, and quality sound. Here’s the issue – no one uses the content. Unless it’s compliance training like blood born pathogens or email phishing alert videos, no one is spending enough time in the content to have an impact. Sure there is access, but access without use yields no benefit.

Access – Use = No Benefit

Access + Use = Benefit.

Community alone:

People find themselves in a group with other like-minded people. When that happens, it feels really good. They finally feel like they belong. At some point though, they realize there is no direction for the conversation. There is nothing to make sense of, and this community feels like a really loud echo chamber of people saying the same thing over and over again.

Churn is high.

People regularly outgrow the community.

Events alone:

The once-a-year cadence of the industry-leading events proved to be overwhelming with too much content, too many people, and maybe even too much alcohol. Cramming everything into two or three days because the organization won’t connect with members until next year. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen more one-hour events than ever before. In both cases, the annual event or the one-hour webinar, the events tend to serve the organization more than the attendees. Sure, event organizers wanted attendees to have a great experience. Happy attendees come back and bring a friends.

The purpose of the event was to recruit new or retain old customers. The goal of the event was marketing.

The goal was not learning.

Future of Learning Solutions Require Components To Become Interdependent

The best examples of modern learning will occur when community, content, and events work together to create a joyful learning experience absent of rigid location restraints and time frames. Learning has no end. When developing the organization’s future learning plan, it is imperative not to leave a single component out. This is what happens:

Events + Content – Community = No Sense-Making

If community is missing from the equation, the learning experience will lack clarity and continuity. The community forms as people strive to make sense of the learning together. Sense is made through community conversations about the content at events.

Community + Events – Content = No Common Purpose

Take content out of the equation, and there ends up being no common purpose to be in the community or at events. There is no direction. There is nothing to make sense of in community conversations at events.

Community + Content – Events = No Urgency to Engage

Without events, people have no urgency to engage. There is no starting point or opportunity to recommit to the learning. Connection happens at a deeper level when it is multi-sensory. Hearing voices and seeing facial expressions deepen the connection and the deeper the connection the stronger the community.

Need Help Designing Your Organization’s Plan for The Future of Learning?

Our team at Modern Learners has figured out how to support organizations in designing and executing their future of learning plans.

Imagine having a critical friend supporting you in thinking through community, content, and events. Imagine having a critical friend who knows what technology tools support your future of learning plans.

We are that critical friend. That is what we do. We support organizations in bringing all the pieces together.

We help organizations learn.

And when organizations learn, so do their people.

If you need our help, choose between these two options

  • Option 1: Schedule an appointment with our team to discuss pricing for our Future of Learning package.
  • Option 2: Get our newsletter updates. You hear from us about once a week. We’ll tell you about the the events we’re supporting and the communities we’re building. We’re also in the in the middle of writing a super helpful ebook, and there are several chapters that will prove to be helpful. I think our suggestions on the tech you’ll need to make all these things happen will be highly beneficial. If you get our newsletter updates, you’ll be the first to know when that is ready.

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    10 thoughts on “Future of Work Is Nothing Without Consideration For The Future of Learning”

    1. The Future of Learning three components are essential to learning as defined. I believe there are several other considerations like:
      1. Clearly defining what is to be learned? What are the Learning Outcomes? The focus here is on the output, not the input.
      2. How are those learning outcomes best learned? It somewhat depends on the learner and what they need.
      3. How can we create ideal learning experiences customized for each learner.

      These are some of my thoughts! I would welcome an opportunity to chat about the Future of Learning with you.

      1. Melissa Emler

        Thanks for commenting Patrick! While I agree that learning outcomes need to be clearly defined, I would ask who needs to define them. At Modern Learners we support the agency being with the learner. We would advocate for co-creating the ideal learning experiences with the learner, and our focus would be less on teaching strategies than on learner strategies. It might feel like a semantics issue, but keeping the focus on the learner and the learning is what we do.

    2. Dr. Jason Johnston

      Hi Melissa

      I love this concept and your explanations. I’ve used the Community of Inquiry theory for years to help instructors conceptualize how to create learning experiences ( https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/ ), but I really like the shift from “social” to “community” and from “teacher” to “events.” It feels much more accurate to the modern experience and the importance of “co-creating” rather than teacher dependence. Is this your own concept? Do you have any other longer papers/studies on this?

      Thanks!

      Jason

      1. Missy

        Thanks so much Jason! Modern Learners has been working with K12 schools for several years, and we have lots of relevant work in that space. In the midst of COVID, our #focusonlearning brought in several clients outside of our K12 world. We started hosting events and building communities based on the things we had learned in our work. I’m in the process of writing our first ebook with our new learning. There is so much more we have to share, so stay tuned! And thanks again for reading and commenting. It means so much to know people found the work valubale.

        1. Jason Johnston

          Thank you – looking forward to reading and learning more!

    3. Hi, thanks for the nice graph and explanations. I miss the importance of conversations for learning – I’d say that it would be more accurate to say conversations in stead of events.

      1. Missy

        Hi Joitske, I hear what you are saying. I think the container for the future of learning contains thinking and conversations and that actually happens in all components. Thanks again for pushing my thinking.

    4. Very useful diagram. I cannot see any creative commons license so I wonder if I may use the image in a blog post or on a presentation slide and if so what credit should I give?

      1. Missy

        Thanks for asking! Feel free to give attribution to Melissa Emler at Modern Learners. And I’m happy for you to use it if it makes sense. I’ll figure out the creative commons licensing at some point.

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