Reuters view of e-learning – Charles Jennings, Global Head of Learning Reuters

Notes based on a presentation by Charles Jennings at the Informatology conference, Reuters, London Thursday, 16th November.

It was a valuable experience to find out what a large blue chip corporations take is on organisational and e-learning. In his keynote speech, Charles set the scene by explaining that high levels of skill do not necessarily correlate with high levels of performance. What is in fact required in organisations is a change from training for skills to ‘learning for performance’.

Charles supported this assertion by offering some statistics that 70% of performance in the workplace is in fact dependent upon environmental factors: the interpersonal skills of the manager, the quality of feedback received, having clear objectives, etc. It is these environmental factors that impact on attitudes and ultimately on behaviours which is the key to performance.

He then went on to argue that It if 70% of performance is indeed determined by environmental factors then straight transfer of knowledge as an approach to training will is no longer be effective – arguably this is still the dominant design for many organisations.

Some further statistics were offered to illustrate the fast pace of change, important for me because they came from two surveys of ‘knowledge workers’ about 10 years apart and represent what they believed is important. The question put to the knowledge workers was something along the lines of ‘Do they believe that the retention of information in their heads is important to do their jobs well?’. In 1986, 75% believed that knowing ‘stuff’ was important for them to do their job well, this had fallen to 15-20% by 1997, and an estimated 8-10% by 2006. The rhetorical question put was “there is an argument that it is in fact better in this day and age not to know anything as information is so quickly out of date!”

Reuters model of e-learning
First, another statistic “On average less that 30% of what people learn in training actually gets used on the job.”

If this statistic is indeed correct and the others quoted above, then the corollary that access to knowledge at the right time is a key factor in improving performance.

Reuters model of e-learning is built around this belief and as such of key importance is the ability to get a package of information to a member of staff anywhere in the world on a specific topic at the moment it is needed. If you think about it, this makes sense as their staff in the field are already successful learners and, for example, a journalist who is faced with the job of interviewing the economic minister of Malawi and writing and article on the current situation in that country and yet who knows little or nothing about Malawi then they need some background and quickly! And as second string, the information also identifies Reuters Communities of Practice where the information originated if the journalist needs to enter into discussion to gain a deeper understanding.

My work in e-Learning has focussed on developing individuals’ critical thinking skills, work focussed competencies, ability to work collaboratively, and self confidence. The Reuters example made me realise just how context specific models for e-learning are.

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