Context Is Next

Why Contextual Learning Is The Best New Way to Learn Software.

The way that we learn as adults has evolved over time. As technology continues to evolve, we learn more about how our brains process information. We are going through another inflection point in leaning towards a model of learning based off contexts and relationships.

From one-to-one to many-to-many

Learning started as apprenticeships where students learned on the job with a master teacher. This worked well, but since this was a one-to-one relationship, it did not scale well. Then, the model evolved to a one-to-many, teacher-centric approach where one teacher trained many students at once. This then evolved into a learner-centric approach where learners took control of their own learning, including self-directed learning approaches and performance support. Some of the benefits of the learner-centric approach are that students are able to learn what they want, when they want to learn it. In that way, teachers didn't have to teach concepts which may not be relevant to all, or which may go at different levels or speeds which are not ideal for each student. However, what was initially lacking from the learner-centric approach is context and social relationships, a many-to-many approach to learning.

What is Context-centric learning?

They way adults and children learn is relatively different. Adults carry with them their beliefs, their needs, and their prior experiences. There is no void of the information available to learners today. In fact, there is an over-abundance of information. What they need is to know is how to use that information. They need the context necessary to connect this information with their prior experiences to be able to internalize a skill and apply it to various job specific situations.

So, what are some strategies we can use to aid in context-centric learning?

Social and Collaborative Learning

One of the major advantages of learning with other students at the same time, either online or in a classroom, is you are hearing stories from other workers. These stories can be about how concepts have been applied to various job tasks and what worked and what did not work. Make sure you choose learning offerings that include some level of peer learning.

Real–life practice and simulations

Applied learning should be hands on and ideally as close to real life as possible, including simulations. This avoids the double learning curve where students learn something and then have to learn it all over again when applying it to their current job. If you are learning in the moment of need, job aids and performance support tools that are built into the software product itself are great approaches to context-centric learning.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experiences. This can definitely be in the form of the real-life practice and simulations mentioned already. But, as part of your learning process, you can also reflect on what you have learned and connect your present experience with previous experiences. This can be done by looking back at what you have learned over a given course or activity, and having the teacher act as a facilitator. If the courses are self-paced, you can still reflect by asking provoking questions at the end of each activity or asking students to summarize their learning experiences.

Interested in keeping your employees up to date and productive? Are you also interested in helping your customers adopt your software? Retool your learning and offerings from content-driven events to learning that is contextual, social, and embedded in job tasks.

Kevin Hanegan explains how contextual learning is the best new way to adopt software!

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