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How committed are you to experiential learning?


I recently had the pleasure of a relaxed chat with a Professor of the very respected Henley Business School.  We walked around their impressive stately home environment on the banks of the river Thames dodging the heavy showers and discussing approaches to learning.  It was as you might expect a thought provoking hour or so. 

Previously I had been musing on the seeming lack of tutor input that my daughter was receiving on her degree course at Central St Martins college of the arts.   Ok, I know it (like Henley Business School) is a world renowned leader in its field, but to me it seemed like our considerable fees were providing pitiful levels of input to the students within the process.   

Back at Henley the conversation came around to experiential learning.  My very clever acquaintance explained just how committed they were to student immersion in self discovery. Great resources were at hand, but expectations that the learner would take responsibility for their own learning experience was high.  It was clear that some students found this disconcerting at least for a start, especially it seemed those that had been brought up in strongly didactic teaching environments.  Certainly he suggested, some international students who may have been used to very traditional academic teaching could be excused at thinking they weren't being taught anything at all!  

All this got me thinking about our own commitment to experiential learning at iManage.  An example of experiential learning would be going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others' experiences.  It is unlikely that this idea is new to any of us reading this, indeed at iManage would consider our own workshop learning solutions as experiential.  The challenge is, just how experiential are they?  

Two very different, but world leading academic establishments seem totally committed to facilitating individuals learning, but not in merely handing out education.  In fact if students don't immerse themselves in the experience they are somewhat unwelcome.  What can we learn from this as L&D professionals in the world of commerce?  

Content on our courses must still be important, but so is creating a memorable learning experience.  Budget pressures are in some organisations encouraging HR and L&D decision makers to squeeze as much as possible into courses and run them in the ‘most efficient’ way possible.  Longer experiential events are definitely under pressure in favour of shorter crammed in versions.  How is that impacting the learning?  Maybe we need to be more confident in maintaining the necessary space within training courses, being prepared to remove more of the content (if the length is shortened) so that the space remains for learners to engage in a valuable journey of self exploration.  

Bob Bannister Download a pdf of this blog here.  imanageperformance.comTwitter: @bbbannister @iManage

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