No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Search Learning: the future of the e-Learning industry – feature


This article was provided by Richard Close of Close Productions, The Learning/Marketing Company

Most of the concepts and technologies in this paper are fact and currently available, yet some of this is a projection of what we can do if we think out of the box. The e-Learning industry has been in an academic rut for sometime and that rut is the primary cause of the slow climb of our industry. We have assumed that learning in our cyberspace 4D reality world is a sequential index 16th century classroom. That assumption, driven by powerful institutions of classroom courses, that the same sequential paradigm will work on the Internet is perhaps a false one.

Does Classroom Learning Really Work?
Way back in grade school, I sat in my little chair while facts were pushed into my brain--one after another--with little or no relevance. At the time I inherently felt that something was very wrong. I’m betting that you did too...
Today, after 16 years of schooling, a degree in education, and 10 years of launching learning companies, I am convinced that – despite the fact that billions of dollars are invested in sequential-based learning and many a Ph.D. will heartily defend this methodology - it is antiquated and dysfunctional with respect to how we learn as humans. The classroom concept of sequential learning will shrink into the smallest corner of the learning industry, along with the e-Learning technologies that deliver it. The Net’s way of ‘search and find’ to locate the precise information that we need, along with the old ways of apprenticeship, will rule.

Let’s first look at what we have learned in our lives and in our jobs:
- How much of what we’ve needed to know did we learn in a classroom environment?
- Did we learn how to raise a family, communicate with people, get dressed, drive a car, or how to use a toaster or a knife through a class or classes that we’ve sat through?
No. In fact, most of what we have learned in classrooms has been long forgotten because it has had zero application too much of anything at the time of learning or at the present time.

As a marketer, I have spent millions of dollars flying in sales forces to stare at hours and hours of PowerPoint presentations, only to have them call me up when they get back into their office with a million questions. If our minds and our lives lived in logical sequential patterns, traditional classroom and course development would probably work. However, they don’t, and neither do traditional learning formats.

The Search for Learning
So how did you learn all the stuff you know today? I suspect that you asked questions about issues and things that were relevant to you at the time. I bet that you also learned from having parents that mentored you on what was relevant at the time. Basically, we searched for answers in much the same way a monkey hunts for fruit. And we remember what works and what does not. I call this "Search Learning".

Most of us never really learned Microsoft Office by sitting in a class. Mostly, we asked our colleague in the next cube how to rotate PICs in PowerPoint (or some other highly specific task or process). Search Learning is the process of:
- Identifying a relevant problem,
- Searching for the appropriate solution,
- Learning the solution, and
- Retaining what we’ve learned through repetition.

When learning is not directly applied, it does not stick.
We know that those political proponents who advocate forcing teachers across the country to teach to competitive State tests believe in their hearts that this is the way to go. They believe that assessment and measurement is mission critical. However, if we retest kids one week after their initial assessment, we see that not much sticks. Relevance makes things stick; relevance is important--not tests.
Timely, relevant teaching is mission critical, not the test.

Life is a Matrix
There is another aspect to Search Learning, which is how life is matrixed. Solutions tend to be connected threads of knowledge linked together to solve a specific problem. Every moment of life is a custom solution. When my bicycle’s 120-pound racing tire blew up and I had to go to the race shop for a tube. To fix my tire, I ended up having to learn how to use lightweight tools and a high-pressure pump to fix it - along with using my ATM card as a credit card - for the first time. All relevant information is matrixed together for custom solution.

Here is the key point: Relevant information is matrixed in our minds; it is not matrixed at the product level. The tire, tool, retailer, and ATM are all separate components of knowledge that I pieced together neatly in my mind to form a solution matrix.

One flaw of sequential courses is that they assume that a component of one’s learning occurs in a pre-determined sequence, when it does not. Its success depends upon neat little boxes of information and the assumption they are learned in just the right order. Sequential courses assume that self-contained knowledge is relevant, while in reality it is not. Instead, knowledge is relevant when it is matrixed with relevant solution(s) outside of the course and inside the learner’s head and/or heart. The cosmic rule here is that all knowledge is matrixed. Learning occurs out-of-the-box and out of the learning object.

Matrix Learning will require intelligent search engines that matrix solutions together. Ahhhhh, at first glance, this sounds like the Internet as it is today. Browsing is the process of your mind using a search engine to matrix threads of interest together. Your mind is influenced by its wants. The best web sites can do is market to you with banners and link together related information.

Beyond passive training catalogues
The first challenge of Internet learning is to "push" the most relevant information on the right solutions to the right person. The challenge of the individual is to filter out all of this knowledge. The challenge to Learning vendors is to re-engineer their technology into true Knowledge Management systems and build personal intelligent search agents for the user.

The second challenge is search-based learning. In the same way that search engines are the backbones of the Internet matrix, search engines will need to become the backbone of the learning matrix and both will have to be infused together for virtual global learning to take place. To make Matrix Learning systems work, they will need to know who the learner is, the task at hand, and the right match of knowledge--all at the same time.

It’s not learning, it’s marketing
Now that we have no doubt ruffled some feathers, let’s break down traditional, sequential learning even further. Ironically, course developers go to great expense to try to achieve learner retention in sequential learning. This should represent a red flag because if the knowledge is relevant and timely learner retention is automatic. Entertainment knowledge will also be key as people like George Lucas and Disney enter the learning market. Marketing systems target the right piece of information to the right person at the right time. Shouldn’t that be our learning management strategy?

Perhaps marketing and entertainment learning hold the answer. Marketing-based systems must win us over and do not have the luxury of forcing us through a process. For example, imagine that you are a mother who wants to learn about an ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) medicine from a pharmaceutical company. Would you be interested in being assessed, trained, then tested in order to get information on a particular ADD medicine? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. The best the web site can do is to track the mother’s profile. Perhaps our focus should be on promoting and presenting knowledge, not on classroom assessment.
Search Learning is based on a relational database; sequential learning is based on an index. Life is not sequential, but rather, it is relational.

When Cisco’s chairperson said that eLearning is the killer application on the Internet, the academic society assumed that he meant classroom learning, but perhaps they were wrong. Effective, real-time learning will be Search- and Matrix-based learning. It may be possible that we learn more through TV, games, and the media than in the classroom because of the sheer freedom of surfing and selecting what we want. We surf and select only what is timely and relevant to us at the moment — and it sticks. Perhaps the majority of our learning is: parts, policies and procedures and values learned through a multitude of media formats and sources.

So Wasteful
Sequentially based classroom instruction is exceedingly wasteful in time and in information overload that is irrelevant to the student. Classroom instruction is falling further and further behind as an effective mode of instruction. There is simply too much information taught that is not timely or relevant to the learner.
The "basic" car or plane is no longer basic. I can know every part in my hang glider and how to fix it. But there are millions of functional parts in one Boeing 767. Compounding the problem is that all of those parts are in a constant state of upgrades and changes. To learn a Boeing 767 from nose to tail would be a major undertaking that, when completed, would be partially obsolete.

Here is a key point. In a knowledge economy, the problem (knowledge needed at the moment), search method, knowledge base, and matrix of related knowledge are ALL in a state of virtual change. In essence, the standard textbook begins to look obsolete almost before it’s published, doesn’t it?
This constant state of flux between the knower and knowledge frustrates us in business applications such as IT certification programs. Trained in sequence, the student has little relevant experience, and much of what is learned becomes obsolete with the next product upgrade. Further, the learning is product-centric and it is not matrixed to related products. A certified individual may be trained to install a Windows NT server, but they are not likely trained to backup the server and send the tapes to a secure facility each evening. One of the first certification programs (Novell) enlisted training companies to train engineers to pass tests, only to learn that these very engineers were failing to properly handle the real technology at critical, ‘hands-on’ time.

Learning is giving the learner exactly what they need—when they need it — then going away until more knowledge is requested.

We are Overwhelmed with Knowledge
The bottom line is that there are way too many facts and concepts to learn in life and store in the mind. I once read that a college graduate learns 5,000 new words in college, yet a grocery store alone can have close to 2,000 products, and a major manufacturer can have millions of parts. How do we find, understand and apply this amount of information in our daily lives?

Classroom instruction systems will only scratch the surface of this massive scale of learning. Only extensive, relational databases presenting information in a "learning format" will we be able to handle this constantly changing world. Hand crafted courses will never keep up. The fatal flaw of sequential learning is that it assumes the human mind was designed to remember all of this "stuff" that it doesn’t use on a daily basis. Academics get away with it because it matters only that students remember massive amounts of information up to the test on Friday. Beyond that, the knowledge will slip away if it is not practically applied on a regular basis.

Placing Knowledge in the Right Bank
Understanding Search Learning concepts versus sequential systems are mission-critical to both eLearning vendors and to consumers of e-Learning products. Learning object-based training registration systems are at risk because they are designed like a series of indexed textbooks that are launched through a registration system.

Knowledge Management (KM) systems, however, store knowledge in relational databases and serve up information in small parts. KM systems also use search engines to find relevant information for specific learner needs. Rather than relying on assessment and post-course tests, KM systems can sit in the background and "record" and "guide." In a sense, KM works more like a personal apprentice utilizing the Internet. On the other hand, traditional Learning Management System classrooms work like a traditional library wherein if you want to know something, you have to find the book and skim the whole thing to find what you need.

The future system should have an employee driving the learning process with their own intelligent agent that guides the learner into finding the right information for them. In addition knowledge will be presented in three formats: training, information and mentoring though an integrated solution such as below.

The Matrix Changes Everything
When the Internet came along, learning was forever changed. Finally, a true classroom without walls was created. It just so happens that the Internet is Search and Matrix-based learning. The Internet’s success as a concept has been outstanding and may very well be the greatest learning invention and learning model of the human race.

The wheel moved goods; the Internet moves thought. Blending traditional classroom instruction with Internet-based learning will function well for college degrees and certification programs. But that style of learning (and marketing) will be but a drop in the ocean when compared to what Knowledge Management systems will be called on to deliver.

Classrooms on the Internet will explode as a market; however, we will learn more from KM and marketing-based Internet systems than from Internet classrooms. Learning can no longer afford to be product or job isolated. Learning systems will need to transcend company, industry, and cultural boundaries.

Can we achieve such lofty goals with raw knowledge? Absolutely! We do it already with money. The bastion of classroom learning through course catalogs will have to surrender to the massive speed of search-based relational knowledge systems in the same way that money’s paper ledger has given way to hundreds of thousands of global ATMs and bank terminals around the world.

To Manufacture Knowledge
James Li of LeadingWay studied Japanese manufacturing to see if raw knowledge could be manufactured and placed in a relational system. He found that it could be, and built a manufactured knowledge management system for Caterpillar in 1991 that still runs today in multiple languages. Called Knowledge Systems, vast courses get built like Toyotas on assembly lines, and then stored in relational KM systems like money in a bank.

Personal Productivity
Search- and matrix-based KM systems are the first step. The second will be profile-based personal productivity systems that know who the users are, their job, and proactively serves up and filters timely and relevant information to the user. Soon, our terminals will know who we are, what we do, and proactively serve us just the knowledge that we need to be productive — no more and no less.

Future Search Management Systems
Could we be chasing our tails when assuming that we can meta-tag billions of learning objects and link them together? The idea of horizontal integration of millions of courses seems unrealistic at best. However, top-down systems that search relational Knowledge Management content might be closer to how we will learn.

A next step could also be "meme"-based (value/concept based) search systems that would present streams of culturally based knowledge in a format that is relevant to our localized profile, as well as to the task and goals that the localized learner wants to achieve. Imagine a meme-based search engine that could not only find what you need, but also present its relevance to your personal values and goals, along with the values of the culture around you.
Future Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) will be search and matrix based "Knowledge Guidance System" directing us through seas of global knowledge, and evolutionary as ideas and facts change through global collaboration.

[Meme: The word coined by Richard Dawkins for a unit of culture, such as an idea, skill, story, or custom, passed from one person to another by imitation or teaching. Some theorists argue that memes are the cultural equivalent of genes, and reproduce, mutate, are selected, and evolve in a similar way.]

Search Learning©, Matrix Learning© and Knowledge Guidance System© are copyrights of Richard Close of Close Productions. The use of large portions of this document or the replication of its entirety requires approval from Close Productions and some financial consideration.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!