It's Time for E-Learning to Embrace 'BYOL'

Corporate IT is being transformed by the phenomenon known as BYOD, or "Bring Your Own Device." Used to using smoothly functioning, good-looking consumer products at home, the argument goes, workers are increasingly demanding they be able to access these gadgets and tools at work, whether or not IT is totally keen on the idea.

Could something similar be starting to affect corporate trainers? From open courses to the online Khan Academy to a whole army of volunteer YouTube tutors, learning online at home is easier than ever. If a person suddenly needs to know how to set up a certain feature on their Facebook page, or remember what the flag of Mongolia looks like, or improve their make-up-application skills, help is usually only a click away. Why not expect similar self-selected, always-available, wide-ranging learning tools at work as well?

This shift to "Bring Your Own Learning," or BYOL, is something learning consultant Jane Hart recently suggested learning and development pros embrace. She writes:

"An increasing number of the workforce –— smart, social, autonomous workers — are already doing their own thing and solving their own learning and performance problems much more quickly and more easily by using their own tools and devices. (An April 2011 Forrester Research [report] estimated that 47% percent of users were self-provisioning technology and expected the number to rise to 60% by end percent by the end of 2011, and Jensen & Kline (around the same time) estimated that between 1/3 and 2/3 of employees were meeting their needs by working around L&D.)

"So just as some IT departments have realized the futility of banning personal devices in the workplace and are now beginning to adopt BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies, L&D departments might also want to adopt a BYOL (Bring Your Own Learning) strategy and embrace all the learning that is taking place outside of training. As it is, they will never again be able to keep up with the fast speed of business and provide everything everyone needs to know in a timely fashion, so it makes good commonsense to do so."

But if learning and development becomes mostly about giving employees access to the wikis, instructional videos, and other resources they need to teach themselves what they need to know when they need to know it (that is, over and above any essential company training on policies, procedures, etc.), what becomes of training pros? Are they simply dinosaurs, relics of a pre-digital age?

No so, Hart assures nervous trainers. Surely there's a role for learning professionals, even within an organization that has fully embraced "BYOL." But being effective in this new environment will require a change in mindset. Being a trainer, she writes, "will not be about designing personalized training nor managing people’s learning for them, but rather supporting their own personal learning strategies. For some people, this may simply mean getting out of their way; for others it may involve providing some guidance and assistance on how to be an effective BYOLearner."

Are you mentally ready to make the leap to BYOL?

More: How to Create Your Own Khan Academy for Training.

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.com, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user wgreller.

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