Silo Learning vs. Cross-Disciplinary Learning:
As our businesses become more and more globally connected, we need to make sure that when we train and onboard new employees. The fact is that most of the new employees that you will receive in the 21st century have been through education systems based upon the silo framework of learning, which means that subjects or bodies of knowledge have been presented as separate and largely unconnected. For businesses in the globally connected economy, this presents problems.
Let’s delve into some of the most common problems associated with this:
• Problem solving becomes a chore for employees since they have learned only to relate to ideas solely within their narrow areas of expertise.
• Collaboration becomes a problem because of the group dynamics students have been exposed to in their education derived from group work where not everyone was able to contribute, and for the sake of providing a non-judgmental atmosphere, they were allowed to be consumers instead of generators of solutions.
• Innovative thinking is a problem because it means that they would have to consider drawing in ideas from many disciplines, which the silo approach to knowledge did not encourage.
The very skillsets that are needed in future training and upskilling cannot be addressed when new employees, and even employees who have been with the business for many years, are so set in their ways.
How do we address this problem? It starts by asking some very important questions:
• Is our mission statement in line with the changed paradigm that has been dictated by the rapid advancement of technology and the exponential growth of information? If not, why not?
• What is the level of expertise in the use and application of technology of employees in the work that they are directed to accomplish and perform? Is their performance over time demonstrating employees who are adapting, learning, and improving in their work? Is there a minimal change?
• Is innovative mindset systemically encouraged from top to bottom, directed by a future-focused vision by the leaders of the organization? Is there a concerted effort to nurture this type of mindset by providing opportunities for employees to promote new and improved ways of doing things in their area of expertise?
Consider the impact of a learning experience that was designed using advancing augmented and mixed reality technology found in this Canadian university example:
Also, consider this vivid YouTube example produced in 2020:
Well, citing the above, are these considered to be just gimmicks, or do they have promise for training employees at their point of work?
The answer to this question leads us to the dire need to create a learning culture where innovative thinking is not just a frill and is encouraged in an inconsistent fashion. Maintaining the "one and done" training experience discourages the development of the innovative thinking mindset because its focus is only on meeting the needs of the business organization alone, ignoring the real potential of the great intellectual and creative assets rooted in the employees who bring such talents to the organization.
Experiential Learning in Training and New Technologies
If we sample examples of experiential learning in progress, we have to come to grips with the use of real-world simulations. In some of the more "glamourous" professions, we see the effect of experiential learning using simulations in the NASA space program, where space shuttle pilots were placed in a simulated real-world shuttle simulator with very authentic control panels that responded to every move made by the prospective pilot.
The very authentic responses were controlled by a computer. From a cost-benefit perspective, such a program is much more defensible than using real-world illustrations. It is also very expensive to consider space shuttles in training.
Rise of the Metaverse
One of the problems with the introduction of new technology and environments is that too often they become
“industry buzzwords” result in their losing any practical meaning before some cohesive principles have been established.
The metaverse was predicted by technology experts and has now appeared on our doorsteps
But they didn't realize that the timing of this event would be accelerated into our online cultures as soon as now. In essence, technology is now creating or opening the door to interacting in immersive 3D spaces. The examples above demonstrate the potential of this new environment. There had been hints of the potential of this new immersive environment when the immersive social environment of "Second Life" came onto the scene in 2003 by Linden Labs in San Francisco, California.
Some have suggested that “Second Life” was actually a “Proto Metaverse”.
Although the example above was run with adolescents, many of the same experiential training principles are used in the training of prospective astronauts in NASA simulators. The training benefits are:
• Non-threatening environment where mistakes can be made but where feedback helps learners re-think their responses and come up with better solutions
• Unplanned events introduced during the event allow learners to collaborate to solve a common problem while under time limits
• Innovative thinking is encouraged to arrive at new solutions
However, is your training regimen offering the same conditions for learning? If it isn’t, then why not?
Designing Learning Experiences: VR, AR, or MR?
When it comes to designing efficient, effective and engaging learning experiences, which of these metaverse technologies holds the greatest promise as far as on-boarding and training of new employees and the need for upskilling of established employees is concerned?
"Why AR, not VR, Will be the Heart of the Metaverse," a recent article in Venture Beat (Dec. 28, 2021), makes some compelling arguments for AR being the driving force.
Given the technology advancements to support the metaverse experience, what does this mean for instructional designers, trainers, and the corporate learning officer in a business organization?
• For one thing, the actual planning of learning experiences for staff and trainees is no longer just the role of the instructional designer in conversation with the subject matter expert. To move forward, new specialists need to be at the instructional design table. Why do online video game designers need to be at the table as well as learning theory specialists? The skill-sets possessed by these specialists fit very well with the need to design a metaverse learning experience. Anyone who has sampled an online video game has noticed several qualities that we would want crafted into the metaverse learning experience which are similar to those noted above:
1. Social Collaboration of the Participants: When a group is tasked with solving a problem or creating a product prototype, the participants interact with each other in a way that allows each participant to see and comment on what the other is doing. This is the quality that appeals to people who use the Google Docs application to work on a daily basis.
2. Decisions have Consequences: One of the greatest qualities of collaborative video games is that immediate feedback can be seen from the decisions that are made during the work, which then results in participants re-thinking the choices or decisions that were made.
3. Learning in a Non-Threatening Environment: Unlike in the actual work environment, mistakes do not lead to consequences that may affect the actual final product or the employment of the participants. The greatest benefit of this is that the spirit of innovation will be fostered.
• The entrenched training concept involving the “sage on the stage” giving a “one and done” training event to register a checkmark on the organizational yearly to-do list needs to change to reflect the current learning theory research available to business organizations. Will Thalheimer
, a well-known learning expert and researcher, produced a revealing YouTube video on September 18, 2013, entitled “Five Failures of Workplace Learning
” which explains the continuing problem in the learning culture of 21st century business organizations. It is time that business organizations move towards employee learning for a collaborative model where the leader is not the “sage on the stage” but is instead the “mentor on the side” who also collaborates with the other participants.
• The rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) into the technology spotlight will be a key component in learning in the metaverse. Artificial Intelligent Assistants have already been introduced in the 21st century with the rise of applications such as “Google Assistant,” “Amazon Alexa,” and “Siri Apple.” Amnah Fawad, from TechEngage
, presented an evaluation of the wonders of these types of assistants on December 18, 2020. Given how quickly technology is advancing, even these assistants will undergo a revolution, and we are seeing that happen with the development of things such as “Smart Homes” and “Smart Transportation Vehicles.”
With all this being said, businesses are faced with some real questions, such as:
• If I harness this new technology to my training, what will it look like?
• Will it be accessible by my employees from a remote site given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing my workforce to work on a hybrid schedule with a certain percentage of time working from home and a percentage on the business site?
• How will it affect my ROI? Will it be cost-effective?
• What type of upgrade is needed by my IT department in order to bring this online? Will there be an effective mentoring program available to employees in the early stages?
• What kinds of changes will be needed in the instructional design department in order to create effective, efficient, and engaging learning experiences for our employees, both in a group and at the individual’s “point of work”?
Many of these questions will be touched on in Part II of Engaging the Metaverse: Innovation and Changing Paradigms in e-LearningDesign.