Tracing the Evolution of Learning-Centric Training Experiences

In the face of ever-accelerating advancements in technology, training for future jobs poses a significant challenge for educators.

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

With new tech, and even new industries, emerging all the time, traditional approaches to teaching fail to prepare students for entry-level positions in highly-skilled fields. Much less can these methods teach everything a student needs to be successful throughout their entire career.

Teacher-Centered Learning

Most people are familiar with the traditional teacher-centered model of education. At the beginning of the term, the teacher hands out a syllabus outlining what a student will learn, and when they’ll learn it. For the rest of the term, the job of the student is to sit dutifully in the classroom and absorb the information the teacher has identified as necessary.

In many traditional classrooms, the only interactive portion of the learning experience is a series of formal exams or quizzes that are designed to measure how well the student has memorized everything the teacher has said.

As a society, the way we think about learning is so entrenched in this model that many people struggle to imagine an alternative approach.

Learner-Centered Teaching

Despite the ubiquity of teacher-centered education, research has shown that this is not the most effective learning model.

Students who engage actively in their learning experience have been shown to achieve better outcomes than those who rely on memorization of lectures and textbook materials. Active learning and student-centered teaching are models that put the individual learner’s needs and personal learning style at the center of the learning experience.

The concept of student-centered learning has only recently become popular among training professionals, but its roots go back at least as far as the mid-19th century.

The origins of student-centered learning.

Early work focusing on learner-centric education models appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and Maria Montessori all had a hand in the initial research and experimentation that would ultimately lead to the modern learner-centric training model.

Montessori, in particular, was instrumental in advancing the idea of self-directed, experiential learning, especially for young children. Her classroom research reinforced her initial theory that students thrive when they are given the freedom to direct their learning path in a supervised environment with minimal restrictions.

The rise of online training.

In the 1990s, Stephen Downes and a few others imagined a future education model that would be free, accessible to the masses, and based on student interaction.

Downes’s vision of online education would lead to the creation of the Massively Open Online Course (MOOC).

Unfortunately, MOOCs failed to achieve one of the most critical aspects of Downes’s vision: that it be based on student interaction.

Massively open online training has failed to produce the promised results. The MOOC, in fact, is almost dead as a tool for formal education and employee training. The big failure of MOOCs is not inherent in the technology itself, but instead in the teaching model that underlies it.

Merely posting a series of videos and expecting students to sit at home and patiently memorize the words of a teacher is no different from the old-school brick-and-mortar classroom. The only difference is that it may save the instructor some of their overhead costs.

The learning outcomes for the majority of students using static online courses like MOOCs is famously terrible.

Recognizing a need for individualized and adaptive online learning.

One reason for the failure of Massively Open Online Courses was that a staggeringly low number of students ended up completing the courses they enrolled in. Some reports claim the completion-rate is only about 3%.

Research shows that students who lack engagement in the learning process achieve less-positive outcomes. The very nature of MOOCs prevents individual interaction and thereby fails to provide student engagement.

Another issue with MOOCs is the lack of a tangible incentive.

The potential reward for hard work motivates students. Whether it’s a semester grade, a college degree, or just a pat on the back, MOOCs fail to provide any individual acknowledgement of achievement. Without personal incentives, the drive to complete a course fades.

How learner-centric training is different

Traditional eLearning, MOOCs, and other technology-based education platforms fail to deliver on their grand promises. This isn’t due to a limitation in the technology. Instead, it’s because of a failure to apply sound learning principles in the use of that technology. Modern Learning Experience Design (LXD) professionals recognize that learning is a human undertaking and that learning experiences must take into account all of the aspects of how we learn. LXD is the practice of developing human-focused, goal-oriented learning experiences to target the specific needs and learning styles of individual learners.

It is a multi-disciplinary approach to education that recognizes learning as a human activity. LXD seeks to achieve a human-centered, goal-oriented learning experience by integrating a broad range of learning methodologies:

  • Microlearning
  • Responsive eLearning Technology
  • Just-in-Time Teaching
  • Self-Directed Learning Paths
  • Peer Coaching

LXD professionals combine these principles to create a learning experience tailored to the specific needs of an individual learner.

The future of education lies in lifelong learning. The best way to provide meaningful, productive, and engaging lifelong learning is through careful and professional Learning Experience Design.

When companies evaluate achievement based on the learning goals and development of individual employees, rather than on meeting company-wide KPIs or other general metrics, they are more likely to retain employees and become more resilient, efficient, and more profitable.

Improving lives through learning experiences. Delivering a transformative and effective learning experience, everywhere.

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