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Architectures and Change

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 23rd April 2012.

LINE’s Design Director, Andrew Joly, returns to the subject that has generated so much interest in the last year, and one which is providing the structures for transforming learning within organisations.

In our introductory white paper on Learning Architectures we described how a new, architectural, way of thinking about learning is both a response to, and an enabler of, the breaking down of the course as the basic unit of instruction. As Nick Shackleton-Jones of BP so succinctly puts it, e-learning has moved towards ‘a resource, not course-based approach’.

The drivers for this change include an understanding of the power of informal learning (and the 70:20:10 model), the fast-changing patterns emerging of learner behaviour around information and knowledge, and the new opportunities offered by technology.

Uncoupling learners from courses, however, provides challenges. How do organisations, and more specifically, those leading large-scale learning & development initiatives, manage this change?

The immediate challenge is how we help learners organise their time and plot their paths towards the acquisition of appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes. Allied to this is the wider challenge of how we reach, engage and motivate them in doing this.

It has struck us, as we work through problems such as this with clients for whom we are helping to design effective learning architectures, how many similarities there are with the practice of change management.

Learning and Change

LINE does a lot of work on multi-faceted change programmes. Not surprisingly, perhaps. Major change within organisations almost always has a training component. Change programmes themselves are about applied learning on a large scale: the organisation learning to think and behave, collectively, in a different way.

Our work within change programmes very often involves delivering organisation-wide learning programmes that blend face-to-face workshops for different cohorts, with communication materials, online resources and support collateral. This is very much akin to designing a learning architecture.

To look at this comparison from a different angle: all learning is a change – a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or behaviours. For this reason, change and the discipline of change management are very central to what we do. Promoting shifts in applied behaviour, often on a large scale, is at the heart of our learning design methodology.

And to extend the discussion one step further: introducing a new architectural, resources-based approach to Learning & Development within an organisation is in itself a bit of a change programme – moving an established training culture from one paradigm to another. Learning to learn in a different way. This, too, will involve the skills and insights of change management.

Learning architectures in implementation

So in moving our thinking about Learning Architectures forward, to a less theoretical and more implementation-focused stage, we will be drawing extensively on our background in change management this year. In the short term, I want to expand discussion around Learning Architectures under the following three headings:

  • Marketing
  • Learner Journeys
  • Engagement

Each of these is a topic worthy of more space, so look out for my next three posts to this blog, which will cover each in more detail. Eventually this will become a white paper – a sort of Learning Architectures Part Two to sit alongside and we welcome any input from practitioners we can gather along the way to hone the ideas and insights we are putting out there with this work.