Online training has become an accepted, often cost-efficient way of training in the corporate setting. E-learning allows people to work at their own pace, during their own available time. But what's lost?
One answer is hinted at in a blog post by Jonah Lehrer at The Frontal Cortex. The topic is buzz and how it works to sell products, especially movies. But near the end of the post, Lehrer writes: "For too long, we’ve tried to understand ourselves in isolation, as we test people one at a time in the psychology lab or rely on their past preferences to predict behavior. But these conditions and algorithms are artificial. In the real world, we are deeply intertwined with each other, dependent on our social networks for all sorts of advice."
I thought back to a recent workshop we gave, in which 24 newly-minted supervisors watched each other deal with various realistic management situations, live and impromptu. Participants commented on how valuable it was to see how other people handle things - even if their style is different from yours (or perhaps especially so!). Even though back on the job these folks will often have to act alone, the collaboration they experience in training helps give them a repertoire of possible approaches that they're more likely to remember when they need them.
We often emphasize the practice aspect of our workshops, and of course that's vital: nothing makes learning stick like actually trying it out. But the group process may be equally important for topics (like supervisor skillls) that involve social interaction. In a culture that still tends to overemphasize the individual, it's useful to reaffirm the wisdom of crowds.
Photo by Jill Brazel of a Workplace Productions program