So you (still) want to be an elearning consultant?

Last week I commented that many people in the “learning” field are too absorbed in their own interests and not the businesses they are supporting. Working smarter in the 21st century requires the integration of learning into the workflow. This has become a necessity due to the increased complexity facing today’s networked business. Ericsson’s video, On the Brink, provides a good overview of this emerging networked society.

Learning is the work in a constantly changing landscape, and as mentioned in the video, the next 10 years will see more change than the past 15 years, since the creation of the Web.

Prior to the Web, the learning professions were focused on either delivering courses or some specific sub-set of learning. In the late 20th century we saw the rise of personality tests, learning styles and and dubious applications of Bloom’s taxonomy or NLP, among other practices not aligned with the business. With the Web, we went from training to e-learning course delivery, with an emphasis on technology, especially learning management systems (LMS) and rapid authoring. Today, businesses are beginning to realize that LMS are not really helping their organizations and most courses are disconnected from the real work. I have seen companies completely outsource all course design/delivery in order for internal staff to focus on informal and social learning to support collaboration. This makes business sense.

For those in the learning professions (KM, OD, Training, Instruction, Education) there will be a sea change in how they work over the next decade. They will have to become part of the business (or organization, or network) or be completely marginalized. In my article, So you you want to be an e-learning consultant? (2007) I showed the different types of work, and associated remuneration, available in the field. Note how business and technology-oriented work pay much more than pure pedagogical work. This trend has not changed since 2007 and will continue.

I have met many people in learning professions over the years who have the technological savvy but lack business skills. People with expertise in all three areas are few. The L&D folks often do not get a seat at the table because they don’t have a direct impact on the business. My advice to anyone in a learning-oriented field is to get up to speed on networked technologies but also understand the business you are supporting. There’s no more hiding in the shadows, as the network exposes everything and everyone. Narrating work and being transparent are great opportunities in the networked era, but that means there’s no place to hide. It’s a global village and everyone is interconnected. The opportunities are at the intersection.

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