The human element of the learning process is a difficult one to predict. Even if training content is well-designed and engaging, support for completion is forthcoming and the subject is one that is essential for either education or work, there is still the infinitely complex landscape of a learner’s interior world to be considered. Teaching and learning is an essentially human undertaking encompassing motivation, ability, skill-set, attitude and a wealth of other factors and is not necessarily a simple case of measurable inputs and outputs.
Basically, it’s complex.
In any market it’s entirely natural to focus on product. Product is relatively easy to analyse, to breakdown, to improve if needed. But when it comes to training and other educational offers, the product must always be viewed through the lens of learner interaction and this can be a frightening prospect as learning can be an unpredictable, often chaotic process (in fact, at its best, it often is) and the people doing the learning bring with it their unpredictable, chaotic selves.
Offering the best product is not just about the product itself. It is about an understanding of people and an understanding that sometimes learning isn’t a smooth, clinical process. Learning can be emotive, even painful at times. A user’s motivation may change, increase or diminish, seemingly at whim. Both internal and external factors may have positive or negative effects and these factors are often difficult to pin down.
If an educational product is to be truly successful, the learner, with all their complexities has to be placed at the centre of every stage in the process from inception, design, implementation and beyond. A consideration and understanding of the very real hurdles that are faced by those using the product is essential, and efforts made to try and offset them through a realistic consideration of learners’ lives separate to the product itself.
Learners are people. When it comes to learning people react in different, unpredictable ways. If a business accepts this and adapts to the intricacies of learning behaviour in all its wonderful strangeness it will go some way to achieving maximum outcomes.
This week it is Staff Blog week here at Webanywhere, so each day we have been sharing with you a new blog post from one of our employees. Today, it’s the last of the week and we have Cieran Douglass asking why does learning have to be so serious?
In order to write this blog post, I’ve been wracking my brains for examples of where I did some learning that was particularly notable, so I could provide an interesting hook rather than just a fairly mundane observation. I had a pretty standard education really – local village primary school, grammar school in a nearby town, then university, where I muddled through and managed to get a 2:1 in Politics. None of it stands out as particularly notable really.
Then I started thinking about the other places I’ve learned things, things outside of my education, and my mind wandered back to 2007. This was the year I got my first proper computer I didn’t have to share with my family, and I developed an interest in graphic design, first just through MS Paint, then GIMP, right up to Photoshop. It was the last of those that drew me, late that year, towards the “You Suck at Photoshop” series of video tutorials on YouTube. It’s not really safe for work, but I’d recommend anyone interested in digital imaging check it out, since as well as being informative it’s also hilarious.
Chronicling a man’s descent into madness and rejection while also providing some very handy Photoshop tips, the series has taught me things I’m still using to this day. Ever since, when I want to learn something, I’ve headed for online videos, and the engaging ones are the ones that are both informative and entertaining. If I’m learning for pleasure, I want the pleasure part to be an important factor! It keeps me focused and also helps me to remember things – a joke’s as good a mnemonic as anything else!
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea from this – I’m not saying that there’s no place for important documentary film-making or anything – I enjoy Attenborough as much as the next guy, and there’s some things it can be difficult to make light of – but when it comes to memorisation of facts, retaining engagement and producing effective results, I find I learn much better when I’m laughing.
It’s not just video content though – when browsing through Waterstones with a friend the other day we came across the textbooks section, and I was reminded of my science lessons at school. By far the most interesting and memorable textbooks I had were CGP’s – a company managing to fuse important topic with an air of whimsy I really appreciated. They certainly made revision that bit less stressful, for me at least!
Of course, everyone learns differently – I enjoy humour, you might not, I like computers, you might not etc, and just because I found a way to learn that helped me doesn’t mean it’ll work for you too – this is my experience, and I’m not here to be prescriptive!