Innovation has nothing to do with how many dollars you have

I began putting this post together last week after I’d had a conversation with a colleague elsewhere in the organisation.  They were bemoaning the fact that our work PCs still used IE6 (stop laughing at the back) when there was Firefox, Chrome, even IE9 to use in its place. So, I work for an organisation that uses IE6 and still (in many cases) considers training to be in a classroom with someone doing the age old chalk and talk routines.  Against this backdrop we’re developing innovative and challenging learning activities to support a diverse organisation.  How?  Read on.


As the quote says, necessity is the mother of invention and we’ve had to look at at how we can create different opportunities for our learners against severe austerity measures.  As I posted recently when I asked who had spare budgets, we’re facing the same issues that many in the public sector have.  We’re looking at a 52 minute approach to keep learning on the agenda but we can’t provide the diverse range of  interventions required if we rely on face to face courses, flipcharts and PowerPoint presentations.  We can’t resource it and it’s a high cost to the organisation to send learners for a day away from their workplace.

As a result, we had to look at alternative delivery systems and the culture of learning across the organisation.  Charles Jennings makes some great points in  this very interesting post that summarises the approach that workplace learning needs to address.

Point of Use

One approach we’ve taken is to make more learning available at the point of use.   Our DLE has a range of resources that learners can access at any time to support their need to develop skills or knowledge.  That doesn’t mean crib sheets, best practice documents, or manuals.  It’s more than that.  For instance, we created activities like a comic that users can view at their desk, on their way home, in a meeting as a group exercise, or in conversation with an HR specialist.  OK, it may only a case study with some shiny shiny graphics, but it is engaging, seems simple at first, but has depth below its 6 simple frames.

We’re adding to this suite of resources on an almost weekly basis.  For example, we’re building a workbook that follows an elearning module we created around writing an effective CV.  Why create a hard copy workbook?  It’s about the channel offer for the learner.  Some of our learners may not have PC access, some may not have mobile devices to view it, some may intrinsically prefer a paper copy.  So we’re building an ‘old school’ open learning resource that will be familiar to some learners, and something new for others.  This can be supported by a recording of a webinar about writing a CV, eBooks covering interview and communication skills, and we’re considering a podcast that could be played on an mp3 player to support the workbook.


No.  It’s not a dirty word.  I can sense some people’s hackles rising and others breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of reading 40+ screens on a PC, being told when to click an arrow to read the next screen, and being set a multiple choice question where the 20+ word answer is obviously correct.  The comic and workbook above could be considered ‘e’ because they are accessed electronically.  There are some great examples of e-learning out there at the moment and they don’t have to be that e-reading style that the genre has (in some cases) become.   Nick Shackleton-Jones posted a superb presentation in July this year that shows a history of e-learning from its origins in aircraft simulators to what we have now and predictions for the future. I’m interested in how we can develop both the learners and the technology; I’m envious of the BT programme of learner generated content.  At BT, anyone can record a process, way of working, etc, upload it to a dedicated site and share their learning.  The ability to be able to share learning is going to be a fundamental shift in how learners learn.  We encourage it in classrooms – ‘work in syndicates’ – yet we tend to make e-learning and its derivatives solitary affairs.  This, in my mind, is an area we need to develop.

Social learning

One way to develop learner created content is through a stronger focus on social learning.  There’s no guarantee that if we try and build community they will come – Harold Jarche summarises network thinking very nicely in a very timely post today.

I wasn’t surprised to see Twitter top of the C4LPT top 100 again this year.  Unsurprising because I find it a great place to start looking for resources and people who can support me (and me them).  There is a fundamental skill in managing information streams though and I think this is a challenge for parts of the public sector – this form of engagement with people and knowledge is still alien in some parts of the public sector.   We can’t expect learners to look outside their organisation if we don’t encourage them to learn socially within the organisation first.

Mobile learning

There’s been a lot of talk about mobile learning in the last few years but I haven’t seen the predicted rush towards developing materials.  I think that m-learning has been tarnished with the same perception brush that has affected elearning but there are many more ways to use mobile devices. Firstly, the use of the word mobile is highly prejudicial; a quick search in Google for mobile brings up page after page of mobile phone adverts, sites, and deals.  as I mentioned before, an area I’d like to develop further within mobile is podcasts and mp3 downloads.  These could use mobile phones as their technology solution, but could just as easily be listened to on an mp3 player, a tablet, laptop, or PC.  Add the mp3 to an open learning resource and you’re supporting learners in a different way.  Have you been to a stately home, museum or gallery recently?  You can hire an audio soundtrack to accompany you round.  You can fast forward to the parts you want, pause when you want to spend more time contemplating something, or go at the pace suggested by the authors.  Try pausing every 10 minutes to repeat something on the next training course you attend and see how long before the trainer or other participants decide to exclude you.

So, that’s a few ways we’re trying to be more innovative in learning in the public sector.  We’ve more planned like…no, I won’t say now.  You’ll have to come back again and find out what else we do.  And just for the Apple fanboys…the title of this post is a Steve Jobs quote.

As always, comments more than welcome – if you don’t want them published, let me know within your comment but that makes the conversation look very one sided.  Remember, sharing is caring.


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