Tuesday, February 27, 2007

DIY vs. Formal Learning

DIY Learning (Do-it-Yourself) is the term of the week, it seems.

Elliot Masie's most recent Learning Trends newsletter leads with the headline "DIY: Do It Yourself Trends". He quotes an article by Dion Hinchcliffe in ZD Net in which Dion states,
The idea of DIY (Do It Yourself) is to get developers and IT departments out of
the demand loop and letting users self-service themselves.

Eliot goes on to talk about how "Content Widgets might add to the creation of learning assets" and the rise of "Do It Yourself Content creation."

Harold Jarche says, The future of learning is DIY:

This is the power of informal learning, if organisations decide to enable it. It has to be DIY, user-driven and uncontrolled. People will figure out what’s best for them, as they have for millennia.

Brent Schenkler has been on a soapbox recently, talking about the death of ISD in the wake of informal learning. He responds in DIY not ISD:

I can over-simplify the issue significantly and state the following: ISD is only necessary when you are mandating learning to unwilling participants...for everthing else we do indeed learn it ourselves.

This is a very interesting conversation... and seems like a no duh to me. But then, I've been working in small organizations for the past 11 years. Small companies rarely have money or time for formal training programs. These flatter organizations tend to be more transparent. A staff meeting includes all ten of us -- opportunities for knowledge transfer are endless. In small companies, DIY/informal learning is pretty much all you got. It's a way of life down here.

It's been years since I've taken a formal training program for work. (I went to school a few years back to learn a completely unrelated trade. That was definitely formal classroom training. I had teachers. Tests. Grades. Report cards. And tuition payments.)

Ironically, I've never taken an e-Learning course, although I've been producing them for over decade. Or rather, I've never been mandated to take an e-Learning course. I check 'em out on line in the name of professional development -- see what all the other vendors are doing.

Lately I've been taking e-Learning courses on e-Learning -- because I want to learn more. Because it's out there. And I can. I'm getting a Masters Degree in Instructional Design. And it's free. Free range. Free of cost. "User-driven and uncontrolled" as Jarche says. Of course, I won't get a grade and I won't have fancy letters to tack on at the end of my name. But I'll have the knowledge and the confidence that I know what the hell I'm talking about for once. Maybe.

So is the world of the Large Corporation so different? I guess it is. You've got Compliance. And Standards to live up to. And Managers to report to. And Performance Competencies that your LMS tells you you need to have in order to get that raise you want. And there's all that $ that needs to get spent on something, right? Do folks have time for DIY when they've got all these other things to live up to?

Large Corporations, it seems to me, need to learn something from us small fries down here where free-range, DIY, informal learning is a way of life by necessity, by design, because it makes sense.

The sticking point, however, for those Large Corporations are Brent's "unwilling participants". Smaller organizations typically have to weed out those unwilling folks; large corporations have to stick with 'em. They serve a function. They have necessary skills. But they don't always feel like training or learning. So how can you expect these folks to embrace DIY learning?

To Brent's unwilling participants, I might add those learners who don't even know what questions they should be asking. I wrote about this a little in an earlier post Informal Learning: Getting Learners to Ask the Right Questions. This is where ISD still plays a role. Or maybe it's not the ISD our mothers' told us about. Maybe it's managers or mentors who have to provide guidance -- on-the-fly instructional design.

(I do think DIY Learning is a better term than Informal Learning -- if we're gonna use labels at all.)


Dan said...

Hey Cammy

From my point of view it's nice to find other people out there who are thinking about the same things.

You mention a Masters degree - is this one of the university open learning initiatives? If so, I'd love to know more about it - I've only found content tangentially related to ID and elearning (a course in interface design on the UK's Open University website).

On the other hand I guess you could be speaking metaphorically - I'm learning more, and faster, interacting with the blogs than I got in my actual degree!

Cammy Bean said...

Hey Dan,

My Masters degree is of the metaphorical kind.

My instructors: all these amazing bloggers. (Yes, that's you!)
My classmates: all these amazing bloggers. (Yes, that's you, too!)
My resources and reading lists: the ever-growing web.
My schedule: completely my own.
My credentials: none.
My skills and knowledge: growing rapidly.
My motivation: self.
My grade and feedback: job performance, blog comments and discussion, self-satisfaction.

Gregory Louie said...

Hi Cammy,

Thanks for your post.

I've arrived from a link in the Diigo in Education Group Sandbox.

As a parent and a teacher and a fan of Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen, I envision a day when DIY learning replaces a significant number of courses starting with middle school elective courses.

Students would still go to school to socialize, play organized sports, band, choir, and studios that utilize hands-on materials like art and biotechnology, engineering and science.

But the other courses can be passion-based. Of course, that is, if we only can reform the NCLB laws, which stifle innovation.

What do you think?

Cammy Bean said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I'd go to that school.
I'm not familiar with that book (my focus mostly on the corporate sector, although with kids approaching school age, I see my focus broadening soon) -- how is that different from a Montessori style classroom?

Gregory Louie said...

Hi Cammy,

I highly recommend Clayton Christensen's work. He's a Professor at the Harvard School of Business and author of several books on the theme of Disruptive Innovations. DIY learning could be considered as an important element to the themes presented in Disrupting Class.

No such school exists...yet. It is a projection into the future when online learning (perhaps in the form of virtual high schools) reaches 50% of schools.