Action learning is a style of learning in which individuals control their own learning experience, unlike traditional education methods that rely on the development of content by training organizations and delivery by teachers/instructors.

Action learning (also known as personal learning) is rapidly gaining popularity among individuals regardless of their stakeholder status such as employees, customers, associates and students. And, with good reason. People now have the ability to assert control over their own learning experiences, and they are doing so in ever greater numbers. That is why action learning is generally regarded by training organizations as more than a mere trend; it is considered a profound and permanent sea change in learning.

The stimulus, clearly, is the development of Internet-based technologies like the search engine. For millions of people, exploring the Internet has become the principal fact-finding method for resolving informational challenges large and small.  This capability, combined with equally convenient social media tools, has made the Internet the first option for individuals who seek greater responsibility for their own learning experience.

Within the workplace, individuals are similarly reaching for the Internet to supplement formal training curricula, often with the support and encouragement of training departments. Accommodating the technology-based learning priorities of stakeholders – be it mobile, social or other informal learning style – is increasingly viewed by companies as a route to lowering training expenses while also attracting young, tech-savvy employees.

How are training departments encouraging action learning?

A growing number of training organizations are facilitating action learning by employees and other stakeholders. A variety of collaboration and social media tools can be employed to do so, benefiting both learners and their companies.

For example, by launching formal Collaborative Learning initiatives, organizations can encourage independent learning by individuals within groups of two or more. Collaborative learning is a form of social learning that typically involves groups such as work teams that are formed for discovery-based learning experiences.

In addition, the Knowledge Repository, is an online database that captures, organizes and categorizes knowledge-based information of interest to a specific audience. Knowledge Repositories provide a central location for the collection and sharing of digital learning resources. They are becoming a vital component of corporate-wide knowledge management programs and a valuable inducement for the use of other action learning methods by employees and other stakeholders.

Another action learning tool recently-introduced to training marketplace is the Personal Learning Environment (PLE), a dedicated Internet portal designed to enable learners to manage and control their own learning experiences. This “next generation” web portal, which is not yet in wide use, enables individuals to engage their own personal preferences for formal and informal learning.

PLEs integrate social media tools such as blogs, RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter so individuals can easily monitor developments and available knowledge on subjects of interest. PLEs will become more robust in the future when they are augmented with Learning Management Systems and advanced filtering technologies that will create customized personal learning experiences.

The marketplace potential for PLEs, as well as action learning in general, has captured the attention of training suppliers including LMS providers.

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