My Pandemic Learning Lessons

Question: “Elliott, what lessons about learning are you discovering during the Coronavirus Pandemic?”
Answers:

• Digital Learning Explodes: I had 86 global early adopters for the start of eLearning at a meeting in the early 1990’s. The Pandemic has expanded that number to over 1.8 billion workers, students, and patients around the globe who had to suddenly become digital learners.

• Learning Tools Must be Simple: We watched Zoom meetings become the dominant connection, collaboration, and knowledge sharing video tool around the world. Zoom became dominant because it is a simpler-to-use tool. While there were few learning-focused features in Zoom, its simplicity made its use viral. Watch for redesign from WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Facebook, and Google’s Meet. They will “zoomify” their interfaces rapidly in the coming months.

• Learning Deserves Design: Connecting to learners is just the first step. The design process is essential but predictably ignored in the Pandemic crisis reaction. Teachers poorly ported their classroom lesson plans to online delivery, without creative design. College students forced to learn online were often bored. Home-based workers were flooded with webinars galore. Design becomes even more important with distributed and digitally connected learners and expertise.

• They Want to Be Supported Workers, Not Students: Your workers, at home or in changed workplaces, want to be supported. But they don’t want to be students. They want expertise, advice, and feedback in order to be more effective at tasks or new approaches; yet, they don’t want to be placed in the student role. Organizations have changed online courses to become more focused interactive briefings, lectures have been shifted to Q&A sessions, and webinars have been over scheduled.

• Empathy is a Key “E” in eLearning: Your workers are under stress, with uncertainty and unclear pathways to the future. They are often sharing home offices with spouses, partners, children, and pets. They are balancing changes in every aspect of their lives: work, home, community, and family. The key word that has emerged is EMPATHY! Our workers need empathy: connection, communication, and authenticity. Empathy is not counseling or coaching. Empathy is respect for the different realities of your workforce. Give them content, context, collaboration, and EMPATHY.

• Digital Learners Need Breaks: Learning from home requires more breaks. I watched people drop off at about 45 minutes into a multi-hour-long session. They want bio breaks, or just mental breaks: time to get up and walk around. Breaks also give learners opportunities to process newly delivered content and frame up questions.

• Online Learners Want Office Hours: Think about a teacher’s behavior in a face-to-face classroom session. Some of the best conversations with teachers happen when there is a coffee or lunch break. Learners come up and ask questions or share stories. Online learners need the same one-to-one, private conversations. Consider a time when learners can easily sign up for 10-minute slots in digital office hours with experts or teachers. Both learners and instructors will come away smarter from these interactions.

• Workflow Support and Job Aids for Digital Learners: Make sure there are job aids, infographics, and workflow support for your digital learners. They will need reminders, refreshers, and “moment of need” support as they transfer new knowledge into workplace action.

• Social Issues Matter: The Pandemic’s virus intersected with the Racial Injustice virus that has surged during these unprecedented times. I believe that the Pandemic “tenderized” society to watch/react to the murder in Minneapolis and large-scale demonstrations. Social issues will be part of the conversations that our learners and workers are having now.

• Let’s Get Data from Pandemic Learning: Much of our recent digital learning did not “hit” the LMS, but we need to gather data about those formal, informal, and collaborative learning activities. Let’s look at what we are collectively “learning about learning”, from almost 2 billion learners.

• Turning 70 in the Pandemic: I turned the fun age of 70 in May. In the Pandemic, this birthday was more virtual with hundreds of friends and colleagues celebrating online. And, turning 70 has triggered my need to be a more active learner and learning advocate. I look forward to the next decade of learning innovation, with you!

Elliott Masie is the CEO of The MASIE Center and Chair of the Learning CONSORTIUM. He has spent 3 ½ months working from his home in Saratoga Springs, NY and collaborating by video with tens of thousands of global learning colleagues.

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