The role of learning professionals is NOT to make people learn. That’s an unrealistic task. Learners are responsible for learning. Learning happens inside people’s heads and so it is impossible to measure. So then what do Learning Professionals do? Why do companies give them money?
The goal of a corporate learning function is to increase individuals’ capability to produce value. A company with employees that produce more value is more valued itself. To accomplish this goal, Learning Professionals need to create learning experiences, and get the right people to participate in them. If the experiences are designed correctly, the participants should be able to do their work faster, better, smarter or safer. The first part is handled by a Learning Management System. An LMS , when set up correctly, facilitates participation in Learning Experiences for target audiences. You can’t grow your capability if you don’t participate. However, just because you participate doesn’t mean you grow your capability.
Most Learning Organizations stop here. Participation is easy to measure and report on. Stakeholders understand the results. The problem is that learning and Learning Management Systems are a big investment for only getting half of the desired results. The Learning industry has been scratching their collective heads for years looking for a way to measure learning, but that is the wrong measure. We need to measure growth in capability.
Measuring growth is done by setting a baseline and measuring changes over time. The complication is that people are always learning and always adjusting their capability. To try to measure the effect of a single learning experience is going to be hard. Another way to look at it is that Learning Experiences are transactions happening on a regular basis. Capability could be tested at timed intervals and increases could be attributed to the transactions that occurred between the intervals. This kind of measurement is not easy for an LMS but could be done with the xAPI.
Using this model, Learning Experiences could be offered as smaller components of a larger practice. The key is in creating assessments that also provide value.