2020: employees must learn in the flow of work, not from A to Z

Learning in the workflow through non-linear training will lead to stronger developers in 2020.

2020: employees must learn in the flow of work, not from A to Z
Learning in the workflow through non-linear training will lead to stronger developers in 2020.

Karen Roby from TechRepublic talks to Laura Baldwin, the president of O’Reilly Media, about the things that employers should keep in mind when it comes to employee training and learning in 2020. The following is an edited transcript of their interview.

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Laura Baldwin: We actually define learning in two different ways. We define linear learning as, starting at A and going to Z. For example, you have to learn a new technology, or even a new language, you start at A, you go to Z. But the reality is that most people in our job, our 2.5 million users on the platform, they are already familiar with many technologies. We call that structural literacy, and they do not need the A-to-Z type of learning offered by most learning platforms. They need productivity tools, as we offer, that enable them to find an answer and get that answer in the flow of their work.

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At O’Reilly, we strongly support learning in the flow of work. We believe that even posting a simple question in our learning platform – “Help me fix my loop in Python” – is someone learning. We think a mistake that companies make is that they learn to define as: “Hello everyone, go follow this 40-hour video course.” Going through a video does not mean that you know how to actually apply that knowledge. We are great at the application. We believe that non-linear learning, that learning in the flow of work where you actually take bits and pieces to make what you need to be a more productive employee, is exactly where the world is going, and 50% the use on our platform is exactly that.

We have purchased a company called Katacoda, which has an open platform with sandboxes, where they can actually take reference material as a book and actually play in a Python sandbox so that they can learn as they move on. We think that is crucial. Because, as I said, reading a piece of text or watching a video does not mean that you understand what you have learned and that you can apply it, and we believe that this is really the future of learning. That the days of sitting behind a computer and reading or watching something, that’s kind of what we call a static learning approach, is really over, and interactivity is where things are really going.

Karen Roby: Now that we are finishing 2019 and moving towards 2020, do you think employers will get this? Is this something they are a little against? I mean, change is always hard for us, but are they coming?

Laura Baldwin: I would say that some are and some are not. Those who truly understand that new technologies and innovation within their companies start from the ground up. It does not start with a management team sitting in a meeting room and making decisions about what will happen. They are really smart people who work for you and try new things along the way. And I think those people today, those developers, those product managers, need access to the tools to help them learn and understand how they can use those technologies and turn them into innovation and strategies for their business. I think that the job of a good learning platform is to enable users. Not only to let them watch a video and say, “I learned how to do this”, but also to turn it into productivity tools and innovation for their companies, and we try to focus on that.

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