What is the Future of Learning?

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This article first appeared on my Leadership Options website.  Because of its relevance to the Studio, I am posting it here as well. 

Last Tuesday marked the first public showing of our new website,  www.womenslearningstudio.net. My two partners and I are developing an online community focused on learning and leadership. The experience was both exhilarating and frightening.

We invited nearly 30 women to an online E-vent to visit and beta test the site and give us their thoughts and ideas. It seemed to go very well, but after more than a year of planning, I realize that we are ready to move to the next level. We now become the service-providers and marketers for this new endeavor, and that is the challenge.

I learned so much during the course of business and website development that I believe it is necessary to reflect on how we got here and on the forces that seem primed to affect our work and the process of learning in the future. In particular, it is important to look at how all this affects the women we will serve.

Certainly, in the last year, I have learned how to use many different web applications such as Wisemapping, Piktochart, Pinterest,  Diigo, WikiSpaces, Slideshare and Pollsnack,  and I have learned to work completely online with my new business partners, as we live many miles apart and travel extensively. I continue to ponder what online leadership means, and I have a series of blogs on that topic planned for future publication. However, there is much more.

More important for me is what I have concluded about learning and growth now and in the future.  I have been an educator for many years. I taught in secondary schools and was a high school principal. I also taught leadership courses at the college level.

My vantage point was the traditional learning model even though I dreamed of something very different. Now I am convinced that new ways of learning are on the horizon for those who are ready to embrace them. These are the trends I see.

  • In the future, people will be more responsible for their own learning. With reduced money for professional development and online learning opportunities such as free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford and extensive for-profit online learning offerings, personal and professional development will be the individual’s responsibility. Recognizing that fact is essential for women (and men) to succeed and reach their full potential.
  • Learning will and should be collaborative. Successful individuals will make full use of online communication tools to share and edit group files, conduct meetings, distribute tasks, share expenses, etc.  Few individuals can have all the answers they need to do the great things they want to do. Sharing ideas and resources makes everyone stronger and more productive. Learning how to collaborate online has become an essential skill.
  • Learning will, of necessity, focus much more on critical thinking, creativity and relationship building. Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, which talks about how right-brain activities are so essential to success today and in the future, gives us a clue to the importance of these skills.
  • A large part of learning will be how to separate the important from the unimportant. Individuals must learn how to identify and ignore the unlimited distractors that can take their valuable time. Everyone seems to suffer from information overload. With Smart-phones and constant access to work, technology and information bleed into and take over personal time. Developing strategies to cope with that overload must be a first step to effective personal and professional growth.
  • Technical learning will become as important to one’s personal life as to one’s professional life. It is easy to think that technology is only for those engaged in paid activities (work). For greater personal fulfillment, individuals will search more for online information, support and opportunities. I was interested to see that one of the largest online communities is not a professional site. It is a hobby site called ravelry.com, which is for “knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.” The related Twitter account currently has over 56,000 followers. Many businesses would like that kind of following.

To thrive in this environment, individuals must focus on what they are learning and will learn. They must engage in on-going reflection. They need to develop their own personal and professional learning plans and formally identify their learning networks. As for women, they must ask for (demand) their own styles of learning so they can narrow the gaps between men and women that we now see.

Learning must be seen as something we do every day, and it must be taken out of the realm of the uncomfortable classroom setting where being a beginner or having the wrong answer means we have failed. We must move to the realm of “It’s OK to stumble and make mistakes.”  That is indeed the only way we learn.

In our new venture, I look forward to exploring these changes and in working with others to shape this new future.

Please look around our site. Take our free personality and skills surveys, visit our free directory of online learning opportunities, take a look at our discussions, participate in our beta-testing scavenger hunt, and register to receive more information. 

Article used by permission from Lyn Boyer, co-founder of Women’s Learning Studio and owner of Leadership Options, LLC .

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