Discoveries in Cognitive Science Can Impact the Way We Teach and Learn

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    Ghislain Van Hoorde works as a consultant at Philip Morris R&D Switzerland. Over the last 2 years, he has been providing support and training to the employees using the corporate Electronic Document Management System (Documentum-based technology). He can be reached via Linkedin, where you can learn about his experiences in Germany and England.

    Q. Based on your experience, how has technology improved human performance?

    I would like to challenge this question.  Based on the objectives a company wants to achieve, a specific level of performance will be defined. The efficiency of the technological tools provided by the company will be deemed good or bad, according to whether or not the objectives pursued by the company are achieved.

    For example, in an R&D environment, you tend to facilitate the information process.  It is important to ensure that the information is structured in a way that each employee knows how to categorize his own document and how to easily retrieve document produced by his or her colleagues.

    There is a great challenge to “harmonize” information so that everybody can find it quickly (time performance) while simultaneously allowing the categorization of information to be “flexible enough” to encourage the generation of new ideas from unexpected combination of pieces of information (brainstorming, research performance).

    We may note that a technological tool can be considered efficient within our corporate community, whereas it might be judged as “not ergonomic” by another industry.

    In conclusion, human performance improvement is a relative notion.  One technology might be appropriate for a certain audience, but not for another one.  The success depends on the definition of the performance stated by the company and on the suitability of the technology to the users’ educational and professional background.

    Q. What kind of discoveries will have an impact on the way people teach and learn in the 21st century?

    Like most of us working in the T&D field, I am interested in the books about personal development. I enjoy reading about the latest discoveries made in the cognitive science field, such as the way the brain functions and deals with information, memories, and reacts to external stimuli.  Then I hear the word “technology” and I smile at this prospective cartoon sketched in 1901:

    Q. How could the structure of organizational learning change 10 years from now?

    That is hard to say. It really depends on how the top management of your company considers the benefits contributed by the persons in charge of the training: the famous R.O.I.

    In the future, I am even not sure that an ISO-validated organizational learning would be automatically adopted by the C.E.O. Having more dedicated trainers is one possible outcome because training people will be considered a real skill.  It is also possible that there will be more peer trainers because an employee who gained expertise on a subject will be considered the best person to train his colleagues.

    I tend to believe in the internal recruitment process.  During a yearly appraisal, you may find an employee who has a broad expertise on a matter and a personality that is compatible with a new career in the training world.  This is, of course, a longer and riskier process than simply hiring a “professional” trainer.

    Q. More dedicated trainers and peer leaders is definitely a plus.  Can you imagine what improved training methodologies in the 21st century might look like?

    This relates to your second question. I strongly believe in individualized learning. Individualized learning, by definition, can not be offered in a traditional classroom.  From the eLearning courses I have followed until now, it appears that eLearning technology gives off the illusion of a personal training course.  I dream about an eLearning course that is actually adapted to my personal way of learning.  How is that possible?

    I imagine an eLearning program that integrates the most recent discoveries made by the cognitive science professionals.  For example, a pre-requisite quiz would determine how I learn.  Then, once this diagnosis has been performed, the eLearning program would rearrange the training material by inserting more pictures (if I am a “visual learner”) or more concrete examples. Perhaps in relation to my hobbies, and so on…

    Q. Online communities are now entering the corporate atmosphere, how could it impact your industry?

    I don’t know much about the development of those corporate learning communities. I have just been informed that it is planned to set up a wiki in our R&D entity. I am really curious to see how our employees will adopt this new tool and make it their own.

    Q. Ghislain, you’ve been great.  Are there any resources out there our readers could benefit from?

    I would recommend the blog of Michael Hanley and the ASTD group on the LinkedIn network.

    A book that gave me few classroom management tips when I accepted the challenge to provide training to the employees I support daily (a better trained user needs less helpdesk support): Training for Dummies by Elaine Biech.  My final recommendation is an interesting book about negotiation and inter-personal skills: How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicholas Boothman.

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