Options-Based Learning

I believe in prescribed learning for adult learners.

I believe in options-based learning for adult learners.

Isn’t that a conflict? Not in my mind, and here’s why.

Prescribed learning, whether higher education curriculum or corporate training programs, provides the framework that is assured to scaffold throughout the program. Strong programs have an excellent architecture in place supported with well-designed learning. The prescribed flow is best developed in a centralized capacity, guiding the experience and knowledge of subject matter experts into the prescribed framework.

Normally I shudder at centralization. Dolan’s research study in 2011 titled The Isolation of Online Adjunct Faculty and Its Impact on their Performance reported that online adjuncts perceived low cultural connection, being taken for granted, and communication from the administration to just be disciplinary. Meanwhile, the administration’s perception was that communication was positive, even if not every single individual would be satisfied.

How familiar is this dichotomy to you? Having experienced both sides of this table, I am sad to see how common it is. As such, I don’t get too terribly excited with centralization, but see its value in certain scopes, such as vision setting and framework development with a mission to be a conduit of information rather than a dictator of it. In this scope, I find centralized development of learning programs with strong expertise content contributors who work in the field of the learning area a powerful catalyst.

And….here’s the catch… once the vision has been set… once the framework has been developed… once practitioner expertise has contributed… let it go. Give it to the faculty; the trainers; the coaches. Don’t micromanage the content thinking that will improve the learning experience. Invest in your team so that they make the content come alive.

Here is where options-based learning is not only real in the context of prescribed learning, but more possible as well. If a solid framework is provided, then a facilitator has a lot of slack to understand the learners needs better and ensure that connection between the knowledge and the individual.

By being able to take the time necessary to assess each learners’ needs (do not confuse the term assess with testing), the options-based learning can come into full effect.

  • The learning calls for a discussion based on a particular type of experience, but if the learner has none, the facilitator has room to see that and recommend an interview with somebody who does. Or set up a panel of experts for the group.
  • The learning calls for a particular book to be read. But how much more motivation would be there with a 30 minute call from the author? You’d be surprised how easy it is, but facilitators lost in the weeds of poorly created learning experiences do not have a chance to consider such options.
  • The learning assumes a certain proficiency in the group that simply doesn’t exist. Now the facilitator focus on identifying and filling those gaps.

I could go on at length, but you see the pattern. Let’s stop thinking that groups of learners’ are going to have the same skills, same proficiencies, and ready to take it to the next level. A strong framework gives a well-trained facilitator the capacity they need to ensure true learning and maximize options based on those learners’ needs.

Crossposted on LinkedIn at Options-Based Learning.

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.