Timing is key: the junction where your well-built lesson meets your learner’s moment of need.

Timing Is the Key to Effective Learning


In an Editor’s Letter in the Chief Learning Officer journal, Mike Prokopeak enumerates the idea of a “teachable moment”:

“The right time is a moment when interest, curiosity, or need hits and the act of learning becomes effortless. More often than not, those teachable moments come when they’re least expected.”

It’s an old idea. Parents use it. Some of the greatest teachers in the world used it (Jesus, for instance, used teachable moments to expound to his followers his world-changing ideas). All my memorable teachers used them (and all the other teachers I’ve long since forgotten did not). Politicians and officials use them. We use them here, on staff: “Google it!” or “YouTube it!” is a favorite phrase.

Teachable moments are all around us, but perhaps the reason they are marginalized in corporate learning or traditional Higher Ed learning is because they put the learning out of our control and squarely into the hands of the learner.

So Prokopeak asks, “What would your learning strategy look like if you built it around teachable moments instead?” Sure, the LMS would still be the center cog and the distributor. Instructors and coaches would still provide the personal touch. Learning Paths would still be required for advancement. Administrators would still track everything that moves.

“There would also be noticeable changes. On-the-job tools that bring learning to learners at the point of need would be much more prevalent. Performance support tools, job aids and microlearning via mobile devices and video vignettes would be used more widely.” (Mike Prokopeak)

But the most significant change would be foundational: hold learners accountable for their own development and surround them with a support system of non-traditional “instructors” such as peers, colleagues, managers, and teams in another country halfway around the world. They are also systems, processes, and culture. And, if anything, the recent MOOC-craze has taught us that people are ready and willing to devour self-directed learning at an unexpected rate.

In his article in the same CLO journal entitled “Wake Up to the New World of Learning,” Josh Bersin says:

“There’s a disruption taking place in learning and development. Employees today want to drive their own learning, and they aren’t going to be nice if you don’t give them what they want...Yet today this problem is more important than ever, as it is perhaps the most disruptive change learning and development has seen in a decade.”

He says that while formal training will never completely disappear, many studies show that 80 percent or more of our actual learning experience comes from coaching, apprenticeship, meeting people, asking questions, and making mistakes. In other words, from relationships. This is what prompted Edvance360 more than 12 years ago to get into the Learning Management System market!

A social, learner-centered LMS like Edvance360 enables clients to put employees/learners in the driver’s seat, giving them the content, experience, and environment needed. We believe—and have always made our number one goal—that an environment that facilitates relationships makes learning experiences more like development assignments that often result in a learner’s evolution, enabling them to discover their own strengths and weaknesses.

To make the change, Bersin outlines the following steps:

An excellent example of this “in action”, is the new Harvard Business Review Online Exclusives (hbr.org/videos), curating searchable video vignettes “solving” problems, demonstrating latest research and best practices. It’s delivered on a simple website, rather than an LMS, and seems to be in its early stages (no rating system or curated algorithms based on videos previously accessed, etc.), but it’s a good start.

Edvance360 can support our clients in this hands-off approach in the following ways: 

  1. Communities of Learning - not silos, but rather collaborative, topical, and open 
  2. Discussions - get and give answers to questions 
  3. Wikis - build a document or actionable case study based on collaboration, feedback, discussion, and debate 
  4. Searchable Content - keywords enable the learner to find what they need when they need it 
  5. Rating Systems - not everything posted is helpful, so crowd-source it 
  6. ePortfolios - build and gather proof of learning 
  7. Blogs/Journals - take the time to absorb learning nuggets, while sharing with others 
  8. Secure Social Network - network to grow in needed areas 
  9. Skill Tracking - know what learners have learned and translate it into results they’ve shown on the job 
  10. Algorithms - push content: “if you liked this, then you will probably like this” 
  11. Gamification - get that psychological “bump” with bragging rights, but also let your community know 
  12. Mentors - make mentoring easier and trackable using LMS mentor tools 
  13. Recording Tools - make everyone an “instructor” by giving them the tools to create micro-bursts of learning in videos or audio files 
  14. New Feeds - show what’s new, what’s happening, and what peers are saying 
  15. Offline Reports - let learners add learning they’ve taken elsewhere to their record

In summary, Mike Propeak says:

“Building strategy around teachable moments doesn’t just make pedagogical sense. Helping your people coach others and developing systems that allow them to do so is sound business, too. Change comes fast and furious. The right time for learning is all the time.”

Josh Bersin says it this way:

“Our job in learning and development today is to design and curate this environment: making learning a part of the employee experience at your company. This means managers have to spend time with you as coach, people have to be comfortable putting others into new roles, and the company as a whole must embrace the concept that new ideas and experimentation is positive. All these design elements are cultural, stretching the learning leader’s role.”

And we say it this way:

Edvance360: evolving education.