As the use of various learning technologies becomes commonplace in training departments, a perception has been building that implies that you can force fit any content into any technology.
There are several fundamental problems with this perception:
- We are looking at entire programs (i.e. project management or sales training) and attempting to force the entire program into one delivery modality.
- There’s an implied assumption that all delivery modalities treat all types of content in the same way.
So what’s the solution? The best approach I have found to accomplish this is to use a new take on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, depending on the desired outcome, you would categorize your learning objectives into one of the six levels of learning and then use appropriate activities that correspond to the levels of learning in order to achieve the desired level of mastery.
In 2009, Andrew Churches repackaged the taxonomy to take advantage of tools that can help us master different levels of learning in ways that were not previously possible. What follows is a high-level summary of each of the six levels of learning contained in Churches’ Digital Taxonomy
1. Remembering: Retrieving, recalling, or recognizing knowledge from memory. Remembering is when memory is used to produce definitions, facts or lists, or recite or retrieve material.
Remembering is the level of learning where we become familiar enough with concepts that we can recognize when they are being used in another context. When we deal with the Remembering domain, we find ourselves using the tools available for self-directed learning. Web technologies like Google can help us to define terms, or we can use books, PDF documents, and other web tools to read and then recall key concepts. Generally, we don’t need to collaborate with other people to remember concepts.
A very conventional and inexpensive way to deliver knowledge-based content is via a virtual classroom webinar. With most webinars, we ‘hope’ that people will log in, pay attention, and remember what is said. This is simply information dissemination. It’s important. It’s useful. But it rarely gets us beyond knowledge, or perhaps bridging into the next level of learning.
a) Learning objective: Identify common “slip and fall” areas on a college campus.
b) Assessment activity: Provide a campus map and have learners follow the map to the top five “slip and fall” areas.
c) Potential delivery technologies: A self-paced e-learning module which allows learners to interact with a campus map.
2. Understanding: Constructing meaning from different types of function be they written or graphic.
The Understanding level of learning occurs when the learner can not only recall knowledge, but can explain it in context to someone else. While we should not use the word as one of our learning objectives, we can use it to define this level of learning. The Understanding level of learning is taking what we recall and making that data meaningful.
When we have short, stand-alone e-learning modules that can be taken on demand, we may be in the realm of fostering Understanding. We are moving beyond mere recall, and into connecting pieces of new knowledge together. Once again self-paced formats are often more appropriate that live delivery mediums.
a) Learning objective: Based on seasonal weather conditions, anticipate specific “slip and fall” hazards that are unique to a campus.
b) Assessment activity: Learners will photograph five “slip and fall” hazards on their campus, and create a short presentation with the intent of informing the safety committee of these tests.
c) Potential delivery technologies: A discussion board where learners can get more information about the topic, post their individual presentations, and review the presentations posted by others.
3. Applying: Carrying out or using a procedure through executing or implementing. Applying related and refers to situations where learned material is used through products like models, presentation, interviews and simulations.
The Applying level of learning takes us beyond foundational information and into the realm of training. Learners are starting to practice tasks, apply new skills, and correct mistakes. For example, learners can execute a checklist, create a table in Microsoft Word, enter data into a claims management system, or collaborate on a file in SharePoint.
Some start to see the social aspects of learning incorporated as we move out of Understanding and into Applying. While learning objectives in the Remembering and Understanding domains may have been delivered in a self-paced format or in a webinar forma where interaction with others was limited and learners were expected to assimilate knowledge on their own, moving into Applying would often require live interaction.
a) Learning objective: After identifying “slip and fall” hazards on your college campus, propose preemptive safety fixes to minimize the risk to students.
b) Assessment activity: Learners will create a proposal that identifies the hazards, lists the cause of each hazard, and provides suggestions on how to mitigate the hazard risk.
c) Potential delivery technologies: Learners will participate in a Virtual Classroom discussion to learn how to identify and mitigate potential hazards and how to create effective arguments that support that mitigation.
4. Analyzing: Breaking material or concepts into parts, determining how the parts relate or interrelate to one another or to an overall structure or purpose. Mental actions include differentiating, organizing and attributing as well as being able to distinguish between components.
If the Applying level allows us to take new concepts and use them in a collaborative format, the Analyzing level starts to help us make cognitive decisions. We aren’t just prioritizing items; we conduct and provide the analysis behind the decision-making. Discussion boards, Virtual Classrooms, and live classrooms are often used for analysis.
Other learning technologies that can support analysis include simulations. Creating and delivering training and assessments that meet the Analyzing level of learning take more time, more resources and more quality control. If your objective is, “Navigate a jet fighter in combat situations,” then learners will need to practice those skills to successfully master that objective. Without the practice component, they will remain in the Remembering and Understanding levels at best.
a) Learning objective: Decide which hazard mitigation is most appropriate for a particular situation.
b) Assessment activity: Learners will compare three “slip and fall” mitigation solutions and conduct a cost-benefit analysis in order to determine the best solution.
c) Potential delivery technologies: The Virtual Classroom combined with videos and job aids provide background information on the various mitigation solutions.
5. Evaluating: Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.
Evaluating is a means of making a decision. A decision can be made individually or collaboratively as part of a group. Yes, ultimately, the learner can be making these decisions individually, in which case coaching or social media tools like discussion boards can be used very effectively. If, however, the learner will eventually be collaborating on a decision as part of a group, this learning objective should be taught in a more collaborative format.
a) Learning objective: Determine the best vendor to mitigate identified “slip and fall” hazards.
b) Assessment activity: Learners will research vendors and then make a recommendation to the safety committee based on their research.
c) Potential delivery technologies: The Virtual Classroom combined with videos and job aids provide background information on the various vendors. Web searches, scavenger hunts, and referral checking will supplement the more structured training.
6. Creating: Putting the elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning or producing.
With all the tools that are readily available to learners today, the Creating level of learning can be a lot of fun. The idea behind Creating is building something new, not regurgitating what was taught in class. Learners can create videos, wikis, podcasts, and a variety of other ‘projects’ using low-cost technologies organizations often have already available.
a) Learning objective: Design a hazard mitigation plan for the new student center on campus.
b) Assessment activity: Create a hazard mitigation plan that includes budget, design, vendor recommendations, and evaluation protocols.
c) Potential delivery technologies: The Virtual Classroom combined with videos and job aids provide background information. Web searches, scavenger hunts, and referral checking will supplement the more structured training.