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May 2014
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TD Magazine

The Networked Learner

To Harold Jarche, the Internet is one big classroom without walls.

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Harold Jarche is an international consultant in the training and development field. He is acknowledged as an expert on social learning and knowledge management, and helps organizations devise their own networks to enable learning and knowledge-sharing. Jarche began his career in T&D in the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served in leadership and training roles for more than 20 years.

What sparked your initial interest in the Training profession?

I took my first course in what was called Methods of Instruction in the Army Cadets when I was 14 years old. Later, as an Army officer, I taught leadership courses. I finished my military career as a training specialist, integrating flight simulation into pilot training and developing some early computer-based training.

I became passionate about workplace learning when the web came about, and in 1998 I wrote my master's thesis on learning in the information technology workplace.

How has your career evolved?

After retiring from the armed forces, I worked at a university-based applied research and consulting organization called the Centre for Learning Technologies. Later I was responsible for professional services at a company that had developed a learning content management system. In 2003 I became a free agent, and have been one ever since.

In the past few years I have partnered with international business networks, such as the Internet Time Alliance, Change Agents Worldwide, and most recently Aximark in France. These networks serve as both communities of practice and paths to new business opportunities.

How have you seen the profession change in the past decade?

The profession has not changed as much as it should have in the past 10 years. Too many people in training and development still make the leap from a performance issue directly to training as the only solution.

Management often plays into this, with statements like "We have a training problem," and the T&D function does not always challenge that. Compliance training is too big of a cash cow for the industry to give up.

What are your go-to sources for professional inspiration and development?

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I have a wide network that supports my ongoing professional development, including Twitter, Google+, and multiple blogs. The diversity of opinions is what I really appreciate. Without my own personal knowledge management practices, I would feel very disconnected.

What are you most excited about in the profession today?

There is a huge opportunity for T&D to merge with other fields and add broader perspectives and more varied approaches to supporting knowledge work. Integrating T&D with organizational development, marketing, communications, and knowledge management is the way ahead in the network era.

What advice would you give to those wanting to advance their careers in the learning field?

My advice is to get up to speed on social networking technologies, as well as understand the business you are supporting. Social media exposes everything and everyone. It's a global village.

If you really want to support workplace learning, you must make yourself part of the business and its networks, and not function as an island.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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