Highlights from Behind the Green Door

An event took place at the SOHO center in Sofia this March, which I was initially pretty skeptical about. Not because I don’t have faith in the organizers. In their wholehearted devotion and willingness to help the Bulgarian L&D community evolve and improve, to enable it with even more instruments and methodologies. On the contrary.

BG Trainer Forum has existed since 2008 and is an informal non-business association. Its members joined on good will and solely out of sincere eagerness for their community to work and evolve as a team.

This was about to be the second formal event organized by them and the topic was L&D Innovation. Seeing the agenda I felt intrigued and at the same time puzzled at what could eLearning possibly have in common with suggestopedia and learning through theater, with painting and beauty or with coaching and tango.

The typical early March morning frost was snipping peevishly on my fingers during the seven minutes it took me to park my car and get through the massive green door of the Sofia SOHO center. The event was taking place in a hall, right below the roof of the building and the sight of the tall windows with their homey warm light beaming through and the liberating spaciousness of the place made me feel right at home. Anxious and slightly diffident I roamed the room while finishing the mammoth cup of latte – the only thing that gets me through the early mornings. One by one people started to fill the room until I could count about 50 of them. Most of them young, some representing corporations, others consulting agencies and yet others – freelancers.

artworks-000045145424-0ncx6r-cropAfter the semi-formal introduction part, Maria from HP told us about a very exciting global program of the company, called HP Professions. The key idea was that the ones leading and managing their development are the people themselves. The way it should be. It is an entirely online program and is administered only in terms of platform, structure and relations, but not content or direction. The enterprise has a supporting role and lets its employees advance at their own pace and will. Each “Profession” in the program has a high-level sponsor (usually upper management people) with an established authority who has earned the trust and respect of their coworkers and community in a particular field. On top of that, everyone who joins the “professions” respective community has their own mentor, who they choose from a line of experts. From then on, development happens organically and dynamically.

I was quite thrilled listening to Maria’s presentation, as what I was about to present on technologies in education and why they are an important part of our lives now was already practically valid in a successfully working program.

My presentation was entitled “How technology took over training”. I have been delving into the topic literally since last century, when I organized my first blended learning course, which prepared candidates for the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam. In these nearly 15 years my job, my life and the way I learn and communicate have taken a dramatic turn thanks to technology and the ever ubiquitous internet. This reflected also on the training courses that I have taken and taught.

If the three main enablers are access, delocalization and networking, the three changes in our lives that sway us away from the traditional ways of learning are the lack of time, the complexity of day-to-day tasks and the development of mobile devices. We can no longer afford to attend long curricula, we check our emails in the traffic jams, post on social networks from the mall or the park. On the other hand, the need for creative solutions requires an immediate access to knowledge. Waiting for a month to train a team in team management is absurd as the team might not be there at all by then. It’s all about the here and now. Any kind of information or knowledge can be right at our fingertips. Thanks to the Internet our mentor is always beside us.

We’re all aware of the 10-20-70 principle – learning should be 70% informal, 20% social and 10% formal. Those 70% have always been a challenge for the training specialist who tries to formalize learning through on-the-job training programs, job rotation, mentoring, coaching and so on. Now with networking and global access, informal learning is all around us – eLearning systems, social networks, expert forums. Throw in the high retention rate while applying knowledge on-the-fly and online forms of training aren’t only financially efficient, but enable the enterprise to become a dynamic learning organization. Charts very well represent that with a recently estimated 56 billion dollar eLearning industry about to double by 2015.

The afternoon sessions were very interesting too, but you won’t hear about them today as this post came out a bit lengthy. I just want to say that I learned that there is indeed a lot in common between eLearning, technologies, suggestopedia, beauty, theater, coaching and tango. And it’s the people who do all this – for them it makes sense to try new things, to be different and innovative. They are bold enough to bring change and only look ahead into a bright tomorrow. A tomorrow that is only certain to be different.


Categories: eLearning

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