Virtual Learning: Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce Hardcover – 1 Jun 1997
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From the Back Cover
Training Programs Proven by Anderson Consulting and Others to Excite Your Workers! "Everyone wants learning to be their competitive advantage. Roger Schank knows how to design it."
-Julie Anixter, Vice President, Training and Learning Systems, Anixter, Inc. The majority of today's corporate training programs are weak, ineffective, costly, and hated by the employees they are supposed to train. Worst of all, they are boring. Visionary educator Roger Schank has a better way, one that has produced exceptional performance increases throughout all levels of employees. In Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce, this world-renowned professor and consultant demonstrates his "learning by doing" programs through actual examples and entertaining case histories. Schank's computer simulation and role-playing scenario methods have helped companies as diverse as Andersen Consulting, Ameritech, AT&T, Target, and Bennigan's to:
Save training expense, not to mention the incalculable cost of poorly-trained employees; Use exciting computer-based training to escape "read and memorize" programs of the past;
Teach employees to make discoveries on their own, and train themselves; Allow employees to fail in training exercises, and learn from those failures; Broaden training goals and objectives to keep from limiting what is learned; Let Roger Schank's Virtual Learning give you a head start on tomorrow's computerized employee training procedures, raise your staff's product knowledge and excitement to new levels, and get a jump on your competition in today's ultra-competitive marketplace.
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The seven core ideas that I drew from it are:
1) Learn by doing. Training must be fully integrated into day-to-day responsibilities and available on the fly.
2) Expert Modeling. Web-developers, multi-media experts, all these folks are *useless* unless there is a cadre of proven subject-matter-experts who can be used to devise the substance of the training in an interactive fashion.
3) Survey before modeling. Apart from having experts integrated into the design team, a larger survey of experts prior to the module design is recommended.
4) Embed failure. The author is a leading proponent of the idea that the best lessons are those that are learned from failing. They are, in a word, memorable.
5) Provide options. Building on the learning that occurs from failure, the author proposes strong emphasis on options menus that allow students to branch in different directions immediately after the failure.
6) Include ambiguity. The author suggests that avoidance of the "school solution" is helpful--there should be no one answer, but degrees of answer.
7) Prototype and test draft module. As obvious as it might seem, the author's experience suggests that too often distance learning modules go straight into production without being tested on real students, something he considers essential.
Missing from the book, which could do with a new edition, is a directory of virtual learning success stories apart from the author's own experience, and of virtual learning tools. I would be especially interested in an appendix with a cross-section of URLs for successful distance learning examples across the various university degree areas as well as in vocational training.
The book did inspire me to conceptualize virtual training and distance learning as a new means of managing corporate knowledge. I am very disenchanted with the years of nonsense coming from those championing "knowledge management" and as my own interests have moved toward collaborative work, external source exploitation, and organizational intelligence, I have come to the conclusion that a good strategy for any organization interested in perpetuating and leveraging its internal knowledge would be to take a distance learning approach that integrates a weekly open source intelligence report on the state of the knowledge segment; a distance learning menu related to that knowledge segment; an expert forum where completion of the distance learning is required before participating; and a virtual library of internal and external sources structured for efficient use. The next step would be to expand the circle and share the burden with other organizations, ultimately creating an information commons for that specific knowledge segment.
This is a good book, and helpful to anyone wishing to reflect on how the future calls for continuous education, learning by doing, and doing by learning.
On the other hand, Virtual learning is a sales brochure of the services Roger Schank's company, Institute for the Learning Sciences (ILS) offers for organisations. For example, the cases offer convincing references of satisfied customers of ILS. A cynical reader might suspect that only the successful projects are included and the lukewarm cases forgotten. Had Schank included two or three cases outside his own business history, the book would make a much better case.
Schank tries to apply his own theses in this book. Instead of providing lists of things to remember he tells stories and presents experiences from the field. He does not give ready-made answers but encourages readers to try things out themselves. Yes, Virtual learning is an antithesis of a traditional coursebook.
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