Chief Human Resources Officer

Regional Director of Corporate Learning Solutions at the AMA on the Internet’s Effect on Today’s Learner

Ken Bloom, Regional Director of Corporate Learning Solutions at the American Management Association, discussed the how the Internet has affected how much we really learn.

At the outset of his thought leadership presentation at the 2019 Human Resources Leadership Forum: Creating the Workplace of the Future, held in Dallas on October 17, Bloom said he was going to present research done by Matthew Fisher, a colleague at Yale University, about the impact that access to the Internet has on today’s learners. “First off, I want to talk about some characteristics of organizations today that affect how learners learn. Organizations are flatter due to globalization, and business priorities are constantly changing due to competitive pressures in the workforce. In general, employees are younger, more diverse, and more tech savvy, and seasoned employees are looking to update and refresh their skills. Everything moves faster, and there’s a desire for immediacy,” he noted.

Combined with this are the realities of learning and development (L&D) resources. “Organizations have fewer L&D teams, those teams are spread too thin, there’s not enough time to develop a true 70/20/10 approach, and budgets have been cut. Organizations are unable to provide the L&D that learners demand, so these learners are going to the Internet,” Bloom explained.

Fisher’s research was aimed at finding out if accessing information online affects how we self-assess our own knowledge, how much we want to learn, how much we think we need to learn, and the degree to which we conflate external knowledge with internal knowledge. “Each time we research something on the Internet, our brain switches to transactional memory. Our brain believes that if we know where to find the information, we don’t need to make it part of our knowledge. This means we’re not really learning as much as we think we are.”

Bloom continued, “Fisher’s research found that people who accessed the Internet for information and sources of knowledge assessed themselves as higher in terms of levels of mastery than people who didn’t use the Internet. The Internet adds an artificial boost of confidence about our knowledge, and we tend to believe we have mastery of a subject because we have access to it,” he said.

“We, as learning professionals, can help learners by guiding them to the best-designed online sources that are relevant to them. We can partner with subject-matter experts to develop the right kind of L&D modalities and content. We can assure that the leaders of the learners are fully engaged from the beginning and are on board with how learners will be learning and the development they’ll be going through. That’s a big predictor of success. Lastly, we can work with business leaders to determine what they want to accomplish with L&D, the impact they want to achieve on the organization, and identify relevant performance metrics that demonstrate the impact on the business to determine the best online resources.”

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