How to Cultivate a Learning Ecosystem
If you’re fairly proactive about your learning and development of your team, you’ve probably heard a lot about creating a conducive learning environment. In the eLearning world, “learning environment” typically refers to the way a classroom is set up, or just the general setting learners are in. You can create the greatest learning experiences in the world, but a learner’s success to large degree relies on the right kind of environment: a learning ecosystem.
What do we mean by “learning ecosystem?” Just like a natural ecosystem (picture the rainforest), it’s a symbiotic relationship between the various working parts, players, and yes, even the physical environment where learning takes place.
Breaking News! Learning Isn’t Mean to Be a Formal Occasion.
The main problem we often see with learning environments is that the very term presupposes that learning is always a formal, premeditated event. Setting up an environment often means scheduling and prescribing learning as a one-time thing. A learning ecosystem, however, takes into consideration all of the informal learning that happens over the course of the day, a week, a month, or even the year.
To understand how a true learning ecosystem works. Think of the three components a biological ecosystem is made up.
- Discrete organisms trying to meet its core functions
- Physical environment where they carry out those functions
- Complex relationships between the organisms and the environment
An ecosystem happens naturally, isn’t forced, and works flawlessly to its own rhythm.
Each employee is like component 1, doing their “core function” aka their job, and the office or another location is their physical environment where they do that job. When you put a learner into a super formal, stuffy kind of environment, you are taking them out of their comfort zone, and in essence, destroying a key component of the ecosystem.
Don’t get too down on yourself though if you’ve made this mistake. Chances are that your learners are taking part in a learning ecosystem without really thinking about it or you being aware of it. Whether they’re watching an explainer video on YouTube or they’re reading up on product specs outside of a “classroom” environment, learners are getting the information they need from a learning ecosystem that is natural to them.
Here is something that sounds counterintuitive, but nonetheless, effective. Rather than try to craft the “perfect” environment, allow a healthy learning ecosystem to form by simply making sure employees have the information and opportunity to carry out their job in a comfortable setting, that is supported by management and company culture.
Tips to Foster Your Own Learning Ecosystem
You don’t have to bring in an office plant to create the right ecosystem for learning. Instead, consider ways that you can make sure that learning is both available to learners all the time, and that they can actually receive credit for the extra work that they put in.
This takes us to the third necessity of a learning ecosystem: supportive management and team culture.
As management nurtures an ecosystem of learning through feedback, delegation, and trust, employees can cultivate themselves and their skills to create a harmonious relationship between opportunity and personal development.
- You could offer voluntary training or conference tickets for learners that want to go the extra mile or award badges and kudos to those that actively learn outside the classroom.
- Create learning that works like an RSS feed where employees can pick and choose the topics that interest them the most.
- Recommend podcasts that you’ve loved, or create a Twitter feed for quick tips.
By making learning less of an event and more of a daily practice, your workplace can transition to a place where learning comes naturally.