May 18, 2024

Locus of learning: community, AI, or org?

Author: Clark
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A recent article caused me to think. Always a great thing!  It led to some reflections that I want to share. The article is about a (hypothetical) learning journey, and talks about how learning objects are part of that learning process. My issue is with the locus of the curation of those objects; should it be the organization, an AI, or the community?  I think it’s worth exploring.

The first sentence that stood out for me made a strong statement. “Choice is most productive when it is scaffolded by an organizationally-curated framework.” Curation of resources for quality and relevance is a good thing, but is the organization is the best arbiter? I’ve argued that the community of practice should determine the curriculum to be a member of that community. Similarly, the resources to support progression in the community should come from the community, both within and outside the organization.

Relatedly, the sentence before this one states “learner choice can be a dangerous thing if left unchecked”.  And this really strikes me as the wrong model.  It’s inherently saying we don’t trust our learners to be good at learning.  I don’t expect learners (or SMEs for that matter) to know learning. But then, we shouldn’t leave that to chance. We should be facilitating the development of learning to learn skills explicitly, having L&D model and guide it, and more.  It’s rather an old school approach to think that the org (through the agency of L&D) needs to control the learning.

A second line that caught my eye was that the protagonist “and his colleagues create and share additional AI-curated briefings with each other.”  Is that AI curation, or community curation? And note that there’s ‘creation’, not just sharing.  I’m thinking that the human agency is more critical than the AI curation. AI curation has gotten good, but when a community is working, the collective intelligence is better. Or, if we’re talking IA (and we should be), we should explicitly looking to couple AI and community curation.

Another line is also curious.  “However, learning leaders must balance the popularity of informal learning with the formal, centralized needs of the organization. This can be achieved using AI-curated real-time briefings.” Count me skeptical. I believe that if you address the important issues – purpose via meaningful work and autonomy to pursue, communities of practice, and learning to learn skills – you can trust informal learning more than AI or a central view of what learning can and should be.

Most of the article was quite good, even if things like “psychological safety” are being attributed to McKenzie instead of Amy Edmondson.  I like folks looking to the future, and I understand that aligning with the status quo is a good business move. It’s just that when you get disconnects such as these, it’s an opportunity to reflect.  And wondering about the locus of responsibility for learning is a valuable exercise.  Can the locus be the individual and community, not the org or AI? Of course, better yet if we get the synergy between them.  But let’s think seriously about how to empower learners and community, ok?


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