Don Taylor reminisces on the demise of vinyl, but sees classroom training continuing with the right type of facilitator.
Handling those LPs like precious artefacts, the golden age of vinyl feels as distant as that of the Ancient Greeks. These days, recorded music is effectively just a collection of ones and zeros, ideal for electronic distribution. If video killed the radio star, the web turned records into quaint collectibles.
Many people expected classroom training to wither away as dramatically with the advent of the web. Why on earth would you need a physical space for learning when information can be distributed electronically?
And yet, classroom training has not fallen off a cliff. Yes, the use of the physical classroom continues a slow decline year on year, according to the annual Learning and Performance Institute Learning Survey, but it still accounts for some 60-70 per cent of the effort of L&D departments in both the UK and US.
If learning were only about information transfer, it should have moved online by now, like music sales.
If this has not happened, it is for a simple reason. We do not learn by having our heads filled with information. Learning is not a matter of ones and zeros. It is far more subtle, intricate and magnificent than that.
With a few exceptions, learning is an iterative process. Knowledge and skills are formed, consolidated, eroded and reformed. This does not have to happen in a classroom, but because the process often involves trial and error, people tend to prefer it removed from work, in an environment where experimentation is safe: a room with a good facilitator can be great for this.
Two other things happen in well-run physical learning spaces that help us learn better: sharing and feedback. They can also, of course, happen online, but face-to-face they happen faster and in ways we are familiar with.
If classroom use has not fallen off a cliff, then it is because it suits some learning very well. Not simple information transfer – that belongs online – but complex learning experiences involving experimentation, sharing and feedback. While these can all happen without any intervention, they are more effective, and the learning lasts longer, with the help of an expert facilitator.
And that is what the advent of the web has brought with it. It is not the classroom that is threatened with extinction, but the traditional trainer. That role, focused on presenting information, is rapidly becoming redundant.
In contrast, facilitation is in increasing demand, and enables L&D professionals to help learning happen faster and with more impact. It’s time to transition to this new role, otherwise L&D professionals run the risk of becoming, like vinyl, little more than a quaint memory.