I offered up a definition of learning as I see it a while back on my Mission to Learn blog. Readers there would not have been surprised that I see learning as being much more about ongoing process and interaction than about specific events or degrees or credit. Earlier this week, I was reading Digital Habitats by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John Smith and found the brief definition of learning they offer to be very well put:
By learning, we do not mean just book learning, or classroom learning, or even e-learning. We see learning as an integral part of life. Sometimes it demands an effort; sometimes it is not even our goal. But it always involves who we are, what we do, who we seek to connect with, and what we aspire to become. (Digital Habitats, 4)
This definition really resonated with me because it is this sort of perspective that informs the work we do here at Tagoras and why we feel that learning can be such an integral part of meaningful engagement with members and customers. Learning truly does point to “who we are” and “what we aspire to become.”
The only modification I would make to the definition offered by Wenger and his co-authors is to stress that most learning is not “book learning, or classroom learning, or even e-learning” (at least as it is usually understood). One of the real opportunities – and challenges – for organizations is to find more innovative ways to engage their prospective learners (members, customers, prospects, volunteers) during the great percentage of time in which they are not engaged in formal learning.
I’ve wrestled with how to define social learning in another post, and certainly the concept is relevant here. Effectively defining and designing social learning should be one of the essential responsibilities of every education department, and arguably a primary goal for any organization that wants to lead learning in the field or sector it serves.
If you feel your organization is doing a great job at any of this, making headway, or making attempts but running into barriers, we’d welcome a chance to talk with you as part of our ongoing research. Please comment here or drop us a line.
P.S. – If you’d like to receive regular updates from the Tagoras blog, be sure to subscribe by RSS.