The waning days of summer are upon us. The clouds have rolled in, and the smoke has cleared. For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, there’s comfort in donning fleece and staying inside while the rains freshen the air.
One of the highlights of my summer was working with two groups developing a learning strategy. They wanted to take the pieces that they had—curriculum, partnerships, experts, and ideas—and turn them into a coherent program of activities that made a bigger and more lasting difference for more people.
What a great opportunity to play Learning Strategy Mix-and-Match! (I first introduced this idea here.) Mix-and-Match takes the key elements of a learning program and invites us to combine them in ways that expand the times and spaces in which we can engage people. It forces us to think outside of the usual workshop model. It also forces us to consider practice more than we otherwise do. You have to do something with all of those orange parallelograms!
These three key elements are:
1. WHAT is being delivered:
- PRACTICE actions related to the content
2. WHO is involved:
- STUDENT, the person learning
- TEACHER, the person delivering the content
3. HOW people are organized:
- CLASSROOM of people together
- a GROUP of peers learning together
- An INDIVIDUAL learning alone
Download Learning Strategy Mix-and-Match shapes here.
How does this work?
Most learning programs do okay with synchronous learning, meaning learning where the teacher and student are participating at the same time. Take a typical workshop or webinar. It may look something like this:
A good workshop has practice built in. (For more on how to do this, buy Guila Muir’s book.) How about webinars? What do we do about practice? We can’t just forget about it– that orange parallelogram needs to go somewhere! Here’s some ideas… Include practice in the webinar, even if you are giving assignments for people to do later on. Provide boosting activities after the webinar so that they remember to exercise what they learned.
Let’s make this a bit harder.
Workshops and webinars are pretty straight forward. Let’s push on how we can better reach the people we just can’t get to a scheduled event. Let’s explore asynchronous options, those where the teacher and student are not participating at the same time.
On-demand learning happens when you post a video or some other learning content on a website:
Where are folks going to be able to practice? How are we going to deploy the orange parallelogram? Here are some ideas:
Office hours: There are many forms of this (from phone calls to Facebook groups), but at its core it means that the teacher participates in applying the content separate from the presentation of content. (A master at this is Maryn Boess of GrantsMagic.)
Peer or networks: Schedule–or otherwise support– practice in board or staff meetings, service club meetings, or any other time when people already gather. (At Washington Nonprofits, we do this through Nonprofit Conversations.)
Tool or micro-learning: Give the people learning something (worksheet, checklist, case study, scenarios) that challenges them to apply learning to their situation. Give them a short video that describes how they can practice. Set up the activity for them to try.
These are just a few ideas. Imagine if we really let lose imagining how Mix-and-Match might be used to design conferences, publications, and so much more.
Download your own set of shapes. Cut out the shapes. Lay them out on a table and see how many different learning events you can create using these building blocks. Some ideas:
- Take a strategic topic that you want people to learn about and figure out five different ways that you can deliver it.
- Explore time: scheduled learning vs. unscheduled learning. How can you expand opportunities to learn outside of scheduled events?
- Explore practice. Where does it show up in the programs you offer or partner with? Where else could it show up? This is often the most overlooked element within learning programs.
- Invite others to play with you! Your webmaster may have ideas on how to expand on-demand learning. Your membership person may have ideas on how to use affinity groups within the membership program. Your policy person may have real activities that need practicing, around which you can build a program.
Want more on learning strategy?
I will be teaching a workshop on curriculum design this fall.