Informal learning and performance support

Last week I tuned into a webinar from the Elearning Guild by Con Gottfredson. It was a summary of his book with Bob Mosher Innovative Performance Support (  Here's a brief outline:

Formal learning tends to follow the sequence learn > practice > apply > review

Con's Performance Support model attempts to address some of the weaknesses of this model e.g.

  • the forgetting curve
  • the disconnect between the learning environment and the workplace
  • memory overload

It looks at five 'moments' when learning is necessary:

  1. new (what's this?)
  2. more (I thought I knew enough about this but I don't)
  3. change (oops – that's different!)
  4. solve ( what's going on here? )
  5. apply ( how do I do this)

The central idea is that you design for the 'moment of apply' and everything else follows from there.  The moment of apply has three phases, for which you can provide support:

Before – (reference material, elearning, wiki, community of practice)

During – (sidekicks, job aids, context-sensitive help, FAQs, coaching, Twitter equivalents)

After – (checklists, self-assessment tools, the feedback loop – 'lessons learned')

A good selection of these is the focus of design, with any formal training being around how you use them.

But you don't create everything for every operation: to target the design you use a critical skills analysis / risk analysis approach that says 'this task is high frequency, low risk and that task is low frequency, high risk', so one would merit a simple job aid and the other some reinforcement in formal learning.

He also posits the idea of a digital performance support broker, a kind of context sensitive intervention that links you to relevant Twitter feeds, blogs, formal learning and books.

Echoing many of the talks from Learning Technologies, this argues that 'Just in case' learning is pretty much wasted time, and in the words of Harold S. Geneen,CEO of ITT (International Telephone and Telegraph: Performance is your reality – forget everything else!

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