Unwired 2.0: Green Learning for Hard Skills Training

Michael Warren

The current economic crisis has soured the notion of "green" such that it now suggests extraneous, expensive and experimental. But nothing could be further from the truth. Companies are using simple human resources technology to solve the complex problem of making learning more green. The concept of green rests on three principles: sustainability, renewability and lowering the impact on the environment by reducing the demand for resources. Applying these principles to the structure and delivery of knowledge is green learning.

Sustainability in learning is achievable by causing the learner to sustain the knowledge longer and at a deeper level. The Authentic Learning Model provides the way to do this. By directing the learning at a real-world problem, having a salient analysis method for the logical class of the problem, facilitating an assessment of constituent factors, and providing an open discussion to reach a consensus approach to a solution, the learner is more deeply impacted by the new knowledge. The learning is significant because it addresses a real problem, and it is meaningful because it leads to a solution that includes the learner's talent.

Renewability in learning is obtained by aiming the conceptual base of the learning at a logical problem class, structuring analysis and assessment methodologies to effectively address that problem class, and by allowing students to retain the course materials. This design creates a logical blueprint for solving problems of a certain type. Once trained, a learner can solve new problems of a similar nature by using the analysis and assessment methods applied to the original problem. This makes the learning renewable. It can be reapplied indefinitely without requiring additional training.

Reducing environment impact is effected by two simple techniques. The first technique is simply to avoid duplication where possible. Companies spend large sums of money to provide hard skills training for corporate teams then spend money a second time to involve those same groups in team building activities. Merely integrating team building with hard skills training can reduce the number of times businesses have to transport, lodge and feed their employees. Such combination not only reduces carbon footprint immediately, but when meaningful activity is used to engage the team, integrated team building reinforces learning. For instance, if the learning teaches analytical skills, the team building should be analogous and inherently interesting, not a stock "problem solving scenario" or game.

The second simple technique to lower the environmental impact of learning is to deliver the skills training in a low-tech manner. A simple flip chart, with pencils and paper to record analysis and assessment results, has far less resource demand on the environment than the computers, DVDs, DVD machines, software, projection devices, projection screens, network equipment and display screens required for traditional delivery, e-learning delivery and learning portal delivery. The resource demand required to manufacture, maintain and support such an array of hardware and software is enormous, and is often overlooked when human resources professionals are purchasing training. Computer and network based learning can reduce resource demand and costs when used to avoid transporting and housing employees to remote training sites but those savings should be evaluated against the resource demand required to create electronic materials and delivery.

Aptly applied simple technologies can yield significant benefits in corporate training. In our wired, Wi-Fi, Wiki world, we would do well to remember that the root of the word technology, the Greek tekn, does not mean double superheterodyne reception, it just means a systematic way of doing something. Simple Green Learning technology can produce powerful results. Technology when applied to hard skills corporate training, can help companies become greener by saving on training costs, reducing employee time away from the job for training and lowering their carbon footprint.