I received an email this morning promising ‘instant’ qualifications, even a PhD, that would help you attain ‘the job of your dreams ‘ with no examinations, no classes and no textbooks.
Clearly a scam, but it highlights an expectation of instant results and easy personal development.
There clearly needs to be a difference between certificates for attendance and those for attainment, but is learning in a vocational environment less valid than knowledge gained in the classroom? Or vice versa, as some advocate learning in areas such as public relations can only be achieved ‘on the job’.
What about the use of new technology? Another email advises of learning via mobile phone pitched as ‘learning on a shoestring’, simple and always available, ‘on the go’ development.
Discussions in adult education are looking to make learning easier (or at least low cost). Access to study materials is almost entirely online and new ways are sought to reduce costly face-to-face ‘expert’ contact.
As humans, learning is an individual cognitive process – we need to be active in adding new information to our brains and adjusting our behaviour as a result.
But this doesn’t mean that all learning is easy or instant – or possible without the input of other people. People aren’t iPods that can be plugged in and information synched to our brains.
It can take time to fully grasp new concepts or practice skills to a higher standard. We may need personal coaching or suggestions of different approaches to understand what we are trying to master.
Modelling by studying how others perform – skills gained in a traditional apprenticeship – is a useful approach.
Reading complicated material isn’t just about time, it involves reflection and digestion of the thoughts of others. Real understanding may come then from discussion with others.
We also need to apply what we’ve learned – test it and review the benefits and drawbacks.
Learning even involves failure – one step back to take two steps forward. Even when we get a Eureka moment; immediate insight is likely to be the result of earlier efforts that have been less successful.
Obtaining real cognitive development and lasting behaviour change, is unlikely to be instant, easy or cheap. And any qualification that promises gain without pain is unlikely to be worth the paper it is printed, or downloaded, on.