The Brave CPO:
(Buying Magician)

‘Theory in Practice’ – an Experiential model for Procurement E-learning: Part 1

A three part guide for procurement professionals and training mangers to assess how E-learning can be an effective part of their professional development

Here in Part 1 we introduce some of the problems associated with e-learning, discuss how corporate professionals learn and introduce our solution to E-learning.

1.       Introduction

The advantages of E-Learning are so apparent, that all companies will adopt E-Learning in future.  Yet today the reality is that most e-learning is considered a bore; and so it quickly falls into disuse and so it fails.

The problem with most learning is that too much/complex information is presented to the learner and as a result, the working memory quickly gets overloaded and learning simply stops. This is true for all learning but especially for corporate learning (and even more for E-Learning), as – in general and unlike students – corporate learners will be exposed to the course only once. Most teaching does not take into account the way we learn and so it often fails. This is a simple truth and unfortunately applicable to most of E-learning!

Our scenario based animated courses are designed to overcome this problem.  In these scenarios students follow the activities of Daniel, a Buyer as he works in different organizations and industries learning specific real world aspects of procurement.

2.       Learning by observing and doing

Typically corporate professionals come into the workplace after completing their formal education at a university, business school or college. From the point they enter the corporate world, most find they are responsible for their own continuous professional development. This is true even when their organization provides access to learning opportunities. The reality for most is that the day job simply gets in the way of continued formal learning.

So how do most people learn whilst doing their day job? The answer is that they observe their peers and superiors and through a process of rationalizing, reject what doesn’t work for them and take on board what does work for them, and then put it into practice. This is how we develop our real life skills and get ready for our next promotion.

The down side of this approach is that organizations are dysfunctional, to various degrees. By this we mean that to differing levels in all organizations, issues such as weak governance, poor processes, silo mentality and turf wars do not provide the basis of a good  learning experience/role model – and so bad habits are learned. The techniques adopted by the learner therefore, will only be as good as the environment in which they were learned. This is why we are all the sum of the experiences we have either been fortunate or unfortunate enough to have been exposed to.

3.       An Experiential Model of E-learning

We have introduced an experiential model for e-learning which encourages learners to: (1) Observe, (2) Analyze, (3) Assess, and (4) Act. It seeks to draw on the strengths of learning by observing and doing – by creating a ‘best practice’ real life scenario for the learner to observe.  Our model uses a combination of narrative and technology to support specific learning goals in real life situations that ‘dramatizes’ key aspects of our curriculum. The benefits of our vocational model are:

  • By creating a best practice environment to observe, we avoid the issues of dysfunctional organizations and ensure that good practice is observed, good habits acquired and reinforced by the learner and spread across the organization.
  • It is highly successful in engaging and keeping learners attentive, and so learning is increased.

The scenario framework helps the participant learn about a real life procurement challenge or learning event in a fictional company, and observe how Daniel and his colleagues manage it. In fact it is not an uncommon phenomenon, just as in a TV soap, for participants to form attachments to the characters as if they know them.

We have received excellent feedback and testimony from buyers.

In part 2 we will discuss how our model produces content that is both engaging and facilitates immediate understanding.

Part 2

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