Old wine in new bottles?
Gary Dickelman was the only speaker to appear both days at the Innovations in eLearning Symposium earlier this month. Gary's a fellow of the Workflow Institute; he's also an adjunct faculty member of George Mason University. His latest newsletter from EPSScentral begins with the answer to a perennial question here at the Institute.
"Workflow Learning: Old Wine, New Bottle?" This question was posed to me by a faculty colleague at the Innovations in eLearning Symposium 2005 on June 7th - an event sponsored by George Mason University (GMU) in partnership with the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC). "No," I replied. "Workflow Learning is not just repackaged EPSS." On the other hand, if the common understanding of EPSS were performance-centered systems and tools then the answer would have been "yes."
Workflow Learning, as articulated by Jay Cross and documented by the Workflow Institute, is what many of us have referred to for years as process-centric performance support (or simply process support). If workflow represents a current of tasks and activities and interrelationships, then Workflow Learning is how we are enabled when dropped like a cork into the flow that represents our work. We are carried along to receive the data, information, knowledge, tools and context such that tasks are inevitably completed. From another perspective, the things we need to make us smart (competent and productive) come to us at the time of need - whether artifacts or collaboration or handoffs.
So why do we need a new phrase like "Workflow Learning" if the concept is a well understood instance of performance-centered design? Because what has become commonplace "EPSS" is only slightly warmed-over eLearning. If the business or organizational problem at hand is a performance gap, then a learning solution will likely not close it. Yet we continually see learning solutions relabeled "EPSS." Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I am intrigued by the extent to which the phrase Workflow Learning resonates with most people as an instantiation of our notion of process support. "EPSS on steroids?" I guess so. So much so that the Workflow Institute is alive with activity, including inquiries, workshops, assessment, certification programs and more. The best and the brightest who are tackling problems from service oriented architecture to the semantic web are finding themselves at the Workflow Institute participating in panel discussions, writing articles, applying these principles to their work, arguing and conducting research. It has been a long time since a performance-centered idea has generated so much activity from such a bright and eclectic crowd. Great stuff!
P.S. Last time we checked, Moet & Chandon was still putting vintage Dom Perignon champagne in new bottles before inserting the corks.
See EPSScentral for more.