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Learning the BBC way

Campus Review, 8 April 2003

A SOPHISTICATED understanding of learning, teaching, knowledge, communities, management and training has placed the BBC training and development unit at the leading edge of innovation in industry training, according to John Mitchell.

BBC training and development is led by the BBC's manger for training and knowledge management, Nigel Paine, who is Mitchell's colleague in an Australian National Training Authority project on innovation in teaching and learning.

The BBC provides training for 27,000 internal staff and for many others who work outside the organisation with the quality reflected by the such recognition with the media industry in the UK that to say a person is "BBC trained" is highly regarded, notes Mitchell.

But he says substantial improvements are being made within the BBC to further improve learning within the organisation.

The "visionary" approach being developed combines a number of factors including educational theory about how, when and why people learn, contemporary management theory about creating a learning organisation, knowledge of workplace learning and new ideas about knowledge management to redesign learning and teaching. An understanding about how emerging information and communication technology can be used for learning and management purposes is another element.

Mitchell said that other features of the system are the driving principle that learning and work need to be interconnected, the decision to replace many conventional trainers with a greater emphasis on seeing BBC business managers acting as teachers and by using intranet-based knowledge management and learning tools.

Other features include the following:

  • The decision to decentralise knowledge in the organisation by predominantly placing learning in the workplace, not with subject experts in the training room
  • A definition of blending learning that is much more sophisticated than the popular version of simply combining e-learning with other delivery modes. Blending learning for the BBC has four key dimensions - information, curriculum, networking and skills exchange
  • The use of a unique set of intranet-based tools to organise blended learning
  • The versatility of the BBC intranet: for example, for conversations, knowledge management, connecting staff with questions to staff who might know the answers, for creating internal learning communities and for assisting staff with their learning journeys.
  • The view that much e-learning is single-loop computer-based training, whereas at the other end of the learning spectrum, facilitated professional conversations offer more chance of double and triple-loop learning. Ongoing research being conducted into the "learning ecology", including a recent BBC study into learning effectiveness of interactive learning, as opposed to solo individuals learning passively, online.