Knowledge is like power. It is rarely transferred. It is almost always taken. The acquisition of knowledge requires intense interaction with ideas. Only by interacting with ideas do students internalize “know how”. It is widely known in the technology industry that most formal training is a waste of time and financial resources when it is not applied immediately after the course work is complete. Training companies are not in the knowledge transfer business; they are in the information presentation business.
Real training occurs when students immediately apply information and relate it to things they already know. It is the application of information that leads to internalization and the creation of this thing we call knowledge. The best developers rarely require formal training. They know they are in the knowledge business and are extremely adept at seeking out the information required as a starting point for their learning processes. Once they have information they begin to experiment and interact with it. They research and experiment and then research some more. They realize intuitively that learning is an iterative process, one that they are instinctively familiar with and enjoy.
Constructivist theories and active learning theories have helped educators understand the way learners actively create meaning by exploring, experimenting, testing, and applying knowledge in self-directed and collaborative fashions (rather than in a predetermined course of study).
—Warren Longmire, A Primer on Learning Objects
Communities of practice (e.g. high performance development teams) are important because they provide additional opportunities for quality interaction and reflection. Increased interaction and reflection leads to more experimentation in a virtuous feedback loop. A healthy social environment within communities of practice is conducive to enhanced learning experiences since peers are usually quite attuned to their comrade’s abilities and points of reference. Through story telling and examples they are often able to answer the un-asked question.
The goal for web-based interactivity should be to create micro-worlds that an individual (e.g. customer, student, etc.) actively participates in. Active participation implies that the individual implicitly or explicitly assumes a role in this virtual universe. The micro-world represents a new reality that provides the context for effective transfer of information. The degree to which this experience allows for two-way dialog increases the probability that the individual will move from information, to conversation, to experimentation, to the acquisition of new knowledge and ultimately to quality decisions. The challenge for marketers and virtual instructors alike is the crafting of micro-worlds that embody information in a succinct, entertaining, conversational and interactive manner.