Communicating information is a necessary but not sufficient condition for workable knowledge to be created. According to Pascale Viret, European Training Manager of Silicon Graphics, the success of the learning process ultimately depends on the learner himself or herself. Learning is made more difficult in Europe, she says, because taking the initiative of organising their own training doesn't come naturally to most Europeans.
At Hewlett Packard, employees are encouraged to see themselves as responsible for their own development. Analysis of the yearly evaluation of each employee leads to the drawing up - in direct collaboration with the employee - of a written individual training and development plan for the coming year. These plans are assembled in a data-base which the training department uses to propose appropriate training. Bruno Elmer of Hewlett Packard Switzerland mentioned the difficulty of encouraging individuals to see training as their personal responsibility, to think of it in a longer term perspective and to take their own initiative in learning.
In considering the role and the impact of corporate culture on learning within companies, it is interesting to note that expertise, according Fleck & Tierney, is "carried" by groups rather than being located in individuals. Such knowledge groups - each with their own vested interests and their specific ways of seeing things - do not necessarily correspond to existing divisions within companies, but overlap and extend beyond company boundaries. This has always been the case, but increased use of wide-scale networking tends to accentuate it. Consequently, re-engineering corporate culture requires more than an individual approach or even a company-wide approach.
The most striking aspect of training at Hewlett Packard is the important place it plays in corporate culture and the means used to enhance this role, amongst other things, via the use of new technologies. Development of personnel is rated a major company priority. Knowledge is considered an essential asset in gaining a commercial advantage over competitors. Corporate culture is spread and developed in various ways including using a recently developed CBT available on each workstation.
Amongst barriers found to developing a corporate learning culture at Hewlett Packard, Bruno Elmer of Hewlett Packard Switzerland quoted:
In both the training of clients and in-house engineers at Silicon Graphics, learning takes place more readily when the client/learner is confronted with a specific problem or need. Without this necessity, it is very difficult for individuals to find time in the working context to consult training or information material. The success of such training depends on the ability of the individual to create a "space in time" within which to learn.
Christine Gardiol of KITE pointed out that embedding the learning process in work without setting aside a specific time for it means that participants have to put in extra hours which results in a continually decreasing motivation on the part of learners.
According to Richard Hill of Hewlett Packard, traditional courses have the advantage of obliging participants to take time off for learning and are seen as interesting and consequently motivating by participants because they enable them to meet others. Technology in training is found to work well when used in the field of technology itself (in customer support, for example, where some 20% of time is taken up in learning) or when there is cost pressure or some other highly motivating force.
As Andreas Kisch (MIGROS) put it, there is a natural tension between working and learning, but the two need to grow together. A number of firms (MIGROS, UBS, Global Teach, .) found that regular use of computer-based training on the job - as opposed to being a source of up-to-date information or an on-line help - required the provision of a space dedicated to learning to shelter them from interference coming from the production process. Alternatively, slack moments have to be found, according to Andreas Kisch, in which effective learning can be done.
According to Bruno Michel of Oracle, resistance to the use of learning technologies in the absence of a teacher has been found to be much stronger in Europe than in the States. Pascale Viret of Silicon Graphics voiced the same opinion. It is felt that this resistance is partly due to attachment to traditional learning patterns rooted in the way schools work. Oracle's answer to this problem has been to encourage collaborative learning in a small group working face-to-face with a subject matter expert who can advise and present tricks of the trade. According to Andreas Kisch, MIGROS also found that working in small groups was more efficient as it allowed employees to discuss their own ways of working.
Oracle found language to be a barrier in Switzerland as material is generally in English and many people's English is not sufficiently good for them to feel comfortable using it in a highly technical context. Oracle has chosen to have its material translated into the local languages.
The "contract learning" approach adopted by Digital, involving a guarantee about the outcomes of the learning process over a fixed period, irrespective of whether technology or people's jobs change, constitutes a shift away from traditional teaching practice which places the onus of delivery on teachers and of outcomes on learners.
One might imagine that wide-scale recognition of acquired skills would allow learners to capitalise on them on the job-market and as such would constitute a considerable incentive to learning. The theme of certification and recognition of knowledge acquired in informal contexts has been a subject of discussion in such circles as the OECD and the European Union. In Switzerland, one of the outcomes of a parliamentary motion by Mrs. Stamm concerning modular education in on-going adult training, has been an initial report concerning the recognition of portfolios of key qualifications prepared by Mrs. Anita Calonder, President of the Swiss Federation of Adult Education.
Amongst the companies we contacted, those involved in in-house training - whether it be their own or that of others - often expressed concern about being able to measure the effectiveness of training but made no mention of the need for the recognition of the skills of individuals. However, those few ventures contacted that were involved in providing access to training for individuals like Global Teach were aware of the need. The promoters of the Global Teach learning platform, for example, have approached organisations like the ITU with a view to obtaining official recognition of courses.
It is interesting to note that on reading the above, Richard Hill wrote that Hewlett Packard realised there was a need to recognise skills and knowledge acquired outside formal training programmes but that they didn't know how to go about it. He had the impression that universities systematically blocked any attempts to "certify" informal learning, even in the United States. Discussion with other companies led him to believe they had similar views.
Few of the companies questioned made direct use of staff as instructors and amongst those who did (Hewlett Packard, UBS, MIGROS), few mentioned providing special training for them.
The members of MIGROS required to use the Videomit CD-ROM system in staff training received a brief training session in its use.
Heinz Gerber of Global Teach stressed the need for a complex range of skills drawing from a number of different disciplines on the part of those acting as "TeleTutors" in the context of mediated distance learning. Global Teach are currently drawing up a list of the key skills required of such TeleTutors and plan to encourage a training organism to prepare a modular course in "teletutoring" to be available via the Global Teach system.
In the "browsing" kind of learning (Digital, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Silicon Graphics, UBS), a selection of information and educational material is made available from which learners are free to choose according to their situation and their needs. Unlike the Internet-type situation with globally distributed sources of information, the choice available to the learner in the company is finite and remains dictated by the trainer or information provider. This "browsing" approach to learning requires news skills on the part of both learners and trainers.
As Lucia Kleiber of ProNet mentioned (cf. 2.4), the fact that information is widely available on networks such as Internet is shifting the role of the trainer from a supplier of facts and figures to a learning-"moderator". This ties in well with the perception of Heinz Gerber of Global Teach, mentioned above (cf.4.4.6), who talks of the specialised skills required by "TeleTutors".
With JITOL - as a peer learning system - there were no clear-cut roles of teacher or student. Depending on the topics, participants were either novices or experts. The moderation process was generally put in the hands of the non-expert as it was felt he or she would force others to be explicit about their knowledge.
A number of cases studied mentioned the need for assessment of performance. UBS, for example, in their new CBT about banking procedures have incorporated an assessment system that measures acquisition of theoretical notions. Practical, process-based notions are evaluated on-the-job by the person's superior. The Global Teach interface also includes mechanisms to assess the learner's progress.
Richard Hill of Hewlett Packard stressed that it was important to fix learning objectives and test learners to see if objectives had been reached. He raised doubts however about the exact nature of what was being tested. Testing, he said, could also an ingredient for motivating staff to learn.
In the case of MIGROS, attainment of educational goals is evaluated both by the learners themselves using an electronic questionnaire that is analysed by those responsible for training and through discussions with their superiors on the job.
 Op Cit
 The European Commission suggests the setting up of a volontary knowledge accreditation system at a European level. See White Paper on Education and Training. Teaching and Learning. Towards the Learning Society, European Commission, 1995.