3 Things Open Source Software Can Teach Learning Leaders

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The open source learning movement began with software development – examples include Android and Mozilla Firefox – and the software is open to everyone to use, customize or modify as needed to meet their individual or organizational requirements. It’s also free.

The open source movement, which began in the 1980s, enabled programmers and users to learn about or be trained on software and explore new codes and innovations because the code for open source software is available for anyone to add to, change or just generally improve. It has not only changed the way we develop software today, it has contributed significantly to the rapid advance of technology.

Part of the reason open source has been so influential is because it allows participants to collaborate and fully leverage their experts. Open source has applications outside the technology realm as well. For instance, some of the core ideas associated with open-source technology have made their way into strategic knowledge sharing efforts in an organizational context as learning leaders adopt them for their own use.

You may have heard of open source learning? As transparency, decentralization, and collaboration become the new normal in many organizations, the idea that anyone can and should share their expertise has taken hold. Further, the idea that individuals and teams should be able to tap into and build on each other’s know-how neatly sums up the concept of open-source learning.

Here are three ways open source learning can benefit technical training:

1.     Open source learning promotes diversity of thought. One key facet of open source learning that is ideally suited for technical training is there is no one-size-fits-all strategy or solution. Open source learning is inherently diverse because it embraces the idea that different people learn in different ways. Further, there is the underlying idea that each of those people likely has something valuable to contribute to the software development or the learning experience.

As in the best technical training offerings, a high level of customization is not only necessary, it’s expected. Plus, open source themed training isn’t just customized for learners, it’s customized for each organization’s unique business challenges and technology concerns.

Because anyone could conceivably contribute to open source code, it’s by nature interdisciplinary, and open source learning is as well. Ideally, technical talent in various roles will share the same classroom. That way, each person can bring their perspective to the learning environment. In this way their peers can absorb different goals and concerns from various departments. The overarching goals, however, remain the same. Common business goals provides needed structured so that learners can use each other’s experiences to explore different alternatives to reach that common goal.

2.    Open source learning prioritizes collaboration. With open source learning as the structure, a lab intensive, hands on technical training classroom is the perfect environment for multiple perspectives to come together to share knowledge. Peer-to-peer collaboration encourages learners to think creatively as well as analytically with support from expert facilitators who have deep experience in the work world as well as in specific technologies. Engagement is often high in this type of technical training environment, and it promotes knowledge retention as well as learning application once learners are back in the workplace.

3.     Technical training the open source way promotes innovation. Innovation is the lifeblood of technology and the foundation of any significant competitive edge for an organization.

In an open source style technical training environment, as learners master different technical concepts and skills, they develop multi-faceted, even divergent ways to think. This is often just what’s needed to identify new products, services or process efficiencies with which to game the market. Open source learning gives learners the freedom to create and manage interactive learning material, generating and sharing value that extends beyond the immediate training curriculum.

Open source learning also creates interactive, rightly timed opportunities for performance evaluation, and alternative assessments to gauge learner absorption of material and help the trainer shape the lesson to best meet learner’s needs in the moment. Deeper, more engaged learners often achieve notable training achievements in this environment.

Learning leaders should seek out technical training options that promote open-source style learning. It’s quite practical, and its principles align neatly with the best run technical training classrooms. For instance, with the right classroom-based technical training learners don’t need to absorb complicated theories or ideas that aren’t immediately relevant to their work or current business needs. This saves time and energy and enables learners to retain more of their knowledge and apply it more effectively on the job.

Open source learning helps learners to create value by sharing information, collaborating to achieve training objectives and enjoying the benefits of peer-to-peer learning and idea exchange to spark new, innovative solutions to training exercises and business challenges alike. Open source learning and a thematically aligned technical training classroom are both high touch and team-centric. Reminiscent of the ideal business environment, in this learning lab multiple stakeholders from different functions can learn, share, dream, create and work together to achieve common business goals.