mLearning. sLearning. The venerable and ancient eLearning. Can we just be clear that these names refer to product channels and/or brand names but not to actual 'learning'? I think the one that comes closest is social learning and that is most helpful in a Web 2.0 way in that it indicates, in my mind, a break with the way we've done education and training since the start of the Industrial Revolution when we started this idea that the demonstration of one's skills and knowledge should be done in some increasingly artificial and solitary manner. Social learning at least acknowledges that for the whole of human history, the activity of learning has taken place within the context of a group or social setting.
Why do I bring this up? Because it causes trouble is why. The same way that the fiction of Dale's Cone of Experience (w percentages of course) creates false expectations - the same way that the mythical story that a Hall of Fame hockey player would ever skate to where the puck isn't creates an illogcial structure for performance - these things just aren't wrong or misunderstood - they make our jobs harder.
Have you ever, ever sold learning? If you have, I'd like to buy some - what quantities does learning come in? I've seen training for sale. Seen some good performance support products. Seen some great mobile solutions. Never saw learning.
So what's the problem? Well describe the ROI of learning. Like nailing jello to the wall right? I can describe metrics related to an individual's or an organization's performance though. I can tell you if that performance changes after contact with a training product or after the deployment of a performance support system - if I have access to establish a baseline and collect the metrics afterwards. What I can't tell you is if anything was learned. Maybe it was. Maybe the folks have learned how to mimic someone doing the job right - that's learning but not a metric related to whatever product you deployed.
How about we just talk about how effective these channels are reaching more people or allowing greater access to content or support at the moment of need? I know we'll keep calling it xLearning but let's just be clear that A) it's not really learning and B) we can do that as long as we accept that we're also creating issues for ourselves by doing that. ....and no, the Chinese character for crisis is not a combination of danger and opportunity.