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APOSDLE - work, learn, collaborate

Workplace Learning Study

The goal of the workplace learning study was to examine actual workplace learning behaviour by knowledge workers in order to find out how a new application as APOSDLE can fit into existing work contexts. Another goal was to detect bottlenecks and apportunities to be addressed in the future.

The study consisted of two phases. In the first phase, data about workplace learning was collected at the partner organizations. Several data collection methods were used, including observation of workplace learning, interviews and a learning diary. 46 persons from four organisations were involved. Data was collected in 97 observation and interview sessions, and from 70 learning diary entries. In total, the data set consisted of 175 learning events experienced at the workplace. In the second phase, data was collected by means of a questionnaire for a sample of 104 workers from a wider range of European organizations in order to validate the results from the first phase.

Main results, relevant for APOSDLE, of both phases of the study are:

  • APOSDLE relevance
    • Key finding: Computer based workplace learning is ubiquitous
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: APOSDLE addresses a phenomenon that is widespread over many different organizations.
    • Key finding: Learning is currently overall reasonably successful, though bottlenecks are present.
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: There is room for improvement in current practices, in particular in solving specific bottlenecks
  • APOSDLE general approach
    • Key finding: Workplace learning is strongly driven by work tasks, but learning driven by curiosity is also present.
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: With the task related approach to learning support, APOSDLE is right on target and fits into current practice. In addition, room must be present for not directly task related learning.
    • Key finding: Most learning events are not very complex and consists of a few steps only
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: No need for lengthy course-like learning support. It should be brief and to the point.
  • Learner support: interpersonal help seeking
    • Key finding: When seeking help, interpersonal help seeking using face-to-face contact is used most often.
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: APOSDLE needs to research ways to replicate, replace or supplement face-to-face contact. It should either have its own facilities for interpersonal help seeking or fit seamlessly and effortless into current tools and practices.
    • Key finding: There is some evidence that current communication facilities used most often (email and telephone) are not sufficient to support learning needs: Bottlenecks are much more frequently reported from the expert role and often relate to missing support for the expert role (like forgetting), some of the bottlenecks reported relate to media characteristics.
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: There is room for improvement in current communication media facilities to support interpersonal help seeking. APOSDLE should offer facilities that better support the expert role in knowledge exchange.
  • Learner support: seeking help from written material
    • Key finding: When seeking help from written material, digital sources are used most.
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: Providing easy access to company digital sources is important.
  • Influence of organisational setting
    • Key finding: Several key variables that could influence the fielding of APOSDLE (what drives learning, what kind of help people seek, what is learned) are not or only weakly dependent on the organizational setting (company size, type of knowledge work, number of years in the job).
    • Consequence for APOSDLE: The prospective APOSDLE tools can be fairly general, only limited tailoring to the specific setting may be needed.

The results of this study provide a rich source of information regarding workplace learning in knowledge work, and will be used to inform visioning and requirements gathering activities for the future APOSDLE system.