Failing, EduToking & Banishing Courses for Better Learning - The Month That Was


“Put the phone down now! You areway past your screen time,” I say angrily to my 6-going-on-13 year old while heselectively listens (or rather, doesn’t listen) to me, eyes glued to the devicethat has singlehandedly ruined parenting for all recovering mothers and fatherslike me. Frustrated, I call the source gene responsible for this stubbornbehavior in my kid and this situation – his dad, my husband. “But he’s on aneducational app. He’s learning,” the hubby says reassuringly. “So? It’s still ascreen!” I retort almost surrendering to this one-and-a half-men pair that hasmade it its mission to drive me up the wall every single day.

The number of educational apps onAppStore and Playstore is mindboggling in itself. On the PlayStore, inparticular, thebiggest category in terms of app volume is education.


Jumping on this bandwagon is TikTok,a Chinese-origin social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync,comedy, and talent videos, which has now enteredthe eLearning market with its EduTok program in India. This program willoffer life tips, career advice and motivational speech videos in partnershipwith educational companies like Vedantu, Vidya Guru, Hello English, CETKing, Toppr,Made Easy, and GradeUp.

I cringe as I digest thisinformation. “One more app to fight about,” I murmur to myself.

My kid, who’s a smooth operator(not sure who’s genes he’s benefitting from!) has, in the meanwhile, moved onto his Reader book. “See, this is what I mean by learning,” I tell my husbandproudly. “By focusing on courses alone, you mean?” he asks in disbelief andcontinues his monologue in the same breath. “It’stime to banish courses and rethink learning and development. Professionals needto be weaned off their addiction to courses and start aligning learning withbusiness outcomes.” This has been a recurring theme at the World of Learning Conference2019, held at Birmigham’s NEC in mid-October, and now listening to my husbandit feels like hosting Andy Lancaster in our living room! Andy is the Head of Learningat the CIPD who believes that L&D’s focus on courses and measuring how manypeople took the training makes it difficult to understand how training isimpacting business goals. He suggests using business metrics and aligninglearning metrics to business outcomes.

“You can’t just apply adulteducation models to K-12,” I say firmly. “It doesn’t go both ways perhaps, butsome K-12 principles sure apply to adult learning,” confirms hubby and adds, “Likethe Goldilocks zone, where learning progressesmost quickly when learning something new. This is based on a research on hownewborn babies avoid spending time on things that are either “too simple” or“too complex”. Long before they can understand the story of Goldilocks, babiesappear to have mastered the heroine’s art of decision-making.”

Just as I am about to launch myselfinto a heated debate of how I almost always choose, oftentimes forced by thecircumstances, the most complex thing (like dealing with two men who are notjust a spitting image but exhibit the exact same behavior when I can’t even standone!), we are rudely interrupted by a little bobbling head in front of us.“It’s my English spell-bee exam tomorrow. And I don’t want to fail,” my kidexclaims, concern written all over his face. “Awww! You won’t fail, baby,” I console,lifting 17 kgs of cuteness onto my lap. “I’d say, you rather fail,” chimes inthe dad. I dart an angry look at the man who I expect to have at least somedegree of empathy. “What?” he says AND gestures as if to validate his advice. “Don’tyou know,failing 15% of the time is the best way to learn,”adds my husband with the pride of a man who has personally conducted the study.As much as I would like to engage in a mental karate, it’s true. To make sureyou are learning at the optimal rate, new research finds that you should beaiming to fail 15.87 percent of the time, to be exact. These findings couldhave implications for training courses, teaching in classrooms, and everywherethat learning happens.

“All right, all right. I will codean educational app myself that’s not so much of a course yet facilitateslearning, hits the sweet spot between too-easy-and-too-simple and allows forfailure. Happy now?” I say rhetorically in an effort to end the discussion andproceed to an important ritual that involves sitting around the dining tablewithout any screens for distraction and do what was an expected way ofsocializing – with your own family –not so long ago. “That’d be amazing! Go for it,” encourages the husband as hebegins a private discourse just for me. “Put your Engineering degree to a soliduse. You know, there was a sharp rise in enrollment of women coders for thefifth edition of Tech-Gig's Geek Goddess this year. Finally, Technologyindustry is seeing improved gender diversity….,” he rambles on.

I roll my eyes and march towardsthe dining area, kid and husband in tow, ready to substitute food with a goodserving of learning this evening. Bon appetite!

‘Themonth that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in theeLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light,easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and theLearning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views,it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with aone-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlightsas a wife and a mother.