We all believe in – and would want to be seen to be adopting – ‘best practice’ but who decides – and who should decide – what is best practice? What does ‘best’ mean and how do you know when you’ve got there? How do you generate best practice and what do you do with it once you have it?
Within the field of the learning technology, is ‘best practice’ about how you present learning content? Or is it about how online learning meets the needs of a business? Is it about ‘savings’? Or is it rather about the quality of the learning experience for the learners?
Best practice may be impossible to define – but it should still be possible to identify the best practitioners. In thinking about best practice, it’s important to identify your (organisation’s) learning needs first. Then, in-house, you can identify and develop best practice which is designed to meet these needs.
In terms of the criteria for ‘best practice’, a learning programme that embodies or epitomises best practice should involve continuous improvement. For anyone who is going to do this learning programme more than once, continuous improvement should be their aim. Moreover, learning – especially any form of technology-delivered learning – must be short and specific.
It’s important to ensure that learning fits both the learning and the business requirements. Since learning technology is continually developing, it’s important that learning strategies and programmes shouldn’t be led by technology – although these technological advances are producing an increasing number of exciting opportunities for new approaches to learning provision and delivery.
Keller’s ARCS model is a good indicator of best practice where learning materials are concerned. The ARCS model states that an effective piece of learning quickly gets the attention of the learner; is relevant to the learner; challenges the learners (to learn something), and builds the learner’s confidence – or satisfaction – from having learned something.
When defining best practice, don’t look at the process. Instead, you should look at the product.
Best practice is a dynamic thing. Best practice will be different tomorrow but, to understand the concept of best practice, you should define it in terms of the implementation of learning.
Of course, best practice can be a recipe for mediocrity. Once you write down ‘best practice’, it becomes a standard – and that stops people moving on in terms of improving quality. Searching for best practice needs to be dynamic, not static.