Learning Curves and the Workplace Environment

In their seminal 2001 paper Powering the leap to maturity: The eLearning ecosystem, Pat Dillon and Chas Hallet suggest a useful interpretation and use for traditional learning curves, and introduce their concept of the e-learning curve.

The authors assert that emerging technology has changed the focus of corporate learning systems from task-based, procedural training to knowledge-intensive performance enhancement where learning interventions are broader-based, flexible, and more adaptable to meet the needs the needs of information workers. In their paper, they apply the concept of the conventional learning curve to the context of the corporate learning environment in order to supply an appropriate structure for understanding when and how different modalities of learning are used.

Within their framework, the conceptualization of the learning environment consists of systems to manage and support:

  1. instructor-led training
  2. cohesive team management
  3. knowledge generation and sharing
  4. performance support
  5. content storage and retrieval
  6. on-demand learning
Bloom's Taxonomy applied to a learning curve

Figure 1 Bloom’s Taxonomy applied to a learning curve

In a similar vein, I have suggested that we can apply Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives to a conceptual model of a learning curve (see Figure 1) and begin to investigate how an “e-learning curve” based upon the modalities of that domain would align with the phases of learning in the traditional model.

In my view, a Constructivist approach provides the most effective means of enabling adults to learn, particularly in the workplace. In the context of Bruner’s principles of constructivism (see Table 1) technologies like the Internet, websites, and virtual learning environments, applying collaborative learning, problem-based learning and goal-based mechanisms, as well as using e-learning applications like online conferencing and collaboration tools, can be the foundation for these multiple constructivist conditions for learning.

Table 1. Principles of constructivism (Toward a Theory of Instruction, p.225)




Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn

Spiral organization


The content must be structured so that it can be grasped by the learner.


Material must be presented in the most effective sequences.


“Going beyond the information given” – Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps

These characteristics provide an appropriate framework for knowledge workers to learn (and for appropriate learning interventions), given that their ongoing development is based in the context of already-established cognitive schemata (from the learners’ perspective), the knowledge and skills are applied to solve real-world problems, and their expertise (behaviors) are typically used in collaboration with their peers to enhance the performance of organizations.

More next time, when we apply e-learning modalities to the learning curve.

FÓGRA: Following an addendum to a recent post, somebody asked me what “fógra” means. Fógra (pron. fowe-grah. equal emphasis on both syllables) is the Gaelic Irish word for “Notice.”



Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dillon, P. & Hallett, C. (2001, October). Powering the leap to maturity: The eLearning ecosystem. Cisco Systems white paper.

Driscoll, M. P. (1994). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon.

Duffy, T. M. & Cunningham, D. J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. IN: Jonassen D. H. (Ed) Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp.170- 198). New York: Simon & Shuster Macmillan.

Schank, R. (1994). Active Learning Through Multimedia. IEEE Multimedia, 1(1), pp.69-78.