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The Big Question — Should all learning professionals be blogging?

October 3, 2006

Should all learning professionals be blogging?

So this month’s Learning Circuits Blog is on the subject of blogging. Which I guess makes this response some sort of meta-blog. A suppose another question we could be asking is “should learning professionals who already blog comment on whether learning professionals should be blogging?” Isn’t this a bit like asking a group of Republicans whether all taxes should be lowered? And really, can there be any answer but “yes and no”?

Why? For me, it’s a simple issue of “practicing what you preach.” Blogging, wikis, podcasting, WBT’s, simulations, instructor-led delivery (live and virtual), EPSS… it all has a place and a function in helping drive to organizational performance. But when to use each requires some understanding of the pro’s and con’s, which is best developed through usage and experiment. While you can probably argue that a theoretical understanding of the relative merits of each intervention is sufficient for most learning professionals to make accurate decisions on when to use each, I’m not sure that you really “get” this stuff until you do it. And until you “get” it, how do you design your solution? The best performance centric solutions are ones that blur the traditional delivery lines: WBT with PSS with a Wiki for on-going maintenance or Virtual Classroom with Simulation and a weekly Video Podcast on the latest product news. You get the idea. Until you understand your choices as both a consumer and a producer, you are “book” smart, and you will be harder pressed to innovate in meet your organization’s unique training and performance needs.

Why? For me, it’s a question of “time management.” Blogging, wikis, podcasting, simulations, virtual classrooms, LMS…. all new technologies take some time to investigate. But some of these are investigations of technology and infrastructure, while others are investigations of fundamental content development models. I can investigate LMS’s without necessarily implementing one or developing courses specific to the LMS. But blogging, wikis, podcasting… these are transformations in the way we communicate – they are content-centric, and therefore, the level of investigation to have a “gut” level understanding of these technologies is non-trivial. To get a “feel” for the impact of blogs and wikis and podcasting, I should, at a minimum, participate as a learner, but ideally as a producer as well. That works for me as a consultant / vendor in this space, but I know from working with my clients, that 90% of them don’t have as much time as they would like to work on existing projects and business initiatives, let alone take on the task of investigating new technologies that will likely consume a lot of time. So “no,” there are too many other things that will help training organizations delivery real world business impact and blogging for the sake of blogging is not the best use time for most elearning professionals.

I suppose the ideal answer is “maybe” — maybe use a blog as a kind of internal newsletter on some business relevant subject or a change management communication vehicle for an upcoming initiative? Or maybe dedicate a few key individuals to act as learning R&D to investigate new technologies and their uses. While I’m strongly in favor of all of us learning and experimenting with new techniques and delivery models, I’m also passionately committed to the notion that we should be delivering business value first and foremost.

Just as we wouldn’t want every programmer on the team to spend hours each week learning .net if we were a J2EE house, we probably don’t want every member of the elearning community writing blogs when there are still thousands of hours of classes and WBT to deliver. On the other hand, we probably would want to use .net on the first project where it made sense. And we might want a sub-set of the team to focus on investigation and R&D on emerging technologies. It seems to me that a similar model should hold for elearning. As with all forward leaning professional development in any field, the key is striking the right balance between “big picture,” strategic, “what if” activities against the need to deliver real world business value today (if for no other reason than the selfish desire to be employed long enough to get to the cool stuff… ; )

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