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Making a Case for Social Learning

February 19, 2009

Learning 2.0 means a lot of things to a lot of people.  I think the core of Learning 2.0, like the core of Web 2.0 is the empowerment of the masses to create, collaborate and contribute.  In Web 2.0, this covers some pretty diverse ground:  users created ad campaigns, users coming up with new product ideas, users supporting themselves and each other.  In Learning 2.0, learners can also create – not ad campaigns, but learning and content.  Learners can come up with new ideas and share their existing expertise and wisdom.  In just two years, employees at Intel generated 20,000 articles through the Intelpedia platform (basically an internal version of Wikipedia).  Learners can also support themselves and each other through comments, discussions, cross-links, and IM.  Ace is doing this a Workplace Community.  The result was a 500% ROI for the effort in less than 6 months.  Wouldn’t that be nice to show as a result from our “learning” efforts?<!—-><!—->

Learning 2.0 is also about lightweight, flexible models that are faster and more open than traditional learning.  During the presidential primaries, people have been creating mashups showing vote tallies by county as they come in – integrating Google Map technology with election results.  This is a common element of Web 2.0 – services and content mashed together to make something new.  How does this translate to learning?  Maybe we should think about courses that link to discussions or Wikis?  Or curriculum that is a mashup of videos, blogs, courses, and discussion forums?  Maybe we should think about blogs that reference learning objects and Flash interactions?<!—-><!—->

Traditional courseware typically takes 6-12 weeks to develop and deploy.  Commenting on a blog takes 6-12 minutes.  Writing a solid blog post or Wiki entry might take an hour.  Building a great webinar or simulation may take 6-12 hours.  Learning 2.0 makes it possible to scale learning in ways that are unique.  Also consider the cross-boundary aspect of some of these Learning 2.0 technologies:  blog, wiki, forum, podcast…  Through these kinds of content, people learn.  They therefore count as a teaching tool.  But they can also be delivered at a time of need since they are both searchable and granular, which means they also qualify as an EPSS.  And once that initial need passes, they persist and can be linked and referenced and found again, which makes this solution something like Knowledge Management.  While Intel may not have set out to build a knowledge management platform through the implementation of its Wiki, it’s clear that, with 20,000 articles to date, they now have one.<!—-><!—->

It’s clear that these technologies can be transformative.  But how do you make the case?<!—-><!—->

Start with real business issues:<!—-><!—->

  • Talent – retiring Boomers, finding talented Millennials.<!—-><!—->
  • Productivity – always an issue, always will be an issue.<!—-><!—->
  • Time-to-competency – how do we get new hires up to speed faster.<!—-><!—->
  • Knowledge Management – how do we retain and maintain intellectual assets.<!—-><!—->

<!—-><!—->Community-based Learning 2.0 solutions can address all of these issues.  Through a community, you can provide mentoring opportunities for retiring Boomers to transition knowledge to Millennials across any geographic distance, even far away places like Florida and Arizona where retirees like to hang out.  Through a community, you can attract more talented Millenials through the promise of tighter social connections at work and through the promise of greater collaboration and sharing.<!—-><!—->

You can look to the experience of Ace to see how community can increase productivity.  By sharing expertise, the community enables otherwise novice users to produce and succeed.  A recent article in CLO magazine “On Demand:  The Googlization of Learning” provides further examples of how a central and searchable repository of corporate knowledge could dramatically improve productivity by reducing time spent on fruitless searches for information.  One data point in this article suggested that managers can spend as ¼ of their time searching for information and only realize the benefits from 50% of these efforts.<!—-><!—->

Time to competency is also shown in the Ace example.  Read the part about Bonnie Merkland.  She had plumbing experience and sales experience, but no hardware experience.  Through the Ace community, she not only performed better than might otherwise be expected, she also learned and grew.  Think of how valuable it is for a new hire to come on board and have a pre-built vibrant community of peer-to-peer support and a culture of active participation and sharing.  How much faster will the new hire come up to speed?  How much more likely will they be to stay on board?<!—-><!—->

Knowledge Management can be seen in the Intel example.  They now have 20,000 articles that will help them weather the loss of their retiring Boomers.  By providing a platform for sharing and contribution, Intel enables information to move into the public discourse where it can be extended, edited, and improved.  More importantly, it stays with the company and doesn’t leave with the employee.

So these are my ideas.  What do you think?  How do we define it?  And once we do, how do we make the business case?<!—-><!—->


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