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Q&A from Learning 2.0 Webinar

February 19, 2009

Below are the questions we received during our Learning 2.0 webinar, along with some answers.  We’d encourage you to comment on these and give us your take.

What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a user editable web page. One common example of a wiki is Wikipedia, a web based encyclopedia.  Check it out… www.wikipedia.com

How big a jump is it to add video to a webinar like yours?
It depends on the solution.  Both WebEx and iLinc support video.  In this case, it didn’t add a lot of value and would have significantly increased recording size so we didn’t got this route.

With so many contributors, how do you control accuracy/quality of data?
Generally speaking, the more social a solution, the more it supports itself.  Comments, Ratings, Rankings, Group Editing etc… provide mechanisms for self-policing.  This question also seems to suggest that other content is more accurate.  Read The Wisdom of Crowds for more on that.  Short story is that crowds and groups are often much smarter than the “experts.”  Also, when people read web sources, they have an ability to check the source, to generally be more active and participatory.  When they hear from experts, they are just passive recipients.  Which would you rather have as employees?  I’d choose active, engaged, doubting Thomases any day.

Is there a resource that says if I want to do “X” a blog is best, “Y” use RSS, etc.?
No, but that’s something that would be a good subject for a blog post… ; )  Here is a high level summary:

Blog – one voice conveying info or sharing insights (blog = web log or online diary).  Think of a blog like an editorial page with an ability for anyone to add comments.  In a lot of cases, the comments can contain as much info and value as the original post.  Some uses of a blog:

  •     Shared vision from a CEO or company leader
  •     Conveying new information on a changing situation (change management)
  •     Project status
  •     Notes and a view of the world from anyone in the company, but especially experts

Wiki – group editing platform to create shared information on any subject.  Think of it like a socially constructed encyclopedia.  Lots of articles, usually sourced and cross-referenced and written semi-formally (though tone and style is completely up to the company).  Some uses:

  •     Shared knowledge repository
  •     Best practices
  •     FAQ’s
  •     Help System

Shared video / audio / file repository – a public place (within the company) to store files and other electronic assets.  Think of it as a network share online accessible from anywhere.  Ideally, these have multiple views so you can browse it like YouTube, RSS like iTunes, or move through directory structure like a local file view.  Some uses:

  •     Subscribe to video and podcasts created by training team or specific experts
  •     Store project files during specific initiatives
  •     Mine expertise from Boomers and store in a central place
  •     Create one searchable, easy to access location for all the company’s file-based assets
  •     Record important discussion as podcasts or important presentations as videos

Social networking – think of this as a searchable, web-based contact list that contains important information on all employees like skills, competencies, classes they have taken, general biographical data, and contact info.  Through the social network, employees can create buddy lists, learn more about those people posting information, and establish new connections.  Some uses:

  •     Connect with an author or contributor to learn more
  •     Establish deeper relationships with other employees, including those in other functional groups
  •     Create mentor relationships, particularly with new hires
  •     Develop new channels for information flow within the company

Discussion Forums – this of this as a way to enable and also store on-going discussions where multiple input is required.  Forums are not well-suited to critical decision-making, but they can be used to gather input from multiple people on various subjects.  Unlike a blog post or a wiki article, there is no real “owner” of a discussion forum (at least in terms of information flow).  Some uses:

  •     Share ideas on a given topic
  •     Have an open, multi-threaded dialog on a given subject
  •     Provide a platform for employees to ask for help or opinions on a given subject

Each of these core functions serves a purpose, and each is unique.  You can RSS all of this of course, but that is just a method of pushing and subscribing to these various sorts of content.

How are companies monitoring wikis?  Or are they monitoring them at all?
While I would like to provide a pat answer to this, I’m not sure there is one.  I think we would first need to define “monitoring.”  Intel has 20,000 pages; how can those be monitored?  Even assuming that there were experts who could comment or validate certain topics, no one expert can police the wiki – content is too diverse and fragmented.  More importantly, any expert that can validate content probably provides more value by creating new content rather than policing the existing.  That said, it is important to “garden” a wiki.  Some energy should be devoted in developing in-house talent to review and clean topics: edit and verify sources, find duplicates, test and validate cross-links etc…

How long does it take to get a “Learning 2.0” solution into my company – and what kinds of materials should I have on hand to “sell it” internally?
As for materials, this is a start.  Our recent White Paper, From the Anointed Few to the Collective Many: How Workplace Communities will Transform Your Business is another good option.

As for how long it takes to get Learning 2.0 into the company, it all depends:

Step 1 is making sure that you yourself have made the mental leap – make sure you use and understand the key technologies.  Read and understand the literature.

Step 2 is to think strategically.  Make sure you understand which elements of your training strategy should remain “old school,” “Learning 1.0” sorts of solutions.  There will be plenty.  Don’t change those.  Instead focus attention on those areas where courses and LMS have never been a great fit.

Step 3 is to start tactically.  You have some options here.  You can start by linking Learning 2.0 to existing 1.0 sorts of solutions – discussions linked to courses, blogs that launch courses, blogs that launch curriculum, courses that link to wikis… you get the idea.  Another option is to jump right in – line up some experts to blog, create a blog for your learning and training group, set-up a wiki and start putting critical information there, distribute a mandatory learning program as a podcast.  You need to make sure you have the required infrastructure for some of this, but this is information you should already know in distributing traditional courseware.

Step 4 is to plan for the long-term.  While it’s important to start tactically, you also want to plan for a holistic solution.  If you build a wiki strategy and then a blog strategy and then a forum strategy – you end up with multiple point solutions that don’t play well together.  Ideally, you want something that is searchable across multiple content types.  You also want to be able to report activity and usage across multiple content types.  To do this, you need to have a holistic platform that includes the various point solutions and can grow over time.

As for how long it actually takes to implement a learning 2.0 solution from a company like Mzinga – average time to implement including strategy and design is roughly 2 months.

How do these new tools get advertised to the unwashed masses?  How do they know they are available?
You can do this any number of ways – Webinar, course, brown bag lunch.  It’s also likely true that a large number of people within the company are already using these Web 2.0 solutions, particularly knowledge workers.  There are 70 million blogs out there – someone is writing them.  50% of the 20-30 years in the US have a Facebook account.  30-39% of the 35-55 year olds use social networking sites.  Wikipedia is a number one search result for any number of topics, and so has been seen by millions of searches.  And YouTube has been featured in the presidential debates.

Are there any tools to measure ROI on Learning 2.0 types of training?

Nope.  You still need to do it the old fashioned way.  (Business benefit from solution – solution and costs) / Solution and costs.   This shouldn’t be anything new as there is no way to do this cleanly for eLearning either.

Is there technology to help create the transcripts?
There are some technologies for this; however none of them are foolproof.  That said, manually transcription costs are not high and may make sense until there is sufficient volume to look at a technology solution.

What is more effective? Forum? Wiki? Blog? Other?

See my answer to this above.  This is sort of like asking which is more effective when the options are mail, email, phone, and IM.  Each channel is different and serves a different purpose.

I have been building online communities for a couple years, and have typically integrated blogs, wikis, forums, groups, p2p, comments, etc. Is there any reason not to blend these methods of interaction?
Not that we can think of.  Seems like you’re doing just fine.

I’m with Best Buy and we’ve been piloting some podcasts, but we face the challenge of distributing these learning to our users.  How do you get podcasts into the learners’ iPods?

Well, the first thing and probably the obvious thing is – don’t upload to  iTunes.  Once you add to iTunes, it’s public.  Second, don’t just assume iPods.  People will play the podcasts on local machines, on Zune, and a whole host of other players (Blackberry, phone…)

Why not just post the mp3’s to your intranet site?  Or to a community site? 
You could also put them in a blog so you could more easily wrap some text around it and thereby make them more searchable.  Just put a download button next to the player.  Once on the user’s local machine, the mp3’s can easily be transferred to any device in all sorts of ways, including just a manual drop.  The local client for iTunes can also be set up to scan and synch new mp3’s so it can even be automated from the point of download.  We would suggest creating a couple of best practices – one for those with actual iPods and one for those with other players, and then just post at the top of your podcast page.

What do you recommend for the file repository?
As noted above, we do not believe that deploying point solutions makes a lot of sense so we would encourage you to look for a file repository solution that fits into a larger suite that includes blogs, discussion forums, wikis, idea tool capabilities and social networks at a bare minimum.  You may also want to consider the presence of comments, rankings, ratings, tagging and other social mechanism that surround content.

Can you email us the homework and follow up?

It’s in the links we sent you and is now available via links from our site: www.mzinga.com

You mentioned that everyone has something to say.  How do you get learners in a small company to contribute?

You just need to give them a platform – we have a 120 or so people and we saw 500 hours of usage in just under 8 weeks.  It’s not about size; it’s about empowerment.  With smaller companies, the cultural transition can also be easier since smaller companies tend to be flatter and often more entrepreneurial than bigger companies.  In other words, you probably already have a very web 2.0-ish culture.  You just need to provide platforms and some support and encouragement to get people contributing.

Can you please go back a page so we can see the recommendations and make notes?

The deck is now available and should have been emailed to you.  It’s also available on the website:  www.mzinga.com.

How are 2.0 sites priced?

Pricing depends on your implementation… we can follow up with you to give you more information.

One of the concerns that has popped up in our organization relates to managers, directors, etc. wanting to control the flow and content of information and learning to employees.  We’re still trying to figure out how to move to Learning 2.0 (with blogs, wikis, etc.) in the next year or so in such an environment.  Do you have any suggestions?
First, have them review the webinar.  Second, have them read the White Paper on Workplace Communities.  Third, suggest some books like The Wisdom of Crowds or Wikinomics or We are Smarter than Me.  Each features case studies that support giving up some control to gain control.

I would also throw this argument at them:  when it comes to learning and content, control is an illusion.  70% of what people use on the job is learned outside of formal, controlled learning.  In other words, 70% of the information and skills that people actively use on the job come from unmanaged, uncontrolled sources.  Through Web 2.0 technologies, you actually start to see some of these interactions and therefore assert some level of control and oversight.  The current state represents the *real* lack of control – Learning 2.0 is an improvement over the current situation.   

By the way, these concerns mirror those that marketing groups have about blogging and two way marketing:  “what if they say bad things about us?”  Our response to marketing professionals is that “…people are having conversations about your company all the time – you just don’t know about it.  They happen outside your sphere of influence and on platforms you don’t control.  Wouldn’t you rather know about it and influence the conversation?”  This same argument holds true for learning.  People learn from each other at least 70% of the time and we know nothing about it.  So shouldn’t we know about it and influence the conversation?

One final point on this one – you shouldn’t be making a complete shift.  Learning 1.0 is still the right answer for a lot of stuff.  Blogs, wikis, etc… is just another tool in your arsenal; it shouldn’t replace what you already have.  You had a hammer, now you have screwdriver.  They don’t replace each other.  They serve different purposes.           

Who then owns the ideas posted on a company blog?   How can company culture of “mine” addressed?
The company does.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Just like the company owns every document that you write, every PPT that you create, ever webinar you deliver, every breakthrough that you make, every process improvement that you implement.  Anything you do on company time using company equipment is the company’s.  Neither Web 2.0 nor Learning 2.0 changes this.

I suppose there could be an argument for people giving up their “secrets to success” – the stuff that makes them a hot commodity in the marketplace.  But there is an equal argument to be made that people’s reputation and stature grows once they start to share expertise.  Recognition, notoriety, and perception are pretty powerful rewards unto themselves which is why rating, ranking, and comments are such an important part of learning 2.0 and community initiatives.

You mentioned baby boomers, some are reluctant to make use of these technologies.  How do you get there buy-in? 
This seems to be especially prevalent in educators – where being published determines position tenure. I don’t accept the argument that Boomer are reluctant users of the technology.  Only the very older segment of Boomers show any reluctance.  The rest are actually adopting at a pretty good clip.    There are even Facebook-like social networking sites dedicated just to Boomers, Eons fro example.  And Boomers are big users of Flickr and Facebook as means of connecting with family.  Any Boomer who is a knowledge worker is probably a lot more plugged in than most of us realize.

As for educators, I can see where this could be an issue.  But why not combine formal “publishing” with informal publishing – blogging? 

Professors get more exposure this way, not less, and they invite more dialog which leads to more ideas.  Many recent business best sellers started from dialog and interaction – The Long Tail, We Are Smarter Than Me, The Wisdom of Crowds.  I’m sure a few professors would like that sort of attention and success.

The other harsh point to be made here is this:  educators who fail to embrace this technology, quite frankly, aren’t all that professional.  If your learners are adapted to a certain kind of learning and you force your own style on them, then you aren’t doing your job.  Given the prevalence of this technology among teens, it’s professionally irresponsible not to embrace it on some level.  And of course, the other point here is that technology changes – printing presses to computers to the social web.  Anyone can be a luddite, but “educators” should be those who embrace and extend new ideas and new technologies, who integrate new concepts into their worldview.  That is, after all, what we preach to our students.   

Could you show an example of a wiki?
www.wikipedia.com

How much should we budget for an online community? What is more effective? Forum? Wiki? Blog? Other?

This has been answered in earlier comments.

Do you have citiations for the stats used on the Build Business Case slide?
See the PPT for more information.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 3, 2009 5:32 am

    Hey its nice to see the content. Frankly i don’t know much about wiki. From your site i got some new and useful information about wiki.Thank you for sharing.

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