Some years ago, my husband and I visited the theme parks on the Gold Coast in Queensland to get some thrills on some of the scary rides. One particular ride at Dreamworld consists of a track that seems to extend high up in the air. You sit in the open air carriage and are jettisoned up the track to experience a feeling of lightness as your carriage is hurled into the air.
This is how I have felt this year – a year of fear, slight trepidation but also elation as I was hurled into a new area of my field of expertise into social learning. I have not felt like this since Learning Management Systems and rapid online courseware development software came onto the market to change the face of learning and development as we know it. It has been a year of professional and personal development for me – and it’s been exciting to say the least because it is full of possibilities.
The possibility to learn and apply new knowledge and skills in social learning within the workplace context; of new global networks with people who share my passion in learning and development and where I encourage and inspire my colleagues to come on the journey with me (although currently when I look behind me and there’s only one or two stragglers but give it time, they will come).
Through my Personal Learning Network, (a new term for me – although I’m sure I had one pre-2012 which consisted of networks and colleagues only within Australia and not the PLN I have now which has since exploded to a global network thanks to Twitter), I came across Jane Hart’s Social Learning Centre. It’s like a virtual learning academy where people congregate online, contribute, collaborate and participate in a variety of workshops and webinars that occur at various times of the year. The cost of the workshops is quite reasonable in comparison to other facilitator led workshops and conferences in the market but the benefit are that they are moderated by well-known experts in the area of learning and performance.
I participated in the “From Training To Performance to Social Workshop” which ran for two weeks. The workshop was designed for learning professionals to explore and support informal learning which accounts for up to 95% of workplace learning.
The first week was centred on the theme of Dependent and Independent Learning where we reviewed the basic premises of training and what it is good for; how we make the decision for training; examine performance support and how the training tool kit can be expanded to include non-instructional interventions.
The second week moved to Interdependent Learning where we looked at ways to enhance social learning, narrating our work and fostering communities of practice.
The workshop included three web based assignments every week (six in total) that involved some activity, reflection and contribution to posts. We were encouraged to reply to other’s posts to keep the conversation going and learn from everyone’s experiences. The assignments included reading various web pages with links that encouraged you to think about your own experiences or your workplace and write down what you did, why you did it, what you learned from it. Reading other’s posts and comments also further contributed to your learning because it gave you other perspectives and opinions.
I found that I was online about one hour to two hours reading the material, diverging to other sites, book marking references, posting comments to sites that I had been driven to, following people on Twitter, tweeting sites and adding sites to my RSS feeds. The workshop lends itself well to people who are self-directed in their approach to learning. If you want a workshop where you are lectured or directed and to be told what is right or wrong, black or white, then I suggest you look elsewhere. Also if you are someone who likes to lurk and not contribute to posts because of uncertainty, then I’d say this would be the perfect opportunity to ‘break the ice’ and start contributing as it’s a safe environment as you’re among your peers.
The workshop was akin to going on my own personal learning journey that started out with a rough map that was provided by Harold Jaroche, our “facilitator”, curator and moderator but we all followed it in our individual ways to get to our own treasure at the end. I’m sure that everyone who did the workshop had their own unique and individual learning journey which took them down a path where they made their own judgements and apply what they learned to their own work-based scenarios. Some may have found gold, others may have found just sand but regardless, it made them think, reflect and learn something for themselves on the journey.
The value of the workshop (apart from its reasonable price) is that you are given a wealth of resources and links that you can use in your own development or work. More importantly, the members who attended the workshop are also now part of your own personal learning network who you can contact and connect with for professional discussion and collaboration ongoing through Twitter or through the functionality of the Social Learning Centre site.
Social learning has opened up a world where you have that connection for a long time and it doesn’t end when the course, workshop or conference ends – it only continues to be built upon – and if we are going to be valued in an organisation based on the networks that we bring to the role, then this workshop is one way which provides for this.
So did I find gold? Yes I certainly did. I found nuggets of information and references that I could easily apply to my own workplace and in the process expanded my own personal learning network. Now the challenge is for me is to inspire my own colleagues and get them onboard social learning.