Recently I worked on a small project with a corporate to provide feedback on their design specification of a social learning program that was going to be delivered through their Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) platform.
There were many moving parts to this project simply because it was the first time the Learning and Development team developed a social learning program of its kind and it drew attention to the need for them to learn new skills. Namely, how to design social learning programs and experiences, how to manage and moderate online learning communities as well as know how to use public and enterprise social networks and tools for learning, connecting and networking.
It also made me realise that these skills are important not just for L&D but anyone really.
So the challenge is how do we shift the mindset of everyone (L&D included) to take a more proactive and personal approach to their own learning? A Do-It-Yourself approach to learning if you will?
As someone who has completed many different kinds of training programs, the ones in recent years that made a direct and meaningful impact on me were the connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCS). (You can read more of my thoughts on two cMOOCs completed called Exploring Personal Learning Networks and Educational Technology MOOC)
The approach of these cMOOCs was based on the learning theory called Connectivism which was promoted by Stephen Downes and George Siemens.
You may know these cMOOCs as communities of inquiries, or communities of practice or even, how Jane Hart describes them as guided social learning programs. The way you learn in this community is highly personal and contextualized – but here’s the kicker:
You need to be motivated to contribute, participate and learn openly with others.
It’s the perfect way to learn in the digital age because it puts you, the learner, the explorer at its heart. That is, you drive your own learning. You apply your own contexts. You create your own meaning.
For someone who has been in the workforce for over 24 years, it’s also my preferred manner to learn because I feel it respects me as a person who has their own values, opinions, experiences, knowledge and skills to share. Similarly, so does everyone else. This type of learning experience EQUALISES me with my peers because we all bring something to the learning experience.
That is, the sum of all we know as a collective could never be taught by one person, one facilitator or trainer in one classroom or delivered in one e-learning course.
Wow, so how do you design for that?
Social learning respects the learner for what they bring to the community. Its benefits and value are demonstrated when the same individuals have the freedom to express, explore, reflect and make sense of what is being presented to apply to their own contexts. The diversity of opinions and the opportunity to choose what you want to learn, when and how as well as the ability to make your own connections between ideas and concepts presented allow for a much deeper and more profound learning experience.
There is no right or wrong answer but it’s up to you to decide what is right for you.
So this may send alarm bells to corporate Learning and Development teams who in the past, designed and developed training so that the learner, the employee, follow a path that is already laid out for them. However, we now know that learning is personal so how do you design experiences that allow people to learn in this manner?