Part 4: Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies

Discussion Thread: This post << Part 3 << Part 2 << Part 1

Before we go on to start detailing formal methodologies, we must make concrete the business case, context and critical success factors for these methodologies.

As organizations struggle to understand how they can leverage Learning 2.0 and vendors bring in their own interpretations of what Learning 2.0 really is. I think we need to start defining how and why this new style should be implemented at the workplace.

Because that is what Learning 2.0 really is – an emergent learning style with a strong basis in social constructivist learning theories that holds out the promise of making the learning curve steeper, creating a learning & sharing culture within the organization (and beyond), lowering costs and increasing effectiveness.

Learners are changing from passive receptors of information and training to active participants in their own learning. This is a viral change, so it is really fast. Today’s digital learners are part of communities. They share their interests with members of their community. They twitter. They blog. They rake in RSS feeds and bookmark their favorities on de.li.ci.ou.s. They share photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube. They share knowledge on Slideshare and Learnhub or Ning. They share ideas. They grow by meeting and engaging peers and gurus alike using the LinkedIn or Facebook. On their laptops and on their mobile phones.

Traditional instructors are now moving from being trainers to being facilitators, guides and coaches in a collaborative teaching-learning space. The instructors need not treat their learners as passive receptors, rather they can actively shape, by dialogue and discovery, the nature of their learning.

Learning Managers, though, have perhaps the biggest challenge. Undisputedly, an organization that has both the vision and a demonstrable culture of continuous learning, collaboration and improvement, will benefit natively from the formalization of this style and the adoption of the available tools. This kind of an organization worries about functional excellence and the ability to transform the domain in which they operate through leveraging individual and collective insight.

Organizations that have not reached that stage (perhaps the majority worldwide), will need Learning Managers to step up and leverage these new developments to foster that culture. They are the ones who are responsible for implementation of formal methodologies for Learning 2.0 at the workplace.

Inevitably, their role must transform. They must orchestrate learning rather than just be responsible for the creation of the learning content itself. They must be able to bring out functional excellence and the culture of sharing and continuous learning. Their goals and measures must be community led and guided by the organization needs. This will directly result in performance improvements because the community can be made responsible for those improvements.

The role of the vendors or internal team they manage must also change and evolve. For example, vendors or internal development teams or instructors need to play a more active role in building that culture. These teams have a great understanding of the content and organizations have literally paid millions to train and induct them. They have interfaced with engineering/domain experts, instructional design and styles guidelines and perhaps directly even the learners. They are a logical, key component of this new space and equal partners in fostering that culture and some could take on the responsibility for goals in functional excellence.

All this will reduce costs. First of all, the onus of learning and teaching through sharing will start getting distributed across the organization. Secondly, the steeper learning curves that can be fostered through community interaction will make “training” more cost efficient. Thirdly, informal interaction through these spaces will reduce the remediation training requirements. Fourthly, the need and scope for physical instructor led learning will reduce. Fifthly, user generated peer reviewed content will start replacing large parts of content creation teams, whether internal or vendor.

It will increase effectiveness because there is no one-size-fits-all approach in the new 2.0 style. As learners start sharing their knowledge with the overall purpose of bringing others up to speed, they will also translate their own learning styles when they teach. All of a sudden, it will be easier to find content that is taught/shared in a way that resonates with a specific learner’s style of learning. It will also increase effectiveness because it will start manifesting in the organization culture and appetite for learning. It will make learning more fun if you have special methodologies for motivating entire communities. It will engage the communities even more because they will feel aligned and geared for the organizational goals and be seen as active participants in achieving those goals. And finally, it will be real because you are learning with practitioners as well as theoretical experts.

So what would be the critical success factors for implementing Learning 2.0 led approaches. First, organizational initiative is key – without the mission of transforming your organization into a learning and performing organization, these initiatives will meet with limited success. Second, roles must be redefined to accommodate the new solutions. Third, group dynamics must be researched and customized for your organization. This is key because each group or community will need a formal process of norming and mentoring by the organization functional or business leaders. Fourth, formal 2.0 methodologies and tools must be instituted and a process created around some of the transition, maintenance and integration areas. Fifthly, we would need to identify technology systems, measures and other supporting infrastructure to manage these implementations.

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