Part 5: Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies

Discussion Thread: This post << Part 4 << Part 3 << Part 2 << Part 1

(Also a contribution to the May Working/Learning blog carnival hosted by Rupa Rajagopalan)

In the last few posts, I have tried to identify what I think are the pillars of the learning process/experience and tried to establish that they remain valid in both traditional and 2.0 contexts. These pillars are goals, time, measurement, content/knowledge and improvement. I also tried to make concrete the business case, context and critical success factors for these methodologies.

In this post, I will be looking at additional components of formal methodologies that could be adopted by organizations worldwide to foster this new style. But before we do that I wanted to assess whether we can really have a formal set of methods, priciples and procedures around Learning 2.0, the way we can in traditional learning. I want to clarify that I am not referring to putting formal methodologies in how people should be taught or should learn using the Learning 2.0 style. That is implicit in the style. Rather I am referring to methodologies that can help organizations initiate and propagate this new style because of its apparent benefits.

Let us look at some of the additional components of the methodology and revisit some I have talked about earlier.

Network organization

Learning is organized around groups, each around a specific learning context or domain. These groups could be aggregated over role profile requirements. For example, Level 2 support engineers need to be skilled in voice support, technical skills around the product and soft skills around customer management. That is what they need to learn and improve on. These are functional groups brought together by commonality in the work they do in the organization.

Some learning contexts could be organization wide. For example, there is a lot of learning around ethics or corporate responsibility that applies to all. These contexts apply to the entire organization or large non-functional chunks thereof.

But context is a key organizing factor for these groups and any Learning 2.0 strategy must include this key factor. The network for the organizations is a collection of small and large groups or communities around specific learning contexts.

Groups Organization and Roles

Each group needs organization. The group would comprise of experts, experienced professionals and new hires alike across a specific context/group. The group may give rise to sub groups all aligned to the group.

To initiate, structure and motivate collaborative learning within groups, there must be a few individuals who would take the initiative to orchestrate some group activities. This is not to say that these orchestrators would impose certain learning objectives or structured 1.0 methodology on the group. Rather, these individuals would be ones that understand both group dynamics and the learning context and be able to correlate them with business requirements. For example, the orchestrator may adopt Tuckman’s 4 stage model for a group – forming, storming, norming and performing. Then ensure that all members reach the performing stage (defined in a special way for the learning 2.0 style) and satisfy the business requirements.

There shall be other roles and responsibilities that the group may have to undertake. For example, initiating new members would be a process. In this process, senior or performing members of the group would take responsibility for understanding learning needs and help to create paths through the mass of collaborative content and member groups across the context.

For example, if I am a rookie technical engineer, I need to understand the product (i.e. I get connected to Bill Marsh, the expert, who is part of the specific product network/group), need to understand and learn from the experiences of the services group (i.e. I get enrolled into the service troubleshooting group led by Jatin Sharma), need to learn about ethics and business conduct (i.e. I get enrolled into a corporate group on ethics led by Sue Liang) etc. Bill, Jatin and Sue follow a specific methodology to get me into the performing stage for the group very fast.

Similarly, if a group decides to create an assessment to ensure it’s members have really learnt the features of the new product, it can decide to create a process to ensure this happens. If a rating needs to be provided for a particular piece of content or even interaction, then the community can engage in peer reviews.

The group grows and thrives based on 2.0 styles that have been discussed. However there needs to be a method to how it evolves or devolves. The method needs to be as decentralized as possible. If it is centralized as in 1.0, we shall only go on to create a similar learning style and shall fail to leverage the 2.0 benefits. Maybe this requires strategies only to the extent of getting all the members trained/skilled to reach them to the performing stage? These distinctions are key. And I know these strategies shall require orchestrators with specialized soft skills.

Content

Organizations have a huge amount of content to start with. There are two challenges that we have to address here:

  1. How to repurpose some or all of the content (structured courses, other sources of content) in meaningful ways to act as the repository of information for the group?
  2. How to grow this repository of content to not only add new content but also improve on the existing content through collaboration?

These are key challenges because organizations cannot ignore the investment made in creating this content, nor can they just leave groups alone to create large amounts of unusable or unstructured content (ultimately this will have heavy impacts on the technical infrastructure as well). However I believe that once groups start performing, the traditional content generation requirements will reduce immensely or will reduce time for development of structured material to a great extent. In this context, vendors/content developers need to be the ones that maintain these ever growing and improving repositories.

Measurement and tracking

This acquires a different connotation in 2.0. You are now trying to track how successfully groups are being able to translate their interactions to meaningful performance. So far, ratings and other quantitative information for participation, can be tracked and these shall be one set of measures that can generate some analytics. The other measures, ones that track individual growth, I am less sure about. At one end I feel these should be what the traditional measures are. This has the benefit of atleast being able to rate both 1.0 and 2.0 progressions on a common scale. However, I also feel that perhaps the 2.0 assessments should be unique to the group definition of expertise or prowess. 

Collaboration

Collaboration must be geared towards results. I have seen too many frustrated people on the forums who either have not had their problems resolved or queries answered satisfactorily causing them to either abandon their learning or not be able to solve their problem effectively. To many times, the conversations turn acrimonious. This is a show stopper. A network must produce results if it is to continuously motivate and help its members. Individuals are fallible. The network should not be.

So there should be a methodology and purpose that should treat each problem as a learning event, an occassion to help the individual learn and acknowledgement to the people who help facilitate that learning in a timely fashion.

In summary, these are a few key components that need formal methodologies to create successful and effective social networks for learning. There will be other components and ways to engender effectiveness, this is not an exhaustive list and we need to work collaboratively to flesh these out. Look forward to comments!

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