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From formal courses to social learningDesigning Online Courses, Connected Learning Environment 9173 views
Following my last post on "Getting started with social software for learning", I've had a number of conversations about how social learning fits into a more formalised training environment.
Clive Shepherd's recent post on "Elearning in all its forms" gives an overview of the three main facets of elearning and how they can each be used across the spectrum of informal to formal learning. I've repackaged Clive's ideas into a table which tries to show the full spectrum:
|Online content||Self-study courses||Rapid e-learning content, podcasts, demos, presentations||User-generated content - whether text, images, videos, audio files, presentations etc|
|Live online learning||Virtual classroom sessions which are packaged as courses or which form part of formal, blended solutions||Webinars and other facilitated sessions||Web conferencing, instant messaging and similar tools for meetings initiated by learners themselves|
|Asynchronous online learning||Forums, wikis and blogs as part of formal online or blended courses||Forums and blogs to provide a means of supporting ongoing support||Forums, wikis, blogs and micro-blogging which allow ongoing communication, reflection and knowledge construction|
The social learning tools, whether they are synchronous (at the same time) or asynchronous (at different times), are all about the interactions and communication between people. These are an essential component of any learning ecosystem.
Terry Anderson (Professor in Distance Education - Athabasca University), describes the main interactions that take place within any learning context as:
- Student <-> Teacher
- Student <-> Student
- Student <-> Content
This is illustrated in the model of online learning diagram below (taken from page 61 of Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2nd edition), Ed. Terry Anderson, Athabasca Publishing, free pdf download)
Even in the most locked down training environment, such as compliance training (although I'm with Donald Clark here on questioning its effectiveness) there is a social element. We cannot prevent people talking to each other, from finding out how that particular community of practice really does things. Just see Etienne Wenger's vignette of a claims processing office to see that happening. If a trainer thinks that they are the sole source of information or the sole means of changing behaviour, then, I'm afraid, they are delusional.
So, how should managers/trainers incorporate social learning into the formal learning agenda of the organisation?
- Accept that social learning will happen. With or without your permission.
- Realise that, as a manager/trainer, you are in the selling and persuading business. You need to market your changes otherwise they will be subverted or even ignored.
- Ensure that you have a communications strategy (NB. Not a learning strategy) for every change you need to push through. If you have a learning strategy it then assumes that every problem is answered by training.
- Create or allow open communication channels for your employees to use to request help, suggest ideas and to provide feedback. Forums are the most obvious, but some organisations may use blogs, video sharing etc.
- Ensure those channels allow two-way employee to employee communication
- Monitor those channels, not censor
- Use the feedback to make changes to your communications and to the ideas you are wanting to push through
Would that work in your organisation?