Saturday, August 30, 2008

Informal Learning Survey

In an article in July's Learning Circuits magazine: Informal Learning, Overlooked or Overhyped?, there is an examination of a recent survey of Informal Learning adoption at various organizations. When I read though who was being queried and what the context was I was somewhat surprised:

"The core was an online survey of 1,104 human resource and learning professionals, who completed the survey between March and April 2008.
The majority of them (86 percent) were managers, directors, vice presidents, or C-level officers. Most of the respondents represented large enterprises (60 percent had workforces of at least 1,000 people) that operate in multiple nations."

I have several problems with what I saw in the article regarding the study:
  1. It's not clear whether they were asking these folks if Informal Learning was being sponsored or otherwise endorsed rather than spontaneously occurring.
  2. Depending on what they really wanted to ask and find out they may have been asking the wrong folks - i.e. if they wanted to know about true adoption that didn't happen to fall within the context of an organization's approved resources or practices, then many of these high level respondents might not have actually known what learning mechanisms their employees were or weren't using.
The questions that should have been asked then are these:
  • What if any Informal Learning programs and / or capabilities are being offered or supported by your organization ?
  • What Informal Learning do you think is occurring outside of that context and how do you track or other find out about such activities?
  • And of course, ordinary members of the organization should have constituted a larger proportion of those taking the survey (and perhaps could have been given their own specially tailored survey).
This would have provided a much more comprehensive view of who was really do what in the enterprise with Informal Learning and begins to provide a foundation to possibly bridge the gap between management and employees on this issue.

copyright 2008, Semantech Inc.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reconciling Web 2.0, KM & Learning Technology

Here we are in 2008, and the unification still hasn't happened yet? Why not? Why isn't standard operating procedure to combine Knowledge Management, Web Collaboration & Learning Technology solutions together into unified Enterprise Learning scenario ?

Let's go over the pieces again to this artifically separated puzzle in an attempt to perhaps explain what might be taking so long...

Knowledge Management - Traditionally, this has assumed the form of complex DBMS driven solutions with some minimal collaborative capability (in most cases never exploited). KM has never been viewed coherently within the context of the larger family of enterprise processes, hence few have understood how to gain value from it.

Web 2.0 - For the purposes of this discussion, Web 2.0 refers to the collaborative knowledge revolution brought about by use of blogging, wikis and other digital knowing / information sharing technologies combined with previous and emerging collaborative communications technologies / applications.

Learning Technology - This is still being separated into formal and informal flavors with the informal approaches making slow gains but not achieving their proper recognition. In many ways, informal learning overlaps with Web 2.0 technology, however what it has been lacking is the pedagogical pedigree that is currently only being extended to formal learning solutions (which are still very much LMS and SCORM-centric).

Is there overlap across all three areas ? yes...

Do all three areas serve a larger enterprise goal ? yes

Would all three be more effective combined than separated ? yes

so, why isn't it occuring ?

Answer # 1 - The field of E-learning has never yet developed a practice framework that encompassed the whole process of learning - and more importantly the necesary scope - i.e. across the entire enterprise while simultaneously focusing more on individual needs.

Answer # 2 - The thought leadership of the field of e-learning was coopted early on by a small handful of COTS vendors and thus lost their focus. They then left a void which users are now filling themselves, this however has signicantly slowed the progress which otherwise would be occuring.

Answer # 3 - The traditional educational community is still somewhat unsure of how to deal with Web 2.0 - the first reaction was merely to view it as a medium for potential plagiarism - an unbelieveable knee-jerk reflex but one we've still not recovered from yet.

Until we understand that blending is about more than integrating a small subset of learning technologies we're not going to realize the full potential of e-learning.

copyright 2008, Semantech Inc.