Social and Collaborative Learning in the Workplace

Slides, notes and links to resources used in the webinar on 22 August 2012.

Slide 2
Learning in the Social Workplace blog | | Social Learning Handbook | Internet Time Alliance

Slide 5
Social Learning does not equal Social Media + Training – and although social media can support social approaches to formal learning,  that is not the whole story, social media has the biggest part to play in underpinning the natural, continuous social learning that takes place everyday in the workflow as part of doing a job

In fact that is how social media is ALREADY having an impact on workplace learning because individuals are ALREADY using it to power their own learning and working in many new ways – often under the radar of IT and &L*D –  and even  in organization where social media is not encouraged or even banned.

» 10 things to remember about social learning and the use of social learning in the workplace, Jane Hart, 23 March 2011

Slide 6
The annual Top 100  Tools for Learning gives us insight into the range of tools that people are using for both personal learning and for creating learning solutions for others. And how these tools are primarily free online social tools.

» Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011
 Voting for the Top  100 Tools for Learning 2012

Slide 7
By analysing the lists I was able to identify 8 key features of the way that smart workers use social media for working and learning.

» Learning in the Social Workplace, Jane Hart, 2011

Slides 8-9
A survey I conducted recently showed that …:

»  Only 14% think company training is an essential way for them to learn in the workplace, Jane Hart, 16 April 2012

Slide 10
In 2010 I created a diagram that showed what I considered to be 5 stages of workplace learning. The first 3 stages are those that most organisations have already passed through.  Stages 4 and 5 are  2 new stages organizational learning might take

Stage 4 – Social Learning – which is simply adding social media and social approaches into the training mix
Stage 5 – Collaborative Working & Learning – however, represents a big mindshift in L&D practice – from traditional training – organized and managed by L&D to supporting self-organised learners.

(My ITA colleague, Jay Cross, added a few further dimensions to the chart, showing the shift of control v autonomy aspect, as well as the shift from formal learning to supporting informal learning.)

Some organisations are now in stage 4. These organisations don’t “get” social and think it is something that can be simply applied to the old command and control approaches to top-down training. But I see this stage as very much as an evolutionary ^ for those who need to take time to move to the new model of learning and development.

Others meanwhile have already jumped to stage 5 –  and a new stage for L&D where collaborative (workflow) learning is the key to business success. This is happening particularly in organisations that are transforming into “social businesses”, ie. swhere all work processes in the organisation go social and are underpinned by social and collaborative working.

» An introduction to workplace learning, Chapter 1 of the Social Learning Handbook

Slides 11
One of the ways I’ve been helping organisations to think about how they can support a wider range of social learning in the organization rather than just social training, is to think in terms of a Social Workplace Learning Continuum – rather than just to think in black and white terms of formal training OR informal learning or in terms of control OR autonomy.

» Supporting the Social Workplace Learning Continuum, Jane Hart, 4 June 2012

Slide 12
It’s clear that many people are already using public social media tools for most of these activities.  For example, it is becoming more commonplace to use, say Twitter in a workshop or networking event.  Use of twitter gave an extra dimension to the events themselves – provided a way of capturing conversations both inside and outside the room, as well as supporting a more social approach to learning.

» Social Learning in action at #elnil, Jane Hart, 22 June 2011
» Using Twitter in a face-to-face workshop, Jane Hart, 2 May 2010

Slide 13
However, some might find that using public social media tools like Twitter inappropriate within an organizational setting and want to use an enterprise system for this.  Some L&D departments have chosen to upgrade to a social LMS that provides social functionality to host and deliver training – those in stage 4

However, other organisations are beginning to introduce social collaboration platforms and these are much more appropriate to underpin the social learning and collaboration activities across the continuum.

Slide 14
In fact in the future  we won’t see separate systems for learning and working, but learning will be fully integrated into such collaboration platforms and hence into the workflow. There may well be some sort of LMS functionality to track those who have taken courses etc – where it is really required; but it won’t require a separate system   Collaboration systems will also easily interface with public Social Web – since it won’t be a matter of either/or systems – but both/and.

Slide 15
In other words we will move from “learning technologies” to “social technologies”.  The features of these social collaboration platforms are ones that we have become very familiar with in our daily social networks. The emphasis will therefore be on enabling social interaction and knowledge sharing – rather than “managing learning” or providing a dumping ground for e-learning content.

A growing number of organisations are replacing their intranets with proprietary tools like Jive and Podio (Citrix’s new platform),  others are using tools like Yammer and Socialcast to add a social layer to their existing intranet platform, like Sharepoint. Some are taking the open source route, and building their own platforms using tools like  Buddypress built on the WordPress platform, or Elgg.

» From learning technologies to social technologies, Jane Hart, 14 June 2012

Slide 16-19

I used WordPress and BuddyPress to power my Social Learning Centre, which I set up in part to show how social collaboration platforms can support the entire social workplace continuum, so it has the familiar features of social networking systems, like

  • A members directory – which supports user profiling
  • The ability to create public and private group spaces
  • Each of which has its own activity stream which supports a continuous flow of conversation and discussion – as in this News group

» Social Learning Centre

Slide 20
All this means, that once unshackled from the constraints of traditional “learning technologies” that restrict your thinking about what “learning” looks like, there is now the opportunity to become more creative and support more relevant, appealing, modern social learning activities across the continuum.

The following are not “cookie cutter” solutions; every organisation will need to understand how social works for it and its culture.  Furthermore to understand the power of social learning and collaborative working, and to support it effectively in the workplace really needs you to be immersed in it yourself. It’s not something that other people do, or the way other people learn!

Slide 21
1 –Augmenting training
The simplest way to support an online social approach to training – whether it be a face-to-face workshop or an online event –  is to set up a social space where conversations, pre-, post- as well as in the event – can take place and even continue well past the event’s original scheduled date.

Slide 22
Another approach is to run occasional live chats – similar to Twiitter chats . So that over the period f a hour or so the group might discuss 4-5 question.

Slide 23
2 – Facilitating collaborative learning
This takes us one step further along the continuum, as it is quite different from most online courses which are generally heavily content-orientated.  My ITA colleague, Harold Jarche, and I run short online workshops at the Social Leaaning Centre– and we have used a lite social design to organise them.

  1. They are focused around tasks where participants actually “do” things – both practically or reflectively, individually or with others – and …
  2. They are focused on promoting the social interaction between the participants – i.e. sharing their thoughts and experiences on the topic with one another.
  3. They include some simple/simplified (supporting) content to support those tasks – not “all-singing, all dancing” e-learning!!
  4. We have also tried to build in as much (learner) autonomy as possible  – So it’s not just choosing whether they sign up or note,  but autonomy in terms of when they work on the assignments – there are no deadlines.  And since you can’t  force people to be social, we simply encourage them to become involved –
  5. And we also ask them to self- evaluate their own participation in the workshop – rather than test or manage their learning for them

Social interaction is the key – and this is what the participants find of huge value for them.

»  Collaborative learning: a recipe for success, Jane Hart, August 2012

Slide 24
3 – Supporting Communities of Practice
I now want to mention  some activities that involve supporting learning in the workflow  This is more about me setting up the FRAMEWORK for (informal) learning to take place – and then supporting it – rather than trying to organise and manage the whole process.

The Learning Circle is an example of a professional learning community.  I simply set up the group and encouraged people  to join if they wanted to participate –  and here  a different group member shares a new resource each week.  The community takes quite a bit of nurturing;  this is largely due to the fact that it wasn’t requested by the members themselves;  communities are much more likely to thrive if they are initiated and owned by the members themselves.

» Online Communities Workshop

Slide 25
4 – Supporting work teams
The next example is about helping teams to work collaboratively – and to learn form one another as they do so.  Once again it’s not about trying to manage the whole process for them, but helping them “narrate their work” that is write  about what they are doing and in the process share their knowledge and experiences with one another as well as support each other’s performance problems – IN THE WORKFLOW.

Helping teams collaborate effectively can take time – but  it’s very much about modelling or showing teams how to do it – rather than telling people just to get on with it to do it.

But using a group space like this for team work  also provides an  opportunity to embed more  structured learning activities  into the very same space – when  required.  So that although they are learning informally continuously as they work, they can now even learn formally in the WORKFLOW.

Slide 26
5 – Fostering connections and collective intelligence
Finally, it is also about connecting individuals both within and without the organization and fostering the collective intelligence in the organization.  This type of activity could very easily start at induction/onboarding, when introducing newcomers into the organization, but it will also need to be an ongoing activity.

Much of what I have said in the last few slides is clearly a very different type of activity to the traditional training approach that L&D are used to, and requires a different mindset and mindshift.  Here is one approach to begin that change in mindset ..

Slides 27-28
One approach that I have been promoting that has been going down well is to think in terms of Enterprise  Community or an Enterprise Learning Community – and your role in terms of being an Enterprise Learning Community Manager – ie  someone who encourages social connections and fosters a sense of belonging to an community of learners – for the purpose of supporting and improving performance in the workplace.

One thing for sure is that this role brings with it a much more visible profile for the workplace learning professional  in the business than ever before; it is not just about being tucked away in an office somewhere – commissioning or creating content.

» The role of the Enterprise (Learning) Community Manager, Jane Hart, 2 July 2012
» Enterprise (Learning) Community Management Workshop – at the Social Learning Centre