As business is becoming more social and we are using new social tools to work collaboratively with one another as we work, do we really need another set of social tools specifically for learning?
First of all I think I need to be very clear what I mean by “learning”. I don’t just mean studying a topic formally on a course but also about acquiring skills and knowledge in other (less formal) ways. The terms “informal learning” and “social learning” have been in widespread use for sometime now, but unfortunately are becoming increasingly misused.
It is clear that most of how we learn to do our jobs takes place continuously AS WE DO OUR jobs rather than in formal training, so doesn’t it make sense that the tools we use to learn informally and socially should be the same as those we use to work collaboratively? This means that we don’t need to have separate, “learning” tools to share links to “learning” resources, (co-)create and share “learning” content as well as interact with our colleagues – but rather use the very same tools that we use to do our jobs. Do we really want people to share what they know in separate “learning” systems or in separate “learning” communities? The whole point is about convergence – ie bringing it all together – not creating even more silos of knowledge and expertise. Remember too, even if an LMS (aka Social Learning Platform) provides access to informal/informational/social resources, this is not the same as supporting informal learning – which is something quite different – the LMS is still a formal learning system! And furthermore, it is more about integrating learning into work, not the other way round. So as the “real” learning (social and/or informal) takes place in the workflow, the tools and systems we use to work and learn should be the very same workflow social and collaboration tools.
It would also make much more sense to integrate formal learning into the workflow too, e.g. by liberating courses from the LMS and hosting them where they are more easily accessible (perhaps with some lite-tracking of usage), building formal learning communities using the same social tools that are available for building communities of practice, and of course using the same social (eg blogging and wiki) tools within the formal learning context. Of course, some formal training (e.g. for compliance or regulatory purpose) might need to be tracked more comprehensively, but even then you don’t actually need a separate system to do this either.
So how are organisations integrating learning into the workflow? In the next post I’m going to be taking a look at some of the different ways this is being achieved – which will include the following:
- Using public social media tools
- Using private social media tools – proprietary or open source
- Building a social and collaboration platform/intranet with proprietary or open source tools
- Extending the existing intranet into a social and collaboration platform/intranet
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