From “learning technologies” to “social technologies”

Social technologies now play a big part in everything we do, and it is quite clear that many knowledge workers use a variety of social tools and networks not only to help them  get work done, but also to learn efficiently while on the job. We also know that this informal, social learning accounts for 80% or more of how people learn in the workplace, so it is not something to be dismissed as irrelevant or trivial.

For those organisations  who still see “learning” as something that only happens in a training room or on an e-learning course, which is organised and managed by the Training Department, then thinking in terms of a Social Workplace Learning Continuum, can make it easier to move gradually into supporting this overlooked way of learning  – and in doing so begin to support a wide range of [learning] activities across the continuum.

Whereas many individuals are happy to use their own social  tools to power their own and their team’ activities, most organisations generally prefer them to use some sort of internal enterprise platform to keep the conversations and content private and secure.  But one thing is clear, existing learning platforms are not appropriate to underpin the entire Social Workplace Learning Continuum – since they are built around the “course” model and focus on “managing” users in formal learning contexts. Whereas what is now required is a technological infrastructure that can support the full spectrum of working and learning activities; in other words it requires social workplace technologies– rather than (social) learning technologies.

With the growing interest in “social business”,  an increasing  number of organisations are replacing (or upgrading their existing intranets) with new social and collaboration platforms, with key features like

  • Member profiling
  • Activity streams
  • Real-time updates
  • Threaded discussions
  • Notifications
  • Group spaces
  • File sharing areas
  • Content co-creation tools

These might be proprietary systems like Jive, Podio, Yammer, Socialcast, or open source software, like WordPress/Buddypress or Elgg. But, more importantly, these types of platforms can now support a wide range of collaborative working and learning activities very effectively, and ensure that learning (both formal and informal) is  seen as an integral part of the workflow.

I used WordPress and Buddypress to power my Social Learning Centre and this has enabled me to offer a number of different types of collaborative learning activities, as well as support informal communities. So in subsequent posts, I’ll be talking about how I set it up, and some of the things I’ve been doing, and how these might work in an organizational setting.

I’ll also be talking about this approach in my upcoming webinar at the Learning & Skills Online Conference on 28 June.

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