From E-Learning to We-Learning – Lessons Learned

We have been conducting a series of workshops around the country on best-practices in corporate social learning, and the results have been really overwhelming. As I’ve discussed with many of you, we really are in the middle of a revolution in corporate training, as we all learn to adapt the concepts of formal training toward social networking and collaboration.

Yesterday here in California we had around 75 people join us, and while the session was only about four hours, the response was fascinating. Companies like Jamba Juice, Kaiser Permanente, Cypress Semiconductor, McKinsey, BART, and many others met with us (and Skillsoft, who sponsored the event) to walk through the fundamental principles of “we-learning.”

One of the keys which David Mallon mentioned is the need to consider the precise and detailed nature of the audience – their working conditions, daily workplace, familiarity with social tools, and how they gain and use information. In a “we-learning” solution we are giving people to “each other” – not just an instructor or training content – so we must carefully design the environment so it is easy for them to use.

For example, at Kaiser there is a need to create a “we-learning” environment for front-line healthcare workers, who have little access to computers and continuously gain new insights from their day to day work. At Jamba Juice there is a need and desire to build a video portal for employees (similar to the fantastic work which Cheesecake Factory is doing) but few computers or room for PCs in the stores. At Cypress Semiconductor there is a strong culture of job documentation and formal process documentation, but no knowledge sharing process yet. Each of these companies is looking for ways to build a collaborative learning experience which is structured, but open and enabled for peer to peer knowledge sharing.

I firmly believe that this new era, the “we-learning” era, is going to bring about a renaissance in corporate training. The traditional ADDIE model (analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate) needs to be revisited and revised to accomodate the fact that we are building “learning environments” which we must “moderate, facilitate, and promote” rather than just “learning programs” which we launch and manage.

Let me highlight a few of the keys to success for you in considering your We-Learning strategy:

  • Look at our Enterprise Learning Framework to understand how to analyze your audience and select the right types of collaborative experiences which might apply for a given audience
  • Focus on a complete understanding of your audience needs, because a “we-learning” solution must fit into their daily worklife, not seperate them into a classroom-like experience
  • Don’t let the technology drive the solution – social learning technology is rapidly becoming a commodity and you can find it from many sources, focus rather on the audience, their patterns of work, and where they go for information today
  • Remember the 90/9/1 model – 1% of all employees will actively share lots of expertise and content, 9% will contribute occasionally, and 90% will probably mostly be consumers of information
  • Rethink the roles in L&D:  we-learning will require a focus on facilitation, information architecture, and audience analysis – not just learning design and development
  • Look at our research on Organizational Learning Culture – ultimately you must have a culture of knowledge and expertise sharing in order to drive collaborative learning
  • Consider the development of a formal “learning architecture,” which forces you to constrain your we-learning options and make sure we-learning is embedded into all your future learning programs
  • Don’t be afraid of user-generated content, our research shows that in 99% of cases employees will not sacrifice their reputation or career by sharing and posting inappropriate information.  You still need to get your legal and compliance people involved up front, to make sure your organization has posted rules and standards for information sharing.

Our We-Learning workshops can help you understand this critical transition.  Come to the we-learning workshops throughout the rest of the year, or call us if you would like a We-Learning assessment and workshop for your own team.

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