Archive for October 2011

Social Learning SystemIn a post titled Vendor-neutral, Harold Jarche makes a pitch for SocialCast, suggesting that it “gets a critical part of workplace performance right. They understand that collaboration has to be embedded in the workflow. Their “secret sauce” is the ability to integrate with a wide variety of other enterprise software applications.” He also posts a picture of how integrated collaboration might look, where the collaboration platform can be accessed in-context from within existing applications.

To me, this seems like a great way to support informal learning “at the point of need,” so I totally support customers who maintain this as a requirement for their social learning system.

But I believe we need to go further – especially as learning professionals; and especially if you as a learning professional do not believe that informal learning is the whole of learning.

Integration with Learning Paths

It’s all well and good to have a link from an eLearning module in an LMS to a Yammer discussion, and call it a “community.” But most of our customers are busy professionals with day jobs, being asked to do more with less every year. They have neither the time nor inclination for optional “communities” following completing their training course.

Instead, when capability change is the issue, more and more organizations are constructing learning paths that transform training events into learning processes. And when we think back to face-to-face models, it is in the social activities that we learn the most – small group case studies, Q&A with an expert, de-briefing a personal assessment with a peer, etc. Moreover, corporate CLOs are increasingly wanting the balance of training to be less in the classroom and more on the job, with coaching and reinforcement to lock in new skills.

Finally, we are finding that in large enterprises, one obstacle to integrated onboarding programs, for example, is that learners must access learning resources from multiple LMS’s and content repositories, and there’s no way to “glue these together” into an integrated learning path.

To drive capability change, social components can’t be an afterthought or an optional “post-training activity.” Informal learning is great, but not enough. Our learning systems must have the capability to present seamless learning paths that integrate learning resources from multiple sources with social activities, coaching, and reinforcement. All of these activities need to be tracked and managed from one place – even the social ones.

Integration with Performance Support

Our learning systems must include robust performance support modules, that allow us to quickly create taxonomies that map to job functions, or provide a single source of truth when a reference system is required. These systems must not simply be taxonomies of dead files, but rather maps to concise explanations of what needs to be done, with back-up resources that include no only files, but links to discussions, learning objects, and experts.

Integration needs to happen at several levels. First, the performance support systems need to be integrated with the social media, content repositories, and eLearning modules to provide a social performance support ecosystem.

Second, these systems need to be integrated with the enterprise tools, so that from a telesales “dashboard” an individual contributor can click “Special Handling Instructions” and be taken immediately to that customer’s page in the performance support system.

So I would offer a different diagram than the Socialcast one that emphasizes, from an IT perspective, the ability to integrate with the enterprise. Rather, I think we need to always keep the learner at the center – in both our requirements and in our software – and would offer the following view of how a social learning system should integrate learning and work…

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