Scalable Learning and Learnscapes in Social Business Design

August 10, 2009

 learnscapeAbout a month ago I read What Would Andrew Do?, an unbook by Jay Cross and friends. I’ve mentioned Jay’s work in previous posts dealing with elearning 2.0 and collaboration in informal learning. In particular, its important to remember that focusing on informal learning doesn’t mean we must disregard the relevance of formal learning because learning is never 100% formal or informal.

However, the term scalable learning probably does require a bit of clarification. After all, isn’t elearning supposed to scale to the size of the learning group and remain available when they need it, where they need it, as long as they are connected to the Web? Well, yes–and it does pretty much. Nevertheless, instructional designers too often fail to incorporate emergent learning requirements of the organization, the enterprise, into  their learning architecture largely because the approaches used to evaluate learning content (whether elearning, blended, or instructor-led) do not incorporate assumptions about the larger ecosystem’s need for the co-creation of knowledge.

The concern for whether the learner is exposed to every thread of content in every course, and assessed for mastery of the information, tends to predominate design thinking about learning, and for compliance training sometimes this is required.  However, too often, instructional design fails to focus on whether the learning scales to support the learner’s ability on-the-job to recognize a problem as a particular kind of problem, much less provide the ability to find the learning content that provides a solution.

I don’t intend to delve here into the minutiae of distinction possible between types of learning. Suffice it to say that when a learning architecture supports all types of learning along the range of formal, non-formal, and informal experience, it must design formal learning in small enough chunks to serve as resources for non-formal and informal learning activities. It also means that the knowledge created using non-formal learning (whether mentored or accomplished in collaboration with peers), or informal learning taken on its own, needs to become a performance resource in developing new formal learning content.

Jay contends that the performance challenges facing organizations are most aptly conceptualized as a learnscape, a concept initially articulated by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid. In the August 2009 issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine, Jay offers the following synopsis.

Learnscapes are the factory floor of knowledge organizations. The “scape” part underscores the need to deal at the level of the learning environment or ecology…The “learn” part highlights the importance of baking the principles of sound learning into that environment rather than leaving it to chance.

 John Hagel sees learnscapes as part of a global transformation of industrial society that he, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison call the Big Shift: the move from institutions designed for scalable efficiency to institutions designed for scalable learning. Hagel’s thinking is relevant since, as I explain below, Jay uses the Push/Pull distinction to demarcate formal and informal learning. The basic insight is conveyed by Hagel, Brown, and Davison in their thoughts on Measuring the Big Shift:

Companies must move beyond their fixation on getting bigger and more cost-effective to make the institutional innovations necessary to accelerate performance improvement as they add participants to their ecosystems, expanding learning and innovation in collaboration curves and creation spaces. Companies must move, in other words, from scalable efficiency to scalable learning and performance. Only then will they make the most of our new era’s fast-moving digital infrastructure.

The participants that Hagel, Brown, and Davison refer to consist of consumers, customers, partners, and employees using social media to talk about, talk to, and engage the products and services, i.e. brands, that an enterprise markets. Don’t misunderstand the focus on performance in the discussion of scalable learning. It isn’t about the traditional focus on efficiency, pursuing ever leaner processes for the sake of officially recognized best practices. Rather, the focus is on creating the knowledge needed to adapt to emergent challenges and manage the flow of that adaptation through the enterprise’s ecosystem. For learning architecture it begins with understanding the importance of keeping the focus on distinctions between push and pull learning.

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Joining the eLearningLearning Community

August 1, 2009

badge-elearning

Thanks to Tony Karrer, Skilful Minds is now a Featured Source for the eLearningLearning Community. The focus on eLearning offered here so far covers issues in experience design for the learning process. As the influx of social computing into the learning processes of organizations continues, the focus of Skilful Minds’ concern with eLearning is shifting to targeted discussions on how to design for effective informal learning experiences within an ecosystem of learners.

Jay Cross calls the domain a Learnscape, a design approach for developing co-creation, innovation, and self-service learning to shape the relationship between knowledge work and informal learning. As our discussions of social business design imply, the focus on learning and the social software stack needs to extend beyond the edge of organizations to their larger ecosystems, including consumers, customers, and strategic partners.


eLearning and Experience Design for Learnable Services

February 23, 2009

questionholesGood service is one of those experiences most of us recognize when we get it. Much of the time though, a good service experience is as much a result of how learnable the provider makes its business processes, the context of the service, as it is the products and services themselves. I discussed this a couple of years ago in a post on the importance of a dialogue strategy for customer experience management. A dialogue strategy builds on the assumption that companies learn more from customers when customers learn from them. More recently I noted that,

The increasing maturity and diffusion of social media over the ensuing years makes it clear that a dialogue strategy provides a coherent framework for communications, whether addressing collaboration, innovation, marketing, sales, support, or branding. The key to the process is understanding customers, attracting them, engaging them, and learning from them to improve products and services, thereby strengthening your brand…

Strategists increasingly recognize that listening to customers, engaging them in dialogue, and acting on what is learned lies at the heart of experience design’s relevance to brands, customers, and social media.

These insights are relevant to the current shift in focus for experience design, from primarily emphasizing the design of products to also emphasizing the design of services, as exemplified in Peter Merholtz’s recent series in Harvard Business online. Okay, you may ask, how does this all relate to eLearning and learnability?

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eLearning 2.0, Social Media, and Co-Creation of Learning Content

December 29, 2008

openbook2As a previous post noted, assessing the business value of instructional design involves more than measuring the contribution of formal training to Level 3 and Level 4 outcomes defined in the Kirkpatrick model. Training professionals also need to understand and support informal learning processes, on-the-job and off, that enhance performance.  Most of the learning that produces business value occurs informally, dealing with exceptions to formal business processes, yet most of the attention paid to learning is focused on formal training.

One can reasonably say that Web 2.0 applications, such as social software and social media, are changing the relationships between instructional designers and subject matter experts much like those between customer communities and product designers. Both increasingly involve situations of co-creation.

The emerging recognition of eLearning 2.0’s importance to enhancing collaboration and performance means that training professionals, especially instructional designers, can add value to their employer/client’s business by learning to facilitate and manage the co-creation of learning content with employees, or even customers. Anyone experienced in instructional design in recent years is familiar with the general challenge of co-creation whenever they use information content for course design ( slide shows, documents, etc.) that subject matter experts originally created as a resource for a presentation. The presentation content too often is substituted for observation and in-depth interviewing as a first step in analysis. 

Such Rapid eLearning, though shifting content development toward the subject matter expert’s control, maintains the traditional role of training in incorporating design principles. The process of co-creation in eLearning 2.0, on the other hand, shifts control over development and distribution of learning content toward subject matter experts willing and able to share what they know, especially when they see other people who need to solve familiar problems.

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Informal Learning, Collaboration, and the Kirkpatrick Model

December 22, 2008
kirkpatrick1

Kirkpatrick Model

I recently attended a meeting of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) to listen to a presentation on the Kirkpatrick model of training assessment, offered by Jim Kirkpatrick, the son of the model’s creator — Don Kirkpatrick. Jim’s major point was that most training departments fail to measure learning outcomes at Levels 3 and 4 of the model. Without detailing the Kirkpatrick model’s four levels of analysis, the following are Jim’s definitions:

Reaction: involves what training participants thought of the training

 Learning: the knowledge, skills, and attitudes gained through the training

Behavior: the degree participants apply what they learned on the job

Results: the business results gained

Suffice it to say that the model provides a unique framework on how to assess the  learning outcomes of training. However, practitioners are prone to overlook a key issue in measuring learning. I previously noted the following about the Kirkpatrick model.

It is not a stretch to contend that Level 4 measurement is as much about organizational learning and change management as it is about individual learning. In the e-Learning Guild survey on measurement practices, Roy Pollock characterizes this situation as the “Catch-22” for training and development. He notes that, “assessment of on-the-job application and results is as much or more an assessment of the transfer climate…as it is of the quality of the instruction” (p. 167).

Based on what I heard from Jim Kirkpatrick as well as Nick Denardo, a presenter from Edward Jones’ strategic learning services group, the point about organizational learning also applies to Level 3 measurement, to the extent that existing organizational practices either facilitate or impede application of competencies and sharing of knowledge learned from formal training, whether on-the-job, or just informally

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Visual Tags at DevLearn08

October 3, 2008

The eLearning industry is taking a step into visual tagging this fall with the eLearning Guild announcement that each attendee at DevLearn08 will receive a personalized QR code containing their contact information. As we noted in earlier posts,

Visual tagging is useful in creating social networks around products and events [such as DevLearn08], augmenting people’s experience with places, mobile learning, and transacting eCommerce at websites, among other potential uses.

DevLearn08 plans to use QR codes for its v-Tags. Take a look at the video tutorials on how DevLearn08 plans to use v-Tags.

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E-Learning 2.0 and Employee Access to Social Network Sites

September 26, 2008

Peter Kim offers an interesting observation on the way social networking relates to the qualities of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and the insight offered by Michel Foucault that Bentham’s design served as an exemplar for organizational discipline in the industrial age. Peter notes that Bentham’s design made prisoners uncertain whether the prison guards were watching their behavior at any particular moment. He also points out that the design of modern cube farms in offices not only foster collaboration but also afford observation by managers and peers.

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