Tony Karrer's eLearning Blog on e-Learning Trends eLearning 2.0 Personal Learning Informal Learning eLearning Design Authoring Tools Rapid e-Learning Tools Blended e-Learning e-Learning Tools Learning Management Systems (LMS) e-Learning ROI and Metrics

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blog Learning

Something I (probably too often) talk about is learning via a blog. It certainly is a great lens to have in viewing the world. It puts you into a learning mode. It naturally builds a network of learning cohorts. Simply put, it's a wonderful learning tool.

But what struck me recently is how great the feedback and interaction can be. In other words, I'm learning via blog comments and blog posts by other bloggers - likely much more than anyone reading the blog itself.

In some cases, I've set out with a specific information need and asking for input:
On the last of these, I was steered away from a particular approach to a session. This was great learning. Come to find out, people don't like those small break out sessions at most conferences either. I've seen them so often, I just assumed I should be doing them also. Blog learning!

In many cases, I post my thoughts and someone comes in to correct me or redirect my thinking. Take a look at:
I started with a kind of inquiry and found myself realizing that one of the citations I gave was an example of a badly designed course teaching about instructional design.

But one of the best kinds of examples comes out of discussions such as in the following:
I originally posted a thought. Then people came in to clarify it and redirect my thinking. I was originally thinking of a pretty limited case - looking up a phone number. How that's changed. And I may still use that. But consider how rich the problem is as described by a comment over the weekend:
I'm running through the same questions in regards to a certification desk of help desk technicians in my office. What is more valuable to the company - a technician that knows the answers, or a technician that knows how to look up the anwers. I'm coming to the point where I am leaning in both directions, and it's kind of making me angry internally for not being able to come to a conclusion.

One one hand - a person who knows the answer immediately sounds more professional (gives a sense of knowledge when speaking to the customer), and resolves problems more quickly.

On the other - a person who knows how to look something up is generally more capable of finding the correct answer, at the expense of a) time spent looking up the correct answer and b) looking like they do not know anything because they constantly need to go for help.

I have a similar issue when it comes down to people who 'understand' the material vs people who look up the answers. I can train almost anyone to fetch an answer from a database, but what is more valuable - a person who truly understands the material and understands why doing action A leads to result B, or person who looks up action A, gets result B, and then has to go back to the answer book to find next step C?

My superiors think that people who can answer scripted questions are more valuable to my industry, yet they consistently rely on people who understand the theory of problem resolution to actually fix anything important. I think that having 2 people who are able to think with logic and resolve issues correctly beats 5 people who can only read from a script.

How do I figure out what is the best situation and how do I convey this to managemnt.
Incredible insight. It's not nearly that simple as the phone number example. And I completely understand what Alan (the commenter) is saying here. And certainly, waiting for someone to look up the answer or finding out that they need to look it up can seem wrong. And not knowing why something is right worries me as well. Certainly, I would worry about hiring someone who always looked up answers and didn't seem to "know" anything.

Blog Learning!

I'm not claiming this is anything new (see Blogging for Learning and Networking) but the comment this weekend gave me new appreciation of the value proposition.

8 comments:

V Yonkers said...

I definitely learn more from the conversations which is why I have had to reassess my own blogging.

My original intent was to create something like the blogs are participate in. However, when no one comments (even though you ask questions), it is hard to have a dialog. I even tried posting under a pseudo-name and still no takers. So now I blog for myself as a way to keep track of the ideas that bounce around my head. I then have a list of 7-9 blogs that I check on a regular basis and participate in.

By the way, I can tell you which is better: have a help desk technician who can speak with customers! As someone that ended up hanging up on the help desk person for my high speed internet connection last week, I can tell you it is frustrating when they insist you have a piece of equipment you don't have because the computer told them it was there (the repairman confirmed for me that I did not have it). On the other hand, my husband and I repaired some of the hardware in our computer by being talked through it with a technician who was able to give us a way to repair our computer using a simple pencil eraser. While some companies might think this will take future business away, this type of service alone is worth the extra payment for the computer. It really create brand loyalty.

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - that's an interesting point and I do believe you've found a good work-around. I wonder if there's any other ways to build that exchange and the "readership" for niche blogs. Certainly, there are quite a few practitioners who I regularly read and sometimes comment on.

Also, I think that a pseudo-name would hurt rather than help readership.

I wonder if others will comment on this aspect.

Vic Uzumeri said...

I tend to view both the use of blogs and the tech support example as different manifestations of a common operations problem. That problem is an old one that I would loosely paraphrase as follows:

80% of the questions will deal with 20% of the relevant knowledge

In other words, we face the same 80:20 rule in technical knowledge that we seem to face in every other aspect of organizational operations.

WRT Blogs:

Blogs (with search engines) offer a much more efficient way to track down those elusive rare facts/methods that make up 80% of total knowledge, but generate only 20% of the questions.

A more formal documentation method would be used to organize the 20% of the knowledge that accounts for 80% of the questions.

WRT Tech Support:

You will want to train support staff to memorize the 20% of the knowledge that generates 80% of the questions.

You will want them to have the research skills and tools to efficiently (and correctly) find answers to the 20% of the questions that deal with the other 80% of the relevant knowledge.

Just my $0.02

RebeccaAnn257 said...

As a soon to be graduate in the field of instructional technology, I have come to realize the same learning that can occur when using blogs. You raise some excellent points that I completely agree with.

When I began my course of study, I was totally oblivious to blogging in relation to the amount of information it can give. We were given an assignment in one course to post comments and responses to blogs, such as yours, in the field of elearning. After first exploring many blogs, I have come to realize the amount of knowledge that is exchanged between the blogger and the reader. I love the learning communities that have evolved, such as yours, in this blogging world. It inspires me to start my own. Perhaps I will! But I do know that I will use your blog as a reference for the future!

RebeccaAnn257 said...

As a soon to be graduate in the field of instructional technology, I have come to realize the same learning that can occur when using blogs. You raise some excellent points that I completely agree with.

When I began my course of study, I was totally oblivious to blogging in relation to the amount of information it can give. We were given an assignment in one course to post comments and responses to blogs, such as yours, in the field of elearning. After first exploring many blogs, I have come to realize the amount of knowledge that is exchanged between the blogger and the reader. I love the learning communities that have evolved, such as yours, in this blogging world. It inspires me to start my own. Perhaps I will! But I do know that I will use your blog as a reference for the future!

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued by the discussion about learning via a blog. While I agree that I have learned interesting things from blogs, I struggle with whether a blog is the best choice for instruction on basic knowledge and comprehension types of cognitive knowledge. My opinion is that the blog in this discussion has significantly more than the new learner "needs" to know. Our thought is that well designed web based training might be a better strategy to enable new learners to "know" what they need to know. In fact, at the end of the WBT, we "teach" the learner that a blog exists that can be an excellent resource for MORE information or to record experiences now that they (the learners) know the basics about the topic. Thoughts or comments welcomed. Thanks, Rob

Tony Karrer said...

This blog has 'has significantly more than the new learner "needs" to know. '

I would hope so. Please keep in mind that the purpose of this blog is not really to try to teach the readers a particular set of things. I hope that each post offers insights into a topic. But what do I post about ... well it's what I found interesting at that moment and what's meaningful to me that I think might also be meaningful and useful to you.

But when you boil it down - there's learning on both sides - but the intent is first to support my learning - I don't really know you well enough to try to support your learning in any meaningful way. That's up to you.

Of course, I may have just learned something myself - and maybe you did also. :)

Jennifer Abshire said...

I agree that blogging may not be the best method of teaching, but that's only if you're viewing teaching in a traditional approach. I think the point here is that you're going to learn through the information passing between bloggers and their readers, whether you realize it or not. Information that you pick up in an informal way is often the information that sticks with you for rapid recall when necessary. I also believe it to be a well-rounded approach to becoming educated on a topic, because you get to see different views and opinions. In this sort of atmosphere you not only learn something, but you also get to create an opinion, and if you're in that 1% of respondents, you get to voice that opinion.