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, August 03, 2009

Getting Started

During a recent presentation and workshop to eLearning leaders from across a large organization, it dawned on me that we were making Getting Started with eLearning 2.0 a lot harder than it really needed to be.

This organization was not unlike many other large organizations.  It was clear that there was significant opportunity in this organization for getting started with a broader mix of learning solutions.  Their situation sounded incredibly similar to what I have heard in many different organizations.  Some of the specifics that made me think they could make progress:

  • Significant IT support for SharePoint
  • Innovators in Knowledge Management and IT who would be great allies
  • Support of senior L&D leaders
  • Some early adopters of social learning solutions within particular regional learning and development departments

Because I was talking to people with widely varying levels of experience, interest and comfort around web 2.0 tools, it was clear that many of the people would leave the room and not do anything different.  I am hopeful that a few will take on a self-directed learning task around some of the things I talked about in Tool Set to develop their own knowledge and proficiency, but certainly they would not be spearheading any broader learning mix initiatives anytime soon. 

Barrier at the Individual Level

Why is that?  Well, it was expressed pretty well by one of the participants and I think it captures the challenge pretty well that individual L&D practitioners face (paraphrased):

Tony, while I'd like to use some of these approaches, this represents a whole host of new challenges for me in terms of getting agreement within the organization to use this approach (internal clients, L&D leadership, IT, etc.).  I'm already way too busy trying to get my stuff done.  Even if I think this makes a lot of sense, I don't need the headaches.

That's a really great point.  The organization was making it hard and not really supporting individual change agents who wanted to make this stuff happen. 

Role of Senior L&D Leaders

When I say "the organization" was making this hard on individuals - really this rests back on the senior L&D leadership.  They are lucky enough to have some change agents: early adopters who are willing to work to help move this forward.  Their job is to help identify those change agents, identify opportunities, and give support needed to make sure those early adopters can be successful in their project.

I've been finding my advice to L&D leaders almost always turns into the same basic message:

  • Choose a few places where it makes sense
  • Use existing tools as much as possible
  • Give it the support it needs
  • Allow for experimentation (and possible "failure")

Is this really that hard?  It takes work, but I don't believe it's hard.

This is much the same Learning 2.0 Strategy that I discussed a year ago.

Avoiding Two Early Traps

While I'm claiming this isn't hard, there are a few common traps that seems to bog down organizations. 

Trap 1 - Leading with Strategy

Even though the title of the post Learning 2.0 Strategy makes it seem like there will be a big picture social learning strategy, the reality is that the strategy is a bottom up strategy.

You do need to look across the organization to see the kinds of business, performance and learning needs where learning 2.0 will apply.  But, trying to jump too far along Dion Hinchcliffe's adoption curve is a problem.  


Plus, jumping too far leads you right into the next challenge.

Trap 2 - Language

While I use the terms "eLearning 2.0", "social learning", etc. and it's fine to use that amongst ourselves, don't use it in mixed company.  Consider the same message with:

We are going to use eLearning 2.0.

- or -

We are going to set up ways for people to exchange ideas and experiences.

I wouldn't really say the second thing, without a lot more context.  The point is that the terms blog, wiki, social network, etc. will likely raise barriers that are not needed.

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that I believe we often make these things much harder than they need to be.

Yes, there are all sorts of barriers that you have to work through.  And there's work to be done to get through those barriers.  But, I believe the bottom line is that most organizations should be well into the experimentation / ad hoc use of social apps phase.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

No comments: