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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Learning Community, Peers and Outside Experts

While strife with technical challenges, Nancy White and John Smith’s presentation at LearnTrends 2009 (LearnTrends 2009 Recordings) provided some really interesting food for thought. In some ways this relates closely to the post on Selling Learning Communities.

By way of background, Nancy White and John Smith are gurus around all things Communities and Networks. I’ve worked with Nancy to create the Communities and Networks Connection which helps me continuously learn. And I keep a copy of their book Digital Habitats; Stewarding Technology for Communities next to my computer.

The central idea of the presentation was something that Nancy called triangulation. Now, I’m not 100% certain what Nancy meant by this, but I interpret the idea to organize learning community events where you bring together three groups:

  • People inside the host / sponsoring organization who have a particular need
  • Outside experts
  • Outside peers

You (or an outside facilitator) facilitates a conversation around a particular need.

Let’s say the need is – Where and how should we apply social learning in our organization?

The facilitator would get the people inside the company to define the problem. Then would facilitate sharing with peers and with experts around the issue.

I’ve seen similar kinds of peer sharing at roundtable events. And it’s really powerful. Adding in the experts would make it even more powerful.

I could imagine where this could be an ongoing sharing dialog that would cross several organizations. For example, you could pull together L&D staff from 10 companies together into a community and then have people like myself and George Siemens who could help facilitate critical issues and conversations and draw in additional outside expertise as needed.

To me, that sounds like a really powerful model.

Great stuff Nancy and John.


V Yonkers said...

I think there is more to this than just the "exchange of ideas." As I wrote in a recent post, there are differences in perception of "knowledge" between professions. This may cause tension within a community, especially if members are coming in from other communities and networks. As each comes into the community, the community needs to renegotiate what is valid processes and knowledge or expertise within the community. This is where I think the real learning happens, due to the cognitive dissonance and (hopefully) resulting shared cognition as groups try to come to a common understanding.

Bringing in an "expert" from outside of the community (the more the better) allows for the community or group to have new triggers for dissonance. However, I would think it would be important to choose an "expert" that may not have the "expertise" the community may value in order to trigger learning. More often than not, the expert brought in is one the will reinforce the status quo rather than triggering the conflict (positive) that will lead to deeper learning.

Tony Karrer said...

Great point on that Virginia.

I just read, but now can't find, a post that cited research showing that groups (in theater productions) that were a combination of inside and outside had the best results.

Can someone point me back to that?

Also, I have to figure out why I'm not finding it in my Google History, GReader, etc. I didn't save it to delicious - my mistake.

Tony Karrer said...

Found it via twitter.
Success Depends on Who We Work With

Nancy White said...

I thinking mixing things up and bringing in outsiders is a really productive practice for learning, but what I was trying to articulate (I feel for John, who had to "channel" me when the hotel wifi went down in Mooloolaba, Australia) is a strategy for supporting change within the often confining environments of organizations. Individuals get quashed so often, so thinking intentionally about how to "triangulate" their learning not just within the org, but with the external support of an individual or two and the larger learning context of a network or community of practice. I wrote more about it here -->

Bottom line: I'm still working out how to articulate this. I don't think "triangulate" is the right word (too many other meanings!) I think the concept is very related to the idea that we need to think of the full continuum of individual/bounded group/network in our work and learning.

What you describe would be a tactic to help triangulation in the context of an event. However, I would expand beyond the idea of "experts" and really think about "practitioners" (Yeah you know I'm not a fan of the guru or expert word as they are full of traps!)

I think you are also alluding to a business model that Jerry Michalski and the GuildSmiths are also poking around - as are many others - to provide catalysts, coaches and facilitators to really active, engaged learning in the context of work and practice - NOT TRAINING!

Now Im off to read the links you and Virginia have left!

Rupa said...

Hi Tony,

Can you please change the url of my post Storyboard Templates in Instructional Designing to:

ABC said...

Nice Post. Keep it up.