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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Using SharePoint

I've been having fabulous conversations about using SharePoint.

Update Dec. 2009 - We are in the process of getting learning professionals to discuss the use of SharePoint for Learning. Please see SharePoint for Learning Professionals and connect with me around it.

SharePoint is so flexible and the documentation for it is so big and diverse, that a big part of my goals have been to understand the different ways that training organizations are using SharePoint. In my post SharePoint Examples there are some great examples in the comments. I've had conversations with several of these folks in more detail and with a few others.

In this post, I wanted to capture some of the patterns of use of SharePoint that seem to be emerging. This is a bit crude, but I thought that folks might find these interesting.

Using SharePoint before, during and after courses

This typically takes the form of sharing best practices, code examples, templates, links; posting announcements; having discussions; showing calendar items; supporting student profiles; supporting student project work; sharing notes, documents; providing course content. The reality is that what we did on the Work Literacy course or what I did for my Collaborative Learning Course could easily be supported by the various types of web parts within SharePoint.

Using SharePoint for Work Team or Communities of Practice (CoP) Collaboration

Outside of any particular formal learning, many training organizations are using SharePoint to support work teams. Typically this involves many of the same aspects as above: document sharing, calendar, discussion, resources, links, profiles, contacts, etc.

Using SharePoint to Publish to Work Teams or Communities of Practice (CoP)

Another common model is more of a publishing model where the training organization wants to provide on-going communication to the work teams or CoP. They focus more on information push and it's less intended to have user-contributed content. Obviously, there is a spectrum of using SharePoint to support collaboration and using it to publish. But in discussions there were often distinctions based on what the work team or CoP expected.

Using SharePoint to Publish to Content to the Web

Several training organizations were using SharePoint as a means of publishing web pages for public consumption. These would be external consituents. In some cases, login was provided to allow the third party to more actively participate.

Using SharePoint as Project System for Training Organization

Quite a few people talked about how they were using SharePoint as a collaborative tool to work on projects. They would share course materials, project plans, documents. They had profiles, directories, blogs to help foster sharing between spread out teams. Some used it to track bugs. Some with Subject Matter experts.

Using SharePoint for Event Planning & Organizing

Just like we used a Wiki one year and Ning another to support the online conference LearnTrends, SharePoint can be used to manage all types of events, especially internal events. This is similar to support for courses and much of the web parts used, follow-up techniques, etc. were similar.

Using SharePoint for Software Support Site / Help Desk

Another common use of SharePoint was as a reference site, especially software support site. This provides an easy way to have easy access to support materials. It also makes it easy for the Help Desk to be actively involved in on-going support.

Quick Thoughts on eLearning 2.0 and SharePoint

The reality with SharePoint is that when you go back and look at the great list of eLearning 2.0 Examples, most all of these could have been supported through SharePoint. There are some definite challenges to getting SharePoint set up right, rolling it out in smart ways, helping people the right way, etc. In some ways then, SharePoint is well suited to supporting eLearning 2.0.

However, one thing that was very interesting to find in the discussions is that I feel there is a gap between these patterns for using SharePoint and the idea of helping concept workers address the Knowledge Worker Skill Gap and begin to be able to work and learner better. A lot of what eLearning 2.0 is about is helping the individual to self-serve. They should be at the core.

In SharePoint, there are MySite which is more like a portal page showing RSS feeds, list of SharePoint sites, shared documents. Possibly its smarter use of Outlook that's the intent from a Microsoft vision of supporting the knowledge worker. But it was clear from the conversations that we've not quite made the shift to thinking about personal work and learning environments (PWLE) - see: PWLE Not PLE - Knowledge Work Not Separate from Learning, Personal Work and Learning Environments (PWLE) - More Discussion and Personal Work and Learning Environments.

In looking back at the discussion in Training Design, the suggestion is that there's a new piece here that has to do with on-going support. As part of this look at using SharePoint, I'm realizing that it's something a bit more. It's personal. I don't quite have the picture yet.

I welcome other patterns that I've missed and I welcome people chiming in with how they view the personal work and learning aspect.


Anonymous said...

I've been using Sharepoint in a corporate environment since it first emerged. And before it, Lotus's QuickPlace (a Sharepoint style Web based app).

Some are successful. Some are not.

At present I have 14 sites up and running largely for external vendor specific projects. That is to say, companies and groups that deal with my firm on a wide range of joint endeavors.

The firms range from a major telco to a Mom and Pop. (The Mom and Pop, I had to go over to their garage (no kidding) and train them for two days on how to use it.

Here's the most important thing I've learned over the years using Sharepoint. The launch is critical. Get everyone in the room to view the skeleton. Walk through every part. And champion the platform as the EXCLUSIVE environment the group will use for their stated purpose.

Stick to it. Once you go off the reservation and accept a project related email outside of Sharepoint you have diminished the efficiency of the tool.

Yes it's totalitarian. Yes it takes some hand holding. Yes, it might well be intellectually constraining to some. (Quiet allowances can be made) and Yes, there needs to be a creative force "behind" each site, making it visually and structurally engaging......But in the end, Sharepoint is about people.

altadena, ca

Gary Woodill said...

Hi Tony,

I wrote an article for the eLearning Guild's e-magazine in May 2006 that had a chart on all the educational functions of Sharepoint 2.0. You can see the article on my former employer's webisite at:

Gary Woodill
Brandon Hall Research

Tony Karrer said...

Mewcomm - thanks for the good comments. Great point about launch and exclusive environment.

Gary - I had not seen the article - and the table in there is great. You don't happen to have that somewhere in HTML do you?

Gary Woodill said...

Hi Tony,

I just posted the chart on the educational features of SharePoint to my blog.


Anonymous said...

We use a great tool called myDocs which is an add-in for Outlook, that lets us view SharePoint Document Libraries by clicking standard Outlook folders, and drag emails into these folders to upload into SharePoint.

Anyone who are interested in this can visit for more information.

Norman Lamont said...

Re: Using SharePoint before, during and after courses

Last week I took part in a two day course on consultancy skills. Towards the end the twelve of us were talking about how we'd keep in touch and support each others' efforts to put it into action. I offered to set up a forum on Sharepoint 2007 (which hasn't been fully 'rolled out' yet but to which I have and can give access. They were all enthusiastic, so I set it up the following day and emailed them all invitations. To avoid a blank canvas I set up three specific discussions - impressions of the course, specific action points and 'three things you took away'. It's now a week later and, of the twelve, three have visited and two have posted.

I don't know if this is a reflection on (a) typical post course forgetting, (b) the wrong questions or (c) difficulties with Sharepoint. It was an experiment so I'll be going back to them by email to ask for their comments.

jess baxter said...

My school uses, but we were using sharepoint before (i think pretty much everyone hated it).

Class-Connect is actually somewhat fun to use cause it's kind of like a mix between Facebook and Blackboard. I just like getting a text message sent to me of my assignments every day :P

great article though! i want to be an elearning web developer once i grad from high school...

Franz said...

As a consultant I have seen quite a few Sharepoint installations/sites at clients of mine. Most of them became orphaned, and I think for one reason mainly:

- it's easy to set up out of the box

- every stakeholder can request one to be set up but then there's no great effort put in by the system admins and hence it is never tailored to the group's needs, really.

- lack of clear focus as to what should go where etc.

- No real owner/sponsor.

Suggestions (this goes for Quickplace and similar setups as well):

- Make ONE Sharepoint a "super-Sharepoint" where everyone has to look first, get familiar, see various templates, put in the requests, sees if a similar effort (same area of interest etc.) has already been undertaken.

- Enforce that sponsor/owner really looks after the thing and that it is made sure no orphans are created over the medium term, as I have often seen.

Rebecca Radics said...

Hi Tony, I would really like your feedback and your readers :) feedback on my first blog. I'm new to this.

I love your 100 ideas for blog posts.. I'm currently getting mine from enquiries at work and twitter posts.