By John Ambrose
In a just published report on leveraging social technologies for learning, Josh Bersin & Associates makes the case that the big win here is putting “we” into learning. By that, they mean that social technologies can help us transform e-learning from a largely solitary virtual classroom experience to a communal journey where users can learn from one another as they progress through the subject matter.
The implications of this concept are not trivial. Learners pursuing a common learning outcome – whether a formal one such as an IT certification or an informal one such as brushing up on cultural best practices prior to a trip — can be now be effortlessly joined together as a virtual, fluid cohort without physical or geographic constraints. This injects into the e-learning journey the opportunity for the sharing of multiple perspectives and insights, and more importantly creates fertile ground for what I like to call the ‘the serendipity of discovery.’ In other words, e-learning no longer needs to be a one-dimensional experience.
These social technologies are here to stay, so the call to action for the learning industry is to determine how and how fast to leverage them for social learning. Bersin’s David Mallon offers a useful framework for assessing the right solutions to match ‘the personality’ of each organization. He calls this the 4C’s:
Conversations – Users talking to other users, growing the collective discourse of the community;
Connections – Users establishing links to other users, making the social graph a reality;
Content – Users creating / discovering / sharing content in ways not previously possible; and,
Collaboration – Users working together to accomplish work.
This is an excellent starting point for trying to narrow down appropriate social technologies from what has become a dizzying list of tools.
But I would offer a fifth “C” — Cost. And this is not just the price you pay. There are the hard costs of implementation fees, project management fees, licensing fees and maintenance fees. There are also the soft costs of internal resource to define, champion, market, monitor, and assess these social technologies. There are also the intangible costs of reputation capital if a high profile social launch goes wrong or fails to get the desired traction. And finally, there are the switching costs. Since many of the existing solutions are offered by start-ups or venture-backed companies in a very fragmented industry, be mindful of the scalability and viability risks associated with under-capitalized companies.
It’s increasingly clear that the value of social technologies is not in the replacement of existing learning modes, but as an accelerant. Bersin & Associates have provided a very useful tool for preparing organizations to make a successful transition from ‘ME learning’ to ‘WE learning.’
What do you think of these considerations? How are you thinking about this transition?