Monday, 29 September 2008

Learning 2.0 Strategy

Over the past two years, I've worked with start-ups and corporations around the world who are grappling a bit with the impact of Web 2.0 on learning. One of the more interesting aspects of this is that I've really changed and refined what I advise both audiences in terms of their learning 2.0 strategy. But, here's what I see in terms of a CLO perspective.

Seven Key Aspects of Learning 2.0 Strategy

1. Start Tactical and Bottom Up

The title of the post is horribly misleading. When I used to work with organizations on defining an eLearning Strategy, I always worked from a very broad view of needs across the organization and the implications that had on people, process and technology. I always felt this worked pretty well and we'd have a roadmap that covered a few years and provided the basis for moving forward. I initially attacked eLearning 2.0 and Learning 2.0 the same way. But, I'm not sure that really works. Instead, I've found that it's much more effective to look at individual opportunities and figure out what makes sense. You need to be prepared to apply learning 2.0 solutions. You need to be able to spot new kinds of opportunities that you might not have been involved in before (see Long Tail Learning).

In defense of the title - I still call it a Learning 2.0 Strategy because you have to be prepared to provide these new services and solutions. But, it's quite a bit different than the top-down kinds of approaches I've used in the past.

2. Avoid the Culture Question

Learning 2.0 implies some pretty significant changes in the way that organizations look at the role of a knowledge worker, management, the learning/training organization, boundaries of organizations, when you reach across boundaries, etc. The idea that workers/learners have largely become the instruments of learning and that learning is not controlled or controllable is something that causes all sorts of culture questions. I get asked at seminars all the time - "How can I change the culture?" Horrible question. There are some gurus who claim to be able to change culture. I don't feel I can do that - even in really small organizations. But I can change particular behaviors. I can provide tools and support. I can go in tactical and avoid the culture question.

3. Avoid Highly Regulated Content (and Lawyers)

If you are in pharmaceutical manufacturing, there are some procedures that are almost there more for legal reasons than for practical reasons. They establish exactly how you are supposed to manufacture everything. This is what's used for audits and lawsuits. A lot of the time, the way people actually learn how to work in this environment is through informal learning. However, you can't afford to have any of that written down (email, wiki, etc.) because it represents liability in a lawsuit. Likely, there is no way you are going to be able to fight this. I can argue until I'm blue that the reality is that there's a whole unwritten code of conduct that should get surfaced so you know what's really going on and can correct it. But the reality is that they want it that way and you can't change it.

However, this is the exception. Many people assume that their content falls into that same pattern. That's not true. If people are allowed to send thoughts in an email, then chances are your content is not that regulated.

4. Learning Professionals Must Lead

A big part of a learning 2.0 strategy needs to be getting learning professionals in the organization ready to Leading Learning and Help Them Acquire New Skills. The good news is that instructional designers and performance consultants have good analysis and delivery skills that are an important part of identifying and making tactical implementations happen. However, because of the ever shifting web 2.0 landscape, learning professionals need to become far more proficient in the tools and the related work and learning skills. They must be prepared to be thought and practice leaders. They must spot and support tactical implementations. This requires up-front support.

5. Prepare Workers for Learning 2.0

I was a bit surprised by the lack of preparation of workers for web 2.0 (learning 2.0) found in the recent eLearningGuild survey. Like preparing learning professionals to lead the charge, you need to be thinking about how you are going to help workers be successful when you use these approaches. We've complained for years that our internal clients thought that just giving someone a tool made them somehow competent in its use. Now, it's us giving them a tool. Don't assume competence. Help build competence. If you are going to be successful rolling out tactical solutions, you need to prepare the workers to be successful with the tools.

6. Technology is Tactical not Strategic

First, learning 2.0 uses Web 2.0 technologies, but it is really more about a shift in responsibility, a shift in tactics, a shift in skills. It really is not about the technology. That said, there is almost always some technology (Wiki, blog, RSS, etc.) that can enable it. But, keep in mind that you DO NOT START with a big technology selection process. Find tactical, simple, solutions that can be applied to the particular problem. If you try to choose tools through an elaborate selection process, you almost always end up dealing with a whole bunch of bigger picture questions that the CIO cares about, but that really are not going to help you.

7. Avoid the CIO

Find out what's already implemented in your organization either by IT or by some rogue group. Find out about tools that you can use as a service (without the CIO's permission being required). Go with one of those two out of the gate for your tactical solution. You can always move it later. But, you won't get started if you have to go through the CIO's office.

I'd be curious what you'd add to the list.

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