Tuesday, 16 December 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.

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