Friday, August 7, 2009

Social learning without Web 2.0 tools?

Many companies are reluctant to invest in social learning using the Web 2.0 tools. You can try and convince your clients about its power and usefulness. But this may not be the only thing stopping IDs from using Web 2.0 tools. In India, Internet and Web 2.0 tools are accessible to very small percentage of learners. Most learners:
  1. Do not have access to Internet. We have learners who work in villages/districts to learners who are foot-on-street sales executives to learners who have access to just one computer.
  2. Are still very much lurkers. Learnability testing has shown us that people are very reluctant to voice out their thoughts in a public forum.
I use tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and so on for my own self-development. But these tools are very specific to a learner profile and therefore, not the only learning solution. If the learners do not have access to or are not inclined to use Web 2.0 tools, what can we do to ensure social learning takes place? Social/informal learning has been around for ages and is not a new phenomenon. People exchange notes in class, outside class. Employees discuss training at work and outside work. So, how can you encourage people to talk about what they have learnt during and outside the training?

1. Include activities. This works well regardless of whether it is during or after training. Ensure that you make these activities fun and challenging. Ask them to do some research and share with the team.

How: Include this as your implementation plan and get the buy in of the management. Encourage learners to take an hour from their work. Let them come together in an informal setting (such as a cafeteria, outside in the lawn).

For example, for a sales executive, you could have impromptu role plays on selling skills. Divide people into groups of two and have them enact different situations.

2. Induce competition. This especially works for highly motivated learners and if the learning objective is a skill based one.

How: Include this in your implementation plan. Ask the management to send an informal mail or put an informal notice for all to see. Make it fun and do not enforce it on employees. Involve internal managers and ask them to observe the behavior and decide the winners. Put the names of the winners on the notice board or send an email out to everyone appreciating them. Basically, give them due recognition.

For example: We had to provide grooming skills for shop floor executives. We suggested that the management announce 'The Best Groomed Employee' at the end of every week. The employee was required to apply what was learnt to achieve this. The store chief helped identify the best groomed employee in his store.

3. Use learning aids. Put up interesting posters, catchy motto/lines, distribute flash cards.

How: Design eye catchy posters/handouts. Keep this very informal. Use bright colors and interesting illustrations. make the learners laugh if you can (comic strips should do the trick). Remember to share only the key points. Things that will help reinforce the most important concepts. Keep these in places where it will catch the learners eye.

For example: To help customer service associates touch up their make up, we suggested posters be put up in the washrooms. Visual description of the steps guide them and reinforces learning.

4. Design a great course. The biggest drawback about eLearning is that it is self paced (I know this has been discussed as a boon and I completely agree). People take courses and then forget about them as soon as they click exit. Designing the course right helps a big deal. If a course that inspires learners or makes them think, they will talk about it. Think about it. When you read an exciting book or watch a great movie, what do you do? Discuss with your friends? Share your thoughts on how the piece moved you or inspired you.

How: Understand your learners. Find out what makes them tick. Identify what motivates them and how they think. Understand their attitudes. Why will they like your course? Find the answer to this.

For all the above, avoid having too many. Focus only on the key learning points and stick to these. Informal/social learning is about people connecting with one another to learn. Try these and social learning will take place even if your learners do not have access to Web 2.0 tools. The key is to keep it informal. Give people the freedom to participate. Involve people from within the organization to take responsibility for these.


Geeta Bose said...

Brilliant points, would love to see this in Learnability Matters!

Archana Narayan said...

Thanks Geeta :) Will post it on LM soon!