Why Nonprofits Should Reconsider Site-blocking Policies
Why It's Critical to Map Your Work Processes

Two Other Strategies for Creating a Climate of Learning

The other day I was musing on strategies for encouraging an organizational climate of learning. Here are two more:

  • Help staff create learning plans.
  • Use ePortfolios

Creating Learning Plans
Steven Forth has a great article on learning plans, which he defines as:

. . . a set of learning objectives (that) identifies the resources needed to achieve these objectives, indicates what constitutes evidence that the learning objective has actually been achieved, and provides some sort of schedule for achieving the learning plan.

He also provides a nice schematic to visually represent the plan:

As you can see, progress in a learning plan is measured by documentation of evidence. In other words, staff need to demonstrate that they've mastered learning objectives by providing examples of the application of their learning and/or some kind of learning record. Which leads me to the next strategy--using ePortfolios.

Using ePortfolios
I've been exploring using ePortfolios ever since I started thinking about nonprofit skill networks. One of these days I'm going to get my act together and write something  about what I've been learning, but for now, this article  by Serge Ravet and Maureen Layte is a great start.

Serge and Maureen define ePortfolios this way:

A personal collection of information describing and documenting a person's achievements and learning. There is a variety of portfolios ranging from 'learning logs' to extended collections of achievement evidence. Portfolios are used for many different purposes such as accreditation of prior experience, job search, continuing professional development, and certification of competences.

There are a number of ways to maintain ePortfolios. To see a wiki version, check out Beth Kanter's portfolio.  Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis offers another strategy for maintaining an ePortfolio--her blog. On it, she writes about her successes and challenges, links to projects such as her Flat World Wiki, and documents both her learning and her professional progress.   

While ePortfolios have obvious individual benefits, the extended value of ePortfolios lies in their ability to support social learning, says Serge and Maureen:

"Beyond a repository of knowledge and skills (content), an ePortfolio is a connectivity tool, a tool for sharing knowledge through communities (context). It can be viewed as some kind of context management system – as opposed to current eLearning solutions that are mostly focused on content management systems."

In other words, when ePortfolios are connected to one another, they become not just a tool for managing content, but they can also be a tool for learning.

Some organizations are already launching large-scale applications of this idea:

"In the UK, Wales has decided to provide ePortfolios to its 3 millions citizens, while, last May, the state of Minnesota in the US announced that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities had launched an ePortfolio that will enable students, teachers and jobseekers throughout the state to create their own Internet-based portfolios. The UK's Royal College of Nursing, the largest professional association in Europe with 350,000 members, is providing an ePortfolio for continuing professional development (CPD) and reregistration."

If 3 million citizens can be engaged in creating ePortfolios, can't a nonprofit with 20 staff do the same?

I would argue that every nonprofit staff member should be creating his/her own ePortfolio and contributing to it regularly. The Learning Plan would be part of that portfolio and as staff achieved their learning objectives, they would use the ePortfolio to document their progress. Not only does this benefit  individual staff, it also has huge benefits for the organization. Grant writers would be able to use ePortfolios to quickly access information to be used in proposals. Management would be able to identify the best staff for particular projects, especially if the organization encouraged staff to document ALL activities and learning, not just those that occurred at work. As staff filled their ePortfolios, it would also create a knowledge management system for other members of the organization to easily and quickly access. And reviewing a staff person's ePortfolio would be an outstanding addition to the staff evaluation process.

In some later posts, I'd like to look more closely at the exact process a nonprofit would use to start implementing Learning Plans and ePortfolios with staff. For now, I want to at least start floating the idea.


UPDATE--Here's another article on ePortfolis.


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Thank you for your mention Michele. We are using the learning plan approach at eMonitor (part of the Monitor Group) where I am now working as VP On-Line Action Solutions. We have added a couple of things at Monitor that are proving to be valuable. In building learning plans we have people (i) think through their learning style, (ii) identify their strengths - we use the Now, Discover Your Strengths book, but other approaches could work equally well - (iii) think through their learning style again in terms of their strengths. We are also building a semantic web representation of each person's learning plan (in RDF) and then weaving each individual's plan together with the other people on our team to better understand the network of skills and interests that underpin our organizational capabilities. We will be presenting on thie at the SemTech conference in San Jose in May.

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