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April 08, 2008

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Very interesting observation, Michele, but I would not beat corporate trainers up too much. Jane's list is skewed by the (too few) educators who have incorporated Web 2.0 into their teaching and lives. However, my impression is that the vast majority of faculty remain locked in transmission mode. For instance, at our institution, most faculty do use an online course management system to supplement their class, but in 80% of the cases, it is simply a repository for syllabi and handouts. The majority of educators are like the majority of corporate trainers - they are not using the tools Jane listed. The adoption of technology remains a slow process.

Good point, Britt. I don't mean to "beat up" on corporate trainers as much as point to something I think that Jane's list reminds me of--that it seems there are more conversations happening in the educational world about the use of social media for learning than might be the case in the corporate world.

From what I've seen, the private sector and nonprofits tend to be paying attention to social media primarily for marketing, PR and customer relations--how can we use these tools to make more money? I'm not seeing the same kinds of conversations about how to use social media to create an ongoing environment of learning. I'd like to see more of that.

Interesting that you picked up on this point, Michele. I wondered how many would. Whereas I agree with Britt that the self-selecting bunch of educators who shared their Top 10 lists are obviously those well versed in Web 2.0 tools; it is still interesting that those from the corporate side of things, selected a mix of Web 2.0 tools for their own personal learning as well as traditional tools for authoring purposes. I agree with you Michele that there are less discussions taking place about the use of Web 2.0 tools for workplace learning - this was one the reasons for creating my 25 Tools Professional Development Programme, However, it is very telling that already most of the people who have signed up for the 25Tools Community are educators - rather than workplace learning professionals

Hi Jane--I meant to link to the 25 Tools for Professional Development Programme in this post, so thanks for mentioning it. I agree with you that it's telling that mostly educators are joining in on that. It feels to me like personal learning and organizational learning are still largely separate beings and that there isn't a lot of movement toward bringing them closer together.

At first glance, this list really surprised me. I would have expected that corporations (particularly international ones) who use technologies to share information in many other ways would see and embrace the values of web 2.0 tools. However, the statement that "...workplace learning professionals are using more of a "push" mode of learning, pushing content to learners, and are focused on creating more structured, formal learning experiences" reminds me of comments by some corporate trainers I know. Two of my friends in the corporate world have emphasized how communication and training is really controlled. Their materials must be approved and in many cases very tightly controlled through password protection, so other companies cannot see their information.

I'm glad that I'm have the luxury of experimenting and contemplating the value and/or pitfalls of these tools.

Good debate.

Before commenting on any of the above, I have to declare an interest in that I am a workplace learning professional, but I have just completed an MSc in Education & Technology and am familiar (as of 2007) with the use of learning technologies and tools in third level institutions. I also contributed to the C4PT survey in March 2008, and my Top Ten list is a 60:40 split between commercial and open source tools: I use both.

In my view, this debate characterises a number of current talking points in the learning community:

1. The differing demands of workplace and formal institution-based learning
2. The resources available to commercial and academic organisations
3. Learners' needs in the workplace and in formal learning institutions
4. Personal philosophy applied to learning

Upon reviewing the two lists, the first thing that struck me was the broad equivalency of functionality across the tools represented in the lists (see Table 1):

---------------------------------------
Table 1 Equivalency among tools
---------------------------------------
Audacity = Audacity

Moodle = Moodle

Slideshare = Slideshare

Techsmith Camtasia = Techsmith Jing (a time-limited and feature "lite" version of Camtasia)

Articulate/Captivate = Voicethread
[Both sets of tools enable the facility to share slideshows through audio, images, videos, or text with others online. Voicethread Free enables a degree of limited commenting.]

Articulate/Captivate = YouTube
Both sets of tools enable the facility to share slideshows through audio, images, videos, or text with others online.
-------------------------------------------
That leaves us with Word, Flash, Ning, Wikispaces, Flickr. Back to these later.

Now read on...

Based on the evidence that 75% of the tools in the two categories enable learning professionals to undertake the same activities, but using different technologies (or in the case of tools like Jing, the same technology, just a "lite" version of a commercially available tool) We can say that learning professionals have more in common than they have separating them.

In this context, the development of training programmes and learning initiatives using commercially available (can I say 'industrial strength'?) authoring tools enables learning professionals to deliver content (hosted on an LMS like Moodle for example) to learners in an efficient and effective manner. Based upon my own experience and the observations of others in this field, I would assert that while there is a element of organisational "push" in delivering content to workers, once learners are aware that content is available for them asynchronously, they will integrate these resources into their own personal development patterns.

From the learning professional's perspective, tools like Flash, Captivate, and Articulate have a number of advantages: they are mature, stable products. The enable the development of content across a range of pedagogical methodologies and production processes. Product licensing ensures that learning and support resources available if needed.

Similarly, organisations require that content be stored on a LMS/LCMS platform, which means that the content be must interoperable with other learning resources, which means that content adhere to learning specifications live SCORM and AICC. Open source or products may or may not adhere to these specifications as closely as commercial products. Certainly platforms like Ning, Wikispaces and Flickr do not meet these requirements; what's interesting is that Moodle does, and it is represented in both Top Ten lists (actually higher in the workplace list). Moodle supports blogs, wikis, and discussion forums - all the aspects of a social-constructivist approach to learning. Again from experience I know that these functions are used in the workplace to support learning as well as to enable workers to interact with each other, share knowledge and develop skills. The popularity of Moodle in both lists also suggests to me is that learning professionals in both camps (as it were) desire a stable, integrated platform to host their learning programmes.

Both Michele and Jane are powerful advocates for lifelong learning using social media tools. However, the reality of the commercial environment is that organisations develop products using proprietary technologies, processes and knowledge. Working in such an environment I will tell you straight that there is no way on God's green earth that I would publish corporate learning content, demos or courseware on anything as unsecure as Ning, YouTube, Flickr or Wikispaces where competitors could, by accident or design, access such content. As an alternative, such materials, as well as blogging, knowledge-sharing and social interaction activities take place 'behind the firewall' using tools like Moodle, SharePoint, Lotus Notes or equivalent enterprise solutions. The reality is that commercial organisations charge customers for learning resources and they are not going to sacrifice being an 'earning organisation' to become a purely 'learning organisation.'

As this is the case, I have to dispute the position that social, collaborative and informal approaches to learning only take place in more academic environments; I would certainly say that such activities are more visible and accessible.

2. The resources available to commercial and academic organisations

Another key differentiator between the commercial and academic environments is that broadly speaking, commercial organisations tend to have more resources (i.e. in-house expertise, large ICT departments, money) at their disposal. Certainly if a company has enough employees to merit implementing network-based learning solutions, they can afford to licence enterprise-level solutions that integrate with their HRM and/or CRM solutions. I would suggest that these systems would not necessarily be in the list of nominations submitted by workplace-based learning professionals in the C4PT survey. I know that when I submitted by top ten, i was conscious of the fact that not everyone reading the list would have access to some of the tools I could have mentioned, so in some cases I omitted choices that would have been there in other circumstances. So, for example, I chose to include Audacity rather than SoundForge - both do the same job equally effectively.

3. Learners' needs in the workplace and in formal learning institutions

The learning needs of knowledge workers are different to those of students in formal learning institutions. Knowledge workers' roles and responsibilities direct the way they plan their activities, execute their tasks, and how they reflect upon their actions once tasks (or components of larger-scale tasks) are complete. Further, knowledge workers (unlike academics, for example) are typically required to apply their skill- and experience assets in real-world situations which exhibit degrees of uncertainty about both the situation itself and the desired outcomes. Much of the real-world job of the knowledge worker is more concerned with problem setting, then problem solving. To move from a problematic situation to an actual problem, the practitioner must “frame the problem: …determine the features to which they will attend, the order they will attempt to impose on the situation, the directions in which they will try to change it. In this process, they identify both the ends to be sought and the means to be employed” (Argyris, C. and Schön, D., Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness 1974, p.165). This requirement plays a role in how learning professionals strategise and implement learning solutions for knowledge workers.

Learners in formal learning institutions acquire knowledge for different purposes and in a different way. The purpose of studying and learning in an academic environment is to explore current knowledge, to research, to explore, to be involved in discursive activities. The goal requires either using a different set of learning methodologies and approaches, and commensurately a different set of tools and technologies, or using the same tools in a different way. I think that both options are represented on the Top Ten List: I have illustrated the equivalencies in the toolset above. But given the purpose of learning in this environment, we can say that there are good reasons why tools including Ning and Wikispaces are represented on the formal educational institution list, as these tools facilitate the types of discourse I have just described.

4. Personal philosophy applied to learning

This category is perhaps the most interesting of all: for this is the heart of the debate. And I chose the word "heart" deliberately. I think that it's fair to say that most people involved in learning care passionately about communicating ideas, concepts, knowledge to others. All this comment is, is a point of view that I hold, which has no greater or lesser value than the other opinions expressed here.

What is important is that so many people care enough about how we mediate knowledge and ideas to be motivated spend time and effort to discuss this topic in this forum. In my view, that is the most positive outcome of using these technologies to share ideas.

--

I think Michael touched on the main points...albeit in a less-than-simple manner. Here's the bottom line from my own experience as the eLearning Architect for a large corp (35k+ employees):

1. IT still calls the shots. Firewalls, security, privacy, etc...these are all seen as priority over anything the T&D people want to accomplish.

2. Regulation. If it cannot be tracked, sliced, diced and measured in order to meet regulatory requirements, then it is not acceptable.

Companies such as Learn.com, mZinga, Outstart and even Moodle are trying to find ways to bring learning 2.0 in line with IT and regulatory needs. Until that becomes ubiquitous, expect corporate learning to remain in the 1.0 realm indefinitely.

Eric - it's a complicated discussion point! It deserves the level of thought, and attention to detail being devoted to the topic here.

I think you missed the point that I was making though - that point was that workplace learning is not necessarily in the 1.0 realm, but because of the proprietary nature of the content, it is not freely available via open-to-the-public read/write Web tools. As a result, Learning 2.0 initiatives in workplaces are not as visible.

But just because you can't see it in the public domain doesn't mean that it isn't there.

As I demonstrated with the Equivalency Table in my original comment, Workplace- and Formal Education groups have a 75% overlap in functional requirements and in many cases use the same tools (audacity, PowerPoint, Moodle etc). As I also pointed out, Moodle is more popular in the workplace than in institutions.

Let's think about this a little: to take Martin Dougimas' Moodle project as an example - as well as the high workplace take-up, it's philosophy and paradigm are based on a Social Constructivist approach - I would assert that if workplace organisations were so anti-Web2.0, the last thing they would implement would be an application that positively supports forums, discussion boards, blogs, wikis and other means of learner, expert, and instructor interaction.

We have a saying in Ireland - "Horses for courses" - I guess it would translate to "the right tool of for the right job." Ultimately, the two groups under discussion here have two divergent purposes. It's understandable that the ways and means they employ to undertake their objectives should differ.

BTW - if you've ever dealt with the ICT dept of a formal learning institution, you *really* know the meaning of heavily restricted access to networks!

--

Hi Michelle
Great blog. I'm having a fab time wandering around and having a read. Linked across to you from Tony's E Learning Tech site.

You said in this post that you'd be interested in examples of how WEB2 tech is (and could) be used in the workplace.

I'm developing a social enterprise project called SKIL2 with (initially) a national non profit in Ireland.

They have a number of projects in Belfast and Dublin that work with homeless people who have multiple needs. They are at the cutting edge of practice and currently really only use formal face to face workshop type learning - and of course - face to face informal learning - and email/phone calls.

I want to create a learning space called KIS (knowledge information spaces - linking people to each other using social media & LT) with them that can capture all the informal + messy + tacit knowledge + skill that lives in their workplace.

I hope to use available social media and open source learning tech to create this space. A space where people can wander + read + chat + rattle the cage of their work practice + colaborate + reflect.

I'm delighted that I've even been able to get a non profit to consider the idea - and they are intriqued by the possibilities.

I've set up a SKIL2 social network on Ning to record the whole journey and for me to get some really hands on experience with different forms of social media.

In the 6 weeks since I initiated this project I have been really touched by the support and encouragement people have given me. Many of them I found through blogs and leaving comments.

I particularly want to thank Jane Hart (who has accepted my invite to be one of my SKIL2 mentors)+ Michael Hanley (who commented so thoughtfully here) for his great blog and support.

The Learning Town network set up by Elliot Massie and his team in recent weeks has also helped my learning as well as linked me to some very helpful people.

I now have some great mentors and that helps me feel supported as I take this leap into a kind of unknown.

The whole SKIL2 idea is an experiment in what may be possible.

If you don't move out of your comfort zone - you can't even begin to innovate. And my national non profit guinea pig/partner deserves some kind of prize for taking that risk with me.

I've rss'd your blog Michelle - and just downloaded Diigo on your recommendation.

Looking forward to many future reads on your blog.

Best regards
Liz

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