Breaking Down Hierarchies To Build Learning Communities

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    Sreya Dutta is a senior information developer for Oracle’s Fusion team.  She has extensive experience in instructional design and content creation. People can find her on her blog, Twitter account, or LinkedIn profile.

    Q. In your experience as an instructional designer, have you run into any challenges when writing curricula?

    The main challenge I see is knowing precisely who your audience is.  Knowing your audience helps you scope out the training accurately and achieve the right level of detail. It is essential to any kind of task you want to do; whether it is to build a product, to create a game, or to plan training content.

    Q. Have you noticed a difference from previous to present challenges in the training field?

    I believe the challenges of today are much less than they once were.  The intervention of Web 2.0 and the increasing number of tech-savvy learners have worked together to make information instantaneously accessible to everyone. In today’s world, most information is easily searchable and Internet connections are much faster.  Web technologies have come a long way and social media has gained ground.

    We no longer encounter the challenges of providing learners access to information. We need to focus on planning our training curricula in a manner that incorporates hands-on training in a simulated environment and promotes collaboration with peer and subject-matter experts. The key is knowing how to leverage social media to make the learning curve more easily achievable in a much shorter time period.

    Q. Easy access to information has definitely made learning easier.  Are there any other technology or research trends that could impact the future of the way we learn?

    The study of general users has revealed that giving the user information based on their existing knowledge on a subject is critical for their success. The research has shown a need for greater user-focus. Tomorrows applications will be increasingly user-focused and minimalistic. Minimalistic because we will have a clear picture of the user’s profile and be able to focus on what the user needs to know. So organizational learning will be designed to support performance, and training will be largely collaborative and exploratory in nature. Learners will be mature and able to determine their own learning paths. Learners will also be more independent and able to access information in a manner that will help them accomplish tasks. In other words, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) will be a norm.

    Q. In ten years, do you think there will be notable differences in organizational learning?

    Ten years is a long time and we are already stepping into the era of Web 3.0 where personalization and social intelligence will be key. Ten years from now, social and collaborative learning will become so commonplace that it will be built into the system. Learning will be less controlled and more learner-driven, as well as minimalistic. Formal training will be supported and followed with collaborative, experiential, and exploratory learning. Content will be open and designed to be accessible from all kinds of devices; it will be simple and very specific. For example, the use of a screen shot or graphic can replace the use of words. Information will need to be to accessed faster and during execution of the task. A learner’s performance will be supported by pertinent, short, and instantly available information anytime and anywhere.

    Q. How will the easy accessibility of information impact the look and feel of a 21st century training program?

    A new employee is hired into an organization and needs training. The machine is automatically setup by the network. Once the employee logs in to the system, he is automatically shown a screen which will predict the first questions on his mind like: “What am I here to do?,” “What do I need to learn to do my job?,” “How do I learn what I need to learn to do my job?”

    The employee is informed by the system that he needs to learn how to use the company’s CRM product to capture and process customer requests. The system discovers, based on the employee profile from HR and social intelligence date, that the employee is already familiar with similar CRM systems and does not need to under go the basic-level training. The system automatically directs the employee to the next level of the CRM product training.

    The employee learns by working directly on the CRM environment. There are short “What’s new?” and product overview modules to get him quickly up to speed with the tasks the product is designed to complete. The modules instruct him to interact with the environment in real-time. The modules are not sequenced linear courses but reference-hybrids in any form like demos, examples, scenarios, and real-time exercises on the product. Reference information is easily available on the product interface. The training encourages looking at the help and other references like real-time use cases, FAQ information, common problems faced and the resolutions.

    The goal of such training is to get high-specialization individuals up to speed on the job in the shortest possible time. The training is planned based on learner profile information and studying the background knowledge levels of the learner.

    Also, the system will have collaboration built-in as a norm and will suggest appropriate contacts in the CRM domain within the organization. The employee will be able to collaborate with technology similar to tweets, chat, and web conferencing to learn from subject-matter experts. Social media tools will allow him to search for existing information on the subject, or start a new live conversation about his queries on the product. Using the tools, the new employee is now able to network within the organization and get acquainted with appropriate persons related to his job.

    In short, I am hinting at the use of intelligent-training techniques by leveraging on social-intelligence data.

    Q. There are online communities for connecting friends, connecting professionals, connecting dog lovers and for just about any other group of people you can think of.  What if organizations began creating their own personalized learning communities?

    Supporting organization-wide learning communities is becoming essential.  It guarantees that employees within an organization are well networked. In medium to large-sized organizations, knowledge is  often tucked away in unknown pockets with individuals or teams. A lot of the knowledge could be documented and made available, but it is almost impossible to capture tacit knowledge and the knowledge gained from real-time experience. The use of social media connects people based on areas of interest and aids the discovery of resources with the required domain expertise within the same organization. This positively impacts efficiency on the job and improves employee productivity a great deal.

    In the future, the normal way one does their job in an organization will be through the use of collaboration and social networking techniques. Social media is causing the breakdown of hierarchy to build communities using wirearchy by enabling horizontal and peer-to-peer based communications.

    Looking at things from a bigger picture, I’d like to leave you with this note: Are you Ready for the 21st Century?

    Are You Ready for the 21st Century ? from Michel Cartier on Vimeo.

    Q. Sreya, we really appreciate the video and your time.  One last question, do you have any resources for our readers?

    There are tons of great online resources and blogs. I recommend the best-of-breed approach so one can reach out to the maximum number of resources in one area. I suggest going into eLearning Learning and performing a keyword search. The site filters your information to various levels depending on what you need. It is also a good idea to subscribe to the ‘Best of’ feed on this site to get a summary of the best blog posts for the month.

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