Where are the learners?

In a post on elearningindustry.com, Kali Blunt outlines her Top 4 Reasons Your Workplace Needs Social And Collaborative Learning Technologies.

  1. Support virtual teams
  2. Provide a centralized content repository
  3. The ability to support and track informal as well as formal learning
  4. Connecting people through communities

My second biggest issue with this, and many other justifications for learning technologies (social and non-social), is that the argument is tool and functionality focused.

LMS’s are great because they can track grades and attendance.  I’m sorry, Miss Hull did just fine without an LMS when I was in 4th grade.

Because we can collect everything in one place, it’s automatically good.  I’m sorry, I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of content repositories that were basically document junk yards.  Centralized content is not de facto a positive.

I’m a huge fan of communities of practice/interest, but there are examples after examples that show that the Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come” principle doesn’t work in the real world.  Employees don’t need social online tools to form communities at work.  Water coolers have done that for a century.

But my biggest bone to pick with this argument is that it is from a perspective of “if we buy this, the company will gain this capability or functionality.”  Where are the learners?  How will this benefit them?  The overall argument for L&D is that a knowledgeable, highly skilled, engaged, and connected workforce drives growth, improves agility, enhances innovation, and serves the organization’s customers better.

Kali does argue that social and collaborative tools allow for great sharing of ideas among colleagues.  If expanded, she’s on the right road here.

Don’t get me wrong, there are both learning professionals and vendor of these tools who get that enabling personal learning and knowledge management is the key to improving performance.  But this focus on the learner at the center isn’t second nature to a vast majority of us.  As Captain Piccard would advise, we need to “make it so.”

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