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A New View through Social Learning

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On this cloudy day in Chicago, a ray of sunshine came bursting through my Feedly list of readings to catch up on. In Social Learning: A Window Into What’s Really Going on in Your Business, I was expecting to hear how Big Brother can keep an eye on all the minions in the organization.

Instead, Janet Lanee Effron outlines three positive outcomes that can be gathered now with  the advent of xAPI and social learnings tools:

1 – Your Employees are Amazing – They actually do care about doing their jobs well and may be quite engaged in what they are doing.  I’ve witnessed this time and time again in my career when colleagues (and, to be honest, me) sit like zombies through a training course and then, together, scramble to figure out what they really need to know to get the job done.

2 – There are Barriers to Performance that Leadership Doesn’t Know About – My guess is that everyone one of you is nodding your head in agreement with this.  There are well-documented reasons that employees don’t share road blocks with leadership – fear of being blamed, it’s the boss’s pet project, it will take longer to fix the problem than to work around it, etc. But the point here is that in a social learning environment that encourages open discussion and problem-solving, light can be shed on roadblocks and they can be collaboratively fixed

3 -Gain An Insight Into What’s Really Going On In Your Business – With well crafted learning environment design, in a team learning exercise, you will be able to see who really is leading the collaboration, who is aggressively seeking new knowledge and new ideas, what do you employees think is important for them to understand, etc.

But isn’t this Big Brother?

Clearly, there are ethical issues that businesses and societies will need to address around Big Data and, in particular, social learning.  I’m sure there are discussions on the moral nature of algorithms going on somewhere (oh, to have the time) and the Yahoo email breach shows the real danger that access to data warehouses holds.

But with every new technology we open up the potential for abuse and criminal behavior. We need to beware of this and take actions to limit the potential negative impacts while reaping the benefits we are seeking.  As an example, JISC has published a Code of Practice for Learning Analytics as a part of the effort to build new learning tools using the xAPI standard.

As I discussed yesterday in We are the Innovators, Not Them, we have to remember that technology is neither good nor bad, it’s what we humans do with it that introduces the moral dimension.  I’m excited by the potential of social learning.  It was nice to see someone else post about its positive features.

Please comment below:

  • What do you think?  If, through xAPI and learning analytics we can see what learners are doing; is it too much?  Are we crossing a privacy line?
  • If we can give a manager insight into how their team works through a problem; is that a positive or a negative?

(This post was posted simultaneously on LinkedIn)

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