Acquiring just the right amount of information on an as-needed basis is rapidly emerging as a significant learning style. The array of on-demand information sources is growing exponentially. For instance:
- Corporate knowledgebases stored and managed by SharePoint
- Traditional hardcopy media such as articles are now available from on-line sources
- Self-published blogs and wikis providing access to information that previously may have gone through an editing and publishing process
- Online videos from sources such as YouTube can quickly explain a technique with a how-to
- Social media tools from Facebook or Twitter with character limits can be a source of information
- Collaboration tools such as Yammer can provide employee’s access to individuals or groups where they can seek answers to even complex problems
All of these sources combine to comprise an individual’s undocumented personal learning. Until recently, this personal learning container was a person’s brain, classically limited by whatever that person is able to retain in memory. This human stored information had no real or permanent connection to more structured kinds of learning such as taking a seminar or course. Systems have been in place for decades to tap into storing more formalized education. However, new academic research indicates that only a fraction of learning fits this highly structured model. According to sources such as Aberdeen, the greater percentage of learning is done in an informal, unstructured manner, utilizing an individual’s undocumented personal learning network. This includes not only all the sources mentioned above, but can even include asking a business peer a question.
The status quo of learning is in the early stages of a disruptive period where virtually anyone can be (and is) the teacher. Without some ability to manage this quickly changing learning process, corporations will not know the impact of unstructured learning within their organization. What if the source is incorrect or there are multiple levels of expertise within an organization? Without a measurement system that can correlate the use of both internal and external information sources to bottom-line expectations, a corporation will never know if the information they provide (either directly or indirectly) is helping the corporation succeed. Corporations must align methodology with accompanying technology to provide enough structure for employees to create and access all forms of information while in a corporate personal learning environment.Permissioned employees become a contribution source for information that can be shared as well as measured and tracked against corporate objectives. Consumers of this information can provide social feedback on the content and be rewarded with concepts like badging.
Jerry Goguen is the CEO of Intralearn Software