When using Learning Management Systems to manage training in classrooms, seminars, webinars, and eLearning courses the audience is typically participating in some capacity for a defined period of time using structured content. Not all learning happens in these controlled environments; there are significant amounts of learning done in smaller nuggets through informal ways.
Informal and or social learning needs guidance and knowledge to maximize its value in an organization. Some LMS’s may include social learning, but its optimum design usage is within the confines of eLearning content if collaboration is integrated into the learning environment. Social Learning within this environment makes sense for a good portion of an organizations structured learning, however LMS’s becomes unwieldy when applied to informal learning processes.
A large percentage of corporations have Microsoft SharePoint installed for document management, workflow and with add-ons that support specific business unit requirements. Collaboration products like Microsoft Yammer are also quickly being adopted. External information sources such as YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Facebook are also providing small nuggets of information at the user’s point of need. Attempting to force users to go through an LMS rather than using these native tools that are already in place is burdensome to learning and development functions.
It is far better to separate the informal and formal learning styles, uniting them at the business intelligence layer using analytics. This means that an LMS is not viable across this broad use. However, some limited concepts from the LMS world can be used in Social Learning if used judiciously in a lightweight fashion contained within the framework of the corporate infrastructure.
Learning and development should contribute to social learning within their enterprise. Their role can be to help the organization define, guide, and lightly oversee the use of social learning to help employees contribute (share) and consuming knowledge that may otherwise be lost. Beyond the initial implementations, learning and development can assist in assigning value to these small nuggets and interactions and by rewarding employees with point-based badging. Learning and development can help determine what types of informal learning should have some level of validation. Perhaps most importantly, they can help curate these nuggets into collections and assist in deciding/assigning predetermined SharePoint groups. Learning and development can also help management understand the overall impact of social learning at your enterprise by measuring and correlating its effectiveness against corporate objectives.
As the saying goes, don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. LMS’s with integrated social learning or stand-alone social learning platforms that are not designed to be installed inside of SharePoint will ultimately fail the corporate fabric test. It may already be obvious that Social Learning is happening at enterprises well outside the scope of learning and development.
We challenge you to consider that social learning cannot be controlled or adequately addressed by your existing processes or LMS. Instead, we suggest you align with your IT organization offering to maximize the corporate SharePoint and or Yammer investment with a lightweight add-on combined with your intellectual knowledge and services.
Jerry Goguen is the CEO of Intralearn Software