aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Stealing from the Rich…

Posted by Ellen on February 17, 2012

Stealing what works in elearning from the rich corporations, that is…

First, my usual caveat: we’re not corporations. We shouldn’t assume that everything they do is worthy of emulation by associations and other nonprofits.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them, right? And because the series we did that dissected what the ASTD BEST Award winners did in 2009 had so many hits (and still does), I figure it’s worth our time to look at some other companies, what they’re doing, and what we can learn from them.

Source? Way last summer Intrepid Learning released a white paper, “Learning Experts at Work: How Social Tools and Technology Catalyzed a Learning Renaissance.” It’s a great read in its entirety, but here are a couple of nuggets:

  • “…[T]he best learning cultures encourage people to help teach others in the organization. This happens at Google a lot. A company shouldn’t get in-between the learner and the expert. Otherwise, you can’t democratize the spread of knowledge. And that’s what the next decade will require.” So say Ann Farmer (Information Engineer) and Julie Clow (Manager of Learning & Organizational Development), both at Google.
    •  Would you describe your association as having a culture of learning? Why not? Inadvertently or not, are you standing between your members and the experts and mentors they need? What can you do to bring them together, then get out of their way? Is “the spread of knowledge” “democratized” in your organization? If not, why not? What can you do to encourage open exchange of knowledge and training?
  • At TELUS, a Canadian communications company, “field technicians carry video cameras with them, and, if they encounter a particular problem or situation for which they need assistance, they’ll shoot some video, feed it back to company headquarters, and within a short amount of time they’ll have answers from other employees on how to solve the problem. The videos are highly practical, not highly produced, and have made significant improvements in the training and effectiveness of field technicians,” writes Tony Bingham (President and CEO) at ASTD, describing an one of the case studies he includes in his book, The New Social Learning.
    • Are you using video? To what ends? This is an example that supports what the women from Google said in the previous point: democratizing learning — field techs sending problems to other field techs who provide solutions. Are there ways you could be using video — or audio or Twitter or other technologies (other than social networking platforms) to enable this sort of exchange? What could you implement that would help your members learn from each other?

Some other key ideas from this report:

  • According to Ethan Zuckerman (Senior Researcher) at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, we’re making a shift from an “Attention Economy” to an “Intention Economy.” “In an Attention Economy, companies produce products and create advertisements to capture viewer attention and, eventually, their dollars. In an Intention Economy, customers tell producers what they want and companies compete to meet their needs.”
    • Do you still see your educational offerings as products you need to “sell” to your members? If you have to “sell” them so hard, don’t you think maybe your members are already telling you something about that program (traditionally offered and beloved as it may be)?!? What are your members saying they want — and need — to learn about? What training are they asking for? What can you be doing to listen more carefully to them?
  • David Metcalf, PhD,(CLO Adviser/Researcher) at the Institute for Simulation and Training the the University of Central Florida says, “Looking ahead, I think we should keep our eyes on the concept of ‘learning theory mash-ups.’  This approach will allow us to achieve a level of granularity with each learning theory and will also enable us to apply the right technology to a very specific learning objective. This is very similar to a technology mash-up, which doesn’t try to re-invent each component in a monolithic structure.”
    • Is your organization working toward a technology goal of having a one-stop-shop for your members’ learning needs? Are you crawling out from under the traditional notion of “programs” and into the bright new day of integrated learning? Of seeing your offerings as interwoven opportunities for learning — beyond a particular curriculum? Why not? What can you do to knock down walls so your members can learn more and learn better from each other?
  • The 9000 globally-located Peace Corps volunteers need more than their nine weeks of face-to-face training. To supplement that, they can access “extra learning [that] includes a series of how-to videos that are 60-180 seconds in length. They offer three to five steps, and they’re available on YouTube and iTunes,” says Chris Hedrick, Peace Corps Director in Senegal.
    • Have you been assuming that videos have to be long, or elaborate productions? Are the only videos you offer those that were filmed at a face-to-face event, and feature talking heads? How might you implement a series of 60-180 second visual learning nuggets? What could you be showing your members how to do?

The possibilities are everywhere. You just need to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, then look for the tools and methods to implement them. Making sure, of course, that those tools are the same ones your members use… (more on that next time).

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