The Future of Learning: Smarter, Simple, Social

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a series of excerpts from research chapters to be published sometime 2011. Some of these topics will also be incorporated into presentations and workshops to be released early next year. The first in the series will provide an overview of the key topics that look to the future of learning in an organisational context.

The future of learning in a socially designed business will reframe traditional approaches to the function of learning by providing platforms where learning activities are discretely embedded in everyday tasks which support and enhance informal learning opportunities. Consequently, structured formal learning events and their associated resources can be re-invigorated with the introduction of business process changes and a more socially constructed culture.

Despite the adoption of social computing in organisations becoming more prevalent, there are limited examples of social networks being adopted as learning platforms. By supporting the development of social networks, organisations have the potential to promote powerful learning opportunities which extend from simple individual actions, to links that connect people for a common, shared goal, to connecting with others beyond the boundaries of their physical workplace context.

However, developing social networks will challenge the current practices of organisational learning by reframing the transfer of knowledge and skills in traditional delivery modes to a participatory environment where learning emerges from informal social interactions that empower the individual to access people, expertise and information in a mode that is relevant and timely to their needs.

A number of recent studies have indicated that learners, who are connected in an online format, feel a greater sense of community and have perceived higher levels of learning satisfaction. Smarter, simpler, and social learning initiatives are achieving results that more expensive controlled learner management systems have failed to deliver.

The implications for learning design rely upon the key underpinning assumption that is embedded in all social learning contexts, that is, learning is socially constructed through interactions. A social learning network requires an environment that is inherently participative by its nature, designed to augment group interactions and shared spaces for collaboration, social connections, and an aggregation of information exchanges in a web-based environment, while allowing the learner to clarify concepts and establish meaningful links with content that is transferable to their workplace context.

So what is the future role of the organisational educator? The current learning and development trainer becomes pivotal in facilitating the establishment of network contacts, and empowering individuals to identify and customise their personal knowledge business processes to best support their knowledge and learning needs in the current complex workplace environments.

Further posts will expand on these topics and review frameworks for implementation and strategies for adoption.