New Paradigms For Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing

The world of social interaction, fuelled by the plethora of social media tools, has opened up new opportunities to learn and share. Classroom training is no longer an essential part of learning and development. We can now tap into the collective wisdom of peers and experts as and when we need. Skilling ourselves for a challenging and volatile environment is a personal responsibility – we can’t rely on others, including the people and organisations we work for.

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I was recently asked to present at an Institute For Employment Studies event for corporate HR and Heads of Learning & Development. The slides I used are embedded at the end of this bog, and also available at Slideshare and Authorstream.

The title of the event was “Getting maximum business value from your L&D activity”, which, for me, opened up an opportunity to discuss and describe what I see as the unprecedented opportunities and potential available through the Internet and the Social Web for learning and personal development (also referred to as “Personal Knowledge Management”).

The world of social interaction, fuelled by the plethora of social media tools, has opened up new opportunities to learn and share. Classroom training is no longer an essential part of learning and development. We can now tap into the collective wisdom of peers and experts as and when we need. Skilling ourselves for a challenging and volatile environment is a personal responsibility – we can’t rely on others, including the people and organisations we work for.

Sadly, for some, this is not as easy as it sounds. Workplace restrictions on what staff can see and do on the Internet are controlled and regulated by policies – and people – that have changed little since the 20th Century. If you have a HR or L&D manager who has never blogged, does not use LinkedIn and refuses to engage with social media, it’s unlikely they will advocate the use of these facilities in the workplace, and consequently no business case will be made to provide access to social networks or social media tools. Consequently, more and more people find they need to use their smartphones in the workplace (unless these have also been banned) or revert to out-of-hours working to do the things they could and should have done at work.

This leads to some crazy anomalies, which really ought to be challenged more vigorously, such as the many public sector departments who use YouTube to promote their services but ban their own staff from accessing this medium. Or the NHS Trusts that prevent their staff from accessing networks such as Patient Opinion, and consequently don’t know what is being said about their hospital services and therefore unable to challenge or respond to complaints.

But this must surely change. Organisations (particularly public sector) can’t continue to trot out the same excuses as to why they restrict access to the social web. Yes, we know that anything “social” might mean time wasting, but that’s no different to misuse of the telephone, or attending one of those meaningless meetings that happen every Monday morning. Yes, there is a requirement for transparency and the need to comply with Freedom of Information, but these can’t be perennially used as obstacles to tools and networks that support collaboration and knowledge sharing. The day of the “lobotomised PC”, which limits access to company-approved applications and networks, must surely be coming to an end (as is the lobotomised staff who are not permitted to think and act for themselves!)

So, coming back to the main thrust of my presentation – that it is a personal responsibility to attain the necessary education and skills to survive and thrive in an increasingly unpredictable economy. Staff can’t (and shouldn’t) rely on the prescriptive nature of their company’s core training curriculum, which is more likely to be inward-focussed and heavily weighted toward policies, strategy and compliance rather than vocational training – unless of course you are fortunate enough to work for that rare breed of organisation that funds apprenticeship schemes. It is foolish to plan an entire career on the assumption that you’ll be working for the same organisation. Transferable skills should be the primary goal – which may not be the first priority for organisations that want to retain staff!  Specialism is all very well provided it’s not dependent on one specific industry or organisation. See wheeltappers for lessons learnt!

Perhaps the difference between ‘corporate’ learning and self-directed learning is best illustrated in this diagram:

Personalised Learning

 

In order to develop a true learning organisation, staff need to be given much more freedom to use the tools, facilities, applications and networks that they have chosen. After all they are far closer to the issues, problems and potential solutions associated with their work than a CIO, a CFO or head of L&D. It is my firm belief that social learning and personal development requires a shift from hierarchies to networks, and empowerment of the workforce to choose the tools they need to do the job. Organisation that can’t or won’t grasp this paradigm shift will struggle to attract and retain talent, and will struggle to survive against more agile and adaptable businesses that do.

What do you think?

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Pitfalls and Advantages of Accredited Online LPN Programs

Guest Blog from Jennifer Smith

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) play some of the most vital roles in our healthcare system today.  They are responsible for a wide range of patient care, including dressing wounds, giving injections, monitoring temperature and heart rate, and gathering patient information. Some LPNs are even responsible for performing laboratory test and assisting in an infant’s delivery. While most LPNs work in hospitals and other major healthcare centers, many are also employed in nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and home care capacities.

According to estimates compiled by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 728,670 people employed in the country as licensed practical nurses. While this number may sound high, the Bureau of Labor predicts a significant demand for LPNs in the medium-term future. This prediction fits well with other estimates that highlight the country’s shortfall of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners. The United States has a growing yet aging population and an educational system that makes a healthcare career difficult for many people to pursue. The end result is that nursing jobs stand to remain in high demand for some time.

In light of this, many people are going back to school and taking accredited online lpn programs in order to become a licensed practical nurse. While LPN programs are certainly offered at traditional colleges and vocational schools, the online route is particularly appealing for those who have family obligations, financial constraints, and jobs that they don’t want to quit. Their decision is further strengthened by the quality of online nursing degrees; over the past several years, the top providers of an online nursing education have invested in strengthening and diversifying their options. Top school such as Kaplan University, Jacksonville University, South University, and the University of Phoenix now offer degrees that are fully online, that can equip students with a wide range of specialized opportunities and resources, and that are taught by skilled practitioners in the field. LPN courses at these schools routinely fill up quickly as a result.

If you’re considering becoming an LPN, how can you determine whether an online program is right for you? How can you decide whether a traditional or an online course makes more sense for your current needs as well as your career goals?

To answer these questions, let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls and advantages of taking an accredited online LPN program:

Pitfalls of Online LPN Programs:

  • There will be little to no hands-on clinical training
  • Students and instructors don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interactions
  • A lack of classroom collaboration may leave students less prepared for the team environment in which most LPNs work
  • While setting your own study schedule has its advantages, being able to go through the program at your own pace may be problematic for students who are lacking in self-discipline

Advantages of Online LPN Programs:

-The curriculum in an online LPN program is almost identical to that of a traditional program

-Students can set their own pace for assignments and exams, making the course a less stressful experience

-The ability to work from home and on their own time affords students the ability to maintain jobs and family obligations

-Students save money by paying less in tuition and by forgoing the cost of expensive textbooks

-Presentation and lecture materials are usually well-organized, virtually available, and easily accessible

-Online learning can lead to faster rates of comprehension, according to a study from Carnegie Mellon University

-Online universities often have better reputations and excellence standards than the average community college

These are the main pitfalls and advantages to keep in mind when considering an online LPN degree. Ultimately, the decision should be based upon your unique circumstances and goals. If you feel as though you can handle the lack of a physical learning experience, the flexibility, availability, and affordability of an online course are certainly hard to match.

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Is social networking learning?

Great post by Shannon Turlington on the question of whether social networking is learning.  A point often missed in this debate is the serendipity inherent in social networking that enables you to discover new knowledge – i.e. we don’t know what you don’t know until we uncover it. Shannon writes:

What I like most about using social networking tools this way is how serendipitous it can be. Sure, I can ask questions or search for knowledge on a subject I know I want to learn about, but more often, it seems, I learn things I didn’t know I needed to learn. This happens when people in my network share what they are learning or thinking about or reading or writing about. That, for me, is where the real learning potential of social networking tools kicks in. I don’t think you can reproduce that quality with formal learning tools, because it is so ephemeral and unplanned.

Here are some other good points made in the conversation:

  • “I learn far more about what’s news and relevant to my work from my ‘network of trust and interest’ than I do from common denominator mass media.”
  • “Between spontaneous learning and network-of-trust filtering, you get a new level of just-in-time (JIT) learning: ‘before I knew I needed it’ learning.”
  • “Not everyone is going to succeed using social learning.  Many of those that can already use it.  Some of the rest just need permission.  But if you aren’t really interested in your work, if you don’t think it is cool, how much is unstructured, social learning going to work for you. “

Someone also made this point: “There seems to be a tension … among the openness of informal learning, risk management and message control.” I think that tension is always there when there is also fear over loss of control. I have found, though, that in successful learning networks, people tend to police themselves. The organization must let go and trust its people, or people just won’t use the network sanctioned by the organization. If they are really passionate about learning and connecting with peers, they will find ways to do so outside of the organization’s control and without the organization’s blessing. So why not extend that trust and see what happens? The organization can only benefit from engaged employees actively learning about their fields.

And this I think is the essence of what social networking is all about; trust, freedom to act and taking responsibility for personal development. Organisations that don’t support these basic tenets, or erect barriers and conditions that inhibit their development, are going to find it increasingly difficult to survive in a 21st century economy.

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The story of Common Craft – in Plain English

ReadWriteWeb have re-posted a very interesting account of the Common Craft story. The following is an abstract:

Five years ago Lee LeFever was an online community manager for a B2B healthcare company called Solucient. Today, his voice has been heard by millions of people around the world, making strange new applications feel easy to use and offering some of the clearest explanations of how the Internet is changing.

LeFever is the founder of Common Craft and his story is an inspiring one.

He’s gone from social media consulting to co-producing the wildly popular “…In Plain English” video series. Common Craft’s videos have been translated into scores of other languages and landed the company big jobs making custom videos for companies like Google, LinkedIn and MeetUp. Now Lee and his wife Sachi LeFever are making another major work transition. They’ve stopped producing custom videos for clients and have found an interesting new business model.

What is Common Craft going to do instead of making themselves available for hire making custom videos? Lee says that for the past year they’ve been getting requests three or four times a week for permission to re-use their Plain English videos. The solution they decided on was licensing them for corporate and eductional use.

Common Craft now sells licenses for high-quality, downloadable versions of their explanatory videos. All of their time working is now spent building out the library. Videos are licensed for under $20 for individual use and $350 for site-wide use, like on a company intranet. Commercial licensing, for use on public commercial websites, is the next option the company will be offering.

Of course the video content is available free to anyone online, but Common Craft says that many companies feel far more comfortable paying for official permission to use high quality, unbranded versions. There’s certainly no DRM involved. “People want to do the right thing if they know the rules,” Lee LeFever says. “Our challenge is to educate people about how we expect our videos to be used. We’re lucky to have fans that feel good about supporting us with their purchases. Given limited resources, we would rather spend time educating people on the right thing to do than trying to make the wrong things impossible.”

It’s great to hear that Common Craft have turned what was once an interesting hobby into a  successful business model and I’m sure their back catalogue of ‘PLain English’ videos will continue to help and inspire all of those grappling with the complexities of social computing.

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