Archive for February, 2007

Social networks and the future of collaborative learning

istock_000001563316small.jpgLast week IBM announced their plans to launch a range of social software tools for the corporate market called Lotus Connections. It seems the same technology that underpins the success of MySpace and Facebook will soon become a tool for L&D professionals to use for learning programs and knowledge sharing within their organizations. 

The New York Times sums up the product as such: “Lotus Connections has five components — activities, communities, dogear (a bookmarking system), profiles and blogs — aimed at helping experts within a company connect and build new relationships based on their individual needs. This is the first business-grade application that will bring the tools teenagers use into the corporate world, knitting together blogs, feeds, communities, networking tools like profiles, and bookmarks into one easy to use package. The tools will be available on one platform, thus facilitating better collaboration between remote teams and networks based around shared interests and skill-sets.” 

 So what might this mean for e-learning designers? Essentially it’s an opportunity to adapt our methods to develop learning programs that give new people entering the workforce the business-grade equivalent of the tools and experiences they already use and like for finding information and learning new things. Interesting times ahead. 


Podcasting – enhancing organisational communication and learning

mp3.JPGPodcasting is getting lots of coverage of late as communication managers look at how they can harness ‘social networking’ to improve organisational communication.

IBM recently commenced using podcasts for a weekly online program called “Shortcuts” which helps employees make the most of digital tools. It’s an interesting blend of communication and learning in a very neat package.

Ben Edwards, IBM’s head of new media communications, was interviewed in The Business Communicator (September 2006) and put forward some helpful tips on how to use podcasts effectively. Here’s the gist of what he said.

Step 1: Create a few ground rules

Consider what tools you’ll use and think about self-publishing. Set out guidelines and expectations as you would for company blogs or wikis.

Step 2: Don’t make it too professional

 A hallmark of the podcast is the DIY aspect and its creativity. So keep content “home-made” sounding. Don’t script or overproduce. Try and capture informal conversation with real people saying real things.

Step 3: Podcasting isn’t a one-off

To build relationships you have to have a real voice. Don’t think of podcasts as one-off recordings, but rather as your own radio or television station. To help IBM managers engage with the podcasting tool they gave out 38,000 mp3 players. (Yes, we appreciate not every company can splash out like that!)

Step 4: Have fun when you’re making them

Jump in and get started. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to discover audiences that really want to listen. But it’s important to keep podcasts as short as possible. IBM started doing 15-minute ones and are now looking to bring them down to two minutes. People want as much information in as short a time as possible.

As an aside, in early 1990s the Evolve team played around with a project called “Manager Radio” where we produced 10 minute talkback radio style programs for company managers and distributed them on rather clunky audio cassettes. People enjoyed the message, but always found the medium a bit average. A reminder to this day that you need to get the message and medium right for effective communication and learning….