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Futures Reflection

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  • 1. Futures Reflection How Social Learning Platforms can Improve Performance Suzie Rose October 30, 2009 Current Trends and Issues in Instructional Technology
  • 2. Introduction Currently, I am a graduate student in the Information and Learning Technologies program with an emphasis on instructional design and adult learning at the University of Colorado at Denver. I am also an instructional designer and developer with a telecommunications company that provides cable, Internet, and telephone services to designated areas within the United States. My company currently trains its new employees through a two to four week instructor- led program. We are converting our instructor-led curriculum to e-learning using traditional authoring tools such as Captivate, Presenter, and Sum Total. This automates the curriculum, helps us save time, and allows us to reach learners in varying locations (Knight, 2009). As a learning-technology leader, I play a fundamental role in this transition and am consistently looking for new methods and ideas to improve my workplace and work culture. This Futures Reflection assignment allows me to view emerging technology from a unique and purposeful perspective. It challenges me to analyze the technology and determine how it can work for me, and how it will impact my life in five years. Futures Forecast – Life Five Years from Now – 2014 I’m sitting in the back of a classroom in St. Louis. Another day, another business trip. I do miss the comfort of my own bed, but I have to say, seeing my ideas come to fruition is so rewarding. I see small groups of employees sitting around a computer, some are sitting around the equipment we sell. People are effortlessly moving from one group to another, taking notes and participating in the conversations. The instructor is circulating the room looking for signs that she is needed and offering suggestions. The class bonded quickly. On the first day of class, everyone was quiet; this is always expected. But as we introduced exciting tools and collaboration projects, the class began to socialize and share ideas. They’re laughing and pointing out cool things to each other; they’re sharing knowledge without even realizing it! And the best part is, their jobs are easier and more fun once they leave the safety of the training room. Because they have control over what they learn, they do not lose interest, retain more information, and perform better.
  • 3. It’s hard to believe that at one time, my company was running to catch up with e- learning technologies; we were always just one step behind. During our mad dash to catch up with the industry, save time and money by automating training, and improve the learning experience for our employees, we realized that traditional e-learning wasn’t necessarily the answer. Seeing that the industry was moving on to bigger and better things just as we were catching up to e-learning, I gave my manager a new idea. Instead of converting our instructor led courses to e-learning courses, why don’t we skip ahead and grab the next new thing: social learning platforms. She loved it. I spent nearly a year reorganizing our file management structure and documenting our content in various ways. I researched the different social learning platforms that were available such as SocialText and Mzinga. I chose a platform with data privacy and security, and started moving our content to it. However, instead of uploading manuals or e-learning courses, I loaded the content in personalized and interactive forums such as interactive websites with avatar guides. This helped participants chose their own path to the content. I created a database of employees so they could create custom profiles and blogs. I also created wiki workspaces, blog depots, podcasts, videos, and interactive games to guide participants to the relevant content. This platform supports the exploratory instructional architecture defined by Ruth Clark (2008) by offering media-rich learning resources, effective navigational interfaces, and a high level of learner control. We are also able to accommodate learners who prefer a guided discovery instructional architecture through collaboration, simulation, and the opportunity to learn from their peers and their mistakes (Clark, 2008). As I created our social learning platform, my department analyzed the proficiencies an employee would need to perform their job well. They identified the “nice to know” information and eliminated it; that was a huge relief! They developed a list of competencies and timeframes in which the participants would need to achieve these competencies.
  • 4. When we combined the competency goals with the social learning platform, we found the perfect marriage. Of course it was a rough transition, but now we’re a leader in corporate instructional design, and other companies want us to build their social learning platforms! Our sales are up over 10%, project management duration has improved by 25%, we have shorter training durations, and we’ve reduced email by over 30% (Socialtext, 2009). Statistics are great; they tell us if we’re on the right track. But the most exciting part of this experience is seeing the learners embrace what they’re learning. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m conducting research for a presentation that compares the learning environment and performance success of employees who were trained before the social learning platform, and those who were trained after its implementation. I used to see employees sitting through training just to collect a paycheck. Now I see participants engaged and active! New Hire training is now more participative, social, and collaborative (Knight, 2009). They can now blog, micro-blog, use RSS feeds, share files, communicate, and collaborate all through one platform (Knight, 2009). They share their knowledge with one another and create a collaborative learning environment that spills over to our culture. We have less attrition, higher quality assurance scores, and employees report a higher sense of job satisfaction. Most classes (like the one I am observing) are still classroom-based and instructor led. We spend the first portion of the class time teaching the students how to use the platform. We show them the tools that are available to them, expose them to the competencies they must fulfill, and offer guidance and support. We focus on empowering individuals to be competent in their own learning (Karrer, 2006). The instructor facilitates activities and is always available to help. Instructors must observe participants’ behaviors so they can identify situations where they need to offer guidance.
  • 5. The only difference between our classroom environments and distance learning is that the participants all connect to one another through webinars. We use web cams to increase the social aspect of the training. All participants access the webinar from their permanent workstation at the same time and use the social learning platform together. With the use of blogs and micro-blogs, they are able to learn in a large group or small groups. However, the need for self-contained learning delivered in sequence still exists (Karrer, 2006). We use traditional e-learning to deliver compliance training, safety courses, and basic skills. To comply with legal regulations, we must deliver compliance and safety training to each employee in the same way. We also use traditional e-learning or blended learning to help participants gain background knowledge and relevant content knowledge. This ensures that the exploratory and guided discovery instructional architectures are used successfully (Clark, 2008). I’ve collected enough data and observational context to compile a phenomenal report about the success of our social learning platform. Now that we’re ahead of the curve, I can take one brief moment to breath, and then it’s time to look for the next big thing again! Reflecting Thoughts Although the tools and platforms already exist, we are not currently using them. This assignment gave me the opportunity to research emerging technology and made me think critically about what my company is doing, and what we can do. I chose to discuss social learning platforms because I believe in their usefulness. Social networking has already captured the world and people use sites like Face Book and Twitter daily. It’s only natural for us to try to harness the engaging aspects of these networks. With some thought, time, and planning, we can make learning more interactive, more exploratory, and more meaningful. I plan to use the information I discovered while writing this paper to influence my management staff to pay greater attention to technology. My goal is to fully integrate adult learning theory, instructional design practices, and technological advancements to improve the training we deliver. I want my company to be the leader rather than the follower.
  • 6. References Clark, Ruth. (2008). Building Expertise. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. Karrer, Tony. (2006, August). Course and Courseware Fading Future of eLearning. Retrieved October 30, 2009 from eLearning Technology: http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2006/08/course-and-courseware-fading-future- of.html. Knight, Jane. (2009, April). The future of e-learning is social learning. Retrieved October 30, 2009 from Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies: http://janeknight.typepad.com/pick/2009/04/the-future-of-elearning-is-social- learning.html. Socialtext. (2009). Retrieved October 30, 2009 from Socialtext: http://www.socialtext.com/index.php.