Communities of Learning in Organizational TrainingThe influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communicationbe...
Knowledge is a key                                              resource in maintaining                                   ...
Learning is an interactive process where participants withdiverse backgrounds collaboratively create knowledge withinsocia...
Communities of                                       Learning (CoL)                                    http://www.pedrodel...
Hierarchical Positions                                                       and their Impact on                          ...
VS.                                                              http://monkeybrandz.com/wp-                              ...
Research Hypotheses
• occupying high-level positions within an organization  provides individuals with an intrinsic attraction to lower  level...
• lower level management focuses on:   – sharing factual information     (Bird, 1994)   – “integrating into the group”    ...
• the centrality of some participants is linked to their  performance on the job  (Sparrowe, Liden, Wayne, & Kraimer, 2001...
Setting• online training program of a large international  organization• 14 weeks of online learning• 25 CoL   – 249 parti...
InstrumentsI.     Social Network Analysis        a.    In-Degree Measures        b.    (normalized) Freeman Degree Central...
Conclusions• Read Networks  equally distributed• Reply Networks  significant differences in  participants’ network behav...
Recommendations• scaffolding activities that structure the learning and  interaction processes of participants  (e.g. Beer...
rehm@merit.unu.edu
Communities of Learning in Organizational Training: The influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communication...
Communities of Learning in Organizational Training: The influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communication...
Communities of Learning in Organizational Training: The influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communication...
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Communities of Learning in Organizational Training: The influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communication behaviour and learning processes

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Driven by today’s knowledge economy, many organizations have started looking for innovative methods to train their staff (Yamnill & MacLean, 2001). In this context, online Communities of Learning (CoL) have received a growing amount of attention among practitioners and researchers alike (Rehm, 2009). Yet, despite positive business showcases, empirical research on collaborative (learning) activities has only yielded mixed results (e.g. Simons, Pelled, & Smith, 1999). Moreover, past research on collaborative online communities has either not considered data from real organizations (Edmondson, 2002), or neglected participants’ hierarchical position as a major obstacle to collaborative learning processes (Romme, 1996). The present study addresses these shortcomings by providing empirical evidence from 25 CoL of an online training program that was being implemented for 249 staff members of a global organization. Each CoL consisted of 7 – 13 participants, from different hierarchical positions, who collaboratively enhanced their knowledge via asynchronous discussion forums.
Using social network analysis (Strijbos, Martens, Prins, & Jochems, 2006), we computed participants’ in- and out-degree ties, as well as centrality scores to determine their communication behaviour within CoL. Additionally, based on the content analysis scheme developed by Veerman & Veldhuis-Diermanse (2001), we assessed the level of participants’ contributions.
Our empirical results clearly indicate that hierarchical positions are transferred into the virtual realm and that higher level management plays an important role in CoL. More specifically, participants from higher up the hierarchical ladder held more central positions and contributed a higher amount of task-related messages than their colleagues. Taken together, these insights provide valuable input for future CoL. Considering that hierarchical positions have a significant impact on CoL, HRD practitioners can design collaborative activities that foster the active exchange of information, and device facilitation strategies that encourage an active participation of all members of a CoL.

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Communities of Learning in Organizational Training: The influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communication behaviour and learning processes

  1. 1. Communities of Learning in Organizational TrainingThe influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on communicationbehaviour and learning processes Martin Rehm, Wim Gijselaers, Mien Segers EARLI - SIG 14 2012, Antwerp August 2012
  2. 2. Knowledge is a key resource in maintaining competitive advantage (e.g. Argote & Ingram, 2000)http://www.absolutewealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/78485951.jpg
  3. 3. Learning is an interactive process where participants withdiverse backgrounds collaboratively create knowledge withinsocial networks (Hakkarainen, Palonen, Paavola, & Lehtinen, 2004). & http://www.hso.co.uk/leased-lines/wp-content/http://interactivity.ifactory.com/wp-content/ images/leased-line-employees-vectormen-uploads/2010/05/team_effort.jpg connected-istock000008331937-500x333.jpg
  4. 4. Communities of Learning (CoL) http://www.pedrodelemos.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/ 02/online_webinar.jpg• groups of people “engaging in collaborative learning and reflective practice involved in transformative learning” (Paloff and Pratt, 2003, p. 17)BUT• “the microcontext of concrete dialogical relationships cannot be understood without some concept of macroframes” (Hermans, 2001, p. 264).
  5. 5. Hierarchical Positions and their Impact on Online Learning Networkshttp://2.bp.blogspot.com/_BUuJl3ajKKs/SzjGsIU3QMI/AAAAAAAAAO8/er4WQCkpLuE/s400/birdstory.jpg
  6. 6. VS. http://monkeybrandz.com/wp- content/uploads/2011/09/conan-obrian- http://digixav.files.wordpress.com/2012/0 with-monkey-on-your-back.jpg 2/anonymous-suit.png “deindividuation” “monkey on your back”(Weisband, Schneider, & Connolly, 1995, p. 1125) (e.g. Sutton, Neale, & Owens, 2000)
  7. 7. Research Hypotheses
  8. 8. • occupying high-level positions within an organization provides individuals with an intrinsic attraction to lower level management (Casciaro, 1998)• all organizational learning processes are subject to the influence of a dominant individual or group of individuals (Holmqvist, 2009, p. 279) Participants’ network measures will be positively related to their hierarchical position (H1 & 2)
  9. 9. • lower level management focuses on: – sharing factual information (Bird, 1994) – “integrating into the group” (Sutton, Neale, & Owens, 2000, p. 16)• higher level management is: – driven by their experience & apply newly gained knowledge to their working environments (Arts, Gijselaers, & Boshuizen, 2006) – “[…] stimulat[ing] knowledge creation at lower levels of the organization” (Bird, 1994, pp. 332-333) Participants amount of cognitive communication will be positively related to their hierarchical position. (H3 & 4)
  10. 10. • the centrality of some participants is linked to their performance on the job (Sparrowe, Liden, Wayne, & Kraimer, 2001)• the cognitive level of communication is positively related to an individual’s position within a learning network (Russo & Koesten, 2005) Participants’ cognitive level of contributions will be positively related to their network measures (H5 & 6)
  11. 11. Setting• online training program of a large international organization• 14 weeks of online learning• 25 CoL – 249 participants  ~ 10 participants per CoL – Hierarchical Positions: 82 “Low”, 93 “Middle”, 74 “High”• asynchronous discussions forums: – Café-Talk – Content-Related (real-life tasks)
  12. 12. InstrumentsI. Social Network Analysis a. In-Degree Measures b. (normalized) Freeman Degree Centrality  Read-networks & Reply-networks (Daradoumis, Martínez-Monés, & Xhafa, 2004)II. Content Analysis a. Veerman & Veldhuis-Diermanse (2001)  Schellens and Valcke (2005) b. non-task related (social communication) vs. task related (cognitive communication)III. Two-Step Cluster Analysis
  13. 13. Conclusions• Read Networks  equally distributed• Reply Networks  significant differences in participants’ network behaviour and position based on: – hierarchical position – cognitive level of contributions  anyone can take a leading role in CoL, if they get the chance to share their content expertise
  14. 14. Recommendations• scaffolding activities that structure the learning and interaction processes of participants (e.g. Beers, Boshuizen, Kirschner, & Gijselaers, 2005; Weinberger & Fischer, 2006)• counterbalance the impact of hierarchical positions by asking facilitators to foster a (more) active exchange of information between all CoL members
  15. 15. rehm@merit.unu.edu

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