Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Training 3.0

These days it has become a fashion to write 2.0 for everything in life, and thus, I decided to write something beyond! But, is that so simple? Interestingly, while analyzing the training technologies of the past and the present, it so happened that training has actually traversed three stages, and here I outline these as follows:

Training 1.0 -- The classroom-based training: Here, essentially the trainer and the trainee meet face to face in the training room or the workplace. The trainer used a variety of tools and technologies to deliver training, including the use of Over Head Transparencies, Slides, PowerPoint, Multimedia CDs, and Computer-Based Training used in Instructor Lead situations. Training was cost and labour intensive, and most of the time difficult to assess the effectiveness of the training.

Training 2.0 -– The Online Training: This is the second-generation training, where training was delivered in a networked situation using Learning Management Systems (LMS), Knowledge Management System (KMS) and Employee Performance Support Systems (EPSS). Essentially, the systems used Internet or Intranet for the delivery of text, audio, video, multimedia, and animation supported by group and individual communication to facilitate learning. This kind of training, is normally referred as eLearning in the training industry and by the human resource development professionals, added enormous benefits to the training and development professionals in terms of cost cutting, and time saving, leading to increased return of investments. However, training effectiveness remained a question again, and institutions started looking at more informal approaches to conduct training for their employees.

Training 3.0 -- Informal Learning Online: Informal learning is sustainable, and less structured to interfere in the day-to-day work of the employees. So, Training 3.0 is all about creating an informal learning environment that is motivating as well as informative. It tries to utilize the employee’s individual interest and abilities to network amongst peer group to learn and share. As such, human beings are social animal, who are more interested in what others are doing, and they would like to learn from talking and discussing from each other. So, Training 3.0 is about use of the Social Media in training.

Social Media Technologies
There are various types of social media technologies that are available for use in training. Some of these are: Blogs, Wikis, and Social Networks. We will discuss these in the context of training, and how these emerging trends in training technologies are influencing the world of training and development professionals.

According to Technorati – a blog search engine, today there are over 133 million blogs in all knowledge domains, and there are about 900, 000 blog posting every 24 hours. A blog is a website maintained by an individual or a team to share personal reflection and activities. Of theses blogs about 12% are corporate blogs discussing issues related to a company. The blog is a personal space, where other users can provide comments and develop a network. Seventy three percent of bloggers use blog to share their expertise and experiences. Training and development professionals can use many free blog services available to create their own space, and also filter related blogs on the web and make these available to the employees to subscribe. The use of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) technology in the blogs make it simple for the users to be informed about new postings regularly. This become a rich learning source, and really does not require any special intervention by the training and development professional except identifying and informing the employees about relevant sources of blog or providing them an orientation on how to find relevant blogs. Some typical blog creation software are eBlogger, moveable type, Word press, Liverjournal, Apache Roller, etc.

Wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning quick quick. It is a quick way to create web pages without the knowledge of HTML. But, most importantly it is a collaborative platform to create and share knowledge. The most widely known wiki is Wikipedia, which runs on the Media Wiki software. Besides this, there are many other wiki platform such as the pb wiki, wikispaces, etc. A wiki platform provides an easy to use method to edit webpages, and link to multimedia resources. Having used the www.wikieducator.org platform supported by the Commonwealth of Learning for providing wiki skills training and development of self-learning materials, this author can personally tell about the utility of this simple technology to create content and make it available to employees for learning at very low cost (almost zero cost!). The wiki makes it possible to develop a collaborative space for learners/employees to share and discuss. It keeps a record of all activities on the wiki site, and thus, can be used to record both explicit and tacit knowledge. Installing a company wide wikispace is easy, if some server side technical help is available, or it can also be done in free sites available in abundance.

Social Networks
We all recognize the potentials of social networks in our day-to-day life. It is now possible through the use of technology platforms to do all kinds of socialization activities from sharing photos, and files to provide expert advice and guidance online. The most popular social networking sites are facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Ning. Interestingly, the social networking sites provide an integrated space for blogs, wikis, message boards, and file sharing facilities. It is really a cool place to be in for both socialization and learning. Using social network technologies individual employees can create their own network of professional ‘community of practice’. Organizations can create their own social networks involving employees, customers and all stakeholders through Open Source technologies like elgg.

What’s the Big Idea?
It’s ‘informal learning’! Training and Development (T&D) professionals need to be the change agent and change themselves first to become “Learning Professionals”. As Jay Cross tells in his blog, learning professionals of the future needs to focus on the following three core processes:

  • Facilitating collaborative work and learning in the organizations;
  • Sensing patterns to develop new work practices and solutions; and
  • Working with management to support and fund new ideas and processes.

All these can be done through adoption of a social media technology-based learning space. Today’s organizations need employees who are creative and can think and reflect about their work. Such a workforce can only be developed by transformation at the top level by an understanding of the ‘value of the crowd at the bottom’. So, the biggest challenge before the T&D professional is creating the informal learning space for the employees in the organizations, though technology is not a problem at all. The culture of the organization needs to change from a ‘Tour and Travel’ based training to a ‘Table-based Thinking’ through the use of social media technologies. The use of social media technologies would enable T&D professionals to develop a learning space that is open, participatory and development oriented rather than closed, top-down and training oriented (just training for the sake of training). In such a scenario, the training content becomes resources available online, but are not instructor-led. The learner/trainee/employee takes the initiative to learn and improve, finds experts who can support his/her learning, develop a learning and development path, and implement it through reading, reflecting, doing and reviewing. While all these are also done online, the tacit knowledge generated in the process by the individual is also recorded in the online system making it available to others. The learning path used by one employee for a problem becomes a guide to other future employees. In the learning process, the employee may use blogs of a number of peers and experts inside and outside the organization; chat and videoconference with them; post comments to their blogs and receive advise; create his/her own wikispaces using already available learning resources with Creative Commons licenses; and develop a network of his/her own in the organization as well as outside the world.

Thus, Training 3.0 believes in the following:

  • That the training we intend to provide to a group already exists in some or all of the group members;
  • That people learn better from each other in an informal setting than from a master trainer in a formal setting;
  • That learning is more sustainable when it is situated, contextual, just-in-time, and work-place based rather than at a laboratory/training room/ tourist resort;
  • That people learn best when they have a genuine need to learn and are motivated and interested to learn; and
  • That staff learn best when they take the responsibility of their own learning, without being constantly monitored by a supervisor.

So, a T&D professional who uses Training 3.0 strategies believes in the core principles above, and creates the online social network place for its stakeholders. How does it look like? Training does not happen in scheduled 9 to 5 sessions with its usual coffee/tea and lunch breaks. The T&D professional is now re-designated a the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) of the organization, who with the help of the information technology division sets up a social network site for the organization that becomes the learning gateway for all its employees. It also gives access to the customers/stakeholders of the organization to be a registered user of the social network, thereby making it an open system with access control for the internal members. Individual employees can create their own blogs and profile, set their own goals and learning path. The T&D professionals create groups, to which employees join as per their interest and contribute. They create their own learning resources and work manuals using the wikispaces. The social networking site becomes a space for interaction with the stakeholders of the organization leading to quick response time. Individual employees use the system to search and find resources outside the organization, and create bookmarks and links on the organizational social network thereby adding more content to the network and making the system content rich. In such a learning space, even if an employee joins another organization, the content generated by him/her remains their for others to use while the employee may move on and still continue to update the social networking site of the earlier organization as a professional stakeholder from outside. The social networking site can be used for employee performance and review as we can relate the performance of the individual to the training efforts made. This will also solve the problem of training effectiveness, as we can quantify the time and efforts made vis-a-vis the individual and organizational gains. The system can also take care of the Training 2.0 scenarios to help T&D professionals organize occasional online training sessions/courses as required due to new initiatives and developments in the organizational supra system.

Training technologies are developing fast. New training technologies are now available almost everyday. However, in most organizations the T&D professionals need to adapt to the changing scenario, and the top management need to facilitate the change. It is through the appropriate deployment of technologies that we can leverage its power. A technology used inappropriately is as good as not having it. Thus, it is important to think of strategy first than the technology. A philosophical stand/vision on how the top management views the importance of learning and the need for empowering its employees is of paramount importance to the T&D professionals. With the new set of tools and technologies available to us in Training 3.0, it is possible to take organizations in the direction of its stated objectives. T&D professionals would lead in the new age learning organizations, if they use Social Media Technologies!

Note: This blog post has been selected for Certificate of Merit by the Indian Society for Training and Development in the Emerging Thinkers Awards Category in 2009.

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