a corporation only 30% of learning is handled formally through courses,
workshops and the like - 70% of learning is informal. How can organizations
support informal learning?
working professionals one of the most valued forms of learning is peer-to-peer
sharing of "war stories", lessons learned, experiential problem
solving, and best practices. How can organizations support peer-to-peer
large and small, is seeking to increase participation rates and enable greater
public input into decision making. How can government enable grassroots
participation through online social networks that support democratic practice
and public service?
(K-12, post-secondary, and corporate) over the past few years has been almost
exclusively focused on formal learning - online courses, modules, and units
that are tested and marked. Missing has been attention to the social/cultural
aspects of learning.
a physical facility you have hallway conversations with friends, impromptu
study groups in the library, philosophical debates at the pub. These encounters
and exchanges are essential elements of the learning process. How can
e-learning based education support the social/cultural aspects of learning?
every organization has a web site these days. Web sites are top down push of
prepackaged, approved content out to the masses. How can organizations
supplement static web sites with dynamic online environments that enable market
pull, that allow clients and end users to have a voice, add value, and visibly
contribute to the culture/business of an organization?
answer to all of the above questions is through Online Communities.
communities leverage the web for what it does best - enabling connections,
networking and exchange between people.
emphasis on formal learning and prepackaged top down pushed content has sucked
the life out of web experience. Online communities put the juice back in and go
a long way to satisfying the market pull side of online learning.
a complement to static web sites online communities focus attention on
user/client needs - a kind of informal Client Relationship Management (CRM)
idea is simple but potent. Imagine if you enabled your user base (clients,
employees, members, students) to form an affiliated online community to
network, explore ideas, discuss issues, and learn from each other. Rather than
a top down push of structure and content the users themselves are empowered to
define the online community, actively participate, and contribute content to
the community in an open way.
are several powerful and motivating forces behind online communities. The first
is grassroots self-publish. Online communities welcome and invite end user
input. Users can publish comments, documents, suggestions, questions. Content
in a community organically emerges and is CO-constructed as opposed to the
scripted and prescribed content pablum of most web sites and e-learning.
second motivating force is people contact. As we surf, search, and generally
explore the web virtually every site we visit is closed and anonymous. Web
sites and e-learning lack human habitation. Who else is on that site when we
are there? Why are they there? What do they have to contribute? Is there anyone
I can talk to? Online communities make people on the web visible.
third motivating force is motivating factor is influence. Participants in
online communities have a voice and means to influence. Lively online
communities take polls, seek advice, conduct brainstorms, discuss issues. Users
can actively and directly affect business, events, and lives.
seen the reality shows on TV where the audience gets to vote as part of the
"live" event? For example the recently launched show "Last Comic
Standing" has the audience voting on which comic is the funniest (who gets
to stay and continue on), and which is the least funniest (who then has to
leave and is eliminated). This kind of polling and audience involvement in
determining the outcome of "live" events started on the web and is
amplified, and implemented with far more panache than TV, in online
concept of online communities have actually been around for a while. Online
communities have long been considered an element of Knowledge Management (KM)
practice. The Online Community Report http://www.onlinecommunityreport.com
has tracked the history and evolution of online communities since 1997. Its a
great source of information on all aspects of online communities including;
business, finance, software, legal, events, jobs, articles, resources,
innovations and features.
Jim Cashel's current feature, Top
Ten Trends for Online Communities you can't help but feel the wear and tear
online communities have taken as a business. But, if "user popularity of
online communities continues to swell" as Jim says, the market will have
its way, successful business models will take hold.
a personal note I confess to being one of those swelling numbers of online
community adopters. Over the past few years I've become increasingly immersed
in online community building. Its exciting!
see online communities emerging from the narrow niches and basic functionality
of the past to more robust and fully engaging environments. I'm convinced
online communities will become widespread and an essential element of every
organization's web site and every e-learning implementation.
now you're probably saying "let me see one."
communities can be open or closed. There are lots of sites to choose from but
Guitarists.net is a good introduction as an open Online Guitar Community.
I recently came back from Lisbon where I was helping host and produce the World
Education Market's Online Community, (see http://www.wemex.com)
during their annual live conference event.
online communities have what I think of as their "secret sauce". What
is the Secret Sauce?
can't say - its a secret. But, I invite you to explore the above community
examples and by sampling, investigate for yourself each communities secret
driving questions around secret sauce are:
draws people to an online community?
supports and incites participation in an online community?
constitutes a valuable contribution?
keeps people coming back?
answers to these questions relate as much to the skills of the online community
host, producer, coordinator or steward, as they do to the underlying online
particularly useful source of ideas on secret sauce ingredients is the book
"Cultivating Communities of Practice" by Etienne Wenger, Richard
McDermott and William Snyder (Harvard Business School Press, 2002). http://www.cultivatingcommunities.com
Essential reading for all online community builders.
l ook forward to interacting with you in an Online Community.
Stacey, is an e-learning specialist in corporate and higher education working
in Simon Fraser University's
eLearning Innovation Centre (eLINC). Paul helps host & produce LearningTimes
an online community for education professionals. Contact: Paul
What Do You Think? Talk Back To Paul
opinionated monthly column exploring the current use, future potential, and
commercial value of e-learning in BC’s high tech sector.
Archive: an index and links to all the E-learning columns Paul has written
for T-Net going back to April 2000.