Last week I posted that Formal learning doesn’t need to be all that formal. My argument was that well-designed formal interventions can extend beyond the confines of the course to include elements that would normally be regarded as 70 or 20 in the 70:20:10 model or experiential, on-demand or non-formal in the model I present in The New Learning Architect.
Learning professionals have no real difficulty in supporting the formal element of their work, i.e. providing access to courses. This is what they have always done and this is what others expect them to be doing. With the increasing awareness of the importance of informal learning, in all its guises, it is not surprising, therefore, that learning professionals should seek to broaden their scope by enriching their blends with coaching, practical work assignments, performance support materials and so on. And the tools that they already have at their disposal, in the form of learning management systems and virtual learning environments, allow them to do this with varying degrees of success.
So let’s leave to one side the formal delivery of learning interventions, where there seems to be a clear path forward for the learning profession. The challenge is supporting and encouraging learning as it occurs on a day-to-day basis, well beyond the formal curriculum.
Over the past few months I’ve been looking at a number of tools that might just help learning professionals to make a positive contribution in this area; tools that provide an infrastructure to support informal learning. The first I want to examine is Saba’s new PeopleCloud. My challenge is to see whether it can make a difference across all four learning contexts:
Formal learning occurs through courses
As you would expect from one of the world’s major LMS providers, Saba PeopleCloud does provide extensive support for formal learning. However, there is a key difference. Here, LMS functionality is provided within the context of your principal day-to-day tool for learning, knowledge-sharing and collaboration, not the other way round.
This is important because it means that the social elements of formal blended solutions can be supported using everyday tools which don’t require you to log into an LMS and learn a whole new set of conventions. A learning cohort becomes just another PeopleCloud group.
Non-formal learning provides development outside the context of formal courses
PeopleCloud allows you to set your own goals (including learning goals), although these can also be set by your manager or by the organisation as standard practice. You could then be supported in meeting those goals through YouTube-style video channels, communities of practice, shared content, webinars run using Saba Meetings, and so on. It is also possible to establish mentoring relationships and set up activities to support these.
On-demand learning occurs at the point of need
PeopleCloud provides an alternative, social intranet where knowledge can be shared in the form of content, news feeds or through social interaction, both synchronous (chat and live meetings) and asynchronous (forums and groups). There’s also a facility to track down an expert.
Experiential learning occurs through job experience
Experiential learning can be accelerated by providing employees with opportunities to have more varied and challenging job experiences and then encouraging learning through reflection. While not currently a feature, Saba will be integrating workforce planning into PeopleCloud, which should help to support job rotation and enrichment. The functionality of PeopleCloud will also support action learning and blogging, which help to maximise what is learned through experience.
One feature I definitely like in PeopleCloud is the People Quotient (PQ), which measures the contribution that an employee makes to the community. You can raise your PQ by earning badges or by commendations from your peers. This ‘gamifies’ the process of social learning to some extent and provides the recognition you might just need to encourage you to move from being a ‘lurker’ to an active contributor.
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