The Multiplier Effect

February 6, 2018

For those of us who work in online and social learning there’s that moment of pause when explaining what we do. On the one hand, “online” and “social” can still be associated with less rigorous learning experiences. At the same time, using “online” and “social” to qualify learning – kind of like we do when we use “mobile” or “blended” – seems unnecessary. This is because using a variety of methodologies to meet the needs of the digital workplace is simply the way learning is done in 2018.

One example of this combination is a community of practice (CoP), a vehicle for learning that leverages technology and that takes full advantage of the power of online and social learning. As a means for transferring knowledge, one could argue that CoPs have been around since the beginning, and certainly before the modern university. What I find so compelling about a community of practice is its inherent alignment. “Community” suggests a collaborative and supportive environment. “Practice” indicates an inherent focus or purpose. Purposeful collaboration? Sounds a lot like teamwork.

Let’s be clear, community is not a “fluffy” or academic term that has nothing to do with strategy, culture or innovation, the prerequisites for success in any business. We know that when a learning experience is successful, behavior/performance changes. We also know – based on long-standing research conducted by Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and others – learning is a social process and not something that occurs only in the learner’s mind. Taking a CoP approach to learning allows for the creation and sharing of knowledge in a visible and scalable way. In this way both the individual and the organization contribute to and benefit from the collective insights and skills of the community.

What kinds of internal environments do you have to share knowledge and access insights? What challenge is your team facing that you think could be overcome by taking a collective, problem-solving approach?

In a follow-up blog we will explore a very practical part of a CoP – user participation – and how fostering employee engagement using these kinds of environments can lead to improved performance in key aspects of your business.

For more on this CoP topic please see our earlier post: Community wit a capital C.


About the author

Stan’s first experience with instructional technology occurred in 1999 when he used SMART Boards to help employees learn how to use the Microsoft Office Suite. He then became an instructional designer and systems trainer for a variety of proprietary CRM software solutions. From there, Stan worked as a Training Manager and later as a Project Manager for an early leader in online education. As his experience with online learning grew, and as his understanding of the need to connect strategy with technology evolved, Stan began to focus on the relationship between blended learning and social business. It was these insights that attracted him to Jive and Pokeshot’s SmarterPath LMS the first time he saw it in 2012. Stan’s current role with the company not only allows him to support the sales, marketing, and product development teams, but it also allows him to work directly with customers as they implement SmarterPath. Prior to joining Pokeshot in October 2016, Stan spent several years working as a freelance consultant, successfully completing learning technology projects for such clients as Right Management, National University System and the U.S. Forest Service.

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