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The Role Of Communities In Learning

August 27, 2008

I was interested to read an article in the GeoLearning newsletter regarding the growing role of ‘Communities of Practice’ in the overall learning process. They observe: “Communities of Practice (a.k.a. CoPs) exist all around us whether we realize it or not. Whether a group of parents sharing ideas on bedtime rituals for toddlers, or more formal knowledge sharing in the workplace, CoPs are a way to share what you know and to learn from others.”

This is of course an area that has been recognized at IACCM for several years and has generated some remarkable results fdor those who participate in our assessment and training programs. The ‘on-line communities’ that feature as part of our managed learning solution have proven effective in raising the value and contribution of staff groups not only as a result of  the training, but during the learning experience.

IACCM’s networked groups operate at two levels. One is within the company team or function undertaking the web-based training. This is enabled through both message boards (mentored and overseen by IACCM experts, as well as internal experts) and live webcasts. But the IACCM use of communities goes further. Our 10,000+ members are also divided into ‘communities of practice’ and act as an instant research base. So when we are not sure about the right answers, we have instant recourse to an amazing body of knowledge – supplementd where necessary by our experienced research staff.

I have to agree with GeoLearning when they say “Communities of practice that are technology-enabled take the idea of managed learning to a whole new level. A Web-based collaboration tool … can power CoPs with a rich set of discussion tools that enable users to wrap conversations around content.” But in our experience, the potential benefits go much further. Those conversations can become the driver for visible and immediate change and improvement. IACCM member companies have recorded rapid savings and cost improvements as a direct result of the ideas and research generated from the interactions during a learning program.

So why isn’t everyone leaping at the opportunity? Once again, the limiting factor is primarily the reluctance that many have to see technology as a key tool in personal and organizational development. This is especially true of the older generation that primarily make up senior management and senior professionals – the types of people who need to support such programs with both the decision to implement and a readiness to act within them as mentors and experts.

Communities have an energising and potentially transformational role in the learning process. Unfortunately, for many companies, it seems they will have to wait for the Facebook generation to rise to the top before they will understand the benefits and move to effective deployment.

  1. Right, the role of communities in learning is important. Having a technology-enabled learning may take managed learning to a whole new level. It will make things more manageable, easier access, more participant thus more learners, more people to interact with. As they say, two heads are better than one. This can surely go a long way in learning.

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  1. Enough with the hype already! - Collaborative Learning

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