How to Plan and Launch a Learning Community

There are a number of elements to consider when you are planning to launch a learning community. First things first: to ensure participation organize your learning community around some startegic initiative in your organization; and define clear roles and responsibilities for the community facilitator, users, and sponsor.

While designing an online collaborative experience, besides identifying the learning objectives of the course, selecting the contents, preparing the learning materials, setting up the communication system, it is important that the instructional designer devotes special attention to the creation of the learning community and to its social structure: this includes identifying the most effective strategies and techniques to be enacted in order to promote the collaboration among the actors, designing how to organize groups and sub-groups in the various phases of the activities, and defining the most appropriate modalities of interaction, etc.

I like the approach of the Learning Labs and Innovation. I suggest that you start with launching a prototype. Use an iterative design and development approach as a vehicle for communication and requirements definition/refinement. In this approach the participants provide input and ideas to the evolution of the design. This approach helps users to conceive of how a solution could work, particularly from a user interface point of view. Ultimately, as iterations conclude, incorporate the user feedback into the overall design. At this point a pilot may or may not be executed as a means of fine tuning the whole solution before launch. This method would be a perfect opportunity to test the more intangible aspects of the design such as usability, change readiness, barriers to adoption, implementation timing, methods, required support, and integration with other aspects of change.

Why Building Learning Communities

When put into a learning context, communities provide an environment for connecting people to other people’s stories and experiences, as well as mentoring, all of which result in better and faster learning and the sharing of tacit knowledge within an organization.

When creating collaborative learning communities, it is important to consider more than just the technology. The first step is to clarify the business objectives and how your strategy translates into group and individual competency requirements. From there, learning objectives may be defined that support competency gaps.

In summary learning communities can offer their members:

    Learning and capacity development (empowering employees to take charge of their own learning and development)
    Create opportunities for informal learning
    Staff Interacting with experts
    Exchange of knowledge and resources
    Enabling the emergence of best practices

It is clear to me that more and more organizations will start building communities into their business startegies. Although choosing a good platform is important, what really is going to matter is strategy, service, support, and know-how.

Life Style Learning: Improve the Bottom Line

According to a recent study by Accenture, organizations that focus strongly on interpersonal skills learning are on average 27 percent more productive and have 40 percent higher revenue growth than their competitors.

In-depth knowledge and the required skill sets are necessary conditions for success and promotion; however, most successful people have certain personalty traits and practice a certain life style behavior that facilitates continuous growth and learning. The following are suggestions from the Harvard Business Review article titled “How The Best of Best Get Better and Better”, and Dr. Kenneth Nowack a licensed clinical psychologist:

  • being conscientious and achievement oriented
  • having a long term perspective
  • identifying and deploying hardwired talents and strengths
  • blocking out distractions
  • practicing forgiveness and redirecting anger to more constructive feelings
  • utilizing the support of others
  • seeking candid feedback
  • stretching development
  • reflecting on ways to improve and celebrating success
  • actively acknowledging stress and practicing stress reduction techniques
  • maintaining regular sleep cycles
  • taking time for physical activities

One of the first things required to be successful is self-awareness and the key to making self-awareness work is versatility. Research by Tracom found that managers who exhibited higher versatility were 27 percent better at leading teams and twenty five percent better at coaching others. With an increasingly global marketplace, the growing emphasis on social networking and connectivity, and the younger generation expectations from the workplace, more organizations are realizing the importance of team units. Therefore, interpersonal skills and working well with others is becoming more important in the emerging collaborative working environment. According to another Tracom study organizational, time management, and behavioral skills not only have a direct effect on the individual’s productivity, but also they are tied to improving bottom line successes.

Keeping this in mind learning organizations can leverage the work styles, choices, and techniques of their successful employees to improve the overall productivity of their work force.

Training Tips and Techniques

There are many techniques learning organizations can use to train employees on the self-awareness, versatility, and interpersonal skills necessary for workplace success.

  • techniques for putting the individuals in the right mindset for self-awareness
  • training and assessment of individuals work styles and personality traits; provide real life examples and how the materials and cases are related to their everyday work routine
  • building in metrics to monitor the behavioral change
  • celebrating and rewarding success at the specific achievement point
  • deploy relapse prevention strategies when necessary

Source: CLO Magazine