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Enterprise Social Networking is Transforming Corporate Learning

July 23, 2010, Ben Willis -

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with several Learning and HR executives, and the talk quickly turned to Learning 2.0. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. A decade or so ago, it took Saba and other industry pioneers quite a bit of time and effort simply to get people’s attention about the benefits of e-Learning and Learning management. A few years ago when we extended our core capabilities to include “Learning 2.0″ notions like Wikis, discussion forums, and communities of practice, the market did not immediately catch on. But lately our ideas about Learning 2.0 have been spreading amazingly quickly, so we take this as encouraging news.

The biggest questions for these executives were around risk and timing. They wanted to know how other organizations were dealing with questions of risk and where the industry was on the bell curve for the implementation of Learning 2.0 solutions. I responded with some questions of my own: How much of their employees’ Learning takes place informally? How much interaction goes on through unsanctioned, consumer-oriented tools? Considering the large, untapped potential out there and the considerable risk involved in allowing unsanctioned Social software to be unknowingly used, after not too much discussion it became clear that the time to act has arrived. Today the questions are not, “Should we do this?” or “When should we do this?” Instead, these executives are interested in Learning “How do we do this?”

A short sidebar: We at Saba regard Learning 2.0 as the application of enterprise Social networking concepts to transform Learning. In the new paradigm, learners no longer passively receive formal e-Learning, but instead actively participate in the Learning process by providing and sharing information within a group. Through user-generated content and the dissemination of collective intelligence, learners are making their knowledge increasingly useful and relevant to one another’s needs.

There will be an increased focus on providing people the tools and connections they need to do their jobs well, and on fostering a corporate culture that values collaboration and knowledge sharing. By the way, the role of being a community manager or facilitator fits well with the capabilities most Learning organizations already possess – and will probably fall into their areas of responsibility. But this role will certainly require innovative new ways of thinking about Learning and of Learning itself.

What I took as a good sign from these conversations is that like the concept of learners being an active part of the Learning process, these executives were taking an active part in thinking about how Learning 2.0 can transform their companies for the better. We may be at the early stages of this next phase in Learning, but I think we can all expect these conversations will lead to new opportunities for Learning leaders and positive changes for our organizations