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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Learning Circuits Blog: How Do We Get Learning Professionals to Blog?

How do we get learning professionals to blog?

This is the new question at the ASTD Learning Circuits’ blog. My thoughts:

For the Pre-Learning Professional:
As a professor of instructional technology…I have a leg up. I can have a direct impact on providing soon-to-be learning professionals with an opportunity to learn how to blog. I can, and have, introduced it to my classes and encourage students to sign up for a blog and to become active. Next semester it will be a requirement, every student will blog…at least for a month.

So one thing that can be done is introduce these new Web 2.0 technologies into the academic programs for learning professionals. This is not as easy or as straightforward as it seems. I once, at a national conference, asked a well-known person who spoke about methods for effective e-learning how many e-learning courses they taught and the answer?...“None.” Here was a learning “professional” advising others about e-learning when they were not teaching e-learning themselves…disturbing.

So how many professors of instructional design, instructional technology or professional training curriculums are blogging and thus sharing that knowledge and experience with their students? I would argue—not enough. Maybe (I said maybe) every learning professional shouldn’t be blogging but every professional who is teaching learning professionals should be blogging. We need to introduce pre-professionals to the tools that help facilitate learning in their organizations.

For those already in the field:
While there are many people in the learning profession, not all are professionals in the field of learning and development. We have no central credentialing agency like doctors or lawyers or even CISCO Technicians…so anyone who is conducting training in an organization can be labeled a learning professional (possible subject for a future “Big Question”).

Many people do not have formal degrees in the field, do not have training in the field and are simply passing through the field. These individuals may not care about technologies and learning and development as much as those of us who are vested in the field. So it is unlikely that we will get everyone in the field to blog.

However, for those who do care, we (the profession) need to offer professional development opportunities at conferences (national, regional and local) just as we do for e-learning. We need to publish articles on the topic, publicize case studies and provide learning opportunities for those who want to learn about blogging and incorporate it into their organizations. Maybe have certificates…conduct workshops. Train trainers.

For the blogging community:
As someone relatively new to blogging, the blogosphere does not make it easy (although I do appreciate all of Tony Karrer’s tips and ideas about blogging.) All the terms RSS, Permalink, trackback, etc. make it difficult for a learning professional— already pressed for time—to jump into the blogging process. Most learning professionals are barely treading water. Some are just now learning about e-learning.

If we want more learning professionals to blog, we have to make it easier both technologically and conceptually. We need to put blogging into terms that learning professionals can understand. We need to make an effort to train and evangelize the Web 2.0 tools if we truly think they are important. We need to under take efforts to let others know about organizations who have successfully utilized these technologies.

Blogs in Organizations:
One interesting comment by David Wilkins concerned how useful it would be to have every learning professional in an organization blogging for personal growth. While organizations would not benefit from every learning professional blogging for personnel growth, they would (and do) benefit from having technical, engineering and sales experts blogging.

Learning professionals should blog (at least for a month) so they know how and when to enable blogging for internal experts. Learning professionals should be blog enablers…teach subject matter experts when and how to blog. As an example, several pharmaceutical companies I am working with are considering blogging for the sharing of knowledge in therapeutic areas. Those learning professionals will not themselves be blogging, but helping others who have the medical expertise to blog (after they work out tons of legal issues…if that’s possible.) And there are other examples:

In my upcoming book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning (Pfeiffer, April 2007), I chronicle several companies that are using blogs successfully, here are some exerts:

Dr. Pepper/7 UP, Verizon and Hartford Financial Services Group all have internal blogs …At some DaimlerChrysler plants, managers use blogs to discuss problems, share information and keep a record of solutions. At the Dutch technology company, Macaw, up to 90 percent of its employees blog to share knowledge about technical issues and resolutions...At IBM blogs are used to discuss software development projects and business strategies.

As for what a blog can do in terms of knowledge sharing and informal learning in an organization (another exert):

Blogs can be used to track the progress of a project, gather and post information about competitors and to share ideas among geographically dispersed individuals. Internal blogs provide a written, time-stamped version of research and development programs. Organizations can track the growth and development of ideas in a single location. It is great for recording the development of a patent or the history and progress of research projects… A blogs’ inherently open, anarchic nature may be a bit unsettling for some, but it is their simplicity (once you understand how it works) and informality that give them appeal and wide spread use. The idea of simplicity and informality is what appeals to many younger employees. They will often turn to internal blogs before looking for more “formal” channels of information.

So, to answer the question: As blogging learning professionals ourselves, we need to teach others about blogging through inclusion, language simplification, examples and success stories. We need to teach others how blogging can be used to enhance learning within an organization.

We also need to teach others when blogs should not be used. Just as the profession has learned that e-learning is not the answer to every training issue, I hope, we have also learned that neither is stand-up instruction…neither are blogs or learning chunks, or podcasts or any other technology. As professionals we need to know when to apply technology to enhance learning and when to reach out and give a physical pat on the back to enhance learning.

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