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Fixing a broken lock and the Web 2.0 dilemma

eLearning - web lockLooking for the next wave in training “Web 2.0?”

So time has passed and the web marches on…Before being hit by Web 3.0 just around the corner perhaps the big 2. 0 can alleviate some anxiety and possibly solve the major training challenges we all face. Will it be faster, better, cheaper and address a new generation of learners? What is the critical path training organizations need to follow to use Web 2.0 to positively impact organizational performance…and really how does a broken lock enter the equation?

Those familiar with the many attractions Utah has to offer (and yes, not just skiing) may have encountered the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, Utah, just a short 3.5 hour drive from Salt Lake it can offer a pleasant respite from the day and day out. So, between the mountains and through the arid plains one can find a town where the “Bard” can transport one through the depths of Othello’s despair and the biting tong of the Shrew in one short visit. My Web 2.0 on this trip started with a visit to Trip Advisor. After reading the reviews of others, seeing pictures and mapping out the perfect placement for the hotel we would sojourn to, I showed my age by picking up a phone and reserving a room. The main attraction for me was that the hotel has opened a short three months ago and I was looking forward to missing that hotel smell and feel that is familiar to all frequent travelers. Alas, after hours of driving and arriving at the spanking new lobby of the hotel, we met our first training challenge. Being a new hotel, the kinks still needed to be worked out and our electronic lock of the last room available in the hotel refused to cooperate. With some reprogramming by our erstwhile front desk clerk the problem was solved.

A positive attitude from all the staff we met left me impressed, yet with a nagging suspicion that many challenges still faced the staff. Not being able to resist my natural inclinations, I approached the desk clerk and asked to the training they had received as this was hotel part of a large national chain. Immediately, I was told of the elearning curriculum offered to the staff. Joy! But with a short pause the young man made sure to update me that no one has time for elearning since I must have noticed they were short staffed and solidly booked!

Time to train and general issues with web-based training should not be new to anyone in our field. Dare we hope that new technologies and a generation hooked on Facebook, Google, wikis and blogs will be training differently.

Okay, okay, back to Web 2.0. Have we failed our learners with Web 1.0? Is the panacea of last summer outdated? Will this be the last time that a learner has no time to learn what is offered? Would a blog, wiki or portal offer the right information at the right time for a staff that has no time to take the anytime, anywhere training offered to them?

Before we write off some tried and tested training methodology, I was determined to get some kind of conceptual handle on a term that in its moniker didn’t tell me much.

An article by the ORielly group, as well as recent reports by Forrester research and others offer many categorizations. Gathering our technical team and our CLO together, we asked each to take us on a visit to a website that defined for them Web 2.0. It became apparent that Web 2.0 meant different things for all of us. With some aggregation and license we defined three Web 2.0’s.

I want my own Web
Google and others have made the Web our own. At our fingertips, just a few clicks away, we create our personal portal. Our interests are nurtured by multiple feeds of information or streams. We pull in our personal e-mails, instant messages and other forms of communication, while willfully enabling others to track, and categorize our interests and future needs (yes, someone will make money off this valuable service). So, out with the old portal designed by someone else. Web 2.0 transfers control to the learner to create his personal space (we will get to MySpace later). The richness of our personal portal is free by the labor of others who will create the information and services we crave all updated rapidly so we don’t have to go searching.

Can any one help me NOW?
The 2nd manifestation of the new Web connects us to people we know and those we might want to know with a velocity only measured by the new Web 2.0 currency. How many people are tied to your Facebook or how many posts have you made to your community? Who clicks on your blog and dares to comment? We build and join communities of interest, those that share some level of mutual interest. Web 2.0 makes e-mail and IM the new snail mail. We enter worlds were our reference to reality is made up of thousands of cyber entities that as us can be our SME…as long as they have access to a keyboard on a device. “You’ve got mail” is dead. Long live the ping and ringtone. The timid among us look for the opinions of others on what we buy, were to travel to and even what hotel we will stay in.

Lets do it together
Who does not know what a wiki is? Much less cumbersome then the Britannica of old, format has fallen to form. Knowledge and expertise is diffused and reconstituted back, policed by a community that of its self interest provides all with concise up-to-date information.

As we take our blogs, wikis and portals, we begin to treat information and the knowledge it can impart to us differently. Yet, Web 2.0 also defines some of the products we are using today. Software is created by communities that themselves become the applications driving our online community. We look to others to help us create applications and products that themselves are given back to the community free and clear. Open source software communities flourish under a new business model yet to unfold.

So how does this apply to training? For many learners training has nothing do with it. Web 2.0 is a new reference point in their personal lives and a conduit of information and opinions that the employer has no control over.

Whenever in doubt about any new training and learning technology, I fall back on my own criteria for training effectiveness

Is the content directly relevant to the ability of the learner to perform?
Is the content easily accessible in consideration of the actual work environment?
Have we dealt with any motivational aspects that can impact acceptance and transfer of the content?

Going back to my choice of hotel on this trip, I was amazed by the contribution of strangers who had posted reviews of the hotel we picked. While I do participate on discussion groups around my own hobbies, for sites such as this I am what is called a lurker—one that reads and enjoys, but does not contribute.

The first point on our critical path to Web 2.0 adoption must be an understanding of the efforts it will take to keep the content fresh and relevant on our blog, wiki or community page. Relevance and freshness of content is king in our Web 2.0 scenario. We often know nothing of the person posting on the site. The date and relevancy of the content to our needs takes precedence of the veracity of the poster.

Accessibility both in ease and in navigation seems to be a Web 2.0 strength. We can clip, link and comment on most anything. The 2nd point in our critical path must be a decision on how or if we must police any of the content or use of such content across our organization. Anonymity is a powerful force for contributors in a Web 2.0 community. We adopt “user names” that free us from the mundane and give us license to express our selves freely.

The last critical point (and I am sure I have missed many in-between at this juncture) is the powerful motivational forces that can be unleashed with a Web 2.0 scenario. The explosive growth of communities of practice on this, that or anything is amazing. Knowledge, expertise and best practice is the innate asset of any organization. Can we unleash the acumen of our organization without designating and paying someone to be our subject matter expert? Can we motivate people to contribute when the motivation will rest on a feeling that they are “giving to get” and that the more you post or the more your post is valued by your co workers you are recognized and rewarded by your peers?

The motivational tools we can harness with Web 2.0 are exciting. I am off soon to the Gartner summit on Portals, Content and Collaboration and can’t wait to see what is out there for our company and our clients

A couple of links you may find valuable: