Thursday, January 25, 2007

Networks Leverage Learning

"Experience is what you get just after you need it."

Isn't that the truth? I have learned so many lessons the hard way, by jumping in blindly, screwing up, making note of what went wrong, and vowing never to do that again. While this method of learning is tried and true (and may be the only way we really learn life's personal lessons), in the business world it means lost time, lost opportunities, and extra expense. Wouldn't it be nice if we could get experience just BEFORE we need it? That is the idea behind a new initiative being planned by my colleagues Mike Grant and Jon-Anthony Lui.

Mike and Jon are building the eLearn Campus Peer Network, which will have membership from a fairly small number of organizations from a number of different sectors who face similar challenges in designing, producing, managing and evaluating eLearning. Their vision is to connect eLearning professionals from these organizations in an on-going community of practice wherein everyone can benefit from everyone else's knowledge and experience.

Mike and Jon feel that a lot of current professional development opportunities in the eLearning field, such as the myriad of conferences that are held each year, are missing the mark because these are:
  • Not practical, often focusing on what the top 5% of organizations may be doing in eLearning;
  • Not timely, often held much before or well after someone actually requires assistance with a particular eLearning challenge;
  • Not tailored to individual needs, a one-size-fits-all approach;
  • Not collaborative and interactive, you sit and listen.
My own experience bears this out. I no longer attend many eLearning conferences, and I have written previously why I am staying home. For the most part, these are big, impersonal events where people are herded about in huge numbers and talked at for three days straight. There is no real meaningful interaction or collaboration. I just don't have the patience for this any more (nor does my butt).

Mike led a webinar "discovery" session this week for prospective members and outlined four key elements of the Peer Network.
  • Monthly online synchronous workshops on topics chosen by members, and a monthly online Network newsletter;
  • An online asynchronous community of practice for on-going discussions, resource sharing, collaborative brainstorming, and problem solving;
  • Access to eLearn Campus' online Certificate in eLearning Management courses;
  • Annual in-person, hands-on, experiential workshops on key eLearning challenges.
We had a lively discussion during this session and participants were keen on a new model for professional development in the eLearning field. Some see it as a way to generally shorten their learning curves, manage information overload, keep up with new developments (especially in technology), and sort out the hype from the reality. Others have very specific concerns around issues such as learning technologies, development tools, rapid eLearning design, measuring value, etc. However, from whatever angle they are approaching the topic, they all see the benefit of a Peer Network wherein members set the agenda and leverage the collective wisdom of the group.

If you are looking for a new model of professional development, and this idea appeals to you, contact Jon-Anthony ( He can fill you in on the details.


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