Constructing community and the workplace

Week 1 on the IDEL course is all about ‘constructing community’. Naturally the discussions around this will help us forge our own community as part of the course. This is one of the key reasons why I embarked on the MSc, it’s very much ‘learning by doing’.

I think one of the key things to keep on top of during the next few weeks and months is to maintain that ‘helicopter view’, and to consider the course design that has been put in place throughout. I see a huge amount of value in making notes throughout on the course experience, and how the tutors have facilitated it.

Although I’m part of communities both online and ‘in the real world’ (if that exists anymore), surprisingly it’s not something I’ve come across a lot within online learning environments. With the employers and clients I’ve worked with in the past, elearning has been very much served up as asynchronous elearning content, largely based on knowledge transfer. And the end goal has always been certification – the course has very much been a shortcut to an outcome.

The motivator on the MSC is intrinsic – we’re learning because we want to – and the differences in motivation perhaps give more flexibility to the delivery format, and the encouragement to read outside the course itself.

Even after a week on IDEL, I can see the benefits of a richer, less controlled experience, and one that is facilitated, rather than simply using the online equivalent of a ‘lecturer’. How this could work in a commercial world, and for some of the partners we work with is something for me to extrapolate. Ultimately there’s product, administrative and operational factors at play to consider – but one worth thinking on further.

One of the reasons I’ve found that companies shy away from using communities within their learning environments has been the perceived lack of control. The irony is that the conversations that are happening online may be happening anyway, over the ‘watercooler’ as our American friends say. This comes back to the cultural dynamics at play within an organisation, and probably the role (and importance) of the L&D function within that organisation.

I’m sure we’ll be discussing Charles Jennings’ 70:20:10 theory at some stage during the course. But it seems to me that fostering that sense of community, as we are doing now on the MSc, is crucial to maximising the potential in the peer-to-peer learning.