Virtual Communities as Learning Networks
Erik van Bekkum points to a new weblog by Stephanie Allen, which is related to a study on Virtual Communities as Learning Networks. This study will try to answer the following questions:
[this post also refers to Improving Knowledge Worker Performance article, which I just want to note for further reading]
- How do employees learn in order to do their jobs well?
- How can virtual communities help employees learn to do their job well?
- What can organizations do to support virtual communities so that employees can do their job well?
- What do organizations gain from supporting virtual communities?
The question that may be missing is about how the collective learning in a community takes place, and it's impact on the individual learning process. Just recently I was talking about this (yes, at the coffee machine) with Ad Dekkers. if you consider the increase of individual capabilities through collective learning and collective capabilities, you have a better understanding of how the community adds value to the learning process of each participant in the community.
My few cents:
1. Nice to see more e-learning/training people looking at communities of practice as a learning environment.
2. I recognise dialogues that I hear often then learning and KM people get together in a discussion about learning in communities: learning people stress individual learning while KM people say how and why group-collective-organisational learning is important. Sometimes they talk about the same thing without understanding each other. I believe (and some theories say) that learning is always social. From this perspective the nature of learning in a classroom and learning in a community are not so different, the difference is in a degree of steering/facilitation.
3. If I would do this study (and I'm studying related things anyway :) I would:
- check studies of informal learning first, especially those explaning how it happens and how it can be supported (some references are here, especially  and )
- focus on performance-improvement (in other words on the whole chain share-learn-apply at work; I address it as a performance-focused knowledge sharing in I-KNOW paper)
- and then add KM-world knowledge about communities
In other words, this study could be a good way to get best from both training and KM worlds: understanding how people learn, how to facilitate learning and performance change as well as understanding communities as living systems.
Looking forward to see where this study goes.