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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:

  • 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?

[this post also refers to Improving Knowledge Worker Performance article, which I just want to note for further reading]

Erik comments:

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 [1] and [2])
  • 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.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2003/07/15.html#a670; comments are here.

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