Building Communities of Practice for Collaborative Learning

Building Communities of Practice for Collaborative Learning

The Institute of Alternative Futures (IAF) is an organization founded by Clement Bezold, Alvin Toffler and James Dator. It provides support and aid to organizations to create their preferred futures. The IAF conducted a survey on behalf of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) regarding collaborative learning communities and technical innovation networks. (Ref: Based on its research it identified 5 drivers that make it important for organizations to consider including communities of practices, as a part of strategic framework. I tried to understand these five drivers in the context of Learning Management Systems in today’s corporate world. Here are some thoughts.

Collective Intelligence is Essential to High Performance

A group of individuals performing as a team, is always more effective than individuals working in isolation. How can this be implemented in an organization where individuals may not necessarily be at the same location? You can include discussion forums, wikis and blogs in learning management systems, so that individuals can share and benefit from each other’s experiences. To illustrate, suppose one of the sales representatives is having a tough time gaining entry into a prospective client organization, he could post this problem and seek advice from his peers. As the query will be posted across the organization, he will have the benefit of advice from peers, across different locations and thereby, increase his chances of finding a better solution to his problem.

Knowledge Technologies Bring a New Context to Learning

The learning management systems provide the required platform, where information can be better organized. An online repository of knowledge that enables individuals to retrieve information easily at the time of need, will definitely support learning. A single platform across the organization will facilitate increased participation, as it provides easy and multiple options for knowledge access.

Digital Natives Make Themselves at Home in a Wired World

This is the time, when the first generation of digital natives, have entered the workforce. They are tech savvy, have grown up playing video games and have used the Internet for obtaining knowledge more often than from their school libraries. Tuning organizational training methods to suit the next gen is essential, if organizations need to keep pace with the changing demographic profiles of their employees. Again, there are array of options in the LMS such as, courses created in such a manner that they can be viewed in multiple devices (PCs, smartphones, iPads etc) or in multiple formats (audio, video, PDFs etc).

Productivity Requires Getting to the People who Know

A common learning portal makes it easier for individuals to collaborate and exchange problems, ideas and experiences in an informal setting. Access to SMEs is much easier and when a query from an individual is answered by an SME, not just that individual, but a larger group is benefitted from the knowledge. When one individual identifies a potential problem and escalates it to an SME, chances are that he gets a reply before the problems gets bigger, or out of hand. More often individuals are more likely to share such instances on an informal setting, rather than through formal channels as they are not sure if the situation really warrants a formal action. Discussion forums and collaborative learning tools provide such opportunity to individuals to learn from a wider network of subject matter experts and peers.

The Global Race for Talent in a Collaborative World

Thanks to globalization, organizations are expanding into new markets. Those operating in multiple countries are facing a problem of finding the right people. One way to attract the right talent is to provide individuals opportunities to learn and grow. Organizations that invest in learning management systems ensure better management of their talent pool and are more prepared for the global race.

Thanks to open source learning management systems such as MOODLE, even small and mid-sized organizations can developed a learning portals and create a community of practice within their organization. These learning management systems can become individual communities of practices within organization.