Exploring Web2.0 tools for effective and cost efficient learning solutions.

Social Networking to enhance workplace learning!

Posted by Vaishnavi on March 19, 2009

I thought I’d try some other way of conveying my thoughts this time around. I created a podcast, instead of writing. Click on the following link to listen.


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Kern organizes the second Learning 2.0 workshop at Mumbai

Posted by Vaishnavi on March 9, 2009

Our vocal participants Last Saturday, Kern Learning solutions organized the second of a series of workshops that focus on using web2.0 technologies to enhance work place learning. This time too we had an interesting mix of participants from Mahindra First Choice, Kotak Life Insurance, Godrej Agrotech, Castrol and ICMR. As established individuals in their respective sectors of work, all participants were extremely vocal and held strong views about training. This made for interesting debates through the course of the day.

Exploring the tool setThe structure of the workshop was a little different this time, with participants having the opportunity to explore these tools in a learning scenario that we had created for them. We started out by presenting a tool set of four commonly used web 2.0 tools- blogs, social networks, videos casts and virtual worlds. Next, we presented a typical workplace learning scenario to our participants, asking them to take on the role of the HR/training team of a company. During this phase, we discussed the draw backs of more traditional modes of delivering training. We also discussed the profile of the current day corporate learner, his need for training that is less structured and more explorative. In the final phase, our participants explored how the tool set that we had visited earlier in the day could be blended into more traditional e learning approaches to deliver training that suits the current day learner better.  The participants came up with some great ideas that were not only innovative but also quite feasible to be used at their work place.

captivated by second life!As expected, virtual worlds were the most fascinating and most debated of tools. While most participants were captivated by the tool, they weren’t convinced about using it for training. The cost and effort of creating a training space within a virtual world seemed just too over whelming for many. But I suppose what’s important, is that it opened up possibilities. Possibilities that may not materialize in the next one year, but certainly within a larger time frame. The other three tools seemed more plausible to use, and most participants were keen to try them out at their work place.


We wrapped up the workshop with a presentation about Kern, our services and the ROI of adopting new internet tools to support workplace learning. From our experience at the previous workshop, we realized that the cost of adopting these tools is a major concern amongst most companies. We therefore ensured that we spent significant time addressing this issue. The structure of the workshop was also reworked to ensure that the participants had the experience of thinking about these tools in the context of learning at their workspace. Again, this was thanks to feed back that we received from the earlier workshop.

some great ideas from the participants!Up next, we hope to run these workshops for educational institutions as well. We also hope to publish a white paper, so that more people have access to our ideas and findings. Plans of designing a more hands-on workshop as a follow up to the first one are also on cards. We hope to keep together the network that we’ve created at both our workshops. The blog therefore becomes so much more relevant. WE not only hope to stay in touch with all our participants through the blog, but also hope that they will see it as a platform to connect with each other!

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Gaming = Learning!

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 18, 2009

Archana, a colleague of mine sent me an interesting link yesterday. It’s a post titled Learning2.0 is Web2.0 + Gaming by Brent Schlenker . While I never doubted the cognitive benefits of gaming, this is the first cogent argument that I have read in its favor.

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In Response to Rob Chapman’s ‘ The e-learning diet: Not recommended for long term results’

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 16, 2009

Rob Chapman’s article sure seems to created quite a wave in the learning industry, with several learning technologists expressing their views to counter Chapman’s post. Here are my thoughts on the issue. I have tried to pick up specific thoughts that Chapman has expressed and counter them with my own views.

On the Flexibility of learning programs

Chapman says”But should learning be crammed into snatches of time, dragged out over months and cut off from the classroom?”

Short chunks of information, no more than 10 minutes at a time, is the way ahead for corporate training. Effective learning that is brief and stays in the memory for longer is far more effective than an hour long training session. One also needs to factor the large amounts of time for which an employee is missing from action when his presence is presence is required. If an hour of information that an individual is scheduled to learn for a day can be presented in five short chunks through the day, the learning will not only be more effective but also less time consuming.

On Structured learning

Chapman says, “Without the structure provided by a timetable of classes and the motivation generated by an examination date, it’s all too easy to put training at the bottom of the To Do list.”

Today’s learner needs more than an examination to motivate him. ‘What’s in it for me’ is a very important question to be answered for learning to be effective. As Chapman himself states, rather unwittingly perhaps, an examination is only a motivation to complete a course, not to learn. An ideal case in point is the classes we attended at  a school/university. The one aspect that motivated most students to attend class, was the completion of another course, the chance to move to the next term or class. Is the completion a course all that we look for?

Also, today’s learner wants to control what he learns, how he learns and when he learns. The restriction of a time table of classes where he is taught a specific set of skills is far removed from a style of learning that he may be comfortable with.

On the Social aspect of classroom training

Chapman says, “….Equally important is the amount of contact students have with their peers. Learning in groups is not just socially more enjoyable, it is a proven source of motivation. Working towards a common goal, sharing tips on revision and simply offering encouragement: none of these factors should be overlooked.”

I couldn’t agree more with him, as regards the need for a social group to stay motivated and to support each others learning. But judging from Chapman’s piece, the brand of e-learning that he speaks of is of an older generation, where the lone learner sat in front of his computer console, trying to fit in learning between projects and at lunch. E-learning as it is practiced today is certainly more social, with learners using tools such as forums and social networking sites to discuss and share knowledge. I liked Clive Shepherd’s response to Chapman in this regard, where he lists the array of tools that make e-learning a much more collaborative and fun experience when compared to the earlier CBT courses.

On the duration of training programs

Chapman says “Elearning courses can be completed over a long period of time, so there’s no real incentive to complete them quickly. This is only going to lead to IT managers having to wait far longer for their staff to be trained up on new technology, and in some cases, have to send staff straight back out to retrain, because their skills have been outdated by the next wave of technology.”

I think this is a case of mismanagement. While e-learning is self paced, it does not imply that the learner has no deadline to work with. A course that needs to be completed within two months certainly cannot take a year! Besides, e-learning2.0 has the added advantage of a ready resource base (designed by the learner ie his blog posts, his blog roll, his collection of videos, podcasts etc) and a network (also built by the learner) readily available at the point of need, while the learner is on the job. Class room training which is far removed from the work space of the learner often fails to help him apply his learning in the real world. With e-learning 2.0, the ‘learning time’ and ‘working time’ blurr, one overlapping and indeed supporting the other

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Blending web2.0 tools with e-learning

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 12, 2009

In an earlier post, I had put in a video made by Michael Welsh, where high school students expressed their views about the current education system being unsuitable for their learning. This is a video, made by Brand Games, that I picked up from Janet Clarey’s blog, where the workforce speaks out its mind about e-learning.

While the video speaks about making e-learning courses that are more engaging and fun, I was thinking along the lines of how web2.0 tools could supplement e-learning and ensure that all the drawbacks of e-learning, that participants expressed in the video, can be addressed.

Virtual worlds are definitely something for us to consider, as they can be tapped for simulating an environment where skills that are learned (either via an elearning module/through class room training) can be put to practical use.

Building a social network of people who support eachothers learning and share their ideas will help in making things more interesting. A group always brings together a variety of perspectives on a topicand can also bring in an element of competition.

Bloging is a great way to get your learners more interested in the topic they are studying. While it gives learners a sense of worth to see their ideas published and read by a large community of fellow learners, it also gives them space to reflect upon an idea for themselves.

Of all the ideas expressed in the video, I liked the one about ‘learning how to learn’ . I think that is the key. As instructional designers and trainers, I think our role is to a) expose learners to a variety of web2.0 tools and b) help them identify those tools that suit them best.

In Jane Hart’s ‘A Guide to Social Learning’, I cam across an interesting draw back of e-learning, the fact that although it is an asynchronous mode of delivery, the material isn’t available to the learner at his workplace, at the moment of crisis. It is in such a situation that a social network of people, who have built a resource of information, will come to the rescue.

It is too early perhaps, for us to think of eliminating all formal learning, be it elaerning or class room based training. But we are certainly at a point in time when we cannot but turn to web2.0 tools to fill in the obvious gaps of formal learning.

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Resources for Educators wanting to use Second Life

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 11, 2009

In the last few months, I’ve been asked to get different people started on Second Life- my colleagues at work, participants at our first Training 2.0 workshop, and a few other well wishers of Kern. Each time I show people a demonstration of Second Life, they are both amazed and puzzled by the creations of residents in SL. But after the initial thrill dies out, they’re a little lost. How do we get started? How do we use it for our training/learning needs?

I came across the this flowgram in Tom Werner’s blog post. I think its a great resource which tells you about the various resources available to educators who want to effectively use Second Life.  So I think this is a good place to start with!

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Twitter- A time saving tool!

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 11, 2009

We at Kern have been having a heated debate about using twitter. It all sarted out with the need to update each other about work. Most often, we get so involved with our work, that we stop keeping a track of everybody else’s projects, initiatives and achievements. Somebody suggested meeting physically once a week with updates about work. A few of us find that to be a very time consuming activity. Twitter would be an ideal tool to achieve the same purpose. We are a fairly small group (about 20 of us) but even a five minute update by each individual can take quite long. Besides being a time saver, twitter will also serve as a record of our work and who knows, may increase productivity as we build our network.

Emma King, a researcher at Brandon Hall, would certainly agree with me since she’s listed it as one of the top 10 time saving tools. Be sure to take a look at the other tools she’s listed as well!

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Video on Mobile Learning

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 10, 2009

This video on M-Learning is a little longish but I think it’s a great video to introduce the idea of Mobile Learning. I thought it opened up some really incredible options!

Watch it and let me know what you think!

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Kern successfully organizes the Training 2.0 workshop

Posted by Vaishnavi on February 4, 2009


Last week, Kern successfully conducted the first of a series of workshops that focus on using web 2.0 technologies for training. Organized exclusively for HR and Training heads, the workshop emphasized the cost effectiveness of using these tools for learning at the workplace.

To give a brief overview of the workshop, we started out by understanding the philosophy of web2.0 technologies, underlining aspects such as sharing, collaboration, and interaction, which differentiate it from the earlier web1.0. Discussions that followed tried to correlate these tools with the characteristics of the current day corporate learner. We also explored virtual worlds in some detail, allowing participants to experience the virtual world first hand. To round it all off, we exchanged ideas on how web2.0 tools can be fit into the existing training context of the organizations that the participants represented.

second-life1From the trainer’s point of view, it was interesting to see perspectives change through the course of the day. We started the day with a round of expectation setting to gauge participants’ approach to training and their opinions on web 2.0 tools in general. While nobody was entirely critical of these technologies, acknowledging their social networking potential, they were unsure about their application for learning and training. They also expressed some interesting views on the draw backs of existing teaching strategies within the class room and as e-learning modules.

final-task1Through the course the day, their opinions about web2.0 tools were liberated in a sense, with case studies showcasing the potential of these tools, and discussions that helped them visualize the use of these technologies in their own organizations. By the end of the day, they seemed more convinced about blending web 2.0 technologies with their existing training strategies to enhance learner motivation and to ensure that learning is a continuous process that takes place long after a course is completed.

We captured their feedback in this video!

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Twitter for learning

Posted by Vaishnavi on January 29, 2009

While I am amazed by the potential that many web2.0 tools offer, I find that I am sometimes unable to see the utility of certain tools that are created. My thoughts about Twitter, at least initially, were not too positive. Twitter is a social networking tool that allows people to send short messages (140 characters) to everybody in their network. I couldn’t help but wonder the point of such a tool, not just for learning but also for social networking. But that was before I stumbled upon Jeanne C Meister’s blog . According to her, Twitter ‘..marries the mass appeal of blogging with the speed and ease of text messaging.’ I guess it was this statement that liberated my views about Twitter.

Meister has explored the use of twitter for learning in her blog post- Twitter: Can We Use This As A Training Tool? In this post she shares demographical data on the usage of Twitter. As most users fall in the 18- 24 age group, Twitter is ideal for younger learners at the work place, the ‘Millennials’. She also suggests some interesting ways in which Twitter can be used as a learning tool. Her next post- Feed Back From Users Of Twitter As A Training Tool, carries more interesting ways in which Twitter can be tapped for work place learning.

Meister is an active user of Twitter and her twitter feeds , which update people about her latest blog posts and her latest initiatives, certainly seem to tap her social network to its maximum potential.

I guess it again boils down to how innovative we are in using the tools that are available to us. It is also important that we study our work/learning requirement and accordingly use tools that are available to us. For more on this, read Tony Karrer’s post Top-Down Stategy: eLearning Technology. Also, most web2.0 tools are not created with a learning objective in mind, they are created for sharing, collaborating and publishing content, ideas and thoughts. Its up to educators and instructional designers to study the affordances of these tools and tweak them for the purpose of learning. For more on this, read an interesting post by Geeta BoseAre Web2.0 tools designed to support learning?

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