This week’s topic in the Change11 MOOC — collective learning — captures my attention because it taps into a long-running conversation I’ve been having (primarily with my colleagues) about re-imagining the practice of learning & development and knowledge management. And along with that: teaching in higher education. It’s timely also because I’ll be talking about some of these same themes at the Oct. 11 meeting of KM Chicago.
Allison Littlejohn’s position paper on collective learning very clearly articulates the dynamics at play, and the questions we (as practitioners and researchers both) need to answer. To summarize Littlejohn:
- Knowledge is becoming increasingly openly available for problem solving and learning. But we don’t have a good understanding of the ‘binding force’ that connects people while they are learning and building knowledge. (I would suggest that binding force is “practice” – in the sense of a common work practice or discipline).
- The view of what constitutes learning is broadening – based in part on the way individuals interact in groups, networks and with technology and explicit artifacts. But we don’t have a clear picture of how knowledge workers learn and how collective learning can improve learning and development in the workplace. (This is where KM and learning practitioners need to collaborate).
- New knowledge practices connecting people and knowledge are emerging. But exactly what new “practices, literacies and mindsets” do individuals need to best learn in this new environment? This is not a trivial question. Each year, we push very intelligent, experienced business professionals into just this kind of scenario in the Master’s Program in Learning & Organizational Change (MSLOC). Learning how to learn in this connected environment is challenging even for adept learners.
- We increasingly rely on networked technologies, but we don’t fully understand how these networked technologies support collective learning. (Again – a great space for KM and learning practitioners to collaborate).
Littlejohn proposes a set of behaviors that learners use to make sense of collective knowledge in this new connected, open environment: connecting, consuming, creating and contributing. It’s a system of behaviors that both uses the network of knowledge resources and can refresh it as well.
I’m really interested in diving a bit deeper into her research (that led to this framework). It tracks well with the observed behaviors we see in some of our technology-supported graduate courses. But more than that – what I find compelling is how her definition of “collective learning” establishes an interesting perspective on the learning landscape, and one that KM, learning and higher ed practitioners can each contribute insight and expertise.