Strength in numbers: the power of a learning community

This focus of this week has been learning culture: how it’s created, who owns and influences it and what the balance is of informal and formal learning within it. The ‘Amsterdam Diary’ series of four articles let me explore this from a number of angles.

On day one we discussed who creates and owns the culture. This touched upon how the organisation creates the structure, both the formal syllabus and the reward mechanisms, as well as owning the infrastructure, but it’s learners to create and run the conversations within that. As we look increasingly towards mobile and social learning, this informal element becomes ever more significant.

I also set up the context for the popup learning session around two questions: First, ‘Is learning culture created by the organisation or the learners?’ and secondly, ‘Do you do most of your learning in formal experiences or informal ones?’.

Day two, Tuesday, was the popup learning day. I ran this across all my channels, reaching out to around a hundred and sixty people on the blog, over two hundred in the Learning Forum on LinkedIn, three hundred and sixty on Twitter, another hundred on Yammer and then a couple of hundred on some email mailing list communities i inhabit. I also met with some people in person in Museum Square in the heart of Amsterdam, as well as running the whole thing from the free WiFi you get there.

On day three, wednesday, i drew together the narrative, trying to tell out shared story of how learning culture is created and how we inhabit it. How we narrate our learning is such a key part of how we take footsteps from the abstract world of learning back into our everyday realities.

Thursday changed our perspective. For day four we looked at forbidden learning, the counter culture side of informal learning, the things they never wanted you to learn.

So today, i just want to reflect on the creative and collaborative process this week. This learning community is highly informal, probably around a thousand members at the moment, although with an amplification through Twitter and Forums out to many more. What does this mean in practical terms?

Well, firstly, it’s free learning. Free in terms of scope and in terms of cost. Nobody associated with this learning community pays anything and it costs me nothing other than time to engage in it. Is that significant? Well, i think so. It’s truly collaborative with low barriers to entry.

Another real feature of this community is that it brings together people with a wide variety of experiences and background, each of whom brings a unique perspective and viewpoint. This week we had people from all roles, from senior leaders in global businesses through to someone running a small startup business in India with one employee. Breadth of perspective is always a good thing.

Finally, we built a legacy out of it: there is a two thousand word article written from our shared experiences. I hope that, at some point, someone reads it and kicks off another discussion, either within this community or in a parallel one.

The popup learning event ran for one day but connected us around the world. This is the world of informal learning, not owned by one organisation, not limited by technology but piggybacking on free WiFi in cafes and sparking off each other as we build our learning and understanding of our professional practice. Not bad work for one week.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Barriers to Learning, Blog, Blogging, Community, Community of Practice, Culture, Forbidden, Formal Spaces, Forum, Ideas, Learning Culture, Popup Learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Strength in numbers: the power of a learning community

  1. Pingback: Creating meaning in social learning: interpretation | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  2. Pingback: Communication at times of organisational change: relevance, amplification and community | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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