In the process of thinking through how to support informal learning, I was reminded of a diagram I created several years ago. I started from an approach based upon philosophy that talked about acting in the world: you act in the world when you can, and when you have a breakdown you need to solve it, so you repair, and then reflect and learn so you can act more competently the next time (Ok, so it’s an idealized model). What it led me to think was that when we have a need, we first try to find the answer. If we don’t, then we have to do more extreme steps of actively trying to solve it, and then ideally we save that answer so that others don’t have to solve the same problem (see what I said about ‘ideal’?).
Without going into all the thinking (it’s elaborated more in several places, including this white paper; PDF), the point is that supporting people in performance includes not just courses, but content and job aids, and connections to people. Note that when it moves from information need to problem-solving, the people will change because there isn’t an expert (or you’d have the answer already).
The interesting thing for me is that this provides a strong justification for using social networks in learning: wikis can be places where people can store the information about problems they’ve solved, discussion boards and profiles fill the need of finding expertise, blogs may support people in their problem-solving as well, serving as a way to share questions and get feedback. The social network provides the rest of the support around the courses which really only serve the situation where a major skill-shift change is needed.
So, it’s probably just buttressing the obvious, but I get a degree of comfort from taking a pre-existing model and using it to create a framework which then turns out to map to something I’m deeply involved in. Does it make sense to you?