5 Ways to Apply E-Learning in the Public Sector

Over time, changes in technology have made it less costly and more feasible to codify, demonstrate, and share best practices among busy staff members across locations. Today’s e-learning offers to further simplify and greatly improve many of these processes—from capture to presentation to participation. More important, e-learning can extend the learning conversation from one-way to two-way (indeed multiple-way). The traditional approach of documenting and distributing information too often results in static content that quickly becomes outdated. E-learning enables continuous improvement via an ongoing exchange of views, data, and information that can be tracked, analyzed, and adjusted.

Over the next ten years, we will see, finally, the realization of “just-in-time learning”— being able to access information easily and inexpensively at the precise moment of relevance. When resources are quickly and cheaply available, we use them. Ease of use and speed tap latent demand, which leads to increased productivity. In the same way you look up a restaurant on Yelp or a movie on Fandango, imagine a caseworker for a social-sector-organization looking up a tailored resource for dealing with a specific drug issue at the moment of need, any time of day or night. E-learning extends the reach of just-in-time learning.

Following are a few ways to get started applying e-Learning in your organization:

Put E-Learning on Your Agenda

Consider putting e-learning on your organizational agenda. You might set up a “choreographed” session consisting of a dozen or so compelling and innovative examples of ways in which people are using e-learning for knowledge transfer and delivery. (You may also want to check out Udemy for Organizations, which allows businesses and organizations to create customized learning libraries and courses of their own for internal use.)

Find Your E-Learning “Change Agent”

Consider identifying or recruiting someone who will be your organization’s inspiration and force for leveraging e-learning to rethink and improve operational processes, program and service delivery, and human capital development. Your change agent must be highly strategic, steeped in the ways of your organization, and able to effect change through program, development, communications, and executive staff alike. Akin to a chief information officer who advances the use of information and IT within an organization, this person would advance e-learning to improve organizational learning and processes—all in service of meeting organizational mission more effectively. Some larger organizations are already responding to the changing digital world by creating the role of chief digital officer. Even if you can’t create a formal position, you’ll still need someone who understands change management and can inspire, demonstrate, nudge, encourage, suggest, and help navigate if you hope to integrate e-learning into your organizational DNA.

Designate or Become a “Learning Concierge”

Apart from your “change agent,” who must be a leader in your organization, consider designating someone with a background in professional development and training as your “learning concierge,” charged with the responsibility of becoming an expert on videos, online courses, games, simulations, apps, and other online educational content relevant to the needs of your organization. The key is developing an expertise in how to navigate, search, and find relevant content to tailor for others in your organization. The role of the learning concierge is more akin to the role of the modern librarian, with sophisticated navigation and communications skills, than to that of an administrator. As award-winning social learning expert Jane Hart explains, the learning concierge provides “personal advice directly to workers on how they can address their own workplace learning and performance problems in the way that works best for them.”

Author and social media guru Beth Kanter points out that the learning concierge fills the critical gap between directed learning (trainings, webinars, and the like) and self-directed/ self-managed workplace learning. According to Kanter, it requires a significant set of skills: “information curation skills, collaboration skills, community management and connected leadership skills.” For support, check out the Learning Concierge Society, which Hart set up in 2013as a new network for workplace-learning professionals. There are also workshops that can help you get your learning concierge function up and running.

Increase Your Knowledge Capture

Consider using video for your communications, but also for knowledge capture. Footage you capture now—from webinars, trainings, Skype sessions, Adobe Connect working group sessions, and so on—can be used later to create videos that convey operational procedures, provide explanations, and serve as how-to guides. The video medium makes knowledge easily accessible. Capture it now, even if you’re not yet sure how you will use it later.

Realize the Power of Remixable Content

Once you are in the habit of capturing the knowledge you create, consider the power of remixing it with other rich content openly available on the Internet. Just as people use iTunes or Pandora to create playlists of their favorite music, educators and learners can remix various course modules to create “learning lists” of their favorite educational content or lessons. With video-editing capabilities on hand, you can create (and then update as needed) the highly customized content your organization needs to improve staff skills and the services you deliver.

The above text has been adapted from Just In Time, The Beyond-The-Hype Potential of E-Learning, By Katie Paris & Mario Morino, and printed with permission. Additional materials, including complimentary downloads of Leap of Reason and Working Hard—and Working Well, the one-two punch for high performance and social impact, may be found at http://leapofreason.org.

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