Thursday, December 6, 2007

e-learning Adoption

There was a question in linkedin ... about the reason which holds back e-learning. Why is it that adoption of a tool like e-learning is not high. And, even in companies where e-learning has been deployed, it is only in skeletal way, more like an item on a check-list. For a tool, the value proposition of e-learning is immense ... People can learn at a place and time they choose ... So, learning doesnt have to interfere with their day to day work, and they can have learning complement profession. That its not necessary that learning happens at the expense of work. This should be music to the HR folks, but somehow, its not.

While e-learning should play a much larger role than it does, i dont think it would really achieve what has been promised as its potential ... this is for one simple reason ... and that is, we are still human beings, and learning, in large part, is a social activity, much more than it is an intellectual activity.

Which means that the primary challenge to bring the social part into learning. The solutions which are found today address the intellectual part well, but ... I guess this is why you would find that e-learning works ok when you have experienced people upgrading their skills, but if you have to learn something new, e-learning doesnt really replace face-to-face learning. Some of this can be addressed by the rich context of virtual worlds, and the way they enable creation of a social environment, which enables us to learn with co-learners, while at the same time, maintaining some of the benefits of e-learning.

Social Networking ...

Might this lead to another round of writings about the problems with social networking? There was the orkut connection to the murder of a teenager in Mumbai, there was the orkut connection to terrorist bombings, and now, there are the Facebook, MySpace, and Youtube connections to the murder of the young British student in Italy. ToI has written an article about this.

The important point to note here, however, would be that we cant blame the tool for its usage. It would be folly to think the concept of social networking is all bad. We need to understand that the concept is an immature concept yet, and there are points in social networks which are prone to misuse. This definitely doesnt mean the tool itself is to be blamed.

On the contrary ...

The media have latched on to the trend. A Youtube video of Finnish schoolboy Pekka-Eric Auvinen showed him brandishing guns before he shot nine people in November. In the Perugia case, images and information taken from these sites has filled the void of verifiable facts.

What this points out to is that we need to watch out for trends in the things which are happening on social networking site. The idea here is somewhat similar to searching for opinions. Today, most of the search is geared towards words or numbers, but not much which is geared towards searching for patterns, whether those be patterns in data, or whether that be patterns in opinions (a la blogosphere). Some of this could be a reliable indicator of things to come?

The Tea-Pot by the Sun

My friend, Mr. Nanawaty mentions in a comment on my post that just because Science cannot disprove the existence of God, one must not blindly believe in God. Having said this, can we not put it this way ... Because Science has not proved the existence of God, we should not blindly disbelieve in God? Logically, one argument is as sound as the other. There is also the Tea-Pot by the Sun ... Of course, if someone just comes up and says that theres a Tea-Pot floating by the Sun, Science cannot go out and try to prove or disprove its existence. Its simply not worth it. I totally agree with Mr. Nanawaty. However, the concept of God is no Tea-Cup. If there is a Tea-Cup which has been haunting humanity ever since we came into existence, one which we have been thinking about for quite some time now (how many centuries?), I would think this is one helluva Tea-Cup. Besides, doesnt all Science begin with the idea of a maverick? Isnt all new scientific thinking maverick in some form or the other?

Look at the Theory of Relativity ... or, the concept of the Space Twins that Albert Einstein talks about ... quite a fanciful concept, I am sure. And, wasnt something which was a pressing need at the time. On the other hand, I would think it was more like the proverbial Tea-Cup ... of not much significance. So was the idea of the automobile ... Nobody ever took them seriously ... Taking two examples, one from pure sciences, and one from engineering, to make the point. But, one never knows where a trail might lead us to. On the other hand, if we are to keep this hypothesis in hibernation till some concrete proof comes up, and if this whole concept is that of the tea-cup floating by the sun, then no concrete proof will ever come up. One way or the other. This, to my mind, is some kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Somewhat like we used to pull fun of our Economics friends ... Assume the can is open, hence the can is open!

The debate has been eternal ... Has been going on for some time, and will continue for quite some more time to come ...

What isn't KM

That would sound like a completely uninteresting topic for the post ... on a blog which revolves more or less around KM. But, this is a question which I am thinking about these days. This comes from a scenario like this ... There is a project team, who are all located at a client site, delivering a project. They have weekly team meetings, where they discuss any specific issues which the consultants are facing, and try to arrive at possible solutions to these. This is in addition to the discission on weekly performance metrics, variation from plan, etc. etc.

My question is ... Would we label this team meeting as KM? Maybe yes, I would think. But, you ask the Consultants or the Project Managers, they would disagree. And, this is the crux of the question ... Let be clear on one thing ... Everything requires human knowledge ... The industrial model of the smart manager who gave orders, and the workers who just followed them, and the machine did the rest was flawed. Even operating a machine, much like driving a car, requires human knowledge. Hence, it can be said that everything that we do depends on knowledge. Hence, KM should, by definition be something which pervades other aspects of management. Because, management itself depends on knowledge, and hence ...

And, this is the question that comes in, in the context of the organization ... That, should KM be a part of another initiative within the organization, or whether KM should be treated as a standalone entity? One way, in fact, could be that KM becomes a loose idea, with the exact delivery of the concepts depending on the context in which they are delivered ... So, KM in the context of Six Sigma could be quite a bit different in form, than KM in the context of CRM. I dont quite agree with this model, but having said that, there has to be this linkage between business objectives and KM. Without this, there is the real danger that we end up looking at KM as an end in itself, which is quite an exercise in futility.