Social Learning Requires Work Context

Though there is very little research on social learning and whether it is effective in helping people learn (beyond self-reported survey question responses), we do know that in order for social learning to be effective, there must be a context. What do I mean by context? Context is the general or specific setting in which the learning occurs.

So, in order for social learning to be effective in a business, the learning activities (whatever they are), must be centered around the work of the business, whatever that is.

And the problem with most social learning, networking, and collaboration tools is that most are designed to required people to either leave their work to come learn or that people must bring their work into the "social" space.

What should happen is that "social" learning should be brought to the work or as close to the work as possible.

Bring Learning to the Work

Last week, I spent some time at the Atlassian Summit Conference in San Francisco. During some of the new product announcements, it dawned on me that Atlassian products are designed perfectly to bring learning to the work.

In short, Atlassian designs collaboration software that helps software developers write better software. That is their target, but anyone who works with a team to produce a work product, could use Atlassian products. Teams can create projects plans, create documents, solve problems, and track work in easy-to-use collaborative software.

By the way, this is how social learning happens.

But one of Atlassian's latest product announcements takes the promise of social learning and brings it a giant leap forward: Confluence Questions.

Learning is Only a Means to an End

Confluence Questions is a new addition to Atlassian's collaborative intranet solution and is billed as a way to accomplish three things:
  • Seek knowledge
  • Retain Knowledge
  • Find experts
Atlassian did not seek to create informal or social learning tools. They set out to create tools that enable software developers to create better software (or just about any work, for that matter)? And how is better software created? Through smart developers working together towards a specific ends.

The focus is on the result. Better software. Not on the learning. Learning is just a means to an end.

And that might be the fatal flaw in most enterprise social solutions and in learning management systems. They are trying to launch social solutions that require people to leave the context of their work to collaborate in an ESN or LMS. Where as with Atlassian products…the collaboration is occurring in the context of the work being produced.

That is the secret sauce.