Collaborative Networked Learning: A Guide/Overview

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Electronic collaboration can support the on-going learning need of today's workforce. Many factors are influencing the growth and evolution of the work environment.
The tasks are changing. More and more the tasks encountered in the workplace require collaborative work and on-going learning among individuals from many different functions.
The knowledge required to do work is changing. As knowledge becomes more specialized and problems become more complex, solutions to problems will require more and more cross functional teams working and learning from each other as part of their jobs.

The technology to support work is changing.’’’ One important technology which is shaping and will continue to shape the work environment of the future is electronic networks for team collaboration. Electronic collaboration tools could create work environments which satisfy many of the on-going learning needs of the 70 plus percent of our work force who engage in knowledge work. These environments could help the worker learn just as easily from a global database as from a friend or co-worker on-line in the next office. We are now in a unique position to understand, and develop applications to support the human side of connectivity. We now have the opportunity to create learning products and processes for improved productivity internally, which will serve a models for marketable products and processes. One of the most critical aspects of improved productivity is supporting the on-going learning that needs to occur among the members of the work force. I have over the last two decades discussed how existing technology and processes for collaborative networked learning might be implemented to respond to educational opportunities. An important aspect of implementation would be planning for effective facilitation of learning. The more understanding we gain about the learning processes that occur in the individual and in conjunction with others, the more we can design systems that support the processes critical to learning. On-going research into electronic communication has advanced our understanding of how to design environments that foster effective individual and group communication. Coupling this knowledge with our understanding of learning processes, we can begin to implement environments that support and facilitate learning in this new age of connectivity.

Human value-added learning can be facilitated in today's networked workplace.[edit | edit source]

In an era of smart machines where robots can be programmed to recognize patterns and respond, the human value-added in today's work force is the ability to learn quickly and constantly in the face of rapid change. As part of a team the worker is learning to collaboratively solve new problems and design new products. The human worker is challenged not to apply pre-defined rules in new contexts but to think creatively and learn constantly. Collaborative networked learning is one strategy which can begin to foster the human value-added component in the work environment. Human learning is the value-added processes of integration of new knowledge with what one already knows and synthesis of new data to form new concepts and explanations for events. For instance, the salesperson is constantly organizing and reorganizing his/her concepts of ‘’’effectiveness.’’’ S/he draws upon examples from his/her own experience and that of other salespersons. Based upon perceived similarities and differences among all experiences with different customers, the salesperson forms his/her own mental construct of effectiveness in today's market. The salesperson may rework the concept mentally a number of times before testing it out on a client. Perhaps prior to meeting with a customer, if an opportunity for communization presents itself, the salesperson will test out the new concept of (effectiveness) on other members of the sales unit. Or the salesperson may logon to test out the idea with an expert who happens to be in another region, or in another country. Each time the salesperson calls on a client, s/he receives more data which can be used to test and refine his/her mental model of the world and effectiveness. S/he may also share the revised concept with other salespersons either locally or remotely located, who could assist them in learning new personal concepts of effectiveness. In this example, the salesperson is engaging in value-added learning through inductive reasoning. In this example and many others in today's work environment, there are no established answers. The "answers" are just changing too fast, or no one has the answer or the team of workers have to create the knowledge as they go along. More and more often the worker today is defining the concepts and learning the rules as s/he goes alone. For this learning to occur, we need tools and processes to support the communication which make it possible. Return to CNL Guide Main Page