Friday, June 14, 2013

5 Steps to Informal Learning, Content Curation & Knowledge Hustling

Instructional design, training, and e-learning courses should be dead. And my job should be in the grave next to them. The numbers tell us why: 

  • The average office worker spends less than 2% of his or her time in formal training. 
  • Less than 20% of formal learning transfers to the job (Cromwell & Kolb, 2004).
  • A Google search of “e-learning sucks” offers 2,690,000 results. 

After all, I’ve been an instructional designer focused on e-learning for more than 17 years. And, I’ve been very skeptical of the power of informal learning; I assumed it was a fad, difficult to control, and nearly impossible to connect to bottom-line business results.

Well today I'm rising from the dead, pulling myself out of the grave, kicking over the tombstone that says Instructional Designer 1995 – 2012, and declaring myself to be a “Community Manager”… 

Actually, I think I want to go with something a bit more provocative and descriptive like “Knowledge Hustler.”

A Community Manager or Knowledge Hustler is someone who (1) identifies all the sources of information relevant to the organization (both internal and external) – whether they be blogs, discussion boards, job aids, chats, wikis, videos, formal courses, Twitter, etc.; (2)  shares high-quality information through an easy-to-use tool; (3) publicizes the tool and encourages everyone to use it; (4) monitors the usage data to find out what works best and continually improve the user experience. 

The thing is, there’s a lot to get my head around to become a world-class Knowledge Hustler. So here are the first steps I’m gonna take:

  1. Divorce my LMS and get cozy with an LRS. A Learning Record Store (LRS) keeps track of everything people are looking at for information. For example, if someone reads a pdf I’ve put on the company intranet, the LRS records that information. Or if someone uses a mobile app to share a video, the LRS records that too. In other words, the LRS can record pretty much anything anyone does to learn something, so I probably won’t need a Learning Management System (LMS) anymore. In getting cozy with the LRS, I’ll find out what information people use most and give them more.
  2. Get intimate with Tin Can and HashTags. The Tin Can API captures the data that’s sent to the LRS. So I must get comfortable using it to “tag” everything I expect people to look at. Similarly, I have to get in the habit of hashtagging information religiously because “Hashtags provide a means of grouping such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it.”
  3. Woo SMEs to be Content Curators. A Content Curator sorts through the vast amounts of content on the web or intranet and presents it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. But only subject matter experts (SMEs) know what information is worthwhile in their field. Without them, my informal learning community would perish instantly because it would lack credibility. The thing is, SMEs rarely have time on their hands, and content curation takes about an hour per day. So I have to create an incentive plan that will keep them going. In fact, I also have to create an incentive/marketing plan to get everyone to use the community (could my gamifaction experience help here?) because lively discussion and sharing is the best motivator.
  4. Bring sexy back to the company Intranet. I’ll make sure it’s mobile-friendly.  The search feature will bring up useable, relevant results. @mentions will get people’s attention. Anyone will be able to easily post content – blogs, videos, threads, you name it. I will make the Intranet stop one when someone wants to get job-related information – not YouTube or Google.
  5. Play the field. I’ll constantly explore and experiment with technology and information to make the community stronger. I’ll use Storyfy, Twitter, Flipboard, Pearltrees, Summify, Themefy, Pocket, Alltop, YouTube, BuzzFeed, Reddit, Evernote, BagTheWeb, etc. and borrow ideas from them. 

I have to admit, I already feel more alive in my Knowledge Hustler role. It’s current. It moves instructional design into the realm of true performance improvement. It embraces all information, not just formal training events. I learn new things every day. Everyone in the company stays current, but avoids information overload.

I’m all in. You?


Cromwell, S. E., & Kolb, J. A. (2004). An examination of work-environment support factors affecting transfer of supervisory skills training in the workplace. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 15, 449–471.