Monday, August 18, 2008

Has Social Software killed eLearning ?

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I've been wondering about this topic for a while now. And as I keep blogging, the more convinced I am that social software is replacing eLearning. When I joined IBM 6+ years ago, I came in as a software developer for the Lotus Learning Management System or LMS. That product was the first J2EE product launched by Lotus. Soon after that Lotus released other J2EE products such as Workplace Collaboration Services, Quickr and (my personal favorite) Lotus Connections.

Anyway, after developing the LMS, I moved into IBM's consulting division and soon started traveling all over the world to help customers implement and deploy our eLearning solution. Since I was one of the developers of the product, this job was really easy . I did eLearning within IBM for about 4.5 years and it was real good to me.

Early 2007

In January of 2007, I started to pick up Lotus Connections as a consultant (though I'd been blogging since mid-2006). I started to work with customers deploying and integrating Connections with existing applications. More importantly, I also helped customers figure out an adoption strategy and help them understand why viral adoption is simply not enough. Other consultants in my group followed suit: they started to leave behind eLearning (as it was also declining in popularity) and picking up social software and Lotus Connections.

As my blog gained popularity, the success stories wouldn't stop rolling in. At that point, I still had the perception that Blogs were all about sharing knowledge (authors) and gaining knowledge (readers). I was convinced that the only reasons bloggers, well, blogged was because:

  • They wanted to share knowledge as required by their job
  • They wanted to get known within the company
  • They wanted to get more recognition
Is eLearning Dead ?

I soon discovered how wrong I was!!! Through my blog I started to learn. "How?" you may ask. Well, as I blogged, people would leave their comments sometimes agreeing with me.. sometimes disagreeing. And that was the beauty of it!! By publicly sharing my concerns and/or challenges, people voluntarily shared their opinion with me, fostering "out of the box thinking". In some instances, I even blogged about my frustrations with Sharepoint and customer feature requests. Through my blog's comments, I got the answers that I needed, even though I wasn't, at first, looking for them. I was getting unsolicited knowledge! I honestly felt, and still feel, that I learn more as a blog author than a blog reader!

As I kept learning, success stories just kept piling up, and more and more people started to leave eLearning behind, the question kept coming up again and again: "Is eLearning dead?"

Social Software, of course, has the answer

I went over to my favorite search engine, Dogear (a social bookmarking site), and searched for "is social software replacing elearning". Interestingly, I'm not the only who shares this opinion. In fact, there were 1,225 search results on our internal deployment of Dogear!! Here's some resources that I found:

Based on this, it seems the industry is split. Some eLearning purists say that social software is a nice add-on to eLearning systems. Others say that social software is the next evolution of eLearning systems.

So, help me out. Is eLearning is dead ? Does that also apply to KM? Or is social software what some people call eLearning 2.0? I definitely think social software is KM 2.0, but eLearning...?

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