Developing a Learning Culture

eLearning: Getting Buy-in on Personal Learning Networks

There’s nothing new under the sun, and that includes Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). Mastermind groups, exclusive groups of like-minded individuals who collaborate to attack business and personal challenges, went mainstream after Napoleon Hill published Think and Grow Rich. Toastmasters International, which functions as a PLN, just celebrated its 90th anniversary. Today’s educators use PLNs to harness the power of connection and collaborative brainstorming to find better ways to teach. We’ll look at ways to break down barriers of resistance and draw hesitant people into PLNs.

Who Resists PLNs?

Some older workers will like the idea of a PLN until they discover it uses social media. They’ve heard shocking things. Practical uses for social media don’t make headlines; revolution and titillation sell papers, and that’s all some people know about social media. It’s not a huge leap for them to think that Twitter caused the Arab Spring, and they don’t want to end up on “some list” somewhere. They can’t imagine social media used as a force multiplier for good! At the other end of the spectrum, some younger workers once let social media rule their lives, and they’ve sworn it off. You have to entice them back into the social fray.

A Trio of Tactics to Entice Learners into PLNs

You need a layered bag of tricks to draw in the reluctant segment of your audience.

  1. Set up eLearning, social networking and mentoring as one integrated unit. Make networking available from the employee’s eLearning home page through links. Automatically sign up eLearners for all applicable in-house social networks using the same logon and password used for eLearning. Those who appear the most reluctant probably don’t understand social networking and are often afraid to ask for help, but mentors can guide novices with stage fright.
  2. Next, include protected Twitter accounts—Twitter with training wheels. No one other than approved followers can view tweets from a protected account. This creates a safe environment for newbies to practice Twitter skills before jumping in the deep end.
  3. Finally, encourage use of Social Bookmarks, public Twitter accounts, Pinterest, etc. Once the hesitant employee understands how hashtags can decrease time spent researching and begins to see PLNs as a shortcut rather than a time eater, the transition nears completion.

Discovery, like learning, takes place in stages. The key to getting universal buy-in for PLNs is guiding the novice and pointing out attractions along the way.