You announced that your office will begin using a new online application for discussing organizational issues versus shooting out emails. Now, what do you do?
What is it?
Web 2.0 applications are online web-based programs that enable individuals to communicate by providing discussion comments to a single location. This method of communication facilitates the ability for multiple subscribers to create a dialogue without having to provide an immediate response to the forum.
Those of us who were not fortunate enough to begin banging our fingers on a keyboard at the age of three and to possess a Facebook profile as a pre-teen face challenges with Web 2.0 applications such as SharePoint and Quickr.
Many of today's workers have encountered Web 2.0 applications in an academic environment through online learning, which continues to grow in popularity with educational institutions, businesses, and students. Online enrollment has more than doubled from an estimated 1.6 million students in fall 2002 to 3.94 million students in fall 2007, and grew by 12.9 percent from fall 2006 to fall 2007. While this group is ever-growing, there are vast numbers of adults who have not used these applications.
Guidelines/Why it works
There are no important differences when transferring knowledge between online environments and face-to-face, and if they do exist, they are likely to be due to the facilitator's involvement in the dialogue and the institution's commitment to meeting the dialogue's goal. Leaders who are successful at transferring knowledge in a face-to-face platform and who also desire that success in a Web 2.0 environment need to know how the employee obtains and shares that knowledge online.
Provide opportunities for learning. Many organizations look at challenges as problems and not as learning opportunities. Formulate Web 2.0 discussion forums so that the material allows the employee to act independently and direct her own learning. The concept entertains the idea that adult learners desire to set their own objectives and only want to learn what they feel they need.
To accomplish this, create an online environment in which employees are able to voice their opinions and exchange ideas with others while also ensuring that the transferred knowledge meets organizational goals. While adult learners may enjoy voicing their opinions, they still need direction from a higher authority to facilitate those organizational goals. The forum needs a coach, not a dictator, to ensure that employees have an effective means of expressing their concerns, successes, and frustrations, as well as getting advice from leaders. It is critical that leadership consistently read comments and engage in the discussions as participants, sharing their own professional stories, advice, and resources.
Let employees share their experiences. Adult learners have accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning, and they must be allowed to present those experiences to enhance their own learning. They have developed a personalized databank of experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education, and they need to connect learning to this knowledge and experience depository.
Adults must be afforded the opportunity to relate their theories and concepts to fellow participants and recognize their contribution in the learning experience within the organization. Employees within the learning community enjoy the transfer of knowledge through storytelling and using their life experiences through the power of their current understanding. Through dialogue and conversation, leadership should use discussions to empower people to be active agents in their own learning and to help them develop as thinkers.
Recognize social roles. Adults enjoy opportunities to apply the knowledge they receive because it reinforces their learning. Leaders can increase employees' participation in the transfer of organizational knowledge by closely relating knowledge to their changing social roles. By providing opportunities to apply newly acquired knowledge into real situations, employees can feel that the material obtained from the organization is useful, and thus, they can be motivated to persist in the endeavor of supporting the goal of the dialogue. The transfer of organizational knowledge must be relevant to the employee. This is achieved by providing information that is closely related to learners' interests, experiences, goals, and so forth. People learn better when they are actively engaged in tasks that are directly related to their needs. Leadership can best achieve this goal by knowing their employees, which takes active participation.
Understand that information is problem-centered and applicable. It is imperative that facilitators constantly monitor the dialogue within the online discussion and react to the employee responses, as most of adult learning occurs within the framework of projects and situations they are experiencing or would be likely to encounter.
Adult learners are goal-oriented and desire to stay focused on the task at hand, so ensure that you keep the dialogue on track. Employees may stray off topic if the dialogue is not monitored. Establish a tolerance above and below the dialogue's objective such that you do not lose focus or stifle communication. Employees usually make a decision to support or not support an organizational endeavor after the initial transfer of knowledge. Adult learners usually know what they want to attain soon after receiving information, and therefore appreciate tasks that are organized and have clearly defined elements.
Recognize internal versus external factors. Adult learners are motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors. Within Web 2.0, adult learners are motivated to participate and take advantage of online activities, primarily due to their busy schedules and the convenience of the online format. Most of their activities take place in an asynchronous environment that allows the learner to view and comment on discussion forums at their leisure.
For organizational success, this method requires constant feedback by the forum's facilitator. It is important that facilitators are aware of this aspect of the online environment and are sensitive to employees' need for feedback. A crucial aspect of discussion forums has to do with the promptness of feedback to students. Due to asynchronous learning such as discussion boards, employees may be anxiously awaiting for comment in the form of dialogue, thus it is important that the facilitator provide encouraging remarks to the employees.
This method of active participation by the facilitator is more important than direct feedback outside the forum. Constant dialogue with employees may promote a more productive learning community and increased collaboration within the organization.