Saturday, May 21, 2011

3 New Roles for Learning Professionals Driven by Web 2.0 #LCBQ

Last month, the Learning Circuits Big Question (#LCBQ) asked, “How can you address the "I want it now!" demand from stakeholders?” You can read answers from those who were asked to weigh in at the Learning Circuits blog, and you can read my response here. To follow up on that question, the #LCBQ for May is:

How do we need to change in what we do in order to address learning/performance needs that are on-demand?

My read of this question is that it is asking us what new elements we as learning professionals need to add to our jobs to support our learners in the on-demand world of instant answers available through web 2.0 search engines, social media, and online collaboration.

I’m not an industry researcher or thought leader so I’m not pretending to an expert on this topic. But as a person who makes my living as a workplace learning professional, I can share my perspective on what I’ve had to do differently to embrace these tools and incorporate them in the mix of solutions available to the learners at my company.

As I see it, there are three new roles I’ve been playing because of web 2.0 that either didn’t exist - or I didn’t need to play - years ago.  We as learning professionals need to consider these roles part of our job in today's world:

Personal Knowledge Manager – For years, we talked about capturing and documenting organizational knowledge to enable business continuity in knowledge banks and other places. Now with the glut of information that comes at us each day, we need to think about knowledge management on a personal level too. We can’t possibly keep all the available information in our heads, so we need to come up with ways to organize, store and retrieve content ourselves, for both our own personal knowledge and for use in helping our learners. Online note taking tools such as OneNote or Evernote can help us capture thoughts, ideas and things we hear; while bookmarking tools such as diigo or can help us store and tag web content.

Content Curator – As learning professionals our traditional role has been to analyze a business problem, uncover the learning need, do some research to identify content that can address the need, and then use it to build a course. That was then and this is now. In the on-demand world, by the time we go through that process our learners have already sought out alternative sources to meet their needs using company intranets, Google searches or Wikipedia. So alongside being content creators, we need to be content curators as well. We need to be able to filter through available information and select the most appropriate bits of it, discard what doesn’t fit, organize and sequence what’s left in ways that will tell the story to help learners meet their needs.

Community Manager – Probably the biggest shift for us as workplace learning professionals is embracing the idea that people can learn from each other without much information coming from us. With today’s social media tools, it is so easy for groups to organize, share information and collaborate. We can help them be effective at this by translating our facilitation skills to this environment. Sometimes all that is needed is to provide an online venue and dangle a small piece of content out there for them to organize themselves around. Then pose a few thought provoking questions and let them at it. They can use their collective skills and experience to problem-solve and learn from each other. You may need to do a little coaching from time-to-time to keep them on the right track, but community members will ultimately decide what they want to contribute to, and take away from the experience.


  1. Great post. I agree that these are critical, but somehow learning professionals and their organizations don't seem to embrace it.

  2. Tony,

    It has been challenging integrating these new roles into my work. People still roll their eyes when I talk about using web 2.0 tools or social media for learning. But it is getting better. A few more people are seriously listening as compared to a year ago. Progress in small steps!

    Thanks for leaving your comment.


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