Reading Groups and Learning Projects for Professional Development
Thoughts of the Personal MBA model of learning are still milling around in my brain as I find this Wikiversity Portal linking to various reading groups, which led in turn to the Wikiversity approach to learning. I've seen this before, but having the Personal MBA stuff so fresh in my brain, I saw it a little differently this time.
There are a few things that are fascinating about this idea from a professional development perspective.
First is the use of a wiki to connect learners interested in exploring similar topics. Picture something similar happening within a company or organization--a sort of online bulletin board that people could go to in order to connect with others who share their professional development interests. This is also a strategy that could be implemented across organizations through professional associations or industry groups.
The other thing that's fascinating here is the idea of the learning project, which is a result of participating in a Reading Group. According to Wikiversity,
- A project is a collection of pages: this is one of the fundamental differences between Wikiversity and Wikipedia. Wikipedia's articles are single-page entities. Wikiversity's learning projects are multi-page entities. There is good reason for this: we have found that when people create educational resources, a single page simply doesn't work. Wikiversity deals with multi-page entities (projects), because this is what its educational mission requires. Of course, every project starts as a simple single page. It grows into a connected collection of pages over time.
- A learning project is a collection of pages devoted to learning which centre around some kind of topic or theme. There's nothing particularly magical or hidden to its meaning. If you are an educator, you've probably made plenty of "learning projects" before elsewhere: every time you sit down and make a small website or a sequence of web pages on an educational topic for your classes, it's a learning project. If you've set up a course on Moodle or some other Learning Management System (LMS)/Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), it could be called a learning project.
- Beyond that, a learning project is whatever you want it to be. The "learning project" is a bottom-up concept, not a top-down concept; nobody from above imposes an idea on you of what it is you have to create; it is the ordinary users at the "bottom" who explore the possibilities of the wiki for creating educational resources the way they want them to be.
From an organizational perspective, we're now moving beyond staff development into knowledge management and the development of learning artifacts that not only drive professional growth, but are also available as resources for others who come later to explore the same topic. So picture, for example, a group of people who come together to create a learning project around marketing or productivity. They create a wiki or other learning project (along the lines of the Wikiversity approach) and what you have is a framework for future training on productivity or marketing.
The beauty of this idea is that it's bottom up, driven by people's individual interests, which makes it far more likely that they'll be committed to the learning. It's also "product-oriented" in the sense that you're creating some kind of repository of knowledge. This not only benefits the learners who build the repository, it also benefits the rest of the organization as well.
Experimenting with this kind of idea would be pretty easy--grab a spot on Wikispaces, throw up an explanation of the idea with some links to the appropriate pages on the Wikiversity site and then start advertising to people.
You might have to seed the site with some potential projects to get things going, of course. You could also face challenges if your organization has more of a culture of training, rather than a culture of learning. Then again, using this kind of approach could be part of what's needed to move toward that culture of learning, making learning more of a natural part of the work process.
I'd love to know if something like this is being done outside of an academic environment and, if so, what the results have been and how it's worked. Let me know if you've seen something like this. I'd be curious to see some kind of case study.
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