Q: What should social learning content design look like?
Varma: We are designing and coordinating conversations around various subjects rather than designing social learning content. We want participants in our learning courses to help drive collaboration themselves, and to do this, we spend time defining the theme and basic flow of a conversation and have seed questions to drive our learning courses in a particular direction. Additionally, we ensure our learning teams monitor discussions to keep them active and drill down as needed, much as a good facilitator would do in a classroom to draw out a discussion or frame up learning points.
Q: How does Accenture implement this type of design?
Varma: We have what we like to call our ‘Learning Decathlon’ to which we invite all of our learning practice professionals. The decathlon focuses on themes around current trends in the learning industry, includes links to the latest learning research, as well as provocative questions and polling activities to increase engagement. Each theme has a champion who is responsible for facilitating the discussion for the two to three weeks we hold the decathlon. When the discussion slows, we harvest the best ideas and examples and feed them into our ongoing innovation and thought leadership work. It’s from examples like these that we see social learning content as a conversation that results in valuable takeaways.
Q: How does Accenture’s social learning content work with other learning delivery content?
Varma: We are using social learning techniques to extend the formal learning experience into the workplace and to promote collaboration as our people hone and apply new skills. We launched what we call ‘Learning Circles.’ After each of our classroom-based learning sessions, we build on the relationships people formed in the classroom. Faculty and peer leaders moderate discussions on how people apply new skills, address challenges and share innovations. Ultimately, our goal is to bridge people into our ongoing communities of practice so they continue to learn outside our social learning courses.
Q: Any lessons learned?
Varma: Social learning doesn’t happen automatically when a technology — i.e. software — is launched; it needs time and resources to grow. Social learning takes both active moderators to keep discussion ongoing and relevant content and facilitation to avoid conversations that aren’t useful.