Are books for learning?

BooksNot an entirely silly rhetorical question — in our work world of endless data aggregation and analysis, the reading of books remains a curiously solitary and hard-to-track enterprise.

It’s easy enough to hand someone a book. It’s easy enough to require a signature acknowledging receipt and even demand answers to a compliance question or two to check headline-level comprehension.

But it’s hard to do anything with a book approaching a deep and actionable, let alone shared understanding of the content without classes and clubs — meaning that costly in-person conversations in and around the act of reading are still what makes reading, at least the extended kind, real and useful.

But for the corporate world, the idea of reading as a purely personal pursuit may be changing. Three developments — e-book readers, the advent of technology-mediated social reading and the X API (nee Tin Can) — together make books cost-efficient, communal and reportable in new ways.

e-book readers are now ubiquitous and cheap. Even general-purpose iOS and Android tablets support the e-pub standard. New services like Zola make reading a compelling group exercise (it’s very cool). Established services like Lulu let any company build its own libraries for private, on-demand distribution. The X API means that the reading of a book can be recorded by chapter and task in any competency framework a company may need.

Books Redux.

Too social?

The main part of the mechanismBrandon Hall Group Analyst David Wentworth just posted an interesting piece on the growing problems with enterprise social network initiatives.

You can read what David is thinking here.

We have always believed in social learning rather than in the idea that HR or learning and development departments would end up “owning” enterprise social networks.

To that end we make a point of including core talent-related social affordances in our out-of-the-box offerings (learning and performance interest groups, forums, news, email, chat, file sharing, etc.) and supplying robust API libraries, including widgets, Google gadgets, macros and plugins for working nicely with clients’ enterprise social network choices, whatever they turn out to be.

We think of it as the good neighbor policy.

A “Top 100” list that talks back

A tag cloud example of the power of visual representation (see below — click the image once or twice to make it full-size).

Or you can explore the original posting here.

Admittedly, even a list of lists is still subject to curation bias. However, the authors make a point of providing method and target disclosure. This is a great example of what can be done (efficiently) to give people serious, actionable information.

What could you do with this idea at your company? Think a Top 20 list for customer service strategies or a Top 10 list for sales with click-throughs going to explanations and war stories.

There is a brilliant instructional design lesson here.


Cross-over potential?

There is a lovely post at TNW (The Next Web) on how open resource initiatives are putting first-rate academic teaching online for free.

You can find it here.

It got me thinking — it would be easy to incorporate some of this free material in corporate courseware and offer it via LMS catalogues. We have a publishing technology we call The Courseware Manager in our LMS which allows users to easily mix and match content inside a SCORM wrapper. It would be child’s play to bundle some of the open academic resources with company specific content and testing.

It’s an interesting idea. I wonder how many companies are doing things like this.