I really enjoy following the learning frontier, reading about and analyzing the latest developments in learning tools and methodologies. My last two blog posts were reactions to augmented reality, a concept that was thought up decades ago, coined in the 90s, and only starting to crawl into everyday life.
Augmented reality has a potential to revolutionize learning because of its ability to overlay helpful information not normally seen by the naked eye onto the objects we view. AR is beginning to permeate our lives through smart phone apps and viral videos from tech firms like Google, but existing uses are still a bit clunky and there is a ways to go before this technology has a real effect on everyday learners like you and me.
This week, however, I came across something a bit more current called Learnist (created by Grockit). Learnist describes itself as a tool for “people helping other people learn. Learn something, teach something.” Now, I realize there have been a plethora of social learning tools introduced in the last couple years that tout themselves as the application that will revolutionize peer to peer information exchange. Some have even been fairly successful, such as Yammer, Bloomfire, or Microsoft SharePoint. Where I think Learnist shows a lot of promise, though, is in its familiar design and intuitive organization.
The developers at Learnist didn’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to social sharing. It clearly uses popular elements from other highly trafficked social media, namely Pinterest and Facebook. It separates learning lessons or topics into columns (called Learn Boards), almost identically to Pinterest. Click on one of these lessons and you can read the article or watch the video, as well as related items that anyone can add. Like it using Facebook integration, comment on it, follow the person that posted it. The more relevant or the more people “Like” a learning lesson, the higher it goes on your page.
The exact lessons that you’ll see on your homepage are unique to you. When you sign up for Learnist, you choose from a long list of topics that interest you, similar to an aggregator like Digg or Reddit. Based on your interests, Learnist churns out the learning topics on your front page.
Applying the Learnist Concept to Enterprise Learning
This idea of recommended learning lessons, or learning paths as we like to call them at Dashe & Thomson, is not new. Learning Management Systems have allowed companies to generate customized lesson plans for their employees for years. Learning companies like ours have been pushing the idea of “bite-sized learning chunks” through a performance support system or learning portal for quite some time, too. Where Learnist brings something new to the table is how it organizes and passes these lessons onto the audience, and how the audience can interact with them.
On so many of our large training projects, there is a real need for an attractive, easy-to-use, online solution that delivers dynamic content to different user groups, that doesn’t require the entire training budget to implement. Our instructional designers and developers would love to provide our clients with a tool like Learnist where Project Managers (PMs) and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can communicate with different end-user groups before go-live; where SMEs could use a tool like Camtasia to record a software transaction and post it for others to immediately see; where an employee could curate content for different employee groups and allow them to “Like” the content, comment on it, and follow the user that created it.
Imagine signing up for your corporate Learnist account. You select which business group you work for, your role, your location, and maybe a few of your interests, if your company is cool enough that it wants to expand Learnist’s function beyond just fulfilling bureaucratic objectives. You login to your Learnist home page, and instantly you have several recommended lessons served up to you depending on the preferences you typed in at sign-up. Some of the lessons were created by a training firm your company hired to help you adopt a new ERP system, some of them are from your boss regarding some new business policies, a couple articles from your colleagues that were interested enough in a lesson that they wanted to expand on it, and a few from the wider world about films or music or whatever you indicated your interests are.
I don’t know about you, but I like that pretend scenario. I like that company for caring enough about me to make my learning experience mean something to me. I like the ability to see what my colleagues are saying and doing. I like the ability to say and do something myself. So to the creators of Learnist, if you read this post, think about licensing your software for corporate use (cheap licenses of course). And if you don’t read this, we just might have to create Trainist here at Dashe.