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Blogging to learn and learning to blog

By Karl Kapp, Lisa Neal / December 2006

TYPE: OPINION
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Most learning in organizations is informal, yet the majority of learning dollars are spent on formal courses. If organizations are going to successfully transfer knowledge between employees, they must tap into informal learning. One approach that has been used successfully is the corporate blog.

Blogs provide a mechanism for employees to write about what they are doing and learning in their jobs, providing sequential posts that others can read and comment on. They are a bottoms-up approach to communication and knowledge management. An expert, thought leader, or industry-segment leader within a company can write his or her thoughts concerning a particular issue in a blog and then anyone within the organization can assess the information, ask questions, make comments, or contact that person directly for more information. A blog allows others to "see" what is inside a person's head. This can be a great tool for transferring knowledge such as lessons learned, new development techniques, or information about the latest news within an industry—as long as some structure is imposed.

Design Guidelines for Blogs
Typically, blogs have minimal organization, no navigation tools, and no instructions for our informal learners. Applying the instructional-design principles of organization and information-chunking makes a blog easier to read and more efficient for employees, without burdening the author. Providing templates and guidelines for blog creators can increase the usefulness of blogs and make them lead to a richer learning experience for busy employees.

A table of contents for a blog "chunks" information and makes it easy for a visitor to quickly navigate to the exact piece of information he or she is seeking or to scan what is available. A description of the blog's purpose allows employees to quickly understand why the blog is being written and how it can be of use to them. Another effective technique is to create summary or digest entries periodically. These entries pull together several previous entries and provide access to those entries in one location. If an entry on the blog is especially relevant or of interest to a visitor, a permanent link to that entry can be created in the heading of the blog so that any visitor can quickly go to the table of contents to guide them to the information they are seeking.

Content Guidelines for Experts
Many experts in knowledge-based organizations are busy and their time is at a premium. Fortunately, blogging doesn't need to take a lot of time. The idea of a corporate blog is not to flood readers with the expert's random thoughts or ideas but to focus the blog on a specific topic and provide facts and insights into that focused topic.

There are three types of entries that are typical in most corporate blogs. The first type of entry is answers to the most frequent questions asked of experts during the course of a day. Placing information on a blog provides the expert with an easy and convenient place to store these questions and answers. It also provides others within the corporation quick access to information regardless of the expert's availability.

The second type of entry is a link or links to useful information on the company intranet. These could be important documents like a proposal template or specific pages on a Web site like a link to the policy on traveling to bidders' conferences, for example. The value of the blog is that it is a one-stop-shop for someone seeking information. They can quickly go to the entry, view several links on a topic and then navigate to the link they feel is most relevant. Since the expert probably knows all the links anyway, putting them in one place saves others in the company hours of searching.

The third type of entry is specialized information. Many experts who are knowledge workers write numerous emails and documents for a variety of reasons. One set of items that can be posted on a blog are critical pieces of information from those documents. An opening paragraph from a particularly effective sales letter can be copied and pasted into the blog as an example. A summary of competitor information written in an email could be copied and placed on a blog. The procedures someone wrote down when they were orienting a new employee to the company can be summarized on a blog. There are literally hundreds of times when knowledge workers capture their knowledge in writing and then store it in an email archive or an obscure location on their C drive and never recover it again. A blog is a great place to post those knowledge gems so they have exposure. It also prevents that knowledge from being "lost."

Increasing Everyone's Expertise
Blogs, in and of themselves, are just a communication mechanism, but blogs that follow the above guidelines are easier to create since some structure is provided. They help promote informal learning since information is better organized and more useful for others. Not only can employees learn more this way, but they can create their own blogs, modeling them after experts' blogs, and share their own expertise with others within the organization.



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ADDITIONAL READING

    Karl Kapp
  1. Selecting an e-learning solution, part 3
  2. Selecting an e-learning solution, part 4
  3. Selecting an e-learning solution, part 1
  4. Can a Video Game Make Someone Nice?
  5. Writing a winning e-learning proposal
  6. Review: 'The E-Learning Handbook: Past Promises, Present Challenges,' by Saul Carliner and Patti Shank
  7. Selecting an e-learning solution, part 2
  8. Review of "Learning by Doing: A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games and Pedagogy in E-learning and Other Educational Experiences by Clark Aldrich"
  9. E-learning Solutions on a Shoestring: Help for the Chronically Underfunded Trainer
  10. Five Technological Considerations When Choosing an E-Learning Solution
  11. Lisa Neal
  12. When will e-learning reach a tipping point?
  13. Q&A with Saul Carliner
  14. "Deep" thoughts
  15. The stripper and the bogus online degree
  16. Five questions...for Tom Carey
  17. "Spot Learning"
  18. Learner on the Orient Express
  19. Five (or six) questions...for Irene McAra-McWilliam
  20. How to get students to show up and learn
  21. Blended conferences
  22. Predictions for 2002
  23. Learning from e-learning
  24. Q&A with Don Norman
  25. In search of simplicity
  26. Five Questions...for Christopher Dede
  27. Want better courses?
  28. Designing usable, self-paced e-learning courses
  29. Just "DO IT"
  30. Senior service
  31. Formative evaluation
  32. Predictions for 2007
  33. Not all the world's a stage
  34. Five questions...for Seb Schmoller
  35. Do distance and location matter in e-learning?
  36. Why do our K-12 schools remain technology-free?
  37. Predictions For 2003
  38. Degrees by mail
  39. The Value of Voice
  40. Predictions for 2006
  41. Five questions...for Shigeru Miyagawi
  42. Five questions...
  43. Five questions...for Larry Prusack
  44. Five questions...for Karl M. Kapp
  45. Music lessons
  46. Learn to apologize for fun and profit
  47. Advertising or education?
  48. Of web hits and Britney Spears
  49. Predictions for 2008
  50. Serious games for serious topics
  51. Back to the future
  52. Q&A
  53. Storytelling at a distance
  54. Talk to me
  55. Q&A with Diana Laurillard
  56. Online learning and fun
  57. Everything in moderation
  58. eLearning and fun
  59. The basics of e-learning
  60. Is it live or is it Memorex?
  61. Five Questions... for John Seely Brown
  62. 5 questions... for Richard E. Mayer
  63. My life as a Wikipedian
  64. Five questions...for Elliott Masie
  65. Five questions...for Lynn Johnston
  66. Five questions…for Matt DuPlessie
  67. Do it yourself
  68. Predictions for 2004