Social media for global workplace learning

This study looks at the implementation of a wiki within an international company. The wiki was supporting the work of a global team of engineers. The author conducted 35 interviews, made observations, and analyzed documents. He found that the wiki supported collaborative learning just like face-to-face learning, but with a global reach.

Breunig, K. (2016) ‘Limitless learning: assessing social media use for global workplace learning’, The Learning Organization, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 249-270 [Online]. DOI: 10.1108/TLO-07-2014-0041.

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Theoretical background
  3. Methods
  4. Findings
    1. Learning factors in virtual collaboration
      1. Challenges and value of work
      2. Feedback and support
      3. Confidence and commitment
      4. Summary of observed learning factors
    2. Context factors in virtual collaboration
      1. Allocation and structure of work
      2. Encounters and relationships
      3. Individual participation and expectations of their performance and progress
      4. Summary of observed context factors
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion

Notes

In this company, to manage projects you must have a Master’s degree and then you must complete a two-year, in-house apprenticeship program. Most learning at the company is informal, via small talk, mentoring, and collaborating on projects. This was limiting for two reasons. First, when a person needed to learn they were limited to the people they knew — and as a company with offices around the world they did not know most of the people, specialties, and expertise in other offices. Second, most communication was done by email, and knowledge shared by email was limited to those who were copied on it.

They implemented a system that offers a wiki and blogging. Employees wrote wiki articles to share information, and wrote blog entries to discuss experiences and opinions related to the wiki articles. Most employees tended to use the search feature on the wiki and blogs to find not only information but also to identify experts. They wrote wiki and blog articles for the same reason: to share information but also to promote their areas of expertise. In this way, they could be identified as potential resources for the projects they felt were most interesting to them personally or professionally. This dual usage and dual motivation kept enthusiasm and quality high.

These are two notable differences between this (successful) implementation and the other (less successful) ones I’ve read about: Positioning it as a way to share information and project identity; but also note that it follows a Master’s degree and two-year apprenticeship.

An additional benefit was that it ‘increased the sense of organizational membership among geographically dispersed employees as the expertise of globally dispersed colleagues became more visible’ (Breunig, 2016, p. 259).

See also

Billett, S. (2004) ‘Workplace participatory practices: Conceptualising workplaces as learning environments’

Breunig uses a framework to analyze his interview data. The framework is from Eraut, M. (2007) ‘Learning from Other People in the Workplace’.

Manning, C.A. (2015) ‘The Construction of Personal Learning Networks to Support Non-Formal Workplace Learning of Training Professionals’

This article cites Sfard, A. (1998) ‘On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One’.

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