Kyla Lacey-Davidson, Digital & Online Learning Officer at Stroke Association and the winner of a special Charity Learning Award, talks about the usefulness of Twitter, how social media has evolved organically at Stroke Association, and her desire to avoid the training ghetto…
Has social media been useful in terms of L&D? And has social media been personally useful in terms of the work that you do?
Social media is a tool that we are still exploring within learning and development. We share links to courses and resources through our internal micro-blogging feed and our discussion forums, and we actively encourage our people to do the same. We also champion social learning in our discussions with colleagues across the business, as well as making sure that we talk about it in our corporate Induction where we guide our new starters through all of the learning opportunities available to them at the Stroke Association.
In terms of social media for my own work, it has proved invaluable! I would completely agree with Jane Hart’s top 100 learning tools – Twitter has fed so much of my learning for the last few years as my career in learning and development has developed. It has enabled me to search for and discover all types of learning resources posted by the people who now form such a big part of my personal learning network. In fact, I think that I might have found the Charity Learning Consortium through Twitter!
What are your thoughts on ‘social learning’?
It’s interesting to see the term ‘social learning’ become almost a buzz word over the last few years. It sometimes feels like it’s perceived to be a new trend. Really, social learning happens pretty naturally without any involvement from learning and development. I suppose the shift is a renewed recognition of how effective social learning is, and how we can support, shape and facilitate some of that learning – as well as provide our learners with the tools and skills to pursue social learning through some of the social networks that are now available to us online.
We have definitely seen an increased appetite for internal social networks with tweets, walls, forums and blogs appearing on our intranet by request. We also have a growing group of people playing with using Yammer to share updates and ideas which has occurred incredibly naturally, independently of both our Learning & Development and Internal Comms teams.
As a result of our focus on social learning, we have begun to host webinars which bring together groups of people to discuss an issue which is currently affecting them in their shared roles. In these webinars, we follow a loose agenda with some key questions, to support those individuals to problem solve as a group, learning from and building upon each other’s experiences. These have had a great response from the people who have attended so far and so we are looking to extend this type of facilitated peer support to other key groups working across our charity.
What value do you place on collaboration?
Collaboration is vital for the continued success of any learning and development team. Working in isolation from the business you are there to support will result in delivering ineffective and irrelevant learning solutions, out of synch with the business needs. By embedding learning as a key consideration in any major piece of work means that we are there from the beginning to collaborate with the relevant colleagues on ensuring that any learning solution is delivered in time, to the right people, and in a format that suits that audience.
We also work to keep open lines of communication with each area of the business. We go out to our teams periodically to find out about their challenges, and what learning solutions might remove or reduce those challenges. As well, we encourage all staff to pick up the phone or pop us an email with any query about learning needs that they feel they don’t have a solution for.
What insights from the Charity Learning Conference will you take back to the workplace?
I think that we have lots to consider within the context of the theme which stood out from Don Taylor, Jane Hart, and Perry Timms’ sessions at this year’s Charity Learning Conference: ie the way that people learn and work is changing, and we in learning and development have to work to keep up with that pace of change so that we can support our people in their roles, changing the world for people affected by stroke.
In particular, Don’s training ghetto is such a simple diagram, but one that has so much relevance to so many business functions. Learning and development is not the only team impacted by the way that technology is changing and shaping our home and work lives. All areas of our business are being affected and we need to work to avoid that corner of ‘comfortable extinction’.
How do you gain buy-in for learning technologies within your organisation?
We have gained organisational buy-in through working hard to provide our people with the right systems, the right courses, and the right resources, at the right time. We relaunched our eLearning LMS in 2010, placing a website at the front-end with links to all of our learning courses and resources. As a result, we saw engagement flourish over the next three years as the number of people accessing the LMS jumped up from 36 people to 350 people in the first year, right up to over 1,000 people by 2013. This increase in engagement was due to:
- Increasing our course catalogue
- Linking some of our online courses to the induction pathway
- Producing our own online courses specific to stroke and the Stroke Association
- Making our system the place to go to find out about learning
- And most importantly, communicating with all of our teams to ensure that they knew what was available to them
As engagement with online learning has grown, our biggest challenge has been responding to the demand from so many corners of the business to get training related to their teams, their services, or their systems online. This is where moving ilearn over to Moodle with the Charity Learning Consortium has been incredibly well timed. Where before we were restricted to utilising SCORM formats for any online learning for the sake of measurement, we can now upload our content outside the confines of SCORM eLearning, and instead link to web content, relevant documents and guides, Moodle course pages, and Moodle activities like quizzes and wikis.
We have seen a great response from colleagues who are empowered by our new platform to produce their own learning materials, rather than rely on us to do this for them. This takes some pressure off our team too, freeing us to provide more guidance and consultancy to the business around online learning. We are never bored!
How do you encourage a Learning culture at the Stroke Association?
Everyone who works and volunteers at the Stroke Association is incredibly passionate and focused on changing the world for people affected by stroke. As a result, we are all passionate about learning about stroke, about how we can better support the people that we work with, and about how we can work more effectively and more efficiently. We find that by making our learning relevant, and placing it within the context of the field and sector that we work in, our people are incredibly responsive and enthused about learning. This is where our efforts to engage with all areas of our business helps so much.
The advances we have made in learning and development over the last three years has enabled us to increase the range of courses, resources and tools that we make available to our staff and volunteers. With the autonomy to learn in a way and at a time that suits them, they are empowered to improve their knowledge and skills within their current role, and access learning that will help to develop them towards the next step in their career.
What three tips would you share with other learning professionals, from your experience?
- Engage with every corner of your business and listen to their problems
- Don’t stop learning! Make time for your own development, otherwise you will end up in that dreaded area of the training ghetto…
- If you aren’t on Twitter, get online and join in with things like #chat2lrn, #lrnchat, #ldconnect and more. Follow people who are working in or talking about learning, education, information, design, the sector you are working in, and more… It’s such a hugely powerful tool and a great way to extend your professional network as well as your learning network.