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Learning through my (net)work

October 6, 2011






A few months ago, I was tasked with developing a framework for prior learning assessment as part of an operational training curriculum redesign.  I didn’t know much about the topic, other than recognizing that some people called it PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition).  My manager might have assumed this was an individual task for me to complete but I treated it as a #collective opportunity as described by Allison Littlejohn and her colleagues.

My existing dispositions towards openness and taking the initiative to embrace networked learning had been powerfully shaped through my recent exposure to the PLENK2010 and CCK11 moocs and my anticipation of #change11.  I was also predisposed to reciprocity and hoped that my open-door approach to helping others with their enquiries would be returned in kind.

I immediately used my locative knowledge and fired off emails to about 20 ‘go to’ people in my personal learning network to see what they knew about this topic (yes, old-school email was the best route since our Twitter access is very slow and FB is firewalled).  My selected contacts for this enquiry were fellow consultants, instructional designers and trainers within my own organization and in partner organizations that we deal with regularly.  As I expected from the folks who ‘get it’, some of them didn’t have resources themselves and kindly provided references to others who might help me.

Each of the responses that I received helped to expand and refine my conceptual knowledge.  I received links to other organizations with expertise (mostly colleges and universities).  I Googled PLAR myself and found a more intriguing definition for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) that I used as the overall theme of my research.  One of the most important responses was from a colleague who had gathered similar information a few years ago.  She only had hard copies so she mailed them to me. 

I started out with a Word document and quickly realized I would be better off collecting, synthesizing and summarizing everything I found on a set of SharePoint wiki pages that were easy to edit and cross-reference with other internal and external sources.  Some of my colleague’s hard copy material was printed from the internet so I simply added the hyperlinks to my wiki pages.  I also scanned a few pieces to PDF since the original author was no longer with the department and then shredded the paper copies.  It takes a lot of effort to condense a large volume of information to something palatable and I believe that was time well-spent.

Enculturation was the biggest area of learning for me.  I was already visible as a SharePoint designer and contributor so I used this to my advantage to act as a curator of organizational knowledge about RPL.  I helped my colleagues to pull knowledge out of their personal or common drives and put it somewhere more accessible to our team and to others who might enquire about the topic in the future.  I also learned that we are not as completely electronic as we’d like to be in the second decade of this millenium, with some resources only available on paper (gasp!)

One respondent didn’t have knowledge to share but was kind enough to say ‘let me know what you find out.’  His ongoing curiosity and appetite for learning is one of the driving forces for keeping him on my short list of go-to folks.

Sadly, there were a few people who didn’t respond at all and I was disappointed by that.  Even a ‘nil’ response would have acknowledged and honoured my request but not everyone makes time for that, I guess.  It’s a disheartening aspect of a phenomenon I call ‘time victim’ in which a bright, capable and interesting person makes excuses for being too busy to share (or even respond), usually as a result of not being able to control his or her information flows.  I don’t have a lot of patience for that and will be less likely to call upon those individuals in the future.  To those who did respond, who always make time for sharing, my door is open and my work is richer for their contributions.


From → Smarter worker

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