The holy grail of shifting training from a one-off event to an ongoing process is to develop a robust and active learning community – a group that comes together informally, as needed, in order to share best practices, ideas, examples and to kick around questions about intractable problems. Learning communities offer just-in-time answers and members can stay current on the latest trends.
I’ve seen very few examples of sustained, active, robust learning communities. But somehow Articulate seems to have cracked this nut with their Elearning Heroes elearning community. It boasts more than 107,000 members. And I must say, it’s a pretty amazing resource if you’re involved in elearning development. Even if you’re not an elearning developer, it offers a model upon which you might want to base your own community of practice.
I’ve had the opportunity to hear Articulate’s Tom Kuhlman speak on several occasions and he’s shared his thoughts on what’s made this community so successful. Here are my observations on two essential reasons why I think Articulate’s Elearning Heroes community is so amazing and some elements you may want to include if you’re chasing your own Holy Grail of an active, robust community of practice:
Reason #1: TONS of resources I can use. Today.
This is the single greatest reason I frequent the site. If I need a background to jazz up my elearning, I can download it from this community. If I need a font that looks like hand writing, I can download it. If I need some inspiration, I can see examples of projects that other members of the Articulate community are working on.
Ideas for Transfer:
Want to start your own community for managers in your organization? What immediate value do you envision that your community will offer? Seeding the community with a library of resources is crucial. Things such as one-on-one meeting templates, remediation plans, coaching models and core competency lists could help get the community started. Then it’s a matter of encouraging managers to contribute to and build the library.
Reason #2: Immediate Responses
Elearning Heroes isn’t just another company-sponsored website to push its own product, it is a true community. If I have a question about something I’d like to do as I develop an elearning project, I can post it and receive an answer – from Articulate employees or from other elearning developers just like me – within hours (often within minutes).
Articulate is extremely savvy in how they’ve managed to ensure immediate feedback. They employee “community managers” who monitor the site, curate information and basically ensure a positive experience for all community members (for a detailed look at the community manager role, read Nicole Legault’s insightful blog post on this topic). In addition, the most active community members also earn the title of “Super Hero” in recognition of their contributions.
Ideas for Transfer:
What incentives are there for members to participate in your community? If someone takes the risk to post something, will there be a response? There’s nothing worse than posting something online, then wondering if anyone else cared enough to read it. A thriving, active community requires interaction. Articulate’s model of ensuring someone internally is watching for posts and responding is essential, especially in the beginning. Recognizing and rewarding members for participating is also key to inspiring and maintaining community contributions.
Building a community takes hard work that is both intentional and strategic. Taking a page from Articulate’s Elearning Heroes site can offer a blue print for building your own learner community.
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