New ways of learning rely on social networks

Monday - 11/8/2010, 7:15pm EST

Andrew Krzmarzick, community manager, GovLoop

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By Olivia Branco
Federal News Radio

It's common to think of learning as only structured classroom exercises or planned training sessions. But collaborative tools are offering more options for people to learn.

Andrew Krzmarzick, the community manager for GovLoop, writes a blog called "Stop Learning the Hard Way".

Krzmarzick joined the DorobekINSIDER to preview this Friday's Federal News Radio Book Club discussion about "The New Social Learning".

"Based on my experiences, most people when they hear 'training' they think, classroom-based experience or some kind of virtual or online environment. I think we need to think about learning as, 'When I have a question, on the job, where can I turn?'" Krzmarzick said. "A lot of people are turning to Google, but others are turning to social networks to ask their peers for their insight."

Many agencies and organizations set up training sessions for employees throughout the year. Krzmarzick explains that while these are helpful, they must be supplemented with other options.

"Learning never ends. If we have to think about learning as something that happens every three to four months or worse, maybe once a year, or something that's easily cut when budgets are tight, we're thinking about it all wrong, and we're not going to give our employees the development opportunities they need to advance and potentially stick around. If you're not going to develop your employees they're going to go places where people are going to invest in them," Krzmarzick said.

Krzmarzick offered an idea on how we can learn beyond the classroom or formal training.

"It's commonly held that 70-80 percent of learning is informal," he said. "What happens between the classroom experiences? We turn to these other informal networks. You could find a coworker who's more seasoned or veteran. Maybe you could call someone else in your agency that's located in another part of the country."

Krzmarzick pointed out that the people you can turn to may not be the ones you traditionally think of.

"I think we're at a point where we need to start redefining the term 'expert'. Because we think of experts as people who've written a book, or stand in front of a classroom, and they are....but people who are practitioners who are in the trenches day in and day out have just as much to share and often more so."

Using social networks in the professional world is still new. Krzmarzick said we're going through uncharted territory.

"Never before have there been places like GovLoop, or places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter where you can tap a bunch of people, regardless of time or location. I think that's really powerful."