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Learning Circles – Our approach to learning now includes YOU

How do you learn in today’s world?  For a lot of us, paying (and finding time) for traditional classroom training is a thing of the past.  Today, most of us expect continuous learning at our fingertips. We learn from our social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. Our favorite classroom is a place called YouTube.  I recently became a decent bricklayer thanks to YouTube and a guy who lives in Australia some 9000 miles away from me.

Technology gives us something that we’ve never had before: access to people and what they share without the traditional barriers of cost, time, or geographic location. Anyone with an internet connection is now able to take a course from a prestigious university with access to trusted experts and peers anytime, and anywhere – and it’s free.

Over the last several years, we’ve experimented with adopting many of these non-traditional ways of learning and have shifted from discrete formal training to continuous informal learning. The results – the effectiveness and efficiency of our learning has improved in scalable ways. Some of the many examples where people are doing this type of learning  include  MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) or sites like Khan Academy or Coursera.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would you care about how we are learning inside of IBM?” Earlier this year, we did something that shocked a few people.  We moved our internal technical learning spaces outside our firewall and opened them up to everyone.  In essence, we’re expanding our definition of enterprise learning to include our clients or anyone else who needs to gain basic competencies and connect with others. It’s is free and scalable.  We call these spaces “learning circles”.

What is a learning circle?

Learning circles are not unique to IBM.  A learning circle is a place for people to come together and learn.  The value proposition is simple – access to people and filtered information.  We’ve gathered the experts together to crowdsource finding the best learning content no matter where it lives. Picture sitting in the cube next to a  group of experts and being able to shout over the wall when you had a question or needed to know how to complete a task.

Our primary goal with learning circles is to increase the number of people who are able to use our products and solutions.  When people “graduate” from a learning circle, we hope that they have the following:

  • Basic competencies (self-assessed)
  • New learning relationships – a network of people to learn with

How can you use learning circles?

Think learning as a service. Here are a few examples of innovative usage models for learning circles.

  • Study groups   – small or large – can come together, online or in person,  to learn from each other and use the learning circles to provide content for discussions.
  • Organizations can use learning circles to provide basic competencies allowing them to focus on higher value learning
  • Training organizations can use learning circles to complement their course offerings
  • University students can use learning circles to learn and establish relationships with people in various industries

How can you learn more?

Visit our page on developerWorks to see the list of available learning circles.  There are several including Rational Team Concert, CLM for AppDev, CLM for Enterprise Modernization, DevOps Release and Deploy, DOORS Next and more. We’ll be adding more!

Take a quick tour:

Connect with us:

Here are some additional resources to help you understand what is behind learning circles:

Images drawn using Inkflow and inspired by Dan Roam