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Why E-Learning 2.0?

Concerns about e-Learning 2.0

If we're going to explore “why e-Learning 2.0,” we also need to consider “why not?” That is, what are the perceived barriers to implementing e-Learning 2.0, and how might we deal with them?

The e-Learning Guild's survey shows that, when it comes to using social media, there are a number of issues that concern e-Learning professionals.

Legal, regulatory and confidentiality issues

Among e-Learning Guild members, 52% were concerned about the legal, regulatory, or confidentiality issues they believe e-Learning 2.0 creates. This is a common concern for most organizations considering social media for any reason, so it's not surprising to see it here.

The primary concern of organizations is that employees will share private or sensitive information that they shouldn't. Yet workers don't need social media tools to do this. If they intend to disseminate something you'd rather keep private, they can send an e-mail, share a paper copy, or even give the information verbally in a phone call or personal conversation. If you think about it, if all interactions had to take place through social media, it would actually be easier to monitor what people say, because it would all be in the open. E-mail, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings actually allow more under-the-radar interactions to occur.

If you need additional proof that social media can be secure, it's hard to imagine organizations that might have more potential issues with regulations and confidentiality than do the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Yet, in the United States, the CIA, FBI, ONI, and DIA have all deployed MediaWiki, blogging software, tagging software, and Google search as part of their Intellipedia project. Clearly, you can work out security issues.

E-Learning 2.0 isn't effective

According to the e-Learning Guild survey, 43% of respondents aren't convinced that e-Learning 2.0 works and 81% are concerned that we don't know how to measure its effectiveness.

This is the problem with any new technology. Until we use it for a while, we have no way of knowing when and how it might be effective. Will Thalheimer's essay (August 19, 2008) offers some thoughts on how to evaluate e-Learning 2.0, which we highly encourage you to read. We’d also argue that, as a profession, we haven’t always done the greatest job of documenting the effectiveness of eLearning 1.0, yet we still use those tools and processes for learning.

As we discussed earlier, according to the Guild’s survey data, there is significant anecdotal information to suggest that e-Learning 2.0 is showing positive impacts. We also know that among the biggest drivers of e-Learning 2.0 in organizations are the learning professionals themselves, 52% of whom have tried out the tools, and are now pushing their organizations to use social media to improve learning.

In addition, other studies suggest that effective use of IT and social media can have important impacts on organizational performance as well. A new report, by Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee and several co-authors, shows an increasingly large performance gap between those organizations that have learned how to use technology to spread ideas and innovations, and those that haven't. Essentially, the more a company uses IT to spread innovation and continues to learn from it, the more likely it is to be a competitive winner within its industry. This is because social media helps spread employee ideas, skills, and expertise. In an organization that does not make effective use of IT innovations, the knowledge and learning of organizational superstars is either undiscovered or undocumented. With social media, however, good ideas work their way to the surface, where you can harness them for knowledge and insight in an easily transferable format. This is borne out by the experiences of those Guild members who are using e-Learning 2.0, 66% of whom report that social media has increased the speed of information dissemination in their organizations.

Employees don't have the equipment or the skills to use social media

Lack of equipment and skills was another key concern that e-Learning professionals identified in considering e-Learning 2.0.

According to 55% of survey respondents, their employees don't have the equipment or software to create and share content. However, given that the majority of social media tools require only a Web browser and an Internet connection; this should be less of an issue than it appears to be.

At the same time, 48% of respondents worry about whether or not staff has the skills to use social media. This may be true, although the extent to which it's a problem may be over-estimated. One of the reasons for the wide spread adoption of social media is because it's designed to be easy to use, with minimal training, and no need for "manuals.” Further, an entire generation is entering the workforce equipped with these skills. People who are less experienced in using the Web may struggle more, but social media is generally far less complicated to learn to use than other forms of technology.

E-Learning professionals don't have the skills to use social media

According to the e-Learning Guild survey, 51% of respondents are concerned that they themselves don't have the skills to use social media for learning. Fortunately, social media itself can help solve this issue, as there are active blogging networks, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and other online resources devoted to exploring how to effectively use social media for learning. And again, the technology itself is easy to learn. If you can master an LMS or an authoring tool, you can certainly master a blogging platform or a social network.


Social learning psychologist Albert Bandura (1977) said, “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: From observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” E-Learning 2.0 facilitates that social learning process in ways Bandura probably never imagined possible.

Because we are essentially social creatures, social media tends to enhance learner motivation and engagement, providing workers with more meaningful ways to interact with each other and with information. Use of social media also creates a more fertile environment for the development of communities of practice, identification of experts, sharing of ideas, and the spread of innovation. This translates into a compelling story for e-Learning 2.0, and places us at a potentially historic inflection point for the way we create, deliver, and iterate learning. The next question you should ask yourself is, “Where do you want to be when this groundswell erupts – on top of the fountain, or standing by and admiring its splendor?”


Bandura, Albert. (1997) Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Bughin, Jacques and Manyika, James. "How Businesses Are Using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global." McKinsey Quarterly. March, 2007. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from

Colvin, Geoff. “Information worth billions.” Fortune, July 10, 2008. Retrieved August 13, 2008 from

Donston, Debra. "Enterprises Diving into Web 2.0 Waters." EWeek May 21, 2008. 

Downes, Stephen. "E-learning 2.0." Stephen’s Web. October 17, 2005. Retrieved August 7, 2008 from

Karrer, Tony. "Understanding E-Learning 2.0." Learning Circuits July 7, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2008 from

Marks, Oliver. "G.E's Enterprise Collaboration Backbone." ZDNet July 17, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from

Mattson, Eric, and Nora G. Barnes. (2008) Social Media in the Inc. 500: The First Longitudinal Study. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from

McAfee, Andrew. "Curb My Enthusiasm." The Impact of Information Technology on Businesses and Their Leaders. July 5, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from

McAfee, Andrew. "Serena is Serene About Enterprise Facebook." The Impact of Information Technology on Businesses and Their Leaders. July 14, 2008. Harvard Business School. Retrieved July 21, 2008

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