Written by:

Holly Macdonald


June 17, 2009

One of the real workplace challenges (I think), is figuring out how to train “soft skills” using e-learning.  You know soft skills: customer service, communication, negotiation, etc.  Many of theses skills are actually better suited to more traditional methods.  But e-learning can play a role.  I think, you have to have a degree of risk tolerance to do it.  And, it can be more than the distance learning model (do your own assignments and contribue to the discussion forum), but not necessarily as elaborate as Second Life (although that is a real option, too).  I think it’s just hard to know where to start. 

Well, worry no more.  One of the tools that I have been playing with is Ning to create a network.  What Ning does, is creates a specific social network (like creating your own mini Facebook), and allows you to share things with a group of like-minded people.  For example, learning how to give performance feedback takes practice, reflection, sharing of techniques, and many other active methods, which can be harder to emulate with e-learning.  With Ning:

  • you can upload videos of “great examples” or even spoofs of “what not to do”;
  • host discussion forums
  • all members of the network can blog, which would allow anyone to share their challenges – inviting input from others – their stories of success, tips/techniques or you can have “experts” create topic specific blogs;
  • you can have an event calendar, which would allow for scheduling of formal events (like face-to-face training sessions or webinars designed specifically for the group) and informal events (such as small groups who organize a coffee meeting to offer peer support);
  • external links to sites of interest (or links to a self-paced online course module);
  • each member can also have a detailed profile, which describes their specialty, skills, etc.  

Will it replace traditional learning?  Probably not, but I am excited by the prospects that it offers.  I’ll bet in your organization, there’s someone who has dabbled in this type of stuff and could be seconded to build a pilot project for you just to try it out.  Maybe you are someone who is open to trying something.  If you are into sports, outdoor activities, work with a service organization, non-profit group, or have a hobby, then consider building your own network first and test it out.  It may not catch on in your organization, but you never know. 

Has anyone reading this used Ning before?  I’d love to hear your experiences.