Kimberly Scott, Jeff Merrell Lead Online Learning Networks Seminar for Future Leaders

Kimberly Scott, Jeff Merrell Lead Online Learning Networks Seminar for Future Leaders

How is leadership development changing in a business environment now driven by technological innovations? How can employee networks increase commitment and build community among future leaders? These questions will be addressed at the Conference Board Future Leaders Conference on November 15, when Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) director Kimberly Scott and associate director Jeff Merrell present results from their innovative five-week online seminar that starts October 7 -- “Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations.”

The Conference Board is an independent business membership and research association working to help member companies understand and deal with critical issues of the day. The Future Leaders conference on November 14 and 15 in Chicago is intended to help future leaders use networks, communities and technology to benefit their organizations. At the conference, Scott and Merrell will give a presentation on “The New Learning Landscape: Building Your Network, Growing Your Community.”

Registration for “Exploring Personal Learning Networks” will remain open until the October 7 start date of the online seminar, which is designed in part to welcome people who are new to this learning format. The event will rely on individual and group blogs, Twitter, Google+ communities and video broadcasts to facilitate seminar activities and collaboration examining the potential impact of personal learning networks (PLNs) on professional development.

Jeff Merrell

Learning networks are important both in organizational knowledge sharing and in the open, online courses that practitioners are beginning to consider for facilitating professional development. “PLNs are the connections and relationships you create specifically to learn more about something of professional or personal interest,” Scott and Merrell write in the introduction to their seminar. “It is first and foremost personal to you and designed for your benefit. You own it. And in a connected digital world, your network can extend anywhere and include people you know only online.”

By supporting the development of PLNs, learning and organizational change leaders may help individuals become continuous learners. PLNs also help individuals build productive, digital collaboration and knowledge-sharing muscles – again a plus for organizations, according to Scott and Merrell.

“At the same time we need to be comfortable with the tension this potentially creates between individual and organizational interests,” say Scott and Merrell. “Individuals own their PLN relationships. And these relationships extend anywhere – inside and outside the organization. … This issue is at the heart of our open learning event: Is it possible for PLNs to be fostered within organizations for mutual benefit – for both the individual and the organization?”

The five-week open online learning event is designed for learners who are new to PLNs and the tools used for the event. By the end of this seminar, participants will create a set of questions they can ask about their organizations to determine whether they might be ready to experiment with PLNs as a part of their learning and development strategies.

On November 15, Scott and Merrell will present the closing session of the Conference Board’s annual Future Leaders Conference. “The New Learning Landscape” will cover insights from the open PLN seminar as well MSLOC’s history using social collaboration technology as a backbone of the program’s innovative learning experience.

For the past five years, MSLOC graduate students have used online discussion tools and blogging as routine components of their course work. In September 2012, MSLOC launched “The Hive,” based on Jive software’s social collaboration platform. It is a unique application of business-class technology to an educational purpose. MSLOC students and faculty use The Hive for discussions, blogging and resource sharing both within and outside the formal class structure. These experiences allow MSLOC students to experiment with social collaboration technologies, to practice writing and reflecting in open forums, and to learn firsthand the challenges and opportunities of using these technologies to facilitate learning.

The MSLOC program at Northwestern University provides an innovative curriculum and an intensive student experience that integrates the theories and practices of learning and performance, strategy and knowledge, and strategic organizational change.

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