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Learning Layers – Insights into the views of (individual) users

November 21st, 2012 by Pekka Kamarainen

Graham Attwell has already reported of the kick-off meeting of the EU FP7 project “Learning layers” in his blog article “The Learning Layers project scales up informal learning at the workplace” on the Wales-Wide web.  Graham gave an overview on the key issues and presented several views of partners with different roles in the project.

My intention is to continue the discussion on the Learning Layers project with further insights into users’ interests and expectations. ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) is involved in this project as a research partner with focus on promoting learning in organisational contexts. In particular ITB has the task to facilitate cooperation with partner enterprises in construction industry and related trades. At the same time ITB has a keen interest to study work process -oriented learning within the networks and communities of medical doctors (General Practitioners – GP).

During the preparation of the proposal the ITB team and the partners from Leeds produced quick video interviews to illustrate potential users’ needs, ideas and expectations regarding the work of the project and possible benefits. Here I would like to draw attention to the parallities between the users’ statements.

In the video produced in Leeds John Sandars presented a user’s story from the GP point of view. He referred to the complex prolems he has encountered in his work as GP with patients that each have a unique set of health problems. For GP it is vital to make quick but well-informed diagnoses. For this purpose it is of little help to overload the GPs with access to massive documents or guidelines. Instead, GPs are more interested in being able to share their notes on individual cases and get feedback of their fellow colleagues (taking into account the confidentiality and the need to anonymise the data). In this way the Learning Layers project is expected to provide facilities to store, share and enrich the work process knowledge that is generated by GPs in their work processes. Moreover, regarding the GPs’ obligations to provide evidence of their professional development (for the revalidation processes), the project can provide a cumulative knowledge resource for the individual doctor, for the GP practice and for the network of GPs.

In the video produced by the ITB team the director of an electric installation company and the head of the trade’s guild (Elektroinnung), Mr Siever makes similar points on the needs and expectations to support workplace learning in his trade. He also referred to the work situation of a technician doing repair or maintenance work with very little information of a problem and with little help of standard manuals or massive handbooks. In such situations (when the client is impatiently waiting for solution) the most likely option is phone call to colleague or to the boss (if they happen to be available). Moreover, if the problem is successfully solved, this may be documented by snapshots with mobile phone camera and some notes. Such storage and sharing of work process knowledge is very fragile and hardly leads to knowledge development. Therefore Siever was  in favour of a living system for documenting problems, key information and possible solutions in the way they have been encountered, tested and documented in critical work situations.

To me it has been striking that the videos that have been recorded in different countries, with different languages and with focus on different professions/occupations have raised similar points regarding the problem-relevance and usability of knowledge from the perspective of practitioners. for both kinds of user stories the emphasis is on the ‘living system’ of knowledge resources.

However, these were the opening statements. The story goes on …

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