Skillsoft, a provider of online training and professional development, released a new tool called inGenius earlier last month. Since then, I've had a chance to both talk both product developers at Skillsoft and watch the web application in action and it's clear that Skillsoft is on to something in terms of using social networking paradigms to change the way people, particularly adults, learn with and through each other.
Skillsoft already has an extensive library of content available in their Books24x7 platform. Essentially, if an organization wanted a group of users to develop skills in Java, for example, the organization could subscribe to access to Java 2: The Complete Reference and let the users engage in self-guided study. Necessary datasets and files can be downloaded (so there's no more wondering where the CD for that book walked off to) and users can even take mobile versions of the ebooks for study on the go.
Similarly, the company offers virtual classroom environments, learning management systems, and a variety of tools to facilitate online education and professional development. Their inGenius application, however, ties many of these resources together into a familiar, Facebook-style environment where students and instructors can share, get help, and provide additional resources and instruction.
As they explained at the launch,
“inGenius integrates social learning with structured content in unique and powerful ways, enabling Skillsoft customers to add knowledge sharing, collaboration, bookmarking, and other elements of informal learning right into their existing SkillSoft solutions...A shift is taking place in how people discover, read and share business-critical information and insights. The shift fuses the amplification power of social networks with proven informal learning solutions to change one-to-many monologues into meaningful many-to-many conversations."
OK, so they're a bit heavy on the jargon here, but the meaning is pretty clear and it's certainly consistent with what many educational leaders (both in traditional settings and continuing education) have been saying: Social networks have incredible value in terms of accessibility and reach. The key is how to make them productive, safe, and workplace appropriate.
The real strength of inGenius lies in the way it connects users within or between organizations to supplement the knowledge and skills contained within the Books24x7 training materials:
inGenius enhances SkillSoft’s core learning assets with a feature set that enables learners to leverage content assets as seeds of discussion and to add community conten...including notes, comments and ratings that add a unique layer of context and relevance, specific to their organization. SkillSoft further enhances the social learning experience with opportunities to build connections and allow sharing between learners. inGenius also enables learners to discover knowledgeable colleagues by searching social profiles.
Learning new features of Microsoft Office? Wouldn't it be handy to locate someone in your organization who was already an expert? Or perhaps several others taking the same course so that you could share experiences, concerns, questions, and key ideas? inGenius makes those connections possible.
So why am I excited about this? It's a bit outside the areas I generally cover on this blog. However, have you ever tried to train a teacher? Teachers tend to be the worst students on earth. How about adult learners in our community colleges and universities? Or our students who need to make different connections than previous generations to learn effectively? The model that Skillsoft has put into place with inGenius and will be extending to its other learning services in the coming year represents an innovative approach that can usher in a more progressive instructional styles in many settings that had previously failed to embrace social learning.