After trying out Twitter for some time, I started experimenting with Yammer sometime early this year. I would say we are still in the experimentation phase with micro-learning. I started with sending some invites and broadcasted some messages. It was a slow start with me invite some colleagues and then the pace picking up quickly as the joining went viral. People invited other colleagues and the membership soon grew (we now have more than 90 people on our Yammer network). Messages started to flow. The Yammer platform was used to generate ideas and brainstorm their implementation. The micro-learning environment opened communication between departments that traditionally had little or no interaction. People exchanged tips about frequently used software tools. Links to interesting posts were shared on the network.
And then things began to settle down. The pace at which new members grew has slowed down. The messages are now just about trickling in, only a few each week, mostly sharing external links. In the micro-learning usage hype cycle, I think we are somewhere in the shaded area in the Yammer usage hype cycle below.
Some of the challenges to micro-learning adoption:
- Culture: Actually it is the culture of broadcasting yourself. Not everyone is used to broadcasting what they are doing. This takes some time to develop. We have a few champions and power users who are trying to push the usage and keep the networking going. It is important to identify as many champions as possible to get conversations going on the environment.
- Training: Ok, let’s face it, not everyone knows how to get the most of a micro-learning environment. We haven’t done any training for the people using Yammer. In a survey of Yammer users, we found that most people use the Yammer web page and very few actually used the desktop application. Using the web page is cumbersome and can make participation daunting. Desktop application is ‘always on’ and provides alerts on new messages. And, more importantly, training required is also required on how to benefit from micro-learning environments, what people can expect and what is expected from them.
- Competition: Micro-learning environment is new and faces competition from other more used services like email and instant messages. Yes, there are clear distinctions between the services, but people are more comfortable with email and IM. People need to see distinctive advantages of using a micro-learning environment.
The benefits of micro-learning environment are many and we will continue to push for its usage.
- Opens communication across various departments of the organizations.
- A great way to generate and build on ideas, not limited by the people in a room.
- Easy to share links and useful info with everyone.
- It’s a great tool to engage everyone in the organization.
In spite of the benefits, I am still not sure how to make convincing case for actually spending money on Yammer or another micro learning environment. I haven’t figured a compelling business case for me to go to my CEO and ask him to spend thousands of dollars on this, especially in times like these. Till then our experiment continues with the free service provided by Yammer.
Would love to hear about other experiences about micro learning in the corporate environment.