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Seb Anthony

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virtual action learning


We're interested in research and practice in virtual action learning, i.e. learning from actions taken on real problems discussed in virtual action learning groups rather than in face-to-face groups. Has anyone done research or is doing virtual action learning in their organisation? If so, how is it being done?
mollie dickenson

4 Responses

  1. Some brief points from my experience with virtual action learnin
    Hullo Mollie. I have been involved with virtual action learning for some time. Some people do it through video conferencing but my experience is more with dedicated conversation spaces, established for particular action learning groups or sets.

    These spaces can be synchronous – ie everybody needs to be logged on at the same time – or asynchronous – people can log in at times to suit themselves. This is more flexible and can readily allow members to log on at times convenient to themselves.

    On the other hand scheduled synchronous meetings can be more focused.

    In my experience it is a good idea, if possible, to start with a face-to-face meeting and perhaps have another one or two during the life of a group. However there are of course situations where this is not feasible or economically viable, and it’s not essential.

    To make an asynchronous set work it is important that people be committed to it – they “contract” to visit the site regularly. There are various practical conventions that need to be agreed – for example if you see something written but don’t have an immediate response, it can be helpful to establish a way of telling people this. Otherwise it’s not clear if people are “lurking” – visiting the site but not “saying” anything.

    Also in a face-to-face meeting you can tell from people nodding and so on that they are hearing you, empathising etc, without their necessarily having to say something. So in a virtual set it’s very useful to esttablish ways of doing this – eg just saying “hearing you Mollie” or whatever.

    There are quite a lot of apparently “little” things and behaviours like that that can make a big difference, keeping the group going and helping to make members “visible” to each other. So having an experienced facilitator, at least in the early stages, is I think very useful (as a facilitator I would say that wouldn’t I!)

    The facilitator can also post some guidelines on action learning (if members are new to it) and tools/processes for encouraging dialogue; also contact members offline when it seems appropriate (eg if someone has been “absent” for a time).

    I hope this is helpful. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to chat about it some more.

  2. Useful Journal Article
    If you know anyone who is a member of AMED (Association for Management Education and Development) there was a useful article in the Nov 2006 (vol 13, no 4) issue of Organisations and People. It was written by Ghislaine Cault and Erik de Haan both from Ashridge. If you can’t get hold of copy let me know and I could probably scan and email for you.

  3. Yes please Tim
    Hi Tim – I can’t find your email address anywhere in the Zone, so am responding here.

    I used to be quite active in AMED but left for some time. I have now just rejoined but don’t have that edition of People and Organisation. I would very much welcome a copy of the article to which you refer.

    Many thanks

  4. article on virtual action learning
    Hi Tim
    many thanks for your response to my query. I’d also be interested to have a copy of the article.
    Many thanks


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