“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” – Anatole France

Recently I was alerted to the IBM Learning Circles.  I should say that I was re-alerted, because I had known about them, but had not gone out to look at them in quite some time.  I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.

In the old days (back when the calendar year began with the numbers “19”), I used to spend a fair amount of time travelling around and delivering training classes to our customers.  The classes might focus on how to effectively use some tools, or might just be on specific software development concepts.  It was fun interacting with customers and the end users of our technology, but it didn’t really scale so well.  It also took the people being trained out of circulation for the 2-5 days that the classes were being taught.

Fast forward to today.  The customers that I deal with cannot afford to take there developers out of circulation for days at a time.  Developers don’t want to learn things in a classroom, they want “just-in-time” training, and often research answers to their problems with web searches.  The pace of life for developers has increased, and the traditional training techniques just don’t cut it anymore.  This is what the IBM Learning Circles are trying to address.

So what is a learning circle?  It is a different way to approach training and enablement.  It is a collection of reviewed content, organized so end users can consume training content in smaller pieces.  More importantly, they can control when they train, and how much they train.  They can look for topics that address their specific problems.  They have the ability to create Personal Learning Roadmaps that give them a step-by-step guide to relevant training materials.  So now the training is not only “as you need it”, it’s also “as you want it”, “when you want it”, and tailored to your specific needs.  You even become a member of a community of people from around the world who are doing the same thing (learning about a particular topic) that you are doing.  It’s pretty cool.

Right now there are a bunch of learning circles out there.  There are circles for Agile Skills, Engineering Lifecycle Management (RELM), Test Automation and Service Virtualization (think Greenhat), and UrbanCode Deploy and Release (just to name a few).  So if you are considering deploying these solutions, it would be a good idea to check into these learning circles.  What do you have to lose?