The hazards of learning out loud

When does learning out loud lead to inadvertently exposing your personal or organisational vulnerabilities?

“Work out Loud!” is the current war cry of enthusiastic L&D professionals who are busy networking, building, developing and ultimately sharing. The growing culture of learning through participation in webinars and live online classrooms provides us with ample opportunities to chew the fat with our fellow L&D peers. Never has the growth of your Personal Learning Network (PLN) been so easy with the use of twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Yammer, to name but a few, and these platforms are alive with the buzz of L&D chatter. So in essence we are both working, and learning, out loud.

But I’m curious… what point do we risk learning too loudly? Is it possible that we become so absorbed and committed to the task of working and learning out loud that we begin to reveal too much about what others are better off not knowing?

I am fairly recent convert to the world of modern workplace learning and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the wealth of ways in which L&D connect online. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the generosity of relative strangers willing to share their knowledge and experience. However I have perhaps found myself drawn into a false sense of security and have revealed things which on reflection, really were not for a public forum. Now here’s the rub! Owing to the enduring nature of the web those revelations are now permanently available and public. A stinging learning opportunity for this social learning novice!

Where do we draw the line? If we are truly to learn we must be honest about our areas for improvement. However this brings with it a need to be vulnerable. There are many occasions where this is entirely appropriate i.e. within a mentoring or coaching relationship or with a manager or colleague. What about with others in our PLN? In particular those thought leaders in the field who suddenly become accessible through the wondrous world of technology.

Perhaps you are thinking, “rhis is common sense SURELY?” I don’t believe it’s as clear cut as it first seems.

Certainly every experience I have had of webinar chat windows has involved fellow learners talking quite candidly about their organisation and the challenges they face. It is easy to get caught up in the flurry of exchanges about a topic that affects your daily working life and with others offering up their own vulnerabilities it is natural to feel the inclination to do similarly. I’m not entirely convinced I understand where the line is between learning out loud and potentially breaching organisational confidence. Do you?

The other concern I have about publicly learning out loud online is the potential for misinterpretation. It is not always easy to articulate your thoughts in a bite-size-chat-window-appropriate format and so it’s easy for fellow learners to be side-tracked into believing you face challenges that perhaps aren’t quite what you meant. This has happened to me more than once and I was left with a distinct feeling of inadequacy.

Is it better then not to risk opening up the possibility of breach of confidence, misinterpretation and misrepresentation all in the pursuit of learning out loud? Or do we throw caution to the wind and learn as loud as we can?


About the author

Marie Duncan is Learning & Development Manager at Kibble Education & Care Centre. You can contact Marie through Twitter @marielearns or


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