We’ve talked about social learning before. Heck, everyone’s been talking about it, and we’re talking about it now in the context of using social learning theory in our modern social media world, setting up networks, communities of practice and social units to facilitate learning and ultimately changing behavior.
So, how can you do this most effectively?
Connection is the first thing. Communities can’t form without a place, virtual or otherwise, and a forum to discuss and exemplify desired behavior. This can be weekly meetings or a private Facebook page, as long as people can connect with each other to begin the learning process.
Try to ensure that these communities encompass people who don’t normally work together to broaden the community, open communication and help spread knowledge that might otherwise be compartmentalized.
You will probably need someone to be responsible for managing the community, creating conversations, monitoring discussions and reaching out to those who might be reluctant to participate.
Isolating subject matter experts is also important. These are the people who will model the desired behaviors and help to build communities.
Finally, it’s important to analyze the outcomes. Social learning requires that learners can remember the behaviors that were observed, reproduce them and have good motivation to continue the behavior. These requirements would be great data to collect through surveys and other forms of feedback. Later, you can alter your social learning plan based on the analysis.
Using enterprise social media tools like Yammer, Chatter and Jive - or even Facebook and protected Twitter accounts - allow for almost boundless opportunities for social learning.
- Increase productivity with communities of practice and let employees from all over the world collaborate on best practices and time-saving tips
- Message directly to the company as a whole in an interactive and engaging way (i.e. not email)
- Crowd source opinions about strategy directly from those on the ground using products, working directly with clients or supporting staff
- Foster informal learning among teams and groups that might not work with with each other in any other way
Pretty powerful, right? But how do you get started?
Step back and think about the goals. What you’re trying to accomplish? Just because you can use feature-rich social business software, doesn’t mean you have to. If you just need to directly message to employees, something like a protected Twitter stream might be just fine. If it’s something more robust, like creating communities and building collaboration, you might need to shell out some cash on software that will enable these types of complicated actions.
Have a plan and think about change management. Getting people to change their habits and use technology they might not be comfortable with is no small feat. Be prepared to explain the benefits, how to use the new tools and what’s expected of your new community.
Be willing to try new things - and fail. The fun thing about social media is that it’s always changing, always evolving. Be ready to take the ride, but also don’t be discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work. Just re-think and restart.
What else do you think you need to get started using social media in training?
|—||Check out this cool article about the power of social media on learning: http://to.pbs.org/Lr0qvn|
Mashable has deemed Saturday, June 30 the 3rd Annual Social Media Day.
You can celebrate by joining one of their meetups to collaborate with people like you and see how social media can work for you.
Talk to you then!
The National Inflation Association announced this week that it believes enterprise social networking will “revolutionize the workplace…[and] the enterprise social networking companies with top-tier solutions will experience growth over the next four years that is similar to Facebook’s growth over the last four years.”
It explains enterprise social networking as, “Facebook for the workplace, but without the socializing.” It goes on to say that these types of networking tools can unite teams from all over the company to work seamlessly together on projects. Shared knowledge will skyrocket and productivity will increase.
It lists a number of new enterprise social networking software applications and tools, including Jive, Lithium, Telligent and sectors of IBM and Microsoft’s SharePoint, that are posed to take off this year.
While valued at only $600 million last year, NIA predicts, “This industry is likely to grow 61% annually and become a $6.4 billion market by 2016.”
It seems it’s only a matter of time before the personal, social networks today of work their way into our business lives. As training professionals, you’ll likely begin utilizing these tools to facilitate learning more and more.
Everything you need to know about social learning in 2012.
What is social learning?
Social learning theory has been around since the 1960s when Albert Bandura’s inflatable clown experiments lead to the idea that observational learning can take place via model, verbal instruction and symbols.
This symbolic model is more often what is referred to currently, where different types of media like social networks, movies, television and the Internet can all lead to changes in behavior. This is social learning in the digital age.
eLearning professionals can utilize blogs, RSS Feeds, social networks, file sharing sites and robust communication and collaboration tools to further social learning. Content curation can also be used to narrow down good information to pass to learners.
While many great tools exist to take advantage of social learning, much of the success of this model relies on company culture, learners who are willing to share and communicate.
As Marcia Conner notes in her article, Where Social Learning Thrives, “It’s not easy for people to make the shift from a culture where they fear they are not good enough and need to improve, to one where they feel safe enough to want to improve for the enjoyment of it. Some will think it impossible for a whole culture to shift from fear-based fixes to joy-based learning, from coercion to inspiration. Others have witnessed it and will cheer along.”
The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies has put together an outstanding list of examples of companies experimenting and finding success with social learning.
IBM, for instance, uses social learning in a wide variety of ways. It has no company Twitter handle, but has a few thousand employees on the social network. It has decentralized social learning, putting learning almost completely in the hands of learners. This may not be the best approach for all companies, but there has to be an element of giving up control and allowing learners a safe, collaborative space to learn from each other.
Another example of social learning in the marketplace is Northrop Grumman’s on-boarding process, which involves networking groups that help to integrate new hires. This along with several other programs helped cut the company’s turnover in half.
Here are some general benefits of instituting a social learning strategy:
- People are already learning on their own; this is your chance to give them the right information
- You’re helping to build a learning community where employees can use and share their knowledge, creating more productive and efficient teams
- The goal is always performance, not necessarily passing a test or taking a class. Social learning affects performance as learners become more self-reliant and autonomous, discovering the best answers on their own
- Social learning is generally more cost effective
- You can create and steer conversation, like on social networks, and get immediate feedback
Here are some things to think about before you institute a social learning strategy:
- Many social networks and social learning tools lack security and privacy
- Creating and monitoring a social learning program can be a lot to manage and you will need a comprehensive tool that fits the specific needs of your company
- It is easy to want to control the process and create a kind of “formal” social learning, but this might crush social learning before it even gets started. You should provide only the framework; you can’t force social learning
- You and your team will have to move away from traditional learning development and reporting. Often success can only be measured by proof that a learner can do something they couldn’t do before. This can be hard for training teams to make the transition from traditional thinking on what learning should look like and how to measure its achievement.
Social Learning: The Future of Social Learning slideshow
The Future of Learning is…Social presentation
Social Learning Theory notes
100+ Examples of Use of Social Media for Learning list
Social Business Council site
Check out a few tools:
- Elgg: Open Source Social Networking Engine
- SocialText: Business Collaboration with Enterprise Social Networking
- GroupSite: Where Social Networking and Collaboration Meet
- Bloomfire: Social Learning Software
- Mzinga: The Leader in Social Software and Analytics Solutions
- Ning: Create a Social Networking Site
An essential element to digital curation, which we covered in the previous two blog posts, is managing all the data you wish to store and share.
We mentioned making a solid curation strategy, and figuring out how you’ll manage your data should take place simultaneously. Don’t get too far into the planning or implementation process without thinking about data management.
Here are a few tips about data management:
Document your Data
Nothing wastes more time than digging through old files or spreadsheets trying to find that one URL or article that would be perfect for your learners.
Decide on a way to organize the information you find on the Internet and stick to it. That way you can always find things you’ve used in the past and things you want to use in the future.
Track the Sources
It’s so easy to pluck a URL from your browser and share it as a curator, but always know the source of that material.
Make sure you cite the material properly and you’re not using anything that could get you in legal trouble down the line.
In general, the Internet is a pretty friendly, sharing place as long as proper citation and backlinks are used, but it doesn’t hurt to ensure that you’re doing the right thing.
Make a Schedule
Now that you have an easy way to store and find material, try making a schedule to publish or present that data. This will help you keep focused on certain topics and keep the project moving smoothly.
Many of the social media tools you might be using to curate content have scheduling functions, so you can schedule material to run and not worry about it again.
Do Some Reporting
One of the best benefits of the Web is that you can get near-real time data about who is reading your content, for how long, from where and a variety of other statistics.
You may not have access to advanced reporting options, but even tools like Bitly, which has a free version, will at least tell you how many people clicked on a link.
Knowing even the basic stats about your content will help gauge its success so you can continue to curate in the best ways possible.
As we talked about last week, digital curation can be a great way for training professionals to create a learning story with what you - as an experts - deem the most relevant information on the Web.
Curation adds the human element. It’s not aggregation based on algorithms and keywords. It’s hand-plucked information from the Internet black hole, and it can not only teach learners, but also make a highly engaging and fun experience for them.
Here are some best practices to think about as you begin curating content:
Make a strategy
Be sure you know who is going to be the curator and empower him/her to make good decisions. The curator should have a wide array of tools and be highly connected via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Think about the objective of the content and make sure you can gauge its success.
Know your audience
Knowing your audience is always vital to any training plan. Curating is no different. Understanding your audience’s needs and interests will help you further collect the best content.
Be a collector
During the course of a workday, you can run into a steady stream of amazing information. Bookmark it and revisit it when curating begins. Encourage others to do the same and share it with you.
Remember to share
Speaking of sharing, this concept is pivotal to the success of digital curation. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of content that you’ve created, but it’s important to keep a very lose grip. Making it easy to share, creates that conversation and engagement among your learners that you should really be expecting from curation.
Also, don’t be offended if you miss something and someone suggests content to you. This is part of sharing as well, and it only makes the final product that much better.
Presentation is key
Now that you have content to curate, you need to think about the best way to present it.
Do you want a blog-style format? Storify can help you with that. Do you want to send out a newsletter? SmartBrief might be your answer. Thinking about having a microsite? Tumblr or Paper.li have a number of options. There are many other tools out there to take advantage of; you just have to consider the best way for your learners to consume the content.
Keep up with trends
The concept and practice of digital curation is in its infancy, which means new ideas, tools and metrics are being created all the time. Keep connected on these trends and adjust your strategy as need.
In the meantime, have some fun with it!