A question from an organisational learning partner:
What are some tips for implementing social media into formal learning?
Implementing social media for formal organisational learning is not easy. It's success is very dependent on learner motivation. We can expect students to participate in online social learning activities as part of assessment for tertiary programs, because the carrot is a qualification and the stick is no qualification. And, as anyone who has taught in a tertiary institution knows, students will usually contribute the least amount possible to gain the assessment points.
Additionally, it has been well documented that social media works because it is the users choice ("I Choose"). The personalisation available on social media platforms makes them work "just for me". Such personalisation is often missing in the functionality of corporate and academic social media platforms.
So, how can we implement social media into formal organisational learning? The ease of adoption is dependent on at least four considerations:
1. The length of the course or program. If the course is short, then likely not enough time will have passed to enable participants to become familiar with the rules and norms of contributing in an online space. Additionally, participants may not have had the opportunity to get to know each other well enough to have built trust to share openly and meaningfully in an online space. Longer programs, such as a 12 month Graduate program, has a better chance of success.
2. The degree of clout you have to enforce contribution. If the activities designed in the social media space are intended to help embed learning into the workplace (for example, through action learning), then this must be driven by an online facilitator who ensures learner accountability. If the activities are not mandated and reported upon, then it is highly unlikely employees will do the activities.
3. Synchronous versus asynchronous social media. Asynchronous social media (e.g. blog, discussion forum, wiki) take a lot of effort for learners to contribute. And their contributions are captured for 'eternity' - so bad luck if your posted opinion is ill-informed. This makes asynchronous learning activties unattractive.
Synchronous social media, such as webinar (virtual classroom), instant messaging and video streaming takes far less effort to attend, respond and contribute. In my experience, if you are looking to implement social media into formal learning curricula, a well designed and facilitated webinar is a good option. Webinars are very successful pre and/or post classroom events to support learning transfer - just one example.
4. Facilitator skill. A number of pedagogical frameworks have been proposed to help guide the design and facilitation of social learning activities. For example, refer to Gilly Salmon's 5 stage model. Designing and facilitating in a social media space is a new and very different skill for most organisational learning professionals.
Other tips such as proximity of the platform to participant workflow, ease of use, clear purpose etc are similar to my work-based social media tips and should also be considered in formal social learning design.
Social media and blended learning
If you are considering social media for your formal learning offerings, then you will probably need to think creatively about what this will look like, and the motivation of your intended audience. Perhaps the best approach is to create a holistic, blended learning approach; to use social media to create informal work-based opportunities that will support participants to embed what they have learnt from the formal learning event. Our role as learning practitioners in this scenario is to be an informal guide to learning; to be very familiar with participants, their work, behaviour and motivation.
I hope this post has been useful. For more posts and video tutorials on social media, click “Social media” in the categories list.
If you have a tip you would like to share, or a question, feel free to comment or use the Contact Us form.
About the Author
E-Learning, LMS & Social Media Consultant. E-Learning Trainer and Coach.
The E-coach Blog
Visit regularly to read or listen to insights in organisational e-learning from the Academy's e-coach, Alison Bickford. New topics are posted weekly. Why not add the blog RSS feed into your favourite news aggregator to receive updates automatically.