If you want social learning - go social media

We’ve been using what we call the ‘learner power continuum’ to frame our thinking about social learning in the workplace. And one of the best things about it is how much it encourages you to think inside and outside the box. For example, if we’re talking about social learning - learning socially - then what’s to stop us using existing social media to launch and deliver that experience?

Putting compliance to one side, why use a learning management system to launch and track content? Why create formal learning content using ‘formal’ tools such as Adapt or Storyline, except, as before, for compliance training.

For other content – anything that’s not business sensitive - why not adopt a completely different approach? Why not post and publish content on an existing social media channel – videos on YouTube, text and picture content on Instagram or Pinterest, instructional content with Wiki How? Write content as a blog and link accordingly, promote content using Twitter, and/or kick ideas and share knowledge on Yammer or another chat app?

Turn the learner power continuum on its head

According to our learner power framework you would not conceive of the approach described above - a really open and unregulated approach to online learning - unless your organisation is ready for it. And that means at the unfacilitated end of the spectrum, with employees ready and willing to go with social media to create and share content and learn informally - and with no top-down control of how that operates.

The challenge in getting to true unfacilitated social learning that’s self-perpetuating, self-sustaining, self-regulating and self-moderating is most likely to be around credibility. It’ll take a lot of time to get people to trust and buy in to a corporate platform that claims to be open and social but which everyone knows is corporate and therefore a controlled, controlling, top-down thing. So if you build a social platform in-house or add social elements to your LMS, it may not be adopted fully.

Go for broke

If you want to be genuinely disruptive and accelerate social learning big time, throw caution to the wind and go completely outside the corporate platform approach.  

Invite people to take to social media for their training. And make it easy for them to download recommended apps – some free, some pre-paid by the organisation such as a curated information feed like Anders Pink, a pre-populated and private channel on YouTube, and Instagram, hashtags on Twitter and so on.

From a learner power point of view such an approach would turn the assumptions on which learner power is based on its head. Instead of saying maybe take things one step at a time, it’s saying go for all the stages on the learner power continuum at once!

Tap into all kinds of learner power

In learner power terms that means create embedded learning – for example discrete micro learns with a social learning dimension published as a Wiki How, for instance, or on a Pinterest, Instagram or YouTube channel. Design and deliver a digital blended approach featuring, for example, digitally curated content. Take a facilitated approach with a human curator and moderator, possibly a learning designer who is also responsible for creating new tailor-made digital assets. And finally - because it’s all about consumer apps and platforms out there in the public domain where corporate controls do not apply, and tracking and data may be restricted to Google Analytics - this way of learning, if it’s any good, has the potential to quickly become unfacilitated.

Invest in curation – facilitated learner power

It would be unwise to consider the above as being at no cost! Though there could be profound savings in the long run, a social approach requires investment partly in some new content creation and partly in a curation team. This could be a team of two, but they must come from each side of the equation with one half of the team responsible for curation within the organisation and an opposite number in a digital content company (such as Kineo).

These two people between them would be responsible for defining and designing initial content to be published on social media and setting up the channels. The content could be videos, blogs, posts, stories on Instagram, guidance on Wiki How, etc.

Employees would then be invited to sign up, including on their smartphones, able to receive regular texts and this would be a comms channel for promoting content in the first instance – pushing people out to the apps with links and advice and guidance, for instance.

Once launched and promoted with a mobile-led campaign plus email, there would be ongoing curation – based on analytics such as Google Analytics and other data available from the social media. This data would not give names but would show overall trends - drop out, duration, preference patterns - on which to base next steps.

The curation team would meet regularly to discuss this data and other factors, new developments, general feedback etc and curate accordingly – taking out some content that’s not proving useful and maybe creating new content designed to hit the spot. Meanwhile all around this, we would hope that user traffic would be building of its own accord.

Who knows whether this will succeed? But as an L&D person used to being in the parent role, what are you afraid of? Your inner child?

Are you ready to take the leap into social learning? Take our quiz to find out.