Social Learning in the Workplace Part 2

July 24, 2014

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Now that you have a clear understanding of what social media is and how social learning can be utilized in the workplace from Part 1, it’s time for the main course! In Social Learning in the Workplace Part 2, we dig deeper to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of social learning; the key barriers to gaining acceptance of social learning technologies; and the approaches for increasing user adoption. First, let’s discuss the key advantages of utilizing social learning technologies.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Social Learning Technologies

Social media is a driving force that enables social learning, helping you extend upon learning from formal teaching techniques like face-to-face training. While traditional learning methods are still useful, it has been proven that they aren't as effective when used in silos. In a classroom setting the typical student forgets 60% of material after 24 hours. When learning from a recorded lecture, that same student was found to remember 15% more. Recorded lectures allow students to learn at their own pace, just like social media. Here are three additional benefits of social learning technologies:

  • Exchange of information: social media supports informal learning from both internal and external collaboration networks. Learners can generate their own learning content and take advantage of collective knowledge.
  • Facilitating communications: social media facilitates communication among learners, external networks and experts so that the knowledge gained can not only come from within the organization, but externally as well.
  • Personalizing the learning experience from multiple perspectives allowing learners to gain information when they need it rather than relying on traditional courses. Learners are also able to generate content that meets a specific need. For example, a learner can contribute thoughts in forums and solicit feedback.

The disadvantages of social media mainly have to do with the struggles of implementation and adoption—essentially, the barriers. Thus to implement effective social learning technologies, often times, company culture needs to be modified or drastically changed. Other barriers and disadvantages include:

  1. The fact that acceptance and usage are necessary for success
  2. Content found may vary in accuracy and authority
  3. Senior leadership may be difficult to bring on board due to sharing competitive information and liability.

Overcoming Barriers

There are various strategies that can be used to effectively implement social learning technologies and overcome barriers. One strategy is to socialize the formal learning that happens in courseware, curriculum and certifications by embedding social learning inside formal content or wrapping social media around formal content. Here are the main strategies for overcoming security and privacy issues (1), organizational culture (2) and user adoption (3).

1. Provide a venue & Guidelines

Rather than aim for control (which is elusive), expand the circle of trust. Remind people to participate in online information-sharing communities with a full understanding that they bear responsibility for protecting proprietary, sensitive, or classified details.

2. Ease into usage with simple rules

Organizations often ease into using social media by adopting an enterprise tool that can be implemented for free. For example, employees may be encouraged to comment on company blogs or to blog themselves. Consider partnering with marketing or HR departments that are responsible for crafting corporate communications policies and guidelines to help champion the appropriate use of social media within the organization. In addition, provide input and training regarding the appropriate usage guidelines for each.

3. Actively manage and encourage participation by seeding

Select some people to “overuse it.” Selecting advocates or champions to populate the system with information helps move questions along and gives the inference engine something to work with. It is also recommended to have the launch team, advocates, and champions lead by example by filling out their profiles quickly and displaying best practices.

The key to success with social media is to first define your business needs and learning strategy – then select the category of media which best supports these. While there is a broad social media landscape, the categories you decide to facilitate for social learning will depend on your organizations business goals, what you are trying to achieve and how willing your organization and learners are to accepting these technologies.


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