In Social Media, Communication Channels, and Learning, I suggested that using social media in formal learning programs should never be done just because that’s the latest approach. Using any tool inappropriately or in the wrong context is a bad idea, but pushing too hard to integrate social media into programs without regard for their best uses might be seen as wielding our newest tool and using it on every problem we encounter.
I now think it’s very appropriate to seek out ways to use social media for workplace learning because they enable so much that was previously not possible. So I argue, “Do it,” but do it intelligently. We still need to make good use of the media or run the risk of social learning being seen as the next passing fad in education.
Engage your learners!
Because you can’t make someone learn, classroom educators use approaches designed to motivate students through engagement. Approaches may be asocial (puzzles or games used individually in class, for example) but are increasingly social. As Barbara Gross Davis wrote in Tools for Teaching, “Students learn best when they are actively involved in the process.” Collaborative learning, cooperative learning, and problem-based learning are all examples of social learning methods proven successful in the conventional classroom environment (a summary of methods may be found here).
These same approaches can work online and social media can facilitate them. As Allison Rossett points out, new technologies are best used, “…to enable those practices associated with good old fashioned instructional design.”
Reach learners wherever they are
Online social media also enable learning from the workplace so it happens in the context of work. What’s learned is then more job-relevant and more directly affects performance than classroom-based learning alone. But this also offers an element of convenience for the learner. Like elearning, learning through online social media can be fit into the workday when convenient or it can be done after hours from the learner’s location of choice.
Support learning by extending it over time
In traditional classroom training, participants may be initially motivated to do things differently but return to their workplace and are surrounded by others who have not had similar training. Without support for what was learned, they slowly return to old ways of doing things (see Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick’s Avoid the Red Pants Phenomenon). As Mark Samuel said, “We can’t change habits individually in an organization. If we change and no one else does, the change isn’t sustainable.”
Social media can be an important part of reinforcing what was learned. Participants can engage with colleagues and facilitators to share lessons-learned, frustrations, and successes long after the program has ended. This becomes effective performance support at time and place of need.
Design around social media
Because of the potential benefits of using social media in formal learning programs, I now think it’s appropriate to start with a plan to use social media and then design around them. To avoid becoming the latest (and presumably passing) trend, it’s important that we think through the planned social engagement while remaining flexible as learners interact in ways that suit them. We also need to reach into the workplace or wherever it’s convenient to the learner. Finally, we need to extend the interaction between participants and facilitators over time to provide important support long after the formal program has ended.
Thanks for reading! @tomspiglanin
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.