Social media is here to stay. Modern users are utilizing social media in a number of ways – get updates, shop, connect, collaboration and even learn. Social learning tools which are easily accessible to all can be extremely effective for corporate trainings as well, aiding and re-enforcing the effects of formal learning initiatives. There are many ways that social media and social learning tools can be utilized for effective online learning – be it a forum of like-minded peers, live chats or even audio/video sharing platforms. The important factor in the success of social learning is how Learners (who utilize social media) and Managers (who make learning available to the users) handle themselves within the social platform and maintain a steadfast aim to focus on learning.
What can Learners do to ensure Social Learning success?
Harness Expectations: Learners today have a lot of exposure to the latest and bets in technology. Modern learners often have the access to social forums all day long, wherever they go. Their personal networks of friends, peers, forum users, Twitter followers or even Facebook friends often provide a rich source of knowledge gathering. When a similar network is created within the work space, the expectations out of the social platform are immense and results are expected immediately. Learners need to understand that as a social initiative, the success of a social forum is felt over time and can also not felt in any major breakthrough – but in little things like encouraging sharing habits, increasing confidence and so on.
Etiquettes are important: Just as in a classroom, treat the social forum as a revered space for learning. It is an informal platform, which is a huge plus for most learners as they find it easier to speak out and share in an online forum than in an actual classroom. But this does not take away from the fact that learning etiquettes need to be followed here as well to ensure that the focus stays on learning and nothing else. Simple habits like keeping a check on language or offensive terms can create a healthy learning environment. You may disagree with views but such disagreements have to be shared in genial terms – a strong view does not have to be a harsh one.
Put in efforts to reap success: Learners have to utilize the social forum and thus should dedicate considerable efforts to make it a success. Logging on every day, for starters, is a very good habit. Even if you don’t have to share anything, reading what others have to say can kindle the thirst for knowledge in you! For mandatory online lessons or exercises, make sure to take them with the rest of the peers. This provides an opportunity to bond with the rest of the group and feels like an ‘actual’ class of students. Take class notes and share – this will help fellow group members who cannot attend the class for some reason. This will give you a sense of achievement and boost confidence in your abilities.
What can managers do to ensure Social Learning success?
Sell the social forum well: Like any other learning initiative, a social learning forum also needs to be sold well among the learners. Managers need to inform the learners why they created the community or group. They should make the efforts of listing the benefits of the initiative and create communication explaining the benefits of joining. The communication vehicle can be an email, online announcement on the intranet or company newsletter – anything that reaches maximum number of potential learners. It’s important that members understand the purpose and how they can use the community as a resource in advance. Managers should also take up the responsibility of welcoming new learners into the community by sharing little facts or even inviting them to introduce themselves.
Wait for the power of ‘social’ to kick in: Social Communities cannot be formed instantly and social collaboration cannot be forced. It requires patience and care for an online community to flourish. Let learners know they can invite peers and encourage the habit of sharing the platform. To start with, the community can archive company documents, essential presentations, FAQs, calendars and other resources to invite traffic and encourage engagement. Inspire members to contribute relevant content that they think are useful to others, even if they are frequently questions, documents they refer to, or successful completed projects.
Build in Knowledge: Managers should give examples of topics to share or things to post. It is the responsibility of the managers to make sure that the online community has useful and compelling content. Share sample contributions to make sure that learners understand what kind of contents should be shared. Also explain the usefulness of tags within the community and organize content well, so that it can be searched and accessed with ease. Commenting is a great way to collaborate on projects and managers should acknowledge when a learner shares knowledge in a comment. Managers should also share content that is not within the learning topics but is useful for the overall awareness of the learners like industry news and trends, competitor information, self-improvement tips, anything that keeps the content fresh and interesting. This will improve long-term engagement of learners and keep them regular on the social forum.
The immense power of social learning can certainly be harnessed with a little effort and care. Creating a social learning endeavour is not a tough job but maintaining it as well as utilizing it to the best is a task in itself and can be best achieved by the efforts of both: learners as well as social learning managers.
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