May 21, 2012, 2:15 PM
I have a confession to make. I am a proud, card-carrying lazy ne’er-do-well, and I just want a place where I can go and waste time in peace. That place used to be my favorite social media sites. But suddenly all these fancy-pants researchers have decided that social media is an excellent vehicle for marketing and selling products, and now - workplace training! Thanks a lot, researchers – way to make it all about productivity! Now you may be thinking “But wait just a second. I always hear about an inverse relationship between workplace productivity and social media… that it’s all a waste of time (hence my attraction to it).  Do you mean to tell me that isn’t the case?” Well, while social media can still be plenty distracting, it’s actually beginning to find acceptance and provide value in the workplace.  As it turns out, social media presents us with excellent tools that, if harnessed appropriately, open up an entirely new world of possibilities in the realm of training. To further explore this, let’s answer a couple of key questions. What is social media? Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s begin with a little background information on social media. According to Merriam-Webster, the term “social media” was first used way back in the dark ages of 2004, and is defined as “forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).” That definition contains a couple of ideas that are critical to our discussion: namely, the concept of “user-created” communities and content.  This concept of collaborative learning satisfies a very real and universal need of adult learners. The second important concept illuminated by the definition is that social media supports a variety of content types, such as text and video. And it’s all presented in such a way that even the most technology-averse old timer can figure out.  Social media encompasses more than just Facebook and Twitter; we’re talking about blogs, wikis, podcasts, video and photo sharing sites, etc.  How does the learner experience benefit from social media? Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way right now—I’m not saying social media is a replacement for more traditional forms of employee training such as instructor-led workshops or even eLearning. Rather, what I am saying is that it is an ideal companion to many of your training initiatives, be they instructor-led or electronic in nature.  So, back to the question: what are the benefits of social media in the training world? Let’s begin by taking a look at some work done by 20th century American Adult Educator Malcolm Knowles.  Knowles developed a set of assumptions about adult learners, one of which is particularly relevant to our discussion. This assumption states that the role of the learner’s own life experience is one of the richest resources for learning. This links directly to the idea of “user-created” communities and content that was illustrated in the definition. When we can share our experience with others, we are enriching the learning experience not only for ourselves but for our peers as well. Social media not only enables us to share our experiences—its very existence depends upon it.  What’s more—social media has leveled the playing field when it comes to how we share our experiences. Gone are the days when web-based communication and idea-sharing required programming skills and software. With social media, it is complete web democracy! Now users can sound off, post pictures, audio, and video with the click of a button. And it’s a platform that’s familiar to more than just high school and college students. In fact, (and prepare to have your mind blown) of the roughly 845 million active Facebook users, some 68% are aged 35 and older. Yep, you read that right, over two-thirds of the Facebook community was around during the Carter administration. That same demographic represents 58% of the 127 million active Tweeters in the world.  The adult learners in your organization are comfortable with - and are already using - social media.  Considering how social media satisfies at least one of the critical needs of adult learners AND the level of familiarity those learners have with the platform, it’s clear that social media has the potential to be an ideal supplement to your training arsenal. The question is—how can we use it in a training context?  How can I use social media in my training efforts? Social media, as we saw in the definition, represents a variety of tools and resources. Therefore, instructional designers must be meticulous in their determination of what tool(s) to use, when to use them, and, of course, how to use them. There are as many different options, combinations, and permutations of tools as there are training scenarios, which is to say—bazillions. So for the purposes of narrowing it down, let’s focus on a (fictitious) example. Imagine you’ve been tasked with training an audience of 50 employees on a revised sexual harassment policy. You have every training tool you could ever desire at your disposal: instructor-led training facilities, eLearning software, and, of course, social media. You’ve opted to create a 30 minute eLearning course that describes the details of the new policy, but, before launching the course, you still feel like something is missing.  Now think about all of those shiny new social media tools in your training tool belt. How might you use those to fill in the void? Perhaps a video series hosted on one of the popular video hosting sites? What about a simple blog that poses some thought provoking questions and gives the learners a platform to sound off? The key here is to follow the exact same process you would when matching a particular content type to a specific instructional treatment (i.e. lectures, simulations, guided discovery, etc.)  Above all else, don’t lose sight of what will best resonate with your target audience. Conclusion Indeed, these are troubling times for us, the slackers of the world. Those dastardly go-getters, movers, shakers, and innovators have once again encroached on our turf. With its applicability to the training world, social media is no longer a safe haven for us! Where do we go from here? The arcades have all but disappeared. Our parents booted us out of the basement years ago. Things aren’t even safe online anymore.  What’s next?  Newly found productivity in naps taken on my comfy couch?  Perhaps it’s time to just face the facts and finally get some work done. http://4.mshcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Social-Media-Demographics-972.jpg
May 14, 2012, 2:15 PM
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