The future of learning is social

In the learning and development industry only few organisations stand out and take the leap into the modern age with social learning, which always baffles me, because some of the organisations are also the greats of modern commerce. When it comes to training, most companies still sees this as a largely a classroom environment, if they are a little more advanced then also e-learning of some kind or coaching has entered the realms, but very few have embraced social learning.

With current technology it is possible to share best practice easily to everyone in the organisation or even to showcase a great project outcome to a wider audience. I have used webinars to assist in sharing this kind of knowledge which allows for live questions and polls throughout or at the end of a session, because if the information shared was of good quality then it is bound to trigger ‘how to’, ‘what if’ and ‘why’ types of questions. Because the sessions are maximum 90 minutes long, ideally 45 mins to 1 hour and they can be attended from a desk anywhere with the added bonus of potential recording for further use or upload in your e-learning platform.

I spoke with an e-learning provider recently who explained how you could actually extend the use of an e-learning platform further by linking it in to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, so that if you completed a particular module or you wanted to recommend a read or module to everyone you could simply do this through social media. It is already happening informally, so why not encourage it further. I will often follow thought leaders on social media networks and when they recommend a book or a course that grabs my attention then I will have a further look into this. This can easily be extended within the organisation where managers share their favourite nuggets of information as they go, other staff will pay attention and possibly check out exactly the same book, course or module. Most leaders tend to be readers, so why not share it. I do it all the time on LinkedIn with articles I find relevant and interesting and I tend to add a few words of my thoughts to it, which then broadcasts this across my social media networks and I know people follow these posts regularly.

Now taking social learning another step further, you can have interest groups from within the organisation on Facebook or LinkedIn and all that have taken the programme can share their questions, progress, failures and gain encouragement and insights from others. Obviously this brings up the need to connect your social profile or your company email with a new profile, which is not always every employee’s cup of tea, but I have definitely seen quite a bit of creativity on this topic. It will require an element of management and community moderation and you may choose to do this on an in-house platform where company email gives access and the social platform the facilitator. However the social dynamic is key. If you have ever gone to a course or read a book based on a recommendation from a friend or colleague, then effectively you have engaged in social learning, which unfortunately isn’t yet the norm within organisations.

Keeping it short and interesting is key and keeping your message within Twitter length in writing and 10-15 minutes Youtube for video is a good way to use social standards within the learning environment. Sharing TED talks or having your own internal TED event are great ways of contributing to social learning as well as best practice sharing. The thing with TED talks is that you have to apply for your topic to be accepted and then agree to allow your message to be spread through their membership network. Whilst this is becoming standard practice through social networks, very few internal organisations seem to be getting in on this.

I often wondered why, because as a learning and development professional I never saw why holding back information that could potentially educate and groom your successors is useful. I always worked best with managers and organisations where sharing information is encouraged on a large scale. I understand that managers are busy people, yet they still read and develop themselves, so would a 140 letter tweet be too much to ask about something they were already doing anyway?

Personally I believe learning for adults is actually best when it is discussion based and relevant to their current situation and socially we do it all the time. Whilst for the corporate world this may be considered new and may require some infrastructure behind it although all the infrastructure already exists externally and often free of charge, so let’s not create this as an excuse. In fact way back in the days before technology storytelling is how traditions, values and ways of doing things were communicated in tribes and the next generation somehow picked it up and added more to it and as far as my knowledge goes from studying Latin texts in school this was considered quite an honour too.

So let’s reinvent the future of learning and tell stories the social way to stimulate peers, successors and generations to come.