Exploring Social Learning and How It Can Be Implemented with Social Media

As we’re nearing the end of 2015 one thing is pretty clear: social media isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay.

What was once a unique way to communicate with friends and family has now become a pivotal part of the business world as well. Social media is frequently used as a communication tool to reach clients and potential customers, but what role does it play in employee training and e-Learning?

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What is Social Learning?

First things first. Social media’s role within employee training is inherently intertwined with social learning theories.

Social learning doesn’t necessarily have to refer to learning through social media. In fact, the concept is far older than social media, but in recent years these two concepts have become interchangable with one another.

In a 2014 report from the Brandon Hal Group, 73% of organizations surveyed said they planned to expand their social learning focus in the coming year.

Outside of the parameters of social media, social learning refers, in simplest terms, to learning from other people.

Social learning can refer to anything that involves other people in the learning process, whether it’s through observation, asking questions or simple discussions. It’s all about a sense of collaboration that enhances the learning process. Social learning has inherent principles of interactivity and interpersonal engagement that make it a strong training tool.

The Advantages of Social Learning

Social learning is a worthwhile tool for business training because it makes the process more collaborative and engaging for employees. Rather than just asking them to read and remember information, employees can work with one another to strengthen their experience.

Social learning also empowers employees and gives them more control over their experience. Rather than being asked to sit for an instructor-led training course that takes place on a certain day and in a particular period of time, learners can instead explore on their own. They can learn by asking their coworker a question, or watching what’s happening on the sales floor. There’s a lot more freedom in social learning, which means it’s more likely to resonate with employees and encourage critical thinking.

Social learning can also build relationships within the workplace. When employees are collaborating with one another, it can make them feel as if they’re more part of the organization and it can build loyalty to the business. These are things that can reduce employee turnover—an important issue being faced by many companies right now.

Social Media and Social Learning

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 11.26.38 AMIf you want to incorporate elements of social learning into your employee training but also formalize the process a bit more, consider integrating social media with your e-Learning.

Social media offers many of the advantages of social learning, but it can also be monitored and tracked more easily than informal means of social learning.

Popular social media platforms used in corporate training include:

  • Facebook is a great place for employees and trainees to easily share interesting links, blog posts and news articles with one another. Trainees can then give and receive feedback and comments on these posts. By giving employees the opportunity to share things they find interesting as they pertain to the training process, they’re likely to feel more interested in what they’re being asked to learn. It’s also a great way to add a sense of realism to the training process.
  • Twitter is another good way to share stories and interesting ideas amongst one another, although there is, of course, the 140 character limit. That character limit can be one of the biggest advantages of using Twitter in employee training. The reason is that it presents information in what we often refer to as “byte-sized” chunks. These small bits of information are easier for employees to process. As a training manager, you can guide how employees are using Twitter to learn by creating hashtags that are inspired by training materials. Twitter is also a valuable way to get feedback on employee training, by seeing what’s being retweeted, commented on and shared.
  • Google+ is becoming one of the most popular social media platforms in the e-Learning world. One of the reasons is that it’s easier for trainees to separate their work and outside lives when using Google+, whereas this can be more difficult with Facebook or Twitter. There tends to be more opportunities for distraction when using Facebook and Twitter, whereas Google+ is frequently being used exclusively in a business or work way.
  • YouTube is another excellent social media tool to integrate with e-Learning and online employee training. It’s an inexpensive way to incorporate videos into training. These videos can also be used as marketing tools for customers or during the recruitment process for new employees.

Tips for Using Social Media in Corporate Training

If you’re ready to incorporate the benefits of social learning into your e-Learning, consider these tips:

  • Be aware that information on social media can and will circulate to individuals and organizations outside of your own. That can be advantageous in some cases, particularly in terms of marketing, but it’s also something of which to be aware. Make employees aware of intellectual property guidelines and also post these guidelines on content circulating on social media channels. Take steps to ensure guarded information isn’t being leaked through social media channels.
  • Gauge your employees and their comfort with social media before you roll out a social learning concept. If your employees are primarily Millennials, they’re going to be likely more comfortable exploring novel social media channels and experimenting with how they’re using these platforms in the training process. If your workforce is older or less comfortable with social media, start smaller. You can begin incorporating social learning through discussion boards or forums. Then branch out as your employees are more comfortable.
  • Find a learning management system that makes it easy to integrate social learning. You want your use of social learning and media to be part of your e-Learning, not outside of it. Using an LMS like eLeaP will make it easy to bring together social media and learning with your existing e-Learning content and ensure they’re working well together, rather than working against one another.

Is your company using social media or any social learning concepts as a way to train employees? Is it valuable to the training experience? Especially when it’s integrated with e-Learning and formalized online training?

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