Is Social Learning a "Feature" You Can Add?

Social Learning is not a “new” course or LMS feature…it’s something that happens naturally.

At best, a “social learning solution” is similar to carefully decorating and cleaning your house for a dinner party. The ultimate goal is for the guests to arrive and enjoy the environment as a group, sharing stories and laughing with one another. It’s the host’s job to create the conditions for this fun, not to be the sole conduit for the  entertainment. This requires a meaningful shift from traditional top-down, command and control training programs.

There is a difference between following the herd as it adopts a new technology…and approaching the tools and technologies as an artist to craft something truly unique and wonderful. A few examples:

  • James Cameron’s “Avatar” was the first movie to use 3D, and the results were breathtaking. But movies that have used 3D since then have not had nearly the same effect on audiences. When it is only being implemented to follow the latest trend in moviemaking and maximize the profit that can be made in movie theaters, the final product will not be as enduring or entertaining.
  • QR codes and social media links are being slapped on all sorts of advertisements. Some of them are highly effective and drive traffic to carefully considered experiences and knowledge sources…but most of them are merely an after-thought. The “everybody’s doing it” mentality is never a precursor of success.

So, L&D professional…as savvy as you are, are YOU currently working on an initiative that would add social media buttons and sharing features into a course or game just because you can? This might be a good move, but there are plenty of things to consider first.

We learned this through our launch of College Hoops Guru, the latest question pack we created for our Knowledge Guru game engine. It uses repetition and spaced learning to carefully guide learners towards mastery of a set of objectives. We like to sprinkle in a new batch of features and user interface improvements with each go-around, and this time we added Twitter functionality. While our staff had lots of fun tweeting our scores and interacting with the game during testing, we did not see much use of the social sharing features from the game players. No matter how smartly you place a button in a user interface, if it is not part of the authentic user experience, it will not be utilized. We only saw a few players take advantage of the ability to tweet their score.

So, what’s the secret ingredient you need to get social sharing features utilized in your learning solution? Proper set-up and the right audience. Make sure you clearly introduce and articulate how social media sharing can and should be used within your course or game. Show the benefit to the learner and make them believe they will gain value from using social as they learn. Make sure resources and learning materials are easily available and relevant within social media.

Most importantly, your users must be comfortable and familiar with social media if they are to use it within your learning experience. If you are planning on introducing your team to Twitter for the first time, make sure they have plenty of time to adapt to the tool and become comfortable with using it in their daily workflow. Teach them about Personal Knowledge Management and how social media can help them achieve this. Show them how Twitter will add real value to their careers, then let them explore. If your audience is already social online, all the better! But you still need to encourage them and show the benefit.

College Hoops Guru’s social sharing features are highly useful within a dedicated group of learners, particularly when encouraged to do so by a facilitator. If you want your learners to use social media within a course or game, you will need to actively encourage and support this behavior when introducing and managing the learning experience. Inviting them to the dinner party is not enough: you have to set the table.

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