Social Learning and Social Media

Posted by on Feb 6, 2013

Here’s a summary of a podcast conversation on this topic with Jane Bozarth, aka the social media queen of the instructional design blogosphere, that appeared over on Connie Malamed’s blog.

kidsLearningSocial Learning
Jane points out that Social Learning has always been. It is the way we learned languages as a child, the way we “pick up” ideas we stumble across in conversations or watching others. Social learning is as natural as breathing. And like breathing, most of us never think about it; we just do it. It is both informal and unconscious.




Social Media Tools
A Social Media Tool (SMT) is software platform that invites social interaction and perhaps learning via the internet. When there is a sensible reason for people to discuss their own experiences, practices, and interests, they stand a good chance to work, but as Jane points out. “Having a Facebook group doesn’t mean people are going to start talking to each other.” The tool in themselves don’t make it happen. Your planning and strategy for using and implementing the tool does.

Benefits for the Workplace

Increase Productivity
Inside an organization, SMTs have the potential to overcome organizational boundaries and allow us to find someone who knows something we need to know. They also enable contact with people in the outside world who are doing similar work. As a productivity tool, SMTs allow us to tap into expertise in various areas that would otherwise be unavailable.

Capture Tacit Knowledge
Tends to capture what people actually do as opposed to what they may report they do in a formal setting. Take for example expertise of a top performer who is about to take his years of experience into retirement with him. In addition to formal interviews, videos, including, say, a forum where the TP could respond asynchronously to questions from those eager to learn from his or her experience will capture tacit knowledge that formal interviews would most likely miss.

Tak a Pulse
Managers can also use SMT content to gauge to what is and isn’t working from an organizational point of view or from a customer service point of view.

Jane’s Advice to Managers

Start with a discussion, not a tool.
Why do you want to incorporate SMTs into your workplace? What business goals will it address? What sort of problems can best be solved by shared collective knowledge? What do people in the organization want to talk about? At work this is typically problems in executing a task, in dealing with a particular kind of client, in communicating with another work area, and so on.

Building a self-sustaining community takes time
Rolling out a tool is just the beginning. Getting people used to building trust in its value will take a period of months. Make sure your plan includes learners as partners for mentoring and generating posts and questions.

Oh, And . . .
Choose an SMT that is easy to use.
And for larger companies, do small pilots on a per department basis first rather than a big rollout all at once to work out the kinks.

If you’ve got 30 minutes to spare, listen to the entire conversation here.