In this article, I’m featuring an interview with successful social media expert, Jane Hart. She provides compelling reasons to implement a social and collaborative environment as part of workplace learning.
Coach: You were an early adopter of using social technologies for learning purposes. What motivated you to jump in?
Jane: Using social technologies has just been an evolution of my experience and interest in learning technologies for a long time now. I was an advocate of computer-based learning in the 80s, then early Internet/web-based learning in the 90s, social learning in the 2000s is just another step along the path
Coach: What are your criteria for defining a technology as social?
Jane: One that allows people to share (experiences or resources) or collaborate (in many different ways).
Coach: From a cognitive perspective, how does learning through social media differ from structured and self-paced eLearning?
Jane: Social learning can still be structured i.e., take place within a formal course environment. The difference with social learning is that it supports conversation and discussion and learning from one another, whilst “traditional” self-paced learning is about learning from a computer without reference to others—it’s just content, content, content. We are all social beings, so social learning is a more natural way of learning.
Coach: Do you think the knowledge and skills acquired through social media and technologies should be measured? And can it be measured?
Jane: “Learning” per se shouldn’t be measured in an organizational context, it is the new “performance” that it brings about. Sometimes that can be measured by a positive change in speed or output or productivity, sometimes not. Sometimes it is important to just recognize the other intangible benefits that occur. I think we have become rather obsessed about measuring everything—course completions, test scores, etc. With social learning comes the need to think about new ways of measuring success. I think that is going to be difficult for many L&D professionals who have become used to measuring learning in a Learning Management System.
Coach: In your consulting work, what social technologies have you found to be the best for promoting learning?
Jane: Many different ones! In fact I don’t think it’s about the separate technologies. It’s about having a toolbox containing a number of different social technologies at your disposal in order to select the most appropriate one(s) that address a particular learning or business problem. It might just be one tool—it might be a number. For instance, I am currently running a formal programme where the group is using many different technologies to share and collaborate—social bookmarking, discussions, wikis, blogging, file sharing, etc.
Coach: Can you describe the advantages of the social media environment, Elgg?
Jane: Exactly to do what I have mentioned in the previous answer. Elgg provides a private integrated suite of social media tools—within a seamless environment for individuals to use for their own personal learning and for groups to use for formal or informal learning purposes. Elgg allows organizations to take advantage of the benefits that social technologies have to offer, and yet not worry about some of the issues with using public social media tools, namely privacy and security of data, muddling of personal and organizational identities in public, and the overwhelming number of tools (with their own separate logins and interfaces) that need to be supported by IT departments.
Coach: What typical obstacles do managers and learning professionals face in trying to convince organizations to adopt social learning technologies?
Jane: Senior managers are clearly concerned by the issues mentioned in the previous answer and that use of public social media tools by employees might cause embarrassment for the organization. They also think “social networking” is a trivial activity and compare it with Facebook. I have for a long time stopped talking about social networking in an organizational context as it comes with a lot of unfortunate “baggage.” I do talk about social and collaborative platforms, social learning environments or networks or communities. Those terms are much more acceptable and accepted by senior managers.
Coach: Do you have suggestions for how they can overcome these obstacles?
Jane: Demonstrate the value of social technologies for learning by installing a private and secure social learning environment so that the benefits can be experienced by the organization.
Do you incorporate social technologies in your learning strategy? Tell us how below.
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