Developing a Learning Culture

The New Social Club: How Social Media is Changing eLearning for Good

According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Internet users have and use social networking accounts. And why not? We live in an increasingly social world, so keeping in touch via Facebook, reading news through Twitter and updating your professional credentials via LinkedIn makes sense. But while you might use social networking for staying in touch, you might be missing out on one of its most powerful applications.

The thing is, you probably use social media for eLearning already: The time you watched that informational video someone posted to their Facebook news feed, or when you used a Twitter hashtag to read up on a new technology. In fact, one could argue that because they’re built around information-sharing, social media networks are veritable eLearning machines. By harnessing the propensity for users to absorb, experience and share online, you can improve eLearning engagement and reach.

Corporate Social Networking

The value of social media as an eLearning tool isn’t lost on organizations that have already put the method to the test. Corporate social networking services like Yammer and Jostle already offer company-branded social networking to keep sharing within a closed circuit. Employees can post information, share videos and provide status updates, allowing for microlearning within the company. While not a complete alternative to traditional training and development, social networking acts as a supplement for a generation of workers who are social, tech savvy and eager to share.

Cracking Open Campuses

Here’s the main issue with eLearning as a whole: Currently, it’s more or less flat. Organizations offer training and education to their employees without the promise of credit and with limited knowledge-sharing between departments and the organizations themselves. When credit is issued, it’s typically only for courses which result in certification. All other learning goes, essentially, unnoticed. This can create a disconnect between learner (employee) and the pursuit of informal learning, causing organizations to miss out on an entire subset of employee education.

Social media promises to change all that. With tools like the Tin Can API, users can keep track of all learning–and not the only type that happens in a classroom. From reading a book to answering a question on social media or even playing an educational game, it’s possible for learners to track their informal education with tools like bookmarklets, social media profiles and even book scanning apps.

By freeing up data and recording learning experience, learners have a new way to find and process information, as well as share it via social networking to extend overall reach. Instead of education and training experience belonging to the corporation, the learner himself can take ownership of the things he’s learned, posting his achievements on Twitter or sharing a video via Facebook. He now controls his education and how it’s shared.

Exciting things are happening between social media and eLearning. While their relationship status might still be complicated, it becomes clearer through innovations which strengthen the bond between learning and social sharing.


Mathias says:

Great post – and agree about learners finding their own path and sharing on social but, wondering if you have found ways to make structured (formal) corporate eLearning experiences more social and what factors, tools, or insights you could share to leverage the power of social? Especially interested in the items you mention of showing recognition and leveraging institutional knowledge brining life and motivation to what could otherwise be a flat eLearning.