Instructional Design

User-Generated Content is Going to Set Your Digital Learning Apart

Imagine that you’re spending a leisurely day shopping at the mall. You’re happily examining a pair of shoes when suddenly, another shopper rushes up to you. She is wearing the exact same shoes and can’t stop gushing about how stylish and comfortable they are–and at such a good price! You’re sold and buy the pair for yourself.

Now, imagine yourself in the same scenario, only this time, the person who rushes up to you is a shoe salesman. He tells you the shoes are comfortable and stylish and points out that they’ve sold multiple pairs that week. Are you as quick to buy?

Probably not. Here’s why: Your brain learns to quickly assess the motives behind communication. In the first scenario, your fellow shopper has little to gain; she’s just sharing an honest opinion. Therefore, you’re more likely to trust and remember her review. In the second scenario, the salesman stands to gain much, from a commission to keeping his job. You become skeptical because you no longer believe that the salesman is looking out for you and protecting your shopping experience.

This is the way user-generated content works for digital learning. You could tell learners that a new process saves them time, but they might assess your motives and believe that you’re only pushing the process for the good of the organization. But, when a fellow coworker expounds upon the same process and its virtues, other colleagues are more willing to listen. If you’re having trouble getting your learners to adapt to new ideas, understanding more about the benefits of user-generated content might be the secret to unlocking learners’ minds and hearts.

1. What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content, or UGC, is any content that is created, disseminated, and delivered by the users themselves. It can take the form of product reviews, blogs, forum posts, job aids, product and company wikis, and even case studies. Usually, UGC is created as a supplement to other content, but that’s not always the case.

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2. Why is User-Generated Content Important in Learning?

Besides the fact that UGC is seen as less biased as other corporate communications, user generated content comes from your real-life, boots-on-the-ground employees. After all, they’re the ones experiencing real-life scenarios and conflicts every day. By creating content to that effect, users offer hyper-relevant communication that colleagues can relate to and use immediately.

User-generated content isn’t only relevant for those who consume it, but it’s highly motivating for those who create. Seeing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas disbursed through official corporate channels makes content creators feel like viable contributors while helping to increase retention rates. What better way to get learners to remember information than by asking them to teach others?

3. How Can I Use Generated Content to Enrich Learning Environments? 

Think back to the shopping scenario: When information is given to you via word of mouth, you’re more likely to believe its validity. This is how user-generated content helps to enrich your current efforts and learning environment. By giving users a platform to share their thoughts and ideas, you can increase policy adoption. The message doesn’t change; the messenger does.

You can also encourage users to keep information updated using their own user-generated content. If something becomes outdated or a new scenario is unearthed, you don’t need to redo your learning content. Instead, users can add addendums or memos to help keep information relevant to the issues at hand.

4. How do You Encourage User-Generated Content?

If they’re given the chance, you’ll find that users are all too eager to give their opinions, ideas, and thoughts freely. Still, you’ll need to make sure that users have the proper platforms to not only share responsibly but share via official channels that really give them voices.

Start small: Invite a handful of employees to contribute to a company blog or encourage them to be active on an organizational forum. Use tools like Slack that let employees communicate freely, and recognize those people who willing contribute by giving kudos and virtual fist bumps when they do speak up.

You can’t rely on user-generated content completely for digital learning, but it can supplement any program or course. By giving users a voice, you can remove doubts that they have about your motivations, and instead let learners lead and eventually become teachers themselves.