Thursday, June 14, 2012

Utilizing Social Media to Improve Social Learning

By Danielle Slatinsky

In my last post, I listed the 5 benefits of the Web Clark Quinn identified for social learning in his “Best of mLearnCon: How Mobile Enables Social Learning” webinar. Today, we’ll look at the various social media platforms Quinn identified as being useful.

Advantages of Blogging

Quinn has his own blog,, and he explained how it has helped him and how it can help other people. Writing on a blog can help the writer think more clearly about their ideas. Sometimes it is very beneficial to put your ideas on paper, or in this case, online. Another benefit is that feedback can really help shape your ideas, similar to a response team.

Quinn provided an example about a CEO who blogged internally about how the executive team was striving to survive the recession in the economy. When the employees saw the effort of the executive team they were inspired by all that they were doing to save the company, and because of this they were more loyal to the company. Sharing can be very powerful.

Formally, blogging can be used for reflections on newly learned material. Employees can write about how the new material will change things going forward. It can be helpful to require a certain number of posts over a length of time. Informally, blogging can be used for leader reflections, product directions, and product advancements.

In addition to blogging, discussion forums can also be very beneficial for corporate learning and improvement.

Using Discussion Forums for Corporate Improvement

Discussion forums, such as LinkedIn, have been very helpful for many companies. Ford utilized a discussion forum to create discussion about a new car, and they used the feedback from customers to make improvements. Ace Hardware created an internal discussion forum for people to share knowledge and ask questions. This allowed for a stream of useful information for the employees.

Quinn talked about how discussion forums can be used formally to elaborate on concepts, post responses, provide ideas, or ask questions. They can be used informally to talk about issues, ask questions, have an ongoing discussion, or debate topics. Typically people give more thoughtful responses when they have time to sit and think about it instead of being put on the spot.

Another way to use social media is to create a wiki.

The Value of Wikis

Quinn provided the example of how Sun created a wiki for the development of Java to show the value of wikis. He said that the interaction with the market greatly improved the product. He also explained how Intel used wikis to create a glossary. They acquired many companies with different vocabularies. They were spending too much time defining terms, so they created the glossary as a solution. Employees could reference it as needed, and new employees could learn the terms through the wiki.

Formally, wikis can be used for collaboration, win and loss stories, or to improve course guides for learners. Informally, people can use wikis for white paper development, project documentation, policy/procedure development, or joint writing.

Quinn went on to discuss the ways that sharing media files can help a company.

Sharing Media Files

According to Quinn, Home Depot created several 'how to' videos for employees and customers. This led to people using their products with more ease. An engineering firm had multiple white papers that employees needed to read, but they could not find the time to do so. The company decided to turn the white papers into audio files and podcasts so the employees could listen to them while driving. These are just a couple examples of the benefits of media files.

Media files can be used formally for a sales pitch, to capture examples or best practices, or for dynamic captures. They can be used informally for communication or to share a problem.

Another aspect of social media Quinn emphasized is online profiles.

Online Profiles for Networking

Quinn explained how SAP set up an external network for their customers where they could get support or identify employees who were helpful to others. CAT used profiles for an internal network so they could create teams with similar skills.

Formally, online profiles can be used for social purposes, to friend others, to explain why you are taking a course, or to include something surprising. Informally, they can be used to describe what your interests are, what your expertise is, or to search for expertise.

Another way to gain and share knowledge is to subscribe to a blog.

Gain Knowledge by Subscribing to Blogs

Subscribing to other blogs is a great way to track what other people are thinking. Subscribing to blogs can be beneficial formally by tracking courses and instructors or tracking other learners. Reading about what your instructors find interesting may be advantageous while taking a course. It can be helpful informally by tracking experts, leaders, projects, or looking at diverse fields. It is important to keep up-to-date on information in your field, and it can also be good to see what is going on in other fields as well.

Using a microblog may also be helpful for companies.

How to Utilize a Microblog

An example of a great microblog is Twitter. Quinn used Twitter to help him with a job. He needed to be familiar with Oracle, so he tweeted to ask if anyone could give him information on Oracle Connect or Mix. A guy who wrote Oracle actually responded, and Clark was able to set up a phone call with him. He got all of his questions answered, and he was very prepared for his new job.

A microblog can be used for a knowledge check, clarifications, status updates, comments, quick questions or responses, and quick pointers. In many cases microblogs such as Twitter are very useful when used correctly.

Applying What You Learned to the Corporate World

Social media is integrated into the lives of nearly everybody. We cannot stop the signal, so we need to learn how to take advantage of it instead. We need to provide time for reflection and create an environment where it is safe to contribute. We should be collecting data and improving it. There are so many ways to utilize social media to enhance the learning environment.

Mobile devices are also a channel for existing needs, and they can be used in addition to social learning. A mobile device has context awareness, meaning that the device knows where it is and it has a camera that can capture images and videos. People can use this to connect with others near them, find someone with a special expertise, or do things specific to their location.

Quinn concluded his webinar by explaining ways we can annotate the world. He said to take action, have a village mentality, create a profile, join twitter, blog at least two to four times a week, follow blogs, contribute to discussions, post media files, and just be active. Find ways to use mobile devices to accomplish these tasks while out.

This cannot be done all at once, but you can slowly integrate social media into your corporation to fully utilize the benefits that technology has to offer.

Do you use social media in your corporation learning?

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