The Key to Social Media for Learning is Participation

The three components of Learning 2.0 are social, formal and informal. Social learning, through Social Media applications, has, seemingly overnight, become the “holy grail” for learning professionals as more and more organizations go in search of a way to capture knowledge from departing Traditionalists and Boomers. Why the urgency? Simple: In less than 10 years, Generation Y (Millennials) will make up the majority of the workforce.

To date, while intuitive, there is little proof that Social Media is a successful model for learning within the organization. Most current illustrations of the power of Social Media describe improved communication with customers or collaboration among teams. Almost all case examples focus on the use of specific tools. Learning 2.0 through Social Media is not about a particular set of tools. Rather, it’s about implementation and maintenance, which ultimately must be dictated by your company’s culture. While the start-up costs are low, and initial participation and enthusiasm can be high, the fall off rates can be staggering.

The key to social media for learning is participation. Social media models for learning do not function when few produce and many consume. This is for two reasons:

1) Learning is greatly increased when participants engage by producing content rather than just consuming it, and
2) The longevity of a social media platform is often dictated by growing participation rates.

And participation is about cultural fit and perceived value. For many, value comes from being perceived as a valued contributor. For others, incentives are required.

Regardless, one thing is certain, the use of Social Media to promote knowledge capture as Traditionalists and Boomers depart the workforce will only be effective to the extent that these older generations become active producers of content. Since these generations are the least likely to be familiar and comfortable with these new technologies, we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum. Many experts believe that the path forward will require the Millennials, who already identify with these new technologies, to draw this content out of the older generations with threads of question and answer.

Intuitively, Social Media as a means for knowledge capture and learning makes sense. Blueline’s approach is to consider all tools and technologies that will help us create engaging and immersive learning experiences for our clients.

At Blueline, we are actively researching thought leaders, and to date have come across one of note: Marcia Conner. She is a fellow of the Society for New Communications Research and the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

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