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7 Ways to Improve Viral Learning

Bob Little 

April 8, 2016

©iStockphoto/RawpixelLtdThe ongoing technological revolution began in the 19th century with inventions such as the telegraph and the telephone, which allowed remote communication. It continued in the 20th century with radio, television and, most recently, the Internet, mobile communications, and social media. These developments have made gaining access to learning materials easier, and the process of “learning” increasingly informal – adding to the frustration of those L&D professionals who prefer the “command and control,” prescriptive style of organizing corporate L&D activities.

Nonetheless, informal learning – popularly known as the “70” component in the 70:20:10 framework – is here to stay. According to a recent study by Towards Maturity, 80 percent of the learners surveyed use Google® when they need to look for resources, 70 percent use their own smartphone, and 52 percent use their own tablet for learning purposes.

Apparently, Facebook’s® “Like” button is hit five billion times each day, and the company has now introduced five reactions buttons (“Love,” “Angry,” “Sad,” “Haha,” and “Wow”) to increase the amount of user interactivity.

Every 24 hours sees 500 million tweets sent, and some 70 million photographs are put on Instagram® every day. Regardless of how accurate these statistics are, they serve to illustrate that social media is popular – and it’s showing no signs of going away.

While these activities are outside of their guidance, control and, often, knowledge, there’s no reason why L&D professionals shouldn’t harness some of social media’s informal learning delivery mechanisms to achieve their aims. Harnessing these mechanisms can help the learners under their care to discover what they need to learn – as, how and when they need to learn it.

Setting up social media profiles are (usually) free, and you can access them from a variety of devices. So, social media tools can be used as a cost-effective means to support an organizational blended learning program, or to embellish online learning initiatives.

Social media contains an amount of frivolous trivia but, importantly, it also contains and conveys useful information. It can promote collaboration and provide opportunities for professional development.

According to Growth Engineering, an LMS provider based near the historic seat of the British royal family at Windsor Castle, “Strip out all the food pictures, relationship updates, and trolling on social media sites and you’ll find a wealth of informative content.”

Growth Engineering believes that, as the number of millennials grows within the global workforce, the demand for social and collaborative tools – and learning via social media – is going to grow, too.

L&D professionals help people to develop their knowledge and skills. Here are seven ways that they can use social media to help people to learn informally and transfer knowledge:

1. Establish a Blog

Reading blogs helps people to learn things – after all, you’re reading this blog and, hopefully, learning something from it! Blogs can be used, among other things, to record achievements, outline case studies, and curate/present interesting, important and relevant information. All of these play a part in encouraging reflective learning by a blog’s readers.

If your blog focuses on particular work- or product-related topics, it will draw readers (learners) from your organization.

2. Establish Facebook and/or LinkedIn® Groups

If you can establish particular “group” spaces for learning cohorts, such as on Facebook or LinkedIn, then the learners can use these to ask and answer questions, as well as share updates, tips, techniques, documents, illustrations, and other relevant information with fellow group members. The very fact that a relevant “group” exists makes it easier for these learners to connect with one another – especially if they happen to be spread across different locations.

To take things to the next level – and inject an element of gamification – you could offer small rewards for the posts that receive the most “Likes,” for example.

3. Use Twitter® – Especially Hashtags

Tweets are, of course, limited to 140 characters, which may tend to curb all but the most creatively-couched extensive discussions. However, you – and your learners – can use Twitter for sharing resources including images, videos and links to websites and documents.

Moreover, Twitter’s hashtag indexing system makes your learning content immediately searchable.

4. Use YouTube®

According to “non-partisan fact tank” the Pew Research Centre, the percentage of adults who have posted videos online doubled between 2009 and 2013. This statistic illustrates the enormous – and growing – popularity of video.

Many people now use YouTube videos to help them learn things, such as home maintenance techniques. So, why not use this format to help them learn job-related things, too?

All that you and your learners need to become YouTube performers is access to a camera and the software needed to edit the resulting video and upload it to YouTube. Most people will have access to a camera – probably on their smartphone – so creating and uploading the videos should be relatively simple.

5. Use a Collaborative Calendar

Social learning is impossible without collaboration, and this becomes easier via open calendars. Open calendars allow learners to share their schedules, organize meetings, and create events to help progress their learning programs.

These calendars also enable learners to collaborate on assignments, as well as host discussion groups and indulge in “questions and answers.” Moreover, as the administrator, you can add scheduled classroom or webinar training events to the learners’ shared calendar.

6. Create Podcasts

Creating a podcast requires a microphone, a recording device, and software to upload the result to a website or computer server.

Podcasts, which can include group discussions and subject matter expert interviews, as well as formal “presentations,” have the advantage that the learners can return to them as and when necessary.

7. Share Presentations on SlideShare®

SlideShare, a tool that encourages users to share their presentations, enables learners to share collections of images, infographics, statistics, and even case studies in a visual format.

It may be difficult to analyze and evaluate all of the learning activity prompted and facilitated via these social media but, nonetheless, they can help to equip your people with the knowledge and skills they need to perform efficiently and effectively. That, surely, is worth losing some “control” over the learning process to promote.

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One comment on “7 Ways to Improve Viral Learning”:

  1. Adrienne wrote:

    Thank you for this article. I am having a difficult time with social media that seem to bring out the worst in people as they share their opinions. It is a generation gap, and I am working to slowly unstick!