Friday, March 18, 2011

Practicing Social Media Skills for Learning

This post was inspired by Kevin Thorn's (LearnNuggets) guest post at eLearning Weekly titled Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 and the Follow up post. Kevin's take on eLearning skills has sparked a little debate and started a healthy conversation around several topics including social media. Here is Kevin's take on SoMe as a top skill for 2011:

Social Media – As we all know social media is no longer a trend and is becoming the main stream of communicating. I don’t think SoMe is a skill so much as it is a practice. You gain knowledge of how SoMe works by the mere fact of being embedded in it. Similar to video production where many organizations are not set up to handle that type of media, even more organizations have not incorporated SoMe into their business. Just because there are several really great case studies using SoMe in training, doesn’t mean your organization has a business value to implement it. In preparation for the years to come though, I would encourage everyone to get a Twitter account, join LinkedIn groups, and engage in Facebook Groups, etc. to stay plugged in.

Kevin nails SoMe as a practice, not a skill. But I suppose one might argue that you need to acquire the software/internet skills first in order to practice. But I would that today those skills are acquired before getting to this point in your career. The practice of SoMe is not a trivial matter. As an eLearning designer/developer, if you don't engage with social media as a participant/learner you will NEVER understand or embrace the value it offers. However, when that proverbial light bulb goes off, and you see the light, DO NOT rush to consider it your next great eLearning solution either. Many have, and many have failed.

The fastest way to SoMe failure in the enterprise is to call it a learning tool and to have it born of the HR/Training department. Driving technology adoption is something you can influence IF you have a seat at the table. But it is not the responsibility of the Instructional Designer, the Training Manager, or the CLO to implement enterprise wide SoMe solutions. You should have a solid relationship with your IT organization. It's their responsibility, NOT YOURS. SoMe will inevitably become part of the enterprise. Don't force it in as a learning solution.

In Kevin's list he doesn't mention certain traditional ISD skills and that's where some readers begin to share their thoughts.

A commenter on Kevin's post writes:
Surprised in both articles, there is nothing about assessment/evaluation. And I am not just talking about the design or writing here. The mechanics to deploy something and get back items that provide meaningful, actionable data is a critical piece in the puzzle.
Let’s take the hot topic right now: SoMe. Setting up the space to facilitate the connections is great, but we will be asked at some point about the value of the solution. What data will your C-level accept as value? Will your system report this data? What can be done to capture it?

He is commenting on assessment/evaluation of eLearning, but in so doing makes a strong statement reflecting how Learning Professionals misunderstand SoMe. This thinking is how we fail. Did anyone ever ask us to monitor happy hour conversations, or water cooler conversations, and provide "meaningful, actionable data"? No. Why? Because we didn't ask anyone to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to support their implementation. Let IT see/understand the need and take responsibility for its implementation.

The reality is that "WE" should not be the ones required to PROVE the "value of the [SoMe] solution". It must be implemented to support the business...ALL of the business NOT JUST training/learning. The data "your C-level accept[s] as value" is the same data he/she has always accepted...unless you spend their money on a SoMe system "just" for learning/training.

Something to think about...
  • Learning Development Practitioners: If your organization does not have a company wide SoMe solution in place then don't even think about it in your design. If you do have an enterprise solution in place its your job to get connected, participate, engage. Your greatest successes will come from farming the rich data that is planted and growing within these spaces. To ignore an existing SoMe solution is an incredible waist of a natural internal resource.
  • Training Managers/Corporate Learning Officers: Find your IT Buddy. Okay, so that's a little unprofessional. Try this. Engage with your IT department and begin conversations on how the Training/Learning department can/will leverage SoMe functionality. This gives them the ammo THEY need to prove the cost of implementation, ROI, etc. (REMEMBER: Its THEIR responsibility, NOT yours.) If your IT department is ahead of the curve then you already have enterprise SoMe. You need to engage. You need to ask IT for data. Figure out who's using it, and how they are using it and when. Understanding this data will help you craft your social learning strategy.

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