Education, from elementary school to corporate training, is being flipped on its head by technology, and social media has been one of the biggest disruptors of all. When Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media tools first started to take off, teachers and companies tried their hardest to ban students and employees from using them during school/work hours. But today, the value of social media is becoming more recognized in classrooms of all types and instead of trying to get rid of it, educators and employers are embracing it. Social media is revolutionizing how we learn, and as a result we are becoming both more connected and more productive.
Social media is changing workplace learning by making the process of training and development more relevant to employees’ actual needs. It has long been known that formal learning (i.e., what is done in classrooms) accounts for only about 20 percent of our learning experiences, while informal learning, which includes social learning, comprises the rest. Social media tools greatly facilitate social learning, and smart companies are starting to leverage this fact in their training and development departments.
Here are the major areas in which social media are changing workplace learning:
Personal & Professional Learning Networks
In the past, it was possible to learn everything about a particular field, but today there is simply too much information in any given area for a person to learn it all. So instead of trying to memorize everything, learners are using social media to build their own personal and professional learning networks. This goes way beyond LinkedIn to include people, communities, content, and other digital resources spread across the web. By accessing these networks, employees can foster relationships with their coworkers, keep up with new innovations, and quickly find answers to complex questions.
Training and development programs often take a shotgun approach to workplace learning, but social media allows employees to personalize their own learning. This leads to cost savings (not all training needs to be delivered to everyone) as well as better training (employees can ensure they learn the knowledge and skills that are most relevant to them).
Access to Experts
Social media, especially Twitter, provides direct access to experts. This has huge advantages for learners, who can now learn from the top experts in their field.
On-demand, just-in-time learning is replacing in-advance, just-in-case learning. This model has many benefits, as employees can use social media to learn new skills at the moment of need and then apply those skills immediately. For example, a study earlier this year showed that 25 percent of doctors use social media every day to learn something that will help them in their job.
Social media allows both trainers and employees to easily curate and share content outside of formal training environments. This not only facilitates access to information, but also fosters collaboration, helps ensure that all employees are up to speed, and provides a filter for the vast amounts of information found on the web.
Anytime, Anywhere Learning
The combination of social media and mobile learning technologies has expanded the classroom way beyond the traditional four walls. Today people can connect with their learning networks anytime and from anywhere. This means that people literally never stop learning.
If you are a business owner or manager, chances are your employees are already using social media to join networks, find and share content, and just generally improve productivity. Here are a few ways you can create a workplace environment that promotes the use of social media for learning:
- Don’t ban Facebook. Banning Facebook deprives employees of a major social learning tool and also suggests you don’t trust them.
- Host Twitter discussions. Twitter chats are not only great opportunities for employees to interact, but they can also promote awareness of your brand.
- Create virtual environments for collaboration. Set up an intranet chat room, an organizational knowledge base, or even some collaborative Google Docs where employees can share resources.
These are just some of the many ways social media tools can be leveraged for workplace learning. If you are unsure how to begin, start by discovering what tools your employees are using already and find a way to support their efforts. By embracing these technologies now, you create a learning environment in which your employees will be better informed, better trained, and more productive.
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