Research indicates that as much as 70 percent of workplace learning
is informal, occurring outside the classroom and in the spaces
between formal training events. Social media is one way for the
training department and the training practitioners to get into
those spaces and reach employees between events. In essence,
training approaches incorporating social media strategies more
closely resembles how we really learn in our day-to-day activities.
At present there are literally dozens of social media tools
available. In choosing the technologies to use, remember that every
additional site to check, every different user ID and password to
remember, every new interface to learn, creates another obstacle
for the learner. Try to meet your learners where they are and take
them where your organization wants to go.
For instance, Facebook and LinkedIn allow users to create group
pages with discussions. Because so many people are on Facebook and
tend to check in often, it's the product discussed in this book.
But, depending on your learners, you may want to explore adapting
the ideas here for the similar structure of LinkedIn. Consultants
and sales reps may have the need to accumulate many business
contacts and identify future prospects. They may all have LinkedIn
accounts and may choose to log in there every day to make new
contacts and check in with groups. In that case, you might choose
to utilize LinkedIn with your workforce.
Try to identify the tools your organization's employees are already
using or those that are likely to meet their real needs. According
to Deloitte data in State of the Media Democracy, 47
percent of Baby Boomers maintain a profile on a social site. Of
those, 73 percent are Facebook users, while 13 percent use
Choosing what to use when
Think of the different technologies as "tools," for that's what
they really are, and choose the one that suits your instructional
goals. Facebook is a hammer, a wikis is a saw, and each is suited
to different overarching goals. It is tempting - and I am often
asked - to offer one answer for a given situation. (As in, "If you
want to have a community, then use Facebook. If you want to do
collaborative work, use a wiki.") It just isn't that simple.
Many different tools can support a community: It may surprise you
to hear that my own "best" community, for my own development,
exists among my Twitter contacts. Most tools will allow you to have
discussions or do collaborative work. You'll need to choose things
that support your instructional goals, but also those that your
organization will allow (perhaps Facebook instead of MySpace, or an
inside-firewall microblogging tool instead of Twitter), what your
organization already has in place (perhaps a company Facebook page
or blog) and what your users are already using and/or will accept.
You also need to choose tools that you are comfortable using and
will work to support. For example, a blog may not be the best
choice for the trainer who doesn't like to write.
It's tempting, too, to become "tool happy": "I'll use a blog, but
we'll add on some Twitter activities, and link back to a wiki."
Think through what you are trying to accomplish, identify tools
that will help you get there, and stick with your instructional
plan. Also try not to change horses mid-stream: If the blog isn't
working as you'd hoped, don't ask learners to suddenly switch to a
wiki. Talk with them about how to make the blog work for the group.
Be flexible, but also be mindful of demands on your learners - you
want to support learning, not create confusion.
Basically, all tools are the means to an end (better transfer of
learning, more engagement in the learning process, growth of a
learning community, support for informal learning), but they are
not ends in themselves. The point is not to "do" Twitter any more
than it is to "do" e-learning. Always consider: "What do my
learners need? How can I help them find it? " And stay alert - as
tools change, evolve, and come and go - to new possibilities. The
issue is not the technological widget but the means by which
interaction around the technology is enabled.
It's mostly about facilitation, and you already know how to
Before you begin, particularly if you find this all somewhat
daunting, consider this: You are already, more or less, doing this.
As a trainer, you already possess skills critical to facilitating
and guiding discussion, drawing out quieter participants and
managing louder ones, and recapping conversations. You know how to
facilitate a role play or respond to a challenging participant. You
have a repertoire to bring to bear on activities, even if you are
guiding them in a new environment. You will find that your past
experience serves you well in supporting and facilitating
interactions with social media tools.
Extending the training experience
It is important in using social media that you move learners toward
working together, toward building community, not just posting an
answer in response to you. Encourage dialogue, debate, and
interaction. It is possible to be collegial and personal without
revealing private details. For instance, asking people to post a
photo of a pet, a link to the website of their alma mater, or a
golf course they'd like to play helps to build connections and
identify similar interests without invading privacy.
Supporting the learners
Nothing else you do - lesson planning, careful design, thoughtful
choice of technologies - will matter if your learners struggle
through the training. Take steps to make the experience painless
and positive for them: Make the social media site(s) easy to find.
Put your Twitter handle, blog URL, or Facebook name on handouts,
your organization's website, and in your email signature. Provide
ample instruction in setting up accounts and using the tools.
Encourage collaboration; do not force friendships. You can, for
example, set up a Facebook group or fan page and invite your
learners to join you there. They do not have to become your
Facebook "friends" or set up "friend" relationships with other
class members. They can access the group or site and participate
without everyone else being privy to what is on their own personal
On the one hand, provide clear guidelines and deadlines. For
instance, if you are asking learners to read and respond to one
another's blog posts, then the authors will need to have their
posts up by a certain date so the others have time to read them. If
learners are engaging in a collaborative project, then ask them to
be sure to check in regularly (and define "regularly." Do you mean
once a day or twice a week?).
On the other hand, don't micromanage. While providing clear
guidelines and deadlines is necessary, organizations and their
trainers seem overly concerned with learners who may post
inappropriate or critical comments. Some instructors feel the need
to over - control and direct conversation toward some desired end,
and this sometimes can appear manipulative. Worse, too many rules
can discourage participation.
Walk the talk
In order to be effective at using social media, you have to start
participating in social networking activities and develop fluency
with the tools. If nothing else, set up Facebook, Twitter, and
LinkedIn accounts. Use them as you follow along with this book.
Find some blogs to read (search "google blog finder for topics like
training, e-learning, or adult learning). You won't learn about
Twitter by having someone "explain" Twitter. You need to join and
participate in order to learn how to use it as an effective
training tool. Likewise, take a stab at trying out the many
features available in Facebook. Find and link to a video clip.
Upload some photos. Start a work-related discussion among
like-minded colleagues. Work toward the goal of becoming, in the
early 21st century, the "Networked Trainer."
Jane Bozarth is an internationally known trainer,
speaker, and author. She is the author of Pfeiffer's E-Learning
Solutions on A Shoestring; Better Than Bullet Points: Creating
Engaging E-Learning with PowerPoint; From Analysis to
Evaluation, and, with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The
Challenge Continues.In addition to her work as E-learning
Coordinator for the state of North Carolina, Bozarth is the social
media strategist of InSync Training, and she is also a moderator of
a number of popular Twitter real-time #lrnchat sessions.
This article is reprinted by permission of the publisher, John
Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Social Media for Trainers:
Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning. Copyright (c)
2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.