Over the past few months, we have explored the social component of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from several angles. We have examined the role of peer learning in organizations and the importance of creating personal learning networks. We have also reviewed the major technology-enabled learning tools that MOOCs use to support social interaction. In this article and the next, we will put it all together by looking at why businesses should use social media in their training and development programs and various practical ways to implement peer learning through social media in corporate MOOCs.
Many organizations are wary of social media, mainly because of a lack of control and the fear that social networking on the job will quickly devolve into “social notworking.” This fear is probably largely unfounded—companies were also suspicious about email and the Internet, but there is little doubt (and a lot of empirical research) that these innovations have improved, not harmed, productivity. In today’s environment, businesses that do not adopt new technologies are setting themselves up for failure. According to a Capgemini report, digital leaders—defined as those companies that use new technologies such as social media, mobile technologies, and analytics—are 26 percent more profitable than their competitors and generate both more revenue and higher market valuation ratios.
Some companies are even developing their own internal social media platforms. For example, last year GE launched its own Facebook-like social network, GE Colab. It is used by more than 100,000 GE employees to find information, share knowledge, and solve problems. The platform is used across functions, business units, and even continents. According to GE CIO Ron Utterbeck in an interview for MIT Sloan Management Review, the result is that the company is now solving problems faster, with people from different departments around the world working together. In general, the results of an Aberdeen Group study suggest that employees with extensive digital networks are 7 percent more productive than those without digital networks.
So, how can social media enhance training and development? Here are just a few advantages of incorporating social media into training programs:
- Increasing engagement and interactions. I’ve mentioned before that Millennials spend nearly four hours every day on social networking sites. For this generation, connecting with others online is a natural human interaction and a regular part of the day. Many of them have probably already participated in courses with a social media component, so not to have instant access to their learner network would seem strange. Social media provides avenues for learners to interact not only with each other, but with instructors and subject matter experts as well.
- Extending the classroom. In traditional programs, when the seminar is finished or the workshop is done, the training is over. No wonder by some estimates people remember less than 20 percent of training content a month later. We just don’t learn that way—we need repetition, engagement, reflection, and most importantly application. Using social media extends the classroom so that students can interact before, during, and after training. They can take time to reflect and then ask questions or participate in discussions. Keeping the conversation going reinforces the content and helps keep the training both current and relevant, which translates into increased retention.
- Social media training. Many companies are now investing heavily in social media training to avoid online embarrassment and to teach employees how social media can be used productively in the workplace. Incorporating social media into other aspects of a program can both provide this essential training and give learners opportunities to practice their social media skills. This is especially important as more companies are following GE’s lead and developing their own internal social media platforms. This training can also help ensure that employees’ personal online activities don’t reflect negatively on the company or the brand.
- Developing and improving training content. Interactions on social media can serve as a window into what employees are learning and help instructors identify areas for improvement. Comments and questions from learners can inform future implementations of a course, and trainers can use MOOC analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of the training program.
- Recruiting top talent. Social media can be a powerful tool for recruiting new hires. In fact, in a recent survey by Spherion Staffing, 47 percent of workers said that when looking for a new job, a company’s online reputation was as important as the job offer. Businesses themselves are a bit slow to catch on to this trend—only 27 percent of companies felt that social media affected how prospective employees viewed their organization. Employees using social media as part of training can be part of the strategy for businesses to maintain their online presence. In addition to helping promote a positive reputation online, MOOCs make it possible for students to “try before they buy.” Organizations can use this to their advantage by allowing prospective new hires to enroll, formally or informally, in training MOOCs.
Hopefully by now you are convinced that social media integration is essential for your training programs to live up to their potential. In the next article, we will explore the different types of social media, the tools available, and how to use them in your training MOOCs.
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