Social media is a big part of our lives, and it is the future of learning and development. The Internet and social media allow people to blog, tweet, collaborate, post video and content, discuss, and even rate experiences. Training and development should be ready to embrace these things and use them constructively as part of the learning framework. In fact, you may start to see a newer term in relation to Learning Management Systems: SLMS, or Social Learning Management System.
Depending on your vendor, new media features may be part of your LMS. Or, you may choose to create applications internally and apply them as part of the LMS. Some organizations may even make the learning open source, that is, part of Facebook or Twitter. However you incorporate social media, you should first and foremost create a culture that supports social media. In other words, get buy-in on the use of social media from stakeholders and audiences. And if you use it, find a way to both monitor information and measure its effectiveness. Let’s discuss some social media interactions that you can incorporate into your Social Learning Management System.
Discussion threads are a good way to encourage learners to share experiences both before and after training. For example, an instructor can post a question or topic that is related to the course outcomes, and have learners discuss it based on what they’ve encountered on the job since the training. Alternatively, the discussion can begin before the program, allowing a measurement of where participants are before the training starts. Be sure that the instructor moderates the discussion to ensure that any information imparted by the participants is accurate.
Blogs can also be sued in the same manner as discussion threads. In fact, a blog can be a little more creative. For example, use the blog to post a pre-course thought or statement and have participants add their comments. Again, this is also something that can be used after training. From the blog, the instructor can determine what items are the most discussed and debated, and tailor learning to meet that need. After training, the instructor-moderator can examine the blog data to determine what issues exist in the work environment versus those that can be affected in the training environment.
Online collaboration is another tool within the concept of SLMS. A project can be just the right intervention after a training course has taken place, allowing participants to apply what they learned in a classroom environment. On the other side of this, participants can take what they’ve learned on the job and apply it to the project. In addition, an online collaboration project allows for further interaction among class members and the instructor, which sets up a culture of lifelong learning and interaction.
A final example of social learning is an instant Q&A section. Quick Reference Guides (QRG’s) are a great tool and should remain a part of your training and development framework. But imagine the use of an online, real-time question and answer section where participants can post questions and get answers right away. This not only encourages a network between learners, but also provides information that the training team may have missed. This is another example of the monitoring that should take place in a social media environment. And again, many social media tools like these may be purely experimental at your organization.
Whatever you choose to do in relation to social media and your LMS, run a pilot program first, using a small portion of a larger audience. See how things go before you roll it out to the organization as a whole. And be aware that some things may work and some things may not.
In this series, we’ve looked at the Learning Management System as the foundation of your training initiatives. With the potential for content management, development, and delivery, training management, tracking, notifications, reporting, scheduling, facilities management, and social media, a Learning Management System is not only the foundation of your training initiatives, it is a necessity for efficient training management.
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