How Does Your Social Learning Garden Grow?

It is important to consider how your organization uses the social web for learning professionals. The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) recently published INFOLINE: Social Learning for Learning Professionals initiated a review of social media engagement beyond knowledge workers (educators). Social learning is not competing with formal education, training, or employee development; instead it is a space to connect professionals and share ideas. Although social media learning is often compared to informal or e-learning, it distinguishes itself as learners search content, develop interpersonal engagements, and form shared communities of practice. 

The key Social Learning Technologies include:

  • Online Communities – personal learning networks & virtual learning environments
  • Media Sharing – sharing & tagging videos, images, photos and more!
  • Microsharing – 140 characters to highlight news, share trends, ask questions & link URLs
  • Collaboration Tools – wikis, shared documents & cloud computing platforms
  • Immersive Environments – virtual worlds, gaming, augmented reality & simulations
  • Social Learning at Events – IRL meetings to connect offline for shared interests & goals

More professionals value social media tools to enhance communication, improve knowledge sharing, find resources and connect to a broader learning network. Many social resources create a space to solve problems, mentor employees, scaffold training initiatives and support effective decision-making. Organizations that support social learning may not see traditional return-on-investment (ROI); however they do have the potential to enhance the following items in its organizational culture:

  • retaining institutional knowledge
  • attracting and retaining professionals
  • succession planning
  • connecting dispersed employees
  • collaboration to solve problems
  • integrated & holistic approach for staff development
Social learning groups are sometimes organic, and others are intentionally created with specific learning goals. Any organization interested utilizing social media in a training and development program might want to consider a few guidelines before proposing to the idea the senior leaders:
  1. Establish a purpose.
  2. Encourage participation.
  3. Encourage respectful communication.
  4. Identify a gardener.
  5. Outline limitations.
  6. Include troubleshooting information.
Bingham, T. (2011, January). INFOLINE: Social Learning for Learning Professionals. ASTD Press, 1101, 1-16.

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