Humans are social beings and naturally like to be social. Social media offers numerous opportunities for both personal and professional purposes i.e., right from connecting with family and friends to like-minded professionals. Research also concludes the fact that people are logging on to social networking sites like Twitter; Facebook and LinkedIn like never before.
Social media has witnessed a rapid growth over the last few years. Apart from networking, it also enables people to teach others to develop 21st century competencies. Organizations are considering providing social media-like interactivities in their learning portal or LMS to cater to their current online expectations and behavior patterns. According to a research by the eLearning Guild, 53.9% of respondents replied in affirmation when asked about inclusion of social media for learning to complement existing learning methodologies.
However, integrating social media into LMS, organizational intranet or learning portal has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Let’s look at them in detail.
Almost everyone between the ages of 15 to 30 have an account with one of the several social media network providers. The young workforce today is used to instant communication. There are several advantages of facilitating such an interaction within the organizational context as well. Let’s look at some of them.
What is the difference between traditional and social media learning? The traditional method is a typical classroom kind of learning with little chance for interaction. However, social media learning provides two way interaction enabling active learning. It helps networking of people having similar passions and goals. It helps share ideas and experiences, obtain competencies required in real life, unravel opportunities and recommend the path to success.
According to research, people go to work to improve their relations with their colleagues rather than secure a good pay package. In one telecom company, the management kept employees from meeting each other during coffee and lunch breaks. Soon, there was a drop in the employees' performance levels. This, proves that social networking has a direct impact on the way people learn and work. It enables employees to actively share knowledge; between peers who may not be physically located in the same place. It removes the barrier of distance for learning and knowledge sharing between peers.
Social networking sites help access information anytime and anywhere. They also facilitate access to information of a diverse kind on a given topic with ease and efficiency. In turn, it supports lifelong learning processes and professional development. With more number of employees using Smartphones and data driven mobile devices such as tablets, it makes knowledge sharing considerably easier.
Social media learning involves accessing information through a range of visuals, text and perceptions on a given subject. It also encourages one to actively participate by posting content on social networking sites. It helps users post or express individual views, thereby generating tons of content onto the site.
Despite its benefits, social media is not without disadvantages. Organizations need to be mindful of them, as they incorporate social media elements into their learning domain.
Social media is subjected to continuous change. Hence, this lacks the required structure to fit into the exact learning need. Managers may not have control over the type of content being exchanged which sometimes may not be ‘in synch’ with organizational view point. There may be a need for content moderation in places, requiring additional resources.
A critical step for learning is measuring. However, at present, measuring tools are there but a few. The Tin Can API takes into account the informal learning initiatives of an individual as well. However, it is still in a nascent stage and one has to wait and watch how it transforms the tracking and reporting features inherent in an LMS.
Once logged into a site, one gets invitations to log on to other similar sites. Thus, logging on to many sites is not possible for one person. Organizations need to have systems and restrictions to ensure employees manage their social networking groups responsibly and speak the voice of the organization in public. Distinction between private and public content becomes very difficult to determine and it would be a challenge for organizations to make this happen.
In spite of these disadvantages, learning through social media via higher technology has a greater impact on learning and is appropriate for a professional environment based on competency. The latest advantage of this media is its ability to impart knowledge effectively. But often, many corporates are overlooking the advantages of learning offered by such media. The need of the hour is to help corporates understand the advantages of social media learning for employee training and knowledge sharing which is often overlooked.
Considering the fact that organizations are seeing an increase in the so called Gen Y workforce, check out this presentation that talks about social media environment and how it can be used for training Gen Y Sales Force.
In the present scenario, social media is turning out to be a relatively inexpensive and accessible learning platform rather than just a place for networking. "Humans are social beings, hence learning through social media will surely impact the way for one to learn." Therefore, forward thinking organizations should incorporate social media elements into their Learning Management System or other learning portals after ensuring adequate checks and balances.