Using social technology can create better learning

L&D professionals need to embrace the power of blogs and wikis, writes Barry Johnson and Mandy Geal

Social technology is now commonplace. As L&D professionals, we know that social interaction is a powerful base of learning. Since the dawn of the social technology movement at a seminar in 1898, company marketers have developed and used the potential of what are now called blogs, wikis and other social networks to strengthen communication and collaboration, and to invigorate knowledge sharing and learning. These are great tools for learning professionals. So, at the simplest levels, how might these technologies be used as learning tools? Have you helped your organisation to develop extensive readership of relevant social networks?

A blog is a discussion or inform website consisting of discrete entries, such as the one you are now reading. Learning professionals can use blogs to impart information that is of value to learners. Has your L&D department, or your business, set one up? Are there guidelines on learning that people will or could need? Have you researched information and ideas that will assist your organisation’s strategy – that will help managers implement learning in their departments and guide people in the efficient operations of their jobs?

You are an L&D professional – you understand what makes a difference for your organisation or your clients, you are probably a subject matter expert in either hard skills or soft skills and your job is to help people learn. You have the ability to structure information and to write. It is amazing how few people can write valuable, pertinent information – and you have that skill.

We referred to wikis. Wikis are pieces of server software that allow users to freely create and edit web page content using any web browser. Wikis support hyperlinks, and have simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages. You will have met Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, of course. Has your organisation set one up for your organisational information and learning?

When working for a European company, the communications director produced a monthly newsletter on the intranet. One section was training, for which the L&D department wrote an article and drew up a list of upcoming courses. The interest generated was fascinating, and the L&D professionals in the office were often approached and engaged in discussions by employees who were eager to learn.

So, start simply, have a producer of documentation, listen to the others in your department and identify the organisation needs.

The name of the game is learning: what do people in your communication sphere need to learn? What do they want to learn? How are you helping them learn? An intranet is a powerful tool but limits learning to the screen and sound and is usually one way, as the learner receives information. Perhaps, just perhaps, we need a broader learning base as developing human beings.

Learning is your job, and you have the tools. Use them appropriately.

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