I come across so much information conveying how effective social media/web 2.0/informal learning is the wave of the future in instructional design. Well, I am having a hard time riding that wave. I recently implemented a Wiki and discussion forums for different uses. The Wiki is used to retrieve process and procedural information while the discussion forums are used to share best practices much like LinkedIn forums. Now that I have these resources implemented I am attempting to get past the more challenging hurdle of getting the workforce to use them.
While I still have a long way to go, I have had marginal success promoting these social media resources by providing Formal Learning opportunities where the workforce is directed to use these resources for a specific activity. The end goal is to create Informal Learning opportunities where the workforce is seeking out these resources and pulling out information on their own but I have come to learn that this does not just happen, at first learners need to be directed and guided through social media resources. Here is what I have tried so far in my pursuit to reach the tipping point.
- Formal Training - Including social learning tools in formal training courses early in the employees career helps to ingrain the use of the tools into the organizations culture. For example, if you are rolling out new software and these social media tools contain instructions for the software, it is crucial that the social media resources are covered in the formal training for the software rollout. The learner is going to see more benefits in the resource while they are still struggling to learn the software. If they experience a few "wins" by solving issues using these resources then they are likely to continue to use the resources in the future.
- Assignments - One of the most difficult challenges in promoting social learning is providing opportunities for the learner to have a positive experience with the resource. A great way to do this is to design a formal learning assignment or activity that helps the learner to experience the benefits of the resource. This goes against the end goal of having the learners pull the information on their own rather than being directed but I have found that a formal learning solution can help jump start informal learning. Once the user has become familiar with the resource and seen the benefits through an assignment such as a scavenger hunt, or a structured online discussion, they are more likely to go back on their own.
- Contests - Another form of a formal learning activity that can help promote the use of social learning tools is to create some kind of a contest. This can be a little more difficult to design but adding a little competition into the activity adds motivation for the learners. Examples for contests could be the greatest contribution made to a wiki or something like the most questions answered in a discussion forum.
I'm sure that I am not the only instructional designer struggling with social or informal learning tools. If you have experienced any "wins" or "losses" in promoting social learning please leave a comment and let us know what has and has not worked for you.