Social LMS. 8 steps. to introducing social learning successfully into the workplace

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1 Social LMS 8 steps to introducing social learning successfully into the workplace

2 Foreword As you read this whitepaper some learning and development experts are probably debating about social learning and whether it s something worth taking on or not. But one thing about social learning is certain. It takes place in our organisations whether we want it or not. It makes up for the majority of employee learning and it s not difficult to imagine what could be the potential cost of not embracing and capturing it. Based on early observations and experiences with our own social learning technology solution altoconnect we at Commelius Solutions have put together this whitepaper to reveal how to successfully introduce social learning into your workplace and how to grow a learning community within your organisation.

3 First things first: formal, informal and social learning Classroom training, e-learning, virtual classrooms they all fall into the category of formal or standardised learning and are deemed an essential part of organisational training. Yet, according to Lombardo/Eichinger 70:20:10 training model, only 10 per cent of an employee s learning is formal. So where does the remaining 90 per cent of people s knowledge come from? Learning doesn t stop in a classroom or on a course. We can increase our skills and knowledge from daily experiences, interactions and resources in our working environment; within a group or on our own; by searching for information or by simply absorbing everything around us. This way of learning has been around for years and is recognised as informal learning. It s learner-initiated and anything not learned in a formal way can fall under this term. A good example of such learning is experiential training (learning on the job and mentoring). Informal learning is often used interchangeably with social learning which in fact can be considered as an element of informal learning. Social learning simply means gaining a skill or knowledge through interactions with others. However, with the development of social media, this definition is now a bit too simplified for today s workforce. Both informal and social learning make up the remaining 90 per cent of how we learn and are natural parts of our education while at work. They are as essential for the success of a business as formal training and are increasingly becoming a more visible part of the training blend in organisations. Learning facts According to a recent study* into learning technologies: More than 40% of L&D professionals plan to introduce new social learning features into their workplace within the next 18 months Only 10% would increase use of traditional classroom training support in their organisation Social learning is already challenging traditional classroom-based learning and will become a dominant characteristic of the corporate training mix *The LMSwishList study into the new generation of learning technologies

4 The simple truth about social learning A common mistake people make is to assume social learning only takes place online and that it s all to do with social media such as Twitter or Facebook. In fact, social learning can take place anywhere, in many forms. It can happen at a conference, in a restaurant, at work, online with or without social media tools. Social learning is about building relationships with people who are outside your closest environment and creating groups where you can learn from one another. One of the most common concepts of social learning is peerdriven learning which is becoming more popular in organisations. There s no denying the development of social technologies is influencing the way people learn and their expectations about learning. Thanks to the expansion of social media, people learn from each other more than ever before. And as Niall Gavin, Head of Learning Technology at FirstGroup, wrote on his blog: We now operate in a very different world, with different expectations of what learning looks, feels and tastes like.¹ The truth Changes to how people learn are taking place in organisations with or without the involvement of L&D managers and there s a risk in not embracing them. ¹ Niall Gavin A Key Note

5 What you and your organisation gain from social learning technologies There are a number of reasons for employing social technologies in a work place. When used to their full potential and with a clear goal in mind they can enhance social learning in your organisation and help you address many of the work challenges you re facing everyday as a HR and L&D professional. Properly incorporated social learning tools in your training and development strategy can not only help you gain control over the informal learning taking place in your workplace, they can also make your job easier. Combined with effective communications, they will drive regular visits to your portal, give an extra boost to the experiential learning which makes up the majority of your employees learning, and help you promote your courses. One of the best values social learning technologies bring into your workplace is the ability to have two way communication with your learners. And there s no better way to improving your training strategies than by giving and receiving direct feedback! Social learning may also help you prepare your organisation for the future and the growing population of employees known as Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y. They are people who have grown up immersed in technology and social media.² Their learning habits and the way they see the world is very different to the learners you may know as Generation X. Fact ² Social media: The Millennial Perspective ³ Maximising Millennials in the workplace illennials-in-the-workplace The development of internet technology and social media has influenced the way people learn and many experts say rganisations need to gain an understanding of how the next generation of employees likes t o learn. According to ASTD research, by 2020 nearly half of workers in the USA will be Millennials.³

6 How to successfully introduce social learning into your workplace in 8 steps So what can you do to become involved and make the most of social learning in your organisation? As Tony Bingham, CEO of American Society of Training and Development, explained, social learning takes place naturally: It has an organic nature, so it can t be forced.⁴ That s why before you launch a major social learning strategy in your organisation, you need to identify if your company is ready to integrate social learning into its training and development strategy. It s a matter of finding the best way to use it and make it a part of your L&D plan. When you re positive your organisation is ready to embrace social learning, don t hesitate to give it a go. The outcomes might surprise you. Don t think about social learning as something you can just implement. Encourage others to embrace it and make it a part of your learning culture at work. ⁴ Why social learning benefits your business, article by Sharlyn Lauby

7 8 steps Here are our top tips in making social learning part of your organisation s L&D strategy: 1 Start with the right portal You need a place where learners can interact with each other and, crucially, where you can capture those interactions. If your organisation has a training platform capable of incorporating social learning tools, it should be possible to transform it into a social learning portal and measure communication and collaboration between learners. But how to encourage these learners to use your organisation s training portal in this way? Being social is at the very core of human nature so the place where learners access their training needs to be interactive and, most importantly, intuitive. A portal that is easy to use and pleasing on the eye will go a long way to motivating people to use it. A properly designed and implemented social learning portal can help encourage people in your organisation to use their initiative in furthering their learning and development. 2 Develop the best learning environment for your people Before you add social features to your portal, you need to decide what sort of social learning environment you d like to create for your learners. Is it collaboration you re aiming for? Or maybe you d like to see people generating and sharing content? Depending on the type of learning environment you re planning to build, your decisions about the social learning features you need, will vary. For example, if you want your learners to generate their own content and to share it, then you need to put more emphasis on social tools which support communication and content sharing, and establish connections between people.

8 8 steps 3 Arm your learners with the right tools When you understand the kind of social learning environment you need, the next step is to provide your learners with the tools which will support that environment. By supplying your people with the right tools you re not only gaining the ability to shape their learning environment and capture their social learning activity. You re also enhancing their learning experiences by becoming involved with their social learning progress. There are four types of social learning tools: ⁵ Communication (conversation) tools which include message boards, blogs, forums, chat, and so on Content tools which include sharing options such as sending colleagues links to content, liking, rating and reviewing training courses and content Where there are no social technologies in place, most employees tend to use tools available to them online. How much learning with the help of such tools passes by untracked and unnoticed? Connection tools which can incorporate user profiles and people s skills-matching Collaboration tools such as wikis, workspaces, calendars and events After you choose the features for the social learning environment you re aspiring to, the next step is to try them out in practice. ⁵ Bersin & Associates: Learning Systems 2011

9 8 steps 4 Create a positive first social learning experience explain the tools Placing social learning features before your learners doesn t mean they will know how and why to use them. This is where you need to step in. Although many social learning tools will be familiar to those who have used similar features on social media sites, don t assume they ll know how to use them and that they ll immediately make valuable contributions. Take the time to set up the portal interface in such a way that it guides your learners towards the features you want them to use and explains how to use them to their best advantage. It is important that people not only understand the functionality of the tools you re providing them with, but also clearly recognise their purpose and benefits. 5 Come up with a mini social learning project When testing new technologies or features, it s a good idea to launch a small project to spark people s interest and to get them familiar with the tools you want them to use. In the case of social learning, begin with a mini project where these tools would add extra value. Consider how your learners will be able to help you achieve the objectives of your project with the use of the social learning features you re making available to them. You want to encourage them to start adding their comments, reviews and additional content to the portal as it ll increase the site s value. After all, one of the main goals of social learning is to get learners to come back to the portal more often and encourage them to interact with each other.

10 8 steps 6 Think learning community and build it Once your learners are familiar with the portal and its social learning tools it s time to start building your learning communities. A learning community is a group of people who share a common interest in a topic or area; who engage in a particular form of dialog about their experiences and who are actively engaged in learning from each other.⁶ Creating such a community is a process and it may vary from one company to the next. It can depend on the organisational culture and support provided by training administrators and management. When your learners recognise they are part of a learning community you need to make sure they know how to use their learning group and gain the most from it. Spotlight Learning communities by Commelius Solutions For years now, we ve been building learning communities for our clients in our LMS learning portal ALTO. This has given us the insight required to develop our social learning portal altoconnect, which is specifically focused on enabling your 70:20:10 learning strategy. Such an approach allowed administrators to make the training content available to particular groups. Usually learners weren t aware that they are part of a learning community or a group, but by introducing social learning tools we are now changing this. By being able to collaborate and share information and ideas with the help of such features as forums, learners are becoming aware they belong to a community. This makes it possible for administrators to monitor the informal knowledge shared on the portal and identify any requirements for more formalised training. This means that learning departments can improve their efficiency by focusing only on required training. ⁶ Collaborative Online Continuing Education: Professional Development Through Learning Communities by Kathleen P. Fulton, Margaret Riel development-through-learning-communities

11 8 steps 7 Use social learning tools to discover hidden talent With collaboration tools, your social learning portal becomes a learner-driven environment where experiences, information and ideas are gathered and shared. Often there are people in your organisation who have a wide knowledge on certain subjects or possess valuable skills that no one really knows about. They are your internal experts and can be a great asset to your learning portal. With the right social learning tools, you can help other employees identify and connect with these in-house experts, greatly supporting knowledge transfer in your company. Start by providing your learners with collaboration tools such as user profiles where your learners can add information about themselves, share their personal interests, specify the skills they have and the training courses they ve completed. This will make it easier for your learners to connect with someone they might not know personally. Spotlight In Commelius s social learning portal, altoconnect, learners can share their training experiences and knowledge with others at the click of a button. Message boards and discussion forums help them find the training they need and by rating the courses they complete, they can help others decide which training suits them. One of the best things about social learning is its highly contagious nature. A single member of your learning community can trigger a flood of interest in a course he or she liked by simply recommending it on your portal. Now watch your learning community grow! Fact: There s no better advertisement than the word of mouth! Latest research shows that people tend to trust a person like you.⁷ A credibility of peers and regular employees is at 65 per cent high the highest since 2004! This means now is a great time to use social technologies, to promote the portal you use, and to rate, review and like the training you ve attended or experienced. If the research is true, the chances are that others will follow your lead and make the most of the social learning communities available to them. ⁷ Edelman s Trust Barometer 2012:

12 8 steps 8 Evaluate the success of the programme So, by now, your portal has become the first place people in your organisation go to learn new things, to discuss ideas and to share resources and experiences. Success! But the journey doesn t end there. Now you need to consider how well the social learning tools within your portal are being used by different groups of users. Ask for feedback on three levels: Learners How are they using the social learning tools and how much value are they adding to the site? How easy or difficult are they finding the tools to use? What other features would they want to use in the portal? Administrators How difficult has it been to encourage people to use the new tools? What did they need to do to motivate them? Do they think the tools have been beneficial or made their administration tasks easier in any way? Project team Review the objectives of implementing the tool and in particular the expectations the team had of social learning. Have the objectives been met? Are people using the tools as expected? If not, what can be done to encourage them to participate more? This kind of all-important evaluation will help you develop the best social learning practices for future L&D activities in your organisation.

13 A tipping point in training We would like to finish with a thought on social learning shared by our expert on learning technologies, Vicky Jones, who says: We re reaching the tipping point in the corporate training mix where social learning challenges the traditional classroom training environments that have so far dominated in the L&D market. It s the major shift in public opinion across the wider workforce that s really allowing social learning to go mainstream. Our employees use social media intuitively outside the workplace and they ve come to expect similar benefits, simplicity and access from the systems that help them within the workplace. They have bought into the concept and we need to support this. Vicky Jones, managing director at Commelius Solutions

14 Are you ready to go social now? We hope you enjoyed reading our whitepaper. And if you have had doubts about incorporating social learning into your organisation, we hope our guide has encouraged you to explore social technologies to see how they can benefit your workforce and your personal development. Be sure to have a look at altoconnect, our social learning portal, and why not find out more about the social learning features in our LMS by downloading our free brochure. If you d like to discuss any aspects of this whitepaper or would like any further information or advice on social learning technology, you can contact us at

15 About Commelius Solutions Commelius Solutions is one of the UK s most exciting providers of training and learning technologies to businesses worldwide. It uses a combination of different learning techniques such as e-learning and live online learning supported by the latest LMS technology to ensure the most suitable and most effective training method for their clients. Commelius makes learning technology a better experience! This translates into happy users and greater productivity, which after all is why we invest in technology in the first place. Commelius has won numerous awards for their learning services including gold award for business transformation project for Royal Mail Group, silver award for the most innovative learning software CloudRooms, and recognition for outstanding achievement for learning contribution for corporate clients. Our portfolio includes work with American Express, Hill Dickinson, Clifford Chance, CSC and DHL and many more. We re making learning technologies a better experience!

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