It’s a new world of communication these days, and to keep your training current, you need to find ways to use new social media technologies in your training program.
In fact, social media tools can help promote retention of training content, according to Thomas Stone, product design architect with Element K®.
As the use of Web 2.0 tools has increased, subject matter experts, instructors, and instructional designers are using the technology to enhance learning, he says. For example, some are authoring blogs, moderating online discussion forums, and serving as “gardeners” of internal wiki sites (i.e., seeding and weeding information) to reinforce the training message and stay connected with learners between training sessions.
The “sad reality” is that employees often forget what they’ve learned in training unless they use it right away on the job or have some kind of intervention to refresh their memory, according to Stone. Web 2.0 tools can help keep the information fresh in learners’ minds (e.g., looking up information on a wiki site, asking a question in a discussion forum, or reading additional content on a blog), he explains
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Web 2.0 tools can also help with the learning process before training begins. For example, if your company maintains an internal social networking site, learners can look up the profiles of their instructor and fellow students, encouraging “more peer-to-peer interaction and learning” during training, Stone says. In addition, if trainers use blogs to ask learners in advance what they expect to get out of a training session, they will have time to truly tailor the content to meet learners’ needs.
Also, through the use of wikis, forums, and blogs, training professionals can better enable informal learning within their organizations, he says, and, in the process, produce searchable knowledge archives, share the informal learning with a broader audience, and provide a platform where the learning can be tracked.
Stone goes on to discuss one specific social media tool: “Twitter doesn’t get used as much yet as some of the other Web 2.0 tools, but its popularity with some learners is growing.” For example, those with a mobile device or laptop sometimes use Twitter as a “back channel” to communicate with each other during formal training sessions or conferences, asking additional questions of—or sending related links to—one another, he says. Their “conversations” can be carried out quietly and without disrupting the facilitator or other students, according to Stone.
He describes Twitter as “the new reality for conference speakers” and says it is making inroads in other training settings as well. The majority of attendees are not using Twitter during live sessions, but Stone says you should “assume that a certain percentage of the audience is utilizing Twitter as a back channel to be discussing what you’re talking about—while you’re talking.”
Advantages of using the technology include increased engagement (i.e., attendees can ask questions of their peers during training) and learner feedback, explains Stone. For example, after making a conference presentation, Stone logs in and checks the event “hashtag,” (that’s the pound symbol and a keyword set up for a particular conference) to see the questions and comments that the audience made on Twitter during his session. That feedback, he says, helps him adjust his future presentations accordingly.
Stone says it is “utterly unrealistic” to try to prevent learners from using Twitter during training. “Other than not providing Internet access, there is really no way to stop them, and in my view, you shouldn’t want to stop them.”
However, he also advises instructors and speakers against trying to follow the comments themselves during sessions, because it will be “disruptive and distracting” both to them and the audience.
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Overall, Stone highly recommends taking “the plunge” and giving Twitter a try. He does suggest setting up two accounts—one for professional use and one for personal use. “Otherwise you’ll feel inhibited and won’t get optimal value from the experience.”
Why It Matters
- Internet users spent almost 25 percent of their time online using social media.
- U.S. workers spend about 5 hours a month using social media at work.
- By 2012, the number of adult Twitter users is expected to double.