Andy Petroski | Guest Blogger

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Social Learning Webinar

Social Learning Webinar

Successful social learning implementations require activities grounded in strategy and success metrics. On October 27, I facilitated a Learning Views webinar that explored the strategies that can drive a social learning initiative. View the recording for Grounding Social Learning While Still Allowing It To Fly webinar. I published a blog entry earlier that provided a recap on the elements of social learning strategies. This entry takes our webinar recap further with two case studies and enlightening attendee comments.

How Comcast Approached Social Learning

A case study from Comcast highlights the adaptation of the in-person Principles of Leadership course to a virtual social learning environment, enabling new supervisor onboarding/training in a timely fashion, regardless of location. Virtual instructor-led training, asynchronous collaboration and content access, online classroom management, a learning portal, and blended learning with Blackboard, WebEx and SharePoint resulted in a quality virtual program. Supervisors’ managers also became more involved in the process of supervisor orientation.

BASF’s Social Learning Implementation

The BASF case study focuses on the chemical manufacturer’s efforts to advance virtual networking and employee collaboration through a coherent corporate network. The pilot is outlined in the case study, describing how virtual networking, knowledge sharing, and collaboration work to improve customer relations management and evaluate external service providers. Employee profiles, connections, status updates, search features, content tagging, online communities, blogs, discussion forums, bookmarks, and wikis are made available through IBM Connections.

The case studies emphasize the need for strategy, collaboration among stakeholders, and pilot implementations. The cases also emphasize the variety of technologies that can be used to facilitate social learning.

Attendee Comments

Technology, employee adoption, and employer control were areas of conversation and contribution from webinar attendees. One attendee noted, “. . . if a workplace has a platform that people work in you need to find a way to insert [social learning] into THAT platform.” That’s sound advice, and many enterprise platforms like IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP provide social learning and collaboration options as part of the standard enterprise solution or as add-ons. But, it’s also important to look at tools outside the enterprise solutions that might lend productivity and efficiency. As you do though, follow the attendee’s sage advice and look for ways to attach new tools to existing processes and platforms that employees work in each day. Some social learning tools that you may find useful for expanding enterprise tools are Yammer, Waggl and Wheeldo.

Like any other change initiative, social learning needs to be approached strategically by:

  • creating urgency
  • collaborating with key stakeholders and influencers
  • creating a vision
  • communicating (and communicating, communicating, communicating)
  • removing obstacles
  • creating immediate successes
  • building on successes to make social learning part of the core of your organization

Training should also be a major component of your social learning change initiative. Training can address technology-specific skills as well as social learning communication and collaboration etiquette (otherwise known as netiquette). Each of the case studies explored during the webinar included an orientation experience for users to acclimate them to the technology and the communication and collaboration expectations. One webinar attendee shared an approach for adoption called “wiki warrior.” “One of the promotions we did was to name a wiki warrior each week. An email blast highlighted a contributor's name and topics s/he had posted with a live link to ‘go see what [employee name] had to say.’" There are tactical ways to increase adoption like this including competition, recognition, and a variety of gamification techniques. But, any tactical approaches need to be anchored by a sound strategy.

As organizations look to leverage social learning, change must occur in the leadership as well as the employee-base. Communication and learning needs to move from command and control to enable and support. For successful social collaboration and learning to occur, leadership can no longer be the puppeteer but should become the coach. Control is an illusion that most organizations can no longer afford to have. Ultimately, a balance of freedom and boundaries needs to be established that makes sense for the organization and the employees. Employees are sharing, collaborating, and communicating and doing so digitally, at the water cooler, and on social networks outside of work. Harness the propensity to be social in a digital age for the improvement of the organization with a sound social learning strategy.

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Andy Petroski is the Director and Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University where he coordinates and teaches in the Learning Technologies Master of Science program, works with classroom and online faculty to implement technology into the curriculum, and consults on client projects in the Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies.

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