Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Re-Visioning E-Learning: Breaking With Knowledge Silos in Formal Education and Business

The industrial model of education from the 19th century has left us as course designers and instructors, constructs that are no longer viable in the 21st century. One of the hold overs from this model that is still with us today is the idea that the knowledge of disciplines need to be taught from separate, specific compartments complete with their own vocabularies and guiding principles and pedagogy for instruction.


It is for this very reason that schools were designed the way they were with students going along a hallway from class to class. Replace the hallway with a conveyor belt and each class room with stations along that conveyor belt, you have the model of a factory floor where each product in process that is moving along must be conformed to a set pattern. The products, being students, must conform and be adapted to that pattern. Notice that this is not an action that they are performing but it is an action being performed on them.

So, what happens when you have a creative student who is either "gifted" or  what is euphemistically referred to as "challenged"? Putting this back in terms of the factory environment, these disparities would be seen as "defects" because they do not fit the set pattern. In this case, a defective product is either off-ramped to quality where the product is collected with other products for further experimentation or correction. In terms of the school this off-ramping would be to what has been called "classes for the gifted" and "classes for the challenged". These students represent exceptions to the defined norm.

This all brings up some very important questions which are:

  1. Is this model in sync with the needs of the 21st century, given the advances in technology and its application to conducting research and business in online global networks?
  2. In the continuing use of this model, are we preparing students for the past or the future? 
  3. What skillsets do we need to meet the challenges of finding solutions to very real world problems?
When you consider that the goals of this model of education were two fold:

  • to create a work force that that would conform to all required by areas devoted to mass production of goods and services. To discourage anything that did not fit the prescribed pattern, and
  • to create life-long consumers of products and services so that the workers who produced the products also became the consumers of them,
you realize very quickly that in the 21st century, we are still living out these goals especially with the over the top consumerism. Consider what happens, as a case in point, when a new I-Phone comes out:

Sir Kenneth Robinson, a well known author and speaker on the state of education systems in the 21st century makes a strong case for the need to dispense with this model that supports a continuance of a knowledge silos as useful constructs for learning in the following presentation:

As Robinson suggests, a change in paradigm is needed.

" So, if we need a change in the paradigm of education, what are we changing to?"

In this age of the 21st century, we need students who will become effective agents of change who will be able to work together on a global scale in a totally online environment to address the rising global issues that need innovative and effective solutions. They need to have the following skillsets:

  • Able to collaborate with others who may be resident in different cultures and world situations anywhere on Earth to solve global issues that impact multiple groups of nations
  • Able to recognize that the new global issues require the pooling of the talents from various sources in a cross disciplinary approach.

Problems in the 21st century are not one dimensional in nature and therefore can not be adequately resolved by one specialist addressing the problem These new problems require a multi-disciplinary approach. The interconnected relationship of such approach can be illustrated as in the diagram below.

Credit: Lina Markauskaite

Higher education institutions are starting to realize the importance of this needed paradigm change in that areas of study and collaboration are being created to advance  students in ways that are in sync with the realities of the 21st century world.

E-Learning and the New Paradigm

E-Learning is evolving to become a useful asset for meeting the demands that this new paradigm requires. However, it does not just mean a change to a whole new environment, it means a radical re-evaluation of our pedagogical methods that we have grown and entrenched in an education system built on the industrial model. The question that begs an answer is:

"Do our "best practices" still apply when looked at in the context of a completely new environment as represented in the online world?

There are still higher education institutions who allow their instructors to simply copy their courses over to an e-Learning environment in an uncritical fashion and call it e-Learning. The obvious down side to this is that students who attend courses have never known a time when they were not connected to the web so they can recognize that which is true e-Learning that makes use of all the assets of the web and that which is a phony, lazy, attempt to be an e-learning experience.

Attendance statistics for courses tell an interesting story and support the student's awareness of course offerings which are not true e-Learning courses. It seems that in these courses, the only time that attendance is up is when tests need to be done.

E-Learning, Knowledge Silos and Business Organizations

If there was ever an area in our society in need of a revolution in thinking it is in business organizations and the training regimens that they inflict on their employees. There is a very serious disconnect in learning done within business organizations compared to learning that employees engage in outside the hours of business. The idea of using silos of knowledge as a viable construct is alive and well within the learning culture of business organizations. Largely, this is driven by fear that any type of innovation or change will disrupt the flow of business.

So, the question that should be addressed by business is:

"Which is more important, the organizational needs or the learning needs of our employees which directly impact on innovation and performance?"

 Next--Steps for Business into the 21st Century

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Best Practices in 21st Century e-Learning in Formal Education and Business: A Flexible Future


The drive towards the compilation of  and implementation of  "best practices" has been the hallmark for success both in the training environment of business organizations and in the institutions of formal education for much of the 19th and 20th century. These selected practices have been the goal when mentoring new educators and trainers. However, with the rapid development of technology and the ever present web involved in every aspect of our lives, we are faced with some challenging questions:

"Has  technology and the world wide web changed our traditional concept of what best practices are? 

Do we need to re-think the nature of best practices because of rapid change in our society? Can the best practices that have essentially remained static over the years still afford us success and a competitive advantage in a world economy that has a greater focus on the online world of the world wide web?"

A Business Example: The PowerPoint Presentation

First, I want to assure you that I am not disputing the usefulness of the Microsoft collection of tools. What I am questioning is whether or not this approach is still meeting the real learning needs of business organizations as they seek to meet the demands of the 21st century globally connected business economy.


"Does this "best practice" still meet the learning needs of our employees and also our clients?"

This style of "training" is based upon two main assumptions:

  1. The "sage on the stage" approach is best because the person on the stage is the expert on the topic and the audience are the learners.
  2. The goal of training is to impart information that the employee needs in order to better perform his or her job.

In the first assumption there is a neglect to acknowledge a stark reality which is that the world has changed and the changes do have an impact on business organizations. Due to the rise of technology, information is growing at an exponential rate across many disciplines and to suggest that an "expert" has a strong hold on information that impacts a given business is naive at best. It also ignores the fact that because of the integration of technology into the lives of our employees outside the business environment, how they learn as adults has changed.  This brings us to the second assumption which is linked to the changes taking place.


Learning in the outside online world does not treat learners as passive receivers of wisdom. On the contrary, learning is very much interactive where the learner is engaged with the technology with the purpose of developing skills and mindsets that allow the individual to advance in his or her learning. Besides interacting with the technology, the idea of collaboration has taken on a whole new meaning where collaboration is not restricted to physical borders or time. Learning and collaboration is now in a 24/7 framework where any mobile device can have a participant join in and collaborate in a business organization that is a port networked with other ports anywhere in the world.

Credit: Rawpixel on Stocksnap(PIJUE9VV8D)

A third trait that runs contrary to the "training" best practices is the idea that learning needs to be ongoing rather than "one and off" training sessions. This means that the learning culture of a business organization needs to change the mindset of meeting organization needs in a checklist of needs to meeting, encouraging and GROWING the learning of employees. In such a change, the business will experience a greater ROI that is directly in harmony with what is really happening in the outside world.

So, what does this all mean for the concept of best practices in business learning?

Re-Visioning Best Practices: Five Qualities

  1. If  best practices are still be considered as a great guide to effective business learning then they need to be adaptive, flexible and individualized to the needs of the learner. Best practices should always point to the future and not be unchanging and rooted in the past because the one constant in the 21st century is constant change.
  2. The design of learning experiences need to have the qualities of being: meaningful, memorable, motivational and measurable for learners. Learners need to be engaged in their learning on a regular basis within the organization and the organization needs to weave a drive to learn throughout the organization from the C-Suite to the entry level personnel. It should become a natural mindset in the way a business competes and serves their client base.
  3. For the benefit and health of the organization, learning needs to have stronger connections to the ROI which will happen if decision makers make it part of their organizational mission.
  4. Employees need the assurance that their ideas that they arrive at through collaboration have value for the organization. To accomplish this, business organizations should have forums where employee collaborative groups can pitch and defend their ideas. Such a forum could follow similar parameters as the t.v. reality show called: "Shark Tank".
  5. Establish a new staff position titled: "Learning Principles Director". If you wish to know exactly what that means, ask me. HINT: It has to do with establishment of mentor networks.

Effectively competing in a globally connected world means capitalizing on the intellectual assets found within business organizations. This means establishing the free flow of information through networked collaboration. You as a business organization have a choice; you can stay on the treadmill constantly running to keep up or you can act proactively and force your competition to keep running to keep up. Business organizations such as Apple and Google testify to the importance of placing a priority on learning. 

Are you ready to join them?


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Rise of New Technology and the Paradox of Learning

A fundamental understanding that will shock both formal education organizations and decision makers in business organizations is this:

" You do not have to learn every piece of technology that appears as the newest, trendy thing in order to safely and productively navigate the new reality of the 21st century!"

To the committed cyber-geek, this is tantamount to heresy and to those who have struggled with learning new technology, they are saying that: "I knew it all along!"

credit: www.

Organizational Errors in Introducing New Technologies to Staff

Credit: Kapu)

Resistance to Change: Employees have good reason for demonstrating a resistance to change within an organization. Such resistance can be communicated to them through the actions of the decision makers within the organization. Such actions often take the form of the following:

  • There is no attempt to re-visit the mission and core values of the organization or any attempt to communicate to employees that this is even being considered as an organizational priority. It is evidenced in the fact that the only change that is permitted is tweaking of some things which very often do nothing to change the ways of doing things that have been in place for decades. Leadership has no vision of what the organization should look like taking into account technological change.

Timelines for Implementing New Technology: Another error in introducing new              technology to employees is the use of unrealistic timelines required for mastery of the technology whether it is software applications, hardware or both. This creates unnecessary levels of stress and frustration for employees at all levels. So, the question becomes:

"How do we resolve this problem so that we have meaningful sustained engagement of employees in their learning?"

Three potential solutions that could be implemented individually or in a hybrid form of all three, might be the following:

  • Creation of a Technology "Sandbox"-- Believe it or not adults still need time to "play" and this is especially true with new technology. It has been stated that 90% of learning these days happens as informal learning outside of business hours. It is on this point that businesses should take their cue and create a 24/7 "technology sandbox" login site where employees can play with the new technology outside the stress of business hours. This is especially true with new software apps. However, there is also great potential in using interactive simulations that allow employees to try out new procedures through role playing and then seeing the consequences of their actions before embedding learning behaviours into their work routine. For example, one area that has been explored is customer relations where the employee has to resolve a problem so that the interests of the organization are maintained but also the concerns of the customers are addressed. Similar simulations can be set up to simulate manufacturing hardware problems. The key here is that the employee receives immediate feedback that doesn't automatically create a risk of a poor performance evaluation.

  • Micro-Learning Implementation-- This is the procedure of breaking learning up into smaller chunks for easier learning and review if necessary. One of the real problems of our age deals with the fact that we are not adept in managing time. With the growth of BYOD and 24/7 connection to the Internet, micro-learning makes sense. This enables an employee to use a tablet or Smart Phone to access a learning module wherever they might be other than at work. This fits well with the first suggestion. The caveat here is that the micro-learning modules must be well designed and should be memorable, meaningful, motivational and measurable. Without these qualities, employees won't stick with them.

  • Develop Mentoring Relationships Between Those Who Get It and Those Who Don't-- An important term to introduce to staff at all levels is the term "Co-Learner". In this age of learning and the rapid growth of new technology, it makes good business sense to encourage the development of these relationships. One benefit it gives us is that it forces us to admit that: 
 "We Don't Know Everything!"

          This is a hard thing for SME's to admit but Subject Matter Experts need to re-think their roles!

The Great Paradox of Learning vs. Training

When we consider all the procedures that have been employed for decades in helping our employees learn all that they need to know in the performance of their labours, we are faced with the daunting question:

"Are our training protocols in sync with the current research on learning science in regards to adults in the 21st century or have we lost our vision and purpose to maintain the status quo?"

Credit: www.

We need to make sure that organizational learning matches with how employees learn outside the workplace where they are connected to the world in a variety of contexts.

Some steps that can be taken in a cost effective way might be the following:

  • Changing the mindset of the organization so that it moves from the "training" mindset that carries a great deal of negative baggage with it to a "learning culture" mindset. One way to begin this change is to separate the dreaded but necessary "compliance training" from the category of organizational learning for the advancement of employee learning. The fact is that in many organizations, compliance training gives learning a bad name in the minds of employees.

  • Using the "mentoring relationship" mentioned to develop actual learning communities devoted to improved performance within disciplines or departments of the business organization. This should not be limited to internal learning communities but should also result in networks online forming external learning communities in the specified discipline. A wealth of information and knowledge exists on the web in many disciplines. Making the right connections can impact not only employee performance but also enhance brand image on a much wider scale within the global economy.

Finally, in order to resolve this paradox involving training and learning within business organizations, there is a need to expand our abilities to design engaging learning experiences that capitalize on e-Learning and blended learning which are becoming more and more the indicators of a healthy and dynamic business organization.

The question that we are left with is:

"Are we prepared as business leaders to take the first risk to encouraging an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset within our employees so as to move forward into the future? "

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Harnessing Social Media for E-Learning: Re-Designing Learning Experiences


The harnessing of social media for effective use in the cause of e-Learning is a novel concept because in the minds of many who use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube...etc, social media has always been synonymous with socializing with friends, keeping up with family and sharing personal exploits. However, the ability to allow collaboration on a large digital scale without concern for physical borders and even language and cultural differences is also its greatest strength for helping promote effective e-Learning.

In reality for those who are in the field of digital education, it is our responsibility to prove how the power of social media can be re-tasked to a higher purpose of ongoing learning for employees in business organizations as well as in the area of formal education.

In order for that to happen, we need to understand that the way we design learning experiences must change to capitalize on what social media has to offer. If the goals with employees are to create the desire in them to engage with their learning at a personal level to benefit the mission and goals of the business organization, then the type of engagement must be one that they personally sustain beyond the learning experiences. It must be a product of growth in the internal intrinsic motivation of the individual to the point where extrinsic motivators are irrelevant. 

For example, the desire to collaborate and solve a real world problem that is germane to the functioning of the business organization will be over powering to the point that informal learning outside the business hours becomes tasked to solving the problem.

It is design thinking that is the key to achieving this mindset that can only benefit the health and future of the business organization. The learning experiences that are designed should be memorable, meaningful, motivational and measurable as Michael Allen has so aptly put it.


ADDIE: Has It Reached Its Best Before Date?

The standard design template has focused on ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation) in the past or what could be called the "waterfall approach". In following this approach analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation are all treated as ordered steps in the larger product development process.


The advantages to using the ADDIE model are:

  • It is quite prevalent both in the business and formal education worlds and is the basis for many instructional design models.
  • It can be used for many evaluation strategies and can be very easily measured.

The drawbacks to using the ADDIE model are:

  • one stage must be completed before moving to the next stage.
  • using this model is "time overwhelming".
  • Very expensive to use

Given the pros and cons of continuing to use ADDIE, we have to ask the question:

"Is ADDIE still meeting the instructional design needs in business organizations if the 21st century advancements in technology and the expansion of the potential of the World Wide Web have changed and continue to change in profound ways?"

If we respond in the negative then what is our alternative and will it fit our criteria of:

  • Making use of the web's advanced pedagogy tools
  • Cost effective
  • Leads to the least amount of disruption in the changeover
  • Results in the ability to engage in the rapid prototyping of our primary service/ product to the benefit of our established clients and new leads
  • Scale-able to meet the needs of employees and the use of mobile devices

Michael Allen in his publication: "Leaving ADDIE For Sam" (2012) put it very succinctly when he states:

 " The bottom line for a business organization is this; the best model for an organization today is one that assures each project will be completed within its constraints and will achieve desired performance outcomes to the fullest extent possible."

Social Media and E-Learning

In order for e-Learning to harness social media, it is necessary that the design of e-Learning experiences use a design format that is iterative. In choosing such a design approach, elements such as interactivity and learner engagement become tests of the effectiveness of the design and allows for what is called "rapid prototyping" of the learning experience to take place.

"Why is this so important when it comes to using social media as an asset in e-Learning?"

With regards to business organizations it is imperative to know how much productive time is lost when social media is being used by employees in a clandestine fashion during business hours. The truth is out there.


Another point to consider is the toxicity of some social media sites which can emotionally and cognitively affect the performance of employees.


Re-Designing Learning Experiences for Social Media: A Few Suggestions

  1. Creation of a Mentoring Network: As was pointed out, one of the great strengths of social media is that it enhances and refines our ability to collaborate with others. At many conferences dealing with technology, it is not unusual for Twitter special interest groups to form in an ad hoc fashion which brings together people with like professional backgrounds and diverse talents for a defined purpose. If we translate this into a business framework, we can address a real need in the learning culture of an organization to enable on going learning for employees. In an age of vast information production across many areas and disciplines, this is a survival skill. In the past, business organizations have surrounded themselves with SME's to educate instructional designers who then create learning experiences for "training employees". The problem today is that the term "Subject Matter Expert" is really a dated designation because claiming to be an "expert" in the content to be presented suggests that the SME is able to keep up to date. Can he or she really claim this in this age? The focus needs to switch to empowering employees by teaching them how to think and work in an online world. This requires an emphasis on process skillsets and not on content attainment skills.  Creating an online mentoring network in which ready connections can be established with individuals across the digital landscape who can offer a continued mentoring in these processes should be considered. Cross discipline mentoring is the wave for future global network collaborations.
  2. Creation of An Over Watch Position: Anyone who has served in certain branches of the military will understand this term. In an area of conflict, a person who has over watch communicates to ground forces what is coming as they advance. They are the ones who provide important intelligence as to what they see coming so that important decisions can be made on reliable evidence. When it comes to the performance of employees in a business organization, the factors of change management, technology and pedagogy is re-defining what our KPH's should be. Within the business organization, we might suggest that this is the job of the CEO, or CLO!  But is it? Given the diversity of responsibilities that such positions now hold and the low priority of L&D, would what is coming that helps the learning of employees even be on their radar? This "over watch" position should be occupied by a person who is an expert in learning principles as they affect adults, up to date on the research current on learning science and someone who can profile, track and personalize the learning of employees so that engagement, innovation and creativity are nurtured for the benefit of the organization.

The time has come to truly, as the cliche goes, "think outside the box".  Using Social Media as an asset to effective e-Learning means the establishment of an organizational learning community where from the decision makers to the ground levels of the organization, there is a common focus of making continued learning of employees a theme of unity within the organization. The ROI will be a growth in individual performance and a commitment to being part of something that is far greater than anyone individual effort.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Harnessing Social Media in e-Learning-Part III

In the previous post, one of the barriers identified was the entrenched viewpoint that social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat...etc are just for socializing with family and friends.

Credit: www.

In diagnosing the problems with the entrenchment of the common social media attitude in regards to its purpose, we are faced with a couple of questions that need to be addressed if we desire to capitalize on the potential that social media holds for effective e-Learning:

"What are the characteristics of social media and how can these characteristics be harnessed in the cause of effective e-Learning?"  

Step #2:  Identifying the Characteristics of Social Media

The elements that describe social media could simply be described by the following:


Credit: Carmella Howard

Community: In defining community, it is necessary to point out that the nature of community has changed from what was considered community in the past. The community of the past had common bonds such as occupation, morality ( A community church used to be placed at the center of a community in the western world), beliefs about education, and common traditions as represented by ideas such as holidays on the calendar). The connections with other communities globally were through the transportation and communication technologies of the time. The common restriction was that use of such technologies were constrained by time.

With the advancement of technology in the 20th & 21st century, the nature of community was transformed. With the advancement of knowledge and information brought on by the exponential changes in technology, the idea of community lost some of the constraints involving time and place with community transforming from being localized to global. Due to the growth of information and knowledge across many disciplines, a new community or "culture of learning" became one of the important prerequisites for both business and education in order not just to survive but move forward within a global context. This "culture of learning" is what e-Learning strives to establish in a totally online environment. Community is important in the online world. In order to establish this "culture of learning", there is a need to break away from a status quo which is decades old and definitely not in sync with the needs of 21st century communities.

Conversations & Participation: With the removal of the constraints of time and space, opportunities were opened up for the development of a way to extend personal relationships from the local stage to the world stage. Part of the growth of this "culture of learning" was the development of global networks focused on inter-relationships that we call "social media networks". When we compare these two elements with what is needed in effective e-Learning we realize that these terms correspond to the elements of "collaboration" and "engagement".

Just as within the social media networks, conversations often focus on current events common to the inter-relationships, collaboration and engagement in effective e-Learning must focus on identification and solution of real world problems where feedback on decisions that are made have real world consequences. This brings us back to a change in the role of educator and student. The educator becomes a mentor and guide in effective process skills that students need to develop in order to become much needed "agents of change" in societies that need to separate and interpret the forces of change in technology and the generation of information and knowledge. The bottom line is that"

"... both business and education must become proactive in dealing with the perfect storm of technological and information change rather than continuously retreating into steadily shrinking comfort zones through being reactive to change."

So, this brings us to a very pertinent question:

"Given that social media and effective e-Learning have so many of the same elements, how can we use social media as a tool for effective e-Learning?"

The answer to that question involves the re-design of learning experiences so that they are irresistibly engaging and make use of the very concepts of social media that has made it a spectacular world wide phenomenon. This involves re-designing learning experiences so that they focus less on the acquirement of information by the student for the sake of becoming a "human database" to be tested and approved by education systems. Given the exponentially growing amount of information and knowledge that is happening in the 21st century, maintaining this type of focus presents the student with an impossible task. Instead, teaching students how to engage, think and collaborate on the web for real world purposes that is key to enriching the societies they will live in should be the prime directive for education. This means that education becomes far more meaningful and relevant to students because now they are learning how to contribute to their present and future in meaningful ways.

The next step will focus on how to incorporate the use of social media in innovative ways that addresses this previously mentioned "prime directive". As can be seen in the following diagram, the possibilities are endless in achieving this goal.


Next: Step #3---Re-designing Learning Experiences

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Harnessing Social Media in e-Learning-Part II

Social media has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately because of a mistaken perception that people who use the web have that they are entitled to the maintenance of some form of personal privacy. With the recent disclosure of data breaches on Facebook, a major social media platform, much to the chagrin of owners and users, the personal data that they indiscriminately added to their Facebook area, is now out there and now subject to the growing use of predictive analytics. Now through the use of big data collection and access to Facebook data, companies such as Google, Amazon and others can make suggestions to you, unsolicited,  on products that should interest you based upon their analysis of your digital footprints. Note that words such as "might interest you" is not used because the advance of predictive analytics have raise the percentage of probability out of those shadowed areas.


The frightening thing about the above scenario is not that the fact that the breach of the data was huge but that a whole generation of highly connected social media users never thought that such a thing could happen. Despite the fact that most of this youthful generation of users have never known a day in their lives when they were not connected, they still remain rather ignorant and uneducated about how the web works. This leads us to the question:

"If we are going to capitalize on the potential that social media has for e-learning, what steps need to be taken to educate users of social media?"

Steps in Positive Directions

There is no doubt that the attraction to e-Learning has hit "prime time". Statistics bear this growth and transformation out.


Step #1: Change an Entrenched Perception of Social Media

Many of this 21st century generation have never used social media for anything else than to socialize with others online. How entrenched this perception of what social media exists for is again revealed in glaring statistics. If we take an example from the United Kingdom in 2015, it becomes very clear what people perceive as the purpose for social media.

Credit: www.
Another interesting development in the business world is how social media is now seen as a potential tool for digital marketing. It is in this area that outrage has a arisen recently in the media due to the harvesting of data or data mining that is being carried on by big business which sees such an activity as quite reasonable given the fact that effective guidelines or even a consensus of guidelines for data mining of social media has not been established in the "wild west" we know as the Internet. The temptation is too great for them to resist.

So given the entrenchment of these attitudes over the use of social media, how do we change direction so that it becomes focused on effective e-Learning for all? It starts by realizing some of the realities:

  • The reason students do not use social media for purposes of enriching their education is because they have never been taught to see social media in this light. Unfortunately, educational institutions, enforcing the command and control mantra of the typical classroom, have devoted their resources to banning smart phone use, blocking cell signals completely, restricting cell phone use to obscure times of the day rather than seeing mobile devices as another tool to be used to enrich student learning.

  • A second reality is that in order to change the perspective, we need to re-design learning experiences in innovative and creative ways that engage students to use social media collaboratively in irresistibly engaging learning. This flies in the face of prescribed government curriculums which are more obsessed with redundant assessment than creative and innovative instructional design. The great irony here is that if we are preparing students to be effective citizens working in a business world, we are employing a system that runs counter to the needs of 21st century businesses which are placing a high value on innovation and problem solving.

Next post--Step #2

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Using Social Media As a Tool in E-learning: The Challenges and Potential

There is no denying that the rise of social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat...etc has created a level of engagement among people globally.



 When we consider that level of engagement from a business perspective, we wish that our own business culture could boast such percentages. The even greater dilemma dealing with social media focuses on the following questions that every business organization needs to confront and solve which are:

  1. How do I ensure that our business organization is not losing important hours of productivity as a result of employees using company time to be on social media?

To respond to such a question, one needs to ask is this really a widespread problem or is it a problem at all? Looking at how employers deal with employee access and their reasons for their approach shows their concerns with social media. A survey was performed by Robert Half Technology of 1400 chief information officers from companies across the United States to find out their policy on visiting social media sites. The results were that:

  • 54% do not allow employees to access social media sites under any circumstance at work.
  • 19% allow limited access and then only for strictly business purposes only.
  • 16% allow limited access for personal use.
  • 10% allow for unlimited and unrestricted access for personal use.

Business organizations have various reasons for blocking social media sites. It is interesting to note the prime reason in the following list:

  1. Loss of productivity.
  2. Potential exposure of computers and business networks to spyware, malware and viruses.
  3. Greater chance for corporate information that is strictly proprietary to be leaked.
  4. Potential legal liability for the company as a result of employees accessing certain social media sites that have poor security measures.
The elephant in the room underlying the above rationales is the question:

"Do employees feel that they are stakeholders in the health and the future of the business organization or do they feel that they are merely paid pawns in an enterprise that they have no credible input into?"

   2. When are employees most likely to access social media sites and which ones in particular?


What is interesting in the statistics shown is the fact that employees will access social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter,...etc intermittently throughout the day (40.0%) as well as during lunch (41.4%).

3. Given that 54% of the companies surveyed blocked social media sites completely, should the rest     follow this lead?

Simply put the answer should be "no". Why? Such a response creates a whole host of problems which impacts a relationship with employees when we want them to engage with the vision and mission of the company. One of the great characteristics of the new generation of employees is their ability to be creative. In the 21st century, we need employees who are creative, collaborative and actively engaged as innovative solution creators.

"It is far better to have employees use their creativity to further our business case than to have them use their creativity to subvert, in a covert fashion, policies they find out of date with the truly connected lives that they lead outside the work place."

4. Does granting access to social media sites impact employee productivity?

The answer to this is both yes and no. This may sound like we are hedging our bets but anyone who has used social media for a length of time will tell you that it can be a very healthy place to connect as part of a personal online community but it can also be a "cesspool" which harbours unhealthy and potentially dangerous attitudes which can impact a company.

Employees have even made a case that use of social media sites actually improves their productivity.


One area of increased improvement is that it exposes employees to the effective use of web 2.0 tools that can be applied to tasks in the workplace.


This brings us back to a very important question in regards to the idea of engagement which is:

"How can a business organization harness the engagement that social media offers to business tasks and still not lose productivity time?"

Using e-Learning and Social Media: Time to Get Creative!

One key term that should have hit you in the above was the word "community". Despite the fact that we constantly say that employees live very connected lives, there is something that we once had that has become very elusive in the 21st century and that is belonging to a community. In the drive to adapt to and advance the use of technology, the idea of being part of a stable, reliable community has been fractured. Use of social media is the closest that some people get to being "part of a community". You will also note that when people feel that they are part of a community, they are far more engaged over time.

The goal for business organizations is to transform their organizations so that employees feel that they are part of a community that welcomes their input and ideas as bona fide stakeholders. This has been attempted in the past and has resulted in success. The airline company, Westjet, is such a success story. The benefits of engaged employees as part of a community has been well researched and stated.

Keeping such statistics in mind, how can we create high levels of engagement by harnessing e-Learning and social media?

The drive and energy that employees devote to personal learning both for the advancement of their job skillsets and to interpret their world is a personal part of their lives. The only other people who would care about how they are learning are people who are close to them and part of a personal community. It is within this context that a business organization can empower employees to become stakeholders in the business community and the use of e-Learning as a means of creating that personally meaningful community is one tool to make it happen.

From a skeptic's point of view, why would a business organization want to do this? One reason is to close the digital skills gap that exists within business organizations. This means re-visiting and re-evaluating priorities now taking into account that the world has changed and that the digital skills of all employees either advance the interests of a business organization in a globally connected collaborative, digital business world or results in a constant loss of market share akin to the types of processes that such companies such as Kodak and today,  the Sears organization have experienced.


First Steps in Harnessing Social Media to Company Interests

  1. Recognize the value and potential of using social media: Since employees are tightly involved in social media outside the business organization, it becomes important to train or mentor employees in how social media could be used to help transform the community that they are part of each day. Both Twitter & Facebook have specialized groups that focus on many areas of the business world. Collecting these sites and making them focused links on the company's working organizational network accessible to employees 24/7 helps put into place one of the elements of a new and more vibrant community. Such sites will be accessible to employees regardless of the tool that they use thanks to the use of HTML 5.0 as a foundation for design. A site such as LinkedIn would also be an important site because of the many forums available for learning across many dimensions of business knowledge.
  2. Creating dynamic learning profiles: If learning is a personal element in the lives of employees then those who enable growth of skillsets within learners are considered valuable members of that transformed community. This requires a re-visioning of the roles of HR, Instructional Designer and even the CLO of a business organization so that they are in tune with nurturing the growth of intellectual capital found in the persons who are employees. If information in the 21st century is the new currency, then learning is the key to creating digital capital in this new age.
Next---Part II will plot out the paths to this needed transformation. Please feel free to  share this post on e-Learning Industry forums on LinkedIn.