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.