We are subjects and investigators in this social media experiment

How to create the next phase of social learning?  Take on simple initiatives, stay focused on measurable and purposeful results, be persistent. That is the practical take away from a day spent with the more than 200 people who attended the ASTD New England chapters’ day-long conference Learning 2.0: Don’t Get Left Behind on April 29.

The well-run event was free of technology-wow boosterism.  But the keynote speakers raised provocative questions about business and demographic trends that are likely to affect learning and development folks.  Twitter is not the answer, even though that summary judgment would fit in a tweet.

By far, the other learning and development pros who attended were the best source of practical ideas. Over coffee, one described how she’d challenged sales people to invite clients to join a company LinkedIn group for those who’d attended (or would attend) client training.  If I got the story right, she is creating a user group, but one that this director can listen in on.  It allows her to take the pulse of those clients: their issues, worries, questions, and ideas.  She communicates with them about follow on training and other news.  Clearly, sales leads will arise, too.  She described the group as an ongoing experiment, but her ideas fit the needs and goals of her group today.  Her persistence is creating value out of the experiment.

Action Research:  No social media were harmed in the making of…

Our experiments have been similarly limited and focused.  The BTP (see other posts about that) brings together learners from across the organization, people who rarely work together.  We’ve established an online commmunity where they can share materials, ask questions, and discuss issues.  It’s easier to offer that shared experience than to actually create it.

We are still learning to use the tools, which don’t deliver all they seem to promise.  One word for disappointment:  wiki.  Lesson:  It’s hard to make a wiki social.  Further contributing to barriers is human nature: 90-9-1 holds true.  Only one percent of people are active creators of content.  Confirming that has been an important lesson of the experiment.

To acheive greater participation, facilitators and training pros will need to become  community gadflies and provocateurs.  Nevertheless, these experiments are setting expectations among learners and, we believe, influencing their view of how and where learning takes place.