This post first appeared in December 2009 on The Total Learner Experience. Although dated, I think it still has value.
Brandon: You know as I work to create social learning micro-sites on the internal corporate network, it sometimes hits me that in a lot of ways I’m just re-creating what Facebook has already hit a home run with. So, Dolly, the question for you today is: How can I leverage Facebook for training?
Dolly: What content is best suited for Facebook? Is Facebook for content or is it for social networking and engagement?
Well it seems that technical training, soft skills training… really any type of learning content would work. The power of the platform seems to be around the integration of peer-to-peer dialogue and sharing with the context of learning. Facebook users are collaborating by default because they are exchanging comments and creating dialogue interactively. What we need to do is make this engaging activity applicable to work/training.
Shall we brainstorm? What are the features of Facebook are conducive to training?
OK, so let’s make it a contest. Let’s list 10 ways we can use Facebook for training. I mean we’re professionals right? With imaginations like ours, we should be able to easily list 10 ways! Here’s one way:
1. Discussion threads. People seem to love engaging in dialogue about relevant subjects. A simple discussion board functionality is key in attracting learners to a higher level of engagement.
Facebook recently took out the updates about when people commented on others’ walls. I liked that and was sad to see it go. It allowed me to see what my friends were saying — even if it was directly relevant to me AND it often introduced me to new people that I liked. You never know what tidbit of seeming off-topic information will inspire a new idea.
2. Class notes and links to supporting information. In academic settings I’ve seen many professors, trainers and facilitators add their syllabi, notes, and links to websites. I’m using Microsoft Sharepoint now to create a wiki where I will host pre-work content and activities for a workshop I am designing. A Facebook-like platform is great for this, although versioning control would be a nice-to-have.
Sharepoint is Microsoft’s collaboration platform. A lot of people are using it for collaborative learning environments. Check out more about it here.
3. Course feedback. Students can provide feedback about their favorite or least favorite aspects of the training.
This is where a “two-way” information stream can provide excellent near real-time feedback. An instructional designer could easily move to a more “agile” design process by using Facebook’s social utilities to gain “instant” feedback on instructional content. I’ve been using similar methods for several years by building database systems. Facebook has this functionality built in!
4. Student Reflection. Students are required to post some “takeaway” from any training that they just completed in their status, which can help their community at large.
5. Events. If you can get out of the whole departmental competition thing, it could be really interesting to have online “events” that everyone was invited to facilitate cross-company brainstorming for new initiatives.
6. Build your personal network/brand. It’s important for individuals to be able to broadcast their expertise and interests. Facebook-like platforms could become similar to an “auctioning” of skills. IBM does this now with their internal Blue Pages. Employees are encouraged to list their skills, expertise, and availability. People can search using keywords to find suitable candidates for their projects.
I like this idea. We haven’t talked about LinkedIn, but it seems like this might be an internal version of that.
7. Post-classroom events (extended learning). We used this recently on a leadership training program. Although the primary component of the training course was a 3-day classroom experience, we designed pre-work activities for the cohort to participate in online, and, to ensure retention and reflection we also designed post-classroom activities. The cohort remained engaged, and continued to work on the post-class activities. One benefit were the “breadcrumbs” left behind by the cohorts… subsequent cohorts could learn from them.
8. Games. We could do a post of different types of games. But clearly all sorts of games are popular on Facebook. I don’t play, but I know that Mafia Wars, Farmville and the like have some real appeal. I could see seeking out people who had certain skill sets to form your teams. You and I play Scrabble and its knockoffs. Facebook serves as a portal to every kind of game imaginable. I could also see some scavenger hunts for content and personnel.
How many games on Facebook are designed for learning though? Quite a few I think… it’s just not real obvious.
I FIRMLY believe that every activity people participate in teaches or reinforces some learning or knowledge (even if only a physical response). Even if games are not designed with education/instruction/learning in mind, they still have features that can be exploited and minded to fold in formal/planned learning opportunities. I mean, somehow they have made the most inane, tedious tasks on Farmville completely compelling. Who knew? Which leads me to think about another way to use Facebook for training:
9. Quizzes. What kind of programmer are you? What does your desk say about you? What kind of cubicle mate are you? While these are humorous, I could see some actual useful ones, like providing Myers Briggs profiles and the like. Oh, and here’s the 10th (I beat you to it)!
10. Fandom. I was interested to see that the number one corporate identity on Facebook is Coke. Their presence was first created by a zealous fan. The page has become their corporate identity, and hugely popular. A lot of times employees can be the biggest fans of a company and hold the most knowledge. Creating a safe environment to tell the positives of the company can offset some of the griping that we all need to do sometimes.
Yes, but some companies are paranoid about their “intellectual property” being made public. It’s akin to the music companies obsessing over DRM — the one thing a company needs to understand about today’s information revolution: you can’t control everything … so focus on influence rather than control. Comcast learned this quickly, and adopted Twitter to broadcast network statuses to its customers. Now it uses Twitter for customer support.
I see we keep returning to the theme that companies need to have a more flexibility in this era of accessible info.
Well there are 10 ways… but there are many more. The big question for companies: are you going to build internal social platforms, or leverage the public ones? It seems like many companies will want to keep their social networks behind their firewalls. This may work in the short-run, but newer generations of workers (Millennials and the 2020 Gen) will want to be able to blend their public and work networks and profiles. That will make for an interesting dialog… maybe we can discuss that one soon?