Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is Social Media Making You Think

I'm developing self-paced training for my organization. My background is in web development so I'm well versed in HTML, JavaScript, Flash, and all those types of things that make e-learning go bump in the night. That combined with my experience in academic technology and instructional design make me feel well qualified to be in the e-learning business. However, the future of e-learning may require additional tools in my toolbox.

There is a train moving very fast called social media that I am working very hard to master. It is having a transforming effect on the way we learn and use the web in general. Take a look at the following video from the Socialnomics - Social Media Blog.

This video "found me" through the LinkedIn social network. There are many videos similar to this out there on YouTube. While a video like this can be a little overly dramatic trying to sell social media, it does give you some things to think about. For example, people thrive off using social interaction to learn and make important decisions. This is both in there personal life and career.

A lesson I thought was particularly interesting from this video is that a 2009 US Department of Education study reveals that students studying online often outperform their face-to-face peers. Is this surprising to you? Probably not. Would it be surprising to your clients? Probably yes.

Online training is constantly changing and some would say changing dramatically in the last couple of years. A shift that makes it possible to harvest more power from social and informal networks. New development technologies make it easier to engage students. Online collaborative environments allow learners to work together (often making it easier to collaborate than being in the classroom itself).

Educators need to wake up and realize the value of social media for learning and look for ways to use it to engage students. I know that's what I'm thinking about. I'm creating self-paced courses but thinking about how the content could be distributed through social media. In the back of my mind, I'm breaking down the content into nuggets and exploring how that content can best find the learners who need it.

Sure, there are dangers in the security issues and misinformation social media brings. But, many enabling technologies bring challenges and this challenge will pass. The door will continue to swing open for more e-learning stategies to include a social aspect. With this in mind, what are you putting in your toolbox?