Social Learning (My Acronym Definition)

You probably (or maybe not) have heard about social learning.  For those of you who have not, here is a quick definition for you:

Social Learning is about creating and sharing information and knowledge with other people using  social media tools that support a collaborative approach to learning.  Social Learning is fast becoming recognised as a valuable way of supporting formal learning and enabling informal learning within an organisation.

I was recently reading an article titled The 8 Truths of Social Learning and it started me thinking about my own view on social learning.  Personally I believe the journey seems to be still in it’s early phase.  And I think sometimes there is a difference of what social is and how to be social.  Sounds weird doesn’t it?  Social learning is not just content.  In my opinion it is, or should be, more than that (such as interactive and wait for it…learning from it).  So, instead of rambling on, why don’t I explain it in an acronym.  Don’t we all love acronym’s?  And look how cute this is…I am going to use the word Social for my definition 🙂

First I will define it what I feel is Social Learning:

Socially sourced and searchable

On my device


Interesting and relevant




Socially Sourced and Searchable
OK, I cheated here and added two things to the “S”.  But, bear with me as they are both important.  First of all, content should be socially sourced.  What I mean is the majority of content should be sourced (created) by the community.  Not content publishers.  Not social media experts.  You or the social circle.  Listen, I am fine with having some content creation to kick off the community, but if that is your main source of content, that is less social and more content.  And I know there is value in having conversations around content, but you want to get to a point that your social circle is publishing the content.  OK, I won’t spend much time on Search here…but basically, in this day and age of Google, content needs to be searchable.  And I mean a competent search…not just a search box.  Enough said.

On my device and On Demand
The learning should be not just accessible, but scaled to my device.  Whether it be a phone, tablet, PC, watch or a 60-inch screen.  Use responsive design.  Don’t make me pinch and zoom.  Make it an enjoyable experience (my two cents – build mobile first).

For goodness sake, don’t write a novel.  Actually, I am pretty guilty in this blog where it is getting pretty wordy.  But if you look, I am chunking the content with a certain amount of whitespace.  This makes it a little easier reading on a screen and gives the viewer an opportunity to scan the content.  And when you chunk, it is easier for people to comment and interact on (specific or targeted) content.

Interesting and relevant
I know this should be self-evident, but if you’re learning content is not interesting, it will be harder to get any social traction.  Yes, it needs to be relevant (if not, what is the point?), but if it is not interesting, don’t expect and social interactions around it. And while I am talking about relevant, make sure when you are surfacing notifications to people, that they can get to the relevant information fast.  For example, if you are sending people e-mail daily digests, make sure you surface relevant information; not just “someone posted to this forum”. Target the content (which means I can learn in my inbox) or I can click right to that relevant information for interaction.

Don’t make it difficult to get to.  If it is a locked community, then make sure the option to have passwords “remember me” option enabled. I have no problem getting e-mail notifications, but make it easy to get to the interaction. Make sure EVERY main web browser (including older versions) can access it.  Make sure you can deep link to it (one link).  Also, see above “on my device”.

Remember, this is a social event.  People do not NEED to be there (unless you are mandating social learning…deep sigh).  Here is an example.  Would you rather be at your Uncle Scot’s 85 birthday event (hey, he is a likable old sort) or be interacting on Facebook?  Both are social events.  One you may “like” a little bit more. Be likeable.  Hey, I might make that a slogan on a T-shirt and make millions ;).

Anyway, there you go.  My Social in Social Learning.


Microlearning and Blogs

I was planning on writing a new blog about “learning nuggets”, but instead found a new phrase for this:  Microlearning.  OK, so, let’s turn to Wikipedia to get ourselves a definition:

Microlearning deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities. Generally, the term “microlearning” refers to micro-perspectives in the context of learning, education and training.

Great Mark.  Real interesting.  What’s the point?

OK, well, I am speaking with some folks soon to discuss blogging; and when I say blogging, I mean they are starting to blog themselves.  But, blogging is not easy for everyone.  Heck, I have written over 40 blogs here and sometimes I still have a hard time getting my ideas down.  But, let ‘s try to take the pressure away from this process.  First of all, don’t worry about writing the perfect blog (it can’t be done), don’t worry about people liking it (they probably don’t like your shirt your wearing anyway so you can’t please everyone), don’t worry about being perfect – spelling errors are seen as a positive in blogs as it looks like you wrote off the top of your head (see what I did there).

But the biggest worry or struggle I hear from would be bloggers, is “what do I write?”.  A great question which sometimes can feel like quite the dilemma.  But, let’s simplify it with microlearning (blah – it just doesn’t sound as good as learning nuggets).  If you are ever stuck about what to blog, but you want to blog, think of sharing a learning.  But it does not even have to be work related.  Heck, I wrote a blog about finding Mark Doty.).

Listen, it does not need to be an earth shattering blog.  But, we are a large organization with a lot of smart people (but not this guy).  We should be leveraging our intellectual capital every chance we get.

So think about it for second.  What did you learn today?  Yesterday?  Last week that was a microlearning? Maybe a quick tip on e-mail.  An interaction with a vendor?  Feedback from a colleague?  Something your read on the interweb?  And maybe, just maybe, you read an awesome blog and want to agree, disagree or share it with others.

Any hey, I didn’t even touch upon easy other blog topics like praise, questions, ideas and wild and crazy innovations.

So there you go.  I look forward to hearing more about your microlearning.

HR (Orientation) Assistance for Social Profiles

One example that social business advocates constantly tout the power of collaboration is an ‘use case’ of knowledge sharing and team productivity.  It goes something like Mark is working on a project (let’s say it Project Clowns), he looks up the companies ‘expert profiles’ and finds Tom who has tagged himself as “clown” (Tom, come on, I am kidding) and contacts him.  Tom then points Mark in the direction of Sarrah who was the PM on a project he worked on and Sarrah shares with Mark the project plan template (on SharePoint), lessons learned (wiki) and project tasks (Activities).  And the value of expert profiles come through for Mark where he does not need to re-invent the wheel.

Great.  But that is assuming/hoping Tom has tagged himself.  Because if he did not, my search on “clowns” would show up empty.  And I see the value of being able to connect with over 15,000 employees we have (though sometime it seems like we are only a company of 100 people).  But, how do we get people to add and update tags to their profile?  Well, here are my suggestions:

Orientation/New employees: part of the welcome package should be a requirement that they go and update their profile.  Really, it would only be 10 minutes to tag yourself, add a picture, add some ‘about me’ content.  This would be a great introduction to new employees to the collaboration suite, allow them to find people similar to themselves, read blogs,  and feel part of the Sun Life community.

Yearly Review/Career Goals:  Every year employees document their goals in Workday.  How about at this time, have a requirement to update/refresh profiles based on past year work (projects, eduction, achievements, etc).  This just becomes part of the process.  And thus, at least all profiles are updated on a yearly basis.

Anyway, if we truly want to be a social business enterprise, we will need the data/participation to leverage it’s value.

Chief Knowledge Officer

I just read an interesting article called The Four Personas of the Next-Generation CIO.  The four personas listed are:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Integration
  3. Intelligence
  4. Innovation

But I believe they are missing the fifth “i” (like the 5th Beatle) which is: Information.  And what is information?  Well, it is everything employees are doing within (and outside) the firewall.  Such as content, knowledge and data.  Plus, with the explosion of social media (or social business) in organizations, there is information everywhere in blogs, forums, status updates, documents, IM’s, wikis, etc.  Who is managing all of this information?  Driving out best practices?  Ensuring that the knowledge of the company is used, leveraged   and re-used?

And that is where the fifth “i” comes into play.  And I feel it does not belong under the CIO.  I actually believe this is a future role for many organizations.  For the heck of it, let’s modify it (so it is not CIO), to read CKO – Chief Knowledge Officer.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power”.  But if organization do not properly capture and utilize this knowledge, then they are missing out on a competitive advantage.  But who now is accountable to “empower this knowledge”?

You got it – the Chief Knowledge Officer.

Who Has It All?

We are at a point of time where there are many choices of vendors who offer collaboration software suites for the enterprise. The choice is overwhelming at times. But the deeper I look, it seems to me that not one company has mastered the “we have it all” within their product. For example, there are some strong candidates that have tools such as forums and blogs but then fall short on wiki or repository. Or other vendors have tried to squeeze everything in but half of the tools lack basic functionality and are a work in progress.

But what do I mean by having it all? Below is what I think should be included:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Bookmarking
  • Communities
  • RSS feeds (with reader included)
  • Wiki
  • Document repository
  • Capability of embedded video
  • Micro-blogging (though I can wait for this)
  • Expert Directory
  • Smartphone accessibility (to everything above)

So, anyone know a vendor with it all?

What is Social Media?

Sometimes it’s good to be plain and simple.  And lots of big letters.  Here is a great slideshare by Lee White

Posting Anonymously within the Enterprise

I was chatting with someone yesterday in regards to giving people the ability to post information in anonymously within an enterprise. I have gone from one extreme to the other on this issue. When the first communities came out, I was in favour of allowing anonymous postings for the following reasons:

  • Wanted to encourage participation for everyone (not just members)
  • If your organization does not have single sign-on (thus administrator sets up new users), a bottleneck of new requests could hinder adoption and  people up and losing their ‘current thoughts’
  • It could help those who might need some time to get comfortable with posting information publicly (anonymous at first)

But, as our community began to grow, I saw the disadvantages of this idea:

  • Not being able to connect to people
  • Accountability is weaker (which can lead to abuse)
  • Sense of community is diminished
  • Feedback/comments are not as “valued”

One of the advantages of rolling out social media in an organization is to help people connect. Anonymous postings take away this plus and in some instances, can make it a negative.